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:

Prints: Stop! Look! Listen!

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At some point in recent years the image of this hazard sign popped into my head and I had to recreate it. There was some allure to taking a simple, banal caution message and recreating it with my own hands. Would the impact and meaning be drained from it once isolated and out of context? Maybe. Sort of. But this wasn’t the time for such questions. The task was just something that needed to be done.

I was obsessed with road signs as a kid. The graphic forms and bold colors. The deceptive scale. The simplicity. The immediacy. The minimalism. As Frank Stella once said of his hard-edged, geometric paintings, “What you see is what you see.” Well, I saw what I saw in those signs – and it was awesome. It’s no wonder I was soon obsessed with pop art, posters, packaging, signage and typography. They’re all clean, simple, designed things.

I was so obsessed that my dad and I salvaged an arrow sign (seen in this photograph) from a knocked-down post when I was in elementary school. We were driving along and saw the sign – still attached to the post – strewn off to the side of the road peeking out from a thicket of tall grass. To see it languishing there, out of reach, was just too much. We went back that evening with some tools – under the cover of darkness – released it from the post and took it home. Dad did the heavy lifting. I stood lookout. I was so excited. I couldn’t believe that the thing was sitting in our living room. I stared at it all evening.    

I was so very obsessed that my mom made scale replicas of my favorite road signs with poster board and permanent marker. She faithfully recreated the precise circles and arcs of the No U Turn sign by tracing the perimeter of a mixing bowl. She was a trooper. I just sat back and art directed to assure that the details were totally, completely accurate. We amassed quite the collection. As props they made bike riding a treat for me and a nuisance for everyone else – all needed to obey the posted signage.

I’m glad I kept this sign. It brightened my days back in the suburbs of Philadelphia and it brightens my days in our workshop here in Georgia.

So here, again, is Untitled. Pure and simple. Perfect.

Mom, Dad, PennDOT – this one’s for you.