So what does all of this mean, this quasi-formal analysis and the time taken to write it down? For me, it forces me to think about an activity of engaged viewing, of a kind of voyeurism that has a visceral physical effect that takes place beyond words. Finding these words nonetheless to somehow dance around the subject as close as possible, to somehow inhabit that optical experience through another sensory one, one that involves touch in scribbling it all down, one that uses the voice of language and mental gymnastics to come to grips with the“metaphysical hydra” as it were, allows me to retain and grasp the somewhat ineffable qualities and absorb them.
De Kooning’s work in some way mimics this function or one can think of it as a metaphor in this regard. De Kooning’s brush floats around the figures space and presence, implying the figures presence through the manipulation of paint effects much like I try to with words to describe this thing, this thing that makes me have little choice but to wrestle with it in the studio or here on the digital page.
I think this is the kind of feeling that only artists feel, a love and fascination of this thing that drives us to great lengths and sometimes profound depression or economic failure in an attempt to consume this thing or be part of it. It is to outsiders a strange and peculiar condition or profession.
I found myself getting depressed when I was looking at the 70’s paintings that really left a profound impression upon me. Works like Untitled XI owned by the Art Institute of Chicago from 1975 or Untitled from 1977 that is in my post De Kooning three cont, Untitled VIII from that same year owned by Bettina and Donald L. Bryant, Jr. and Untitled I from 77 too. But then I realized that De Kooning was in his early 70’s and I am not quite 50. I went back to the room to see where De Kooning was at my age and I felt more reassured. It perhaps is a mark of great ego to compare oneself to such a master but I do. I wrestle with Picasso, Matisse, De Kooning, Polke and a long list of artists and I firmly believe De Kooning’s statement that art is a big bowl of soup, you get to take some of it and if you are lucky you get to put something back in.
What is the point otherwise? Why do this activity without dealing with ones ancestors who move you? Why not attempt to live up to their commitment and dedication? Why not try at least to pick up the banner and carry it forth for future generations? I’ve been lucky to have some good and wise friends who have been supportive and understand my perverse dedication, who have mentioned names like Matisse and Picasso in written words about my own works. It is an achievement and recognition that helps me make it through the financial difficulties.
The past year was a financial disaster as many artists of my age who haven’t made it are finding a difficult time to find even occasional work. But seeing De Kooning and knowing his personal history of financial difficulties and personal problems and yet still forging ahead with a determination to do whatever he wanted to do despite the commercial pressures to maintain a certain style and not giving a damn about various artists or critics disgust with the Women paintings, etc was fortifying.
The stylelessness of De Kooning has often been mentioned; the same goes for Picasso, Matisse, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter. I think it is necessary to always ask the question, to push the envelope and to see where one can go and most importantly allow oneself the freedom to investigate these ideas and personal visions that drive us. Damn the marketplace.
I decided this year to focus on the good parts of what it is to create art, to be an artist. I’m heading this year to my first half century and I could bemoan the professional frustrations with and of the art world. I most certainly will on this blog still bitch but more I want to spend my remaining years making art because I need to, because it is the one thing I am really good at and I really love.
Last week I was driving into New York City with my son, twenty minutes before as we stopped on the expressway I remarked at the colors of the sky as the sun was setting. The clouds were a beautiful creamy butter yellow against the blue sky and then as the minutes passed turned into a beautiful peach color in contrast to the darkening sky. As we drove over the Pulaski towards the Holland Tunnel the twilight was now fast upon us, the city skyline with the gray buildings just barely visible against the evening and the twinkling of the cities lights made the city look like the most wonderful jewel and I mean it was fantastic, it was so beautiful.
There is too much art made without love or feeling, made with a cultural cynicism and lack of humanity and there is a great market for it because today it is more advantageous to be hip with irony instead of being simply human.
Because at the end of the day, that is all there is, our humanity. I don’t believe in god or an afterlife. This is it. The universe will die and all of our achievements and grunts will be dust. I don’t find this to be depressing knowing this, knowing the futility. I find it invigorating that somehow we’ve managed to be self aware and can take pleasure in life, in having a need for beauty and to share through words or music or in my case painting, this wonder of life. That we exist is a marvel. So I will try to add to the soup and if I’m lucky I'll be allowed to.