A persistent fascination with the kinetic, transitional aspects of the built environment generated the drawings and mixed media pieces in Galleries I and II. I've long been seduced, visually and emotionally, by the linked processes of construction and demolition, which are at times indistinguishable to the naked eye. While my earliest work focussed on the built structures themselves - ancient walls, castles, and fortresses - in more recent work the light has been trained on earth moving equipment and construction site debris. The primary drawing medium remains graphite and the point of departure camera images of places I've passed through again and again, on foot, on bicycle, in car, bus, or train. In fact, the pieces are distilled and/or composite depictions of sites so frequently encountered that they've become internalized "constants" on my mental terrain.
Much of the technique and compositional format in work of the past 20 years reflects the impact of exposure I had to Japanese aesthetic norms in art, craft, and architecture during a year's experience living and working in Tokyo (1986-1987). During that 12-month period, I observed, considered what I observed, and photographed far more than I actually worked in my small Matsubara studio, especially during the first few months of the stay. Although I'm by no means a sumi-e painter or Asian calligrapher, I do intend the poured graphite and conte-infused solvent washes in the pieces to suggest the fluid quality of Japanese ink painting. Indeed, I walk a zig-zag path in my studio experience, oscillating between traditional, methodical rendering and the greater spontaneity of pouring solvent through powdered medium. My objective is a visual symbiosis between the two techniques. It seems helpful to add here that a 7-year immersion in lithography and etching predated the transformative year in Japan. While my printmaking days are long gone, I'm nonetheless bent on creating work that manifests the "look" of the granular tusche wash and velvety blacks of lithography, as well as the tonal subtleties made possible by the aquatint process in etching.
Since 1992 and a 3-week residency at MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, I've been bringing more than graphite, conte, and turpenoid washes to the picture plane. The photos that have always served as reference material for the images are now themselves incorporated in the final piece. The incorporation procedure was initially an uneasy one. At MacDowell, I lit on a strategy that permitted the integration of a second level of image in a finished (or nearly finished) drawing: I literally lit a match and burned a hole in the paper. This horrifying event created an aperture with a ragged edge that could serve as a window into a second visual reality. Subsequently, I covered the aperture with a tinted, transparent Plexiglas "pane", so that the second image layer, usually a photographic fragment, would seem faded and remote. There is no doubt that I'm a filmmaker manque and the haunting quality of a "fade" or "flashback" is what I'm after.
The installation "Tokyo/Upsurge" (Gallery II) seeks to recreate the charged quality of Tokyo life as I discovered it during my stay. As many will recall, the year fell in a boom period for Japan, both economically and culturally. Elements of the equipment discussed earlier operate as metaphor for urban growth and change; photographs of dazzling department store window displays, secreted behind Plexi panes or immured in Plexi boxes, signify the omnipresent consumer Mecca, one manifestation of the surge of industrial and mercantile energy defining post-war Japan to the West in the mid-1980's. When the installation is complete, the lean, vertical pieces will hopefully combine to express the high-voltage "otherness" of the Tokyo cityscape for stunned Westerners.