Art Theory

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The Realm of Abstractions

Exploring the “Inner World,” Origin of the Myth, and Social Conditioning


“Throughout the inhabited world, in all times and under every circumstance, myths of man have flourished. Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation.” Joseph Campbell

Psyche and Symbol

  1. The “ancient” still controls a majority of our lives and what we think of as “conscious living.” Distinct periods of human transformation and cultures contained behavioral commonalities and what we may now consider as common knowledge came from an ancient structure, passed down through various ritual art forms. 
  2. Our species’ epic evolutionary journey, from the bacterial stage to unicellular organisms, cell division, aquatic life, 2,000 million years of evolution, moving into the reptilian era and transforming into mammals bears striking similarities to embryogenesis stages of human life. 
  3. Human migration took us to every landmass on this planet where we formed thousands of new cultures and languages throughout millions of years, but we still manage to pass down the universal fingerprints of these ancestors. Use of their symbols is seen in every known primitive, modern, and contemporary society.
  4. The ancient voice of these men and women is camouflaged and embedded across the city’s landscape and serves to remind us of nature's course as well as highlight subconscious fear that pulls us away from the wild towards conformism and order of the grid system. 
  5. Nature provides only 3 “perfect shapes.” First, the circle, with its “cylindrical attributes,” as seen when looking down into a sunken hole such as termite mound, Second, the straight line formed by the horizon that goes through everything in space, or even single-stemmed plant life. Last, the triangular characteristics seen in mountains and mounds.    

a.b.  ━ c.

As man evolved, humanity reacted positively to smoothness, regularity, and symmetry. It was taken very seriously in every culture, from music, mathematics and science, developing and adopting the grid system through repletion of the whole. 

╋ , ▢ , 𐄹


The Realm of Abstractions, Field Study

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Chapter 1, Urban Imprints, Mystical Function, Nightfall

“What are the disagreements of properties between flatness with the irregularities of a rough space? Man eventually embraced the smooth and flat in the world, creating the engineering marvels.” Benoit Mandelbrot

Carbon dating of primitive cave paintings from various regions around the world, such as Brazil, Mexico, North America, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Czech Republic, India, China, Africa, Borneo, Malaysia, Australia, Burma, and New Guinea, provide evidence that around 20,000 years ago, homo sapiens all over the globe were “simultaneously” creating both representational depictions of the natural world they encountered daily and borrowing from a shared variety of up to 26 abstract symbols to mark their surroundings. 

Key Questions

  1. In what forms and manifestations are these symbols vesseled across centuries of environmental, social, and physical change? 
  2. Why do we continue to reproduce these shapes and symbols so far removed from the ritual processes and structures that initially birthed them?
  3. How do the 26 marks continue to be integrated into current society and physical landscape?    

References

  • Konrad Lorenz’s interaction with a newborn goose moments after the egg hatched, resulted in the bird’s "natural reaction to appoint Konrad the role of “mother goose.” This study points towards the evolutionary history contained in the brain; homo sapiens and other animals can be born with predispositions towards certain highly specific “imprinted” behaviors. 
  • Carl Jung’s “archetype” derives from the Greek for “prime imprinter” or cognitive invariant, meaning  a formless pattern that underlies both instinctual behaviors  and primordial images; according to Jung, these symbols coexist alongside us, embedded in society in forms of signage or advertisement-even urban layouts contain their own “archaic remnants.”
  • Professor Moshe Szyf highlights the impact that external factors and social environment can have on gene expression. Is DNA marked only by the innate process, which is highly predictable, like our eyes, lungs, liver will be a liver, your heart will be your heart? Or can external forces mark the same DNA differently? 

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Chapter 1, Urban Imprints, Mystical Function, Nightfall

A graffito (plural "graffiti"), in an archaeological context is a deliberate mark made by scratching or engraving on a large surface such as a wall. The marks may form an image usually of animals or writing. The term may or may not include the more common modern sense of an "unauthorized" addition to a building or monument. 


Process and Medium

With the onset of night, and my backpack stocked with everything from canvas to headlamps, I begin my painting process. The journey to the outside world marks my exit from  “fragility of the studio,” into “Neverland,” among the lost boys who reside in pockets of the city, moving and surviving within its mini “Skid Row” communities.

My main intention is to locate embedded symbols, such as the “eight pointed star,” the “bodily cross layout,” or the “sun wheel.” These markings existed during the Neolithic era and were once experienced on “sacred ground,” in the form of rock engravings of various depths (sunk relief, bas-relief, relief façades) are readily experienced today and are carved in and across the city’s anatomy. When creating open-air paintings the environment decides the outcome; the wind plays a significant role determining its aesthetic attributes; the shifting of the canvas causes misalignment, breaking, and sometimes double, imagery. It’s an aspect that appeals to me doubly as a kind of ghost print and reminder that no matter how marvelous or smooth man’s latest creations may be, they can always be diminished or altered by Mother Nature. It was also important that my process reference the traditional archaeological method of documenting weather and time worn surfaces, which resulted in my efforts to record visual data with acrylic paint, similar to “ink rubbings,”  or reproductions made of a surface plain. 


After examining the urban environment, the natural succeeding step in this body of work, would be to leave the confinement of the city walls, move away from the concrete jungle’s smooth surfaces and hard angles, to reexamine the abstract forms in their authentic wild state.


Theory of Color and Image

In the beginning stages of this work, I experimented with colorful palettes which resulted in   isolating the abstract forms from one to another and making them look mechanically placed/arranged.  I decided to move away from color field and favor a monochromic pallete, which produced a sense of wholeness in a comoflaged state, and referenced the unconsious embededments.

Later, I found that pushing a color through the painting created a more harmonious dialogue among the different shapes and forms. 

  • Black: The Shadow, Innate, Source
  • White: Atmospheric Space, Lumination, 
  • Pink: Womb, Social Restrictions 
  • Earth Tone: The unbleached canvas references the “natural elements” found on-site, such as wooden pallets, trees, weeds.
  • Evolution within this chapter:
    1. Innate, geometric abstractions, archaic forms
    2. Appropriation and the structural decomposition of objects in space 
    3. Site Specific: “Gentrification in Progress,” San Francisco. construction sites  Tec 2.0
    4. Natural landscapes, organic abstractions 

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Chapter 2, Stargazer, Night Fall, self reflection

“At his best man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.” Aristotle

Auto glass comprises the main aesthetic component and material for this body of work. I felt it was necessary to include the glass medium since it adds to the conversation of shattered authoritative power; and even more importanly,  its innate mesmerizing behavior, or the “takeover” one experiences when looking into a reflective surface. The capacity to comprehend the “mirroring effect,” isn’t possessed by every member of the animal kingdom; only those genetically derived from a "higher primate" class have this privilege. In turn, mirroring comprehension plays a big role in our brain evolution; decoding the visual field and marking the beginning of self-analysis; as our ancestors caught a glimpse of themselves while drinking from a puddle. their ability to see  themselves, naturally shifted the gaze from perception of the outside world to a temporal fixation with the one within.

Key Questions

  1. Is selfie mania a contagion of egocentric self-aggrandizement; a "psychosocial infection" of the spirit and mind, a derivative of the mirror effect?
  2. Where will selfie culture take us and how does it relate to human’s capacity for self-awareness? Does the self-gaze continue to allow us to distingguish our individual self from the tribe? 
  3. Do higher functioning animals continue to evolve? (The Baboons of Taif, Saudi Arabia is kidnaping and domesticating wild puppies.) and Is there a possibility of genetic catch-up?


Mirror Myths & Customs References

  • The Chinese believed that demons avoided mirrors because the demons would see their reflection. Breaking a mirror would mean losing your best friend. Chinese philosopher Hua-yen
  • The Aztecs used mirror like surfaces to ward off evil spirits, placing a bowl of water with a knife in it at the entrance of their homes, so that the spirit looking into the water would see its soul pierced by the knife and flee.
  • According to James Frazier in the Golden Bough, The fear of souls being captured in mirrors were widespread: In Ancient India and Greece not to look at one's reflection in the water, The Greeks as an omen of death if a man dreamed of himself being so reflective. That the water spirits would drag the person's soul underwater leaving him soulless to perish.”
  • The Romans believed you would have seven years of bad luck for breaking a mirror.
  • Indra, leader of the devas; It is by the way of crisis, the fall of the thunderbolt, that we are thrust into awareness. 
  • Wallis Budge; Egyptians use of Amulets and Talismans, the little man seen reflected in the pupil allowed passage into the soul and do harm. The book of the dead, granting proper passage either to heaven or the underworld.
  • Of all the things that drive man in all ages to invent and to use magic, the most potent is the “Evil Eye.” According to Plutarch, who wrote around 100 CE, it was possible for people to injure themselves by staring in the mirror. The only way to destroy the mythical basilisk, seen in the image to the right, whose gaze killed, was to hold the mirror up to it.
  • Hindu parable, “ He who has known the self and understood it obtains all the worlds and desires.” Two seekers look for themselves in a pan of water. The reflection they find there is the mutable self though, not the universal self that they seek. 
  • Buddhist notion of illusory reality story: A prostitute demanded money from a young man who told her that he had “diverted, enjoyed, and amused” himself with her in a dream the other night. The wise Buddha figure ruled, “ the fee should be paid by the merchant son...in the same fashion that he consorted with her.” He had the young man place his money in front of the mirror and told the women to take the reflection of payment from the mirror.
  • 2015 Study on Selfies: Ohio State researchers found that posting photos online was correlated with both narcissism and psychopathy. Editing photos, however, was only associated with narcissism and not psychopathy. Narcissism measures inflated self-image (often motivated by underlying insecurity), while psychopathy involves a lack of empathy and impulsive behavior. The researchers also found that editing photos of oneself was associated with higher levels of self-objectification.

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Chapter 2, Stargazing, Nothing Inside, self reflection

Process and Medium

I consciously moved my practice outside the context of the studio, after reading works like “Man & Symbols” and “The Hidden Dimension.” These texts synthesized my interest in studying exterior space and the abstract interactions encountered in a public sphere.  The shattered remnants of glass found across the city served as an attractive antithesis to search of found order of the city’s streets. The biggest challenge I faced during this study was Mother Nature; the scale of these works ranged from 12 to 15 feet long, and although I weighed them down, clamped, and used magnets to secure the canvas, they still flapped like sails when faced with the gust of the Bay Area wind. 

  1. Both medium and process mimic the motifs of the "smash and grab," crimes that ruled out use of paint brushes or the silk-screening, or any other slow-drying mediums like oil and relief ink. 
  2. The works come with “site specific criteria” based on thefts of cars on public streets.
  3. As in the first chapter I wanted to eliminate the “self interpretations,” putting ego and academia painting techniques back on the shelf to capture surfaces previously shaped and formed by others.  
  4. This process needed to be “immediate,” providing a quick and accurate documentation of my subject. 
  5. The medium of acrylic spray paint perfectly fit my criteria, doing an exceptional job in fully documenting space and form. It's misting qualities capture the little crevices of the "appropriated relics" reproducing ghostly auras and capturing the “spirit” of the discarded object.
    1. People have come to equate spray paint with “street art,” outdoor actions,  and political messaging. It has become more mainstream since the emergence of graffiti culture in the 1970’s. 
  6. The scale of these paintings are determined by the magnitude of damage, such as broken glass,  left behind at the scene of a crime; like passenger side window from one car  versus a row of cars or the smashing of  Muni bus stops after a Giants victory and April 20, 2014.

Color Theory 

  • Black: cosmic void, absorption 
  • White: aura, mass, casting 
  • Pink: Social restrictions, womb
  • Cyan, Magenta, Yellow(CMYK): Subtractive system, social normality, propagative

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Chapter 3: Adumbrative Abstracts, Path of light

“A survey of great myths in which the wisdom of the human race is enshrined suggests the possibility that man achieves civilization, not as a result of superior biological endowment or geographical environment, but as a response to a challenge in a situation of special difficulty which rouses him to make a hitherto unprecedented effort.” 

Arnold J. Toynbee

The almighty sun serves as the worshiped disk, the most powerful life-giving source we know. This series seeks to reflect its innate force, the hypnotic control it holds over us and our planet. Building on the concept of open air art production, I wanted to play with the sun’s own appropriation of forms and capture the force that awakens the fauna order and directs the flora system; as well as serving as a constant “tango with time,” for all of us. When the sun rests for the day, we are expected to do the same, but as most of us sleep there are always awakening the creatures of the night but perpetually making its mark. 

How does the universes inner workings, it's joint forces, between the sun waves, gravity, and dark matter, produce a distinct abstraction, a repetition in forms, what does this look like?




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Chapter 3: Path of light

Process and Method

  1. Seeking innate, mechanical abstractions, machine made, mass produced archaic forms that are in contemporary designs that also contain functionality in everyday life.
  2. Appropriation of byproducts, trying to control the different degrees of shadowing, through distancing and staking, to from full umbra’s (darkest part of the shadow), penumbras(partial obscurity), and antumbras. (shadow is contained within the disc of the light source) 
  3. What effect does the shadow have on the mind?
  4. Our shadow is always there, along with our every move, jumping will allow a quick break, other than that you must live in the dark to escape it.  Shadow sometimes causing fear in younger children, they start crying when trying to detach from it. 


Theory of Color and Image

Shadow, a two dimensional silhouette, product from an interaction between three dimensional forms and a luminous source. Each painting defines the sites properties. Byproducts from man and nature are captured through radiation burns, a process requiring a cyclical interplay with the divine sun, taking weeks or months of burning layers to homogenize amorphousness formations with concrete forms. 

  • Charcoal Grey: referencing residue when wood, bone, or other organic matter is heated in the absence of air.

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