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HIGH ART: Playing with perspective
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Teton Artlab unveils its newly remodeled gallery on Friday during its Winter Open Studios show. The show and reception will highlight the improvisatory work of former Jackson Hole resident David Gottfried. Other artists such as Ben Carlson, Ben Blanton, Thomas Macker, and John Frechette, will open their studios for the night and the adjoining ITP Space will feature new works. Gottfried, who now lives in Berkeley, Calif., spent five years in Jackson raising his children, working as an artist and supporting the JH grassroots art scene through philanthropy. He is best known for his abstract paintings and prints, but will explore new mediums and printmaking techniques in this upcoming show. Planet Jackson Hole had a bunch of questions for Gottfried, but only room for his three most telling responses.
JHW: Tell us about the work included in this upcoming show.
David Gottfried: My show at the Artlab will feature photographic prints that I have been making recently in California, as well as some silk screens that I made with the help of Aaron Wallis in Jackson. There will also be a few silk screens that are a collaboration between myself and Jacksonite Mike Tierney.
My latest work is a photographic investigation into the evocative nature of paint that I have become deeply engrossed in over the past year. I was working on a medium-to-large scale with fluid acrylic paint, mostly using painting knives to manipulate the paint, when I began to notice that magnificent things were happening at almost a micro level. There were gorgeous partially-mixed paint drops that looked like deep space; weird juxtapositions and environments. I took a few photographs of these accidental moments using a powerful macro lens and found them completely mesmerizing. It was as if a side of our world was being revealed that was known but unseen, the birth of planets, undersea environments, biology, imagery that created myriad associations.
I began to paint with the photograph in mind. I made hundreds of small paintings, some as small as 4 x 6 inches, that I then photographed.
I have experimented with different supports for these micro paintings, wood, aluminum, and plastic. Over time I’ve begun to understand how to induce the paint to do this crazy stuff like the image on the PJH cover. There is a “scientific/natural” side to what we are seeing.
Paint is bound by the same physical laws as the rest of the fluids and materials in our world, and behaves similarly, so that even though what we are seeing is paint on a very small scale, once they are magnified, they appear to be very large, almost cosmic, and true to life.
Scale is completely disrupted, in the same way that those satellite photos we have all seen that start zoomed in all the way down to a grain of sand and then back out to a view of our planet from deep space teach us about perspective.
I have faced, and am still struggling with, technical challenges. Some of the images that I am presenting are magnified by a factor of 50.
The photography is difficult. I was fortunate to have a neighbor with an 80 megapixel digital camera that made some of this possible, and today’s photo printers are incredible. The images were all printed at Magnolia editions in Oakland. Magnolia is a very innovative press, they are doing unique and interesting work, combining digital techniques with traditional Jacquard looms that produce spectacular tapestries, and other combinations of digital and traditional techniques. Most of the images are inkjet prints on paper but I will be showing a few that are on aluminum panels printed on an enormous press and then taken to an auto body shop for varnishing. You can preview many of the images in the show in a book that I have printed under my name entitled Paint. Unfortunately the book, although beautiful, is quite expensive at the moment. There will be a few copies at the Artlab.
JHW: Do you miss the JH artists community? Do you remember it as being stimulating?
Gottfried: I continue to have a deep connection to the Jackson community at large, as well as the artistic community. I wanted to show some of the silk screens that I worked on with Aaron Wallis over a period of several years begun when I was living here, but continued subsequent to my departure. I constructed these images by painting with a large Sumi brush on plastic transparencies that were then turned into screens by Aaron. We built up an inventory of about 10 different screens that we then combined somewhat randomly, often not knowing what the outcome would be, using a shifting array of colors and overlays. Aaron sometimes worked on his own using instructions that were very liberally interpreted so that he made decisions that led to interesting surprises. Over time the imagery shifted from plain mark making to more constructed environments,figures and landscapes of sorts.
There is also a small group of serendipitous work in the show that is a collaboration with Mike Tierney. These screens were mostly put together when the Artlab was on Gregory Lane adjacent to the Igneous Ski Factory, where Mike works. Mike and I have always enjoyed each other’s work and I started leaving Mike some of the reject screens to adulterate using his spray paint/stencil techniques. I had completely forgotten about these things, when, one day last summer Aaron texted me a beautiful and strange image of what looked like snow and sunlight on this orangey sandstone background that I thought was exquisite. Amusingly, it turned out to be one of the images that Mike had chosen to “grafitti.” I sent Mike a dozen or so images a few weeks ago and we’ll see what he comes up with.
All of the work in this show is the result of an exploratory and improvisatory working process that leads to discovery, to a constantly transforming and evolving body of work. I often start out with the idea of doing something particular, but life gets in the way and things happen that I wasn’t expecting. I try to stay alive to these moments, to follow the trail that is establishing itself step-by-step. No less a genius than Picasso said that “Painting is stronger than I, it does with me what it wants.” Who am I to argue?
JHW: Which artists inspire you?
Gottfried: I have been very influenced by a broad range of artists and artistic movements and by the improvisatory ethos of jazz music. [I’ve been influenced] by the early modern greats at the Bauhaus, such as Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger and Kandinsky to Picasso and Miro, the Abstract Expressionist greats Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Franz Kline, Mark Toby, Richard Pousette-Dart to more contemporary artists, such as Sean Sculley, John Hoyland, Barnaby Furnas, Tomory Dodge, and Kirsten Baker, as well as Chinese calligrapy, abstract photography, such as that of Paul Strand.
Winter Open Studios Show and Reception, 6 p.m, Friday, at Teton Artlab. 130 S. Jackson St. Free.