This 28-inch square is in a way the culmination of my early geometric abstractions, numbering more than 350 paintings in a related style, because I began by working after Mondrian, and this is certainly an effusive homage to his best-known works.
Remarkable for the span of twenty years I took to bring this into focus, and also for the kaleidoscopic deconstruction and reconstruction of the form into numerous small compositions interspersed with ghostly grayscale vignettes.
Many of the adjacent squares are divided by super-fine half-millimeter paint lines resulting from the exceedingly careful application and removal of painter’s tape, a basic compositional tool that was newly available when Mondrian began to make use of it in creating his distinctive works, which have since become ubiquitous designs in everything from wallpaper to shower curtains to the facades of art supply stores.
His originals are mainstays of many museum collections of Modern art, and along with Kandinsky, Severini and a handful of others, Mondrian’s influential works not only form the foundation of 20th-century geometric abstraction, but also, along with the later works of Rauschenberg and Vasarely, provide an early premonition of the internet age through a pixelated grid of insight into the telepathic prosthesis of technology that was to come.
What is also kind of funny is that I raced through this 39th piece in the Urban Legends series without even recognizing it at the time for what it was, a pivotal moment in a twenty-year odyssey, and then continued the series a couple of years ago for another twenty-five pieces before taking a hiatus; so ultimately it was about that quest but the foundational pursuit was such a profoundly fertile source of inspiration and energy that it continued to generate new explorations long past the point of achieving this particular milestone.
This 32 by 30″ aquatic grid is a mesmerizing architectural dreamscape, somewhat minimal with notes of bronze and gold, the original underpainting was a gestural blue and white study with the immediacy of immersion in the surf.
This intricate machinery underlying civilization demonstrates interconnectedness, granularity and the inherent conflict resulting from a wrench in the works, another street art-inspired howl from the denizens of the deep, even as they/we harness the frustration of containment and continue in pursuit of learning.
An intimate look at an imaginary aquatic world, fish drifting over the manufactured reef of industrial artifacts, their altered habitat for the foreseeable future, unnatural yet beautiful in its own disconcerting way.
Playing with scale, saturated colors and some street-art inspired techniques, I created this vision of the aquasphere where the fish camouflage themselves to blend in with the accumulation of industrial machinery discarded to meld with the coral reef, it is surrealistic yet plausible in today’s world.
Within a brightly-colored school of ten fish, my eye will naturally travel throughout the painting and ultimately I will identify, subconsciously or otherwise, one particular creature that stands out and is in turn symbolic of some aspect of my psychology or personality. Shadows on the cave wall, kill or be killed, hunt and gather, swim towards the light.
This painting is a good example of things coming together, the underlying piece emerged in my studio last fall as the finale of a lengthy series of about fifty studies on paper, and the combination of composition, color palette and mood express the beauty and irony inherent in this series.
Meaning that the conditions of the undersea habitat create an environment that is both beautiful and haunting, hospitable and deadly, and the emotions of the fish swimming in the ocean are the same emotions we humans feel in our own tumultuous wild world of consensus reality.
By applying another handful of painted cut-outs on top of the main composition I have made it more crowded and multi-layered, while also using some flatter colors against the more complex underlying paint work to create shadow play that paradoxically rests on top of the layer underneath.
This to me is where the psychological implications are brought to light, I feel that my own preoccupations with what’s going on in society are naturally shared by many people, and the idea of social justice rests upon a framework of relationships, in a crowded world we need to push for our collective goals or we risk getting caught up in the swirling vortex of broader currents we cannot control, in other words activism is essential yet we must also go with the flow.
So this is the type of painting that upon completion inspires me to want to do another dozen or a hundred more because I feel like I am on to something, to any viewer it might be a useful statement or a nice piece of decorative art or a profound psychological commentary, but to me it is a piece of the puzzle and reminds me that I am on the right track, applying my time in the studio to the exploration of important questions and occasionally being rewarded by something that looks like a valuable answer.
I express through this painting a sense of intensity conveyed through a scenario of encroachment, perhaps there is irony in the idea that the ocean could feel crowded, what might be close quarters for people probably feels like safety in numbers to fish in a school, yet visually within these layers and near collisions the idea comes across that our interconnectedness does indeed have both positive and negative connotations, for the most part there is a joyful noise yet we often seek some respite from the constant rush and bustle, this dualistic sensibility makes it perplexing yet exuberantly sought after to dive in and revel in the depths of experience.
An enjoyable metaphor within this series of paintings, I feel that the containment offers plenty of tension and the story provides a release from that tension, a sense of optimism in an environment entangled in crosscurrents of conflict, the window of opportunity open to those creatures who respond immediately and decisively to make the leap, enter into the realm of risk, life or death, alive in the moment, immersed and cheek by jowl with their companions in tumultuous waves of probability.