Maurice Says, Stop! Drop! Let’s Sink down…

Some folks don’t like too much explaining, some do. I know, I like the explaining as a poetical gloss, so spoiler alert…you don’t have to listen to my guff, just look at the picture and watch the story unfold for yourself.

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As I began making these litho and monoprint combinations in the early eighties, I had Jazz music in mind; I wanted the several instruments in a combo to exist as different modes of working visually. The B&W lithography part is realized in a slow buildup of tone. I like drawing with a rigorous fidelity to make a picture looking full of light. I am a humble supplicant at the alter of Caravaggio, whose paintings hold light like some poured-out syrup in a music of direct light, cast shadow, and reflected light. I can still bring to mind that first flash-up on the screen, Art History 101 of The Calling of St. Matthew. The bird’s head (a White Masked Boobie or Northern Gannet) was drawn on a textured aluminum plate. A slow, light-touch process. A blank was put over the printed litho on an otherwise white sheet and the plate was rolled out, over-all with the brown-green-yellow. A roll-out of purple-blue was rolled out on a separate piece of paper and the figure was cut-out and placed on the plate, the kimono-like outfit was painted with ink, lifting the brown-green-yellow with solvent, finger paint-y. The whole gizmo was run through the press. I had saved some of the purple blue all these years to make the hands, traced from my own hands. The image arrived to the NOW (2022) with the addition of my hands.

Maurice II 1983-2022 litho, monotype, paper collage, 36″ x 24″.

In my time-traveling to make this work complete, of course the person who made the original is a different person with a different sense of the world, a different sense of self. A lot of water flows under the bridge in 40+ years. Marriages, children, grandchildren, business successes and business struggles—cockamamie ideas and YES! this works. People die and are revered. A house rising from the ashes of a fire, gardens growing delicious food season after season after season…So what does Maurice have to say in this new configuration with those hands? What does he have to tell us today? When I tried to place these works in the marketplace of the early 80’s, I was told, variously, “Are you trying to break my arm?” “Have you thought about psycho-therapy?” “Are you high on something?” My goal then, and still remaining is that I am trying to paint a picture of Art. As to Maurice, I find an intellectual soft landing in the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and his idea of Eco-phenomenology: How we are connected in an eco-system of thinking.

Before we begin, some criteria for these combo-pieces created around 1981-84 (there are several more series to come) : #1, It has to be visually appealing, something you WANT to look at. #2, It must be complex enough to last into the next thought, and the next…#3, It has to spread into some narrative. #4 It has to have a philosophical baton to hand off to the next thought because thinking goes along with seeing in my book.

The figure entering the scene stage right is caught in stop motion, turning to look back…where did he come from? He is an outline which is a conceptual leap of visual faith. How can we conceive of an object with the outline alone? When learning drawing you draw the outline of a person, a vase of flowers as an exercise in “seeing”. How does the mind make sense of this? That something can be represented by its outline? This is a philosophical leap of faith in a world of doubt; that the world can be expressed in a picture of a thing, just as in our minds, how thoughts are actually pictures as we speak “our minds”. So the outline of the guy on the right is looking backwards in mid-stride going forwards. I like this doubleness, though when I drew him, it was just a simple scribble—cut out and printed onto the sheet creating a complication of meaning in that “wait-a-sec” pose. What’s he waiting for? The next thought which will arrive so Maurice can explicate…

Maurice himself is in the archetypal “stop what you are doing” posture, and hence the title. The idea is to shift from horizontal moving across the world and begin to move vertically. I know, understand and realize that there is a universal aquifer from which everyone and anyone can draw precious, soul-giving psychic water. If you don’t believe this is true, go back to the picture and write your own story, party people.

So how is this a picture of Art? Not Art, but a picture of Art. How does that work? This is where ol’ .Merleau-Ponty comes in handy. “We never get away from our life. we never see our freedom or our ideas face-to-face.” Are we making something true when we go vertical and reach for something as truly strange as the above image, trying such impossible combinations of methodology to come up with just this, executed in an instant of wrestling so many modes into an all-at-once harmony. That harmony is a picture of Art.

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