Friday, December 9, 2011

James Siena, "Demystification" at Tamarind Gallery

James Siena, Sawtoothed Angry Form, 2010, enamel on aluminum panel.

Last night, Dec. 8, I attended a talk by James Siena, titled "Demystification" at Tamarind Institute (Siena is currently at Tamarind creating lithographs in their workshop).

I of course don't know him, but as a member of the audience I found him to be smart, modest, engaging, and sincere.  I quite liked him and I like his work.

Siena started off engaging us by associating the landscape of New Mexico with his work.  He talked about his interest in phenomenology and details emerging from material.  Similarly, how forms emerge from the landscape, like the strata of mountains and valleys in New Mexico formed from millennia of sea wearing on rock.  I loved the way in which he related his early involvement with performance art to his two-dimensional work: the performance had rules for how it was to be carried out and it was created and made by hand in a very material way.

He touched upon his "philosophy" a bit when he talked about how there is an aspect (or quality) to an artwork that can't be intellectualized.  He emphasized the activity of an artist in the studio, not thinking about or addressing the work from a curator's or collector's perspective -- the artist as a person experiencing their own work.  He mentioned an anecdote of repeating a painting in a larger format and then feeling apologetic about it during a studio visit with Terry Winters.  Winters said something along the lines of, "maybe you just wanted to experience doing it again." Any artist should be free to not only experience doing it again, but doing a lot of different things, letting one thing lead to another.

One beautiful lithograph on the wall behind Siena was created on a broken stone with a jagged edge on one side.   It demonstrated a couple of his interests: the idea of compression and the pressure of the edge, the organic, and rule-based procedures.  As the pattern approached the wavy edge, he had to shrink the motifs in order to not violate his rule about completing a row and column.  The result was an undulating, illusionistic space that had an organic feeling.

Siena's wife, Katia Santibañez, was also at the talk.  With a brief online search, I discovered she paints beautiful paintings that address repetition and mark-making.  In 2008, Phong Bui at The Brooklyn Rail wrote about her then new paintings in Katia Santibanez New Work.  Also see "Journey of a Solitary Painter" at Morgan Lehman, Oct. 20-Dec. 10, 2011.

Katia Santibañez, "Between the Waves" (2008). Acrylic on wood. 24 × 24 inches. 
Image from Katia Santibañez at Danese Gallery.

Here are some links for James Siena:

New Art TV video (2010) of James Siena in his studio:
James Kalm, James Siena at PaceWildenstein (2008).
James Kalm, James Siena, March 2011.
John Yau, James Siena at Pace Gallery, March 25-April 30, 2011.