Ah, the Yellow Green

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, Opus 1692, acrylic on paper

I hope on your screen you can see the yellow green markings in the lower center and to the left. They are necessary for the whole color effect and sense of this painting.  I realize it is always a risk posting work that is this nuanced  up into the 72 dpi world.

All the more reason to see it live.

 

Morning Light

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Erik ReeL, Opus 1685, acrylic on canvas, 18 x 12 “

This painting has been hanging in my bedroom for over three years, so that I can wake up to it in morning light.  Graphite and pastels in raw titanium white acrylic.  Live, it almost looks like an oil, except the ghost-like aspects of the pastel pigments in the more highly transparent acrylic medium would not quite work in oil, unless perhaps you were using a lot of alumina hydrate pigment in oil to get a much higher transparency without losing paint viscosity.

 

Seeing is Believing

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, Opus 1681, acrylic on paper

Once someone sees  opus 1681, they are more likely to understand why many of my pieces can only be truly seen live. No digital manipulation or camera can capture the special nature of this piece, because its perceptual situation is intrinsically caught up in the nature of the cognitive processing necessitated by our two-eyed visual apparatus. You simply see things that are not there, or, more accurately,  invisible to a single-lensed  camera.

Painting and Thought for the Day

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, Opus 1678, acrylic on archival paper, 30 x 22,

 

Erik ReeL, Opus 1678, acrylic on archival paper, 30 x 22,

Art may be many things, but sometimes it is simply a reminder preserving a better frame of mind,  an alternative, a weapon on the side of everyday folks in their daily fight against drudgery, despair, despotism, disenfranchisement, and death. The five Ds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works on Paper

Erik ReeL painting #1677
Erik ReeL, acrylic, Opus1677

The great thing about works on paper like this is that they are easy and relatively inexpensive to ship to anywhere in the world.  Since they are on unsized or lightly sized printmaking papers, they roll easily and flatten out again easily, so they can be safely shipped in a tube.

The other thing about this work is that if someone likes a piece in digital view, they’ll love it live.  So it is easy to make a decision on the internet and order an original painting without waiting to see it in a gallery or museum [besides you   usually can’t buy the pieces showing in a museum anyway].

If you are interested in something you see here or in the Art page archives, drop me a line via my FaceBook page or profile [Erik Reel for profile; Erik ReeL for page] and I’ll give you an email box to communicate with me. I no longer post my email urls directly on this site because they get bombed if I do and makes the email box unusable.  Sorry.   Most of my works on paper are  $3,000 US [see pricing page for more information}

Those who don’t study history

Erik ReeL painting #1676
Erik ReeL, acrylic, Opus 1676

… are doomed to repeat it.  This last winter I re-read Herodotus. While things are never really exactly the same, it is a shame that Congress and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the USA leaders had not read Herodotus before they decided to invade Iraq,  or if they had, did not pay a bit more attention to the fallacies engendered by the hubris of the Persians as they, disastrously, invaded Greece,

Herodotus basically not only explains what happened, he inserts enough philosophical commentary and “teaching stories” to map out most of the basic mistakes and psychological fallacies involved, and later committed all over again by the Americans and British in Iraq.

When will the human race learn?  Wars do not solve problems; they only create a new, and usually more extreme, set of problems.

Worse, war is unpredictable: so beware ye who start one.

The Key of Dark Green

Erik ReeL painting #1674
Erik ReeL, acrylic, Opus 1674

Symphony in dark green.

Blues

Erik ReeL painting #1671
Erik ReeL, acrylic, Opus 1673

Blues, a la Miles.

Painting for the Day

Erik ReeL painting #1671
Erik ReeL, acrylic, Opus 1671

An acrylic on paper for the day. Enjoy.

Something Different

Erik ReeL painting #1670
Erik ReeL, acrylic, Opus 1670

This painting, Opus 1670, is unique for me, done on a sheet of smaller and very fragile paper that allowed a slightly different working surface with its own unique possibilities. In spite of its lightness it has a certain weightiness and vigor that belie its fragile substrate.

The Third of May

Erik ReeL painting #1668
Erik ReeL, acrylic, Opus 1668

The Third of May, a famous date for the history of painting.  Here’s my Opus 1668,   a more positive and ecstatic tribute to the human spirit for today, even though we  may live in times no less dark than Goya’s.

 

Something for Spring

Erik ReeL painting #1666
Erik ReeL, acrylic, Opus 1666

Something for you for Spring.  Spring without Spring colors.  Think of pollen impregnating the world.

Also on thinner, smaller, more fragile paper than usual.

Exuberant Energies at Work

Erik ReeL  painting #1665
Erik ReeL acrylic, Opus 1665

In Opus 1665, I am using a paper I usually don’t paint on. Its very lightweight,  less than 130 Kg/m2 and does not take the same degree of textural effects as what I usually work on.  In some ways this makes things clearer. Exuberant energies at work here. Enjoy.

 

Morris Graves Museum Show

Erik ReeL painting #1664
Erik ReeL, acrylic, opus 1664

This came out of a continuation of the working sessions that created 1660-1663.  Even though I am posting this one on the web, it really has to be seen live, especially for the dark blue marks and background areas, to get the overall real impact of the work.

By the way,  I will be showing at the Morris Graves Museum in Humboldt county in 2016 [dates not set yet].

Opus 1663

Erik ReeL painting, # 1663
Erik ReeL, acrylic, opus 1663

You can see that I was on quite a roll from opus 1660 to 1663.  Since the general process per painting takes at least about 5 days due to drying and setting times of the paint,  I tend to work on several, up to a dozen, at a time, .

Ironically, I tend to do an oil painting in less time than a similarly-sized acrylic, partly because I use a lot more layers in the acrylics as I exploit the substantially greater transparency of the polymer medium.

All papers are not created equal

Erik ReeL, painting, #1662
Erik ReeL, acrylic on paper, opus 1662

The Opus number refers to my current studio log, which was started at the end of 1999. So opus 1662 means that this is the 1,662nd work I’ve done since the beginning of 2000.

This painting is on 30 x 22 inch [75 x 55 cm] archival printmaking paper. I am using liquid acrylic paint, pastels and pencils and charcoal and a lot of acrylic medium as well as paint.  The papers I use the most are Magnani Pescia  [crown watermark grade] and Italia,  Rives BFK, Lana Royale, Rives de Lin, DS Lenox,  and Fabriano Artistico hot press which is the only watercolor paper I typically use.  Magnani Pescia, crown watermark, is by far my most favorite paper.

Unfortunately, this paper seems to be no longer available in the United States. There are people in the USA who say they are selling it, but they are not selling the watermark grade, which is the best grade and the grade I use. It seems that the people in American who order this paper cannot tell the difference between the lower grades and the crown  watermark [or top grade] paper, so the mills and suppliers ship them the lower quality stuff, charge them the same price as the crown watermark paper and they, in turn try to fob this stuff onto us, the artists, and charge the higher price as well. There are seven versions of Magnani Pescia. This follows a longstanding, but growing trend in the USA of art suppliers substituting lower quality items for long-available quality items.

Fortunately, in some cases,  there are conscientious, usually smaller, more specialized, suppliers entering into the game who either have started producing their own art supplies  here in America, or still try to get the original, quality merchandise. If you are an artist, I encourage you to seek out and support these suppliers, especially if they are local. On the other side of things, some of the best supplies can only be obtained from their source in fairly large quantities: quality stretcher bars from China, art paper from Italy, etc., usually can only be ordered in quantities of at least a shipping container or railroad car at a time.  You’d think with globalization, it’d get easier to obtain internationally produced items, not more difficult.

Picasso, again

F4Picasso again:

“Painting is not intended for decorating apartments … it is an offensive weapon of war and a defensive one against the enemy.”

[from Daix, Picasso]

Picasso, like Einstein and Gandhi, gets a lot of quotes attributed to him that are not his. But this one, captured in similar form in more than one instance and published by two people who were very close to Picasso [Daix, and Francoise Gilot] is certainly authentic.

People who want to give more heft to something they want to say, rather than claim it themselves, like to attribute what they are saying to one of these three, even if the quote has no relationship, or is even contrary, to the ideas and beliefs of these three giants.

Particularly peculiar are the quotes attributed to Picasso which discuss some aspect of art in terms of God, or mention the word “God”. It is well known that Picasso never used the term “God” and was at best agnostic.  He did make some comments that are extremely antagonistic to any religious sentiment or  belief in God. He also produced some art that amounted to a scathing critique of the Church and religious belief.

Museum of Contemporary Art

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Erik ReeL, 1816, acrylic on paper

The exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santa Barbara has two of the three largest works I’ve ever exhibited in California [approximately 9 x 5 feet], and a collection of my works on paper which are rarely exhibited.  The work has its own room to itself and so has the feel of a solo show inside a very strong group show.

The exhibition will be up until the end of the month, 29 March.

For a review of the show click here.

Erik ReeL at Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara

“Perhaps the strongest showing of work in this exhibition comes from Erik ReeL.”

Nathan Vonk
Santa Barbara Independent

see full review

Erik ReeL art 1832
Erik ReeL, 1832 Ascension, acrylic on paper 30 x 22″

That Coding Thing

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, #1294 Galisteo, acrylic painting, 54 x 48 “

I was once asked if there was coding in my paintings.

I answered “Yes.”

But it was not a simple “yes”– for coding implicitly means explicit and narrow referentiality and thus, in my terms, to be avoided or discarded.

But then, later, in the end, I actually do sneak in personal codes with explicit intentions and references, thus violating what I say I am doing.

Most of these insertions are sexual and/or personal, and thus private.

Then there’s the issue regarding believing what artists say about what their own work means: It’s called the intentionalist fallacy.

It is a true fallacy, believe me.

Geometry is Insufficient

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, #1293, acrylic painting

My current paintings use a highly constrained visual praxis: For the most part, I primarily use simple open and closed convex curves of genus 0 or 1. This is a severely constrained set in light of all the possibilities.

Occasionally I throw in a non-constrained deviant, or something that is more of a mess, a scribble, than a mark. Again, I have no “pure” intentions, nor reductivist ambitions, here. I am more interested in discarding the referentiality of Modernism and Post-Modernism, the baggage of the whole mimetic tradition.

This is also, of course, why this work is explicitly post-Structural and post-Conceptual.

Notice, too, that amongst the referential modes I reject are the highly regularized patterns, geometries, and rationally predictable “formats” of that wave of abstraction we first saw emerge in the late 60s and 70s and to a certain extent, still emerging in Los Angeles and later, again, amongst the Post-Moderns, especially as tilings–to say nothing of the Modernist grid, and its “formats”–are all considered references to external systems to be avoided in this new endeavor.

Geometry is insufficient.

It’s Endless

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, #1291, acrylic on paper

Once I stripped all extraneous referentiality out of my paintings, instead of encountering the expected: a minimalistic, reductivist abstract modality, I quickly discovered richer, non-reductivist, possibilities that presented a seemingly endless range of emotional responses and readings.

This richness exists in part because there is a similar range of open possibilities in how the human mind appropriates marks for its own meanings and cognitive purposes, even without a specific spoken-language or any of its possible representational schemes.

What was clear at all stages was the fact that it was possible to create profoundly different emotional responses within a surprisingly highly constrained visual idiom.

Thus, again, we come to: Oh. Wait, there’s more that can be said and done.

New Year

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, #1292, acrylic painting

Happy New Year everyone!

Ecce Homo

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, #1282, acrylic painting

Painting as exploring mark-making itself; mark-making freed of all its referentiality to the material world, to history, to story-telling, to materialistic pretension.

One question that immediately arises: What makes mark-making specifically human, and if human, hand-made [as opposed to human and human-machine-made]?

Another is: What if everything else is stripped away and we only see marking? Marking without explicit representation anywhere? Specifically, marks on a flat– and thus “to be read” surface, thus de-emphasizing, even denying,  its material thing-ness?

More to Do

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, #1280, Swedish Fishing, acrylic on linen

Eventually I, too, came to feel that in painting there was still more to be done, that there was meaningful,  and possibly visually arresting, territory yet to be explored.

What remained, I felt, was a certain exploration of mark-making itself.

Mark-making freed of all its referentiality to the material world, to history, to story-telling, to materialistic pretension and dysfunction.

The added bonus, for me, was that this also placed such painting against the materialism buried deep within the culture around me.  Painting that stood against materialism in both radical and subtle ways.

Rebar Opens

The Museum of Ventura County presents Rebar, a solo show of my paintings curated by Anna Bermudez in the museum’s new satellite space in the Tool Room at the Bell Arts Factory, Ventura, California.  The show runs from 7 November to 29 December 2014.

I will do a walk through at the Tool Room on Saturday 22 November at 4 pm.

photo © Antonio Crutchley
photo © Antonio Crutchley

There was a slide talk on my life and work at the Museum on Wednesday 29 October. There will also be a reception at the Tool Room during the Ventura First Friday artwalk from 6-9 on Friday 5 December.

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Technicolor Tobey

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Erik ReeL, #1253, Technicolor Tobey, acrylic on canvas

When growing up in Seattle with Tobey’s late “white writing” paintings, with their ochres, blacks and whites–the whole “Northwest Mystic” school used color like that– I dreamed of doing a Tobey in full color.

“When I grow up,” I said, “I’m going to paint a Technicolor Tobey.”

So that’s what I did.

The End of Inner Life

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Erik ReeL, #1377, acrylic on paper, 22 x 15 “

In the world today we are confronted with relentless pressure to externalize everything, to live for the external world and its purpose. In America, with our traditions of pragmatism and materialism, this pressure is particularly deep-seated.  Every part of you is to be re-imagined into something that serves an external purpose, image, or use.

It is a totalization, where only that which is external has meaning. You only count if you are involved in, or focused on, or seen in, or known within, an external context.

Our electronic and media environments and devices only accelerate and extend this externalization. People become lost to any sense of their inner self. The external continually interjects and distracts us from the inner.

I paint for your inner self, for your inner experience.  My greatest fear is that people will become unable to even relate or see art in this way anymore. That they will become emptied out to the point that it is no longer even possible to sense that someone, an artist, or an image, is speaking to or trying to interact with their inner core.

The final result of all this externalization is an emptying out. Once you are fully external, you are empty, hollowed out. It is an emptying out that no amount of additional external inputs can fulfill.  At that point, you will have to seek art that speaks to your inner life, or you will be no better than dead.

 

Swinging 3

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, #1275, acrylic on paper

In America as it came onto the edge of things, it did not take long for Tobey, then later Pollack and an entire generation or two [followed by another in Europe with Art Informal, Tapies, etc] to come up with an entirely new approach to abstraction. Approaches primarily centered on improvisation, an emphasis on scale, broadly brushed expressiveness, and a certain approach to materials and paint, process and gesture.

But once this abstract “expressionism” if you will is  seen as exhausted, a more pictorial means is sought, and used to subvert representation. Thus we see Pop emerge and pictorial tactics intended to critique media and advertising and other coercive modes of representational pictorial production.

But wait.

There’s more to be done, abstraction-wise.  After the pictorial retrenchment of Pop, we see a new generation of “format” abstraction, from Stella to Bridget Riley, where each “signature style” claims a very specific, rather small, highly constrained territory of format, technique, and idea.

This heralds a generation that sees the most ruthless reductivist tendencies since Malevich: All black paintings and minimalism exploiting both pictorial and constructive means of extreme visual reduction.

The 70s sees a matched triumph of an ancillary aggressively formalist art criticism emphasized in art magazines such as ArtForum.

From there things swing so far as Coplans  declaring the eternal triumph of photo-based, thus pictorial, imagery forever more, and the consequent rise of Flash Art magazine.

New endpoints. New subsequent diversion into pictorial means. And so it goes.

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, #1276, acrylic on paper

Swinging 2

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, #1271, acrylic on paper

Once Kandinsky and other modernists  go abstract,   the highly reductive Malevich and the Supremacists,  and  Mondrian find what seemed like suitable end-points for non-objective painting, that is, painting that is so abstract that it no longer has a motif, or represented object.

Mondrian systematically took himself step by step through the whole process, from an initial reduction from representation, through increasing abstraction of that representation from the motif, to the total abstraction of his signature style.  At the end of his life, he injects an abstract referentiality, if you will,  back into the mix in the final Broadway Boogie Woogie paintings..

Once the abstract end-point is found, it seems to shunt the next generation off into other concerns. To the Modernists, from there, it only remained to find abstract means to paintings that still contained recognizable motifs, or to move to more figurative and hence, pictorial, means, albeit for purposes that still intended to subvert traditional representation, such as the multivariate tactics of the Surrealists.

For Picasso, who lives and flows through several generations, he carries out these swings within his own work. Sometimes within a single day.  This has also been  a tendency in the current generation [Humphries, Josh Smith, Christopher Wool, Richard Prince, et al.].

 

Swinging

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, # 1257, acrylic on linen

Though the very nature of putting something down on a two-dimensional surface inherently involves abstraction, it took awhile for painting to realize a completely abstract image, and the significance of doing so.

Historically, over the last century or so, once “total” abstraction emerges, it quickly devolves into a reductionist mode and finds a point where “everything seems to have been done” and we see a swing away from abstraction into more pictorial modes. This goes on for a short while until another generation says, “oh, wait; there’s more to be said and done” and off we go again.

Clear Lines and Edges

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, #1265, acrylic on paper

If one considers abstraction as the transformation of complex visual stimuli into clear lines or a series of edges or pattern of values on a surface, or the predominance of abstract patterns produced for centuries in tile, textiles, and wood, then abstraction has been with us for the entire history of art.

The very nature of putting something down on a two-dimensional surface inherently involves an abstraction. Look closely at a Rembrandt drawing as he finds fascinating graphic equivalents for what he wants to represent out there “in the world.”

Rembrandt drawing
Rembrandt drawing, courtesy Wikipedia

Or one could ask: What could be more abstract than a pixellated black and white photograph?

Though the very nature of putting something down on a two-dimensional surface inherently involves abstraction, it took awhile for painting to realize a completely abstract image, and the significance of doing so.

Resting Lightly on the Earth

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Erik ReeL, 1259, acrylic on canvas

I recently re-read Raphael Rubinstein’s  Provisional Painting Part 2: To Rest Lightly on Earth, from the February 2012 issue of Art in America.  This is, I feel, one of the best things written about painting in this century, so far.

I like it for not only what Professor Rubinstein says, but also for how he says it.  Its style and approach to  writing seem particularly appropriate for the topics discussed. Even the title is pitch perfect.

It is also an extremely helpful read for anyone interested in my art.

It is for this reason that I include it in my bibliography page, even though it is not explicitly about my painting, it reads as if it is, more so than most of the writing that is explicitly about my painting. What Rubinstein says is certainly applicable to my current  painting praxis and philosophy.

I encourage everyone interested in my art to read it.

Note also that it is part two to an earlier article,  Provisional Painting, published in the May 2009 issue of Art in America. The earlier article is a very different, but no less important piece.

Deep Field

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Erik ReeL, 1364, The Fall, acrylic on linen

In previous posts, I mentioned how people have interpreted my work as a critique of materialism and some of the ideas that motivated these interpretations.  But there is another, complementary way to look at meaning in the work and its structure.

This  approach was taken by the retired art critic, Jae Carllsen [Artforum, Art Dish], who pointed out that these compositions reminded him of both very large and vary small scaled structures that actually do or might exist in the universe; in particular, structures driven by complex, sometimes seemingly chaotic, processes.

Hubble, ultra-deep field, wikipedia
Hubble, ultra-deep field, wikipedia

Underneath the seeming chaos, there are subtler laws determining what we can see or know.  In a sense, the work presented a  deeper sense of representation.

From this viewpoint my paintings  are seen as some sort of corollary presentation of relationships echong either large cosmic structures, such as those we see in astronomy or …

 

Cloud chamber
Cloud chamber showing evidence of sub-atomic particles. photo courtesy wikipedia.

structures we know of only as we encounter phenomena on an extremely small scale, such as atomic and molecular, or even smaller, less visible scales.

In all cases these are situations where structures and interactions are primarily created by largely invisible forces. Forces that at first glance seem to be chaotic and without pattern, but in fact present patterns on a more profound plane of reality.

Erik ReeL, 1395, acrylic on paper
Erik ReeL, 1395, acrylic on paper

It has also been suggested that this approach lies  outside the schemes favored by either Modernism or Post-Modernism.  That it is something new in art.

Art history aside, what is appropriate, and encouraging to me, is that so many intelligent observers see how these works entail natural patterns and things that exist out there in the world, even though I draw entirely, in a free-form, improvisational manner, directly from inside my self.  In this sense, they are primarily congnitive, and an entry into a subtler connection between the cognitive and the external world. That is, they are about consciousness.  They are about what is inside us.