Just got accepted into the Spring Issue of the Maine Arts Journal. The title is "Sanctuary" and I wrote about how the abstract is my sanctuary. Here is the link, enjoy: http://maineartsjournal.com/members-showcase-greg-mason-burns-gail-wartell/
This was recently published by The Prostitution of Art, which is a contemporary art blog based out of Boston. The site discusses the unfair treatment of artists by society / market. Articles are meant to be abstract criticisms of these forces in the contemporary world. Here is the link to the original text: The Prostitution of Art.
Here is the original text:
I want to be creative, but society has its own rules. There are no rules for creativity, and yet here we are. Where? Here, today, when art is no longer supported except through behemoth organizations sucking up money from the artist direct. Sure, you’ll go out and buy your prints from Target and destroy the artist even more. But they’re cheaper and look more professionally done. You need to be competitive. Competition is good. And bad, because the artist has no competition. He or she is unique, without comparison. That's foolish, think outside the box. There is no box. Not even an amoeba. The artist is the box, forever changing form and shape, pushing boundaries that only exist because we need a word to describe what we’re supposedly pushing. Then why the expression? It’s a corporate thing, meant to give permission to exceed established efficiency boundaries. And art doesn’t have efficiency boundaries? If no, why are you so poor? Because my world isn’t your world. You can never conquer the creative world, only diminish it, lessen its importance in society, the society you create, always pointing to what you call progress, upward, always making it hard on the artist. Sounds phallic, hehe. It is a fallacy. Art sold for millions never goes to the artist, the creator. Give me an example. A dangling light. A light? That shows the way. A light that shows the way is a fallacy in of itself because it only shows what it can shine upon and everything else remains darkened by the soft edges of the light and its limits and how far it can go and how far it cannot go. Auction houses are the light, but creativity is the darkness. Too deep for me, just like the price of your painting. Another car payment? That and a family cruise to Aspen. A cruise that can’t be taken. And yet I’ll pay for it just the same. Here’s a quarter, what can you make me for a quarter? I’ll take your quarter and take a picture. And you’ll send it to me by email? So you can reproduce it on the Internet and make more money than it cost you? Sure, that’s what I’m talking about. No need to give me your card, I’ll remember your email by memory. Now that’s why I only gave you a quarter. And it’s why your idea that art will always exist on a quarter is a fallacy. If art is darkness, it will always exist. Someday the light will go out forever. Art will conquer? Not if you only have one word for darkness. Maybe I’ll create another one. Ah, maybe.
Color Field painting, a derivative of Abstract Expressionism, is essentially the attention to color in abstraction as opposed to form or structure. The early Color Field painters, such as Mark Rothko, Clement Greenberg, and Clyfford Still wanted to create large works such that when one was standing up close one was absorbed in the color. Color Field has developed since then with various tendencies moving both further from shape and form and closer to it.
I'm developing color field in a way that combats the color against the figure (and will be doing so this year mostly at a residency at Contemporary Arts International with an exhibit following in November). This is not easy to do. First and foremost I need to have worthy figures that can both compete with the color but not overtake it. I do this by developing minimalist charcoal drawings, and the ones that work get transferred to paintings (digital studies below). But that's not all that's difficult. Color Field requires the fluid consistency of color, and the more colors that are added the more they must contrast and compliment each other at the same time. Make one mistake, and you've lost that jarring awakeness, so to speak.
So it's important to note that while creating one of these paintings is actually technically easy to do, what is difficult is the discovery and development of the painting. Many studies are done before a piece is finally ready to be painted on the final support. For example, Color Field #4 (noted above) is the study for Color Field #7, the latter of which is almost 3.5 times larger than the smaller version. Below are a couple of "failed" studies, too. Again, once the paint is done, there's no going back, so one needs to be right before going in.
It's the same with Jackson Pollock's streams of paint. Those look completely random (while Color Field tends to look quite prepared - a stunning contrast of the diversity of Abstract Expressionism), but Pollock did a lot of studying to prepare for his final pieces. Those paintings are anything but random. Neither are these paintings that focus on the color. So I have actually four steps:
We'll see how this develops and if the idea sticks in the exhibit later this year.
Great news. I've been accepted to attend a two-month artist residency at The Quarry at Contemporary Arts International in Acton, MA for 2018. My tenure there will be split between one month in the spring (May-June) and another in the fall (Oct-Nov) with the exhibit being in Nov.
My plan is to create ten large pieces similar to the one to the left. Except that I won't be doing silhouettes. Instead, I'll be painting colored squares or stripes as a background and putting the minimalist charcoal drawings seen below on top of the colors. I may keep the minimalist drawings black, or I may change the colors. I'm not sure yet as that is going to require more research. Other colored examples are below as well.
Still, this is yet another great opportunity, and your support helps to make that time away from work possible, so thanks!
What a week it's been. Being busy isn't even the word. Despite all the happenings leading up to opening night, the hanging, reception, and artist talk at the Southwest Harbor Public Library (Abstract Ideas, Art You Can Imagine) all went off without a hitch. I had about 10 people come, with about five coming early expecting the talk to begin at 5:30 instead of at 7:00. That's my fault, as I wasn't clear about the talk's time. Still, the exhibit looks good. Twenty-seven pieces hanging throughout. I'm pretty happy with that, and how everything looks.
One thing I most enjoyed about this exhibit was the curation process. I finally had about 30 pieces that I wanted to hang. I couldn't hang all of them, and in fact I left quite a few of my best, larger pieces at home because one section of the library I had previously thought I could hang in was suddenly unavailable. So I had to actually curate, and I felt good knowing that I had 27 pieces I was comfortable hanging. Everything looked good in the end. I'm actually pretty proud of my work. Have a look below:
Conceptual art now dominates the art world. It's not the skill of the artwork that's the most important element in the creative process, but the idea behind it instead. I work in abstract ideas - ideas not completely defined - that allow me to create works, even longer projects, that give us something to think about.
For example, imagine watching the news and the reporter tells you something is fact even though you might not agree with it. There's a gap between you and the reporter isn't there? His or her information doesn't line up with your understanding of the same subject. The reporter ignores the gap between the two of you, and you might do so as well. I don't. I take that gap and ask what might it look like if it were a village. Yeah, pretty abstract wouldn't you say? And yet, I've taken this gap between the media and the audience and I've created a village that doesn't exist anywhere except in this project.
Want to learn more? Come to the Southwest Harbor Library on Wed, November 1, 2017 to discover how I do this. Entrance is free and refreshments are available.
Conceptual Art is no doubt one of the most important movements in the history of art. It pushes the boundaries of what we perceive as art and creates a dialogue that is necessary to move art forward. This conversation is one of the most important elements in art in general. However, as we get more into conceptual art we get more into blurring the lines of what art is in contemporary terms. This is not an easy concept to understand because ultimately what is created as art today is, by definition, contemporary art. The problems isn´t that Conceptual Art isn´t doing its job, because it most definitely is pushing the boundaries and expanding the conversation. The problem is that the closer we get toward the blurred lines the farther we get away from what people understand as art. Whether or not Conceptualist artists agree that art has to be understood is irrelevant because art isn´t created just to prove that an idea exists; it´s created to prove that art exists. It´s this distinction that is important. Art is not something that can live in the future because the future is non-existent. It can push the present into the future, but it can´t live there. Therefore contemporary art must be relevant to contemporary viewers.
An example of this is the mistake that custodians made by throwing away an entire exhibit because they thought it was trash. The work by Goldschmied & Chiari, which was a slew of champagne bottles strewn across the floor along with party decor torn off the walls, was intended to criticize Italy´s consumerist years of the 1980s, which is a little odd in contemporary terms considering that was 30 years ago, but I digress. In fact, it was garbage; not in the sense that the exhibit was not good, but because it was literally pieces of garbage spread out across the room, thus very easily making it understandable as to why it would actually be mistaken as garbage.
Goldschmied & Chiari meant for this mean something. Unfortunately they may have a problem for two polar opposite reasons. First of all a tenant of Conceptual Art is that the artist creates and the museum finishes the piece (in that the idea extends from the mind to the exhibition). Their piece was a critique, so maybe the custodians were actually completing the art beyond the museum by agreeing with the artists that the 1980s were a decade to do away with. Except that the custodians might actually be the new artists in this case because their action goes beyond what the artists intended. Beyond authorship, which is always a problem with Conceptual Art (add into the fact that Damien Hirst is kind of a scumbag), their second problem, even though it was a criticism of something that happened 30 years ago, is that the work is so unrecognizable in today´s terms as being art that someone actually threw it away.
Now, with this latter issue, it isn´t the first time that this has happened. Paintings have been thrown away and sculptures dismantled, so this happens to more traditional pieces as well. But let´s just ask something about Conceptual Art here with regards to Conceptual Art pushing the boundaries: when does art become unrecognizable, and if it does so, does it remain art? Conceptualist artists will say that everything is art so the question is moot. But I say that isn´t true because we must live today and without today tomorrow is irrelevant. We can only push the boundary until the next nano-second, or whatever is comprehendible to the human mind. Therefore, if something doesn´t meet today´s standards of comprehension, even if it´s avant-garde, then it simply doesn´t meet today´s standards of comprehension. In other words, there is something that isn´t art, and this is the definition: something that pushes art so far forward that it isn´t recognizable by today´s standards. In the end, Goldschmied & Chiari can take this as a compliment in that their work is ahead of its time. But at the same time, what´s the point? If it is ahead of its time, and if it´s entirely possible that the piece might not make it until its time is due, then as a piece of art it is, in fact, a failure. Art must be relevant to contemporary standards and it must be understandable in context.
Finally, as with all avant-garde work, which strives to challenge the system that dominates the current art market, Conceptual Art is now the dominant art trend in museums and in many leading galleries. If there was ever a reason to get rid of it, it is this which goes against one of Conceptual Art´s basic tenants: that the gatekeepers of the art world are ill-suited to allowing art to push forward, mostly from the basis that if art is treated as a commodity then what is a commodity will be traded as such. Conceptual Art has become the contemporary art commodity and therefore cannot be trusted to push art forward. In other words, Conceptual Art has killed itself by being the thing it was created to abolish to begin with. And so the circle goes.
As a writer, Viaro is currently working on abstract short stories, but it's abstract as an idea that influences him: "In my working room I’m surrounded by abstract paintings by Guido Viaro," he says. "I love all Kandinsky, perhaps for his previous studies of proportions and colors. I love Paul Klee for his fake innocence. I love Jorge Luis Borges for his short story “The Aleph”. I love Ingmar Bergman for his film “The Seventh Seal”. I love Franz Schubert for his quartet “The death and the maiden”."
He continues by showing how it's not just about words, sculpture, or oil either: "I also had directed a short-length documentary about the Brazilian artist Jair Mendes, who started painting figurative and slowly changed into abstract. I do like abstract in many forms of art, cinema, dance."
I recently came across this abstract exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) called "Variations: Conversations in and around Abstract Painting" and it got me thinking about how art affects us. Being a painter of both the figurative and abstract, I have sought out various artists to discuss art in our lives. The LACMA exhibit focuses on abstract painting, but really, do conversations need to be only about that? After all, even though I'm a painter I'm strongly influenced by Ernest Hemingway's starkness.
Art influences across fields, so I chose as my first subject Guido Viaro who has published 12 novels to date and is also the grandson of the Italian-Brazilian painter of the same name. Viaro is also the director of the museum that houses a large number of his grandfather's works. For disclosure's sake, I exhibited at the museum in May 2014. You can view Viaro's site here for more information: Guido Viaro.
Greg Mason Burns is an American-born contemporary visual artist. These are his thoughts on life as an artist.