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Photo: Fred Dott


WHY is a meditation on the word in terms of its use – simultaneously – as a question and as a statement. I want to make a productive use of tensions, particularly between opposites, to see if more vital modalities of living and being are available.

The process of creating the composition is a development on the Eccentricity Paintings – I use an algorithm that involves a compass and a ruler as the primary tools. In a distantly related process, Sol LeWitt produced many wall-works that I love, though I only realized this as I was writing this text.

I find it curious that in the ancient Greek imaginary, there are two words for form that continue to haunt our contemporary sensibilities: rhythmos (rhythm) and schema (scheme). Culturally speaking, I suspect the common understanding of form leans toward thinking in terms of schemes: a circle, a square, a cylinder, a picture frame, a pyramid, a hierarchy. The cycles of the day, month, year, or life and death somehow take a back seat, perhaps because their use isn’t as obvious. (Do we use a day, properly speaking? I could use a break, but that comes and goes in a different manner.) Whatever the case, my compulsion is to confound the difference between these two conceptions of form as well as the all-too-common entanglement between figure and ground in picture-making. 

This brings me to the peculiar status of language as something that also hovers between modalities of being, at times in a spectacular or monstrous fashion. The large, turd-like-tree-hand-form in the foreground, exceeding the frame in the fashion of Romantic Painting, is the letter, “Y”. In English, sounding the name of the letter gives voice to the ultimate question, “WHY?” This letter, as a part of a homonym, could be a metonym for the whole word, or furthermore – why not? – a metonym for the large-scale posing of the question.”WHY THIS AND NOT SOMETHING ELSE?” (Maybe you have a different large-scale WHY?) Somehow, I see this as an echo of the use of rhythms and patterns, signs and symbols, throughout the whole painting. 

If there is a “why” at the bottom of my pondering, perhaps the greatest fascination comes from the compulsion to materialize the word. Not so much in the formal sense (schematic), but insofar as a word is a concept. (Another aside: most so-called conceptual work is primarily representational and schematic – so not very much concept-driven, as far as I can see.)