Jared Lindsay Clark and Professor Brian Christensen, Visual Art Studio
“The history of painting may be characterized in terms of the gradual withdrawal of painting from the task of representing reality – or of reality from the power of painting to represent it – in favor of an increasing preoccupation with problems intrinsic to painting itself…painting and sculpture became free to pursue concerns intrinsic to themselves.”
-Michael Fried, critic
This quote by Fried provides one of the theoretical springboards for the artwork I am currently creating with aid from ORCA funding. Fried was a significant author of the rhetoric surrounding minimalist artwork created forty years ago; the artwork that encouraged the fear that painting was “dead”. Modernist painting was being brought to one of its logical conclusions: ultimate reductivism. The resulting work blurred divisions between the practices of painting and sculpture. For example, a painting executed in a single color repelled illusions of depth. Attention was released from the surface to include the edges and all three-dimensional qualities of the piece. It was now read as an object. Thus the new category of art, which was neither painting nor sculpture, was sometimes called the specific object.
“…this [new] work which is neither painting nor sculpture challenges both. It will have to be taken into account by new artists. It will probably change painting and sculpture.”
-Donald Judd, artist and critic
As far as the art world is concerned, this rhetoric is ancient history; and, ironically, it held little interest to me until recently. Perhaps because so much minimalist work of that time sought to empty itself of meaning in a contentious position to the viewer. After studying a little of its theory, I became interested in the contemporary possibilities of minimalist work that is imbued with deep feeling. Inspired by the paradox of paintings which are sculptural and sculptures which are painterly; I have been involved in building my specific objects since January of 2001. The results will be shown in Gallery 303 of the Harris Fine Arts Center of BYU campus during the first weeks of January 2002 as my BFA final project.
Having sketched out my brainstorms of geometric forms, I began fabrication of my ideas in conjunction with a sculpture class taught by my faculty mentor. I obsessed over simple triangular and rectangular shapes in order to keep the picture plane of two-dimensional work in tension with its immediately apparent three-dimensional qualities. I began building exclusively with fresh wood. However, after discussion with my mentor, I began experimenting with Styrofoam to create some of my more complex ideas.
In March I made a trip to Los Angeles with the single-minded purpose of seeing the galleries and art museums of the area. It was in the Ace Gallery that another development in my work took root. I came across a contemporary artist named Lawrence Carroll whose work caused me simultaneous excitement and jealousy. Carroll had already created the kind of forms I had dreamed of, with ten times the presence and feeling I had imagined for my own. Despite my envy, I felt lucky to have been introduced to work which resonated with my own sensibilities. I could now learn from Carroll and take measures to differentiate my work from his.
As my sculpture class came to a close I decided it best to abandon the forms made of Styrofoam. Since the meaning of my work is so closely tied to the materials of which it is made, it made sense to focus on the typical materials involved in painting. I re-sketched my thoughts to include wood, canvas, and hanging wire. I also began using wood which had been weathered and rotted as doors, siding, or barns. I have exaggerated the hanging wire element so that it becomes useless for hanging and more important as a linear sculptural element.
The specific objects, with their emphasis on simple form, often become anthropomorphic. They become entities in their own right. Each piece takes on a character of its own. Meaning is further offered simply by their placement in the gallery through its proximity to other pieces and its location on the wall or floor. Two objects become a couple and groups of three or more can resonate with human relationships. A single work in tucked in a corner becomes lonely and abandoned while a large piece in the center of a wall commands an extroverted presence. Some are elderly, fifty-year-old paint peeling from rotting bones of wood and others are fresh new planks of plywood. Hopefully, the specific objects I am created will bridge the contentious gap between itself and the viewer. I want my art to reward the viewer who spends the energy to feel it.