24 Jul

Agnes Martin on Ideas

“I’m very careful not to have ideas, because they’re inaccurate…”

Agnes Martin, in the 2002 Documentary “With My Back to the World”

20 Jul

Communication Project Notes

Art objects produced in the studio are covertly installed in dedicated cultural spaces.  The installation is documented by taking photographs of the installation at the time of deployment.  Photographs are published showing the artifact in situ, but not information which could reveal the specific location.  The name of the institution or space is revealed.

If no witness is present during the act, a report of the installation is shared with trusted critics, artists or theorists.  The report includes confidential photographs revealing the specific location of the installation.

Once work is installed it becomes an artifact of the project.  It may remain in place or be removed by the institution and kept, sold or exhibited in collaboration with the artist.

The exchanges produced by the communication project have the same ephemeral quality as other conversations – and they may or may not be remembered or recorded beyond the original installation documentation and reporting.

18 Jul

Email to a gallery director, 2003

Artifacts from the Communication Project &
Objects of the Communication Project

Captivity Syntax
Artifact 1:  Wood cube with casein paint and water-based ink.
Wood platform with enamel surface.
Artifact 2:  Wood stick with acrylic and oil paint, pencil, paper and tape.
Wood platform with pencil, tempera, acrylic and enamel

These artifacts were constructed along with a ‘batch’ of communication project objects.  Communication objects are constructed in groups with a restricted palette of media and pigment.

This group was limited to white, blue, grey and paper.  The white on the cube is a thick, matte and porous layer, it rests on one face of the cube like the result of wind or gravity.  The white of the platform on which the cube sits however is 12 thin coats of enamel and is slick and repellent.  As in the cube the enamel is mostly on one face of the rectangular solid. The cube has a series of blue non-lines on it.  Rather than being determined by line intention, they are stained segments of wood grain.

The stick is suspended by a frail and pathetic paper and tape structure.  The paper is thick and glossy unlike the rough, worn and painted-on wood.  Because of the suspension and the fold of the paper structure, the stick can only be placed right-side up or upside down, any other attempt and it will roll to one of these two positions.

(I might give this set to someone on a day when it had rained in the afternoon and the sun only broke through as it was setting while everything was still wet.)

”Unbleached Red Hand Line”
Wooden cubes with ink and arcylic paint.

These cubes are finished on only two faces.
All faces are marked with an attempt to begin a line and then deviate from my instinct to finish the line in a particular way.

(On a pleasant morning when the wind is not blowing, I would place one of these in my pocket and go for a walk around 4 am.
While passing a building, I might decide to leave the cube on the windowsill.  On my way home I would pass the windowsill again and see that the cube is still there.)

Hold 4
Cubes of wood held together with linen tape.  Red plastic, acrylic polymer.

The title of another piece with a similar strategy for binding wood and red plastic lines is also ‘Hold’ followed by the number of tabs it has.
If these pieces loose tabs (or gain them), the title changes at that moment, whether or not anyone has counted the tabs and realized the change.

Red Itinerary Syntax (Detail)
The red plastic twist is Red Crumple #1

Wood platform (‘panel’ in this wall configuration) with enamel paint.
Transparent colored plastic, staples.

In this installation, the white panel serves as a ground for a light painting created by the placement of the red plastic twist/crumple.
Both objects can exist together or separately in any number of configurations.  The installation should be determined by the light.  Red Itinerary Syntax was a site specific wall drawing composed of objects.

Red Itinerary Syntax (Detail)
Wood platform (panel here) with enamel paint.
Transparent colored plastic, staples.
Transparent plastic strip.
The transparent plastic strip is an element that can be installed anywhere with complete success.
Working in unison with other objects, especially white enamel wood panels, the pigmented shadow can be achieved anywhere.

Blue/Fluor Itinerary Syntax
The wood strip is Fluorescent Line Strip #5.

Wood strip, acrylic paint, highlighter. Transparent adhesive tape, enamel paint. Transparent colored plastic.

This series of objects uses blue, transparencey and tape.
The fluorescent strip in this piece is smooth and fine.  Rather than bruised older wood, a new fine piece coated with a gloss polymer varnish is used.

17 Jul

Linda Norden on ‘Explaining’ Art

“This also evoked a strong position Norden has in response to the pervasive use of wall text, video documentary, brochures etc, which have become the norm of contemporary exhibitions. The urge of curators to make difficult work “accessible.” Perhaps the art world equivalent of “no child left behind.” And we all know what a disaster that has been.

“The minute you tell people what the work is about,” she said. “If an explanation is the point of entry (wall text or elaborately descriptive labels) then it is a guide to everything else you see. I don’t believe in ignoring what other people think of work but I feel that people should not be afraid of encountering what they see on its own terms or in context with other work.”

She discussed the intentions of an artist to have work seen in a particular way and the mandate to respect that. The installation and the manner in which the work is presented defines the art form of a curator. The mandate of the curator, however, is to respect how the artist wants us to experience the work. Clearly, many curators muck about with that. I agree strongly with Norden on that point and mostly don’t bother to read text on the walls and resent groups of visitors huddled around specific works listening to an art star on ubiquitous acoustaguides “explain” the work.

That effort may be counterproductive to encouraging visitors to have their own encounter. On the other hand, when I take students to museums they often convey engaging work that had previously been largely “invisible” to them. Just as I might benefit from having a musician “explain” a Mahler symphony. A high school student recently conveyed to me that when a work of literature is “explained to death” in class it “kills” the experience.

Are contemporary curators providing the short hand “Cliff Notes” for difficult contemporary work? In my avant-garde seminar, for example, students often convey frustration that I have not “explained” the work. There is the assumption that the professor should know the answers. I respond that it is the process and debate about the work that is important. Students must learn to deal with the manner in which the artist engages us. As the “consumer” or “critic” we have an opportunity and right to determine the degree and depth of our involvement. We can “pull the plug” or “hang in there.” Contemporary art challenges the limit of our attention span.”

Read More

17 Jul


The space of the west, growing up in Eastern Oregon.

14 Jul

Statement Revision

I create work around socio-cultural and anthropological themes. My objects, installations and projects examine the datum plane of the viewer and the syntax of communication.

Proximity Syntax
My sculpture results primarily from acts of proximity adjustment. Through investigations in the studio, I build a syntax referred to as the art object. The sculpture can also be the introduction of an idea into a space.

When proximity adjustment is the method of creating sculpture, the materials and methods used to assemble, group or otherwise relate objects are of equal importance. The adjustment can involve changes to the object, the object’s environment, the context or location of the object or the way in which the object is displayed or referenced.

The placement of an idea into a proximity relationship is a conceptual act of sculpture. This may involve the presentation of an object/idea through words, symbols, situations and other media. The object/idea could be an art object, media such as sound or light or an even more elusive/intangible force.

Perceptive Senses
The work is perceived by the viewer with the sense doors; the thought of mind, the feel of touch, the hearing of sound, the seeing of light, and the fragrance or bouquet of smell or taste. Perhaps the art will access other senses such as the physical sense of balance felt by the inner ear, the acute sensitivity of pheromones or the empathic and intuitive senses.

When trying to describe sculpture beyond its formal characteristics the viewer enters a kind of interpretive quicksand. They ask “what is its purpose, its meaning, its value, its effect?” The first instinct of the mind is to compare new experiences with old experiences. (The eyes do not see without the mind. There is no sight without the thought of seeing.)

It is therefore necessary to unlearn a certain series of perceptual habits in order to successfully see not what the mind finds familiar in art, but rather what is actually there in the work we are examining.

Michael Paul Oman-Reagan, 2008

13 Jul

Studio Notes

List of Rejected Titles (July 12)

“Insulting in its Lack of Formal Consideration”

“Models for Larger Sculptures I will Never Build”


07 Jul

Notes on the Objects

The objects are completed by their environment. The walls and surfaces called ‘background’ are part of the installation.

The objects are a practice in limitation. The construction and assemblage is defined by strict restrictions in technique and material.