For the past ten years, artists Geddes Levenson and Annie Blazejack have been collaborating. Together they experiment with painting as a way to conjure up impossible places. The world of paint is infinitely malleable, and they set loose a series of industrious explorers to manipulate their painted environment, opening portals, eating brush strokes, and merging with cosmic landscapes.
The surfaces of their paintings are active, with energetic paint handling. The partially obscured or dissolving figures in their paintings are almost always women, and generally engaged in some kind of mysterious work. Perhaps only a foot or hand is in view, or perhaps the figure is camouflaged with her background, but she is still an agent of action, a portal through which the viewer can enter the painted plane.
The environments of the paintings are often fractured or distorted, developing a tension between recognition and confusion. Their fragmented nature raises questions of scale and solidity. Blazejack and Levenson’s vivid color pallet and confident brushstrokes lure viewers into the unfamiliar; a painted space with it’s own system of rules and physics.
WE PAINT FOR EACH OTHER
Some days, paintings are like windows. Look into a space that's just beside this space. The plane between here and there is impossibly thin, infinitely thin, impeccably thin, but perfectly impermeable. Here and there have different weather, different histories, and different physics, even though they are right right right next to each other.
Some days, you'll be standing, hands on your hips, looking through a painting-window, and someone will look back out at you. Someone or some thing. It's surprising, to say the least. You feel a soft shock in your spine.
Some days, looking into a painting is like looking into a cave. Or it's like looking down a well, up a skirt, through a crack, into a mirror. There's something tempting inside a good painting, something vast. It's only partially visible, because I've covered up most of it with this big yellow brush stroke. (Is a good painting modest? I want to obscure all the juicy parts, so that you only glimpse a flash of ankle, or a little bit of soft throat skin. Maybe. But maybe I want my painting to swallow you.)
Some days, what you thought was a window, and just for looking, is really a portal. You can jump through, if you're feeling brave, or lusty.
I jump in every time.
One day, I'm going to jump into a painting, and it's going to spit me out into another room. I'll be in my best friend's studio. Just like that. That's the painting I'm trying to paint.
We live in different cities. (Boston.) (Brooklyn.) Our painting process is a technique for bridging this distance. It is necessary. We need to find creative, sincere ways to be near each other.
I paint a picture, and then she paints a picture in response to mine. I copy her. She copies me. Back and forth. We are painting a conversation. Our imagery evolves slowly, because we pay very close attention to each other.
(As a kid, when I played imagination games with my friends, the stories we built were additive. Ex: “We are princesses.” “Yes, and one of the princesses is sick. And the other princess is a doctor.”)
You have access to a whole history of reference materials: you get ‘behind the scenes’ insights into why we’re choosing the colors we choose, why we’re making the marks we make. We make ourselves vulnerable, enunciating even our fuck-ups and our bad decisions. We are dogs offering our bellies up to the world.
As soon as I copy your painting, your painting becomes an object in history. It has been interpreted and contemplated.
Transcription is a re-creation of the past in the present. It is also a pre-creation of the future in the present, because we are making something we will make again.
Or, perhaps, we copy things like monks copy things: because we love them, and we want to multiply them, study them, contemplate every inch of paint.
The process I am describing is not linear. It is more like a genealogy. There are many strands (generations) of painted conversation. These strands merge, diverge, mature, evolve.
We paint cyclically, and the stories we tell are cyclical. Into these cycles we fold whatever is at hand.
BOTH ARE BOTH
We dissolve the lines of who made what as we copy copies until everything is just paint.
When I paint your painting, it becomes mine, too. We have the same epiphanies, we make the same creative choices. We learn a twin language.