We drove route 66 all the way across the country from Texas to Santa Monica, California last week. It was an epic moving trip, the car was loaded with cats, clothes, art materials, and more. Along the way I finally saw Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo too. I can’t wait to set up my new studio but until then enjoying exploring Santa Monica and Venice as well as hitting the beach.
On the moving road-trip to L.A. we passed through Amarillo, Texas home of infamous Cadillac Ranch. Cadillac Ranch is a site specific artwork located on the property of art patron and Texan millionaire Stanley Marsh 3, in Amarillo Texas. The piece was created in 1974 by the San Francisco and Houston based art collective Ant Farm. by artists, Doug Michels, Hudson Marquez, and Chip Lord
The experimental art collective Ant Farm was active 1968-1978, using architecture, performance, and media art, many of their projects reached out to the public and not only the art world.
Cadillac Ranch is comprised of ten classic Cadillac cars buried nose down in a dusty wheat field. Situated off historic Route 66 the art work could be thought of as a site specific ready made, that questions the division between what is a site specific artwork or a roadside attraction?
The site itself becomes a major influence and factor to the work. Unlike contemporaneous artists working in an expanded field in the remote locations in America, Cadillac Ranch was only a few steps a off a popular highway, not requiring an difficult journey to be viewed and experienced.
The piece was inspired by the evolution of the Cadillac and it’s iconic tail-fin design. The ten cars are buried nose in the dirt with their tail-fins shining in the sun. The tail-fins were the most important element of the cars for the artists. They represented the passing of time of the commercialized form. Over the years of the Cadillac production the design morphed and Ant Farm envisioned their roadside sculpture as a monument to the rise and fall of the tail-fin starting in 1948 with the lead car and ending in 1964.
On my NYC Grant trip to Guerra Paint Shop and the Alan Shield’s Retrospective I also had time to check out a few other shows at museums and galleries to round out my trip. Highlights included a painting show in Chelsea of only contemporary female painters. I also saw many of the new galleries that have sprung up in the last few years on the Lower East Side, Kara Walker new video work, Lynda Benglis’s show at the New Museum, Alexander McQueen’s retrospective and Richard Serra’s oil stick works on paper and linen at the Metropolitan and that was about all I had time to see! It was lively colourful trip a wonderful end to my graduate studies and beginning of summer.
In Alan Shields “Something Goin’on and On”, at Greenberg Van Doren Gallery I was astounded how although they only were showing works of his of the 1970-80’s nothing felt dated. The works were whimsical, colourful, and experimentive. It was not a really large show or gallery but a good size with three rooms. The skylight lit room really showcased Shield’s large scale quilt-like un-stretched canvases and the more sculptural or hanging works captured the natural light. There were many handmade paper pieces and a small series of prints that involved multiple processes from that I really enjoyed. His use of paper, glitter, paint, tie-dye, twine, relief, canvas, and beading was tactile and sensual and I almost felt as if I touched everything I took in with my eyes. The gallery was very friendly in answered my questions and talked extensively about the artist and even emailed my six catalogue essays and interviews to read. I passed on to other artists I met or reconnected with in the city to check out the show as well.
At Guerra Paint and Pigment I was delighted that when I walked in the door I was greeted by Art Guerra the owner and founder. I realized I had inevitably walked by the East Village shop many times before on previous trips into the city. Guerra showed me the large color chart wall and explained what each color was and how the chart worked. He also gave a demo on how to mix the super concentrated liquid pigment with different acrylic binders depending on what type of paint consistency you want to achieve. There were handmade books to look through with different paint recipes or items that could be added to the paint, (pumice, shredded tire, glass beads, etc) We talked about how his pigments differed from the Golden paints I have been using and how he started his paint business 25 years ago. It turns out many of the Golden materials I have been using are modelled after Guerra’s, however what is interesting is unlike Golden it is not pre-packaged giving the artist more control over their medium and also a lower price point. I purchased a sample pack and also some interesting new colors and binders to experiment with in my studio.
Read more about or oder the paint on their website : http://www.guerrapaint.com/
Tangling, floating, bouncing, forming, suspending, becoming, unwinding, twirling, rising, falling, maddening, growing, changing, happening, sensational, chaotic, and obsessive are words that come to mind when trying to describe an installation of artist Judy Pfaff. Pfaff’s installations are a physical equivalent to Abstract Expressionist painting coming to life yet, are still frozen in time. Her large scale installations of the early 1980’s mark her career as an artist ambitiously bridging the gap between the mediums of painting and sculpture as a total environment.
As an artist Pfaff works easily between bodies of work of drawing, collage, printmaking, and sculpture, all lending to the formulation of the consuming installations. Occurring within the white box of the gallery Pfaff works onsite to the specifications of the space, each unique and therefore site specific. They are temporal works in nature requiring much time onsite transforming the space and then break down of the installation so there is nothing left in the end. When she shifted from making huge and physical paintings in the 70’s to making objects and experimenting with impermanent spaces she said: “Basically my process then was to start at one end of the room and fill out the floor, and just watch. Then I’d sweep that up and start back again.”
Robert Swain and Alan Shields were some groovy colorful dudes! Both natives of the Midwest who ended up on the New York scene of the 1960’s. Although they made their color rich works in the 1960-70’s they feel very fresh and contemporary. Swain, born 1940 in Austin, Texas is a professor of painting at Hunter College has been working on his gigantic color chart paintings for decades. Made with more of an intuitive/scientific approach he has categorized the colors he has developed through mixing acrylic paints into a filing cabinet system of over 4,000 hues! He is just now getting some much deserved appreciation for his work.
On another note, hippie artists Alan Shields (1944-2005, born in Kansas ) captures the spirit of the generation his work came out of with its whimsical and gypsy-like manner. His technique involved painting, cutting, sewing, and even beading the canvas into dimensional paintings, collages, prints and installations. Shields work was far ahead and reminiscent of the current era of installation art that came after it. I am especially fascinated by the faceted form that is similar to ideas I am exploring in my own MFA body of of work.
Magnetic Fields song with the lyrics about Busby Berkeley:
I should have forgotten you long ago
But you’re in every song I know
Whining and pining is wrong and so
On and so forth, of course of course,
But no, you can’t have a divorce
I haven’t seen you in ages
But it’s not as bleak as it seems
We still dance on whirling stages
In my Busby Berkeley dreams
The tears have stained all the pages
Of my True Romance magazines
We still dance in my outrageously beautiful
Busby Berkeley dreams