From the “closed-due-to-pandemic” exhibition In SITU.
Back in 2014, I gave a lecture entitled He Left Paper Trail: Core, Subject and Object Matter. It was a review of my themes, processes and media spanning about 40 years. When I was putting the lecture together I was shocked that with all the iterations my work went through from the visual arts, to performance, to theater, to writing and back to the visual arts, its core never changed. I was literally following in my own footsteps.
The starting point was place. From the Dakota plains, to the foothills of Colorado, to the urban density of NYC and Boston, to the delta of Arkansas, place affected my work. For some reason, I have never felt comfortable in any of those places and have always been skeptical that there was a firm foundation under my feet. I am aware that my concerns are both earnest and comedic. So my work is an exploration of what happens in this particular environment with this particular character. I approach my work, then, as I did when I directed plays: what kind of piece of business will occur. Sometimes it’s a serious metaphysical statement about power or lack of power or meaning and purpose; other times it’s pure vaudeville.
My characters inhabit, in Situ, an environment that is more stage set than real, uncanny spaces–unstable, filled with erasures and pentimento where correspondences, references, signs and symbols are buried within charcoal like so many pixels. Even before 2002, when I first exhibited at Koplin Del Rio, I identified with a solitary character that dug, collected, prodded, pondered in some kind of environment–exterior or interior–and persevered no matter how absurd that action may be.
Place, at the beginning of the 2020s, is ambiguous. On-line, we inhabit places of symbols and memes, and, off-line, a world on fire, dangerous and desperate. My drawings are my footsteps through those spaces, traced and re-traced, as the symbols, memes, and dangers change through time and culture, but my effort to understand our place in them continues.