WNYC's Studio 360 invited Nobel-prizewinning neuroscientist Eric Kandel, an art collector himself, to discuss how the brain processes and reacts to art. One of the more interesting phenomena that Kandel explains is that when viewing abstract paintings the brain uses what he calls a "top-down" mechanism to recruit personal experience, imagination, creativity, and responses to other works of art into the process. The result is a creative experience that viewers themselves undergo as they look at an abstract painting. I could have told them that without an fMRI machine, but kudos nonetheless.
I went to see Stuart Davis: In Full Swing at the Whitney Museum here in New York yesterday. I have always liked his paintings a very much when I've come across them, though he's not a painter I ever turn to for direction or inspiration. He doesn't get the attention he deserves generally; and there hasn't been a major exhibition of his work in this country in 25 years as far a search will tell you.
I never met Jean-François Lyotard, though I would have loved to. A friend of mine studied with him at the graduate program at UC Irvine and told me a few winning stories. One was from a party, where Lyotard arrived in splendid style, sporting a Colombo-worthy trench coat, a surgically-attached Galois, and two bottles of bourbon—one for the party and one for himself.
Gell-Mann is very interested in beauty in physics, and he talked about emergence––an instance where a quality is evident in something that is not contained in its constituent parts, like consciousness from brain chemistry and physiology, or wetness from the right combination of hydrogen and oxygen. It's kind of magical in that the emergent quality in most cases could in no way be inferred by looking at the ingredients it springs from.
Created from the most modest means––bottle caps, foil wrappers, and similar detritus––the first impression of emergence in El Anatsui's work could be the bald economic conversion of wringing beauty from bar waste. It continues as you confront the staggering scale of the work made with minute elements. Beyond that are multiple associative threads: atomic, natural phenomena, fabric and pattern, complexity through repetition of simple components, the ephemeral, transcendence.
If you can stop in your efforts will be rewarded.
I decided to name the series so because I worked them largely simultaneously, moving from painting to painting in the same session, so there are corresponding similarities. The paintings are shown more or less in the order they were completed.
All the paintings are 24 in. x 24 in., oil, oil impasto and metallic paint on canvas.
|Circle of Fifths: C|
|Circle of Fifths: G|
|Circle of Fifths: D|
|Circle of Fifths: A|
|Circle of Fifths: E|
|Circle of Fifths: B|
|Circle of Fifths: F-sharp|
|Circle of Fifths: C-sharp|
|Circle of Fifths: A-flat|
|Circle of Fifths: E-flat|
|Circle of Fifths: B-flat|
|Circle of Fifths: F|