Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rothko: A Call for Depth

I’m not an abstractionist. I’m not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.

You might be thinking - Richard is a realist painter, and he begins with a title that obviously shows his bias against flatness. He's got an agenda against abstraction and I don't think I care to hear his arrogant peal into Rothko. However, you will have misjudged me. The title is very close to my intention, but not in the way one might think.

In watching Simon Schama's The Power of Art last night, I came to an understanding. I have always enjoyed Rothko's work, especially his later pieces. His Seagrams murals and the Rothko Chapel have always struck a chord in me. They remind me much of Goya's late work: The Black Paintings. But I had never quite understood the context of Rothko's work and I realized how incredibly much I had in common with him. His great masters - Rembrandt, Turner, Goya- are the very same that speak to me. His work attempted to evoke that same poetry, that same subtlety, that gravitas of the spirit that they achieved. He was concerned with piercing through the illusions of man to the very depths of his soul and communicate to the pure emotive core. This is what man truly responds to: not cold intellect or sardonic irony.

But for the first time I connected the expanding consumer culture of 1950's America with this brooding idealist. I saw the shallow materialism which surrounded him and I understood his hope, his frustration, his vision. His work is not a flippant comment about the transient pop culture. It is not the self-obsessed, elitist, intellectual masturbation which speaks only to itself and "the dialogue". Rothko was an ascetic. He wanted to bind a chord of communion between other human beings in the only way he knew how, if only to prove that he was not alone. This could only be done by conveying meaning. His work was a resounding cry for eternity, for humanity, for depth.

I see an incredibly similar society today. I see the same materialism, the same consumer culture magnified by the media to the point of brainwashing every person from childhood to be nothing more than gluttonous and sarcastic cannibalistic sheep. Yet they are blinded to the very fact of their actions. We have unjust and futile wars raging and there is no protest music. We are the machine that drives economic colonialism and no one holds up the mirror for us to see. Where are our great masterpieces of emotion? Where is our clarion call?

Where is the cry against the cloak of the night, the sudden beam of light that reveals what is hidden?

At this moment art does not have such a call, art does not have such a light. Art is merely a smear of shadow in the corner, chanting to itself of it's own murkiness and wealth.

No, the depth I speak of has little to do with the illusion of three dimensional space. Not visual depth, but true depth. And art, for the moment, does not have this.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Youth in Arcadia

Someone give him a paintbrush, he's brilliant, I can tell!

I've recently encountered an interesting article entitled "Why the Current Art World Youth Obsession is Completely Asinine". Though, being under thirty, I am included in this juvenile jumble, I must admit that I agree.

The issue with most young artists is that, under the guise of being "avant garde" they repeat the same thing that all of the other "avant garde" artists are doing. Further, most completely dismiss history and are doomed to repeat everything that has come before. Yet because they are not aware of it, they not only do not learn from the previous incarnation, they produce a terribly banal echo of what was once gloriously mediocre.

"All you need is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure."
I think Mark Twain had it right on the money.

"Originality is nothing more than remembering everything you've heard, but forgetting where you heard it."
Ironically, I can't remember who said this. It must have been me!

You, if you are under 30 like myself, are probably thinking "yeah that's true, but I'm not like them." Perhaps you're not, but I recognize that I am. Hopefully to a lesser degree, as I actually study art history and contemporary art. I am somewhat aware of what has happened before and what is occurring now. If I echo what has come before, at least I do it with beauty, with intelligence, with a new contextuality. But of course, that's perhaps what we all say.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Angels of the Avant Garde

They're so hip, so "with it"- they get all the cartoons in the New Yorker!

There's nowhere to run!
There's nowhere to hide!
(except Staten Island)

They're...... "oh my god that's us!" THE ART SCHOOL GRADUATES!

Coming to an underground loft gallery near you.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Cask of Exxon Mobile

Here is a photograph of the result of my collaboration with Greg Oliver Bodine in the play Poe, Times Two at the Manhattan Theatre Source. I reconstructed the painting in the background The Triumph of Justice over Rebellion, from an original hanging in the inquisitor's room of the Palazzo Ducale in Venice.

Greg put on a brilliant performance of The Cask of Amontillado (pictured) and The Black Cat. I've always felt that the Victorian era, and especially Poe, had a very Baroque aesthetic about it, and this manifestation certainly evoked the tenebrist tension between the light of truth and the shadows of the human soul.

I couldn't help but to read the overtones of judgment and the tragic malevolence of man as a political commentary, much in the same vein as The Crucible during the McCarthy era. To bring the audience into the atmosphere, he pleads his case directly, very much like the posturing Bush - debating the merits of his honor and the reasons for his deed. But ultimately his story must come to a close, and truly it is we who stand in judgment.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sometimes it's Nice to be the Trash Man

I don't think I could have said it better myself.

Flowers and Art

Vithya Truong will be participating in a show alone with several other Academy alumni at Flowers gallery. (That's his painting on the right).

A new look at Duchamp!

Click on the image for more information.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Copulation and Mirrors

"Both mirrors and copulation are an abomination, as each multiplies the number of men."
-Jorge Luis Borges

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mueck in the Moment

I was reminded by an article of a friend, Christopher Jagers, of one of those few and vanishing moments when viewing contemporary art. You know the feeling - that sudden excitement, the singular second that you are truly surprised, and caught off guard.

With the greatest works of art, I find that moment of first discovery somehow continues. As if every time I see the piece is the first time. Something, incredibly rare in contemporary art.

What Mueck does is astounding, in technical virtuosity, in sheer guts and idealism. His is some of the little work that catches me off guard. But alas, it is not sustained.

My thoughts are that the payoff is in humanity. Psychology, emotion, iconic or narrative nature - these things give me something to connect with on an intuitive level. I would like to see his work with more facial expression. This piece above is the only one I've found so far that is not soul-less. The others, admittedly impressive, lack distinct and individual character. The faces do not look as if they are quite in contemplation, they appear empty and without meaning. They do not quite interact with themselves, the viewer, or each other (with the exception of this single piece). Yes, he captures the vitality of the skin, but the soul is barely missing. I would like to see more interaction like the one above. There's nothing more frustrating to me, than when something is so nearly there, but drops short. Call me a romantic, but perhaps these require a setting, perhaps more motion or body language, perhaps more dramatic lighting......

perhaps I am asking too much?


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Poe, Times Two

I'm collaborating with Greg Oliver Bodine on his off-Broadway show Poe, Times Two. An adaptation of two great stories by Poe, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Black Cat, it is a tale of murder, supernatural mystery, and ultimately Justice!
I can't help but conclude, from reading the script and knowing the set design, that Greg is making an artistic statement not without political import.

I worked in props design to produce a painting for the piece, entitled Justice Triumphs over Rebellion, which works perfectly with the tone of this play. Symbolically it is the sword of Damocles which hangs above the performers head, and visually it is a baroque image which supports the emotively dramatic atmosphere. I feel that the iconic nature of the painting will work well with such a heavy narrative.

The show runs July 23rd-26th, 8pm at the Manhattan Theatre Source on MacDougal street.
For more info check out www.theatresource.org. There is also a small exhibition of some of my paintings until August 4th.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Art as Ambassador

While I still attended the New York Academy, I met a group of artists touring the studios. I was in my studio at the time, so when they came by I of course invited them in, being the show-boat that I am.

However, when their translator informed me that they were a group of artists from Iran and she asked me if I would be kind enough to discuss my work, I must admit that my pride suddenly turned to panic.

You see, I had just heard on the radio, not an hour before, a news story discussing the tensions between Bush and Iran. So you can perhaps understand my apprehension when I realized that I knew absolutely nothing about their culture. This was a moment when I, in some unknown way, might influence their views of artists in America and by extension in some respect, our people. And I felt entirely inadequate to be an ambassador, I was afraid I would say something insulting and not even realize it. But somehow I stammered through an introduction about the work and answered a few questions. When it was over I realized that I had probably blown the whole thing out of proportion. But I did begin thinking about how little I knew about Iranian art or culture and the middle east in general and further, how little Americans in general knew about the middle east. Perhaps this kind of ignorance is what allows us to start ridiculous wars and exploit the resources and labor of third world countries.... conscience free. If we do not know about the "other" it is easy to ignore that they are human beings.

Two of the artists in the group gave me their cards and I was very pleased to find their work, which I posted above. Mohammad Rahimi on the right and Behnam Kamrani on the left. Consider the power art might play in cultural exchange, especially during such turbulent times. If our government refuses to open a dialogue with these cultures, then maybe it is our responsibility, as artists to take the first step and perhaps open a path that doesn't include war.

In complete honesty I am a little intimidated by Islam, especially a nation based upon it. But I am also ignorant and curious. I hope that through asking questions I can alleviate my own fears and I guess that's the first step. I'm sure that others have just as many questions as I. What is the tradition that an Iranian figurative artist draws on? How does the government and society respond to the work?

We have the pleasure of having an Iranian-American artist as a member of our community: Ali Banisadr. (I'm not afraid you, man - you don't have an accent, lol) But I would like to ask his take on this, perhaps he might have some insights that he would be kind enough to share with us in a post.

Richard Scott

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Rise of the 'Art-Mart'

I came across a lively discussion of the state of the collector driven art market on Edward Winkleman's blog. It is certainly worth a read.

I propose that what is occurring in the art market is merely symptomatic of the larger global economic trend. Independently owned niche galleries are being pushed out in the same manner that Wal-Mart and other corporate fuedalist states have crushed the small business owner. Now, all across America, you can find a small selection of generic items amidst a vast categorical one-stop shop. It seems that the art market is becoming a high end version of this, the successful galleries offering the high turnover selection of name brand artists in every style, all under one roof.

Can we solve the recurring problem with a genre-specific band-aid or should we not get to the root of the problem and re-establish the vital diversity needed in our society at large?

Genetic diversity is necessary for a species to be successful. When the species lacks diversity, the species lacks adaptability and vitality. Diversity is necessary culturally for the same reasons. So, why would it not be necessary for art, when art is so integral to civilization as well as to each individual (whether they know it or not)? Below is one of the responses from the discussion which I find concisely states what I mean.
What I think is needed is a capitalism of ideas. Philosophies and criticism and aesthetics need to be able to partake in free debate, violent disagreement if necessary. Museums, curators, critics and even academics should fight it out, there is NO NEED for agreement, NO NEED for consensus, history solves that over time in it’s own way, the culture ultimately decides on what it chooses to value.

However, I do not think one can stop the weed without getting at the roots. We need to restructure the corporation to a more democratic system. As it is, the corporation is essentially structured as a monarchy. And because of the growing power of these corporations (Wal-Mart alone made over $360 billion in 2005, more than the economies of all but the 21 richest nations!) we must take notice. These should be labeled as they are: rogue monarchies, and all it would take is for them to hire a "security force" and they could be as dangerous as Napoleon, if not more.

That which I call the 'Art-Mart' is only a fever. The real sickness lies deeper down. If we value our diversity and our freedom of choice, we need to re-evaluate how we do everything. Society has become truly global. The world is changing, and if we want to survive, we have to change with it.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

In the Shadow of a Norman Rockwell Existence

I have below, an essay sent to me in confidence. It is truly a compelling story, and one which I feel will stand in my mind far beyond the time that the individual words themselves fade away. But I hope that you will find it as poetic and touching as I.

During my formative years, I grew up in a small community in the shadow of a Norman Rockwell existence being envied by those who did not understand what evils could lurk therein. At an early age, far too young for understanding, art always called me to understand and thus guided me toward a future which existed only in my mind. Later, I moved to the city with my family and was challenged by the torments of the world known only to lower classes which ultimately greet each level of society in its own special way with its unwelcoming embrace.

It was not these things that ultimately propelled me to art for salvation, but rather an incidence that far exceeded the horrors I had learned from being poisoned. It was after recovering from such, an impossible feat of returning to life, that someone I trusted violated my confidence by drugging and selling me into a world I barely escaped with not only my life but not much of my mind intact either.

My son prevented my heart from becoming obdurate in my recovery, while art prevented me from exposing him to a world that I did not want him to know, but rather allowed me to greet him with the promise of something better than I had learned on my existence on this earth. It was out of my love for him that I began to paint a new world, and I have not stopped since.

Many people think I was born with a silver spoon. Often those same people scorn me when they learn otherwise. I am only happy they have never known anything different and are afforded such sanctimony. A luxury I wish I could give to my son. Though his father offers him much material comfort, he has much compassion for those who have never known such, or comfort of any kind. What more could I ask for in life than a heart such as he possesses.

Yes my son, creator and mentor of my heart, allowing me to blossom in my art to fill his garden in life.

What makes an artist is many things. What motivates art production is another. Many artists seek salvation of the world through their art, as I.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Observations of a Female Artist depicting the Feminine Nude

As an artist and a woman rendering nude studies, I find myself to be the subject of much curiosity, some of which has been a challenge both personally and professionally while subjecting me to questionable moral speculation. Not all cases have been received negatively. The moments I have been heralded have offered more encouragement than possibly is warranted. These instances have been received with profound emotion as I have a deep respect and admiration for the human body for various reasons. However, the occasions in which I have been maligned for rendering nudes are perhaps felt more intensely than the praise I have received as my character is most often insulted.

The feeling I find most common is that women are often discredited for not having the proper appreciation of the feminine form. Therefore the question arises of how they could possibly render a female nude to the full satisfaction of artistic capacity? This amazes me and more often than not challenges me to create in different ways. Mostly such an insinuation further perpetuates my passions to prove otherwise for woman inhabits the feminine body and therefore is intimately aware of its subtle variations.

However, I understand that rendering figures as art is generally inconceivable to the common mind as largely our society has been polluted by pornography, stripping the general public of classical artistic esthetics otherwise appreciated for centuries. Therefore a woman depicting nude figures in art is often regarded as exploiting her own sex. While heralded by some in a perverse sense, she is commonly denounced by others for lacking morals. As such, I was ever so pleased when I read that Ruth Bernhard said:

If I have chosen the female form in particular, it is because beauty has been debased and exploited in our sensual 20th century. Woman has been the subject of much that is sordid and cheap, especially in photography. To raise, to elevate, to endorse with timeless reverence the image of woman has been my mission.

The exploits Bernhard speaks of did not stop with photography, they have expanded over time and have ravaged the art world as well as all other artistic expressions. As such, I have not always found the courage to paint nudes, sometimes abandoning them for years at a time. Although an appreciation for beauty is always in my heart, bravery has often fled because of accusations depriving me of decency and artistic ethics. Bernhard’s ideals, as stated, have always been a part of my artistic goal, even before discovering her work, or her statement.

Not only that, I feel deeply indebted to a sense of preservation of feminine figurative art for as a woman I understand most profoundly that creation of life, through the womb, is a miracle in of itself. These bodies we live in are more than machines, or bags of flesh that encase our souls, they are art – living and moving in form. It is a fascination with the body that begins like a seed and blossoms into a bud, which then blooms to the full height of it’s glory like the most exotic of flowers, before fading quite suddenly and returning to the earth from which it sprung that I wish to capture for beauty is fleeting. All bodies eventually fade like perennials in a garden, or wilt like flowers left unattended and forgotten in a vase.

As a society, we feel free to look at a floral display, but yet we’ve been told there is only one way to look at the body and that is in a sexual sense. This is not true, it is okay to admire loveliness, to elevate it, and appreciate it for what it is while it lasts. My only goal is to promote that which is exquisite in a state of innocence so that it remains timeless and becomes immortal through art to our period of history. These days we live in will not last, just as we will not, but hopefully through art, our splendor will not be forgotten. It is the obligation of the artist to preserve radiance in its purist state.

All the thoughts which diminish, rather than preserve, the female form in art can be attributed to the affects of society throughout history. I feel many of our greatest artists have been moved by such challenges, and perhaps painted as an anointment to aid in healing. I firmly believe Gauguin saw and experienced this in the society he lived in, however to the opposite extreme, in which puritanical ways stripped cultured civilizations of passion by undermining women in their emotional gifts to perpetuate life through an expression of love. He lived in a time when woman were bartered and sold into marriage, or for pleasure, to such an extent that even more than a century later, we are still confused in our healing as we try to find balance in romance. As such, Gauguin sought to “become a savage,” I think, to preserve innocence and truth through art as the quintessence of purity at the time was mistaken for savagery. Therefore, the purist reason I paint nudes is to protect that innocence, to find that balance between points in history, which allows us to truly love and create life as a result.

We are art, in all that we do, as a collective whole manifested in our thoughts that announce what is acceptable and what is not. Our art is a consciousness presiding over our culture and should be preserved as such to either depict society as it is, or to heal the distortions that dominate and mutilate it. Therefore, I always find the courage some how to return to paint that which I cherish: the human form from the feminine perspective and all its rights to freedom and expression of love. As Jean Dubuffet said:

I would like people to see my work as a rehabilitation of scorned values and, in any case, a work of ardent celebration.


Friday, July 6, 2007

Brunch and Berkeley

I have a for you dear reader, a conundrum inside a mystery, wrapped by a gluten free riddle and topped by some fresh made guacamole. (Sorry, I'm a little hungry). But the prime component of this ponderous pearl of pontification pivots on the prestigious premise of Berkeley.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it. Does it make a sound?

Now, this little question, as interesting as it may be, has been explored extensively. However, I would like to propose an extension of Berkeley's logic here, so please humor me for a moment.

Let us suppose that an unknown artistic genius, living somewhere undetected, produces a great masterpiece and then abruptly dies. This masterpiece lies in an attic undiscovered while the world continues to turn, never to be discovered. Is this work still a masterpiece though it has never been seen by eyes other than those of the creator? Does it exist within a context, though it is not regarded within that context?

Now let us suppose that the same piece is discovered 1,000 years later and is hailed as the greatest work of that era. Was it a masterpiece the whole time or was it only a masterpiece once it was discovered and described as such?

Hmmm... do you have any salsa?


Thursday, July 5, 2007

Biennial Culture Shock

Jerry Saltz recently published an article on Artnet about the moribund Biennial Kulture (K is for KOOL)- which - not to my surprise, I found incredibly refreshing. My attention was drawn to this article by a blurb on the blog of a friend Christopher Jagers.

Here's a little snippet of Saltz's article:

You’re constantly darting in and out of crowds, glimpsing snippets of work, greeting and avoiding people, elbowing your way through throngs, waiting in long lines to spend six minutes in a pavilion with 700 other weary souls who perpetually ask one another, "What have you seen that was good?" and "Where are you going tonight?" You can’t really see anything.

What is the point of the exhibition if it's not about the art? It seems as if these Biennials have become much like the Cannes Film Festival: Everyone comes to the party but nobody sees the show.

Perhaps it's only a matter of time, as Saltz proposes, before this moribund and bloated system has a biennial coronary and dies.... twice.

Richard T Scott
Joelle-Scott Gallery

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Women In Art

A journey through western art. A little Anglo-centric, but beautiful nonetheless.