WHENEVER/WHEN

I’ve got a new show up at Imago Gallery and Cultural Center in Columbia, MO right now. The show, titled WHENEVERWHEN, is a group of abstract pieces I’ve been working on over the last year, including after my heart attack.

I’m posting some details and a few full images below. Please come see the show at Imago; my talk will be at 6pm on June 10th. Imago is located on the corner of Broadway and Hitt in downtown Columbia, MO.

Sballou-illicitIllicit. Oil, oil stick, spray paint, oil pastel and colored pencil on panel, 26 by 26 inches, 2016.

Sballou-theunfolddetailThe Unfold (Detail). Oil, oil stick, and colored pencil on panel, 26 by 26  inches, 2015.

Sballou-osmoticOsmotic. Oil, oil stick, spray paint, oil pastel and colored pencil on panel, 26 by 26 inches, 2016.

Sballou-sigilSigil. Oil, oil stick, spray paint, oil pastel, colored pencil and bas relief on panel, 16 by 16 inches, 2015-2016.

Sballou-sigildetailSigil (Detail). Oil, oil stick, spray paint, oil pastel, colored pencil and bas relief on panel, 16 by 16 inches, 2015-2016.

Sballou-benticondetailBent Icon (Detail). Oil, oil stick, and colored pencil on panel, 26 by 26  inches, 2015.

Click here for more info about these pieces and a few other images of them in process.

Current Abstractions

Over the last 6 months I’ve been moving back into some more serious abstract paintings. Since beginning my education, these periods of return to non-representational, non-observational work have been important to me. Usually, this work is a release from more intensive perceptual-process paintings. Often it doesn’t resolve into a clear body of work, yet once every 3 or 4 years it does.

Much of the new abstraction is directly related to three distinct events that have been taking place in my studio. First, I’ve been collaborating with Joel T Dugan on a series of works that, while mostly resolving into representation and pictorial symbolism, often begin with evocative surface and color explorations. Secondly, I’ve found myself contemplating the kinds of decisions my daughters make when they work in my studio alongside me. They have none of the philosophy or theory behind making art, and so they offer a kind of pure aesthetic and material reactivity that I find refreshing and exciting. Lastly, I have been obsessed with a print made for a Penguin edition of the book The Cloud of Unknowing. The print was apparently made by artist Diana Bloomfield around 1961. Ms Bloomfield, who died in 2010, was a very successful printmaker who worked on many imprints of the Penguin publishing house.COUAbove, left to right: the 1961 edition, and a late 70’s edition, both featuring Bloomfield’s medieval-inspired cloud.

Such an enduring image.

I’ve got a lot of thoughts about this image and the ideas in The Cloud of Unknowing, but those are for another time. Right now, here are a number of the recent abstractions.

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Night Sky Sliver. Oil, acrylic and adhesive tape on canvas, 12 by 12 inches, 2015.

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Pink Wedge. Oil, acrylic, digital print and adhesive tape on canvas, 12 by 12 inches, 2015.

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Locking Diagonal. Oil, acrylic, collage and adhesive tape on canvas, 12 by 12 inches, 2015.

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Crossover. Oil, acrylic and adhesive tape on canvas, 12 by 12 inches, 2015.

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The Unfold. Oil on panel, 24 by 24 inches, 2015.

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Bent Icon. Oil on panel, 24 by 24 inches, 2016.

I’ve certainly been influenced in these by my ongoing love of the work of Marcelo Bonevardi and Richard Diebenkorn, but I think that watching Christian Ramirez’s recent work (mostly via Instagram) has been instrumental as well. Most important has been working up close on Dugan’s effervescent surfaces and trying to wrestle with them.

I’ve got a few more of these in the works – I’ll share them as they manifest.

 

Happy 92nd Birthday, Mr. Diebenkorn!

It’s Richard Diebenkorn’s birthday today. It’s a good time to remember:

* First seeing his work at the beginning of my undergraduate education.

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* My daughter’s first viewing in the Cincinnati Art Museum.

* Getting to write about Diebenkorn a few times… and being recognized for it.

pentimenti* A great trip with Marcus to visit the Ocean Park retrospective in Texas:

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* And checking out great new books that seem to be coming out every year!

 

An Awesome New Diebenkorn Book

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I just recently picked up a fantastic new Diebenkorn book, and it turns out to be very impressive. No, I’m not talking about the new Berkeley Years catalog (though I did buy that a few weeks ago and am enjoying it). This is a volume out of a small California publisher called Kelly’s Cove Press.

The book, Richard Diebenkorn: Abstractions on Paper contains 88 full color images and a few black and white shots of Diebenkorn’s studios. There are a few points that make this paperback book exceptional. First, it contains dozens of works that have never before been published. This isn’t because they were lacking in quality; many of the pieces shown here really display Diebenkorn’s quintessential processes very well. Secondly, the book shows abstractions on paper from all of the major locations where he worked throughout his life: Sausalito, Albuquerque, Urbana, Berkeley, Ocean Park and Healdsburg.

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The Healdsburg works contained in this book make it indispensable for aficionados of Diebenkorn’s work. I’ve followed every Diebenkorn publication, traveled to see his work in many states, and searched widely to find examples of his work. There simply is no other publication that contains as many Healdsburg-era works that I know of.

The book lacks any scholarly essays, which is a virtue. The only words are short quotes from the artist interspersed among the images and a short biography at the end. This gives us nearly 125 pages of beautiful artworks, printed nicely in an 8 by 6 inch format. I’ll definitely be keeping this book close to me for informal browsing. But don’t let the small size fool you – the overall feel and color quality is excellent.

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Authorized by the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, the book was produced in support of what should be a fantastic traveling exhibition titled The Intimate Diebenkorn: Works on Paper 1949-1992. The exhibition starts at the College of Marin Fine Arts Gallery (Kentfield, CA – 9/28/13-11/21/13) and then moves on to San Jose State University (4/15/14-5/17/14), American University (Washington DC – 11/8/14-12/14/14), Sonoma Valley Museum of Art (6/6/15-8/23/15), and ends at The University of Montana (Missoula, MT – 9/24/15-12/12/15).

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This book is well worth the mere $20 it costs to pick it up. If you’re into Diebenkorn, it’s essential. If you love Abstract Expressionism, works on paper, gestural painting, collage, West Coast art, or the California art traditions, you’ll love this book. Click here to buy it.

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I’ve had the chance to write about Diebenkorn’s work a few times. My most recent essay about the artist is Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park: Provisional Action, Provisional Vision, and is available to read here.

Matt Ballou: RANGE – Reception at William Woods University

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My exhibition – Matt Ballou: RANGE – is still up at William Woods University until December 16, 2012. I hope you can go see it if you haven’t yet. Below are some photos of the space, both after the installation and during the reception. I want to thank everyone who came out – friends, students (graduate and undergrad, current and former), and colleagues – and especially Jennifer Sain for her help in making the exhibition happen. Special thanks to Jane Mudd for encouraging William Woods to host this show.

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Installation, back on November 12, 2012.

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Three panoramas of the installed work.

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Two of my all-time favorite works… Locus #77 and #78

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Beautiful angles and shapes during the reception…

At the reception I gave a brief impromptu talk that led into some interesting questions from the audience and my own musing on the work.

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Me during my talk – Photo by Kevin Larson.

Click here to download the talk and Q+A session (42 MB MP3 format, 50 minutes long).

Some notes about the talk:

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Photo of me at the talk – Photo by Eric Norby.

The Coat

When I turned 18 in 1994, my mother gave me a Swiss Army Trench coat, also called a Greatcoat. If you poke around on eBay or other vintage and/or Army+Navy stores you can often find these high quality coats for $75 or $80; mom got this one for something like $10. They’re all fairly old – mine is around 45 or 50 years old. It’s definitely been the most enduring body-covering item I’ve had, robustly surviving throughout the years with only some minor modifications. Gotta love those official Swiss cross buttons!

Here’s my coat hanging on the door of the Alaskan Oil Konvenience store where I worked for several years before and during my undergraduate time. This shot is from 1997, just a few years after first getting the coat, taken with my father’s ancient Minolta SLR.

Above: Self Portrait with Halo, acrylic on canvas, 8 by 10 inches, 2000. There’s that coat again – obviously I’ve built some sort of persona around it. Forgive my self-aggrandizement. I can still remember the day in my dorm room at SAIC when I began this piece. It was the last in a line of undergraduate self portraits featuring the coat.

Here I am at Salmon River Falls in upstate New York, in a photo taken by my cousin Chris. This image is from 2002.

Jumping forward a few years here – This photo was taken in the winter of 2007/2008 just after I moved to Missouri to start teaching at Mizzou.

And now today in my studio with a dodecahedron below it.

This coat has been a great companion for me. I’m going to celebrate it by following in the footsteps of Diebenkorn, who famously created a series of etchings based on his own old coat for a special volume of W. B. Yeats poems (If you’ve got a few grand, you can purchase an edition – there’s one left – here). I want to dwell on that coat and where it has been with me. Keep an eye open for some paintings and/or drawings to appear soon.

And HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!! #36years

The Huffington Post Includes my Work in a “Top 10 Best” List

I was gratified to learn that The Huffington Post included my recent essay on Richard Diebenkorn, written for neotericART, in a “Top 10 Best” listing! The piece, written by Brett Baker of Painters’ Table, cited my work immediately after Raphael Rubinstein’s “Provisional Painting, Part 2.” This was excited to me, as Rubinstein’s original text on provisional painting was a catalyst to my thinking in my piece. Here’s the takeaway quote:

“Artist Matthew Ballou’s piece “Diebenkorn: Provisional Action, Provisional Vision” finds surprising and convincing connections to this kind of provisional approach in Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park paintings” – Brett Baker for The Huffington Post.

Thanks, Mr. Baker! Painters’ Table is awesome! Read my essay at neotericART here!

What I’ve been musing on recently

I’ve been thinking about overtly shifting the direction of my work for a while now – perhaps a year. I don’t know that this shift would be easily discernible from the outside, but it represents a significant change of focus for me. As I look back over the last year of my practice and then cross-reference what I’m seeing there with some of the artists and artworks I’ve been looking at during that time, I can really see some connections forming.

For instance, check out these recent pieces:

The Teachers, Mandala for the Murky History of Beginnings and Endings #1, Portrait of Miranda at Thirteen Months, Two Bells, and The Seedbed #1.

Then compare their compositional formatting with aspects of the works of artists I’m looking at here:

Richard Diebenkorn, Miyoko Ito, Barry Le Va, Nicholas Byrne, David Rabinowitch, Julian Stanczak, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Marcelo Bonevardi, Frank Nitsche, Sharon Butler, and Vincent Fecteau.

It seems to me that my previous forays into more formal explorations – such as with the Locus Series (book here), and the conceptually interconnected Quintessence Series and Dodecahedron Series – are becoming more and more deeply apparent in my main body of work. In some ways I’m finding myself less drawn to the figure as a necessity and more drawn to the composition itself. I’m deeply interested in the perception of formal dynamics and the sense of haptic maneuvering that can take place within two-dimensional forces.

So it is that my recent miniseries, three of which are shown above in progress (9 inches in diameter, collage, gouache, acrylic and graphite on paper), have come about. They call back to previous works, such as this one from 2005, which was part of a side project I did while finishing up grad school (I needed a break from my thesis paintings):

First Bend, Oil on Canvas on Panel, 14 by 23 inches, 2005. Destroyed. Click to enlarge.

Anyway, who knows? We’re all moved and pressed and pushed, often by things we don’t entirely recognize. That’s why painting is so much more like getting lost in the woods than it is like jumping in a car and driving to the store for milk. It’s not meant to be that simple.

If it were that way there would be no discovery, no evocation beyond what we already know… and what good would that be?