"If you are any part an artist with a desire to help steer a civilization that seems to have got away from us...then you don't choose between the past and the present; you try to find the connections, you try to make one serve the other...recognizing at least parts of ourselves in the literature and history the past has left us, and find ways of bringing some of the historic self reliance and heroic virtues back into our world...which in its way is more dangerous than Comanche country every was."
Kris Kuksi is one of my new favorites, not only for his mind boggling work, but for his diversity of interests. He's really hit it with these assemblages, they're like nothing I've ever seen before. But he has other diverse interests that show he refuses to put himself in a box. They range from colorful paintings of see-through cows to photorealistic paintings of flowers. I love that these images are all by the same artist. Click to see more of Kris's work.
Understanding an artist's style is key to understanding the history of the art world, but it can also be a very misleading practice. Just when you thought you had pinned down the notable styles of the most important artists in your art history class in high school or college. Think again.
Here's a new perspective on style: Consider the careers and work of some of the most important painters in the last century: Georgia O'Keeffe, Richard Deibenkorn, Willem De Kooning, Wassily Kandinsky, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Maynard Dixon, Claude Monet, Alexander Calder, Piet Mondrian, and Robert Motherwell. There are many others, but these artists are great examples of individuals whose work evolved dramatically over time. In their minds, consistency was another word for creative stagnation. These artists are important because of their unceasing pursuit of a creative vision. They valued artistic freedom over commercial success.
Can you imagine if Vincent VanGoh painted sunflowers his whole life? Or if Claude Monet never got past his charicatures? Granted, in retrospect, these artists had common threads unifying most if not all of their artistic labors. But those threads of style were never contrived; nor were they planned. They were never based on a specific motif or brush stroke. Their style was always a natural consequence of their artistic journey, of being true to themselves and living in the moment.
Like the tracks of a coyote zigzagging around patches of sage and juniper. Style should never be the trail that you follow, but the tracks you leave behind.
The images below show how three of the greatest painters explored the coninuum of representation. On the left are representational paintings, on the right are abstract paintings, in the middle are pieces that cross between the two ends of the continuum. In some cases the abstract works are non-objective, meaning no subject other than color, line, shape, etc.
3 paintings by Georgia O'keeffe
3 paintings by Richard Diebenkorn
3 paintings by Mark Rothko