“In art, as in painting and music, it is not a matter of reproducing or inventing forms, but of capturing forces. For this reason, no art is figurative.” That’s what Gilles Deleuze claims in The Logic of Sensation. Agreed? Abstract painting, as a distinct investigation, could be been as a set of moves by now, to be pulled off satisfactorily, brilliantly, or not. And the risk, the adventure, remains in so-called figurative painting, whatever the concept. As soon as one attempts to represent anything, the potential for humiliation is immense. This interests me, the living dangerously.
“an intersection of the observed and the created, destructive and glorious”
Angela Dufresne, On the Ice Dutch Swimsuit Parade, 2011. Oil on canvas, 24 x 30 in. Courtesy of Monya Rowe Gallery, New York.
Angela Dufresne: Yes. Living dangerously! This quote takes down the Berlin Wall between abstraction and figuration, again. Danger needs a foe, or at least a dance partner. Risk is at risk, otherwise, and then what’s the point? When I first saw your work I thought someone slipped me the tongue then gave me a slap in the face, then a good, as y’all say, “Shag!” And it was good, as the old book says. It was bodily, the way one would respond to a person you hated, or loved, or were attracted to! It was real. Like Masaccio or Neel, but wearing the armor of the mod squad methods in fat form, like flesh. Danger lies in bringing contradictory things to life; there no emotion can have dominance, or dominant theoretical sets. As Yves Klein says, “There is no truth, only honesty….” That’s where failure and humiliation become powerful. Yes, representation for me is essential.
NT: When I first encountered a painting of yours, in a group show some years ago, it literally brought tears to me eyes, not because of its subject matter, which was an intriguing issue, but its intensity, its engagement, combined with impressive fluidity and nonchalance. Hard to pull off! It was tiny, but had the fizzing EMF field of a stadium gig. Only painting can do this… and you in this instance. But let’s address content first. “Cover versions of history” is how you have identified your approach. Covers are often better than the forgotten original, or are relived, such as in ballads, for their very familiarity. Why not in painting? This makes sense at this point, and it sidesteps the tired issue of male historical authority…so they got to say it first, so what? What is your relationship to History? There’s a lot of it by now… and most of it is not ours….as women. Plus whole landscapes, ecosystems, and, of course, human civilizations, have come and gone, and will continue to do so, including us probably. Shall we relax now?
AD: I budded as an artist loving simultaneously Cindy Sherman, Dara Birnbaum, and George Bellows, Courbet, Turner, and let us not forget Judy Garland and “The Ike and Tina Review.” I love the languid, melodic lushness of “The Man Who Got Away” and the “Film Stills.” I love the reflexiveness of both, the isolation of a feeling or narrative, open, incomplete, a hole blown open in the human imagination. I also loved the performance as we observe their roles. This could be said of Courbet: Courbet as Fisherman, hunter, artist, revolutionary, perv. In this way Brecht was right, it is difficult to retell stories, one has to inhabit things that exist and lose oneself, be fully present in the role, but also always let the audience know there’s a role being played. There is battle for context in the pyre of reference, this is exquisite communication, participatory, communal, irreverent. History, not appropriated, but occupied, relived, remixed. In this sense painting can always be re-inhabited, re-imagined. Painting is an incomplete story, one that is limited by its contingencies and so in my mind needs to be ‘covered’ to be made present. There is urgency, if one is adventurous; to have a relevant emotional experience with things that occur outside of owns own experience.
AD: Over the rainbow, under the bible belt. Funny, I just read an old essay by tight-belted Milton Kramer about Turner’s paintings tying them to the beginning of modernism. The formal field of Turner’s painting is more the focus than the actually sea itself… Turner strapped himself onto a mast of some female-named ship, so that he might return to the studio and purify that experience in mark, color, and painterly light. This is a blatant re-contextualization, as Kramer admits, but there is for certain a convergence of inner and external experience, not a favoring but the using of materiality. This interests me – an intersection of the observed and the created, destructive and glorious. Being raised in Kansas made me hungry for deluge and destruction, or at least a serious rupture of normalcy. Nature in Kansas was compartmentalized to 3 corporate farms, and the untamable storms, which were my wild BFF’s. When I paint a monstrous sky it’s similar to your experience of watching non-juried decisions, I am liberated, what I am painting is urgent, necessary.