Visual Art In/Visible Is Up: Support Responsible Abstraction
posted by March 26 at 10:07 AMon
Because I’m a semiotics nerd, one of my favorite pieces by LA-based artist Geoff McFetridge is a drawing of concentric rectangles with the slogan, “Support Responsible Abstraction.” When you think about it, there is a lot of irresponsible abstraction going around—you know, the kind determined to mystify some original meaning or impulse that A) may or may not really even be known to the artist, and B) may or may not be worth memorializing in paint anyway. Either way, it pushes the viewer away. What would responsible abstraction look like? McFetridge says it’s not the kind that broadcasts that it’s hoarding a secret. It gives instead of takes.
McFetridge’s background is graphic design. He studied it straight-up as an undergrad in Alberta, Canada, and then moved on to “conceptual graphics” (graphics that are well-considered but often look like crap) as a grad student at CalArts. Now, he has his own studio in Southern California, where he works both as a fine artist, making public murals, gallery pieces, and artist books, and as a commercial designer for various companies (especially skateboard and snowboard), and movies and TV (he did the titles for “The Virgin Suicides” and “Freaks and Geeks”).
His new installation in Seattle will be up at the Olympic Sculpture Pavilion for a whole year. It’s about where graphics and sculpture meet—about the imaginative transition from two dimensions to three, from flat to real, from general and iconic to specific and personal.
He hung sheets of thin plywood that he bent to look like posters with the ends curled up. They’re nailed to the wall, but swaths of blue tape and giant sculptures of tacks pretend to hold them up. One of the giant tacks has the round head of a pin, but casts the painted shadow of a mighty pushpin. It has bigger ideas for itself.
Don’t take my word for any of this; listen to the artist talk. I caught up with him while he was working at the pavilion, and we talked about responsible abstraction, pre-op transgeometrism (not a fancy word, but a condition we invented), and why he wouldn’t mind designing a cigarette commercial in Japan.
Want more? Here are two of McFetridge’s moving animations: his video of the Whitest Boy Alive song “Golden Cage”…
And an illustration he did for the New York Times Magazine’s Year in Ideas 2007…
The installation opens today.