Naming the Paintings
With the intention of making these paintings purely visual, I wanted titles that would not suggest meaning and would not guide the viewer in interpreting the work. After seeing these paintings, the viewer would remember them only visually, having forgotten the title. I myself do not remember my paintings by name.
As the work on this series was drawing to a close in 2004 I happened to be reading Kenneth Clark’s book on Leonardo da Vinci. To find titles for the paintings I flipped through the book, looking for commas. I jotted down the words before and after a comma. These titles--suggesting grammatical order while lacking a clear reference--point to a disjunction between the verbal impulse and the visual experience.
The plates for these relief prints were plaster, poured into custom built molds. I carved out the negative space with diminutive Dremel power drills and by hand with Exacto knives.The drawings, originally in small format, then enlarged and transferred to the plaster plates, combine chaotic procedures with extreme control and calculation.
For example, “Random Numbers” started with a page of random numbers copied from a mathematics handbook’s listing of random numbers, which was then run through a computer program called “Pond.” Pond simulated the ripples on a water surface that would be created by a pebble thrown into a pond. The sheet of random numbers was the water surface.
“Done That” shows two 3x5 cards on which I had written my to-do lists. This theme was inspired by a visit to the Pergamon museum in Berlin earlier that year, where I saw cuneiform tablets listing transactions in grain and other agricultural products.
The drawings based on Matisse, Velazquez, et al, were made blind, i.e. I memorized the painting, then closed my eyes and drew it from memory on paper, about 7” x 5.” The self-portrait, also a blind drawing, shows me with a millstone color, a sartorial abomination that Rembrandt and others documented in their early 17th century high society portraits.
Though I intended to pull an edition of eight for each of these plates, there actually is only one print for each. The plaster plates, alas, are too fragile to tolerate more work.
Reflections on the Vermeer Series
In the past twenty years I have studied Vermeer and indulged my obsession with his life and work through seven series, where series II through VII are incomplete and ongoing.
Vermeer series part I
This series of paintings grew out of the tension that I sensed in Vermeer’s paintings, between the emotional content and the severe geometry of his compositions. I could see even from early rather casual analysis that he constructed the compositions by using the Golden Section over and over, placing a high value on classical order, predictability, and decorum. The figures in the paintings, however, conveyed no such order. While impeccably dressed and placed in impeccably Dutch-clean rooms, they projected only alienation and, if in company of others, most often, a dysfunctional society. My working process was, accordingly, two-stepped. I set up two work stations in my studio, one for careful analysis with measuring tools and calculator and one for the reckless splashing of paint. After about three hours of the analysis stage, I swiveled to the painting table and produced these paintings, very rapidly and very impulsively.
Since then, this approach of combining the intellectual and emotional aspects of the process has informed all my work and has led to six more Vermeer Series. My engagement with Vermeer is not narrowly focused on Vermeer in an academic sense, not at all, but delves into the existential questions underlying art making in general, both then and now, both for Vermeer and for me.
The reproductions on this site often do not show the white of the original works as truly white.
In the painting series “at the time, and made” the splash is white.
In the painting series “now, there is no” the center of the painting is white.
In the drawing series “Icon” and “Life Drawing” the paper is white.
In “Relief Prints” the paper is white.
But in the drawing series “Suspension” the paper is ecru. In the Vermeer Series Part V, the paper is ecru.