Forward by John Riepenhoff
Like many people, when I look at a painting I'm trying to figure out what the fuck the person who made it was thinking. I get the feeling that Jacob Goudreault and Alexander Herzog experience a similar thing when they are making their own stuff. What are we thinking? This new body of work is a unique convergence of two independent voices. Both treat painting like a ceramicist treats clay, man handling and finessing, until they discover some form, then they treat it like a paintin...g again. Drag paint across the surface. Drag a painting on the ground. Let the wrinkle be. Fuss on occasion. Their objects trace thought. These things assert what these dudes do.
Questions for Alexander and Jacob
Why do you make these things?
First and for most because they are challenging, exciting, and require a large amount of commitment to make. As a painter I have always been into the materiality of painting, the building of a painting. I try to find ways of making a painting that yield outcomes I have never seen before and also poetically engage with painting's history, conventions, and language.
I get really fed up with a lot of painting being made these days; limp, full of rhetoric, messy, casual, an inside joke. With my painting practice, I try to put my best foot forward, I believe in painting.
Making these paintings fulfill many personal needs of mine; order, discipline, discovery, chance, repetition, tremendous highs, and routine. These things keep me together day in and day out. I really don't know what I would do if I did not have a very labor-intensive painting practice.
First off, I think I am overtly more productive and happy when I have a studio practice or game. A studio practice is something that is not new to me; I have been making objects for some time now. I have simplified my materials from the past to being at this point pretty much wood, fabric, paint and fastening devices, such and staples and tape. These are all very versatile materials. My personal interests and approach to the world allow me to bring elements I see into objects. I start working with materials before the final object is made; sometimes I think I am making one thing then I make another. I really look at the studio from many different perspectives. I think a lot of the mark-making that I do is Influenced by other studio activities such as storing, wrapping for shipment, acquiring materials, palettes, studies, looking at old work, organizing, stacking, taking care of brushes (or lack of), and the support-building process.
When do you know something worked?
About a quarter of the way through the building of the paintings. I usually begin by closing my eyes and visualize my hands moving through space or moving over a plane. After doing this for many days or weeks, I find one movement that seems engaging and theatrical.
I then move to the studio and begin making many small line drawings with markers that further flushes out and refines the hand movement. The line drawings are very playful, fast, and liberating. At times I lay the gesture down on top of a regular grid and then find ways of folding the grid back on top of the gesture. Or I lay the gesture down without a grid. I see the grid as at once being stable and then oppressive: the gesture and grid wrestle with one another. Most of the time there is no clear winner but there is tension and play. After compiling 20 to 40 drawings I choose one that I think is most successful.
All my paintings are made on panel with about ten layers of gesso to really build up the surface. Most of the surfaces are square. When I begin to paint the image, I lay the panel down flat and put down a very thick layer of gesso. At this point I have about 10 minutes of working time. I rake my hands through the wet gesso. The gesso and ground are white so it is hard to see exactly what the marks, grid, and gesture look like. This is one of the most exciting parts of the entire painting process. At that point, I feel like I am painting a painting and not necessarily building a painting.
After days of drying the painting is ready to sand down. Then, with the addition of a couple other materials, the gesture appears and I sit with it and just look at it. I really concentrate on how the gesture sits within the frame. Does the gesture have a personality, is there consequence, how does the gesture sit with the grid? These are some of the questions I ask myself.
Recently, I have added color and overlaid pattern. I still deal only with black and white in some paintings, but color has really opened up many more doors to this series.
I just try to take risks when I'm painting, notice things I can do and try to do them. I also look at my own work conceptually. If you want something to have attitude and be about the studio and materials, you really have to dive in and absorb them, then look back at the work and ask if it is fulfilling what you want. For me it has to be interesting and follow along my conceptual lines for me to show it. Sometimes I don't like that.
What's your relationship with the painting as you're making them?
It is a love/hate relationship. I have a live/work space, so I am around the work all the time. My studio is like a living room, except without a TV and coach. When I work wet-into-wet with my hands, to get the initial gesture, it like no other high, fast and unknown. The exposing of the gesture is like getting naked with someone. After that the honeymoon is over and it’s all work, very tedious and repetitious. In the end, its like being on top of a mountain or looking out a the sea, it is just me and the painting.
Sometimes I work very fast and create a piece in a few hours. That's counting shopping time, cutting wood, support-building and final marks. Other times I have the fabric and it takes weeks to stretch it, or I have the wood and paint all ready and mixed up but I can't find the right fabric. I always have a few things going. I try not to worry about it. I try not to leave anything outside so it doesn't get wet or frozen. I don't put a hanger on a painting unless I think it's done. It's more of a surprise that way because it always looks different on a wall and always a lot brighter in a gallery.
How does that change after?
They become objects; I have never sold anything so they usually get turned around in my studio, stacked like books that have been read. I then begin to make another one, hopefully with a lot of difference.
Not much changes, I do my conceptual checks, make sure no paint needs a touch-up, maybe throw a few more staples on the back. A painting usually hangs until the next one is done. If it doesn't check out or doesn't work, it goes in a pile to be reworked; I usually keep the composition and change the colors. If that doesn't work I change the composition and colors. Some paintings I do in the first try, and others have a few more layers on them, but that's all part of it.
Is there anything you'd like to say?
I am excited to see Jacob's and my paintings together. I have known Jacob for about 3 years, from when we first met up at the Poor Farm, in Manawa WI. I feel that our painting practices are so very different, how we engage with material, how we build the painted object, how we talk about them and asses them. Yet surprisingly, the paintings speak in the same voice. They are both about the body, about a gesture that is either wilted or amped up.
As for my paintings, I don't have very fashionable ideas, theories, or words to build up my painting practice or these paintings. Hopefully the paintings say enough.
Alex and I have been working on trying to get a show together for a couple of years and it finally is happening. We first met at the Poor Farm and both did projects there. He is part of a handful of people that know what I'm working on in the studio. Thanks.