Materiality, Part 1

Material generally denotes substances that will be further processed, it points to the forces of production at the time. From a critical perspective, the term ‘material’ describes not prime matter but substances that are always subject to change., be it through handling, interaction with their surroundings, or the dynamic life of chemical reactions. It is therefore a political decision to focus on the materials of art: it means to consider the processes of making,  and their associated power relations, to consider the workers – whether they are in factories, studios or public spaces, whether they are known or anonymous – and their tools and spaces of production.

Materiality is one of the most contested concepts in contemporary art…

Make the materials laugh…

Lange-Berndt, Petra, “Introduction: How to be complicit with materials”. Materiality: Documents of contemporary art. Co-published by Whitechapel Gallery and The MIT Press. (2015) (12)

Jamey Hart The following is from a phone conversation.

Material Intention: Put the material first. Look at the material and try to siphon its’ intention. Have meaning come from the object as opposed to having an idea first and making a piece about it. (When I asked about the title for a group of work, Cobble Bobble) Hmm… I am not really sure. I made that the album title earlier at the start of this work. The work has changed a lot and I have been thinking about changing the title of that album. But, when I started the work I was very much clumsily navigating the materials again after spending two years doing white paintings that restricted my material/palette/practice. So, coming back to disparate materials was like learning to see again or something. I always liken it to having cake again after not eating cake for a really long time. It was sort of disgusting and made me sick, but also really interesting and I had a completely different respect for it. So, that is where the cobble came from. Bobble just rolled out of that naturally. I really like words and sound a lot and I was reading a bunch of E.E. Cummings at the time and he is a sound guy. Also, the work in the beginning was a lot smaller and more toy like. In my opinion it was a lot less strong than the work I am making today because of various reasons, but that early work definitely forged the way to the more complete paintings I am doing now.

Tom Duimstra The following is from written correspondence.

As for my materials, I guess I would consider myself a post minimal appropriationist. I use pieces of stuff that were, at one time, part of something else. Everyday materials such as fencing, siding, fabric, wire, staples, wood. Sometimes I find a piece of plaster or wallpaper, etc. and just hang it on the wall as is. Richard Tuttle is one influence, but I have many others that a lot of artists have probably never heard of…. Charles Harlan comes to mind as does Anna Fasshauer. The interesting thing about those two is that I was doing like work before I ever discovered them…..  same with Judith Scott and Philadelphia Wireman. I have been working like this with these materials for over 30 years. Must be something in the air.

Wilma Vissers The following is from written correspondence.

Materiality of painting objects

Last week I was in my studio and looking at the artworks that are displayed on my walls. My conclusion about them was: I don’t often use material that can be called neutral, like paper of canvas which is white.The last years I tended to use pieces of wood, actually found in a wood and cut with a chainsaw by my husband or other pieces like samples of wood used by an interior designer. I also have created some pieces with material Kevin Finklea sends me, and artist from Philadelphia.

The pieces have a meaning and a certain character to start with, which I like. I try to use the structure of the wood and in certain cases use it as it is. I use oil sticks. These are sticks made out of oil paint. I like to draw and not to use a brush to apply oil paint. By drawing I feel more connected with the ideas I have while starting a new piece.The combination of oil sticks, especially on the pieces of wood, cut with a chain saw, maintain their rugged character. Mostly they are adapted to a form which I find exciting. It must appear like it was no effort to create and I just unveiled it like it was always present somewhere.

In other cases, I am inspired by the color combinations and the space certain colors create when used together. This is something I always admired very much in the work of Blinky Palermo. I want to use pure color and hope to evoke an image as simple as can be. I hope that my artworks give space and freedom to the viewer. I don’t want to guide this process to much. The viewer should be able to make something out of it without knowing me.

Last Spring I was artist in residence on the Shetlands, an island group very close to Norway. I made long walks and prints on self-made paper, which I had made in my studio at home. The beaches off Shetlands are full with pieces of plastic. I made a few prints with this on the paper I had brought with me.

It seems like I have to use natural materials because off the surprise this brings me and in that way, I feel connected to Richard Tuttle who can make anything out of nothing. That’s an attitude I like very much. I am also connected with everyday life much more by the use off the wood and the pieces I find.

Kevin Finkle The following is from the website Geoform.

Pure, simple, direct. These are the guiding principles for my studio.

The wooden work resumed in October 2007 during the run of a solo show in Philadelphia. That was a show of paintings that significantly approached a state of immateriality. At that time, I was consumed by the notion that something of such great personal importance could be so easily discarded. Personal convictions seemed as fleeting and dispensable as daily weather reports: data important now, just for now, largely forgotten tomorrow.

I responded by making painted wooden objects. I needed to make things that were verifiable and tactile to counter the state I occupied. I had left object making for pure painting in the year 2000. In returning to objects, I realized the importance of making work as uninfluenced by past experience as possible. I made painted forms as directly as I could without narratives, memories or other past histories attached to the process. I realized this added the burden of expectation to the work. The pieces simply lost their fresh directness when I tried to bring something from the past into the present process. My guiding rule became: glue it, screw it and paint it.

I have little interest in geometry per se. In fact, it was my single worst subject in my math coursework. It seemed I was never able to get it right. While I am interested in pure form and color, these concerns are almost always manifested in some manner that is neither perfect nor quite right. Never square, my pieces are intentionally off balance. While my work is often seen as minimalist, I would note that I actually reject much of Minimalism’s concerns. My thinking has its’ sources in Suprematism, Neo-Plasticism, Art Concret.  Subsequently my work is heavily influenced by post-war non-objective European painting. Specifically, I would note four German artists: Blinky Palermo, Imi Knoebel, Günther Förg and Frank Badur.

Assignment: On the WRITING page of your WordPress site you are to list the following and objectively describe the work to the best of your ability. I have provided some links to the 4 artists who will be looking at your work in the near future. Most of you are familiar with the 3 types of criticism described in the PA State Standards for Art & Humanities (contextual, formal & intuitive). Even though intuitive criticism is the most common I’m not interested (at this time) in whether you personally like this work or not. You are welcome to refer to what you might read, but do not copy and paste someone else’s writing. Describe the work to me as if I have never seen it before and you don’t want to influence my judgement. You do not need to include images.

  • Jamey Hart website 
    • Richard Tuttle
  • Tom Duimstra website  (focus on his sculptural work)
    • Charles Harlan
    • Anna Fasshauer
    • Judith Scott
    • Philadelphia Wireman
  • Wilma Vissers website
    • Blinky Palermo
  • Kevin Finklea website 
    • Suprematism
    • eo-Plasticism
    • Art Concret
  • Jessica Stockholder
  • Materiality
  • Assemblage
  • Semiotics


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