November 04, 2010

Today's going to be a great day: the dog didn't pee on the floor last night

I love him. I do. And I promised my mom I'd take care of him, so we are stuck with each other, but Otto is not without some serious faults. If he were a person, I'm certain he'd be some backwoods yahoo in an X-file episode or a devious circus performer. Mom trained him as a pup and even gave him a refresher course, but at 8 years old, he should be able to hold it until morning, especially when he hangs outside for two hours prior to bedtime, and even more especially when we go on a short stroll right before lights out. I was so suburban last night it was pathetic. I walked the dog wearing my pajamas. To complete the look, I had a towel wrapped around my freshly shampooed hair and in my free hand, I held the mail I finally retrieved from the mailbox. It was 10:30 pm.

I have a love hate relationship with scale. I wish to obsess about my personal relationship to scale. The subject of viewing distance has triggered this obsession- Carla posted a lovely review of her work where at the end, the reviewer mentioned wishing her paintings were bigger so they could be more thoroughly enjoyed at viewing distance, not just up close. I once had a gallerist say they wanted to see my work much bigger than the 48" x 60" scale I was working in. I also have memories of grad school crits listening to everyone talk about each other's work. There were always a few "what ifs" at nearly all the crits: What if the sculpture was HUGE? What if you made 100 of them? What if you painted the background blue, moved the object in the foreground to the left, and retitled it?

Viewing distance.
Ever since working small, I have been disappointed by installation views of the paintings.  And by installation views, we're talking about views of the work that give the viewer an impression of what it was like to see the work installed, as though they were there in person, which usually they weren't, so it's all they're going to get.

Fortunately, the next photo helps clarify relative viewing distance:

At one point I thought painting a portion of the gallery wall a different color, or perhaps the whole wall, would give definition to the space. I discovered this phenomenon while looking at the work in my living room/viewing studio with the red wall and 8-foot ceiling height. In person, and up close, one looks at the paintings, not the wall. The first impression is taken in, but, and perhaps I speak for myself, I'll scan a show and pick what to cozy up to, big or small. I jump around, examining each work individually, based on what strikes me. That's how I look at work. If I'm particularly engaged in a show, I'll step back and look at the entire show again, this time assuming there might be some method to the madness in how the work is hung. In this viewing, I'll read the show, wall and all. If I'm so enthralled I can't stand it, I'll linger with certain paintings until I'm self-conscious and then I leave.

But I digress, the show seen at this distance in the first photograph above is hardly inspiring. For all practical purposes, we have small, dark indiscernible rectangles on the wall at viewing distance. (I hung the show myself and I wasn't 100% content with the back wall.) It's hung too horizontal, My other persona or perhaps a professional would have hung it a bit more vertical  to work with the wall, but that of course, would have defeated the purpose of being able to scrutinize the paintings individually. At the time, my goal was to create a sense of flow and narrative, not obsess over viewing distance. I'm not sure how to solve the problem of viewing distance with this work. I'm reluctant to say the problem is with the work itself, because, as much as I can be self-effacing and self-critical, as seen in this very paragraph where I rip my own show to pieces, I'm fairly confident the work is frigging stellar. Nonetheless, installation shots of this work are problematic for me.

In contrast, below we have nearly the same viewpoint from the 2008 show:

The Mabel-09 will hold a canvas up to 451/4" high. I hate forcing my own hand.

I'm trying to figure out how to compress a video shot with my still camera so that I may upload today's progress on the wallpaper. Will hopefully resolve that by tomorrow. 


Carla said...

The stark layout on this current show seems so suspenseful. I can feel my heart rate go up, just with online viewing. It seems effective with this group of work.

M.A.H. said...

Really? Man, I've been such a curmudgeon about this show. I think I had such high expectations from working so intimately and intensely with the work that nothing's been able to top that experience for me. Usually the whole is more satisfying than the part-seeing the completed works hung vs focusing on the individual work, but with these, not so much for me. Plus the show was literally was the end of so many things emotionally. That could be part of it too. Thanks for the feedback.