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1 ON THE POETIC ACCUMULATIONS OF INEFFICIENT TIME WELL SPENT By ANDREW HENDRIXSON A PROJECT IN LIEU OF THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER O F FINE ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2011
2 Andrew Hendrixson
3 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am grateful to my committee for taking this journey with me. Their guidance was deeply formative for me. Glenn, I appreciate your rigorous a nd persistent question ing of me and my work throughout this process. R on I am thankful for you r aesthetic insight and thoughtful eye. And to Richard, thank you for friendship and accepting nothing less than excellence. I am immensely thankful for the Cool Painter Kids, especi ally Dr. Justus and Dr. Finally, I must thank Katherine for her patience and support. It was you who encouraged me to pursue art, way back when.
4 TABL E OF CONTENTS
5 LIST OF PLATES Plate 1: Plate 2 : Plate 3 : Untitled: White x48 2011. Plate 4: Hollow Men Hand sewn remnant fabric, yarn, and found objects on suit. Approximate human scale. 2010. Plate 5: The Enduring Chill Plate 6: Revelation Plate 7: Milledgeville 32 x 36. Oil, fabric, and duct tape on commercially dyed cloth. 2011. Plate 8: Untitled: Red commercially dyed cloth. 2011. Plate 9: Untitled: Black commercially dyed cloth. 2011. Plate 10: Untitled: Pu rple dyed cloth. 2011. Plate 11: Untitled: Blue Oil, acrylic, and fabric on commercially dyed cloth 2011.
6 Summary of Project in Lieu of Thesis Presented to the Graduate Sch ool of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts ON THE POETIC ACCUMULATIONS OF INEFFICIENT TIME WELL SPENT Andrew Hendrixson August 2011 Chair: Richard Heipp Major: Fine Art On the Poetic Accumulations of Time Well Spent explores the distinction between habit and ritual; the frivolity of the former countered by the intentionality of the latter. As a vehicle toward thi s intentionality, the project engages notions of labor, repetition, and inefficiency as endeavors that bear the gravity of ritualistic practice. Informed by sources ranging from Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, the 17 th century monk who worked as a d ishwasher in a Carmelite monastery in France and wrote of the beauty of transcendence he experienced through the discipline of intentionality and writes of the discipline of mindfulness as a way to elevate the most banal tasks to the level of poetry, to the astutely intuitive hand density of the works of contemporary artist Mark Bradford, this project employs hand sewn fabric and oi l paint commingling in labored accumulations on stretched canvas. The dense layering of paint and fabric creates the forms, and while the forms remain
7 abstractly organic, they evoke the movement of falling, rising, and at times, fight to free themselves fr Various color strategies also seek to give the paintings an emotional temperature. A black form on a black, pre dyed canvas ground sits with a kind of quiet reverence, while another painting, made within a rigid coloristic brac keting of subtly shifting values of white feels coolly elegant and simultaneously accessible with its rowdy, labored surface. Yet another painting, in which the form, made of multi colored fabrics and found objects sits atop a red cloth ground, gives an an The works are an attempt to move from the prosaic, hand sewn remnant fabric to a more poetic, evocative form, a painting bearing the gravity and consequence that comes from the intentionality of the ritualistic practice in w hich they were created.
8 PROJECT REPORT Sally Jenkins 1 The ritual began during my juni get up a couple of hours before I had to catch the bus, stuff a basketball int o a backpack just big enoug h to zip closed around the ball, and ride my bike, in the dark of the early morning, to the parking lot of a nearby church. At one end of the lot was a basketball goal with a plastic b ackboard and a thin, stringy net. There was o ne floodlight bolted to the building and moths swarmed around the bulb, casting large and unsettling shadows. The light cast a yellowish din over the parking lot b ut it was enough to see by. handling dr ills. Dribbling back and fort h and between my legs, deftly evading invisible defenders, send off the jump shot that would send my team to the Final Four; my humble parking lot of a court transformed into a grand stag e with all things riding on my getting th e ball through the hoop. I never did make the team or develop much of a jump shot, but that makes little difference. T hose mornings were about far more than getting the ball through the hoop, and my failure to ever make the team has little bearing on the ri chness of my memories of those solitary mornings. A part of my early morning practices we re indeed to exercise and try to devel op physical s kill, but the larger part, and I think I had some idea of this even then, was a n effort to spend my time well, t o carve something s pecial out of a mundane weekday morning. 1 Sally Jenkins, In His Grasp, Sports Illustrated
9 Those m ornings felt important to me and I felt oddly special playing basketball ever sink that game winn ing shot before the adoration of fans was an ultimately inconsequential question spurred by youthful musings. What I knew for sure, however, was that I wanted to lend credence to the importance of my days by moving beyond the default of the habitual and toward the intentionality of ritual. It was a simple act that bore significant gravity. My desire to create poetry from the mundane continues and undergirds much of my current work. On the Poetic Accumulations of Inefficient Time Well Spent explores the distinction between habit and ritual. Ha bits are passive where rituals are active. Thei r difference is intentionality and t his distinction is an important one as the frivolity of the former is countered by the intentionality of the latter. It is intentionality that can transform even the m ost b anal actions into poetic endeavors. As a vehicle toward intentionality, this project engages notions of labor, repetition, and inefficiency as endeavors bearing the gravity of ritualistic practice. The project is informed b y a wide range of sources. Som e of these are philosophical influences and some are more aesthetically influential. Th ese range from Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection the 17 th century lay brother who spent most of his life working as a dishwasher in a Carmelite monastery, and the as tutely intuitive, and laboriously hand thy and cowering espoused in T. S. Hollow Men It is informed by t he serious and demanding works of Agnes Martin and Ad Reinhardt, as well as the works of contemporary artis ts such as Mark Bradford, Trenton Doyle Hancock, and Sarah Sze. And while there is a large swath of aesthetic and historical distance betwee n these influences, they share, to greater and
10 lesser degrees, the commonalities of labor, inefficiency, and i ntentionality. This is seen in sewed every stitch of a quilt, the layered and labored surfaces of the paintings of Mark Bradford, and the dazzling intentionality of Ag nes Mart in, working for decades in a mode that seemed decidedl y unconcerned with various fashions and styles that came and went within the larger art world, as she continued mining the possibilities within a narrow aesthetic range. Brother Lawrence of the Resurre ction, bo rn Nicholas Herman (1614 1691), heavily informs the work philosophically. H is life was an example of the consequence of intentionality through labor. Brother Lawrence greatly desired to enter monastic life but, born into poverty ucat ion necessary to become a monk and so was assigned to work as a dishwasher in a Carmelite monastery in Paris, France. For Brother Lawrence, it was not the sacredness or the status of the task that gave it value; it was the intentionality behind the tas tasks in the monastery kitchen, were enough to hel p him find moments of transcendence. Brother Lawrence became a sought after figure and his writings and letters were compiled in the book The Pract ice of the Presence of God. He writes, h me differ from the time of pra yer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things; I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament 2 Also informing this project, and in much the same way as Brother Lawrence, is the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Naht Hanh, now exiled from Vietnam and living 2 Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, The Practice of the Presence of God
11 in France. Hanh was instru mental in M public opposition to the V ietnam War, for which King, in 1967, nominated Hanh fo r the Nobel Peace Prize Hanh Hanh attaches this notion of mindfulness to even the mo st banal of tasks and thereby lessens the distinction between life. And while the washing of dishes and sweeping of floors, does not necessarily inform my art prac tice, the importance Hanh gives to all aspects of life is something that I desire to emulate inside the studio as well as outside of it. Of the mundane task of washing dishes Hanh writes, h them quickly so I can go and have dessert, I will be equally incapable of enjoying my dessert. With fork in hand, I will be thinking about what to do next, and the texture and flavor of the dessert, together with the pleasure of eating it, will be lost. Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred. In this light, no boundary exists between the sacred and the profane. I must confess it takes me a bit longer to do the dishes, but I live fully in every moment, and I am happy. Washing the dishes is at the same time a means and an end that is, not only do we do the dishes in order to have clean dishes, we also do the dishes 3 One of the most important aesthetic influenc es for this project is the quilts of late 1 ) T he quilts made by the women of greatly inform ed my de cision to work in remnant and scrap fabric, and to hand sew the pieces together. is a small, rural community lying 30 miles southwest of Selma, Alabama. H istorically very poor and thoroughly isolated by its geography, the town gains its name from being border ed on three sides by a turn in the Alabama River. The hand stitched quilts, now of renown, having been exhibited at the Whitney Museum, and elsewhere, were constructed from the scrap cloth and the ret ired work 3 T hich Naht Hanh, Peace Is Every Step
12 clothes of the women and their families. The quilts were made to be functional and their making was Bend. While some of the women were self taught, most learned to quilt as young girls from their mothers and older female family members. This knowledge and tradition was T he quilts wear the delightful imperfection of hand stitching and are rarely perfectly rectilinear. (P late 2 ) The scrap cloth, sometimes itself nearly threadbare, lends itself to miss hapen quilts and myriad textures incorpo rated into one piece. T he quilts however, are formally brilliant; they are compositionally astute and coloristically very sensitive. The New York Times asserted that the quilts demonstrated some of the best in minim 4 The quilts resonate with me aesthetically for their astute compositions and dynamic color relationships, bu t also because these women with little f ormal education and living near the poverty line, found ways in which to infuse beauty and artistry into their lives. They brought the poetic into the mundane. The Paintings A large part of my entering into ritual with this project was enacted simply in the decision to work in a very specific way. In this case, the decision was to create abstract forms and employing fabric and paint, and mining the narrowness of that mode. This 4 Michael Kimmelman, New York Times
13 choice alone was significant to me as an artist and proved to be vital in the constructing of this body of work. The first year of my graduate study was spent trying to find my footing in slippery new surroundings. T he rigor of the program and critique from my peers created a challenging but important distance aesthetically and p hilosoph ically; from the work I produced during my undergradu ate years. My confusion gave way to grasping and the exploration is certainly important, especially early on, an d can inform later w ork, its downside is that no specific mode of work is being mined; research and learning are truncated before they can begin to find maturity. Narrowing my parameters required decisiveness and a measure of courage. Of the decision to wo rk in narrow parameters Enrique Martinez Celaya writes, Much time is devoted to talking about freedom in art, but art is mostly about boundaries. 5 The c hoice to wo rk inside chosen parameters did in fact b ring a level of freedom. I did no t go to the studio wondering what kind of artist I was going to be, what kind of paintings I was going to make. The sewing and cutting and gluing became the way in whic h I spent my d ays. What could have been tedium was a kind of devotion instead. My decision for specificity gave the project intentionality and the ritual became the repetition of ca rrying this decision out, day after day. eeting thing, the novel, which 5 Enrique Martinez Celaya, Collected Writings and Interviews, 1990 2010
14 have the category of recollection or of repetition, all life dissolves into an empty, 6 The forms of the paintings are created by the dense layering of fabric and paint. Remnants are sewn together by hand in accumulated masses and affixed to the canvas, onl y to be painted over, and further laye red with fabric. The forms remain abstractly organic but they evoke the movemen t of falling and rising and toppling, and at times, as with the painting, Untitled: White ( plate 3 ) the form fights to free itself from its painted as the accumulated relief of cloth and strin g and paint offers its soft surface as a counterpoint to the more rigid geometry of the pai nted rectangle it is framed in. Furthermore, the works are an at tempt to move from the prosaic to the poetic. They are meant to evoke and give resonance rather than to make didactic and specific assertions. 7 While levels of communication are certainly happening in any artwork, it is my desire that these works engage the distinction betw een their being communicative and their being contemplative. Art historian, Daniel Siedell writes, communication pursued by other (and inferior) means, that the artist is t rying to send distinctly not the case with art. Art requires contemplation that focuses attention on the viewer developing a relationship with the work of art, not merely pas sively receiving a 8 Contemplative work resonates with me in that it is by nature slow, and deeply purposeful. T here is little that is quick or entertaining about the works of Agnes Martin or 6 Soren Kiergekaard, Repetition 7 Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space 8 Daniel Siedell, God In the Gallery
15 Ad Reinhardt, and that is a part of the strength of t he work. Their contemplative practices It does this by seeking subtlety and nuance over art that functions merely as entertainment. Enrique Martinez Celaya writes, Anything that demands serious and sustained engagement is revolutionary today. the age of computing or nuclear power, but the age when entertainment finally took over our cons ciousness. Now, most other fields art, politics, war are defined through, and in relation to, their 9 This project offer s a counterpoint to art as entertainment. It asks the viewer for mor e serious, prolonged engagement in that ma ny of the pieces deal formally with high levels of subtlety; multiple whites with only a nuanced difference in value, black cloth differentiated by varying textures, active forms in an array of colors over monochrome grounds. Previous Works My work h as grown and evolved in sig nificant ways during the years of my graduate study but the evolution has not been a tidy one. I ha ve had forays into motley troupe of characters and ve ntured down misleadi ng paths of decorative banality in which I illustrated accumulation rather than actually accumulated. I did this by painting stacks, sometimes in illusionistic space, sometimes in a very flat space. Horizontal brushstrokes 9 Enrique Martinez Celaya, Collected Writings and Interviews 1990 2010
16 were painted the canvas. Other modes, though, gave hints at what I was ultimately after and wore small traces of poetic resonance. The piece, Hollow Men was an early example. (P late 4 ) T disguise might look li ke. The piece consisted of a ma sewn patches of cloth and bits of ribbon and rope. While not an entirely successf ul piece it is an important one. It was the first piece in which I tried to deal with actual piling and accu mulat ion, rather than dealing with this process more obliquely as I had done earlie r, by illustrating piles and accumulations. It was also my first time to wield a needle and thread, a practice that woul d become hugely important later as it is a major comp onent of the current body of work. Fro m there, I moved into several iterations of painting s of room interiors and cloth constructions. (P late 5 ) I n these pieces I was thinking about places where our days are accumulated and we pile our choices into the m aking of a life. Some of the works were problematic and some were successful, but I did not feel that I was engaging or speaking to some of what was most important to me. I was not addressing my core interests surrounding ideas of labor, ritual, and inef ficiency. A few of the pieces from that body of work were much closer to achieving my conceptual goals. One of those was Revelation. (P late 6 ) canvas with a wood en panel attached to the bottom as though it were a shelf, creating an
17 L shape. On th e canvas is a painting of an interior architectural space with a floor, a wall, a ceiling, and a The floor, painted on the canvas continues down onto the wooden panel, on which rests a mound of piled paint scraps and dri ps. The pile seems to be autonomous from the painting as it is not on the two dimensional canv as, and simultaneously, it appears to be a piled form that sits on the floor of the illusionistic space of the room. T his was an impor tant piece because I felt that it was one of the more emphatic acts of accumulation and labor to date and was a piece in whi ch I knew that the elements had literally accumulate d and over many months. Th e pile of paint sitting atop the wood panel like an accumulation of abstract brushstrokes became more important to me than the room or i nterior space I was depicting. This piece confirmed for me that I was significantly more interested in pursuing levels of abstraction. A subsequent piece, and the last completed before the current body of work, also proved important. (P late 7 ) Taking what I had learned from Revelation this piece, Milledgeville consists of oil, acrylic, duct tape, and scrap cloth on a commercially colored length of cotton fabric that w as stretched upon a traditional stretcher frame. The pie ce tip toes away from the interior space of rooms, but its forms still live in a vaguely landscape lik e situation. I believe the painting to be a relatively successful one but looking at it I am awa re of my timidity in the making of it. It seems that I am a slow learner and it took me awhile to realize, and find the courage to enact, that I am at this point in my art practice, much more interested in contemplative, quiet, non representationa l work than I am in illusionism and representing much of anything.
18 The painting Untitled: Red ( plate 8 ) the first in this current body of work, was a breakthrough piece for me. It engaged, in actual and concrete ways, notions of labor (in its layering) and inefficiency (in its hand sewn, hand cut, hand glued application technique ). It also was the piece that was the most non representati onal, and existed in the least illusionistic space of any painting I had previously made It was a painting in which I intenti onally used an economy of means While still labor intensive, I made the decision to work within more narrow parameters in regard to the size of the form, what it would be made of, and that I would leave the red cloth ground untouched. The economy of the painting was in making a few decisions early on and holding very closely to those decisions throughout the creation of the painting. In these paintings I feel as though I am learning to strip away that which is extraneous, and simply allow the abstra ct form to evoke, to give meaning. T hese paintings are among the quietest I have ever made and I allow the m to fail or succeed narrowly, based on the degree to which t hey reside in poetic resonance, and rely on a kind of felt knowledge. This is perhaps be st exemplified in painting, Untitled: Black (P late 9 ) This work, measuring begins with a len gth of commercially dyed black cotton duck cloth stretched onto a stretcher. The fabric ground being cotton, enables the black to read as a pure matte black with only a very subtle texture. The applied form s begin with larger pieces of fabric sewn to gether then glue d to the surface. Many of these patches are swallowed up in the subse quent layers of fabric and paint, although there are traces of the init ial layers and parts of the stitching that remaining visible. Applied to the sewn patches are various painted areas and numerous cut pieces of fabric some measuring as
19 small as a quarter inch wide These small pieces have a variety of values of black an d grey. T here are smattering s of black faux leather and faux fur, vinyl, wool, silk, felt, as well as some hints of black and white hounds tooth, and black, grey, and white sil k. The se pieces are applied with glue, and occasionally pressed into wet paint. F inally, the work is layered with subsequent passages of fabric, as well as oil and acrylic paint. The dominant form in this work is mad e of these myriad accumulations and inhabits the bottom two thirds of the picture plane, allo wing the matte black ground room to function spatially as well as coloristically. I believe this is a thoroughly confident painting because i t demonstrates th e poignancy possible through a strict economy of me ans. It is also a quiet painting. But its quietude is not one of insigni ficance it is more like something of importance spoken, but spoken in a whisper. It is a painting I could not have made a year ago, and certainly would not have been capable of making two years ago. This project has given me an impor tant platform from w hich to build upon These months of working on this body of paintings has confirmed for me, and helped me gain access to, som e of what most deeply resonates with me aesthetically and philosophically. I developed a more focused and intentional practice t han I had ever done before specificity. M ore importantly, I have developed and continue to develop, a practice in which my values are infused into my aesthetics. I desire an ethical art practice in which the intentionality in my life is deeply commensurate with my intentionality in the studio. I believe there is indeed magic in any ordinary act. Sometimes it manifests itself as a junior high kid shooting baskets in the da rk, and other times it is born from the
20 inefficient labor of countless hand stitches, but it is intentionality that renders beauty out of everydayness, and poetry from the mundane.
21 List of Plates Plate 1:
22 Plate 2:
23 Plate 3: Untitle d: White 2011 (center) installation view Oil, acrylic, and remnant fabric on canvas
24 Plate 4: Hollow Men 2010 Remnant fabric, rope, and yarn Approximate human scale
25 Plate 5: The Enduring Chill 2010 Oil on c anvas
26 Plate 6: Revelation 2010 Oil on canvas and oil on panel
27 Plate 7: Milledgeville 2011 Oil, fabric, and duct tape on commercially dyed cloth
28 Plate 8: Untitled: R ed 2011 Oil, acrylic, fabric, and found objects on commercially dyed cloth
29 Plate 9: Untitled: Black 2011 Oil, acrylic, and remnant fabric on commercially dyed cloth
30 Plate 10: Untitled: Purple 2011 Oil, acrylic, and fa bric on commercially dyed cloth
31 Plate 11: Untitled: Blue 2011 Oil, acrylic, and fabric on commercially dyed cloth
32 LIST OF REFERENCES Bachelard, Gaston. (1994). The Poetics of Space. New York: Orion Press Celaya, Enrique Martin ez. (2010). Collected Writings and Interviews, 1990 2010. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press. Hanh, Thich Nhat. (1991). Peace Is Every Step. New York: Bantam Books Jenkins, Sally. (December 1991). In His Grasp Sports Illustrated. Kie rkegaard, Soren. (1983). Repetition. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Kimmelman, Michael. (29 November 2002). Art Review: Jazzy Geometry, Cool Quilters. New York Times. Lawrence, Brother. (1967). The Practice of the Presence of God. Grand Rapids: Spire Books. Siedell, Daniel. (2008). God in the Gallery A Christian Embrace of Modern Art. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.
33 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Andrew Hendrixson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1977 and was raised in southwestern Ohio. He attende d Mount Vernon Nazarene University where he received a Bachelor of Arts in 2008. In 2011 he received a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Florida where he studied painting and drawing. Upon graduation from the University of Florida, Andrew returne d to Ohio where he joined the faculty of Mount Vernon Nazarene University as an assistant professor of art and design.