Saturday, November 10, 2007

Steven LaRose: portraits or landscapes from the uncanny mist


The paintings have a quiet Zen-like presence. They are not spectacular, radiant, theatrical, or lustful desirous objects, but instead possess a subtle and poetic beauty-one that would be easy to miss in the constantly moving image stream of todays artworld. Mostly they remind me of European art between the Wars..the short lived and nearly forgotten movement known as Tachisme, or l'art informel-perhaps as washy liquid acrylic minimal offspring of the work of Otto Wolfgang Schulze(a.k.a. Wols). But unlike Wols who propped his paintings against the Existentialist rhetoric of Sartre and died apocalyptically young from tainted horsemeat, Steven LaRose offers no theoretical polemic or tragic romantic persona for us to frame his activities. In fact he offers very little of the sort of knowing and affected context that has become de rigueur for entre into the elite pocket of what is considered "important" art 'round these parts.

What we get instead is something much more interesting and fresh, something that could've only come from a place outside of Los Angeles, outside of the grinding and ferocious tumult of professionalism that so quickly can turn the creative impulse into one more McProduct , replacing what was once candid and hopeful with the dour and cynical mannerisms of ironic nihilism. I've never been to Ashland Oregon, but a quick search on the internet filled my imagination with visions of a lush and verdant arcadia full of rolling hills, free-spirited hippie chicks, and old timers smoking pipes outside the General Store. I form a picture of a late summer evening in some sort of amphitheatre where crowds are happily lounging in the cool grass as live New Age sitar fusion music floats over the gathering while free-loving all natural nymphs surround me on a hemp picnic blanket. A winsome Castillian beauty with flowers in her hair leans towards me with a lump of sugar placed between her full lips...
Ashland, Oregon
nude protest in Ashland
So it might be that the Ashland that I have invented in my mind bears little or no resemblance to the actual, but what is important is that Ashland is NOT Los Angeles. Steven said that he started blogging to connect to a group of peers, a community that was larger than the very small handful of likeminded souls that have decamped in said mountain town. This is why I'm even writing this post, because it was through this serendipitous process that somehow we came to each others attention. But despite this connectedness, his work, or his motivations and reasons for making it remain pure of spirit-unsullied by the cold mechanistic forces that might've ripped his project to shreds if it had tried to emerge in this environment.


It is the genuine belief in the creative urge that one is left with after immersion in this world. The very simple act of dropping some paint on a panel and moving it around is in fact a truly exciting and revelatory process which we are in constant danger of forgetting. No marks are completely intentional or unintentional, no forms can be replicated. Out of this field of contingencies, the artist loosely orchestrates the emergence of a composition.- a taxonomy of coincidence. The Uncanny Mist is neither representational nor abstract, neither portrait nor landscape. It is open to all of these possibilities, a plenum of choices, a union of opposites. In the Mist the words "man" and "nature" dissolve into meaningless syntactical constructs and we begin to see the ground of being emerge unadorned by linguistic hallucinations.





Later as my class was reading reviews and eating pizza at a nearby restaurant we started to talk about Steven and how much he seemed to resemble his art-how it was impossible to separate one from the other, and how his enthusiasm and excitement were gleefully contagious leaving us all with a smile and feeling of discovery. One of them observed: "I really like that guy- he didn't seem like he was trying to impress us. He was just being himself."

"You know he's not from LA," I reminded them.

"Oh- no wonder."






Steven LaRose: portraits or landscapes from the uncanny mist

28 comments:

Jacques de Beaufort said...

thanks for the talk Steven
you and your show rock hard!!!

Steven LaRose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle said...

I love the camaraderie!

harold hollingsworth said...

well put Jacques, and glad that you got a chance to meet Steve, and vice versa, he's what we like to call in these parts, contagious, in a very good way! A battery charger!

Helquin said...

Very cool. This is the best riff yet on the Steven LaRose Experience... but I'm a sucker for anyone who smacks down Takashi Murakami with an offhand reference to "McProduct" and still manages a plug for Tachisme. :-)

CAP said...

The photo of Steve with the two B&W paintings is the only one I've seen that had a strong feeling of landscape (especially Chinese) to it.

Thinking of them as portraits or landscapes struck me as strange - no 'pure' abstraction, Jacques?

I agree with the Tachiste call - Wols (who also took interesting photos)and lots of guys like Jean Bazaine and Willi Baumeister - that you can only find in old Michel Seuphor's A Dictionary of Abstract Painting these days.

I still think this stuff is due a revisit - existentialism or no - there is this other side to abstraction that just got swept under the carpet by Greenberg and The New York School advocates.

I can't believe LA is as hostile to these ideas as you say, Jacques. But I take it you're there and I'm not.

Jacques de Beaufort said...

The LA art reviewer who wrote up the show basically said that it was to happy and fun, and that there wasn't enough cool distance and art world knowingness for him to be interested. Whether one critic can wave the hostility flag for the entire scene, I'm not sure, but it certainly seems that the critics here, and there about 4 or 5, all have their own agenda, and most are interested in other things. There are really no visionary art writers in LA right now, but I suppose that's emblematic of a larger eschatological malaise. Transcendent visions are contingent upon dynamic social tension, which we may be very soon entering into. In this case very little of what is currently considered "important" will even be remembered in 20 years.

CAP said...

Oh yeah the 'social dynamics' are building alright and I don't think we're talking about just a change in administration. I think the kind of crisis we're approaching is on a global scale.

But armagedon apart, I thought the LA gallery scene was supposed to pretty healthy - well if not exactly healthy, at least plentiful?

Dud critics go with the territory, but the bottom line is venues and an audience, maybe supporters. The fact that the critics take a shallow view of Steve's stuff only shows he's on a right track to me.

Doing the spadework on that approach - like the link to Tachisme (even existentialism - although to me that's optional) should be where you can get some leverage from/by the critics. I don't think it lessens the work in any way to be aware of the art history at stake. Actually it should up the stakes, call the critics on their timid and conservative loyalties.

Jacques de Beaufort said...

the LA art scene is healthy for all I know...

but it's also in a highly sequestered and rarefied world that is not very in touch with reality.

not sure if you caught me recent essay about getting in touch with reality:
http://jacquesdebeaufort.blogspot.com/2008/05/childhoods-end-practice-of-art-in-post.html

it's extreme and I don't even know if I agree with myself

CAP said...

Yeah it's out there. Can't think of anything constructive to say although I agree, these ARE the issues.

sexleksaker said...

many thanks!

Stairlifts said...

Creative..highly creative. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pics. Please let me know about your next show.

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serrurier paris said...

Pensée d'entre eux que des portraits ou des paysages frappé moi aussi étrange - pas une abstraction «pure», Jacques ? Je suis d'accord avec l'appel de tachistes - Wols (qui a également pris des photos intéressantes) et beaucoup de gars comme Jean Bazaine et Willi Baumeister - que vous ne pouvez trouver dans de vieux Michel Seuphor Un Dictionnaire de la peinture abstraite .
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