Thursday, November 19, 2009

James Siena's talk at VCU last week


(Nonsensical?) Notes and out-of-context-comments from James Siena's talk at VCU:


*Roberta Smith recently wrote about Siena's ability to "translate the mental into the visual"




Siena started the talk by showing photos of 1974 Sierra landscapes, saying that he first learned to draw mountains and that "the conceptual shape of mountains" affected him.

*intelligent complexity

*nature is unaware of itself, but it is everything

*1974-1986- Siena learned to make his own paint from hair, gravel, coffee grounds- "generate beguiling complexity using natural forces"- "this was process art"- day in the studio watching paint dry

*interested in "intricacy of decay" at that time- no permanence. As we age, we think more about permanence

*1984/1985- intricate crafted things, not just intricate things that happened


"#4" ink and pencil on paper, 1990



*Thomas Mastowski (?sp?)- "Small paintings are not small paintings, they are reasonably sized paintings."

*fan of Jensen

*1990- gave up making own paint, used sign painters' one-shot enamel (more light fast, less litigious)

*"causing volumes to flip"

*finding ways to make space more compressed

*starting to work according to rules 1991


"Infected Lattice," ink on paper, 2003



*"titles can point you in the wrong direction, but I stopped caring."

*doesn't work through a plan, but does do a lot of thinking beforehand

*values work that is personal- even if it is "cerebral" especially if it's about thinking

*surface of his paintings is tactile and "human"

*if you are misdirected by a work's title, if the work is strong enough, you will resist that misdirection (has son name some of his work)

*my work is not about lines, it is about decisions


"one, one..." enamel on aluminum, 2005



*doesn't think about the program that makes the image, focused on the effect of the system

*Stella: "What you see is what you get"

*"Doodling is a form of iterative drawing, isn't it?"


"Forty-six Combs," screenprint in 33 colors, 2008



*Rauschenberg never picked colors, just grabbed a can of paint- Siena doesn't like to think about colors, just chooses

*move to figurative work- 2006, thinking about state of the world after 8 years of Bush administration, "Elders among us are not being listened to..."

*drawing a body is also a system


"First Old Man," graphite on paper, 2006



In answer to questions at the end of the talk:

*Siena doesn't think much about illusionistic space, likes complex 2D space- something flat can be so complicated

*"My strategy for having something to do, to get me through the day is to have too many things to do."

*"I generally have at least 10 works in progress."

*artists should be willing to be embarrassed and fail fantastically

*Samuel Beckett: "Fail better."

*artists contradict themselves and should embrace that

*"Here's to handmade work!"


1 comment:

vc said...

Siena from a 2002/3-ish? VCU lecture:

"If you don't do the painting, then you don't have the painting to look at."