26 Aug

Forthcoming Publication

Documentation of my Communication Project will be in the forthcoming book “Erotic Economies.”

“As gift exchange is an erotic commerce, joining self and other, so the gifted state is an erotic state: in it we are sensible of, and participate in, the underlying unity of things.” Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.

26 Aug

Upcoming Shows 2011

In 2011, I’ll be in a group show at the Association for Visual Artists in Chattanooga, Tenn. The show will travel to Zeitgeist in Nashville and then on to Kent State University in Ohio. The show is titled Therely Bare and is curated by Ron Buffington and John Tallman of The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

19 Aug

Pincus-Witten on Style

“Style is the bourgeois word for history. Style reinforces a bourgeois notion of history even as it conspires to transform the work of art into commodity. Style, above all else, allows for the alchemical transformation of art into capital.”

13 Aug

Reinhardt on Abstraction vs. Illustration

“We don’t have to dwell on what a picture is – it has subject matter, tells some story, is photographic or cinematographic, and sometimes is just plain hand-painted.  The best and most effective pictures can be found in magazines and movies.  If an artist is concerned with communication and a larger public, he should get a job in some mass-publishing or picture industry.

A painting however, is still a relatively private, individual activity, and its freest most abstract form is not concerned with communicating specific information or subject matter.  Because it is universal, unhistorical, and independent of everyday existence doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any meaning.  Some people think that if a painting doesn’t have a subject or isn’t a picture, then it doesn’t have meaning.  This just isn’t true.”

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

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”

“Untitled”

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.

02 Jun

In place of wiping.

Advertisements use these shots of ‘mini experiments’ to illustrate the products effectiveness. For example, the scene in this ad where the tissue is moistened with a spray bottle and then dragged with a weight on it. They construct a sort of placeholder for the action that the tissue would normally be used for. There are others – pouring liquids onto pads, diapers, etc.

01 Sep

Art Moratorium

As an individual living in a warfare state, a state which is increasingly in danger of becoming a permanent fascist nation, I must resist. My acts of resistance will, from now forward, be the only artwork I create. There is nothing more important that the fight for social justice.

I cannot in good conscience ‘play art’ while my nation murders all around the world, operates secret prisons and moves faster and faster into that place we can all feel it going.

Our government is a conspiracy against the people maintained by the illusion of crisis. The bourgeois world of art/galleries/wine and million dollar price tags feeds this gluttonous pig of a war machine. My participation in that system and in the aristocratic world of art officially stops TODAY.

ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE.

04 Sep

Samatha (No-Mind) Minimalism

What would it be?

Reductive work renouncing interpretation through directness, oddness and commonness.
Constantly arising, impermanent, mindfully originated.
Aware of the role of the mind in investing the physical world with value.

There are several Pali words which might describe the defining characteristics of this work:
The objects are Anatta (not-self).
The act of creation is Sati (mindfulness, attention, awareness).
The act of seeing is Vinnnana (knowing sense objects through the senses, i.e. the eyes do not see without the mind, conciousness).

30 Jun

Coming Soon

Field Cologne

Notes: Latex Paint, Wine Cork, Hammer Striking Nail, Transparency, Laser Printing, Fluorescence, Spackle
Style: To remember and encourage subtlety.

22 Jun

Statement ‘Sculpture ReDraft’

Preface on Art Writing

Our experience above the quantum level is a world of composites. Art writing seeks to extrapolate form and meaning from living works of art and express these characteristics through language. The resulting linguistic objects exist in addition to the work but do not amend the work.

Proximity Syntax

Sculpture is primarily an act of proximity adjustment to create a syntax referred to as “the work”. Sculpture can also be the alteration of a single characteristic or the introduction of an idea into an area.

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

The introduction 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 might be waves such as sound or an even more elusive/intangible force.

Perceptive Senses

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

When we try to describe sculpture beyond its characteristics most viewers enter 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 your mind finds familiar in art, but rather what is actually there in the work you are examining.

Michael Paul Oman-Reagan
2005

06 Jan

Ideas in Opposition

The Communication Syntax

A beginning is a very delicate time.
Where have you come from. Are there many of you. Where will you go next. The statement becomes the question, consequently, we modify communication immediately.

The Object Syntax

Do not approach the art object as you would any other object. The mistake of attempting to determine its purpose will lead you away from seeing it as it is.
Not knowing, the message is or is not important; there will be a cube, there is a cube, there was a cube, there is no cube, there was no cube. Where is the symmetrical three dimensional shape contained by six square faces?

The Simulacrum Syntax

A golden land of opportunity and adventure. A beautiful place out in the country.
The situation of capitalism creates a world parallel to but totally unlike reality, a simulacrum of the true context and content of life.

06 Jan

Historical Statement

The Line Syntax

Do not approach the art object as you would any other object. The mistake of attempting to determine its purpose will lead you away from seeing it as it is.

Not knowing, the message is or is not important; there will be a line, there is a line, there was a line, there is no line, there was no line. Where is the straight or curved continuous extent of length without breadth.

(Artists Statement/Michael Paul Oman-Reagan/2004)

28 Nov

Chuck Close Hits the Nail on the Head Re: The Failure of Most Artists.

But he didn’t say it first, I’m convinced.

Chuck Close Oral History Interview Conducted by Judd Tully for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1987

JUDD TULLY: You must have been quite sophisticated in comparison to other people that were around in terms of being exposed to a lot of art.

CHUCK CLOSE: Yes. And I was a great student. I was exactly what everybody had in mind. I knew what art looked like and I could make something. Being a good student is a double-edged sword, I guess, because I got lots of pats on the head, I got lots of scholarships, I got grants and stuff Fulbrights and all that sort of stuff – because I was a good student and because of the relative ease with which I could make things that looked like art. The trouble is, if it looks like art, it must look like someone else’s art or it wouldn’t look like art. When I met De Kooning I said, “How do you do? My name is Chuck Close. I’m the person who’s made almost as many De Koonings as you’ve made.” [laughs] It’s true. I was De Kooning or I was Hans Hofmann or I was whoever it was.

JUDD TULLY: This would be familiarity from magazines, from –

CHUCK CLOSE: Yes. Growing up in Everett and Seattle and going to college there was a real cultural backwater. And the mountains are a kind of emotional distancing device. Seattle was not like other cities in America – or wasn’t then. It really drew the wagons into the circle. They loved themselves and they always referred to it as ‘God’s country’ and they hate everywhere else even though they’ve never been there. The whole culture if there is an interest in culture, which there’s very little, or was in the fifties, at least they looked towards the Orient. The art history courses were on Japanese art or were interested in American. They did American Indian art and Eskimo – Alaskan. There was virtually no interest in Western culture. Everybody who traveled had been to Japan. I never knew anybody who had been to Europe. New York was viewed with great suspicion. The heroes – the gods – were the people like Mark Tobey, who had gone to live in a Zen Buddhist monastery in Japan. Of course they overlooked the fact that he then went to live in Ireland or wherever the hell he was. Or was that Morris Graves? But there was tremendous suspicion of New York and those things. I immediately wanted to make stuff that was about New York. Alden Mason was very supportive. He was somebody who would not make great Northwest mystic paintings. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, as soon as I discovered there was a there there, I went to it. I got out of Seattle, which I saw as an intellectual and cultural backwater, and wanted to go where it really was happening. The other part of being a good student is that it’s very hard then to develop any kind of personal idiosyncratic vision because your hand moves in art ways. It wants to make art shapes. I supposedly had a good sense of color. As far as that’s concerned, I think I had discovered that certain color combinations look more like art than other color combinations. So there were many, many habits and many skills which were developed in school that had served me very well as a student which later became a big problem in terms of differentiating myself from everyone else and trying to find out who I was, different from other artists.

28 Nov

Emma Goldman, Oscar Wilde, “If it looks like art…”

There is good reason to start from the beginning if you’re interested in making something worth making. Who was it that originally said “If it looks like art then it’s probably somebody elses art”. The web searches are telling me it’s Chuck Close, but I am so certain that I read that from Matisse or Picasso first.

Emma Goldman – Anarchism – What It Really Stands For – Anarchism and Other Essays

“A practical scheme, says Oscar Wilde, is either one already in existence, or a scheme that could be carried out under the existing conditions; but it is exactly the existing conditions that one objects to, and any scheme that could accept these conditions is wrong and foolish. The true criterion of the practical, therefore, is not whether the latter can keep intact the wrong or foolish; rather is it whether the scheme has vitality enough to leave the stagnant waters of the old, and build, as well as sustain, new life.”

From the 1917 edition of Emma Goldman’s Anarchism and Other Essays

28 Nov

Victoria Woodhull

The first woman to run for president lived nearby.

The My Hero Project – Victoria Woodhull

VICTORIA WOODHULL
by Barbara Goldsmith

Recently, when I mentioned to a friend that the title of my book was Other Powers–The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull, she asked: “Just who was Victoria Woodhull anyway?” It seems a simple question, but Victoria was not a simple person. She was conceived in 1837, during the frenzy of a religious revival in Homer, Ohio. Her father was an itinerant con man and a thief; her mother was illegitimate, illiterate and a religious fanatic. As a child, Victoria was raised in filth and squalor, beaten and starved, given little education and exploited in her father’s traveling carnival show as a clairvoyant and fortune-teller. Unexpectedly, she demonstrated such powers as accurately recalling past events and predicting future ones, finding missing objects and people, and affecting cures. She also relayed messages from loved ones who had “passed over.”

From childhood, Victoria maintained that she was guided and protected by the spirits, who occasionally let her visit a utopian world in heaven unlike the chaotic, miserable world in which she lived. Like Joan of Arc, she listened to voices that told her she would rise from poverty one day to become “ruler of the nation.” At 15, in order to escape her father’s brutality, Victoria eloped with an alcoholic doctor who fathered a retarded son and so botched the delivery of their daughter that the baby nearly bled to death. After five years, Victoria left him and struck out on her own. Eventually, her belief in the spirits enabled her to form alliances with such powerful men as Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, to become the first woman to own a Wall Street investment firm, to found her own newspaper, to speak before Congress demanding that women be given the vote and finally, to run for U.S. President in 1872 against the popular incumbent, Ulysses S. Grant, and the powerful newspaperman, Horace Greeley. In short, she set America on its ear….

28 Nov

Astor Place Riots

A book about something that happened nearby, long ago.

ASTOR PLACE RIOTS.
ACCOUNT OF THE TERRIFIC AND FATAL RIOT, at the New York Astor Place Opera House, On the night of May 10th, 1849. With the Quarrels of Forrest and Macready, Including All the Causes Which Led to that Awful Tragedy. Wherein an infuriated mob was quelled by the Public Authorities and Military, with its mournful termination in the Sudden Death or Mutilation of more than Fifty Citizens, With Full and Authentic Particulars. New York:, H.M. Ranney, 1849.