I am a slow reader because of a processing deficit. To briefly explain, information reaches my mind slower than my mind is able to process it. The result is that my mind quickly processes information it receives and will not wait for the next piece, leading to loss of focus. This deficit may be the reason I needed to reread articles by Sol LeWitt and Robert Smithson several times. [I wouldn’t apologize or try to explain your reading speed,…these texts are complicated and are dealing with hard ideas, so they would require a re-reading no matter who is reading …] However, the benefit went to my artistic dilemmas both old and new. While LeWitt’s “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” and Smithson’s “Cultural Confinement” possess or imply conflicting points of view, they are not unlike two sides of the same cube. Smithson argues over category and “representation,” LeWitt attempts to clarify a source of art making. Each of them influenced my thoughts on the same issues. [It is unclear to me what these issue are, this could be a bit more clear]  These viewpoints are of great value to me on both artistic and personal levels, and provide additional guidance to my art making [This is a nice way to put it].

In the past I have struggled with my own notions of conceptual art versus expressionism. I somehow developed a belief that all art was somehow one or the other. It was comforting to read Smithson state that, “Artists are expected to fit into fraudulent categories.” Yet I felt the rug yanked from under my feet as he discussed art becoming “a portable object or surface disengaged from the outside world.” [Yes, one must remember, these artists were fighting different battles] He discusses “Occult notions of ‘concept’” and “unnecessary modes of representation both ‘abstract’ and ‘realistic’” as “in retreat from the physical world.” Throughout his article Smithson is arguing an opinion of the dialectical, seeking an involvement between the opposing forces of nature and man made art. The argument can be made that this relates to my work simulates natures affect on man made surfaces, or by the connection people often make between my paintings and graffiti art; an art form which possesses a serious relationship to both social and natural forces. The fact of the matter is that there is no connection of serious consequence between my previous artworks and what Smithson is discussing [Though what about your simulated concrete?]. While Smithson’s ideals may provide support for honest graffiti artists, my work is not the same. However, an underlying view Smithson presents in his article is of all other art as something finished and outmoded. On the one hand I can relate to this having seen it in my own work. Paintings I have made in the past represent conclusions to ideas, artificial resolutions to a perceived problem. While people may look at the work I made and find openings to new insight, the work is not made or presented that way. It would not matter whether my work was intended to be conceptual or expressive; it was enslaved by attempts to resolve my own ideas. Then on the other hand, expelling all recognition of representation seems contradictory to the very nature of art [Be careful in defining “the nature of art”, this is dangerous, as I would argue this can not be an either / or, anything it would be better to put a disclaimer on this,…talk about your personal experience with representation].

As perhaps all artists must, Smithson still had to make an art object in order to test, illustrate, or accomplish his views. How is this not a representation of concept? [Be clearer when and how he railed against any objects….] His argument suggests that art “should find itself in the physical world, and not end up locked in an idea in someone’s head.” [This is contradictory to your previous sentence on Simithson’s ideas] He further stated that, “Art’s development should be dialectical and not metaphysical.” In either case a system of thought would be used to understand the role of art in human experience. Smithson was “for an art that takes into account the direct effect of the elements as they exist from day to day…both sunny and stormy.” I think his passions overpowered his reasoning. [This needs to be clearer why you think this]  Art dealing with opposed forces is dialectical but might only be valued for its representation, intended or not, of the metaphysical ideas of good and evil. As Sol LeWitt put it, “Once out of his hand the artist has no control over the way a viewer will perceive the work. Different people will understand the same things in different ways.”

Smithson highlighted one point that I cannot disagree with. He said, “Nature is never finished.” My thoughts are the same due to my processing deficit, growing out of one another [Be clearer, I am not sure what is growing out of another]. I have attempted to confine my views of categories of art. This has been expressed visually with my geometric characters built out of scribbles on a page. There has been a conflict within me of a need to express thoughts, and to define thoughts, to be conceptual or expressive. Adjoined to this is the added dilemma of emotions usually being what is meant by the word expression. So which side of this division do I belong to? I have wanted to belong to the conceptual side, yet I have continually expressed personal feelings of thoughts through my paintings.

I recently confronted the issue of my previous means of communicating ideas and found them to be largely ineffectual. I began mentally deconstructing the visual aspects of my work to learn what I can them [?]. In conjunction I have used LeWitt’s explanation of making conceptual art as a guide to explore my own process of working with meaning and materials. Upon examination of my results, and reading LeWitt’s writing with a more critical eye, I have new perspective on the processes I’ve used and plan to practice. The most important is the understanding that I am not a conceptual artist as described by LeWitt. Though I do agree with LeWitt’s statement that, “The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product,” I recognize “the idea” as most often an ephemeral thing, without it needing to be captured or shared. Another distinction is when he discusses materials and physicality. The materiality of my work is not prescribed by the idea I use to make a work, as LeWitt would suggest. He argues that, “Color, surface, texture, and shape only emphasize the physical aspects of the work…[and that] Anything that calls attention to and interests the viewer in this physicality is a deterrent to our understanding of the idea and is used as an expressive device.” He sees danger in “making the physicality of the materials so important that it becomes the idea of the work.” [Yes, LeWitt’s ideas here are certainly dated but remember we take them for granted now………] While he says how this may be used “in a paradoxical way” he fails to acknowledge what might be expressed by the material nature of the work. Even though LeWitt initially inspired me to devote myself to a practice of conceptual art, my constant rereading of his words have remade my understanding of them. Despite my disappointment in the lack of recognition of the materiality and the ideas it may express, I find great insight in his statement that, “No matter what form it may finally have it must begin with an idea.” I respect him a lot for the humility he showed in his closing. “These paragraphs are not intended as categorical imperatives but the ideas stated are as close as possible to my thinking at this time.”

Sol LeWitt’s writing may not provide the answers for what conceptual art definitively is, but allows for individual grasping of the idea. I don’t believe LeWitt put it best when he said, “The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” Tony Apesos explained that, “the thing you think your work is about is like the fuel that propels the engine that makes the art.” Again, there may be a better way to understand using in idea for making art. I think the idea or concept is the floor on which one builds or stands the work up. The art does not need to explain the floor. It doesn’t express the floor, or give an example of the floor. The art need not reference the floor; it is built from it, and without the floor the art would not make sense or have been made. [Can you get to phillie? I would recommend seeing this: http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/324.html…Also check out Jonathan Monk who is an artist whos work is often about the conceptual artist of the 60’s………also Amy Stillman a painter, Anne Craven a painter, Albert Oehlen a painter, they are all dealing with abstraction…….also try to get to NYC to see Abstraction and the Ready Made Gesture at the theKitchen.org]