Sunday, February 12, 2012

Words from Rebecca Morris

Just this week, the Painting Department at CCA, (of which I am an indentured servant until those student loans are paid off or I die first), started our Spring Painting Lecture Series with the Los Angeles abstract painter, Rebecca Morris.  Since I was the one picking her up from the airport, I got to talk with her and have a small glimpse before the lecture of how cool, laid-back, and at ease she was with her career, her work, and herself.  It's refreshing and motivating to meet women like that, who know who they are and what they want, with out being dicks about it.  I also read a great interview with her in the new art blog, In the Make, where you can read a little for yourself about how she answers questions about her work in a similar fashion to her lecture.

During the lecture she mentioned a manifesto she had created for herself during a year long residency in Berlin.  She said during this time, painting was considered a dead zone, not to mention abstraction.  While originally for her own notes, the manifesto ended up being a call to arms for all abstractionists, and her Berlin gallery, Galerie Barbara Weiss, ran the manifesto in an ad in Art Forum.  It became infamous and people ripped it out of their magazine copies, and it eventually became a poster.  While the manifesto is titled, "For Abstractionists and Fans of the Non-Objective", it still had morsels of art wisdom for any maker, even for the most representational among us, like me.

For Abstractionists and friends of the non-objective


Don't shoot blanks

Black and Brown: that shit is the future

Triangles are your friend

Don't pretend you don't work hard

When in doubt, spray paint it gold

Perverse formalism is your god

You are greased lightening

Bring your camera everywhere

Never stop looking at macrame`, ceramics, supergraphics and suprematism

Make work that is so secret, so fantastic, so dramatically old school/new school that it looks like it was found in a shed, locked up since the 1940's

Wake up early, fear death

Whip out the masterpieces

Be out for blood

You are the master of your own universe

Abstraction never left, motherfuckers

If you can't stop, don't stop

Strive for deeper structure

Fight monomania

Campaign against the literal


I found both the manifesto and her way of talking about making things in her studio inspiring, but it also made me question what the hell I am doing in my own art practice.  Unlike Morris, I don't feel like being in my studio any time, all the time.  In my work I have to have a plan, and then I execute it.  It sort of becomes work, and not in the way artists refer to their 'work' but real work.  I'm starting to wonder if maybe I am not doing it right.  I know there are lots of different kinds of artists, and different kinds of practices, but all the painters I talk to who love being in their studio any spare minute of the day seem to be getting something different out of the process.  And I am jealous.

Morris will be showing my favorites of her paintings, the water media drawings, at Harris Lieberman Gallery in NYC on March 23-April 21, 2012.

These canvas pieces are part of her larger body of work.  The more she talked about how she made them, the more I liked them.  I liked the fact that they are oil paintings but very thin, like watercolor, and if she makes a mistake there is no painting over, only wiping away and starting over.  Also, I love the spray paint and the way nothing is exact, and all made with the honesty of her own hand.  But I still like the watercolors better, because there is something beautiful about them and these paintings are not about beauty. 

All images from Harris Lieberman's website.  I found the manifesto on a blog, so it could be wrong.

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