May 17, 2009

Sleeping Standing Up

My "Homage to Squares" exhibition turned out to be elaborate and complex. It took me and three volunteers two vehicles to get the art and installation set up to the site and eight hours to hang the show. Thank God for friends! Heart felt thanks go out to Julia Wolfe, Pierce West and Kevin Smith. I could not have done this without them.
Interestingly, my friends often had a better idea than I did about how to hang much of the work. This does not surprise me. I just create the art - displaying it is yet another art. Pierce West especially had good ideas about what to use in focal points and how to arrange things so that they would read like a long narrative, as in the case of the thirty small figurative paintings and their accompanying poems. Kevin and Pierce rearranged my long line of Barbie Doll portraits separate from the single portrait of G.I. Joe. So instead of being a part of this group, he was a counterbalance to it - like a long story with a punch line to it.
After an exhausting day of hanging art, I spent the day before the Friday opening busying myself preparing food. In keeping with the theme most things were square - fudge brownie squares, lemon squares and pecan squares to name a few. Opening night on Friday was surprisingly crowded, with most of the food and all of the wine consumed by the throngs. Again I am grateful for the savvy publicity from the Gallery 80808 webmaster, Susan Lenz.
Preparations for this exhibition have been so consuming that my intent to write about the art has been somewhat curtailed. Nevertheless, I will manage to write for a while about the work in this exhibition. With about eighty pieces hanging in this show, there is plenty to write about. With work ranging in dates of completion from early last decade to just last week, the show turned out to be something like a small retrospective. The most recent work, "Sleeping Standing Up," featured at the top of this page, was finished just last week. The picture is a collage on canvas comprised of a figure excised from a previous painting that met up with an unfortunate studio accident. ( I had written about this in a previous blog when I first cut the standing man out of the painting.) I had salvaged the figure by cutting him out of the painting and pasting him onto a new canvas. It took a long time to get back to the image of this man, which had remained rolled up in a closet for several months as I attended to my daily routines and weekly deadlines. As the deadline for completing new work for my exhibition drew near, I feared that I would not be able to carve out a niche of time to complete this larger, elaborate piece. But I found a sufficient block of time after all, in the final week before my show.
In this new version of "Sleeping Standing Up," I outlined the figure by squeezing a tube of scarlet paint around the contours of his body. I did this for both pragmatic and aesthetic reasons. Using a sold line instead of collaged fragments of paper as in the rest of the work, highlighted the subject in a bold and provocative way. The thick paint also served to hide the seam created by a heavy piece of canvas pasted on top of another canvas.
This mosaic collage, like most of my others, was not laid out in entirety then adhered to the substrate. Instead the process was more intuitive - colors and patterns revealing themselves as I worked along the surface. There were many surprises along the way - like the pink quilt-like border, and the large blue squares. A commentator thought there was a symbolic intent to the pink color - a threat to the masculinity of the subject. This was an interesting concept but was not in the forefront of my intentions. The pink just mysteriously resonated with me.
I hung "Sleeping Standing Up" at the end of the long hallway leading to my exhibition because I wanted it to be an iconic focal point. There are many things one could say about the brazen colors and the torpor of his presence. With the economic downturn, and so much of life turned upside down - lost retirements, state ownerships of what we used to consider the apogee of capitalistic institutions. This season brought with it a sense of sleepwalking - because so much of what we thought was real was not.
"Sleeping Standing Up" serves now as the greeter to the door of my exhibition. Unfortunately he will have to come down the day after tomorrow. Such a brief exhibition with such a long theme!

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