The Strand of Power
Can an abstract painting be funny?
I have never considered this question before. Maybe that's because I have never seen a funny abstract painting before this one. This abstract painting has a figurative moment. Floating in the middle of a pink rectangle was a fleshy form that I read as most probably an ass, though there is a deliberate (I believe) anatomical discrepancy in what would be the upper thigh. We, the other viewers and I, disagreed and discussed what form this was. An ass? balls? (I don’t exactly see that one), a nose? (I don’t exactly see that one either.) Two asses! Someone called out, after the conversation had moved on. Funny, right? So After seeing the ass I returned to the title. It's oxymoronic. A strand is not rigid; power seems necessarily rigid. Ha!
What else was funny about this painting? So here we have this fleshy form suspended on a nauseating pink rectangle. It especially appeared nauseating along the lower edge where it butted up against an equally nauseating green. (I can see here that in the reproduction the relationship between these colors does not come across accurately.) So this fleshy form was painterly. The edge of the painting allows it to sort of float. Like it is a painting within the painting. A figurative painting within an abstract one.It is held on the surface as if being presented. Look Mommy, an ass! Funny.
There are these pokey little sticks too. They look like sticks because the paint is raised. They remind me of piñata batons. I imagine they are trying to hit or poke at the ass or the painting of the ass. Funny. Maybe dark...
How the did I read the rest of the painting? I saw a deep space in the upper right corner. I was attracted it was largely obscured. There is a thread of color that seems to glow or represent something that glows: neon or the camera blur of lights at night. From behind the pink rectangle is a sort of explosion shape. If the artist wanted to paint an explosion he could have. But this form is flattened, constructed of deliberately rigid diagonal marks.
There was a mark that bothered me. It was the vertical line rising from bottom edge of the painting and disappearing behind the pink rectangle. It formed a border between two textured color fields. I did that annoying thing that everyone does in graduate school; I held my hand over that line. I sort of hated that line. I did not like that it almost anchored the pink field, kept it from floating the way I wanted it to. I didn’t like that I did not know why it was there. Or maybe it seemed to stabilize the painting in a way that I didn't want it to. Wait...maybe this was the Strand of Power. That I was irked by a line is funny! It is funny and strange and wonderful that there is a language of colors and gestures and lines that we cannot decode precisely. I have a hunch that this painting was supposed to provoke, that it was making a joke, but one that might have been offensive or cynical. It’s pretty amazing that a painting can do that.