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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Art Is Art and Life Is Life

posted by on January 9 at 9:30 AM

That’s what Ad Reinhardt, painter of deep black canvases, wrote was “the one thing to say about art and life.” Seattle’s best advocate of art for art’s sake is Jeffrey Simmons, a painter whose watercolors slay me.

They just seem physically impossible. I don’t know how he does this with watercolor. The control is superhuman; they’re as precise as if they were made in wet concrete. (It scares me a little.)

At the same time, they’re vulnerable, unlike Simmons’s abstractions in acrylic or coated in resin. The fact that all this fine-toned achievement will fade, however subtly, is unthinkable. Yet the fuzzy planes of color in the watercolors look like they’re disappearing, hovering the way only paint made from water can, and interrupted by subtle light splotches, as if errant fingerprints have stolen away a little color already.

A color theorist might have a field day with these. Not being one, I’m inspired to devotion instead. Art like this doesn’t need life; it’s the other way around.

Below is Sift, made in 2007. It’s well worth seeing in person, along with six other Simmons watercolors, in the group show Unexpected Watercolors at Seattle U’s Lee Center. Closes this Saturday (hours are 1:30 to 6 pm daily until then).

Photo courtesy the artist and Greg Kucera Gallery

RSS icon Comments


damn that's beautiful.

Posted by NaFun | January 9, 2008 9:47 AM

Thanks for posting something other than half-baked (or fully baked, in one sense) political analysis. Looks like a good show!

Posted by amocat | January 9, 2008 9:57 AM

i've walked by that show a dozen times and those watercolors have made me stop, or at least caused a lingering glance from me each time. like a rothko, the way the color vibrates in your eye is best experienced in person.

Posted by boxofbirds | January 9, 2008 10:01 AM

I'm pretty damn sure that I have been cutting that guy's hair, for a while now. Genius at my fingertips?

Posted by violet black | January 9, 2008 10:02 AM

before the advent of design-by-computering, students learned to mix watercolor and paint like this. Most of us received passing grades. It took time, practice, and patience...where did those three things go?

Posted by color theory 101 | January 9, 2008 10:08 AM

boxofbirds, did you see the John James Audabon exhibit at MOHAI? Amazing stuff, very in tune with comment 5.

Posted by GrMkLSk | January 9, 2008 10:14 AM

These are indeed arresting -- I can't reconcile how I feel about the fingerprints, though. Are they a window into the humanity of the art(ist), or laziness?

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | January 9, 2008 10:31 AM

Laziness? Go see it in person, stare half in awe, half in stupified and stumped calculation of just how long this painting probably took to make and then re-evaluate you comment. In all non-snarky seriousness, it and some of his others should really be seen in the flesh.

Posted by jamey | January 9, 2008 11:27 PM

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