Wednesday, May 9, 2007


If you are working on a new body of work and would like to share the concepts behind that work please share your concepts here.

It's wonderful to talk about having shows, etc., but maybe we all should just keep focused on the work in the meantime. Make it and they will come?


Byron said...

The body of work I'm currently working on is about my neighborhood.

It's similar in concept to this piece I did last year while living on another block in Riverside.

I've taken a photo of every house on my block. 31 houses to be exact. I then work digitally on the photos drawing as I see fit. The digital photos are then printed and glued onto 6x4 inch canvases. The drawings are organic, ghostly, oozing illustrations. Hopefully creating another dimention.

To me the work is about my neighborhood being alive. I feel that the houses on my block have stories. Ghosts in the windows. That my block is a living breathing organism.

I want to be part of that organism. Being surrounded by war and death in the media this work is an attempt at going back to the womb. Seeing the beauty around me. Attempting to become a part of it.

When I'm done there will be 31 houses. It will be an illustration of my block. My life at this moment in time. Taking pride in it.

This hippie lovey dovey work will be showing at Bogda next month.

Mark Creegan said...

This is nice Byron. Anthropomorphising a home or a neighborhood, i think there is some lovely, poetic potential in that. Have you read "the Poetics of Space" by Gaston Bachelard? It deals with poetry but applies to art as well- its philosophy regarding intimate spaces such as rooms, closets, etc. It reminds me of the womb metaphor you mention. I could loan you my copy if you dont have.

Byron said...

Hi Mark,

I'd definitely be interested in borrowing it.

Thanks for the input. Sometimes I believe artist just have to create, regardless of anything else. Other inputs.

Then afterwards I often times find out that the work was part of something much larger. Part of the collecive unconscious.

So it's nice to create blindly then find out that there's a whole human historical thought process or philosophy attached to those thoughts or creative process.

Thanks for the input.

Jaime Verde said...

My work right now is about fake utopias turning into dystopias, the idea of engineering paradises and the hidden costs of building and thinking in this way.

Gated communities, golf communities, exclusive resorts, and condos condos condos are all marketed as readymade lifestyles. They seem to be for people with life styles as opposed to actual lives. They also seem to be a phyical and mental departure from the idea of a public society.

The idea in part stems from an ad I once saw in a magazine published just for Lexus owners. The ad was for a luxury gated community for retirees and semi-retirees in GA that used as its tag line: "Like the Graden of Eden, but without those bothersome snakes."

I couldn't think of a more cold rejection of what it means to be a thinking, curious human being- as if moving into this golf village would somehow return you to a magical time before origial sin. What the fuck? Humans wouldn't be humans it they hadn't eaten the forbidden fruit that represents knowledge. It's a creation myth- not a morality tale. It's not wheteher or not Adam and Eve ate the fruit, it's that they did and that's why they're humans. It explains us, flaws and all. Exterminate the snake from the garden and you have no myth. Next thing you know, a gated community will advertize it self as "Like Lot's wife only NOT turned into a pillar of salt."

By using that kind of statement to sell a lifestyle where one never has to brush against an unwashed plebe or see a vista not completely engineered by man, one is casting off an entire history, mythology, and character. It's not conservatism, it's not going back to a simpler time, it's nothing less than rejecting the idea that civilization was ever possible in the first place. It's radical. It's regressive. And I think its the future.

So I'm making images, silkscreen prints, that feature phony paradises rendered as their own planets. But they're flawed, of course, with huge ares missing or covered over, obscuring the paradise and reducing it to just a sham imitation of some buyable utopia. Then I forground a lot of suburban sprawl infrastucture in a seperate non continuous space. The paradise planets are being swallowed up by a black hurricane of outer space on the top, and on the bottom, mythical, world-ending thunderclouds gather, ready to level everything and take us back to beginning.

I'm calling the series System Oaks, for now.

The whole look of the pieces seems to say, to me, that we can't really make a physical utopia without ruining whatever was beautiful about the idea in the first place. And that actually having the gall to make it is an affront to God.

But I acknowledge that we're all utopians on some level. Look at me- I think that making art can change things. It's one thing to do art pieces about culture and ideas, but its another thing to actually have expectations on them.

I guess the difference between me as an artist and the folks building the fake utopias is that they think their vision of utopia is possible overnight. I think we have a longer way to go than we know.

Whew! Could've cut that in half, eh?

Byron said...

Shazam James. Interesting to get inside your head for a bit.

What I find interesting is that the catalyst for this series was a Lexus ad. Interesting to look at the ads copy and to pull what you did from it.

Having worked in advertising for several years I can tell you that most copy writers would be very proud that their words moved you to make a fine art piece as they all generally think of themselves as "fine artist".

Utopia lost. Utopia found.

To me, the true utopia is in our heads and hearts. Regardless of how our culture trys to construct it.

That's a great point. You might not be able to change things by making art but you can at least try. Glad you are trying.

Mark Creegan said...

James, Have you seen Children of Men?!
Boy, talk about fake utopia turning into dystopia. The main character moves around among different states of the fake utopia to complete hellish dystopia. There is a moment in the London setting where he exits the hellish reality and enters some secured area of elites frolicking in the park. What an absolutely incredible movie on so many levels!

I think its good that you acknowledge your own utopian ideals rather than just call out some group without implicating yourself in some way. I find alot of strong work these days, when taking a critical approach, demonstrates these obvious implicated postions of the author/artist. They cannot stand at a all-seeing, all knowing distance anymore (or ever could really).

I find projects like these demand intense research. Finding different philosophical writings on the subjects of utopia and dystopia. Finding out how these images and concepts have been used in the history of advertising. I am sure you are doing such research I am just pointing out how that seems to be an aspect of contemporary art practice- rather than just study the medium or the concept of art, we must have a broad and thorough understanding of so much outside of those areas. Meticulous consideration of the depths of the subject matter is just as imporant as considering all the formal elements of a work.

Byron said...

Sometimes an artist must react and create or the work will never get made too. Research can be secondary after the work is made in order to understand why the artist was driven to make the work?

There are so many ways to skin a cat.

Many times I go off of emotion vs. research for the guts of a piece. Research can often times kill the work. Making it hard to decide where and how to start?

Jaime Verde said...

Right, Byron. We've known ever since Warhol that ads and consumer culture have outstripped 'art with a capital A' in terms of influence. If the 16th century in Spain was all about saints, then the 20th century has been all about ads.

So it's not really reading an ad for what it is, It's really a matter of gasp, yes, shudder... DECONSTRUCTING it for meaning! (Here's the moment in my lecture where 85% of my students tune out and plug in the iPod.)

No one want to talk about deconstruction anymore. Or maybe no one really wanted to in the first place, but it's really the red pill that will open up th Matrix for you. See the meaning behind the meaning, if you try. Take the time to really look at something.

A friend of mine once told me that "All a Wal-Mart bag means is Wal-Mart bag." and I disagreed. It means so much more. I would call it the contemporary tumbleweed now that the frontier has been paved over with parking lots. I would call it nature's surrender flag when it gets caught flapping in the top branch of a bare tree on some desolate winter day. So to me a Lexus ad is not just a Lexus ad. And the message, (delivered through such a sophisticated machine of polls, focus groups, designers, writers, editors, printers, cutters, binders, stackers, drivers, dealers, and yes, litterers, as I found the Lexus magazine on the floor of a Pakistani pizzeria in Knoxville,) is not just an ad selling me a car. It's a cultural message brought to me by an entire culture. It's telling me I need a new dream, a new reality.

And if you pay attention, every ad uses that stategy. Every ad is trying to give you Eden without the snakes.

So we must deconstruct. We have to take this totally engineered and marketed world apart and ask real questions of it if we are to really read it. That's why I stress media literacy to my students. It seems like so much of their imagination is trademarked. They don't often ask the real questions. It's like being skeptical or cynical is either totally uncool or it's been sold back to them as edgy t-shirts with gas masks on them or something. I always ask them What does it mean? And the answers are too often like my friend who thinks a Wal-Mart bag is just a Wal-Mart bag. It just is what it is.

And the act of looking at things this way- tat's my main body of research which I'm always conducting. I read every made thing around me. Sure I read a lot of words, too. I read for pleasure, I subscribe to magazines (Mark, do you get ArtJournal, the CAA publication?) and I a watch a lot of movies. No TV, really, except the new Bill Moyers show in PBS. Holy shit. You should watch it.

Yes, I have seen Children of Men and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was like YES! That's what I'm talking about!! It's good to see I'm not alone in thinking these thoughts.

I don't just get my ideas from ads. It's an ongoing reading of everything. The ad, though, did pull a lot of things together for me. The denial of myth, the hubris and the path to utopia, all were pitch perfect. I tore the ad out and kept it.

I liked it for all the wrong reasons.

Mark Creegan said...

Hey James,
check THIS crazy sh*t out!!

Jaime Verde said...


Not crazy at all. A perfectly abysmal plan, but not crazy, right? Perfectly rational. Perfectly according to our rationale.

Have walls ever worked? The Great Wall of China in the end failed to keep out the horde. And the Berlin Wall, well...

Interesting to note that they did this in Vietnam... KBR was the contractor in 'Nam back then. They are the parent company for another more familiar group- Halliburton.

Hey war is good fo business. Rational.

Just onesies and twosies.

Thanks for the link.

Byron said...

I'm so happy that the two of you have found each other. Not to sound patronizing but if Mark and James were the only two to ever contribute to this site I would read it daily.

Great input from both of you. Serious, academic discussions about contemporary art and culture.

I'm so happy I could cry.


AO said...

Agreed Byron! I think that is why some us are silently observing (and taking notes ;) ).


Jefree said...

ditto...just lurking and learning and lapping it all up. Thank you so much!

Roman Bradley said...

I have my own ideas on these various subjects, but haven't had time to place them down without vast amounts of mispellings.

listen, if anyone of you wants to work with me I'm looking to put some local artists' up at some of my local venues.

Now I've gotten a huge interest here in my vacinity to anyone I've spoken to. I haven't seen all artists work. I think what I've seen from Sean Mahan, Byron King are excellent examples of something I can put up at these places. So I know that downtown and springfield are for the edgier art. come to think of it nothing I've seen in downtown or springfield is really too edgy. But I'm wanting to work with some artists and bring them up on this side of the river. It'll take some time, but possibly june?
early fall?

If I can do this I plan on paying for transportation of all artwork, if necessary. I can't make any promises but no one can at these times. Gas is going up. Housing is falling. Support for our troops is flailing. Art might not be on people's minds. But, some of the issues all of you are bringing up may be.

So keep working.

I'm networking.

We'll see what comes of it?