Sunday, April 17, 2016

Brett Baker: Forest and the Trees

Studio Table, 2014-2015, oil on canvas, 14 x 24 inches
Studio Table, 2014-15, 14 x 24 inches

Things start to happen when you look at Brett Baker's paintings. Like entering a forest, we have to adjust our eyes to their light, to their terrain, to what's happening. At first we see the forest, then we see the trees, then we start to notice things.

Studio Icon, 2014-15, oil on canvas, 20 x18 inches

Things like movement. What's not moving, and what is. Maybe everything seems like it's moving. His paintings are like that. Then there is direction. A lot of it. Straight up, but sideways. Oblique, and off and running. Marshalled. We are all going one way, and then it shifts. Like wind on a wheat field. Like soldiers marching, like popsicle sticks side by side, but then something trips it up, messes up the order, things turn, they fork, they about-face, they pivot, they leak off in some other direction, spooked, or just contrary. Herd resistant. Maybe just one duck that won't row.

Night Table, 2013-15, oil on canvas, 7 x 5 inches

And they are moody. Rothko moody. And then they clear. We make a turn and find a clearing. Sunny and warm. But it is still all about the forest. Light in the forest. Shade in the forest. Exacting tone and temperature to the color. Thick paint. Juicy paint. Earthy paint. Ripples. Rippling textures. Tuned. Tuning. Generating light from within. Radiance of being.

Russian Novel, 2013-15, oil on canvas, 5 x 4 inches

"I just like painting," Brett Baker says, "making paintings, looking at them, sharing them..."

Night Table, 2014-2015, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches
Night Table, 2014-15, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches

It shows. This work stays close to the bone. Small canvasses. Intimate. Intimate abstraction. A feel for paint. The feel for paint. The poetry of paint. The poetry of abstraction. The simplicity. Patterns. Repetition. Deviation. The deviation, again, so pivotal. The crowd. The crowded field. Then the odd duck or two. The outsiders. Creating just the right amount of tension. Creating change. The flies in the ointment-- those things that are the irritation that sparks the pearl. The deviation that sparks diversity. That renews the blood. That sparks our engine. That gets us going. That makes our story. That makes Brett Baker's paintings.

Addison Parks
Spring Hill, 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016

BRIAN WASHBURN: Mechanical Mayhem

Brian Washburn, Ceci n'est pas une pipe, oil on paper

When you meet Brian Washburn's work, you meet him. He doesn't just stick his neck out, he puts himself out there, and even does a little turn and lets you see him in the round. Take a good look. This is who he is, this is what you get, take it or leave it. If you get into a staring contest with this work, it won't blink.

Mr Twister, 2007-2008, oil on paper

This matters. Brian Washburn calls his work something like nonchalant drawing. Which is to say that you get what you get, no more, no less. When you see a lot of his work you come to expect this. That also says a lot. Like a visual Bernie Sanders, he says what he says, and never strays. He has it down because he is not making it up as he goes along. It is who he is. It also reveals another aspect of the work and the artist: just how unexpectedly precise Brian Washburn is.

Jig-N-Pig, 2008, oil on paper

With that out of the way, we get to simply engage each work, these drawings, oil on paper, these at once elegant and comical cartoon contraptions, with their rough texture, with their jaunty demeanor, with their implied third dimension and pent up motion, on their own terms.

Deep Tail Dancer,  2008, oil on paper

Part characters, part happenings, part appartions that spring from his head roaring and ready to unleash themselves upon the world, his images take on a life of their own. He invents them from the everyday around him: little frankensteins.

Untitled, 2011-2012, oil on paper, 40 x 29 inches

They have personalities, they have engines, they have places to go and mischief to perform. Like some Cat in the Hat, Maxwell's silver hammer, artist as wizard, Brian Washburn populates the world with his fiesty, beasty machines that frankly look like they may be up to no good. They roust a dull world. They wake it up. They make it take notice. They serve notice. Delightfully so. They make it laugh. They gun their engines. They honk their horns. They thumb their noses. In our general direction. These are Brian Washburn's Ambassadors. His wacky, whimsical, whirling dervishes. Beware. And have a blast!

Brian Washburn, St Malo, oil on paper

Brian WashburnSmoke Sparkle Lizard, 2008,  oil on paper

Addison Parks
Spring Hill, 2016

Brian WashburnHulk Smash, 2016,  oil on paper

Brian Washburn,  untitled, oil on paper, 2016/ in progress

Brian Washburn, The Expectant, 2016/ in progress,  oil on paper

Brian Washburn, Sea Anchor, 2016/ in progress,  oil on paper

Saturday, April 09, 2016


Addison ParksSyrian Kat, 2015-2016
 oil on linen, 14 x 11 inches

Call it a contradiction, call it a paradox, but every artist knows deep down on some level, that to get outside the box, you have to go inside the box.

Addison ParksBrickaBrock, 2016, oil on linen, 16 x 20 inches

That is the challenge, that is the quest. It is also every artist's salvation. Inside the box is the one place that is outside the box. Everything in the world is inside the box. The box, the canvas, is a kind of black hole, or better, wormhole. The canvas becomes the hole in the donut. It is the hole poked in the box that gets outside the box. It is freedom.  Sanctuary. Frontier. Unchartered territory. Portal.

Addison ParksLoveyDovey, 2016, oil on linen, 20 x 16 inches

This is the great irony about all of the outside the box talk in creative circles. Outside the box is right there in the canvas. The portal that can take you anywhere at any given moment. You have only to walk through it! Wow!

Addison ParksLove in the Long Haul, 2016, oil on linen, 16 x 20 inches

Addison Parkswork-in-progress, 2015-2016
 oil on linen, 14 x 11 inches

Addison Parks
Spring Hill, April, 2016

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Etel Adnan and Good Natured Painting

I have to say, I like Etel Adnan's paintings. I like them in the way I like Paul Klee's paintings, Arthur Dove's paintings, Helen Frankenthaler's paintings, and Milton Avery's. I want to say Serge Poliakoff, Sonia Delauney, and Nicholas de StaĆ«l too. A kind of flatish, shape-oriented, spiritual abstraction rooted in nature. Still, her paintings are wholly her own. She made them that way.

I often heard it said long ago when I was in school that painting was an old person's profession. It was also said that you had to make a lot of paintings(800 to be exact) before you could make a good one. Etel Adnan would seem to bear this out. At 91 she is making her best work. At 91, she is nailing it.

I have to confess, I am biased. I relate to her. We both have Greece and the French language in our vagabond youth. We both found asylum in the language of paint. We both found sanctuary in nature. We both like to paint like a cobbler making shoes, a tube of wonderful color, a painting knife, a table top, some morning sun, sometimes a small canvas in the lap.

She has integrated it all. She is in the zone. Atuned to color and shape, orchestrating the space, coalescing the energy, finding new perspectives, shuffling the deck, making new music, hitting different notes, new harmonies, discovering new shapes and new shape relationships, new colors and new color relationships, embedding warm sunlight like paint photosynthesis. Paintsythesis.

I was trained in the arts. When you showed talent, that's what you did. And then of course the challenge became all wrong: the challenge became to distinguish yourself, to get to the top. To succeed. This is where school messes you up. You fight for the top and you are rewarded. It is vertical. But art is anything but.

So the focus is wrong. Too much on self. Too much on who the painting is by. Too self-conscious. When left to one's own devices the focus is where it belongs, on the world around us, on the wonder around us. Klee, Dove, Frankenthaler, Avery, and Adnan, this is what they have in common. This simplicity. This clarity. This integrity. This center. This heart. This inner light.

I haven't read Adnan's work as a writer or philosopher(she was trained at the Sorbonne, Berkeley, and Harvard), but I would bet the house that her pure place is her paintings.

By the way, I am not blaming the system for ruining artists so much as making a case for people who made art not to make something of themselves, but to make something of life. The irony is that we all know full well that to really make something of yourself, well, you make it with what is true. Etel Adnan's paintings are true. Some people might call that good natured, and I would have to agree.

Addison Parks
Spring Hill