Weathersby comments: "There is a certain territory that I’ve been involved in for eight or nine years, to do with reshuffling the given parts of painting. By 'given parts' I mean the wooden stretcher, the canvas or linen, the paint film, staples or hardware—the things paintings are generally made of. I’m always looking for a kind of de-stabilization of what those parts normally do. It’s a process of looking for a way to open up a space where I could work with the usual ingredients, but to different ends from what I think of as 'regular painting.'"
Mostafa Heddaya reviews works by Ken Weathersby on view in the group show Off the Wall at Parallel Art Space, Ridgewood, Queens, New York through March 23, 2014.
Heddaya writes: "From the outside, Weathersby’s pieces straddle the clinical geometry of Op art and the organic architectural character of traditional room dividers and panels, like the Arab mashrabeya or the Japanese screen, and are unobtrusive, orderly, suggestive even of a painterly monasticism... Ken Weathersby is certainly not the first artist to have manipulated painting and denotation, or desecrated the ever-cooling corpse of canvas — the project has a distinctly vintage, Black Mountain College feel to it — but there is a focused and exploratory energy at work in his pieces, a maturity of purpose that stands at ascetic remove from the cloying color and sloppy corporeality that too often comes to the fore in Bushwick."
James Kalm visits the exhibition Linda Francis, John O'Connor, Ken Weathersby at Suite 217, Bushwick, Brooklyn, on view through July 15, 2013.
Kalm notes that the three artists are "some of today's most 'obsessed' pattern followers and list makers." In the exhibition essay, Michele Alpern writes: "The exhibition that joins works by Linda Francis, John O’Connor, and Ken Weathersby similarly makes me think about how artists can have a critical relationship to the near-omnipresent forces of the commodity market, in a culture of capital that has expanded even further over the past few decades. The artworks here provoke questions about the flow of capital exchange that seems to saturate every aspect of our lives." Read the full essay here.
Arena rock power chords stir memories of Neo-Expressionist paintings for painter Ken Weathersby.
Weathersby writes: "As there is something signaling excess, even hinting at chaos in an overdriven distorted guitar on the edge of feedback, so there is in the touch of a gigantic brush dripping with a giant blob of mottled oil color. Each contains potential worlds within itself-- and each can present a virtuosic dishing out of monumental forms, fat floating slabs for the ears or the eyes. In both cases the expression is a presumption of intensity and power deployed. In both cases the awareness of the touch of a creating hand invites one to identify and emulate by miming a swinging gesture of a brush, or a thrash at an air guitar. It’s a seductive image of mastery, full of grandiosity."
Bromirski's photographs document Weathersby's process as described by Chris Ashley: "At a quick glance, his images are of a type one might expect to be manufactured, but instead we see that every single aspect of the work is handcrafted, from the elaborate stretchers and framing, to the taped and painted areas, to the surface cuts and insertions. Materially and structurally, he makes plain how the object is made, but there is often a sense of peekaboo or sleight of hand in the layers, displacement, and disruption of image and spaces. One would expect the use of the grid and checkerboard to lead to stability, but more often than not these normally regular fields are set ajar, slid apart, flipped open, broken, or misaligned. This is not art that panders, but rather insists that we engage by visually assembling, disassembling, and reassembling each work’s constituent parts in order to see, experience, and understand a holistic image and object. This is one way that Weathersby’s art extends painting’s possibilities."
Ken Weathersby, Time Is the Diamond, 2011, wood, linen, acrylic, paper collage, small works on wood shelves, from 2.5 to 8 inches tall (courtesy of the artist)
Expanding the visual field is one of the essential innovations of the New York School. This innovation redefined scale in painting so decisively that subsequent movements including Color Field, Pop, Minimalism, and even installation art all adopted it without question. Yet, while nearly every other aspect of abstract painting has been exhaustively investigated and re-imagined, examples of focusing the field to a small scale have been isolated and few. Miniature abstract paintings are almost non-existent.
My first encounters with Abstract Expressionism’s signature expansiveness, in works by de Kooning and Rothko, made me want to be an abstract painter and convinced me that scale was a crucial component of the language of abstract painting. For a over a decade, I painted almost exclusively on a large scale, until circumstances forced me to radically scale down my work.
I moved from a large studio upstate to a small Manhattan apartment that functioned as both a studio and a home for my family. The change was fortuitous, though, for it opened my eyes to new painting problems. Instead of rehashing the problem of creating an intimate experience from immense scale, I concerned myself with preserving that immensity on an intimate scale. At first, a two foot square painting felt like a postage stamp to me, an impossibly small area. Ten years later, many of my works measure only 4 x 5 inches.
Recently, it’s been a pleasure to discover other painters - Sarah McNulty, Kazimira Rachfal, Dan Roach, Henry Samelson, Altoon Sultan, and Ken Weathersby - equally invested in small, even miniature scale abstraction. Though sharing a similar format, each artist challenges and extends the language of abstract painting in a different way. These painters use scale not as a commentary, but rather to push the boundaries of gestural abstraction, site-specific painting, materials, and process while forging fresh connections with painting’s past.
Como writes: "The particular tropes in place that I find fascinating are the overabundance of structure and support creating a tension between finished surface and a rigid yet organic outgrowth of materiality, all used in a format which reinforces what the other is doing. Then there are interventions, both overt and subtle, through which Weathersby has managed to create an interesting and diverse body of work that tackles notions of the seen and unseen, construction, presentation, recto and verso, along with a slight nod -intentional or otherwise- to crafts such as model making."
Ashley writes that " ...painters like Ken Weathersby have shown that painting appears to continue living a healthy life long after its reported demise. Paintings do things and are about things that other mediums can't match. While much art continues on a seemingly rapid path towards newer technologies and entertainment, encouraging fast looking and sound bite-like understanding, the technology of most painting, handmade and viewed slowly, at a finely granular level, might gradually be seen as anti-technology, or rather, as a kind of antidote to quicker, bigger, and shinier art."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.