Making Myth with Aaron Wrinkle, or The Studio Visit
Stepping into the light of Aaron Wrinkle’s Chinatown studio (on July 28) I became aware just how much work he has been doing since my first visit 0n April 5. At that time he was preparing for “3348 Hours of Sunshine” at Clifton Benevento, and for the “Greater LA in NY” show.
My own cryptic notes tell me that we discussed (as an example of immersive, sensory experience w/paintings) Mike Kelley’s history portrait corridor piece that is often on view at MOCA Geffen; (in relation to Rodney Graham’s portraits) Roman Opalka’s custom of photographing himself at the completion of each painting, with the photo meant to accompany the painting; and I related to Wrinkle a possibly apocryphal story I remember reading in my youth about, “This English historian (who) told that Pete Townshend and the Who wrote their opera Tommy using the theme of pinball because one of the influential critics at the time was a freak about the game. They wanted to guarantee a hit. I guess it was a pretty tight (and all young) scene back then. Interestingly to me that this historian drew quite a definite distinction btwn “rock music” (about which I had supposed I was reading) and “Pop” music, with the Who and others falling into the Pop category.”
In the same email from which I draw my notes, I acknowledge to Aaron that, “I guess I really value possible apocrypha, and also having a look into the granularity and specificity of an era – before the more generalized “History” washes all the details away and makes up its own story. One example of that experience (and of possible apocrypha-making) for me is the story above – another, more recent one would be my visit with you last night and how the talking and looking and my own writing deepens and extends my ongoing Aaron Wrinkle narrative.”
What follows is a Q & A format dialogue that grew out of our visits, or it might be a continuation of my mythologizing of Aaron Wrinkle.
Hmm. Also, perhaps Wrinkle is making use of me to further his own myth-making….
Your studio was full of objects yesterday: completed paintings, parts of paintings, found bits and scraps from past projects that you told me may enter into future paintings and sculptures. In the first room of your studio, you present your colorful paintings in manner that felt quite purposefully reminiscent of an 18th century ‘artist’s salon’ to which members of the Academy might be invited to preview new work in advance of the works’ more public display.
In fact you spoke at length about Display and Presentation and how your paintings can investigate and challenge the received strategies for both in our contemporary art world.
It seemed that within the larger body of work were present several sub-bodies: in a few painted sketches you illustrated people performing in front of works of art – a nearly naked woman wearing a mini-dress, a waiter who has dropped a tray of glasses–and his pants, etc. Your notion of public performance and works of art was helped along when you found a copy of Philippe Halsman’s famous photo of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor jumping out of their shoes among their objets d’art.
And since you mentioned wanting your works of art to serve as props, eg. in a performance, and yet you insist on their double identity as works of art – this is a good place to start.
Hmm. I need to clear my head. A prop is a stand in, part of a stage or film set. It will represent for us an unavailable original. Actors move around props and they interact with them. I guess also that props may become actors in a drama and it is perhaps from this ability that contemporary artists draw ideas; and maybe from the tension btwn the inert and active potentials. There’s been a history of artists using props in their work to comment on ways that culture places value and perhaps to question the veracity of the artwork-or lack thereof.
In another direction, have you read the Art in America article on Provisional Painting? Raphael Rubenstein, 2009. The article was much in discussion at a recent Talk on Painting at Mandrake. I mention it not in connection w your paintings, which seem to me not focused on contingency, but rather I see your approach to an art practice itself as provisional, and this interests me. Your Dan Graham project may have had much in common w Brian Kennon’s fan-based art practice: the space both did and did not function as an artwork, as Aaron Wrinkle’s artwork. Your authorship and your intent became wonderfully lost among the actions of your appreciation of Graham and your celebration of artists whom you admire.
Similarly, you state that your website “Is not a record of completed projects,” nor are the projects which you image on the site “planned or some-day” works of art. Instead we are to accept the contents of your site as completed works – works may exist in other forms in the future. To me all of this reeks of the provisional: I must accept, I need to trust the less than entire to be sufficient, and in exchange… what? To me this feels like a childhood game of play along – and as such may have great value.
I’ll begin by answering in regards to the prop/art at once question. (As an aside, I am currently in some sort of romance with my art. I don’t know…)
Some of the paintings such as the woman and waiter are studies for performances to occur in a gallery while other paintings serve as props for their own documentation in conjunction w/ a performance that will be an exhibition presenting these paintings. I think the best way to articulate this is from my past performances in grad school and my guitar performances. Here I used and use objects to perform w/ and have always considered the objects dealt w/ as props. Artists I’ve always referred to in regards to performance props are Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley or now Rodney Graham in more recent performance or staged documentation. A lot of the time my pieces aren’t documented so this new project I’m working on is me actually trying to allow the work to grow and be more responsible and encouraging with the content’s potential. I think the difference w/ these works and the artists mentioned will be very apparent, but I’m interested in locating context for the work to expose any differences or similarities of ideas in performance, documentation and art making in general.
Overall, I think the work will address painting’s relationship to performance more than the artists mentioned as they have primarily used props sculpturally. Also, I’m not referring to the Pollock logic of performance here, but a painting itself and its ability to be part of a performance through the very act of being viewed and documented. Although Graham has played the painter in documentation and has exhibited paintings and documentation his works aren’t articulated specifically to the context of these things being documented as part of a performance w/in a gallery, but rather w/in a studio. McCarthy’s performances were however documented in art venues and most know of the famous Painter video work. My relationship to Kelley’s work is more personal in regards to my education and mid-western upbringing. A major difference is I’m stepping out of the performance at least w/ in the gallery by replacing the artist as performer by planting performers and having the general public sign and agree to participate and be documented.
The promotional image of me as a painter on a sofa is an exception and basically acts as a study and acknowledgement of the connection to Rodney Graham’s works, which will hopefully evolve. One thing I haven’t really talked about is the importance of whatever gallery facilitates the work. The gallery will be very significant because it will locate the project. Meaning it will be documented there and the documentation will be shown there and so on and so on. Of course then the idea would be to present the originals and new performances in other galleries or museums and document them similarly. I support the exchange of the work being presented in other contexts such as a collector’s home or another gallery context and those instances will be documented as well if appropriate. I’m basically creating artworks that will be documented for future presentations and letting the work make itself. This doesn’t mean I won’t continue making paintings because I think I’ve finally returned to it and got over my trauma from CalArts. I don’t anticipate departing from it again.
If anyone out there is struggling I say make a painting now.
In regards to the common understanding of props they are used in their specific contexts-i.e cinema, commercials etc. Artists like Alex Israel and Kathryn Andrews have re-contextualized these kinds of props into the art context very well. They make art from props whereas here I’m making props from and for art. I relate my viewing of props to site specificity. What I mean is my props originate from the context of art not cinema. A cinema prop is only specific to cinema when it exists in that context. Their artworks come from somewhere else. Neither is a better practice, it just seems important to acknowledge that a prop can mean something entirely different in terms of where it originates and is presented contextually. One could argue the ready made logic places the cinema props already into art, but that word seems to have been replaced lately w/ prop itself. If I was to connect both ways of working I’d say that all art acts as some kind of a prop.
I have to disagree about the gallery project pertaining to fandom. I can say for me the Dan Graham project had a lot to do w/ my relationship to Michael Asher’s practice and the relationship of his and Dan’s work to Flavin mainly in regards to acknowledging a space for what it contains- lights, walls, viewers etc. I’m also more interested in exposing the positive aspects of Michael’s practice rather than the negative connotations associated to it under Institutional Critique. There are obvious reasons why it was easier for me to name it after Dan, but mostly it challenged me to break away from my education and also navigated the notion of naming something after yourself which most galleries do. There’s a big difference is being negative or critical of something and just acknowledging or commenting on something specifically. When Dan came out to the fair it solved an issue for me. The issue being to make a work that was both context and content specific. Basically, I was aiming to make the most specific artwork possible. It helped that I had a lot of artist’s and the community’s support w/ this.
So now you, Aaron Wrinkle, who earned or had imposed on you a post-object rep, you are making objects. As in paintings. And you have developed a romantic relationship with these paintings, or perhaps the romance is with the bigger performance? Can you remind me of your thinking on the possible prop-hood of your paintings? And what of the viewers who become actors in the presence of the paintings say, at an exhibition. Do these viewers also become props?
I’m not in love w/ my practice, but I am using romance to facilitate my current work as I think it contributes to a studio practice and lifestyle that’s liberating emotionally.
I’ve kind of been self conscious about people thinking I don’t make things anymore so it’s been important for me to think and work this way.
There are direct relationships to love though, specifically in the sexual figurative abstract works, the love paintings and nature scenes, but my main concern is with the paintings object hood in regards to where their overall aesthetic appearance comes from historically. So a lot of the subject matter pertains to motifs of impressionism, modernist abstraction, figurative painting and more recent modernist collage fads. So the paintings come from a context that has happened or is already happening and the personal narratives are my own deal somewhat, but also there to signify an overall projection of desire. The other main interest is in how they are read once they’re in a gallery or museum context. I guess this relates to the viewers engagement w/ them and how viewership can be romantic also. This is where I think current use of props in art can be talked about. I said in our visit that I think all art is a prop. I still think this is the case. This can steer our conversation on painting into where and what they’re really being made for; a performance arena, which I guess could also tie it back to the bedroom or studio.
END, PART THE FIRST
In our next installment, the redoubtable Aaron Wrinkle will respond to the few questions above that he has left hanging, eg. the language of his painting, and I think he’ll need to discuss the work of Yves Klein in relation to his use of artist/performer/lover drag.
Yours as always,
Geoff Tuck, in my own 19th century Charles Dickens drag, posting on the installment plan, Enjoy and come back soon!
Aaron Wrinkle, preamble – Friday Night Party and Performance, or “It is all about Aaron Wrinkle”
Aaron Wrinkle, part one – Making Myth with Aaron Wrinkle, or The Studio Visit
Aaron Wrinkle, part two – I went to a garden party
Aaron Wrinkle, part three – News from “right back at you Aaron”