I worked with my long-time collaborator Pele Prints, a fine art printer in St. Louis, to create the Gemelli suite of relief prints. The goal of the project was to work within a fixed set of parameters to create a body of work that was expansive in both color and form while still maintaining a clarity to the parts. Each of the five images was made using the same three plates, with each plate containing one or two gestures. By changing the sequence of the plates and the colors, and by tweaking the opacity/transparency of the inks, each image was given a different gestural emphasis and a distinct palette from the rest.
The gestures I use are essentially magnified lines. Line, shape and color are some of the basic components of visual language: these are the words and sentences that can form together to create the ‘epic novels’ of complex visual compositions. By zooming in on line, I hope to tease out the nuance of this basic element of composition and in doing so pay homage to the foundations of image-making.
I also see these marks as records of the movement of the hand and body. Tracks, traces, and marks in everyday life are sources of inspiration for this work – such as the haphazard patterns created by painting and repainting cross-walk lines in the road in different colors and shapes over the years. Like the lines in my prints, these marks are also a record of some human action - making, mending, destroying.
To create these lines, I first build rough DIY tools out of brushes, yardsticks and tape, and then paint gestures onto the plates. The gestures are painted with a mixture of acrylic medium and carborundum (silicone carbide – an abrasive). This gives the mark enough texture so that, when dry, it can be rolled up with ink, allowing for the transfer of this initial mark – or ‘frozen gesture’ - from the plate to the paper.
Another study in gestural line in this show is the print PBX 315, one from a suite of prints made with Pele Prints in 2016. The PBX suite uses a different set of parameters as a way to generate a series of images - in this case six plates of one line each were used to create 26 different images. I find the use of tight constraints and ‘rules’ helpful – it’s kind of like giving myself an assignment, where the scope and parameters are laid out ahead of time. This challenge - of trying to exhaust the possibilities within a fixed set of elements - has always been for me a fruitful way to create a body of work that has both focus and complexity.
Argonauts Quarto uses a spare palette, as in the other prints, but uses shapes instead of lines to create its gestures. Removing the line and the texture from these prints was something I had to trick myself into doing (and it took awhile to achieve). This is the culmination of a two year project that started with a suite of 48 monoprints, was whittled down and reprinted as a suite of sixteen editioned prints, and then was pared down again to a suite of eight. The last manifestation was at a larger scale, hence the addition of the word “Quarto” (which refers to the oversize book section in the library). Each image contains a shaped void that is framed by color on either side; these shapes can seem to refer to the body, a landscape, or industrial or urban design (although no specific connotation is intended). Again I used this idea of an ‘assignment’ – a clear set of parameters – to build up this spare set of shapes and colors and use them in different combinations to create this suite. Ultimately, I am trying to find a balance between simplicity and complexity in the forms I create.
Location: Haw Contemporary Stockyards