Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Matter Of Morfit Vs. Plastic Relief, RESOLVED

OK. I spent a couple of days with this in my kitchen, learned to look at it without anxiety, and decided I love it. It feels like I’ve finally found the right solution for this work. Working through that problem - taking the time to follow an unfamiliar idea to it’s successful resolution, is something I’m particularly proud of.

Let's remember that these started as an offshoots of the plaster plates, were originally cast in plaster, and glued directly to the wall. The first breakthrough came when I convinced by the quietly insightful Christine Pfister that having a body of work that stuck to the wall made no practical sense as a work of art. Nobody wants to spend money on art they can’t take with them when they move.

Up until that moment, I’d felt that the pieces needed to be plaster in order to reference the decorative architectural plasters of 17th and 18th centuries. As soon as I got my head around using plastic, the possibilities exploded. Using the plastic led to the use of the nails, which created the critical space between the figures and the wall.

At this point, I was still working with the original model - that the individual figures would be combined to create narrative vignettes in the space. That was what I did at Eileen Tognini’s, for my show at Pentimenti, and at a couple of private residences this summer. The installation process worked like exactly like I’d imagined it would, but new problems presented themselves as the rubber met the road.

First, scale. I thought the installation at Pentimenti worked well, but I could see that part of its success depended on the scale of the room. Out in the larger gallery, those pieces would just disappear. Second, the pieces turned out to be more dependent on the environment than I had anticipated. Installing pieces in a couple of private homes this summer, I found that if the background color was too strong, or the lighting wasn’t right, the pieces flattened out, and the relief as lost. Third, in a larger space, the vignettes just didn’t have the same impact I’d imagined. They looked good, but they didn’t look like enough.

This frame, to my mind, solves all those problems. The frame keeps the scale manageable (duh), and I can control the color. As I mentioned in the last post, I’m no longer trying to control the light - although now it should makes more sense why I would think I needed to. Finally, the all-over composition is enough. It’s visually overwhelming in the way I always thought these pieces needed to be. I had to give up some of the narrative quality to get there, but I think that’s a good thing. In fact, I’m now thinking that the whole idea of a narrative was somehow limiting . It’s just another one example of how you have to kill your darlings - how the initial inspiration can end up being the idea you need to overcome for the piece to succeed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Overfunction Much?

So I dragged my friend Matthew into the kitchen yesterday to see what he thought about this latest iteration. He looked at it for about 2 seconds before saying, "What's up with those lights? They're not staying, right?".

It was one of those frustrating moments when I suddenly realize that I've been laboring under some wrongheaded idée fixe. Of course those lights are not staying! Do you think I'm the kind of over-functioning control freak who would try to build the lighting into his piece? Do you think I'm the kind of idiot who would torture himself trying to find the right lamps, the right lightbulbs, and the right extension cord for such a project? Not this guy. Not anymore.

Thank you Matthew.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What Is The What

OK. This process has been killing me, but I finally got everything nailed down, glued in, and ready to go. Hung it in the kitchen this afternoon, mostly because I'm tired of being surprised by how things look outside of the studio.

I haven't got the portfolio shot of this yet, but this gives an idea of what it looks like in the space.

This whole body of work has been hard going, so it's hard to see clearly, but I think this is the last, best version. It's tricky to think of an appropriate context. It's almost flat, but then there's this intensely detailed depth on the top 1/4 inch. It's almost decorative, but the high contrast shapes against the decorator showcase colors are at odds with the the fragments of narrative, which are often violent, or unsettling. It looks like a billboard, or a poster, or an explosion at the Wedgewood factory.

I made it, but I'm not sure I know how to look at it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In The Frame / Process Breakdown

Start of the semester, but finally able to get back in the studio on Friday.

Most of the day spent painting and finishing the frame. Hard to patient here, because I'd like to get started and see if my imagined process is going to work, but I can't do that without having everything else perfect and ready to go. Which means 4 or 5 hours of sanding, painting, and prepping before I can really get "started".

The good news is that I finally did get to put some figures down on the frame, and it works just like I thought.

First, I spray-painted all the elements with a matte white automotive primer. This has two benefits. First, it makes all the color consistent, and protects the plastic from UV light, which yellows it.

Second, it creates a stencil, which I use as a map when it comes time to register the pieces on the frame.

It's slow going, but I think I've got the system worked out, and the end is definitely in sight.

The process thus far:

1) Make original figures in Super Sculpey
2) Bake figures
3) Carve and sand baked figures
4) Mold figures
5) Cast elements in plastic (From here, each step is repeated for each casting)
6) Soak figures in TSP to remove mold release
7) Brush figures with wire bush to scuff surfaces
8) Drill multiple holes into the back of each figure to anchor the brads
9) Glue brads into holes
10) Make foam "testing wall"
11) Cover wall with craft paper
12) Demarcate projected final dimensions on craft paper
13) Compose image, punching brads through craft paper into foam wall
14) Modify, cut, and crop individual elements where necessary
15) Make frame
16) Paint frame
17) Paint figures
18) Transfer sections of figures over to auxiliary foam board
19) Cut craft paper sections
20) Using perforated craft paper as a guide, drill holes in frame
21) Glue each element into corresponding holes

Looking at it like this makes me feel incredibly clever, and totally foolish. Like I've created an elegant Rube Goldberg machine that doesn't do anything.