THE DEATH AND LIFE OF PAINTING — A Mesmerizing Whiff of Turpentine and Rabbit-Skin Glue

by Rudolfo Carrillo

I imagined painting dead. I had called upon devices that I consider magical to support that eldritch contention.

For power, I called upon the images, memories and consequent linguistic constructions made from fatty blood; complex cellular structures four microns across, packed by the millions into my head for instance; or conversely accessed history or its verisimilitude via the digitized artifacts of a world viewed through the cathode ray tube and its flat successors.

Both repositories, the biological and the technological, had been transformed away from oily metallic tubes, the mesmerizing whiff of turpentine, rabbit-skin glue, and the slow-drying opacity of titanium dioxide and various cadmium compounds, all bound with canvas in order to make possible the generation of other worlds, I thought.

When I got sentenced to Art School, the painters they required me to inquire after wore ties and lab coats, and spent most of their time offering homage and stewardship to the local gods of modernism. One of those lofty embracers of technopoly had only recently spirited himself away, so his name had become a bell of sorts and was intoned frequently and with a metallic gravitas.

Back in those days, even as minimalism waned ironically into reductionism, surrealism was considered anathema and therefore strictly discouraged. When I passed around a picture of Salvador Dali and his anteater one day during lecture, I was rousted out of the cloistered hall, sent to an empty studio and told to mix up two hundred gallons of the whitest gesso possible, as an act of contrition.


Later, I told one of those old masters that the best new painting I had seen had been done by makers of what was then commonly referred to as graffiti. Well, that sullen gatekeeper laughed and told me that enough was enough and to get back to the sculpture shop where I belonged. And so I mostly stopped painting.

That kinda sucked, but I was a notoriously inefficient painter anyway and was better off brandishing fire and steel as the thing itself, encoding experimentally cryptic character-strings on the Commodore Amiga that an ancient and formidable sculptor named Charles Mattox kept locked up in the supply closet, or recording primitive musical paeans to the future on the cheap four-track at Jason Fink’s house.

Of course painting went on without me, though I would deny its potency for at least ten years, as has been noted above. And that’s fucking cool because when I woke up from that electronic/mechanical/media induced process, I discovered that the forces of minimalism had their formal asses kicked during that intervening age, that a mystical interaction with the two-dimensional world had been restored.

All of this could be evidenced by my recent exposure to some, uh, painters. That interaction is a refutation of myself and my former location on the space-time continuum, a place where I was convinced there was no painting at all.

So, it is a breathy shout, como un grito, to the man with the pet anteater – in further defiance of the men in their double windsors and scientific uniforms.

Anywho, I came upon the paintings of Charles Wish inadvertently, while reading some new critique of old Wood and Benton. Wish’s work deftly avoids being derivative, while incorporating the visual language and conceptual architecture of surrealism, American regionalism and tantric forms of budhism and hinduism. Yow! Here are two of my favorite recent paintings of his, the first titled, La Negra de la Luna. The second beckoning, but forboding image is called The Nuisance of Spring.


Both images, in their precise and daunting floridity, seem to reject the painterly concerns of Nadler and Jonson, embracing instead the mediums illustrative potential, taken to psychic and dangerous ends.

Taken to another end, stripped bare of the traditional art-historical sources that some say ultimately bind Wish’s vision to this world, is the place in space where the paintings of R.S. Connett reside as portals and signifiers of what may lurk in all our skulls.

Connett continues to be prolific, and has hundreds paintings and drawings available for viewers and collectors to linger dreamingly disturbed over, but the stuff I like best is what follows here – two paintings, one named Harvester of Dreams and the other, Flora Versus Fauna.


So, yeah, painting is not dead, after all. Not that I am an expert on that or anything like it. The life it broadcasts outward though, here at the tip of the twenty-first century, in winter’s grasp with ice cascading everywhere, suggests whole universes absent of rigid utility and formal reduction.

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2 Comments

  1. Chagoya’s interesting, especially the underlying interest in political and social activism embedded in his imagry…i chose Dali though because he took an existing methodology and transformed it in odd, unheard of ways that strangely left part of the original structure extant.

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