Brian Caraway, An Idea of Pattern

Brian Caraway and I have, what is becoming a long history of working together. Type in his name in the search bar on the right to explore our history. His new work is electrifying and his show at the Swee(t)Art Drawing Gallery, entitled “I HAVE ALREADY FORGOTTEN THE NAME OF THE THING I AM LOOKING AT” opens on October 30th. -obi

Obi: How has your experience been since school? I have seen you travel down a few aesthetic paths since…can you walk me through it from your perspective?

Brian: My experience since school, with respect to my art practice, has been a pretty steady climb. Don’t get me wrong, there was a pretty serious period where I did nothing but look. The climax that I experienced that I like to call my thesis work left me completely exhausted. I could do nothing but look. There is a lot of thinking and making in art school. A lot of talking, and reflecting on what one has looked at, but not so much looking for me—well, not without being told what it is I should be looking at. Granted, the things I was told to look at were, and are, pretty amazing. But the cleansing for me was looking at the things that I wanted to look at on my own accord. When that period passed I was able to hit the studio with double the power. I feel like some of the strides that I have taken post school are the longest, and the strongest yet.

Brian con’t…

As far as the aesthetic path I find myself traveling down (or paths as you have it) is a broad swath, but a singular swath at that. I entered art school making stylized landscape paintings, when I finished I was constructing minimal abstractions. One could argue that as separate aesthetic universes, but that isn’t the case for me. I like to think that the style of work I was producing before school was distilled down to a pure, clean practice. I came away making compositions out of the favorite elements of the paintings without the landscape part. The landscape served as a spiritual element to those paintings, but that is a different story for a different interview. The transition that took place at Mills College was profound, and I feel grateful for the refinement that has occurred. In addition to the painting come mixed-media fabrications, as well as site-specific installations, which I like to consider as site-specific experiences that I provide to the viewer.

Obi: You are having a show at the Drawing Gallery this month. I hate to put you on the spot, but I am going to: how do you reconcile your work as drawing? Sure you have some mark making but the string? Is it solely related based on the linear element?

Brian: Good question(s), thank you, this is just the spot that I should be put on right now. Everything I do is drawing; or based on drawing. I am not trying to be a joker by saying this, but it is true. Weather I lay down paint, or ink, or pencil, or pastel, or light, or string it is all done with the same attention to the quality of that line. The aesthetic path that I find myself on began with radio broadcast towers. Those towers ceased to be towers and became parallel lines. Some of the early experimentation with parallel lines was in the form of fluorescent light bulbs (with which I found some fantastic success). However, in all honesty, that feeling of success came too quick. It wasn’t enough for me. The refinement continued to produce linear compositions of string that are not unlike mini blinds turned on their side. At its foundation everything is based on the linear element. As I lay out the string into its parallel fashion like I plan to in the Drawing Gallery the dialog extends beyond the two dimensional realm and breaks into the third dimension—hopefully carrying the experience into the next dimension.

Obi: How would you classify you work? Would you? Op art? Minimalist art? It is so refreshing to see someone relevant and working who is not rendering and also, who is not working abstractly. I don’t think of your work as abstract, do you?

Brian: I am proud to classify my work as Minimal (Hard Edge Minimalism if I might be so bold). Before me are some fantastic painters that have worked in this fashion, and I hope to someday be lumped in there as a new voice along a well-trodden path. I do tend to make things that create optical friction however, I would not place myself into the category of Op Art—well, not yet at least—hard to see, the future is. I like to think of my work as abstraction, but am still looking for clarification in this sense. I feel that it is abstract, but with such attention to edge and frequency, can it be abstract? An abstraction of an idea of pattern perhaps. Does that make it abstraction? That is my question to you Obi.

I think it does.

  1. Obi, you’re a joker. Brian’s new work (fluorescent?) is “electrifying”.

    Can I modify your description, Brian, to Hard-Edge Minimalist Techno? Seriously, there’s something musical or Morse Code-ish about those line patterns.

    Great to hear your thoughts about the movement from the landscape paintings to the towers to the lines. Maybe your lines are less purely abstract and more like stand-ins for something else, like lines in a wiring diagram?

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