Wallpaper Statement part 5

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It was never my intention to deconstruct art as I found it. I strove to expand the boundaries of painting, not the boundaries of what was then becoming art: gray or glass boxes, conceptual art, installation art, performance art, minimalist art, or political art. My choice was to do the opposite, yet remain on the playing field of twentieth-century abstract painting. In my case, doing the opposite did not mean doing something completely different; I embraced the traditions of twentieth-century abstract painting. In fact, I’m pro-Clement Greenberg, although in the studio – in the moment – I haven’t always followed his theoretical suggestions. By “straddling the fence” (not without risk), I was successful in forging a style I could call my own.

The art world — the length and breadth of it — is an artist, in the studio, doing stoop labor.

For the first of many times, I had painted myself into a corner. I was left with making an object: a container for the activity and intensity of the stoop labor. The deal is, this activity is not fun, not romantic, not expressive – it is a mindless activity that requires an empty mind, beginner’s mind in the Buddhist sense. The hard work of making an object without thought or effort. “Having fun” and “feeling good,” I have found out, are two different things.

As it works out, the art world – the length and breadth of it – is an artist, in the studio, doing stoop labor, making things – making objects. I am envious of the craftsman, because he at least makes things that are useful.

My paintings present no narrative. What you see is not what you get.* They are self-didactic, teaching me about form, and color, and perception itself. They are concave and convex, to serve either sex. But then, I am not really trying to be of service to the “art world.” The paintings are often the opposite of what they seem. People think they’re “happy,” because I use bright colors. Conversely, some think the paintings are aloof and cerebral; rather, they are defensive, protecting my fragility. I don’t know what they mean; I just know how to make them. A painting’s just gotta look better than the wallpaper.

* Ronald Davis Is Not Doing What You’re SeeingDave Hickey