Noah Becker graciously allowed Beautiful/Decay into his Canadian studio to view his new body of work. Becker is about to open a second studio in New York this September for the fall 2012-13 art season. This is a correspondence studio visit, Beautiful/Decay requested the photos and they were provided by another photographer. Although the paintings are clearly portraits, Noah describes his newest work as figurative instead of portraiture. I recognize a few of the faces but generally the paintings aren’t obviously people we should know, and because they aren’t it follows that they can’t be portraits in the traditional meaning of a portrait of a specific person. Noah presents us with a romantic vision of elegant people, people who are good at living! Wish I was one of those, ha. Some of the folks feel like 70s’ rock stars or maybe authors from the 30s’, and I think I recognize some of Velasquez’s Spanish Renaissance princes. When asked Becker mentions “stillness and time frozen in a moment,” which is a way to talk about the strange nowness of consciousness, or possibly he’s saying the point of modern life is to be elegant in the absence of direction. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you might as well do nothing with style.
The work touches on the taboos of identity and power, reversing the post-modern formula of scientific knowledge being paired with fractured interpretation (Colbert’s truthiness), and replacing it with images of pre-science and monolithic interpretation. In other words, when you know everything it’s dangerous to announce what it means, but when you know nothing you are free to claim anything. Most art either presents us with fractured interpretations or a clear message. When asked to respond to his work Becker said, “I’m influenced by film and literature more than by other painters. These paintings are not about any specific thing, more so about a kind of mood and figures torn from their history. I wanted to make a serial group of images that resonate in a certain way.”
Spilled water jugs, paper plates, the upturned caps from spray paint cans – Becker is working with his materials in an intimate way.
I told Becker that these paintings make me feel like telling stories, and started to create a little narrative about this one. He stopped me and said that his aim was less literal and illustrational. He went on to say that the paintings are based on photos of hair models from the 70s’. Which brings us back to the frozen moment, because when I think of hair products I also think of frozen hair. Wind and movement can’t move hair that’s been sprayed with Aqua Net (that’s a kind of old school hairspray that artists used as fixatif too). Sometimes I wake up and I’m in the middle of dream where one of my friends from high school was driving too fast on a back road made from gravel and telling me about how he feels about life, these paintings capture something similar to that.
The paintings resemble sun-bleached year book photos, and play with time by pulling the faded past into the present like forgotten memories.
Becker is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of White Hot Magazine, a really great website that deals with the international art world.
I love seeing how the paintings live together. You can sort of divine Becker’s thought process when you see a bunch of them like this.