Monday, January 31, 2011

when gordon house was like and unlike sol lewitt...



like sol lewitt, the print editions made by uk artist gordon house in the 60's and 70's were rooted in permutations. unlike sol lewitt, house's day job included graphic design work - thus many of his serial motifs seem more related to the late 60's and early 70's graphic approach to art deco and decorative design than serial minimalism.

i hadn't come across house's work until i was doing a bit of research on the work of richard smith, whom i posted about in relation to his kite paintings that hang from the ceiling of the mr. chow restaurant in beverly hills. smith's paintings were exhibited in london before they were shipped to the restaurant, and the exhibition's announcement card was designed by house (and thusly, i'm assuming they were part of the same london "scene".

house is certainly not a household (sorry) name here in the states, but the carnegie and the brooklyn museum mounted a 20 year survey of his printwork in 1981. the catalog is a strange affair, with tiny images of over 130 different works in black and white - and only 4 images in color. i'm sure it was a cost decision, but it seems odd considering how important color is to house's work.

his prints are an array of tightly organized forms, shapes, and sizes - yet there is a clear consistency in all of his projects: a crisp graphic visual language and an extremely extroverted love of geometric design. at the beginning of each series in the catalog, house has written a short text which tends to be a kind of diagrammatic explanation of process rather than a conceptual one. i love house's down to earth approach, writing of his inspirations and process in a relatively matter of fact way, simply laying the process bare.

house's short statements are are also peppered with a variety of source references and inspirations that clearly do collide in his visual motifs such as: the graphic work of edward munch, owen jones' "grammar of ornament", mcintosh, edo period japan, record album covers, french posters (lautrec/steinlen), hokusai, old type catalogs, bridge arches, volkswagons, moser and klimt, gothic leaded windows, the book of kells... and i would add that house's work was certainly rooted in pop art as well.

i recently managed to pick up two preliminary drawings by house (pictured above). the drawings were made to map out a couple of works from a series of silkscreen prints he worked on in 1972-73. of course what is interesting about these drawings is that you can see house thinking through the process, not only through form, but also via color through the hand painted "paint chips" attached at the bottoms. both of the drawings relate to series of vertical "tri-part" prints, with various permutations in 3 equal sections - each containing an arc, a stripe, or a triangle. the prints themselves are pretty stunning, but i really love the way these notations speak about house's process... and the sort of deconstructed images that have been taken apart in the drawings are pretty darn wonderful.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

" Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution. " - Sol Lewitt

Banal and derivative me thinks.

2:51 AM  
Blogger sroden said...

similarly, i would say that banal execution cannot rescue (or validate) a beautiful idea...

7:13 AM  

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