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Tyler Vlahovich Text


Your paintings and drawings keep me very aware of many compositional decisions, and when I think about that, I generally drift into ideas about music composition and sound, and sometimes to ideas about lines of thinking or the examination of something from several differing points of view. Given that you keep a relationship between repeated or quite similar marks, I too am reminded of chords and tones. What is your works relationship to music/sound and these ideas?
Like most people I am attracted to the intangible quality of music and, like a fool, I dabble with music software and at one point was able to bounce between painting, drawing and sound as a studio practice. Sadly It didn't last. Regarding composition, the way gestures and marks coalesce into imagery is similar to sounds becoming music. The repetition in my work becomes a rhythm and it's this rhythm which ensnares someone long enough to drift. Or at least that is the aim. Also, sound is simultaneously intangible yet palpable. My take on it is to make direct, emphatic marks describe illusory, shifting images.

How did you arrive at your unusually muddied palette and the soft edged forms and shapes?
I am an advocate for the grotesque. Soft edges are as much a revolt against crisp lines as my interest in rich, subtle marks. Also, I had this idea that there were no lines, no math, no delineation in the world. 'Smudge' was the world and damn those who wanted to apply accurate weights and measures to it.. ... Sometimes I paint as if I am scouring a pan inch by inch. It seems so wrong but it keeps my self-consciousness at a distance and that's helpful at times. I think art includes a range of subtlety that design and graphics can't tolerate. My palette is a reflection and embrace of this.

The marks you make read as direct and elemental, not exhibiting a lot of technical finesse, yet are also controlled so that the overall effect is complex and sophisticated in a contemporary way. Usually there is a sense of agitation, or horniness as I once heard you describe it. Are you consciously juggling a lot of things at their basic level and hoping to have us understand this process or experience?
Thanks for the set up... Yes. But I have never heard it described as such. If I changed that question into a statement I think I could sell it to museum curators. The experience of discovery is what interests me - but I am not a hard-ass about it. I mean it's not my exclusive aim to show the act of making. I just know that people compulsively search for meaning between the lines.... I hope my method of working encourages this searching.

When you were installing the recent Feature exhibition you mentioned that your work is guided by a number of self-imposed rules. What are some of them? Do you ever break the rules?
I believe my rules may be better understood as personal taste. And fear. Here's a couple: I hate art materials when used to reinforce the pedigree or the artist; I avoid dripping paint; I don't follow arbitrary, semi-scientific or mathematical systems. This is a fear. Determining systems don't work for me because I like unfettered discovery. Or to be more specific I think I am already neck deep in determining systems and the process of discovery is my way out of it.

Why and when did your titles begin to include the word "event?"
'Event' came from the titles/classification of Bill Traylors work. It is so detached and open. It names without limiting. I started to use it around 2000 after a friend gave me a book on his work. I am indebted to all publications regarding folk art, art of children, art of the insane, and crafts.

What's your interest to blur the separation between panting and sculpture or installation? On a number of occasions I've seen you display a painted stretched canvas lying face up on the floor, in groups stacked this way and that like shards leaning against a wall, or even displayed leaning against a wall on an oddly related shelf.
Art can be tired formal buffoonery. To blur the separation is to put things out of balance and ask the viewer to put it right. I like the uncomfortable feeling my work hits when it teeters between respect and abuse; meditation and caprice. It suggests that you have something at stake beyond being the dutiful observer.

As a viewer, I find a 30s, 40s modernist quality in your paintings, perhaps only so as to the accumulation of a number of related ideas on composition, color, scale, and application. There is an amusing confusion between my hesitation to engage in what I am superficially perceiving as old and hackneyed yet I cannot disregard that there is also my experience of something meaningful and personal with a tickle of newness. Are you decidedly pushing these ideas around? Do you remember the late 80s East Village dialogue over the rejection of the need for art to progress via a succession of novel devices vs. the ability of the artist to cull out an honest and personally meaningful area of discussion and creation within known or obvious antecedents?
Sometimes they just come out that way. It is hard to explain. My compulsion is to ground abstraction into the familiar. I don't resist it. That said, I find it interesting that old paintings tend to be more object, and less idea. The essay, "Painting: The Task of Mourning" by Yve-Alain Bois was helpful to me though it took me over a week to understand it. I actually had to read it backwards (paragraph by paragraph) because I would get exhausted half way through.

Often you leave a corner of a wood panel support exposed. I've come to relate to it as the the top corner of a bed sheet which is turned down so to be invitingly suggestive. This soft exhibitionism makes me chuckle, yet is emotionally and intellectually exciting. How did you come to use this and what is your intention?
It shapes the painting in its early stages and forces a frame of reference. It came quite naturally - I was providing an area to grip the painting without getting gesso on my fingers. I quickly saw it as a devils patch: a place on a quilt design left incomplete to signifying that no human design could rival God's. It's linked to the custom of pouring to the ground a cap full of alcohol before taking a swig: The notion to give respect to the Devil or fond remembrance. My work needs a little emptiness.

One of the fantastic things about abstraction is that it is so open to the interpretation of the viewer. Does it bug you that someone could really get off on your work for reasons completely different from your initial intentions?
Once I saw my paintings on a TV program called The Fifth Wheel. The show was taping in Chinatown, stepping into shops and galleries for fun. I was caught cold and just stared at the TV. I vividly recall the camera zooming in and out on my work like a psychedelic freak-out while the voice over of one of the contestants exclaimed with a giggle, "I see a bunny!" Put simply, abstraction is the wrong vehicle if I desired something specific from my work. Who am I to say there ain't no bunny?

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