loaded gender implications — project fumble + reconsiderations

“Undefeated you will have nothing to say but more of the same. Defeated you will stand at the door of your house to welcome the unknown, putting behind you all that is known…Defeated, exhausted, and helpless you will perhaps go a little bit further…But helplessness when fear and dread have run their course, as all passions do, is the most rewarding state of all. IT IS A TIME WHEN OUR MOST TENACIOUS PREJUDICES ARE OVERCOME. Our most tightly gripped resistances come under the knife and we are made more free.” – AGNES MARTIN, Agnes Martin, Writings


PROJECT FUMBLES Of course using a project as an excuse to travel to Taos, was no fumble at all!

GENDER LOADED ARTIST BODIES [a separate topic unto itself; separate from analysis of artwork]

Bodies Performing Gender?

Martin + Disney

Stella + Superman

Early 1960s studio shots of Agnes Martin (L) and Frank Stella (R)

Early 1960s studio shots of Agnes Martin (L) and Frank Stella (R)

Agnes Martin: Performing the feminine

Perhaps inadvertently, but Martin appears to be performing femininity along conventional lines (non confrontational, hedge-like posturing)

Frank Stella: Performing the masculine

Perhaps NOT inadvertently, but Stella appears to be performing masculinity along conventional lines (confrontational, agentic posturing)

It was so easy to get lost in the gender implications located in the bodies of Martin as compared to Stella. And I think I would not be the only one that would fail under the weight of the implications.

I fumbled my first run at my Agnes Martin project in several ways

  1. SAMPLING Problems arose in not clearly denoting my system for sample selection and pairing of artworks.My initial pairings were done intuitively. Once the works were selected I needed to thoroughly review and identify the patterns that I employed. And then adjust my selections so that all adhered to the criteria, which was as follows:
    • artist: Agnes Martin
    • artists: Martin’s male (bio) contemporaries

      • based on similarities in
        • – age
        • – relationship with Minimalism or formally related movements (like like Hard Edge and Field painting, as well as links Abstract Expressionism, etc)
        • – date of works creation
    • + availability of high resolution image online
    • + medium similarities
      • – employs pigment on planar surface
      • – paint, ink or like material
    • + formal similarities with compositional dependence on
      • – abstraction
      • – geometrical structures
      • – geometric shapes
      • – quantity of like shapes used
    • + disregard of scale of work (only in selection phase)
    • NOTE only photographic reproductions have been viewed by researcher, me. Likewise I have had no direct contact with any of the artists included in the project.
    • A few of the samples, in no particular order:

























      Slide29Really wanted to address this pairing but it was a total stretch. The linear forces had an odd likeness to me

    Demographic: Each artwork image was identified with artist, title of work, date of production, medium and scale. Yet it would have been use full to add age of artist at time of the artwork production, art historical movement categorization. Components and USE of Visual Form: Each work needed to be systematically coded for all formal items under consideration–value variation, hue intensity, symmetry, implied directional force, etc. Then each needed sub coded in terms of where they were situated on spectrums of the formal items. IE Coding for employment of value range in terms of degrees of optical contrast (low variation <->high variation) within each work. Etc. Need to be more systematic and even if decision making is driven intuitively, I need to return to the sets of decisions to identity the inherent systems used and refine for consistent usage of the system across entire spectrum of samples. Trust my gut, but then break it down to insure consistency and relevance.
  3. SYSTEM MINGLING WITH ASSUMPTIONS the biggest faux paux was overlaying my mildly educated presumptions of gender loaded implications onto Martin and her work.Meaning playing both with bodily performance of gender as seen in studio photos and trying to analyze artworks. Isolate these as separate (but related) projects. INSTEAD of holding to what I actually did do. Translating patterns of gender language practices into a visual evaluatory system as a frame for evaluating Martin’s work as it correlated with her male counterparts. (though I did this more so in the paper portion and not so much).


    Projection was at a premium

  4. SYSTEM REDIRECT emphasizing the formal aspects on a relative gradient of QUIET to LOUD, SILENCE to NOISE correlating quiet and silence relatively with a more feminine practice, when perhaps a system that related to acts of visual SOFTENing might have created a more corollary system of spoken/written language to visual as it relates to language gender studies.
  5. Further it would have been useful to specify that I was not declaring a fixed reading of Martin and her peers work in terms of gender, but that it was a temporarily position informed by gender studies to gain a particular viewpoint.
  6. WHY WHY WHY. I never addressed why study Martin from a framework developed from gender practices or why try to generate an evaluatory visual system derived from spoken and written language use.
    • Gender as it relates to vocation is a relevant topic when considering the discrepancies in percentage of representation via exhibition of art in key venues along gender lines.
    • As much as we hate the injustices that arise in conventions of difference and would like to think we have risen above configuring differences in hierarchical value, it does not change the fact that as social beings we are reliant on communal hierarchies that facilitate comprehension and how one might navigate the world.
    • I think Martin’s work was historically notable in the ways it was different than her male counterparts. I wondered if these differences in doing art (performing identity) might some how relate to how conventions of gender might be registering within her (implicitly)
    • in terms of performativity and embodiment I believe, or predict, that in the same way traces of gender convention are evident in our posturing and gesturing of body, like language, might not also work its way out in artists bodily making. Not a claim intent but a claim to that conventional systems implicitly ascribed to work their way out in our bodies, even our artwork.
    • Of course I freaking engender my work both in alignment with my ascribed gender but also to counter.





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