Just for fun this past weekend- it was supposed to be the end of the world, judgment day- I made a small set of very deliberate abstract expressionist pieces as shown above. I’ve been super prolific, and working in two foot square tiles in a variety of themes and motifs; I’ve never done any literal abstract expressionist works before and wanted to have some sitting around for possible future deployments, as part of larger installations. And, just to please my own senses.
My late father was a graphic designer and had a fairly extensive fine art collection. He’d monitored classes at the Design Center in Pasadena in the mid 60s when he was younger, and I still have his portfolio case, which is covered in brightly colored rectangular blobs. One of his best friends was , a fine art painter and commercial illustrator who was also art director at Atari back during their late 70s heyday (more here). I still have a bunch of Marty’s abstract expressionist canvases, mostly from the early 70s, in blue and white hues. One of the pieces- this one:
hangs not far from my computer in my studio. Marty was creating pieces in this style years after they had first come into vogue back in the 50s and 60s, coinciding with the beat era. The one piece pictured here I used as reference point for composition on my new works. Of course, copying someone else’s abstract expressionist gesture painting forms in series is so not the way to go about it! But I’ve grown up with this painting and wanted to create in the same vein. I decided to use a very different color palette however, ones that matched another Viljamaa painting that used to hang over my bed when I was younger.
So I set about making the pieces; you can see steps in progress here:
If you compare the Viljamaa image, it’s clear the composition was appropriated. Like I’d mentioned above, I wanted to recreate a different color scheme of Marty’s, a cyan/red contrast, although as I was inventorying my paint I decided I’d go for an orange/green final product. I started the underpainting with different coloring; I wanted to have a richness underneath to set the final colors off. Working on this project was way harder than I had anticipated; making amorphous blobs that are appealing to the eye are not as easy as it seems! By the end of day one and start of day two, I was non plussed by where I was at; the image above with the four pieces in a row against a metal fence is that point. I took the pieces outside to sand them with sandpaper, they are works on plywood, not on canvas.
The second day was pretty magical, started to take the pieces somewhere I really enjoyed. Part of why I like painting so much is that it makes me happy; I get high from it- not the fumes (I use water based paints)- but the act of creating something from nothing, something that is bold and lurid and makes my eyes and brain work, is immensely pleasurable for me. From the various colors of paint I was layering with, at some point it was clear to me that I should finish the pieces in a red/blue duotone with lots of extra texture and color layered in, and that’s how they finished. Heavy multiple coats of water based floor varnish were the last stages; these things will probably live longer than I will, I make them that way. I threw in some big blobs of dayglo paint at the end, to fill up some knots in the surface of the plywood; that effect does not come across in regular photos.
As all the paint was drying I went on google images to do some more research about abstract expressionism. Already, the internet has been super useful to me as a tool; my previous entry here on tumblr about op art links to a wikipedia article on how the human eye sees color. These pieces are still playing with things I’ve been learning from those studies. Over at google images, I was able to realize that the new pieces I created were almost entirely in the fifty year old early 1960s style of Hans Hoffman (click for google image search on his works) . Obviously, if I’m making deliberately retro pieces, it’s going to come out like some person from the past; in this case, a genius who had started an art school teaching this style. I’d never really studied Hoffman, which is probably a side benefit of never having gone to art school. One of my friends compared my new works to Rothko, but clearly, Rothko’s composition shapes and color choices are very different. I’d like to be very very clear at this time that I’m not comparing myself to Hoffman, or suggesting that I’m a peer or equal, just that I made some retro pieces for my own enjoyment and they kind of resemble his shape and color choices.
Hans Hoffman, ‘Rising Moon’, 1964.
Overall, very pleased with this exercise, it made me happy to be sitting there watching the paint dry, and have a brush with vivid colors in my hands. My works shown above are at this time still in my studio and very much for sale. If you’d like to collect these for your own enjoyment, contact me through my website, www.terboted.com. Even more sublime would be to commission me to make some pieces in this same style, at custom sizes in a chosen color palette to suit your mood.