If humility is expressed by anonymity, then maybe ambiguity, if not for the purpose of obfuscation, is a generous act.
Some time ago, while speaking with Richard Tuttle, after an exhibition of his tiny, seemingly naïve, minimal drawings, I was describing the weight of the information he had removed as having “visual memory”, impacting the lightness of the marks that were left behind. In his classically restrained yet ubiquitous manner, he characterized his process and experience of distillation as “wrenching”.
Wrenching: to pull or strain at something with violent twisting.
When we think of minimal we typically conjure up thoughts of less-ness expressed with extreme simplicity and popularized by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s dictum “less is more” not a “violent twisting”. What actually makes the seemingly simple complex is not the void itself but rather the provocation of what has been excluded in order to create the void. As Billy Preston so eloquently grooved “nothing from nothing leaves nothing”. I think ambiguity can be recognized by the embedded presence of a something so secure, it can allow but not insist on a place for nothing.
Though my work would hardly be considered minimal, I am fully aware of what has been wrenched out as well as what has been so deeply embedded it no longer declares its identity. My wrenching comes from twisting the work away from servicing my excesses, wants, jealous desires and ego boosting visual rants; yet the scars of their removal remain present even if only in the value of the void left behind. Although I pull away, I also push forward to recognize and embrace everything I am aware of while maintaining a desire to recognize appealing and/or unpleasant hidden truths.
The piece that will be shown publicly for the first time in this exhibition, TAKEN BY GAIN, was created shortly after the experience of holding my beautiful father and fully inhaling his final breath. My work is rarely explicit but rather the expression of an amalgamation of experiences and though this piece is woven into the fullness of the time it’s from, it seems to have always existed and even grown as a natural artifice. It stands balancing with ease yet appears to be prepared to attack. It offers little opportunity for the eye to determine the exact material, the process by witch it was rendered, or indication of its complicated composition of hundreds of individual components. Its presence is ambiguous and because of its lack of excess could be easily dismissed as a freakish natural specimen.