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Doubt Exhibit - Nov 2017

Exhibit: Doubt
November 7 – December 3, 2017
Juror: Jason Gubbiotti

Opening Reception: Thursday, November 9, 6:30–8:00 pm

View the exhibit program here | View the exhibit online here

The Eleanor Boudrea Jordan Award for Best in Show:
"Ogun" by Noah Williams, mixed media sculpture

Insecurities can settle themselves inside of us and cause doubt. Doubt within us, with others, with technology, even our artistic abilities. Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Toulouse-Lautrec are famous for theirs. But sharing our doubts can often lead to a communal response and recognition. Pieces in this exhibit should evoke a reaction from the viewer and draw them into the artist's or the subject's point of uncertainty. 

Artists were asked to include a short statement about their “doubt," that is displayed next to their piece during the exhibit. The doubt encountered when making this particular artwork, doubt about being an artist, or the daily doubts, large and small, that influence us can fuel this write-up. The statement will be covered, so as not to distract from the first impact of the artwork. If they choose to, the public will be able to "open" and read these companion statements—but they won't be immediately viewable—just as with our doubts.

Letter from the Juror, Jason Gubbiotti

In October 1957, Greg Noll and his friend Mike Stang sat on the beach in Waimea Bay on the North Shore of O'ahu. For some time, they, their friends, and journeymen were intimidated by what they had been seeing over the past few months: twenty-five foot moving mountains made of literally tons of ocean water. Months before, as a storm came through, friends of theirs had gotten trapped in the swells. They were lost at sea, one never to be found, the other washing up on shore days later. The group of young surfers thought that it was impossible to ride such waves. One afternoon, Greg and Mike picked up their boards and decided to paddle out and attempt what they thought could never be done.

Greg Noll was the first to catch a wave. He stood up and was chased by a wall behind him. When he came out the other side, he realised that instinct, skills, and a pill called Fuckitall overtook his fear of the consequences of a wipeout under such huge waves. Humans had not yet experienced what they had just accomplished. When they did wipeout and survived, it was recounted as if they were “a piece of lint in a washing machine.” And more, sharks were known to patrol the waters near by. So what did these band of surfers do? They went at it again and again. They adapted new techniques and strategies to ride these behemoths and became the pioneers of what is now known as “big wave riding.” The young surfers also needed specific tools for their new venture. What are now known as “guns" were being custom designed and built by these trailblazers. These "guns" or long boards that range from six to ten feet long were created to stabilise the rider even better when reaching these heights and speeds. It was their skills, experience, and innovation that opened the next room in their practice.

Since I began making art, I have been intrigued in the role of doubt in relation to my practice. The act of questioning oneself, and creating in the face of doubt and uncertainty, is absolutely necessary for one to move forward and to progress. This is as true for the artist, as it is for the surfer: doubt, and the reasoning that comes along with it, helps to keep us alive as we better our craft. Doubt is our inner ear that demands much from us and questions our instinct and rational. Uncertainty is then one of the most fundamental keystones of the creative mind and it’s activity.

As makers, we have no other choice but to embrace the feeling of being unsure, of being suspended between two contradictory forces. This state forces us to ask questions of ourselves, and our work, about the validity of our endeavours. Doubt ensures the best of ourselves and requires us to search for better and more specific solutions to the issue at hand. Whether it is to use a certain material that contains better inherent implications or perhaps the way of having it made – machine perfect or the nuances of being made by the human hand. It also initiates an internal dialogue, a constant volley of ideas, questions and concerns that in the end help to propel our work forward with spine, posture. The struggle that exists within all of us, especially a maker, is finding the right time and place for doubt and skepticism, and balancing that with self confidence. Often times this will involve a process that allows for risk taking and ensures us the capabilities of entering a space that has not yet been explored. An example would be Jackson Pollock abandoning his repertoire and diving into what has become his unique fingerprint on the history of contemporary art.

As a juror for this exhibition at The Art League, I was confronted with the varied ways in which doubt is conveyed in contemporary art. This feeling of uncertainty comes through in many forms. These variations are presented through the visual, the psychological, and the inherent. While looking at works for this exhibition, doubt seemed most acute in the artist's decision making process. Anything from “should I put down green or blue”; “2B or 4B”; “wood or metal”; to “is it finished”? At some point in an artist's journey, the answers to these sorts of questions become instinctual, based in experience, just as a boxer knows which combination to throw during a heated exchange.

A common portrayal of doubt among many of the figurative artists in this exhibition is the literal portrayal of doubt itself. I viewed many drawings, paintings and photographs of people in a state that can be perceived as doubt: a woman staring at an empty wall; a young couple on their wedding day; a mother and her newborn child; a young woman gazing out onto an unseen space; standing in a cold room. What the best examples of these depictions of doubt bring to us, the viewer, is a place of doubt within ourselves. We are disposed in a moment where we are ourselves questioning: what am I witnessing? Did the artist bring us to a safe place or were we disposed of in a state of discomfort? If true, the piece has succeeded in the sense that it’s creator delivered us to a place to think from, provided us with a springboard to think from, rather than to be spoon fed a dose of what to think.

Materials are also able lend themselves to our perception of doubt, some more than others. One genre that comes to mind when thinking of the works chosen for this exhibition is figurative drawing, one of the primary building blocks in art school tool boxes. Drawing the human body on a piece of paper can be seen as one of the, or perhaps the unit of measure for one's abilities to display one’s skill. Artists such as Picasso, Rembrandt, Velazquez, Hockney, and Chuck Close have clearly portrayed the human presence with confidence and accuracy. The moment of doubt is more often seen within the subject matter of the work. Oil painting on the other hand is itself an agent of doubt. It’s molten consistency and painstakingly slow drying habit begs to be doubted. Unlike ink or graphite on paper that always leaves evidence of its application, oil paint can be manipulated and reworked over and over. The prime example this that comes to mind is Willem De Kooning. The scraping, the pushing of paint around, the negation of images by painting over previous passages all put on a full display the artist’s doubt and uncertainties throughout his process. The complete opposite of the spectrum might have to be the activity of carving stone and wood, a subtractive process of revealing a form. Here, doubt is constantly taking place in the thought process of the creator. Once a section is removed, it will never come back and is gone for ever. Constant anxiety and doubt sit within the artist’s mind. Unlike oil painting, the artist can be overwhelmed by errors and doubt in their ability. Each move will be dealt with for the rest of the process. Of all the practices, creating through a subtraction is the process that is affected most by doubt.

As I came to the end of selecting works for this exhibition and contemplating the role of doubt in art making, a few things have become clear. Whether one is just beginning their investigations in visual art or has had a studio practice for decades, doubt is a concern for everyone. Some artists embrace it and it actually drives their work while others try to tame it and even hide it in the corner at times. In a world that rewards people and movements for their overwhelming self confidence and diminishes others for their doubt and portrays it as weakness; artists often embrace their self doubt and view it as a positive attribution. We use it as fuel to propel our visions and ourselves. Doubt becomes a third person in our studios that takes on the roll of critic and conscience. As time goes on however, we are able to distinguish and separate self doubt with intellectual doubt. For an artist to succeed, doubting ones ability as a person should never be allowed into the studio. Just like Greg Noll believed in his skill set and experience, he was able to overcome the first “big wave.” It was the days of doubt though in his plan to attack that wave that allowed not only to survive these mountains, but to ride them with grace and style.

About the Juror: Jason Gubbiotti
Jason Gubbiotti lives and works in the countryside, just outside of Paris, France. He received his BFA from the Corcoran College of Art and Design in 1998. Since then, he has exhibited in the United States, France, Germany, and Switzerland. His solo exhibitions have been mounted at Civilian Art Projects, Hemphill, PAH Projects, and FUSEBOX. Selected group exhibitions have been “Landscape Confection” curated by Helen Molesworth at The Wexner Center for the Arts, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and The Orange County Museum of Art. Centre d’art Contemporain, Atelier Estienne (France), FRIART / Kunstalle Freiburg ( Switzerland), Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken (Germany) The Katzen Arts Center, and Curator’s Office. In 2007, he received a Bourse d'aide a la creation, Direction Règionale des Affaires Culturelles, Metz, France and in 1997 a Vermont Studio Center Artist Grant. He currently has a solo exhibition "Glass Giant" at Civilian Art Projects in Washington, DC and in march had a solo booth at the VOLTA Show in New York City.

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