I am visual bilingual, I see in Abstract, and Image. Combining the language of painting and the language of photography one has left the territory of clear distinctions. I want to dissolve the everyday in the river of forgetfulness and arrive on the opposite bank, far from the center; landing at a new place. In looking at our visual landscape I choose elements that add up to a new whole, a visual harmony of “rhyming shapes" creating a visual syntax to view our times. This recombination of diverse elements gives me a place to visualize our world in a new way. My experience of growing up in Southern California with the work of Karl Benjamin, and John McLaughlin among others was a rich introduction to the abstract painting of this time.
Reality is the currency of photography. All the new mediums including photography, have been reality-based, allowing for more information, and now the ultimate 2d: virtual reality: 2d into 3d.
For the last half-century this quality of reality has been called into question and artists have provoked and worked to undermine this assumption. but the condition of all these new mediums is that we see reality as the underlying assumption, in that these mediums see further than the eye, clearer than the eye, more distant than the eye, and allow for motion and time sequences. we need only to think of the possibility that had we had a snapshot of the crucifixion certainly the last 2000 years of history would’ve played out differently.
A zenith of this reality-based photographic approach was developed on the west coast of the western world in works such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston; whether they are fetishizing a mountain range or a bell pepper, the detailed visual reality presenting their verisimilitude is paramount. In a contemporary context, the landscape was removed from the photograph and artist dealt directly within the western environment: Heiser’s double negative, Smithson’s spiral jetty. these pieces are a static interjection into the landscape seen by very few people in person but experienced by thousands through the photographic medium. it is interesting to note that Smithson's spiral jetty has become reenergized thru the motion of water where it was submerged after the rains only to reemerge with the Western United States drought in the ought’s, with new photographs showing its reemergence.
Vision is the currency of the desert. the clarity in the light is well attested to in religions and in our arts, and as a pond is to the ocean so is a dry lake bed to the desert, the dry lake bed further refining vision, seeing even further, and experiencing a binary quality of earth and sky with only yourself as the medium, a visual home of creation, on a true tabula rasa.
In my umber series I wanted to combine the realities of photography and the possibilities of abstraction. In this series architecture was the primary background, the reality if you will, for me to impose and play with the abstract shapes. in the el mirage series I want to take it further and build reality, capture my own time/movement, reveal my own performance, conceptualizing creation, and creating my own architecture. the series involved two performances one with metal, and one with glass. metal being the first activity (etching plates) that i would throw in the air and photograph them as they fell. marking off an area in this infinite space, I performed this dance performance, using the metal plates trying to hit this area, having them come within the framework, within this limitation.
I wanted the photographic reality to capture all these possibilities of minimalist art, conceptual art, performance, and dance, time motion sequencing. combining this with building a new architectural reality with metal, and with glass in this infinite landscape. using qualities of photography perspective, angle of view, time of day, to create a new architectural reality. The quality of the metal, hard and sharp can create its own plane of action, never varying never breaking. building with glass is building a fool’s house, temporary, transparent, visually arresting, and ultimately falling; in that fall breaking into a new relation, from Plato’s cave to Sartre’s room we’ve been told that we live in the fool's house and to attain freedom we need a new consciousness and a new vision.
In the 60s and the 70s in southern California artists were working with this new vision. The history, the traditions of the European, New York art world did not seem to pertain here. A large urban environment spreading out into three large deserts provided the landscape for new possibilities. Photography became the conduit for a number of actions, performances, conceptual art, and topographical documents. I wanted to work with photography not only as a document but understanding that the photograph was the final piece and to use the camera and resulting print for all its advantages. The conceptual becoming manifest through the medium of photography not the other way around. That the photograph in and of itself was the action, was the concept using physical characteristics of the print e.g. enhancing and enlarging the grain to create a visual sense of the dry lakebed surface.
Of course this talk about falling, breaking, desert locations, hints at the historical religious myths that the western world has been raised on. While history plays its part, in the syntax of the 60’s 70’s conceptual frame work I wanted to push the story forward not becoming a fossilized mythic container, but enfolding of mythic structures in new containers to go beyond old histories and mere documents.
Besides the for mentioned Heiser and Smithson, there was James Turrell working with light, who was just beginning to show the perceptual qualities and abilities of vision, and Hamish Fulton the English artist who’s combination of action, photography, and the word was seamlessly blended into a new landscape dynamic. Allowing for a widening interpretation of the landscape, by allowing entrance into the work thru a multitude of possibilities.
#115 EL MIRAGE 1978