Divorcing from the Figure
I went to the Whitney Museum yesterday and had the pleasure of checking out the Stuart Davis exhibit "In Full Swing." I am a big fan of his work as well as many other artists during the same time period. Davis is regarded by many as a precursor of both pop art and contemporary abstraction. I'm very glad I went to the exhibit and also learned more about Davis' philosophy as an artist. I was surprised to learn that it is quite similar to the direction which I seem to be heading in naturally. I doubt it is coincidental, given I was drawn to his work enough to want to attend the exhibit; something about it resonates with me.
One of the pieces I felt most drawn to was "Mural for Studio B, WNYC, Municipal Broadcasting Company" painted in 1939. The piece is huge - 7ft x 11ft. You have to pay attention to because of its size, if for no other reason. Reading the museum label next to the mural, I saw a caption that, though in different words, has been a recurring thought of mine in how I want to approach my art. It said that for Davis, "...the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated imagery reflected the way he imagined people remember scenes or events: 'Certain aspects of it are exaggerated and others are suppressed. The scene is rearranged and recomposed according to the importance and meaning which the different elements had for the spectator.'"
This describes (way better than I could have ever articulated) how I am approaching the God's Trombones series. When remembering a scene or visualizing a poem written by Johnson, I imagine our brains select and emphasize certain images while omitting others. Additionally, some images are abstracted while others are more literally interpreted. This is why I choose not to include every image James Weldon Johnson writes in his poems, because in the mind's eye, it is likely to be insignificant. Embracing this philosophy of expression, I'm feeling more comfortable dealing almost completely in the abstract. In the past, I've always felt a need to include some form of human figure in my work, perhaps a small fear of jumping totally off the "abstract artist" cliff. With this series, however, I'm beginning to feel that the human figure is actually one of the insignificant details which the mind's eye might omit. This will reduce the pieces to pure feeling and imagination through color, texture, and abstracted forms - which is the lane that feels most natural for this series.