This item is only available as the following downloads:
SEEING THROUGH THE GRID An investigation of Rationa l Chaos and Transcendental Form BY: SARAH NEWBERRY A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Art New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Kim Anderson Sarasota, Florida May, 2010
TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. Image List i 2. Abstract ii 3. Introduction iii 4. Grid 1 5. Mapping Space 5 6. Form & Abstraction 14 7. Boxes, Narrative, and Release 18 8. Conclusion 24 9. Images 26 10. Bibliography and Works Cited 42
i IMAGE LIST 1. Sarah Newberry, Crevasse 2009, wood relief 2. Josef Albers, High Up 1948, photograph 3. Sarah Newberry, Flown Coops Nos. 1 & 2, 2010, enamel on wood 4. Sarah Newberry, People Tell Me Israel Is Home, 2010, latex on canvas 5. Sarah Newberry, Sunday's Void, 2010, resin on wood 6. Sarah Newberry, Sky Views 2010, digital prints 7. Sarah Newberry, Hunches Nos. 1 & 2, 2010, oil on canvas 8. Leonardo Da Vinci, Vitruvian Man, 1487, ink 9. Albrecht Durer, Melencolia I, 1514, engraving 10. Soren Matei, Mental Map, 20 04, digital image 11. Matthew Picton, Road Surface Drawing, 2004, ink on paper 12. Matthew Picton, Cracked Parking Lot, Sculpture #8, 2004, mixed media 13. Sarah Newberry, Florida Room, 2010, motor, light, mixed media 14. Sarah Newberry, Vent, 2010, poplar and steel 15. Sarah Newberry, Chairlift, 2010, motors, rope, wood 16. Sarah Newberry, Drawings in the Late Afternoon, 2010, graphite on paper 17. Patrick Ireland, Rope Drawing (#111), 1967, string and paint 18. Sarah Newberry, Urna, 2010, latex, acrylic & oil on canvas
ii SEEING THROUGH THE GRID Sarah Newberry New College of Florida, 2010 ABSTRACT This thesis began as an investigation of three dimensional space through pattern, repetition, modulation and transmutation of geometric forms. In response to the formalist aesthetic of the modernist grid 1 seen in the works of artists like Piet Mondrian, Sol Lewitt, and Josef Albers, a body of work was actualized. Works have evolved into a further exploration, one in which the aesthetic nature of the grid is subverted and its logical beginni ngs devolve into consistently warped, imprecise, and affected representations. This thesis utilizes this logical chaos to relate the dynamic qualities of specific spaces, their constant devolution, and the capacity of the canvas to act as a window a releas e that provides the viewer access to them. 1 The modernist grid is a re purposing of the original grid graph. Instead of a tool for transposing a reality it became both subject matter and an armature representative of space. It was explored visually in a number of ways, from works that sought to emb ody it to works that sought to explore its limitations.
iii INTRODUCTION In this thesis the notion of the "grid 2 functions as both noun and verb. "The grid" is a term that describes the iconic nature of the form itsel f, which was developed out of its in the early part of the 20 th century. The notion of the "the grid" is something that helped to conceptually guide the development of this thesis. "To grid," or the process of "gridding," are terms that I adopted to descri be the processes of art making undertaken while creating the actual works that make up this thesis. This thesis is divided into two main categories. The first is work which functions to physically map spaces. The second, work in which a space is defined as subject and its real version re represented. "The grid" is addressed as a singular entity representative of the set of ideas which defined its use in Modernism -It is an ordered, mathematical, graph and armature, and has been both structural tool and aes thetic icon throughout its history in visual art. Much of the artwork in this thesis demonstrates movement or action that exists within the armature of the grid minimal forms interact with each other in systems, and produce chaos and tension the rest of it identifies with the capacity of the grid to "frame" space. The development of visual, aural, and physical allusions to space are achieved through an attention to perspective, form, reduction, and abstraction. This work shows a primary interest in depicti on and alteration of form contrived, fabricated marks but it also identifies as strongly with the thing about art making that is always real its material. In "Crevasse" (fig. 1), as in much of Seeing Through the Grid, the work is almost solely dedicated to identifying with its medium. "Crevasse" is a five foot by three foot poplar board. Three smaller boards have been 2 A latticework of x and y axes that form a graph in this sense the term means "armature," "structure,"
i v carefully joined to achieve this size. Though poplar grain is subtle to begin with, it is clear that great care has been taken to make sure t hat the seams between boards are hidden. The poplar is split horizontally, and the break between the sections follows the form of the wood grain occasionally twisting, or dipping. The upper section of "Crevasse" hangs one inch above the lower one using the gallery wall to illustrate this horizontal break. While the piece itself is clearly a study of line of creating line the poplar that "Crevasse" is sculpted from holds equal weight. It hides nothing of itself in its nakedness it brazenly asks to be underst ood, to be seen, to be accounted for. Josef Albers' desire to reveal the warm detail of wood grain in his printing blocks (fig. 2) is something that aligns with the intent of this work. The juxtaposition of clean white geometry superimposed on a harshly na tural surface is extremely direct and poignant. With "Crevasse" I am interested in identifying the logical with the natural as seen in Albers' woodcuts. Like Albers Sol Lewitt is an artist whose work has a minimal and geometric focus. Both were interested in mathematics of progress, quantification, and justification of materials. Perhaps Lewitt was more focused on the mathematics behind the subject matter than Albers, who was concerned primarily with that of color, but Lewitt always returns to a comparable aesthetic they are both interested in the simplest and most functional aspects of composition: the line and the form and what they leave behind an idea that drives my body of work. A quality of erasure, of reduction, is evident throughout much of the work In "Flown Coop" (fig. 3) marks are so minimal and concise that there is hardly evidence of the artist's hand, and yet it is clear based on subtle variations in texture that multiple
v layers exist beneath the images. This is a history hidden by the paint. It has been concentrated reduced. The paintings strain to say more, to narrate, to speak. But they cannot there is only the potential for an outsider to interpret the marks, the residue, the affectation of the surface. Only someone who is not the art can m ake or imagine the work speak. As a result, a tension exists in these works, one that leaves room for the work to take on different meaning one that is affected, abstracted, and reconstructed with each new question that is asked about it. "Flown Coop" is a good example of the tendency of titles in this work to reference tangible things objects, colors, and spaces that I am intrigued by. These titles range in specificity. "People Tell Me Israel Is Home" (Fig. 4), and "Sunday's Void" (Fig. 5) speak directly to certain cultural, religious spaces, while "Sky Views" (Fig. 6), "Hunches" (Fig. 7), and "Flown Coop" are more ambiguous, and less referential they describe contextless spaces which, without relevant narrative, are difficult to re imagine. What is true in all these works is that the composition is a vehicle with which nuances, or details, of the spaces that are referenced are demonstrated. It is the nuances that intrigue me and the nuances of the art produced through this intrigue that later supersede th eir beginnings. The work shares with the viewer only pieces, patches, fragments of the subject matter and the image and the rest is removed. For this reason the work always asks at least one question: what is it that is important about this object, this w ord, this space? It's important to note that the work doesn't encourage the viewer to see through the eyes of the a r t i s t 3 It provides them with pieces to rearrange, and questions to ask. The images produced read in ways that could not have been anticipate d 3 I should say, it is important to me. In attempting to echo processes of cartography in whic h the author is removed or ambiguous, I sought to maintain a similar distance from my viewer.
vi by the artist; and that is the beauty of them. There is ambiguity between the forms and the lines; an ambiguity that breeds deeper and more varied understanding. For example, in "People Tell Me Israel Is Home" (Fig. 4) the lines and forms have been ident ified by many as specific elements of a landscape, or as allusions to the linear facets of icons of Judaism, like the Star of David. Each individual who sees these works imagines something new upon them; each new viewer reflects upon their own perceptions of the space that is suggested. To me, these paintings are entirely abstract. I should say, these paintings are only representative of an abstract space : a mental map of the cities, towns, conflicts, and political ideas bits of information that have melded together and over time developed into my perceived understanding of the nation of Israel. The grid is a formal structure used in traditional cartography and it is referenced repeatedly. Though its rational, structured, aesthetic is often challenged by an abstraction of form, it perpetually serves as a lens through which the work is filtered, and this process of framing is intrinsic to the work. Works pay great attention to the box form as a facet of the i c o n i c 4 grid, and they utilize its frame as a window to provide a view into the art, or into another space. The b o x w i n d o w 5 provides or denies the work the ability to release into another space. Through window views are filtered there is always an element of reflection and this work identifies that element of reflection as intrinsic to the process of referencing spaces. Regard less of the layers or levels of reflection between the subject matter (A country, room, object) and the gallery, a release of some kind is always there. By saying nothing, the most minimal works of Seeing Through the Grid strain to 4 The mathematical grid form itself; a series of precise and intersecting x and y axes. 5 As something that can either reflect a view, or be seen through.
vii say more they are keepin g a secret. This repression of form lends itself to extrapolation, and to imagination.
1 CHAPTER ONE: GRID The importance of the grid to this body of work lies in its history as a structural armature one dynamic enough to serve as a foundation of art making for thousands of years that led to its function as a cornerstone of the modernist aesthetic. The iconic M odernist "grid" has only been a powerful force in the art world for a little over a century, but gridded space itself has contributed to the function of art, society, and architecture for hundreds of years. The grid is the most prominent visual structure i n Western culture, and has a history that long predates modernity 1 Before its appeal as an emblem of modernism 2 the grid served as a method of transposing or inscribing an armature of organization onto reality. It was used for mapping, and as tool for a method of art making more scientific than conceptual. Remnants of the grid appear as early as the 11 th Egyptian Dynasty underneath wall paintings, and continued to serve as a means by which Egyptian artists designated figurative proportion for 2,000 years afterward (Robins, 1994). Years after the Egyptians art making evolved beyond its beginnings as a primarily communicative too l. The western world exchanged through the help of share d spoken and written languages commerce, thought, and imag ery Painting a nd sculpture became more understood as a form of acquiring, retaining, or reproducing a tangible 1 Higgins, 2009 2 "Grids" is a text crucial to the development of this thesis. It was originally published by Rosalind Krauss in Grids: Format and Image in 20th Century Art in 1978 In it, Krauss declares the grid the emblem of modern art. She justifies this declaration in two ways. The first is spatial. Krauss believes that the grid states the autonomy of the realm of art it is flat, geometric, and ordered. It is so separate from a tangible reality, from the real and natural, that it is best categorized as "anti nature," and a true challenge to the representative function of the art that preceded its existence. The second justification references the temporal the stringent and mathematical grid that appears in the work of artists like Sol Lewitt, Ad Reinhardt, and Donald Judd is ubiquitous in the twentieth century. Krauss maintains th at no similar version of this grid exists before the advent of
2 reality than as a method of transcribing a history. In the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries artists like Leonardo Da Vinci and Albrecht Durer in scribed the grid as a perspective lattice onto reality 3 ; and transposed that reality onto the surface of a canvas, a sheet of parchment, a block of stone, or a panel of wood. A study of human proportion, Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man (Fig. 8, 1487) demonstrate s an awareness of the presence of an underlying geometric system and evidences the concern of fifteenth century artists with the process of transposing an accurate reality onto canvas. This interest in furthering accuracy in representation drove artists li ke Durer to develop tools with which to more concisely reproduce imagery. Not entirely his own invention, Durer's "grid," a transparent screen placed between the artist and his subject matter, was first suggested by Leon Battista Alberti in the mid 1400s. This "grid" allowed Durer one of the first masters of perspective to create incredibly complex copper engravings like "Melencolia I" (Fig. 9, 1514). Durer's concern with the relationship between art and geometry is evident here. The work shows the winged g enius Melancholy in a reflective pose and with compass in hand. She sits surrounded by idealized representations of objects of measurement and mathematics: a giant polyhedron, hour glass, balance, sphere, and woodworking tools. Above her head is the magic square of Jupiter; a 4 x 4 box in which all sides add up to produce the same number. Like the square an allusion to the mystery of the Golden Ratio the objects chosen by Durer all refer to the paradoxically logical and mystical nature of geometry. modernism. It is the newness and prevalence of the grid in modern art that leads Krauss to lend it the term "emblematic." 3 Krauss, 1978
3 His was a lifetime of dedication to the recognition and employment of geometry as the foundation of art. The "grid" screen, a method of transposing linear space, became too simple a tool for Durer. He began to develop complex five fold tessellations of the grid i n order to illustrate the curvature of animate life. Durer seems to have advanced, modified, and evolved his understandings of space and its representation through awareness of its geometric underpinnings. Even Durer, one of the most geometrically aware a rtists of his time, saw the need for image making to evolve beyond the basic x and y axis of the grid. Evidence of the grid in works that predated the nineteenth century, like "Melancholia I," and "Vitruvian Man," suggests that it retained no conceptual s ignificance of its own. The late 1800s saw the beginning of the process of modern ( ism). It was a shift in the thought and actions of art and culture that took place over the course of a century. A process of emancipation and transformation, modernism shi fted the role of the artist from one of passivity to power. The artist sought out and embraced originality and freedom of expression. What began with the work of David, Manet, and Courbet soon evolved into movements like Impressionism, Cubism, Dada, and Mi nimalism. By the First World War the modernists had begun to abandon the representational figure and place emphasis on "ground," or surface, instead. First appearin g in pre war cubist paintings, the Modern grid became ever more manifest as an entirely new type of armature; one onto which artists projected their quest for transcendence through stringent, geometric forms of bare suggestiveness and value. By the 1930s a vant garde painting had revolutionized Western culture's understanding of art; the flatness of the picture plane and the gallery space itself replaced the canvas as
4 ground. T hese spaces evolved for the modernist artists into the subjects themselves. T he gr ound replaced the Figure as the universal element 4 And so the grid's origin as a scientific tool was superseded in the twentieth century by its Modern manifestation; flat, literal, anti natural 5 The aesthetic remained, throughout its prominence in the e mploy of artists like Judd, Lewitt, and Mondrian, fairly static. The denial of associations to reality left little room for elaboration on form and the work's aesthetic focus lay instead in materials. This grid was a translation of form; a withdrawal on t he part of the Modernists. It was a means by which to confront the nature of represented realities, and to reference the spiritual instead. The grid in any of its forms may crumble, shatter, or fade, but the organizational principles behind it transcend i ts tangible form 6 The grid embodies the interconnectivity of layers of tangible and conceptual realities. The nature of different grids ones representative of things from society to technology to connect is what enriches the function of the grid in art. T he denial of the grid's scientific function by the Modernists is something that I found myself increasingly interested in to me the significance of the grid lies in its ability to represent, and the beauty of its function as an aesthetic structure is wholl y defined by this ability. The Modernists traded the figure, and the real, for the ground, and the spiritual yet in this process they never truly managed to escape the potential of the grid as a scientific tool. Even in the bareness of Minimal art it funct ions as an armature of organization it is always a tool for mapping, even if those things which it maps are non representational elements of color, line, and form. 4 Schor, 2001 5 Krauss, 1978 6 Higgins, 2009
5 CHAPTER TWO: MAPPING SPACE Works in Seeing Through the Grid view the absence of reality the repression of nature in the modernist grid as a structure within itself and as an echo of the "real" science that it seeks to subvert These works use this idea as a starting point. A pseudo mapping process has developed within these works tha t echoes of the science of cartography. It is used to explain "spaces," or aspects of them. The science of mapping is one historically inextricable from the grid; three dimensions are mathematically translated, with limited components, onto a two dimension al plane. This chapter defines "space" as it is applicable to this body of work, explains relevance of the spaces represented, and details the process through which they become "mapped". W orks 7 that serve as the most accurate examples of "mapped space" are mentioned, and they set a precedent for the intent and process behind works detailed later in the paper. Finally, I would like to make a distinction between represented space and the space of the frame itself. In this body of work, the frame is a tool u sed to contain representation. It holds space, it suggests space, it can provide or deny allusion to anything exterior of the canvas. In this work the frame serves as a vehicle for communicating to the viewer an alternate space, and though herein it is end owed with the ability to suggest space, it is never a space itself. Choosing Spaces 7 We can assume, from here on out, that all work in this body functions to create a map of some kind.
6 In this thesis paper "space" as a general term can be defined as a particular extent of a three dimensional expanse the dimensions of an object, a room, or a city, for e xample. The function of a space is what generally defines it for example: a bedroom as a personal space used for storing clothing, re sting, or privacy and not the structure of line and form that define its construction. Spaces represented in Seeing Throug h the Grid are viewed through the structural lens of the grid the unique quality of line, the contour of objects or their facets, and the forms they create become part of what define that space. The proximity of these facets to each other, and their compo sitional associations, is what develops an image or "visual" of that particular space. This systematic organization is applicable both to direct sight that is to say: humans assess and organize understandings of the space around them based on the proximity of objects to each other and to compositional organization artistic elements arranged two and three dimensionally as systems that convey a sense hierarchy of form to a viewer based on their proximity to each other. In these works spaces a re selected base d on their intrigue an intrigue defined by my perception of nuances 8 inherent to a particular system of form. The initial visual und erstanding is translated into a new visual system, one created from the linear and formal qualities of that space and defined by the limited geometry of "the grid". Spaces that have dynamic or changing facets kinetics either innate to them (movement of the 8 These nuances can be described as subtleties of outside affectation within the linear and formal qualities of said space the variables that affect perc eption of the space. For example, the line and form, which make up the perceived space of a skylight, change when the angle of light changes. Over the course of a day, the object the space itself changes. A more conceptual application of this definition is evident in works such as in "People Tell Me Israel is Home," a mental map based on my perceptions of a space that I have no physical access to. The marks on the canvas are representative of concepts, locations, and political conflicts which have allowed m e to develop a vision (however inaccurate) of the nation of Israel. It is the variables that orient my perception that interest me most.
7 elements of the space) or based on the perception of the viewer (movement of the elements based on the movement of th e viewer) or ones that are entirely static, are of primary interest to me Take the space of a skylight for example. The interplay of light on the architecture of the skylight is one of its most dynamic functions. Yet the skylight itself is often overloo ked in favor of its function as a mode of lighting. The light emitted into the room is part of this mundane definition of the skylight, but the light that interacts with the actual struc ture of the skylight is unusual and abstract. This interplay of light makes up a visual understanding of a space an understanding of the skylight that is far less accessible than its primary definition as an opening in a house roof or ship's deck that is covered with translucent or transparent material and that is designed to admit light." 9 To create a two dimensional map of a skylight as the forms of light defining it are slowly changing is a way to identify its space as dynamic, and visually stimulating. Whether or not purely universal attributes of these spaces are repre sented basic line and form commonly understood to define them the acquisition of them as subject matter is, unfortunately and unavoidably, based on an individual perception. In works like "People T ell Me Israel Is Home" (Fig. 4) for example, I chose a spac e that is familiar and yet abstract to me Israel is not a small or accessible space, and it is clear that an accurate re representation of an entire nation is one impossible to achieve. But this is what's so interesting about it Israel is an abstraction t o most of the Western world, and yet, it is also a space with which that world has daily visual media based contact. The limited cultural, physical, and geographic elements outsiders have access to are the ones on which they base a perception or map of som e kind on. With "Israel an extremely
8 vague map is produced color, line, and the interaction of the two, transpose a modulated space as abstract as the artist understands it to be The work itself is a triptych 48 high that stretches 82 inches in length. It demonstrates the evolution of line and form above and below an implied "x" axis. Grey blue lines extended from this axis into a vast yellow space. They are thin and drowning in the weight of the yellow, and maintain their integrity only through the stre ngth of their connections with each other individually they are swallowed by their surroundings, but together, in construction, they succeed in demanding their own agency. The lines flow off the edges of the canvases and meet the white space of the wall on ly to appear again, extrapolated, on a neighboring canvas. They evaporate and then reappear infinite, yet invisible outside the confines of the frame. The capacity of these lines to demarcate, to "map" the area of the canvas is what lends them to the proce ss of conceptualizing and re representing 10 spaces. Topography is formed by the intersection and interactions between lines a topography that is either real and/ or contrived. From traditional cartography two specific parts of process are derived: 1. Set an agenda and select relevant traits to be mapped. These can be either p hysical or abstract traits. And 2. Represent the terrain of the space to be mapped by eliminating the irrelevant characteristics of these traits and reducing the complexity of the remain ing ones. In "Israel" intersecting lines represent subtle connections between the abstract concepts of ethnic groups or cities specific to the Middle East. From the first few lines more are extrapolated, and in turn create modulated geometric forms. The ap pearance of an underpainting suggests a density of lines that have been painted over ones that 9 Merriam Webster, 2011 10 Mitchell, 1995
9 seemingly served to map a variety of potential relationships between these abstract concepts. The wo rk couldn't truly come close to demonstrating a sense of the infinite 11 in the quantity of these lines but it explored the possibility of it. With the majority of them removed, the work becomes about exerting a control over their connections. Cartography and the Grid "People Tell Me Israel Is Home" is an exploration of limitations 12 of formal mapping. Other works created within similar guidelines produced only vague and various aesthetics. For me t he development of these aesthetics allowed works to evolve conceptually, as I could partake in a process of ima gining more often than one of figurative representation. This understanding began to point to a mode of mapping informal geographies 13 or "fantasy mapping" instead. That is to say, when The term mental mapping 1 is one often used in sociology to describe t he cognitive process of developing imaginary diagrams of physical spaces. These "mental maps" are 11 There is no way to represent the infinite, only to suggest its relevance. Creation of a map without knowledge of what is implied by each component represented develops a language of icons and images that do not address accurate poi nts, and can therefore be related to each other, or to anything else, freely. In "People Tell Me Israel Is Home" my vague comprehension of the ideas that I was representing allowed me to freely associate between them. I could make infinite associations bet ween ideas and locations. There was logic in the execution of the paintings, and in the processes used to association between the ideas represented by the axes, but despite exerting all possible control over these elements the work still managed to evade a ll logic and definition. Instead it became representative of chaos, and the infiniteness of perception. 12 The primary "limitation" being the reduction and translation of representative elements into icons, or as mentioned earlier, "setting an agenda and selecting relevant traits to be mapped," and "Represent[ing] the terrain of the space to be mapped by eliminating the irrelevant characteristics of these traits and reducing the complexity of the remaining ones." 13 In traditional mapping we usually visual ize data with defined relationships to geographic space and time. Informal geographies are about non physical/human geographic information, where, usually, the content cannot be geotagged'. Before these topics can be mapped the information has to be spati alized in some way. Due to the fact that the resulting depictions lack traditional' geographic information they are mostly not considered to be maps' in a common sense. These
10 used on a daily basis to navigate buildings, neighborhoods, and cities. Things, places, and routes that should be avoided, are used out of necessity, and are most efficient or familiar are often most well remembered by individuals. Drawings indicate that these factors influence one's conceptualization of space. A map of Los Angeles (Fig. 10 ) compiled by Sorin Matei in 2003 combines the feelings expressed by a g roup of 215 Los Angeles residents toward the neighborhoods of their city. Areas most residents fear and avoid all the time appear in red. In this map the spatial organization of the geography becomes negligible, and the importance of two dimensional repres entation is in its ability to reflect conceptualizations of space instead 14 This understanding of conceptualizing space is one that allowed the process behind Seeing Through the Grid to evolve. "Israel" is as much about a cartographical representation of s pace as it is about a conceptual one the conceptual, the fantastical and the personal, in map making are as valuable directories of space as the accurate and literal. Artist Matthew Picton, in his Cutout Drawings creates images representative of th e familiar space of roads, parking lots, or cities. Works like "Road Surface 3" (Fig. 11) are transcriptions of cracked patterns found in pavement. Unlike Picton's installations large and creeping transpositions of space the Road Drawings are scaled down, and demand intimate contemplation. Their placement on the vertical space of the wall displaces the horizontality of the initial subject matter, and in this way "plain sight" is transformed into plane' and sight' 15 The drawings themselves serve to map the progression of cracks in the pavement of specific roads located in places like Seattle or maps do not represent geographies that map users are accustomed to, but maps of other' geographies. ( Kinberger 2009) 14 Matei, 2004 15 Holte, 2010
11 Miami. The titles of these works are always specific and factual, but the wonderment available to the viewer in Picton's ability to create images that are abstract, though still accurate, is what sits them somewhere between their rational origins and the infinite and inexplicable nature of space itself 16 Picton's work, though stemming from a beginning more logical and scientific than the work in Seeing Through the Grid still seeks to achieve translation tran sposition and a kind of possess ion" of landscap es. The most notable differences are rooted in process. Picton's process is one in which accuracy and scale of real topographical origins of space serve as a beg inning whereas my own work evolves from variables in perception and context surrounding that space. In a sense, Seeing Through the Grid begins at Picton's end. While he seeks to address social or political implications in space by presenting accurate dep ictions of it, Seeing Through the Grid often begins in references to these same implications and attempts to hide them, or evade them, through abstraction and reduction. What Picton knows is that m aps are intended to be seen and read and that their abil ity to represent something too large or too abstract to otherwise comprehend is what is so interesting about them The process of mapping, despite the form of the resulting map is a logical one. It requires on the part of its creator, a careful progress of plotting and depicting individual element s, and a translation of these elements into a diagram that will be re interpreted. A cartographer collects and interprets variables that define the "space" to be mapped and re represents them to a viewer. There i s a dialogue here between creator and viewer that, though slightly less subjective, is still similar to the relationship between artist and viewer. 16 Holte, 2010
12 Though mapping is slightly less subjective than art making, there is a confli ct inherent in understanding a n act of mapping as anything less than subjective. It is in the creator 's agency to exclude and display certain material that any sense of objectivity is lost. This work identifies re represent at ion of a space as equally s ubjective as it is scientific Sp aces such as Israel, the skylight above my living room, and the Florida Room (Fig. 13) of my childhood home, are chosen as much for the interaction of line and form, as for their ambiguity, emptiness, or inaccessibility. They are represented not solely in terms of their topography, but from multiple perspectives or multiple moments in time. In two dimensional work organization of form and line as with formal mapping demonstrate a hierarchy in three dimensional work it is in the repetition of motion and use of light that this hierarchy is explained. In most cases final compositions consist of simple lines, their intersections, and geometric forms derived from them. As in "Israel many drawings have an initial complexity 17 that the process of er asure lends its elf to reducing. Choosing these spaces is a personal and meditative artistic endeavor 18 but the results the paintings, drawings, and sculptures strive in the mode of scientific cartography to convey the dynamic or relevant qualities of each space. They ask questions about the identity and nature of a space. The selectivity in depicting form 17 By this I mean that many drawings begin with a vast number of points or elements. As these elements are connected to each other using paint, pencil, or ink, the image becomes dense and chaotic. 18 It is difficult for me to elaborate on this. I've come to believe that all of the spaces represented by this body of work are in some way related perhaps only united by my interaction with them. Together, and as words, they certainly add up to an alphabet of some kind one that describes an individual experience: Israel, Florida Room, Urn, Flown Coop, Vent, Chairlift, Hunches, Sky Views. The most subtle and personal explanations for why these spaces were chosen evades
13 produces a minimal quality in the work that can also be directly aligned with the map aesthetic simple, relevant, elements arranged for re interpretation. In all manifes tations work seeks to identify with particular elements of a space and re represent them. This is achieved through the development of a singular perception, or image, derived from multiple ones through abstraction of form. me, as I set out to objectively represent spaces that I found interesting visually or conceptually and not spaces that had some kind of emotional relevance.
14 CHAPTER THREE: FORM & ABSTRACTION In the process of creating "spatial maps" many questions as to the relevance of my process developed for me. I understood that I was building and reducing form and in that way producing works that had simple compositions made up of a minimal nu mber of elements But what was the purpose of this outright abstraction? In one sense, the relationship that I identify between the modern grid and cartography answers this question: Of course the work is minimal. Maps function to inform and explain in the simplest way possible; they are abstract illustrations of space s made up of the smallest possible number of elements. They are as simple in their aesthetic as the grid is, and so yes, of course, the modern aesthetic is one that fits an artistic process of map making. I wasn't sure that this understanding justified my tendency to begin with abstraction. Matthew Picton's map making is abstracted as well, but it achieves this sense despite beginnings that are not just geometrically logical, but accurate. For Picton abstraction occurs primarily as a result of scale. True maps are designed to limit scale and elements in order to make digestible something that is based on sheer size and complexity impossible to fully comprehend. In installations like Cracked Par king Lot, Sculptural Drawing #1 ( Fig. 12 ) Picton transposes a space at a one to one scale and it is overwhelming in its entirety. By this reversion of map making back to a literal transposition to a true to life scale Picton achieves an absurdly real sens e of abstraction, and proves that no representation is comprehensive enough to successfully challenge its reality. Picton begins with the logical. He bases his maps on fact and scale while this body of work finds its basis in conceptualization of space ins tead.
15 The answer, I believe, to my earlier quest ion is two part. First, maps are inherently abstract objects. My work associates cartography with the structure of the grid and identifies both as abstract, paradoxical, and subjective. Abstract in the sense of reduction and re representation, paradoxical in the sense that t he grid has as much ability to reference the infinite as it does to represent and contain tightly controlled forms and subjective in that m aps are reductive illustrations of reality the c ontent of which is carefully chosen they reference a real and comprehensive (complex) space at the same time that they dem onstrate only limited functions of that space. Second, the primary exploration of this body of work is one of the structure, aesthetic, and function of the grid as an armature for composing systems of elements in order to convey space 19 The objective was to begin with conventional forms and slowly extrapolate from them to repeat, modify, transmute, and then erase. It is the aest hetic exploration that produced the conceptual one initial works did not intend to "map" specific spaces, they simply intended to investigate line and form. The "x" axis was central to the growth of form in "People Tell Me Israel Is Home Newer elements extend directly from it, move through it, or are attached to another facet that is. Elements of composition evolving from the initial horizontal line are considered systematically connected, and inextricable from that axis. These systematically modulated g eometric forms become representative of space as a result of their physical relationships to each other. As these compositions develop their facets begin to lose resemblance to the initial forms from which they evolved. As result of this 19 This initial interest in space was non specific. I wanted to demonstrate the tendency of elements, when organized within a structure, to create compositional space based on their relationships to each other. Here, space is something defined by proximity.
16 "pattern making" forms are modulated to the point of "undoing" their logical beginnings. In "Israel" the development and affectation of these systematic connections is the primary process through which the work was developed, and it is one that serves as a theme pervasive throughout the work in this series. The paradoxical capacity of the grid to represent a structure of tight control as easily as it does one of infinite potentiality, defines the grid as equal parts rationality and chaos. In this work examples of rational chaos are manufactured through intent ionally abstracted forms equally as "rationally chaotic" as the grid itself. Imbalance in composition and repetitive modulation of imperfect forms help me to develop this logical imbalance. "Sky Views" (fig. 6) is a series of digital prints arranged in a grid that depict de evolution of the cube Each print isolates some moment in a process, implying the presence of a more cohesive narrative behind the work one of movement. These changing forms can be read in any order logic to chaos, irrational to ration al. The top left piece depicts a simple box form. A dense series of lines run the length of each side of the box, pointing to a space behind the form and implying depth. Subsequent prints evolve from this initial box form. Density of line, viewing angle, a nd complexity of form are changed and modified in each. Twelve prints are organized without any logical hierarchy, yet the similarity of their form and their proximity to each other defines them as multiples of each other. As individual prints are taken i nto account it becomes clear that several of them lack traditional perspective entirely. And of the ones that do imply perspective, very few present it correctly; the sides of the box es jut out at d issimilar and opposing angles,
17 p erspectives are combined, negated, and over emphasized. The structural inconsistencies are subtle enough that they might be overlooked even to a trained eye the drawings still maintain enough attention to tradition al rendering that the lack of adherence to true spatial perspective goes unnoticed. This ability of the skylights to undo, in a sense, the logic of perspective is designed to create a subtle tension in the works t hey're stringent, bu t shaky, s olid and yet deteriorating. They are changing forms they appear logical and mathe matical in their initial appearance, but are slowly and silently chaotic upon further inspection. The boxes are slowly deteriorating and changing grid facets. They are composed individually and as a series using the gri d as a structure one that acts both a s geometric underpinning of the artworks, and is echoed in their arrangement. A skylight offers changing views of the outside world. The spatial orientation of a human body to a vertical window contributes to a n affected perception of the outside world on e that is dependant entirely on proximity. I found the concept of viewing the world through a skylight extremely interesting because this proximity based relationship serves no purpose in modifying perceptions of the space outside of it. Despite a physical relationship with through window views being one of perpetual change, the visual space offered by a skylight is so limited that these changes become abstract ions of a void While the shape and depth of the skylight's architecture take different forms base d on our proximity to it, the view it offers does not. Windows frame the outside world, but the only remnant offered of that world by the skylight is a temporal interplay of light imposed onto the architecture of the frame and the subsequent space surround ing it. The outside world is not modified by its frame the frame is modified by it.
18 In this sense, the skylight is a vehicle through which a remnant of an inaccessible and infinite space light is conveyed to us. These prints show a modification of form th at is representative of this interplay between infinite space, light, and the architecture of their frame. CHAPTER FOUR: BOXES, NARRATIVE, and RELEASE As this body of work has grown, box forms like those in "Sky Views" have emerged repeatedly. They hav e begun to occur organically; becoming a tool with which space can be "framed." Two dimensional representations of the box are casings within which composition functions. They imply a containment of space a framing of it and echo the structure of the can vas, or a facet of the grid In some cases the form of the box is drawn, or represented, in the piece directly referencing its form in relationship to an object or space The manifestation of the box in paintings and drawings like "Sky Views," is vastly d ifferent from its purpose in more three dimensional pieces like "Florida Room," (fig. 13) "Sunset," and "Vent" (fig. 14) In these latter works the box serves as a physical container one which holds objects and an embodiment of space. In the tradition of th e modernist grid 20 these boxes are al most always a means by which to hide' or to make access to a space contingent on the process of seeing through' the box, in a sense. Alternatively, one work detailed later in this chapter, "Chairlift," (fig. 15) demo nstrates a literal process, or narrative, of spatial mapping. It is a kinetic sculpture 20 The modernists utilized the minimal and non descript structure of the grid as a means by which to "hide" narrative, concept, or subject matter. Krauss notes that this provided them with a wa y to inject the personal into the work the modernist interest in the secular defines the aesthetic of the grid, and that aesthetic served to hide reference to, or interest in, the spiritual.
19 that moves objects through a space In this way space is embodied, but it is not necessarily contained unless one chooses to view the space of the gallery as the contai ner or box. "Chairlift ," it is important to note, is the only piece in this series that makes visible the space it is mapping though it is a space that is inaccessible to the viewer, it is not a space that is hidden. But r egardless of the specific function of the box it will always serve primarily as an echo of "ground;" the space onto which the subject is imposed, and in all cases the box exists as a window providing or denying access to a space, and a mode of release. I n "Grids, You Say" Rosalind Krauss speaks of this "release into belief" as one that often occurs within the logical aesthetic of the grid. Despite the purely material nature of work by artists like Piet Mondrian, Krauss suggests that their focus lay in the spiritual. The grid requires the viewer to place faith in the idea that nothing exists beyond the space of the canvas except perhaps an extended pattern of the suggested forms. Modernism challenged the validity of representations of tangible reality by cr eating work that existed only as a representation of itself. To artists like Mondrian the logic of the grid served as a "staircase to the universal." Works like "People Tell Me Israel Is Home," and "Sky Views" embody repression there's something unformed, invisible, and yet straining beneath the simplicity of line and form. Evidence of erased marks remains within the works as a reminder of their potentially infinite nature that which is not there as more important than what remains. The space between. Era sure contributes to this ("clearing away is a release of places. 21 ) In addition, t he process of erasure functions self reflectively. It serves as a reference to the tradition out of which the work grew: the duty of modernism
20 to erase the past. The remnants of this erasure are a visual acknowledgement of all the potentialities of form within the work and the importance of those potential meanings and spaces as equal to those of the final composition. The product reflects a narrative through the process. Remn ants and erasure are evidence of a narrative process in the manufacture of the work. There are three ways in which narrative is relayed in this work. The first is process based narrative evidence of the process reflected in the work that indicates a narra tive in the formation of it. The second is a narrative formed by the relationships of elements using grid as a substructure or system of placement. The viewer perceives relationship s between elements based on their proximity to each other and via the space s between them as a result of the organization provided by the substructure. The third category of narrative occurs as a result of variation in repetition the constant change in a repetitive motion creates questions/predictions on the part of the viewer a nd invites them to extend narrative. "Chairlift" (Fig. 15) is a kinetic structure that serves as a tool for mapping space. Two gearboxes hang 12 feet above the gallery floor, hidden behind the quarter wall. They drive, in a long and sweeping oval, ten ver tically suspended wooden rods that circulate centimeters above the floor of the gallery. The rods descend from a tensioned belt between the two gearboxes, moving freely and swaying in time with each other as they perpetually navigate an infinite and loopin g pathway repeatedly mapping the empty and airy space of the gallery. Freud gives us an example in his "Uncanny" of searching for a familiar path when lost in a fog. The desired path is one that leads us home, to safety. In searching blindly we may become lost and find instead an alternate 21 Heidigger
21 path, one that brings us back again and again to the same spot. Through repetition this "lost" path becomes as familiar, in a strange way, as the desired path. "Chairlift" seeks to redefine the emptiness of the gallery th rough the act of re visitation; a process of repetition that breeds familiarity. "Chairlift" is designed as a piece also used to illustrate a literal representation of space. A drawing is produced through the repetitive motion of the rods. Marks are mad e by attaching drawing tools to the ends of the rods, and p aper placed below the path of the machine serves as the ground (and is on the ground) for this process The rods are allowed to rotate, creating a literal and two dimensional map of the path travel ed by the rods. In the same way that its sculptural manifestation implies deterioration, the piece in its service as a drawing tool does the pencils wear down and the marks are affected. The space between them begins to vary, and they illustrate a series o f lines in a constant state of modification. In the images, titled "Dr awings in the Late Afternoon," (fig. 1 6) the spaces between the marks and between the rotations are what define this narrative of entropy. As in painting, the ground is a space for ideo logical exchange; the self reflective nature of "Chairlift," provides an "Other," a vague space between ideologies 22 In this sense the art becomes part of a communicative process the area explored by the sculpture becomes a vague space, not an empty one. Despite the claim of "familiarity" there is a distance between the space and the viewer that must be acknowledged. Though "Chairlift" itself is privileged to explore and circulate through the space of the gallery, the viewer is not. The space is narrated by the movem ent of the rods and offers the viewer an explication of the space, but not access to
22 it. The viewer has only the power to interpret this narrative. In Patrick Ireland's site specific Rope Drawing (#111) (Fig. 17) created especially for the Grey Art Gallery he produces a "drawing in the air" that deconstructs the exhibition space. Geometric wall drawings, Lewitt esque in color, scale, and style, overwhelm the room. Cords are stretched across the space, creating sightlines and modes of framing and extending the two dimensional drawings. Ireland's focus on the gallery space was in part an identification of it as a "real" space, one defined not solely by art, but by the social, cultural, and economic structures that surround the function of art in Western cultu re. Like "Rope Drawing (#111), "Chairlift" maps the space of the gallery, but it does so literally; by performing a series of repetitive actions that pull and push form through it. It is, in its primary function as a sculptural installation, a temporal kinetic demonstration of mapping and not a representation of the space a topographical process of map making Ireland's work maps space through sculptural extension of static form into that gallery space placing the responsibility of constructing action/na rrative on the viewer. While "Chairlift" is insular its function hardly deviates from a structure of tight control (a frame) two dimensional works like "Urna" (Fig. 18) are more aligned with Ireland's work: they maintain an awareness of the potential extra polation of their forms off the edges of the canvas, and the ways in which that defines the space of the gallery. Ano ther piece that seeks to define space through function is "Vent. Mounted o n the face of a poplar box is an industrial air conditioning ve nt. The vent emits, from knee level, the rapid and dulled sound of a rotating fan. From afar the box appears innocuous the pale wood and steel vent do not appear out of place in the gallery. As it is approached, however, voices become audible. The goal was to create a scenario in which 22 Schor, 2001
23 the senses of the viewer become instinctively re attuned. The sound emitted from "Vent" does not invite the viewer's attention, it demands it, and the moment at which the viewer engages he or she become voyeur of a specific y et abstract set of domestic happenings. This manifestation of the box is clearly one that seeks to embody space. "Vent" contains, hides, and alludes to something or somewhere outside the gallery. It is an aural window into another space. In works like "V ent," a space that is vague to the viewer becomes more real even if that reality is subjected to interpretation. The beauty of the grid lies in its ability to suggest the infinite at the same time that it delineates a structure of tight control 23 These scul ptures suggest alternate space abstract and unquantifiable within the confines of the gallery 23 Dailey, 2003
24 CONCLUSION Something I have always found dynamic about visual art is the silent dialogue between artist and viewer that exists through the medium of the art. The artist uses sight to transpose ideology into forms and onto canvas. These marks are then appraised through the eyes of the viewer and re composed, subject to completely separate ideology. The process of art making is rooted in the development of this l iminal ity between the ideologies of viewer and artist. Map making takes on a similar, if less intentioned, role. The cartographer identifies basic elements of a specific and often three dimensional space, and then transposes them onto a two dimensional pla ne. Intrinsic to both processes is the development of systems of space based on the proximity of visual elements to each other the armature of the grid. The aesthetic of my work and its relationship to the grid relies heavily on an understanding of the de velopment of modern art. The minimal and geometric nature of the work is both a result of reducing real forms to symbols as in cartography and a personal tendency toward a process of immediacy and then reduction of mark making. Leading up to this thesis pr oject my work had been heavily influenced by the minimal aesthetic, and was based on an interest in using reduced elements to convey a sense of tension creating a purposeful sense of imbalance at the same time that it did one of safety, or familiarity. I a m not a modernist, a formalist, or a minimalist. I am an individual with an awareness of the historical context of my art work th at becomes more acute each day. I have the ability to recognize the role that the grid took on in the early twentieth century,
25 to identify with it, and to utilize its base structure in my own way. The grid that develops in my work is a hybrid. It is one that inverses its historical development instead of a shift toward a minimal aesthetic and a conceptual move away from the scienc e of transposing reality. Within this work the grid has been re purposed as a structural armature for transposition that utilizes the aesthetic Modernism ascribed to it. I use this grid to explore the development of spatial narratives, and of mapping spac e. The grid is an object the paradoxical nature of which is echoed by the nature of my work to stem from lo gical processes that eventually produce ideas and images less comprehensible that those from which the work began Forms slowly evolve, and release t hemselves from the grid in this work. T hey multiply and reproduce and are erased. Minimal representations of rooms, cities, and objects are composed through reduction and the remnants of this process lend to the work a palatable sense that there is somethi ng missing, something more, something repressed. In some works the viewer is granted, through this repression, a release imaginary into an implied spac e, like the "next door" suggested by "Vent". In other works this release is less accessible the work ref lects into the gall ery space, provides no escape. This thesis is a body of work that from the outset was designed as an exploration of space through grid based line, form, and their pattern and repetition. It evolved into a further exploration, one in wh ich the aesthetic nature of the grid is subverted and its logical beginnings devolve into consistently warped, imprecise, and affected representations. This thesis utilizes this logical chaos entropy to relate the dynamic qualities of specific spaces, thei r constant devolution, and the capacity of the canvas to act as a window a release that prov ides the viewer access to them.
42 WORKS CITED Armstrong, Elizabeth. Mary Heilmann, To Be Someone Newport, CA: Prestel Publishing, 2007 Busch, Julia M., A Decade of Sculpture: the New Media in the 1960s The Art Alliance Press: Philadelphia; Associated University Presses : London 1974. Butler, Christopher. Postmodernism Hampshire: Oxford Press, 2002 Colpitt, Frances. Minimal Art, The Critical Perspective Seattle, University of Washington Press, 1993. Gay, Peter. Modernism New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008 Gay, Robin. Proportion and Style in Ancient Egyptian Art (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994). Ghyka, Matila. The Geometry of Art and Life New York; Dover Publications, 1977. Greenberg, Clement. Art and Culture Boston, Beacon Press, 1961. Lewitt, Sol. Sol Lewitt, Wall Drawings. Switzerland: Kunsthalle Bern, 1992 Lewitt, Sol. The Location of Eight Points Washington, D.C.; Max Protech Gallery, 1974. Judd, Donald. Donald Judd NYC: The Pace Gallery, 1994 Krauss, Rosalind. "Grids" in The Originality of the Avant Garde and Other Modern Myths Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985 Krauss, Rosalind E. & Robert Smithson "Donald Judd: Early Fabricated Work." New York: Pace Wildenstein Gallery. 1998 Malevich, Kasimir. The Non Objective World Chicago, Paul Theobald and Company, 1959. Schor, Mira M itchell, W. 1995, "Representation", in F Lentricchia & T McLaughlin (eds), Critical Terms for Literary Study 2 nd edn University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Michaela Kinberger (Feb. 26, 2009). "Cartography and Art" Springer Berlin Heidelberg http://www.springerlink.com/content/j066n14774054180/ Retrieved 2009 0 7 07 .: Culler, J 1976, Saussure Fontana Modern Masters, Britain, 1976. Higgins, Hannah B. "The Grid Book" MIT Press, 2009 "Figure/Ground," M/E/A/N/I/N/G #6, reprinted in Wet & M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology excerpted in Helen Reckitt & Peggy Phelan, Ar t and Feminism London & New York: Phaidon Press Ltd., 2001.