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UNTITLED from 1976

UNTITLED 1976, Novacolor on paper

I revived this painting from 1976. I pulled it out of the drawer where it’s been laying for almost 40yrs. I always liked the piece and thought I would come back to it sometime and flesh out the issues it raised. It had some elements of that cool detachment that was popular in some abstract painting as well as some geometric elements from Al Held, Frank Stella and the wonderful Don Sorenson, I knew there was a whole series here but I was working thru these images so fast at the time that I didn’t have a chance to sort of flesh it out. What I mean is I didn’t have time to do any clear cutting in that section of forest because I had to move on up the mountain.

UNTITLED 1976 is on rhoplex soaked Arches 88 I taped the lines off and sealed the tape with like a cad yellow so that shows thru in a couple of places. the little rectangles have the tiniest black edge. They’re painted with  nacreous white (transparent white mixed with powdered mica) in multiple layers and  you can just barely  see a little of the color glowing thru but not enough to make out exactly what color it is.

repeating past mistakes 1

JUST ONE WORD “PLASTICS”, Novacolor and Gold Leaf on Paper

As we see JUST ONE WORD “PLASTICS” is not quite as “cool” as UNTITLED 1976 but retains the same color scheme. The grid tape was sealed with a viscous, transparent mix of reds and yellow earth tones so there is a lot of optical action as our cortex tries to rationalize the flecks of color bouncing around behind the black grid. The flying rectangles have a calligraphic donut around them that makes them both separate and stick to the grid. Like the first one from 78 I put down some base color on the rectangles and started over them with some nacreous white and slivers of gold leaf. The gold was laid down as I added layers of white to make a nice foggy effect that might help us imagine we’re looking into a little floating world. The gold leaf glows in oblique light so when we walk by we get some nice flashes of light and a subtle indication of multiple colors embedded in the rectangles.


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MEASURE ONCE, Novacolor, Oil and Gold Leaf on Paper


This one… MEASURE ONCE shows us how to go just a little bit at a time – I added some random color a little bit of blue sky with clouds (because I was looking at some Maynard Dixons) and as you can see I let the color do the talking on top of this little grid. Fake wood grain, some clouds, cool pinks, hot pinks, browns, prussian blue. Like in the first one – I work the “seal color” for the tape so we get a little glimpse around the edges. I like that this gives a more solid feel, I mean it makes it look like a slab of color instead of thin film.


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KEEP DIGGING, Novacolor, Oil and Coloraid Paper on Paper

KEEP DIGGING is another step closer (or farther) to perfection, I don’t know which. I started this with a slap to the face via a little tiny grid of black lines with a tiny bit of color peeking out here and there. I un-taped it and slapped  another grid on top. This one had a some red, yellow and green gradients smeared into it and a definite outline like some kind of racing stripe gone crazy.  Like in JUST ONE WORD “PLASTICS”  I taped of the floating rectangles, that were previously set at strategic vertexes of the golden mean grid, and threw down some meaty, colored calligraphy. On top of that some nacreous white embedded with bits of Coloraid paper cut into what I thought were evocative shapes that seem to cut into and through the thick, oscuro of the nacreous white.


I’LL MAKE IT UP TO YOU, Novacolor, Oil, Pencil on Paper


As you can see the grid in I’LL MAKE IT UP TO YOU starts and ends at the edge, nothing lives outside this. The “grid” lines narrow to a point at the edge and the larger windows are completely contained within. This ending at the edge also makes the surface appear to pillow nicely. These little  windows as well as the calligraphic shapes, sit within and/or line up to major vertices on the foundational grid. Working on this scale precision is important. The edges are precise to help with the illusion of cutting through or floating miles above.  I was thinking of Ed Moses’s crackle paintings when I made the delicate little crackle elements (thanks Ed.) I love fake wood grain and stripes too.



Leonidas, King of the Dogs June 11, 2012

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leonidas jpeg

Leonidas: Named after the great king of the Spartans elected to defend Greece from the combined armies of Xerxes at Thermopylae in 481BCE.

For you, inhabitants of wide-wayed Sparta,

Either your great and glorious city must be wasted by Persian men,

Or if not that, then the bound of Lacedaemon must mourn a dead king, from Heracles’ line.

The might of bulls or lions will not restrain him with opposing strength; for he has the might of Zeus.

I declare that he will not be restrained until he utterly tears apart one of these

-Oracle of Delphi

Leonidas’ stand with his 4-7000 (the 300) troops was the inspiration also for possibly the gayest painting ever made.

david painting jpeg
Leonidas at Thermopylae, by Jacques-Louis David (1814)

Blade Runner:

I’ve seen things you “people”(my quotes) wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. [pause] Time to die.

-Ruger Hauer


Rutger Hauer’s gentle evocation of the memories, experiences, and passions that drive the short lives of androids mirrors our own transitory connection to time, memory, understanding and what remains. This is even more so for a LEONIDAS, a sentient non-human,  because his transit will be so brief, what he leaves so ethereal and what he takes with him, to “people”, unbelievable..

guercino jpeg

A dog’s life is brief, his feelings, thoughts, if any, are hidden from us mortals.  According the Upanishads, horses (and possibly dogs) retain their memory of past lives. History for them may be an unbroken ribbon of tests of love and loyalty.

Like the sacrificial horse of the The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad; LEONIDAS allows us to contemplate the trail of experience, memory and loss as the universe contained in the horse (dog) is continuously dismantled and reassembled.

Leonidas is a painting about a dog, not of a dog. It was built on a golden mean (GM) (1.618) grid and using enlarged photographs all the lines were coordinated to major and minor vertexes on the grid. I could have used a raster to vector conversion program and had it printed full size but to align the outlines with the GM Grid would have been inaccurate at best. Doing the conversion by hand enabled the accurate placement of the endpoints of each line and the radius and endpoints of each arc. This enabled the outline to be more fully connected to the structure of the painting. Otherwise it would be merely laid on top of the grid destroying the, figuratively, figure ground relationship. All the lines and shapes in the painting were actual strokes and fills from actual construction of the outline.

The Anabasis June 5, 2012

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Anabasis (Ἀνάβασις – Greek for “going up”)

Complex abstract painting on paper to commemorate Xenophon’s account of the failed conquest of Persia by the “10,000” in 401BCE.

Spurred on by the Cyrus the Younger, hungry for gain, the Greeks (mostly veterans, unemployed and under-employed, due to the temporary slowdown in Greek on Greek warfare) were promised riches and honor but instead found, betrayal, defeat and struggle for survival and freedom.

Their plans and hopes suddenly became irrelevant in the face of rapidly changing circumstances.

With their leaders betrayed and killed by treacherous Persians, they refused to lay down their arms; instead choosing to fight their way home. The story is a fascinating personal account of the Greeks organizing themselves, and mostly by consensus, figuring out how to get from Babylon to Greek colonies on the Black Sea.

A parable of the triumph of democratic order over chaos.

The horse is a copy of a Parthenon head by Phidias http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phidias and could represent the triumph of competent decision and democratic order over anarchy. I was thinking of the tuna as representing the safety of the sea: “thálatta, thálatta” was the famous cry as the depleted but relieved army reached the mountains overlooking the Black Sea.


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