Unedited conversations between artist in a productive critique discovering thesis and processes behind the work.
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Gutierrez: My present direction is a slight break with the dance paintings I was doing previously. Not that I don't love those paintings but after a couple of years of using a pink palette I needed a break. It all started with a painting called Sleepwalker.
I got the image for this painting from a movie called Tales of the Hoffman. It was a very quick panning shot, but when I froze it I saw there was something abstract about it and it carried a pathos. This would be lost in the magic of that movie otherwise. I intended for it to be another dance painting, as it comes from a dance source, but I took too many risks with it and it became something else altogether. Once you risk something and it works, you cannot go back.
Ramos: it seems like you are staying close to dance in the theatrical context, the difference is a touch of darkness in the sorcery theme.
Can you tell me a bit more about that?
and perhaps also how it takes a stance against the "outside market", mentioned in the press release.
Gutierrez: Well... I am almost 40. It occurred to me that living in Miami affords you certain opportunities, while denying you others. One of the biggest opportunities Miami provides is being able to make exactly what you want without the cost of failure or having other people looking over your back. So I figured if I am here I better be making exactly what I want to see.
Something that I find really powerful about painting is it ability to be enigmatic. Mystery is in painting. So I wanted to find imagery that has a built in mystery without having too much narrative baggage.
Ramos: these paintings, if I understand correctly, are derived from existing imagery that you are appropriating into painting
Gutierrez: I was already working a lot with images from cinema. As an image maker and connoisseur I believe that in the last half century, cinema has contributed more to the dialogue surrounding image than art had. I think now there is an opportunity for painting to get back into that conversation.
Movement is the domain of cinema, stillness that of painting. Cinema has also taken so much from painting. I wouldn't say that it is indebted to painting but it certainly has had many a conversation with the medium. I also feel that by working from cinema you can subvert the kinds of "fast images" which are so prevalent right now.
Ramos: what would you say is the most powerful result from painting essentially a still from cinema - beyond simply showing that particular frame as an image, without painting?
Order of Sorcery, 2014
Oil on Canvas
43 x 31 in.
Gutierrez: I guess the power comes from what is improvised. Because I am transcribing the image, as opposed to merely copying it, a lot of what you get depends on my hand and the stylistic approach. These are the transformative agents. Similarly if a film maker quotes a Corot landscape or Ter Borch posture the power there is suggestive and additive. Maybe most people don't notice these things, but when you do catch it gives you such a rich insight into the process.
Ramos: you mention earlier that cinema borrowed from painting at some point in the past and then surpassed painting, and you are taking some of that thunder back... would you be interested in painting something that would inspire cinema again?
Gutierrez: I don't think either medium has surpassed each other. For instance, when Gone with the Wind came out, perhaps it was more relevant than say... a Rembrandt painting. Now that there is a bit of time separating the movie from the technical achievement of that moment (it was one of the first films in color) perhaps the movie and that Rembrandt I mentioned are lateral in importance. I am more interested in a types of political images employed by cinema, something that painting as a traditionally historical medium, worked with for centuries. Modern Art moved away from this to keep painting alive. Painting has survived modernity and arrived at a moment of opportunity because other newer mediums move at such light speeds and tend to make most images relative and less idiosyncratic.
Ramos: is this where comment about the "outside market forces" comes in? and the decentralized decision making?
Gutierrez: This is an interesting moment. Cinema has come to a point where it has to make a profit. There are fewer and fewer Dino de Laurentiis-like producers out there willing to back interesting projects. Contemporary cinema, for me, isn't the most relevant medium in the world right now. Painting is also in a strange place. When people tell me they hate painting, at this moment I can understand why. From what I understand a lot of contemporary painting is informed by revisionist trends that have been going on in the art market since, maybe the 90s. When people say Zombie Formalism, I think this refers to a broader moment than the recent surge of "abstraction". I think you could apply this term to the "non-monumental", neo-conceptual, endless moments of group think. For the most part contemporary art has become an aesthetic that is expected to imitate other art and acts as a place holder for wealth. I am aware these things go on but this is something that doesn't interest me or necessarily inform my practice.
Ramos: In your work then, there is this cross-pollination between cinema and film with political undertones and a criticism towards the contemporary state of art making in general - and this criticism is manifested in your technique, which goes back in time to recapture an essence of transcribing relevant moments, which again then ties to the political moving forward.
In your current practice, how would you describe this political aspect and is it relevant to your environment, that being Miami or the art community?
Gutierrez: If there is a criticality to the market in my work it would be communicated in my stance. This applies to any artist who is or was an outlier. Most artist might be cubists, but Picasso was at heart an outlier. He continued to change and let his evolution be informed by what his work needed, not by the constraints of what was expected. Not to compare my practice to Picasso, but when I think about artists I like they usually fit this pattern. There is no end game for them, if they hadn't died at some point, then they would have just continued to evolve.
The political current in my work comes from having a stance and the sources where I am pulling my references and images from. For instance, with the empty dance studio paintings I wanted very much for these to act as open performative forums with no political agenda.
End Game Aesthetics, 2013
Oil on Canvas
125 x 72 in.
Gutierrez: Having a political current can be as simple as being generous and not being black or white. I think being grey, open and listening to others is a very relevant political stance right now. Even if it is a difficult one.