Friday, June 10, 2011

"Work engenders work."

Okay. Theoretically, I love this idea that I have been pursuing ... the idea of the Queen's skirt and the model. But I have made several sketches, now, and they are just not working for me. The drawings are messy where I don't want mess, and clean-lined when I want a little disorder; they are, in short, uncertain.

The Queen will need to sit in the studio a bit longer. Luckily, as Georgia O'Keeffe once said "Work engenders work" (or, it could be said, "work engenders better work"). Since I have been sketching and reading and gathering stones (you'll see) and looking out of windows, three things have turned up in the Queen's regal place:

1. I know I should have read this a very long time ago, but I just now finished Rosalind Krauss's original article, "The Originality of the Avant-Garde: A Postmodernist Repetition," (published in October, Vol. 18, Autumn, 1981, pp. 47-66).  I won't try to summarize her argument, as she has published a book on the subject since this essay first appeared. She begins by reminding us that the avant-garde's claim to originality (and thus their whole reason for being) is their insistence on an "absolute distinction" between their world and "a tradition-laden past" (53).  There is a piece of her argument concerning this search for the "new" that really interests me: her discussion of the grid. Krauss argues that the grid, the "new beginning" adopted by Mondrian, Josef Albers, and my hero Agnes Martin (see my entry from May 25th), isn't so "new"; Krauss calls it, to remind us of its long history, a "graph-paper ground" (54-6).  The grid may seem to be "effective as a badge of freedom," and yet "it is extremely restrictive in the actual exercise of freedom" (56).  It is vertical lines crossed by horizontal lines; it can, as Krauss says, "only be repeated" (56).  She continues with the idea that originality and repetition are more "bound together" than we like to think, and that in seeking the original, we end up, well, repeating... (I had an idea, later, of an example of art-making that Krauss does not deal with in this article, though she may have gotten to it in the book... Robert Rauschenberg's erasing of the DeKooning drawing -- now in SFMOMA -- done with DeKooning's permission, is neither an original nor a repetition, and yet it is certainly avant-garde for its time... how to include that in the theory? And, then, there is Harold Bloom's Anxiety of Influence,  where the strong poet must creatively misread his precursors -- not repeat or imitate -- and then erase all traces of the earlier poem, so that the new-generation poet's work will seem unique and yet -- written by the same hand as the earlier poem. Hmmm... ). But, finally, what stays with me, here, is the idea of the grid and its (new-to-me) "rut."

2. Hunting for rocks on a beach: I have found a set of rocks shaped like oysters, oyster-rocks:

And, here is a photograph of a recent dinner:

3. And, last, we had an insane thunder-and-lightning and wind-storm last night. The wind was scary ... it broke a window:

The lightning was a discovery: it would selectively light up first the house next door, then leap to a fence, then the distant sky, then the yard... so it seems those flashes of light must find their way into a painting.

So, here is the newest sketch. The oyster-rocks attack the grid, helped along by the occasional body (for added organic shape), and lit, from time to time, by boxes of lightning:

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