Bruce Smith, a provincial Utah painter, was lecturing passionately about art and its ideas. He said art creates a space that cannot exist without its creation. More than a thought because it is grounded in material reality; different from reality in the obvious ways. Art’s product can be experienced by anyone. Anyone can be confounded by the collapse of logic in a cubist painting without understanding its history, because it’s there. Objects are visible from simultaneous vantage points; solid planes of color hang in the atmosphere and appear hefty and important right there in plain sight.
Most folks know that toffee is simply caramelized sugar, maybe a little butter thrown in to help the browning. My grandmother made a candy she called lassie jack. Same ingredients, same process. Just pushed the process a little further until the candy is the color of black coffee. I think there was a little molasses in the mix too. Draws out that hit of bitter that keeps you coming back. It isn’t just sweet.
Clayton Merrell’s paintings are built on contradictory messages. Vantage points are all mixed up and occupy conflicting and impossible layers. His view is sweetness and harmony. Harmony that boggles because it should be a mess. The obvious conflicts work like that bitter note in my grandmother’s candy.
Jason Jozwiak embraces the moment of encounter, like all good post-minimalists. His objects may not always remain discrete. He paints outside of the canvas lines. His materials are not color and picture plane, despite direct reference to traditional painting presentation. The work may keep moving, and sometimes he “paints” with failures from the kitchen. At the end of the encounter, you’re left a little unsure that you saw art at all.
We learn that minimalism rests on the phenomenological encounter with a form. Folks speak of that moment, the ah ha. Once that lesson in synthesized into our vocabulary, all of art becomes the moment of encounter. There is only a viewer looking at art. The funny thing is, both of these painters work so that the moment is drawn out, or happens under the radar. Something shifts, something about viewing changes, but I’ll be damned if I can point out just where and when the shifts happen.