My paintings investigate ephemeral language and rule-based abstraction. I compile lists of contemporary vernacular from the flow of information coursing through our lives and across our screens. The lists are artifacts of my social, political, and personal environment; I chart them into pattern-like works that are diagrams of their own making. These intensely chromatic, annotated panels could be called illuminated lexicons of 21st century life.
On slate-like gessoed panels, I hand-print text in columns. Using acrylic gouache, ink, and pencil, I assign a color and mark to each item on a list, then chart letters into lines, shapes, clusters of dots, and layers of wash. The gridded configurations can recall digital code, glyphs, woven textiles, and musical scores.
Fluorescent and non-fluorescent hues combine in chromatically polyphonic structures. My process of cumulative layers reminds me of the layered sound in a Javanese gamelan orchestra. A gamelan begins with one person playing a simple motif over and over; then another joins in, and another, until there’s a dense texture of intricate sound. Yet no musical line is complicated in itself. An accumulation of simple moves: that’s how my paintings are made.
To choose color, no rule or system applies. I work with intuition, or often, against it. The “wrong” color can produce the right visual chemistry. As I add text and encode it, I spend a lot of time looking. When my eye is held for a long time; then I stop.
This work began on small pages of graph paper, 20 years ago. To evade my habits of composition, I began diagramming lists of words. The written and visual results had a crazy logic and irregular beauty that I’ve pursued for two decades.
Some lists document experience: signs and ads seen during a subway trip, or transcripts of text messages. Others are catalogs of language or things: for instance, acronyms, colloquialisms, bird species, or Brooklyn street names. Many lists are rosters of related scraps from disparate sources, such as assorted instructions, guarantees, or news headlines.