Monday, March 28, 2011

An Artful Environmental Impact Statement - Alex's Article

Alex's article revolves around J. Henry Fair's environmental photography, and how it leads a double life as both photographic evidence of environmental pollution caused by mankind and an homage to abstract painting do to its color and overall appearance. He takes photographs, often in aerial view, of the sort of things we weren't 'supposed to see'. He captures images of unnatural disasters caused by oil spills and industry that gives one a sense of the grand scale and spread of its influence. Yet his work has been picked through and edited for the Gerald Peters Gallery, where they are mainly interested in the abstract quality of his pictures. The issue here is whether the artist must choose at this point what his photographs should become. Are they a statement against the attacking of our own environment, or are they works of art that are to be taken as abstract details rather than depictions of destruction?

I don't think art should have to lead a double life unless the artist doesn't mind the consequences of it. If he's aware that his photographs will not have as much of an impact when it comes to what they convey and the truth behind why they were taken, then by all means, call it abstract art and make some money. But one must be prepared to live by it for a while. Once people know you're the guy who takes lovely abstract photographs, they won't know much else. 

I probably would keep any political work separate from straight-up art. Actually, since there's no danger of me going political, I can rather say that I'd keep my fine art and my illustrative/commissioned works separate from one another. Even if I have to go by a different name, I wouldn't want one to be associated with the other--then people will start looking for things that aren't there. All because I might draw twelve pictures of cats for people so I can make some money on the side and then make a piece about the apocalypse doesn't mean that the later work alludes to be being a crazy cat lady whose house is falling apart. Well...maybeI; that's not the best analogy--I've never been good at those sorts of things--but I guess you might get the point by now. It really depends on the artist's integrity. Henry could have refused to do a show at that gallery if they wouldn't include different photographs or he didn't want to settle for artsy titles that evoke the atmosphere rather than the actual event. 

Now for questions:

1. It's pretty harsh for some, and easy for others. It depends on how much the original work matters to you versus how important it is for you to change it. I couldn't do it and like the result. I would, if I were desperate enough for attention and I could live with myself by selling out my own stuff, but I wouldn't be attached to the transformed piece. It'd become a husk. Something I'd discard without much of a care. Like an old idea, I would no longer be interested in it. I would have had to be disinterested it re-hash it in the first place.

2. I choose stop motion because of the storytelling elements often found in stop motion pieces and cinema itself. I've always enjoyed moving pictures, as well as watching something real and physical move on its own accord though no life runs through it. It is the illusion of life--and something that always fascinated me like some magician's trick. I chose printmaking mainly for the ability to make duplicates and have back-up work, but secondarily because I enjoy doing it and I wanted to incorporate what I enjoyed doing into something else I liked as much. I found that making set materials for these videos would suit it well.

3. I believe it may be for all those reasons. After all, what galleries are most interested in above all is public interest. They can't gain any recognition, display and sell more work, or gain more of a reputation if there aren't enough people interested in the work that they show. They're appealing to the masses, not necessarily to the artist that shows for them. It doesn't make them evil or anything--that's just how GP operates. Artists who show there will still get recognition for themselves, but it will be on the gallery's terms.

4. Art may be considered a documentation of your ideas, feelings, and/or beliefs. It might not be as straight forward as the most serious set of records, but it does share that in common. It retains and even displays information, and like the form of documentation that it is, it often betrays that information as it changes through time. 

5. Yeah, I do, but at the same time I can't be too sure. Your paintings seem environmental to me, in the sense that they convey an atmosphere, but if I hadn't known that you were painting different locations you've visited, I wouldn't have gotten as much of the environment out of it. Only when I knew what I was looking for did I see it. But they are atmospheric. I'm not sure if that's the same animal.

6. I think they work out fine, since paint/pigment has been used to convey this and practically any image under the sun at one time or another. I don't think painting is wrong for it. I don't know what else you ought to use to make the message clearer. 

7. For your work, scale is important. Work that is larger better engulfs the viewer. If your paintings were small, they wouldn't have such an effect. They would be lost to the wall instead of coming off of it. The scale that you use now is great--it's large, but it isn't large enough to be too redundant. 

8. I'm hoping those colors are determined by your emotional response to the environments you've visited, and if that's the case, you should use the colors you feel work the best with the place. But if you're concerned about variety, perhaps you should visit a few more places. Ones you've never been in before. 

I probably would have done what Henry did in the same situation to get the recognition, but only because it's all part of a larger series of work that has to do with his documentation of these unnatural disasters. I wouldn't have done what he did with the names. They would have been named however it was that I intended them to be named. In fact, I thought his images would be more profound if their titles actually described what the image was taken of, even to abstract art enthusiasts. But I wouldn't want to show work I didn't like in a gallery because then I would feel obligated to doing something I'm not passionate about. If that's the case, what makes it any more different from work? I was told to do what I love so I wouldn't have to work a day in my life. 

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