New York City, 1993
The horse stands in the blackness that gave it birth. The blackness -- the paint on canvas within which the horse stands -- is six feet by seven feet. In its center, carved out of the black paint by paper towel -- is the light and shadow and modeling and spirit that we see as the horse.
The painting looks, at first glance, as if it is solely about the horse in its center. It is not. It is also about the blackness -- the nothingness -- that was carved away to give form to that horse. It is about nothingness giving way to the organization we call life.
How is this sculptured painting made? By first covering the entire canvas with black paint. And then by slipping a paper towel into that wet black paint and lifting it off layer by layer.
As the black comes off, the light underneath it emerges. The more black that is removed, the more light radiates from that portion of the canvas. Outline emerges. Shadowing emerges. Three-dimensionality emerges. Being emerges.
Stand ten feet away, and the horse is there. Stand only ten inches away, and there is a black residue around its outline, just as there are black scratches all through its form. The marks of the creator's hand. The fallings away from purity and perfection. The descent into the physical world of a light still flawed by darkness.
The horse comes out of the blackness, but is still tied by its residues to that blackness. It is the center of a living, continuing, fragile emergence. Now separated from the blackness, but not quite free from the blackness.
There are terminologies available to describe this view of form and life. We can call the horse before us one of God's most perfect forms. This is the way Andoe thinks of it, and of course, he is right.
Or we can borrow from Plato and call it an eternal idea. Or from Jung and call it an archetype. Or from molecular biology and call it a genome. Or we can borrow from chaos theory -- a science about as old as Andoe -- and call it an attractor.
Such an attractor -- like a magnet -- draws chaos around it into being. What was formless before -- black nothingness before -- now circles toward a center and gives birth to the light and form that was hidden beneath it.
Chaos diminishes. Form occurs. If God -- contrary to Einstein -- does play dice, in the archetype on this canvas He rolls a seven.
Doe Andoe follow chaos theory? No. Then why overlay it onto his work? Because otherwise that work is going to be seen wrong.
Because at this moment we have a very fixed idea of what the new, what the radical should look like. It should have this content, this material, this appearance.
So we look for this content, this material, and this appearance. And we stop looking at anything else.
We do this all the time now. We try to usurp the radical. We tell the radical what it must be. And we forget that the radical will never look like what the radical must be. Some people think these paintings look like Stubbs'. Too easy. Too pretty. Too conventional. But then you ask them how the painting was made...or the impact of the black-on-black negative space...or why the painting was cut out of the paint instead of put on with paint -- and they haven't a clue.
So you add ears to their eyes. Andoe was raised on black, wounded earth: Oklahoma and its oil. He painted like everyone else painted for a while; then he wanted to get away from 'Does this color look good there?'
He decided to paint with earth; paint that had black oil and earth grained into it. He saw this paint, not as skin but as stone. You could cut into it. You could reduce it to the hidden figure at its heart.
He was weary of art history. He wanted to circle around it; go back to its beginning. He wanted to paint the way humans painted when no one had painted before. 'Initial response,' he calls it; can it be done again for the first time?
This gave him his procedure. How to create his own kind of first moment. But in response to what?
Simple. To the horse's first moment.
The act of creation recreated. Big words. But radicality has always been megalomania. You kid yourself into thinking you can do something new, and sometimes you can.
So the horse stands there in front of you. In a dozen different manifestations. Freshly created. Mint-new. Before time has a chance to blur its outlines.
Beginnings. This is an age of beginnings. We know a little more now of how God works. We see the blackness he works from, as well as the light he works with. We can trace the process from black to light with mathematics, and with carved paint.
Are the traces accurate? Are they valid? Do they give us deeper eyes? Do they enlarge our part in the process? Do they open doors that we never knew were there before?
We don't know. What does the universe look like now? What does radical look like now? Chaos theory? Andoe?
We don't know.
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