Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Mark Crawford: a conversation with the artist.

All images on this post are © 2007 by Mark Crawford and are posted here with his permission.

“I’m not an angry person,” Mark Crawford said, his pleasantly modulated voice revealing his Midwestern origin. He was responding to my observation that the untitled painting shown above seemed to me a visual expression of ire. Looking at that painting again, I saw that my eye had first been caught by the slashes of red and their contrast with the dark ground on which they are arranged, but had not focused on the broad swaths of white that overlay them, some with descending rivulets that “droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.”*

Complex, and energetic; we could agree on that. Energy also suffused a smaller painting, called Game Machine, that hung on the wall of Mark's studio to the left of the untitled painting (see image below).

With an eruption of light shading to dark green spreading across a red ground, and with traces of white, it brought to my mind the Dylan Thomas poem, "The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower."

The painting that hung below Game Machine, titled Success in College (see below), has a quieter dynamism, expressed through subtle variations of tone and texture.

Garden Charade, seen below, is, as its name suggests, playful, but its ground of magenta shading into deep purple suggests an undertow of romantic passion.

There is a yin as well as a yang to Mark’s art. Much of his work, including the paintings shown above, is within the abstract expressionist canon, although these works also seem suffused with the introspective quality of a Vuillard or Bonnard. However, in my visit to his studio, I saw other works that exemplified a different, more formal non-representational tradition. The most prominent of these was a large canvas on which was a lattice of green tendrils intertwined with yellow, on a field of white (see below), titled Living Uneasily. I said this reminded me of Islamic art. He said he had spent some time in the Middle East, where he traveled in Turkey and Egypt, and wouldn’t be surprised if that had affected his work.

A native of Chicago, Mark studied at that city’s renowned Art Institute, from which he received a Bachelor in Fine Arts. He later did graduate study at Yale, leading to an M.F.A., and after that moved to New York City. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Brooklyn Heights.

Update: You can find images of Mark's recent works on his blog here.

*The Merchant of Venice, IV, i.

Upset-o-rama continues.

Oh, it's beer, beer, beer,
That makes you wanna cheer,
On the Farm, on the Farm!
Oh it's beer, beer, beer,
that makes you wanna cheer,
On the Leland Stanford Junior Farm.

No doubt many a keg was tapped in Palo Alto this past Saturday night. The last time I can recall Stanford beating USC was in the fall of 1970 (they must have won at least one during the Elway era, but I can't remember). I was visiting a friend in San Francisco, and on Saturday afternoon we were doing a winery tour of Napa. On the road from one tasting to the next, we were listening to the game on the car radio, and Bruce was, to my surprise, rooting for his law school alma mater, Stanford, instead of his undergrad school, Southern Cal. By the time the final score was announced, we'd hit four or five wineries, and had enough of a buzz on to each let out a good yelp. Of course, that year Stanford had a QB named Jim Plunkett, and may even have been favored going into the game. This year, however, the Cardinal were a 41 point underdog, so this goes down as the big upset no one expected.

Other upsets included South Carolina over Kentucky, though beating the Wildcats is old hat for Spurrier, and Tennessee over Georgia, with the twice beaten Vols having fallen from the ranking and the twelfth ranked Dawgs having lost only one. but the other big surprise upset has to be once beaten but unranked Illinois over Wisconsin, previously unbeaten and ranked fifth. Thus have the Fighting Illini vaulted to eighteenth in the AP poll, one ahead of the Badgers, and ex-Gator coach Ron Zook has gone from groans in Gainesville to cheers in Champaign.

Then there was the big upset that didn't happen, the Gators' loss to LSU in the Swamp. In this crazy season, it's still possible to imagine a twice defeated Florida repeating as national champs, especially if they beat LSU on their second try in an SEC championship game.

The other big upset that almost happened involved my alma mater, South Florida. They nearly got toppled from their unprecedented number six ranking by unheralded Florida Atlantic. Despite their unimpressive showing, and with help from the losses by USC and Wisco, the Bulls advanced from sixth to fifth. Inconceivable!.