Aaron taught one of my classes last year, when I was a post-bac, called Art of the Street. It was a political/postering/propaganda class, half art history and half print studio. The Halo/Wikileaks (also seen on Boing Boing and Kotaku) and Assange/Biggie work I did last year was either an assignment for his class or in response to issues brought up in his class.
The semester after I studied with Aaron, I worked with some modernist painter types who had a huge aversion to propaganda or anything political. They wanted to look at work from a purely formal perspective, even if that ended up destroying the framework that would allow someone to understand a reference to, for example, the Halo heads-up-display. This feedback, while frustrating at first, ended up pushing me into some new territory in which I made some great work that I’m still very invested in and very proud of.
So it was great to circle back with Aaron and see what he thought of the work I’d done in the time since our class together. He was very sympathetic to the roadblocks I’d run into, and he encouraged me to always have side projects like political or propaganda work to noodle around on.
In response to my new work, Aaron thought I should look at Tauba Aurbach, which was great because that was someone who Eamon Ore-Giron suggested I look at when he visited my studio a few weeks ago. Aaron also thought I should spend some time getting to know the work of Olafur Eliasson. I stumbled across Eliasson recently while reading Lawrence Weschler’s great book on Robert Irwin, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees. It was excellent to have that feedback re-iterated.
Aaron also encouraged me to spend some time reading up on the history of conceptual art. While he was an MFA student he’d taken a class in conceptual art history. He hadn’t necessarily liked everything he came across, and he didn’t see himself as a “conceptual artist” in the 80s sense of the term, but he did find the experience to be valuable to his own work.
Perhaps the most useful feedback I got from Aaron was to try to focus on the effect that my work has on viewers. I’ve struggled to explain the relationship between the images in my work, the process that I’ve used to develop of the work, and the concept that I want to bring across. Often, my concepts are intertwined with process explorations, just figuring out new was of doing shit. Printmaking is a very process-driven artform. I feel like there’s a very natural affinity between printmaking process and technological development, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I gravitate towards technological explorations in printmaking. It’s exciting work, like writing code to get my laptop to do something that it’s never done before. But then I run into the problem of what to depict in the imagery of my work. I’ve done a series of portraits of loved ones, trying to deflect interpretation by invoking Chuck Close. I’ve also tried to experiment with abstraction and landscape. None of these feel very natural to me, and I continue to have to fight off attacks from profs and other students who want me to justify my work in terms of portraiture or whatever.
Aaron suggested that rather than continuing to search for a good set of image vocabulary to express my ideas, instead that I should consider focussing on what feeling or effect I want to have on viewers. He suggested I visit the Audium and experience how they modulate space with sound, and that I think about making a site-specific piece that tries to respond to a particular location, even a particular room.