ART: Peter Bardazzi, Painter.

From: IN%"[email protected]" "Art Criticism Discussion Forum" 24-JUL-199
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To: Howard Lawrence <[email protected]>
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Subj: Artist's Statement

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Date: Fri, 24 Jul 1992 22:25:00 EDT
From: Peter Bardazzi <[email protected]>
Subject: Artist's Statement
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To: Howard Lawrence <[email protected]>
Reply-to: Art Criticism Discussion Forum <[email protected]>

Peter Bardazzi
Box 60 Canal Street Station
New York NY 10013
212-473-5065




Artist's Statement 1992



The emergence of a dominating culture that objectifies both art
and artists as commodities makes it all the more important to
have a strong aesthetic approach to painting. The effect of
today's culture (investment materialism) is to treat art and
artists as objects, that is an ensemble of determined reactions.
Artists today must distinguish themselves from this realm and
claim a truth for the good of oneself and others. It has gone so
far today that we are told by cultural priests, equipped with
reams of text, that something which seems so accessible becomes,
in the context of gallery space, hyper accessible and therefore
an icon which can only be understood through their guidance.
Somehow we have to move through history without requiring the
neon lights of the cultural establishment shining on us. We must
move like sharks after a prey, devoid of conscious outside
stimuli and focused on an intense internal desire.

To make a relevant painting there are certain questions that must
be answered in order to proceed. First, what's valid history for
an individual artist? Secondly, what's a valid unknown?
Thirdly, what's the artists relationship to his or her culture?
Finally, is it possible to create a cultural crisis through the
medium of painting?

My art history started while attending college at Pratt
Institute. It was during this period that I started to visit art
galleries and museums in Manhattan. It was three exhibitions
that opened up the realm of painting to me. The Kandinsky show
at the Guggenheim Museum introduced me to European (actually
Russian) abstract painting. This abstract art that was rooted in
icons and primitive images seduced me into experimenting with
non-representational painting. The second was the Gorky
retrospective which taught me a lesson that an artist's life can
be one of struggle and sacrifice to pursue a goal. The third
exhibition was a surrealist show at the Museum of Modern Art.
These artists turned my vision of painting upside down and I was
definitely influenced in spirit and vision by Giorgio de Chirico,
Francis Picabia, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and Picasso. As a
result, my paintings took a definite turn towards a mechanistic
abstraction. My machine-like images inhabited a world of all
engrossing even larger machines. The colors were kept warm and
dark to create a feeling of rust in conflict. Looking back, I
now realize that Picabia was fascinated with American machine
culture and I was fascinated with his interpretation.

While a graduate student at Yale University the main aesthetic
experience in terms of my interaction with other students and the
galleries in New York City, was one of power and the propaganda
of contemporary art that was beingshown. Minimal art and the
beginnings of conceptual art were the topics of heated
discussions. The conceptual students argued that painting was
dead - its relevant historical clock had run out of time. My
feelings were that art was limitless and did not have an internal
clock that can be set by critics. Generally, I remained totally
independent of this while immersed in an automatic calligraphic
approach to my still machine-like paintings. This was the
beginning of the casting of Marcel Duchamp's shadow over the art
world. Today this shadow is long and dark. It's become an
excuse to exhibit practically anything as long as there is a
written concept. New art is not a body of ideas that is formed
by an open door policy to political movements. Painting can be a
medium for ideas and political ideologies, but should never be
used to illustrate them. You just can't incorporate popular
culture headlines in your work - you must come to terms with this
situation. Duchamp is OK, Picasso is OK.

After moving to New York my paintings took an interesting
development. The images were breaking up and the forms were
swirling all over the canvas. I relied more and more on my
subjective calligraphy to paint a picture, causing the colors to
become more intense and the painting flatter. The grounds, or
painting surfaces, became very important to me. I would prime a
canvas with thirty or forty tints of color achieving a
transparent airy surface to be injected with chaos. It seemed
like it was always summer when I first moved to New York. We
were in the streets when not in our studios painting. There
were lots of demonstrations. Or maybe it was the Vietnam war -
you knew it was hot there, even in January and that heat was in
your brain all the time, even in New York. Ideas and directions
were changing constantly. The intellect and the spirit were in
question, and there was plenty of pot.

My art was changing, swirling forms were coalescing into
"ribbons" of color that wrapped highly structural forms. In
retrospect I can say that I was influenced by the Russian
Constructivists, most notably Vladimir Tatlin. These paintings
were fully immersed in rich color that enveloped forms in motion.
The critics in their reviews felt there was a strong Futurist
influence. Some thought this was positive and interesting, and
others felt that a Neo-Futurist Movement was the last concept
that painting needed to incorporate. The truth of the matter was
that there were no Futurist influences. The only art I was
studying at the time was early Asian (300 BC) and northern
European painters such as Bosch and Bruegel. They both had a
talent for making elements fit together. I thought this
structural cohesiveness might have an application in
abstract art. It is difficult to place a metaphor in a painting
and make it work in relation to other colors and marks. But it
is really an achievement to have two metaphors rub against each
other and produce a high level phenomena for the viewer.

After 1974 a sense of heavy darkness overshadowed the paintings -
Islam has made its presence felt. The paintings were definitely
ominous abstractions but there was also intricate arabesque
weaving in and out of the forms creating a rich brocade of
elements. During this time I traveled extensively throughout
Asia for months at a time, especially India, Iran and
Afghanistan. The colors and the culture influenced my work for
the next year. Hindu temple paintings (including polychrome
sculpture) showed me a whole different way of understanding the
relationship between deep blues and reds. The blues were your
breath. To inhale blue and exhale red under the heavy gray
monsoon sky was to truly experience color. It was powerful color
that was first mixed three thousand years ago.

After Asia, technique, content, and style became increasingly
important to me as concepts, in terms of approaching my art. I
decided to paint less complex images in a more complex space.
Simultaneously, I was working on collages. The approach was
completely different here. The more elements the better, the
more diversity in the materials the better. I introduced cotton
balls, wood, plastic, string, and old postcards into my collages.
The images were sometimes remappings of the globe with political
statements. Collage making and the use of thematic materials has
stayed with me to the present.


* * *

Stylistically, 1982 presented itself with a new departure. I
spent a lot of time thinking about and discussing the artists'
relationship with society, more precisely the artists'
relationship to culture, even more precisely, my relationship and
my placer in Pop culture. My images became more accessible and
at the same time more primitive. The forms contained textures
and patterns of animals like tigers and leopards. They were
abstracted enough so that you immediately went beyond your first
impression and found yourself viewing a background that was a
blow up of letter form in motion - like animals swimming in
alphabet soup. Today many artists are misreading the culture.
Artists getting the most attention are the ones running parallel
to MTV (sex, violence and the power image). This is theme park
culture which has no room for the abstract and the intellect,
only the worship of power and sexually explicit imagery. The Pop
culture has turned in on itself and left most everyone
outside as a spectator. The real action is taking place with the
new digital medium culture. Words are getting smaller (Rap Music) and the
numbers are getting larger (Binary Numbers). The number culture
traces its roots back through Einstein, sorceress and the
ancient Egyptians. The new painting should
find new roots like these and discard the traditional western
connection. I learned that I could never paint like Picasso or
Pollack becausehistory is different and individual, you could
never paint like your hero because you will never have that persons peculiar
visual gifts. To understand our times (the new Shiva) you have
to understand the digital media world. Numbers rule, watch the
digital dance. All visual phenomena can be reduced to numbers,
manipulated and returned to you. Find absolutes in your painting
like this - colors and shapes that have strong visual and time
connections. Squeeze the time out of your pigments, not the
colors out of the tubes.

Painting in the summer of 1989 took a leap in two directions.
The work on canvas reflected a somber mood with calligraphic
forms coming together as if being collected to be thrown into a
fire. The mood was dark, but the forms were burning. The real
excitement, though, were the paintings on paper. For some
reason, the medium of paper caused my brush to move differently
and with it my psyche. Black cartoon-like figures appeared.
They were part human, but had animal-like attributes - I called
them the creatures. For the first time words like humorous,
ironic and mischievous could be used to describe my work. They
were never planned, it was as if they were in the paper all along
and I came by at the right time to release them. I don't know
where they came from. The only clue I had was that one of them
had my father's eyes. I spent a year on this theme which
culminated in a series of silk-screens based on the original
paintings on paper.


* * *

To create a crisis at least one group in society has to feel an
air of urgency. Out of a sense of mild panic one feels driven to
fill the intellect with the new way or perish. The signal from
painting should be unlisted but readable. This may seem like a
contradiction, but at the lowest level people should view
painting like they tune into T.V. - to drop out (to look at
painting for entertainment and information). Most people go to
galleries (or museums) and look at a painting for less than two
minutes. A T.V. is fabricated in one hour and you look at it for
the rest of your life! On a higher level, the viewer must
approach painting like they approach a computer - interactively
to learn something. If a painting can introduce you to a new way
of seeing, then you have a breakthrough. I use machines like TV
and computers as metaphors because they are the deities of
the culture. We all need a transfusion of electrons to move
swiftly through new thought patterns. When thinking about
painting becomes radically different while simultaneously there
is a pressure on society for change, then you may see something
new if you're fast enough. Now I am working on a new group
of abstract collages. They are like little dictators. I tack
the paper on the wall and they tell me what to paste on next.
Glue wood here, paste cotton there, and draw a face or bone
over it. They become a mix of materials and themes, each
moving in a direction that will converge on itself.
Sandpaper is the dominate material in the collages.
Texture and color breathe abrasive work. Hands-off or be
scraped. How easily it becomes color. I am deeply attracted to
this mysterious and instinctive approach to art. I will continue
to explore visual phenomena with my painting also. I feel that I
am on the verge of a new aesthetic relationship between
abstraction and a somewhat visually identifiable image. This
image will be a kind of door into the total painting or a
metaphorical guide to take you into the abyss of abstraction. I
would like to hold on to this metaphor and go for the ride.




Peter Bardazzi
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