The Grid Project – Part Deux – Inspiration

The Grid Project – Part Deux – Inspiration

Inspiration in my work often comes from the most mundane things. Before visiting my brother in Maryland, I received a text from him with this picture:

My brother moved this television from  Florida to his new home and it was damaged on the way. He could still turn it on and off, but all he got were pixilated lines and roving colors across the screen. I told him not to throw it out until I saw it.

For three nights I photographed this screen using my Sony Mirrorless R7 camera, my iphone and my brother’s Canon.  I didn’t have a tripod with me, so my brother lent me his ancient one — the sort where you let eveything flop into place and then you don’t touch it for fear that it will fall over.

The screen was, in deed, crushed. You can see the damage in the upper part of the TV. Since the television was flashing and lines of color were moving across the screen, I wasn’t sure quite what I would capture in a photograph. I expected halos of light, blurry areas due to unstable tripod and shooting free hand. In fact, I wasn’t sure I would get anything.

I took hundreds of photos. Eight hundred, in fact. Each night I would go through them to see what might work and then used that as a guide as to what to photograph the next night.

As I looked at the photographs their connection to mid-Century Modernist painters of lines and grids was obvious. But as I have written elsewhere, each artist used the stripe differently. The subject, application, meaning and outcome were different in each case. You have Noland’s horizontal formalist stripes, Riley’s black and white op-art stripes, Barnett Newman’s “zips”, Gene Davis, Frank Stella, and Ellsworth Kelly, But I sensed something different in these photographs of the television screen, here the grid seems like a cross between Agnes Martin and Rothko.  The modulated light in the background appears to be like atmosphere or weather. It was moody and the stripes punctuate that mood. The photos felt spiritual to me, as though we could walk thorugh them into another world. I think that that feeling came, in part, because the light eminated from the television.

"Breath", 19 inches x 34 inches, archival inkjet print, © Leslie Parke 2018

“Breath”, 19 inches x 34 inches, archival inkjet print, © Leslie Parke 2018

When deciding which photographs to print, I always consider how the ink works. To me, the printer is another painting tool. There are things it can do well, such as creating a super dense black, and other things that do not work well in this medium. For example, today, while printing with Michael Williams, artist, former assistant to Ken Noland and my printer, I wanted to do a print that was predonimantly dark values on one side and white on the other. Printers don’t actually print white, White is created by the absense of ink — as in watercolors, white is the paper showing through. With so much white in this photo, it would just look like there was nothing there.

What felt like a thing is the original photograph, is nothing in the printed version. But other things, like an infinitely modulated gray background with precisely rendered colored lines looks great.

"Fields in Fog", 25 inches x 34 inches, archival inkjet print, © Leslie Parke 2018

“Fields in Fog”, 25 inches x 34 inches, archival inkjet print, © Leslie Parke 2018

David Smith and the Road Home

1965 February, appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the National Council on the Arts. May 23, injured in an automobile crash near Bennington, Vermont. He dies that night. [This is from the chronology on the Estate of David Smith website.]

In the 1970s when I attended Bennington College, I remember hearing stories about the death of David Smith. As I heard it, he left a party at Ken Noland’s. After stopping suddenly, some metal from his sculpture that was in the back of his truck slid forward and hit him in the head. I don’t know if this story is accurate. But tonight I was wondering, what sculpture killed David Smith? But, perhaps a better question would be, did sculpture kill David Smith?

I asked a friend, who was around at the time, what he remembered of the incident, and this is what he told me:

 

He was going from Noland’s to the college & it was said at the time that a piece of angle iron hit him in the back of the head but more recently some researchers have said the hospital reports disputed this. The impact alone may have done it–no seatbelt of course. I never heard that it might have been a sculpture.

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