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Power And The Language Of Abstraction

The language of abstraction can address a model of the universe that’s slippery and fluid; exquisitely accurate and irreducible on the one hand but inconceivably colossal on the other. We live in a world wherein the smallest stuff is neither energy nor matter—and yet both. Abstraction can allude to the conceptually unwieldy intersection of these disparate realities like no other visual language.

Abstraction, because it is so conceptually wide open, is relevant to art now because we live in a world which increasingly defies codification. Abstraction can be broad while also intimate. As visual language, it references the known while simultaneously alluding to the unknown. While abstraction can be a viewed in a formal sense, without any other references or associations, it can also be something that takes you elsewhere—if the work provides and you let it. Abstraction can call to the surface very deep-seated unconscious experiences. I’m gonna brag here a little to make a point: This story is about an ‘explosively powerful’ painting: a painting that threw a man in the air like a land mine.

A while back, I was painting large abstracted vortices that suggested a kind of light pouring through them. A WWII vet saw one of my paintings and literally fell backwards. When a friend came to help him up and asked him if he was alright, he staggered to his feet and said, “yeah, I’m okay. It’s just that that painting was an experience I had in the war.” The man’s friend said to me later, “you are one powerful painter!” True story.