Lynda Benglis emerged decades ago as an artist breaking barriers and shifting paradigms. Pouring neon paints in exhibition spaces served not only as an action on the figure of the artist, but while these pieces created installations, the poured paint was also viewed and handled by Benglis as an object, and preserved as such. Years later her poured paint artworks are preserved and installed in their original format- which presents a transformative dynamic that the artist established.
Paint has historically been used to create imagery on a foundation- canvas, wood, paper, etc. In this common format the paint becomes an object of art only after joined with a substrate. Benglis was a forerunner in breaking away from this. Today there are a number of artists pushing forward on this notion, and breaking away further in the development of their bodies of work. Artists Linda Besemer, Margie Livingston, Ryan Peter Miller, Laura Moriarty, David Allan Peters and Leah Rosenberg all create works that demonstrate the vast spectrum with which paint as a medium has been torn from the substrate and presented conceptually and physically as a substance that can be molded.
Margie Livingston recently presented a new body of work in her solo exhibit “Objectified”at Luis De Jesus Gallery in Culver City. Having spent years casting and sculpting paint, Livingston’s portfolio demonstrates an evolved investigation into forms and space, substance and the function of the object. In her newest work she casts and sculpts acrylic paint alone into slabs that appear as wood planks, the patterning of hues reminiscent of wood grain. The wood-like planks, sheets and stumps are then used in the formation of minimalist sculpture.
Ryan Peter Miller is an artist who has feverishly and fascinatingly investigated the properties of paint for several years, challenging the formal functions of paint, its physical properties and its historical form of origin in the creation of his pieces. Miller often inserts a sardonic twist to many of his works, some of my favorites being the pieces seen below, “Fuck Paint” and “Dip Dicks (Diptych)” of his series “Ain’tings.” Miller’s work in the past year or so has become increasingly minimal, formal and conceptual; still investigating and challenging paradigms of the object and object making.
Linda Besemer’s optic artworks are an interesting representation of a hybrid of sculpture, painting and fiber works, with a strong digital aesthetic in their design. Her works are essentially two sided paintings, flawlessly and immaculately rendered in optically hypnotic geometric pattern. The paint sheets are displayed draped over aluminum rods, designs on either side lining up to create uninterrupted vanishing points. These works, in their precision, defy the fluidity and organic sense of movement that is so inherent in paint.
Leah Rosenberg’s practice of casting, pouring and sculpting paint arose from her love of baking incredibly colorful layered cakes, which she used to share in graduate school and still incorporates into her art practice. There is an intangible kind of poetry to the way Rosenberg drapes or stacks multi-colored sheets of paint. Her pieces and installations vary widely in their density and movement. The lines of the forms dance buckle and acquiesce at times, while in other pieces they seem simultaneously watery and burdened. Imbued with emotion and puzzling presentation, Rosenberg’s approach demonstrates a kind of malleability of paint in both its physical properties as well as its receptivity to emotional inference.
David Allan Peters and Laura Moriarty both use paint as a means of creating a sort of excavation in their works. While Peters’ work obviously is still on a two dimensional substrate, he casts the paint in layers to dig away, gouging into the surface in a sculptural manner, creating lines and balancing the tones underneath with a monochrome surface. Moriarty’s works are encaustic, a mixture of beeswax and pigment, that reference geological strata while drawing a parallel to the time based formation of earth and the creation of art. “While these pieces resemble scaled-down models of phenomena and features of the earth, they are more literally core samples of the act of painting, promoting innovation in the timeworn study of process and materials,” Moriarty says in a statement about her works.