Prints: Untitled, 2018

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Just locked in two colors on this new screenprint for 2018. I’ve been very much looking forward to exploring more hard-edged, geometric abstraction this year and Untitled was an awesome design with which to kickstart the season.

Seriously, is there anything more exciting than designing a multi-color piece and locking in that final color on the print run? It’s like putting in that last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. The thrill never gets old.

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Prints: Dot/Dash – 2017 Year in Review

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2017 was the year I jettisoned formal, finished compositions – for one year. In place of a clearly articulated vision prior to printing, I tried loosening things up by composing on the fly, working in the moment and just rolling with it. I went with a few graphic patterns that piqued my interest – mainly dots and stripes – and played with them in random compositions as I printed. Some small editions came out the process, but the prints are all mostly unique. Color choices were determined similarly. I had some hues in mind to start but mainly just built up color as I went along.

It was all very different from my usual working method of super-tight, controlled situations where everything is designed and prepared in advance of production. In that scenario, production is merely a process devoid of all decision making – a means to an end and satisfying in a different kind of way. I suppose I was inspired by Sol LeWitt’s seminal Sentences on Conceptual Art of 1969, numbers six and seven in particular:

“6. If the artist changes his mind midway through the execution of the piece he compromises the result and repeats past results.”

“7. The artist’s will is secondary to the process he initiates from idea to completion. His willfulness may only be ego.”

Perhaps a little too much. Because I next wanted to bust things open and let it rip. I worried that things were getting a bit too dry, too expected. Working in the moment and forcing decisions would open things up, let fresh ideas in and set my work on a different course, I thought.

That happened. Sort of. Because the results are oddly not too dissimilar from my usual work.  

The limited design elements really helped temper the atmosphere and hold it all together. Things could easily have gotten out of hand with a messy swirl of color and blobs of form. You know, like Lord of the Flies in two dimensions. Or worse, dried macaroni and construction paper collages. But here I got the best of both worlds: crisp compositions that emphasize simplicity of form and color combinations that I would not have otherwise considered. It was just the right balance of experimentation and restraint.

Take a look at a few of my favorites:

Things We Like: Drab Majesty, “The Demonstration”

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Dreamy and introspective. That’s the easy answer. Some might say “dark”. Perhaps a bit. But that’s an overly simplistic and, frankly, cynical take. It could be said Drab Majesty conjures up a 4AD aura about things with hints of vintage Clan of Xymox or Cocteau Twins in both sound and style. Really, though, there are many influences – dream pop, shoegaze and classic goth among them – that tease their way into the songs. But Deb DeMure, the androgynous alter-ego of L.A.-based musician Andrew Clinco, comes calling with more than just a checklist of references.

On their second proper album, The Demonstration, Drab Majesty transcends the confines of strict style and the niche tastes of a precious few and push out into the realm of 80’s new wave and pop. The songs are catchy and irresistible and satisfyingly accessible while managing to still shimmer and haunt and hover in the corner – a perfect mix of light and dark that invites obsessive listening. Many of these songs wouldn’t seem out of place on mainstream radio of the era. The grand, euphoric “Cold Souls” comes to mind as does “39 By Design”, their languid meditation on the Heaven’s Gate cult – both tracks aptly released in advance of the album like incantations masking as pop singles.

And while there’s a lot to love about The Demonstration, DeMure’s guitar playing could be the true star. Her chiming guitar lines are captivating as they meander around and hang in the air. They lure you in, slow things down and let the white space between notes wrap you in a woozy, warm embrace. “Not Just a Name” and “Forget Tomorrow” conjure up this atmosphere perfectly, the latter playing up the 80’s-era drum machines to near-absurd levels of intensity.

But grandiose gestures are what Drab Majesty is all about. Their image and influences spill out super-saturated, dime-store drama in a kaleidoscope of colors, textures and references. They present an exquisite corpse tangled with so many conflicting cultural touch points – religious pageantry, the occult, KISS Army, Warhol wigs, science fiction, Geisha girl, Members Only – that it’s hard not to fall under their spell (or perhaps surrender to the sheer weight of their presentation) and just follow along. But it all works. Style and sound are a perfect match – light and dark, sweet and sour, high and low – that keeps you off balance and craving more.

After letting this one brood on the turntable for the better part of a month (on glorious marbled blue vinyl and on constant repeat), The Demonstration presents a complete, confident and fully realized vision. Also, the album’s production – care of Telaphon Tel Aviv’s Joshua Eustis – is cleaner and less claustrophobic than its predecessor, Careless (itself a clear statement of purpose with its fair share of great songs).

But The Demonstration is the complete package. It’s that same complex and compelling vision but pushed through with focus and clarity, delivering great songs with production to match.