|Talking to Afghanistan, oil, 2013|
If you're in the Otsego area of New York and have an interest in the region, the arts, or visual narrative, please come to an opening honoring Ashley Norwood Cooper at the Wilbur Mansion this Friday, 5-8 p.m. This Community Arts Network of Oneonta event hails the start of a solo show that features paintings from Ashley's new deployment series.
An interesting departure from Ashley's prior handling of paint, the mode of the paintings implicitly contrasts the smoothness of our world of screens and flattened-out images with a dramatic, built-up surface. These narrative pieces make ordinaryAmerican life strange--they are full of little portals (via held iPads and iPhones) to the other side of the world, and are themselves windows onto the daily duties and longings from the daily life of a mother and wife in middle-class America.
|Coming Home, oil, 2013|
If you're in the area, please come!
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A recommendation from Ashley--
Here's an essay Ashley suggested to me this morning, relating to many things we both find of interest. Jordan Wolfson discusses a lot of issues that our little IAM satellite group has talked about: the lack of "a stable purpose" of art in our era; the lack of correlation between achievement and regard when the artist's place is often established by how well he or she can interact with market forces; "secularization and fragmentation" as leading to a landscape where it's hard to achieve a place. Wolfson grapples with the question of how the arts function in our time, their "use and utility." He examines art's effort to awaken us--to take "raw material and somehow charge it with presence," "consciousness becoming aware of itself." Here are a few clips of note:
On the one hand, a painting is a flat two-dimensional object, with its surface texture and color shapes. On the other hand, a painting offers the possibility of a three-dimensional experience, the illusion of moving into space and discovering form. Stability and instability. Fact and imagination. Actual and fictive. It is this twin role, and its simultaneity, that gives painting such power. Real and unreal. Real and more real. Painting, through the coexistence of two seemingly opposite experiences, interwoven into an actual unity, may provide the receptive adult the possibility of moving from an experience of fragmentation into an experience of wholeness and integration, not only within oneself but with the world at large.Read the whole thing here.
Clement Greenberg got painting’s essence exactly wrong. It isn’t the stability of painting’s flatness—its “ineluctable flatness”; it is the inextricable unity of painting’s impossible flatness/fullness, stability/instability, stillness/movement. This is life.
Painting does have a necessary and ancient function; it isn’t to depict the world—it is to weave the world; or rather, it is to reveal and make visible the actual weave of the world, the weave that already exists.
I believe that what I am trying to describe here is actually an ancient way of looking at painting. Images carry power. It is only with the rise and development of our secular culture with its accompanying market economy that painting has found itself delegated to a luxury commodity that is devoid of any real use and value in our society beyond sophisticated decoration, investment and chic. This is not particularly the plight of painting—so much in our culture has been radically reduced to a flattened materialist, financial definition—the logical endpoint in the Story of Separation. But the act of painting carries much greater power than that. And we need to re-describe this activity, re-imagine it, in order to sharpen its power and focus; in order for painting to more fully participate and take its place in our global regeneration.
Wolfson is not alone in thinking about dead ends and regeneration, not just in painting but across the arts; it's something that a lot of us have been discussing. For one example, it's part of why Makoto Fujimura founded International Arts Movement "to promote conversation and meditations on culture, art, and humanity," and then Fujimura Institute, which describes itself as "defying fractured, fragmented modern perspectives, the Fujimura Institute encourages artists and thinkers to collaborate, cooperate and inspire their audiences to piece together a whole view of the world." It's why so many artists are turning away from what makes for worldly success in a blockbuster world and reaching back to old skills and tools in order to rethink and re-make an art for today.