New Amercian Paintings - Christopher L. Mercier
SPECULATIONS ON THE E-X-P-A-N-D-E-D SPACE OF PAINTING:
Selected works from 2004 to 2012’
Greenleaf Gallery Whittier College Solo Show
“Painting before Caravaggio could move backward, it could step sideways, it could climb walls, but it could not march forward; it could not create its own destiny. Without a deliberate sense of projective space, painting could not become real. The road to pictorial reality must pass through the dissolution of perimeter and surface. This is the road paved by Caravaggio to lead great art toward what we now call great painting” (Frank Stella, from ‘Working Space’, page 19, 1986)
From the early cave paintings to the present, ‘Painting’ throughout history has attempted to portray some aspect of experience from our three dimensional world, be it a dream, a landscape, a portrait or an emotion, in two dimensions. My interest in ‘Painting’ follows along this tradition with a focus on exploring the workings of the Pictorial Window and its relationship to two and three dimensional space. Through the separation of space (inside looking out or outside looking in) created by the pictorial window or picture plane, ‘Painting’ has always only re-presented space two dimensionally or as a three dimensional illusion (perspective techniques). ‘Painting’ has never been able to partake or engage in actual ‘Space’ three dimensionally. At least not in the way that Sculpture or Architecture has or from the literal definition it wouldn’t have been called Painting (i.e.; Sculpture or Architecture). Since Rosalind Krauss’s ground breaking essay ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’ (‘October’, Vol. 8, Spring 1979, pp. 30-44) and other more recent essays such as Gustavo Fares’s ‘Painting in the Expanded Field’ (‘Janus Head’, Open Issue, Volume 7, Issue 2, Winter 2004) it has become ever more evident that the disciplines of art (like many other things) are pushing beyond their defined boundaries. What this suggests is that a larger cultural condition is occurring that requires a more open or expanded way of understanding both works of art and the fields in which they are positioned.
My work engages in this expanded condition by reframing of the picture plane. Through a process that involves multiple, connected planes and directions, it allows for the traditional singular pictorial view to be broadened. These expanded differing directional views such as a horizontal ground, a ledge or even a ceiling, simultaneously reposition the space of painting. This shifting of space moves from the traditional pictorial window that previously separated the viewer from the view, to a multitude of locations and positions within the three dimensional arena of the viewer. Furthermore, it is through this newly expanded space that the act of Painting and the materiality of paint are introduced to new opportunities both within and outside the 2-dimensional tradition. The material of paint itself can then be re-thought, not only as a medium that allows for the creation of color and texture in the production of an image, but also as something that could possibly construct imagery. Unrecognized professionally, paint, depending on the type (latex, oil enamel, water base, etc.), if poured and set into molds as castings, borrowing a process from the field of sculpture, will actually dry as a thick solid material with various structural capacities, which in turn actually allow it to be used in a form making manner, though never designed that way. This process, which I have been developing and experimenting with now for a number of years I term ‘Paint Modeling’. It is a process that re-envisions the act of painting to become simultaneously both a pigment oriented color imagery process as well a as a 3-dimensional color form making process, using only the medium of paint. A cross between the act of painting, sculpting and the architectural model making process, it explores the solidity and viscosity of various types of paint medium through the act of casting. Paint is pre-cast into forms, once dry or in various states of drying; it is cut and/or shaped and adhered to the work with other paints in an additive/ reductive process creating a 3-dimensional spatial color image/condition. This process, working in conjunction with the previously discussed three dimensionality of the painting panel surfaces, pushes ‘Painting’ through the pictorial window and expands the field of painting into the realm of real experiential three dimensional space.
When something isn’t allowed to grow and expand to meet the conditions of its ever changing surroundings, it naturally becomes stale and begins to wither. Culturally, Painting has gone through many ups and downs and in semi recent history, many near death experiences as well. Today our world moves at a rate and over distances unimaginable. Through the speed of internet, cell phones and various other forms of accelerated and virtual information transfer, everything seems to be vying for immediate attention. An outcome of this condition we struggle to discern value and to prioritize, as everything has become accessible at the same time and with what appears to be the same level of high importance. With this onslaught of the ever more present ‘present’ constantly shifting, the notion of what a ‘real’ or virtual condition is, is being challenged. For art to maintain a level of cultural relevance today it needs to find a way to respond to the dialogue created by this accelerated contemporary ‘real/virtual’ space. By reimaging the space of painting beyond the age old two dimensional frame it allows it to enter culturally into our contemporary physical reality. This in turn re-positions ‘Painting’ along a new path of exploration in the creation of multi-dimensional images, engaged yet just outside the boundaries of Sculpture and Architecture.
'PAINTING TOWARDS FORM'
A space between painting, sculpture and architecture’.
These works are a continuation of my interest in contemporary abstraction, spatial imagination and the relationship of painting, sculpture and architecture.It is through their formation that I hope to engage in the unfolding of contemporary experience. The works focus on exploring & testing spatial & relational opportunities in form, space, color and texture.
The project situates itself somewhere in the boundaries between painting, sculpture and architecture. Through the formal relationships created within the works preconceptions that define and separate the various fields of study are loosened and eroded. Moving between the disciplines, picking up loose ends and leftovers, and allowing things to commingle in an unorthodox manner, a situation is created where new and/or engaging spatial relations can be stumbled upon, experienced and explored.
The process for creating these pieces is something that I have developed over the last 4 to 5 years. It involves a technique I call ‘Paint Modeling’. ‘Paint Modeling’ is liken to a cross somewhere between painting, sculpting and the architectural model making process.Its both an additive as well as reductive process that allows one to play with the visual experience of color, texture and physical 3-dimensional form. Paint is applied (and sometimes later removed) using various tools standard to the trade of contemporary painting.The difference here is that the paint is applied in various states of solidity, from a watery liquid, to a buttery gel, all the way to a physical solid. To achieve this solidity, paint is pre-cast into sheets or other shapes in plastic wrapped boxes, from there, once dry,it is cut like fudge with a utility knife or with scissors and then adhered to the work using silicon and/or other paints. The uniqueness of this process is just one example of the overlapping of ideas from varying disciplines mixing together to create new opportunities. Here the material of paint takes on two roles, its traditional role as a color pigment and a new role where it is actually treated almost like a construction material used to build the 3-dimensionality of the surfaces.
Christopher Lawrence Mercier was born and raised just outside of Detroit Michigan. There he completed a bachelor of Science in Architecture at Lawrence University before going on to study in Milan Italy at ‘Architecture Intermundium’ under Daniel Libeskind. From there he moved to southern California, completed a Masters degree in Architecture at SCI-ARC and worked for various architects in the Los Angeles area including Frank Gehry. In 2002 he left Gehry partners and started his own architectural practice, (fer) studio L.L.P. with Douglas Pierson, where he continues on today. His initial interests in architecture evolved out of his experiences as a young child interested in the arts. Throughout his entire life he has consistently pursued simultaneous careers in both the arts (painting, sculpture) and architecture, with numerous exhibits and shows to date. His work has always struggled to erase the separation imposed by society between Painting Sculpture and Architecture in favor of a more contemporary ‘renaissance’ approach to spatial thinking.