For several years I’ve been pursuing two distinct directions, representing complimentary channels of my work. While they have little else in common, each trajectory is rooted in a commitment to making as a process that fuses material, visual, and intellectual labor as a mode of exploration and discovery. In a world populated with manufactured objects that enforce a separation between conception and materiality, the way I work interrogates assumptions that elevate the conceptual work of shaping (design) in relation to material and visual labor. By contrast, my process is an embodied integration of physical effort, visual experience, and ideas. This matters because the way we make things is tied up with how we see, think, and our capacity to re-shape the world.
The most recent of the wall constructions are the group called Kites, and extend a way of working that began 30 years ago. They are lightweight constructions made from a mix of woods and plywood. Like drawing, they are an arena for provisional inquiry, and I begin each one knowing little about what it will become; I find their shape and relation to the wall though repeated drawing, cutting, and joining. Even late in the process, as I am working with color, I might decide to edit the object by cutting or attaching elements— particularly if the piece begins to seem too familiar. Knowing when a piece is done has to do with a finding a terse economy, as if something has been taken away; a state between fugitive and permanent, fractured and whole, open and dense, allusive and literal.
I started working in clay in 2016. Having spent most of my life constructing things with hard materials, I felt the need to subvert the skills, tools, and related suppositions that virtually all my work had relied on— and which came to frame art-making as a joyless intellectual problem rather than an urgent expression. In fact, the histories of modern sculpture, western architecture, and technology are largely defined by a grammar of construction involving binary operations of cutting and joining. Unlike things constructed from hard materials, clay allows form to emerge through many equal incremental gestures, without the material and conceptual hierarchies that construction implies. Unlike a piece of plywood, clay has no characteristic shape: it is the most primal of materials, and likely the first material shaped by human hands. As such, it resists analytical calculations, and connects us to the elemental human necessity of shaping. The group of large clay objects, Indelibles, are made by adding one pinch of clay to another, with every gesture playing an equal role in determining the form.
Color first found its way into my work many years ago and more recently has become an essential element— in fact, I can no longer think about form or material without color. Although I’m not interested in parsing definitions of painting or sculpture, the color in the wall constructions obviously relates to painting traditions, particularly in the way it functions in relation to the material object and the wall. The color shapes and the larger image they constitute can play a slippery game with shape and light, but also confirm the material fact of the object by adding weight or articulating form.
By identifying more emphatically with the objects themselves, color plays a different role in my clay work. As a single work composed of individual objects, the color in Indelibles has the effect of charging or energizing the space between and around the objects and viewers. With its complex overlapping densities and radiance, color almost literally occupies this space. In this way, the work is a collection of objects with stable material properties, but which activate an infinitely shifting perceptual field of shape, color, and light.