Offramp Gallery = 1702 Lincoln Avenue = Pasadena, CA 91103 = 626.298.6931
James Griffith: Natural Selection
November 18 - December 23, 2012
Opening Reception: Sunday, November 18, 2-5pm
Closing Reception & Holiday Party: Sunday, December 23, 2-5pm
As an artist who is always on the hunt for new painting materials, it was the gooey messiness of tar that first trapped my attention. The pleasure of probing an oozing puddle of tar with a stick and pulling out runnels of shiny black strands is no doubt an ancient experience also shared by early humans. This primal quality of 'playing' with tar (collected from the La Brea Tar Pits) lead me to think about the meaning of making contemporary art with a primordial goo.
In the Miocene Age, microorganisms lived and died in ancient seas. Sediments formed as their bodies settled into the seafloor and over eons these formed deposits of oil and tar. Tar is then evidence of a geological time scale and its evolutionary processes of our planet. Now, as I paint images of contemporary nature in a medium such as tar, the image is re-framed with an awareness of this moment's ancient provenance. It underscores its place in time. The 'painted moment' can be seen as a brief segment in a vast fluid process we call Nature.
The contemporary human use of tar as a source of petrochemical fuels also brings additional meanings to my work. Tar colors my work with smoggy sepia browns and erosive textures that can easily be seen to reference the ecological impacts of human industry. Just as the tar of the La Brea Tar Pits is associated with dinosaurs trapped in its deadly clutch, the tar of industrial oil spills can be seen as an intractable snare. Petroleum is now a 'tar baby', once so attractive, now so regrettable. What better way to imply, with one stroke of 'paint', both the dynamics of geological time and the tragedy of nature at the mercy of human development and pollution.
I have further stirred this cauldron of meaning by adding other natural materials to the tar paintings. Yellow pollen dusts the surface with the surface with the promise of renewal from nature's reproductive power. Volcanic and glass sand add grit and sparkle to the darkness of tar. Copper sulphate adds a beautiful but poisonous blue. Human ash brings home a sense of mortality with its somber grey. Hope and redemption swirl together with the threat of danger on a grand time scale.
James Griffith 2012
James Griffith, Mouse: Natural Selection, 2012, tar, pollen, copper sulphate, Luberon red ocre on aluminum panel
James Griffith, Young Crows: Natural Selection, 2012, tar, pollen, human ash on aluminum panel