Thanks to my fellow studio ‘inmate’ Zenon I being provided with plenty of background reading. Today’s tome ‘What is Abstraction’ by Andrew Benjamin (1996). Interesting but very philosophically dense read which really only gets going when he responds to W. J. Mitchell’s attack on Greenburg. Good overview of Greenburg’s near total dominance of the field and some interesting painters at end..David Reed and Jonathan Lasker included which, as it 1996, confirms that I missed at least ten years of abstract painting and theory maybe more.
I also picked up on an excellent short article on the Diebenkorn show at R.A. by Ian McKeever which chimed very well with Benjamin’s observations.
To celebrate Leonard Bullock’s forthcoming show at the The Front Gallery, London in November I have collected together various images and interview pieces about the artist in order to publicise his name a bit more over here in the U.K.
Originally from North Carolina and New York City, Bullock has lived in Europe for the last 15 years, frequently exhibiting in Switzerland and Germany. He was often involved in significant events of the artworld in important locations, including starting an artist run gallery in the 80s in NYC, assisting Leon Golub and more, thus making him the source of a wealth of interesting anecdotes and unique criticisms.
Bullock is a painters’ painter especially in his mark-making; his direct facture has influenced many better-known contemporaries. He often paints on surprising surfaces such as fiberglass or silk and includes text and images with pure abstraction.
I first was in contact with Leonard when blogging and he very kindly replied to a piece I had written. this can be read here :
Cora Cohen What is the basis of the dimensional pieces you do?
Leonard Bullock They are anecdotal in relation in to dimension. I see them as combination collision, aggregation of near polarities. They derive meaning from relation. The works, made with found materials, carry age and decomposition in unlike ways, stressing vernacular association. A table once used to roll tobacco leaves is not antipodal to the crystals used in the painting rising from its surface. The two things come from parallel domains. One is not assimilable into another. Each part retains something of the origin of its use, or of both. I made an attempt to mix the pure system of the traditional painting studio with the minerals (“fragments of a larger fragmentation” R.S.) and the tobacco rolling table with its parochial history use and decay.
CC So there’s a relationship in your thinking to that of Robert Smithson’s?
LB In one of his essays Smithson speaks of the slate in Bangor Non-Site as being “fragments of a larger fragmentation.” This stresses that the material of the works is from somewhere else in the world. Because the site pieces rely so much on transitive metaphors of displacement they continue to be activated by a sense of productive unresolve as works of art. Planet on the Table is intended in part to operate along these lines. These works satisfy a specific ambiguity grown out of the apposition of new matter the way it occurs in nature: one thing put next to another in succession, aggregated, part of flowing movement but retaining its nominal character.
CC How do you mean nominal?
LB I have to say that I’ve used the word nominal here as in its relation to the philosophy of nominalism. The nominalists held that there are no universal essences in reality—to our intellects everything real must be some particular individual thing. So all general collective words are mere words.
The poet William Carlos Williams’ notion that “there are no ideas but in things” bears a relation to this sort of thinking. I wonder if your family doctor can impart that kind of influence. (Williams was Smithson’s childhood doctor.)
CC You often mention the notion of negative capability. Has it a direct bearing on the nature of your work?
LB The English poet Keats first transposed his idea of “negative capability” in a letter to a colleague. He describes the moment of making (creating) at its most frustrating uncertainty, of seemingly insurmountable difficulty. If at that moment the artist/poet could continue without resorting to reasoned exit, resist difficulties and the urge to rationalize the effort, that “negative capability” would awaken the imagination.
CC In what way has your having been itinerant enhanced your work (or detracted from it)?
LB I’d rather it be peripatetic but both have been true. Yeah, I wanted more freedom and New York didn’t provide it. The offer I got from Rudolf (Zwirner) to live and work in Cologne was exhilarating; it fueled my work, no doubt. The time of my life at which it came (I was 27) was perfect. I needed the challenge more than I knew.
So I allowed myself to wander for a few years. That can do damage and it did, but it released so much untapped power. I hadn’t undertaken all this to achieve that end; it wasn’t a project; I’d done it out of desire…