Gideon Bok: Wave
March 5 – April 5, 2019
The explosion of time-based media in the second half of the twentieth century – generally, artwork based in technology and inseparable from a durational dimension – has become synonymous with the sensation of experiencing art as it unfolds, expands, and evolves through the electronic medium of its creation. In these new works, physical dimensions are typically variable, in marked contrast to the ways artworks have been historically described. Yet video-, film-, digital-, or sound-based works, while paralleling the ubiquitous rise of our electronic consumption of information of all kinds, and thus, most immediately relatable in this universe, are not the only ways to stretch time and space.
Gideon Bok, an American painter born and raised in Maine, similarly elasticizes time and space, but through the traditional medium of oil on linen canvas. His subjects are his studio, his home, and his friends and family members, and, as he explores them again and again, his responses to how they evolve chronicle his perceptions of the spaces and how they are filled, providing an experiential interface with the viewer that is not unlike that resulting from works of contemporary time-based media. At the same time, his paintings function as windows into his own developing understanding of where he lives, with whom he shares his life, a and how the passage of time affects all: a record, in his words, of “ongoing engagement” with his days.
Son of a sheep farmer and a composition teacher, Bok is also a musician, and the obviously time-based experience of music – both making it and hearing it – also clearly informs his two-dimensional artworks. As each musical performance is different from the last – and different from the one yet to come – so, too, is each painting of these repeated spaces different: they record the time of day and its corresponding light levels, as well as both the occupancy, or, alternatively, the emptiness, of these rooms, as their very shapes change according to the activity within. These rooms are dense and active – furniture and furnishings move around, friends and family stop by, bottles and residual remnants of snacks clutter the space and then are cleaned up. In the finished works the viewer also sees ghost-like forms: people who were there at one point while Bok was painting, and then were painted out – albeit remembered – after they left, as he continued his work.
In addition to his explorations into time, perception, and perspective, Bok also investigates the materiality of his chosen medium. Some areas of the paintings are thin and transparent; others thick and almost crusty, providing a compelling opacity. These physical differentials underscore his changing perceptions of his world over time as it likewise chronicles the way the medium itself has been treated by different painters across time and space.
“One of the issues specific to painting that interests me,” Bok has commented, “is the idea that the painting is a single static image (or depicted moment of consciousness) that is made up of thousands of moments of consciousness, or thoughts, each represented by a gesture, mark, or impulse on the surface. In this way, painting collapses time in a specific way. The sense of time in the reading of a painted image is up to the viewer, and is probably different for each viewer, but the fact of the time of making the image is different. Even while working quickly, painting is a slow process. Each gesture requires a specific color to be carefully mixed from a combination of others, and impacts and changes all other gestures in the painting by its inclusion. This constantly shifting and delicate balance of visual spatial issues is what makes what would otherwise be a mind-numbingly boring task fascinating. One moment there can be confusion or disorder, but a carefully placed moment of color can suddenly unify or enliven the space in a way that can seem like magic.”
Gideon Bok received his BA from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and his MFA from Yale University, with earlier studies at the New York Studio School, the Portland (Maine) School of Art, and a summer spent in the Studio Arts Centers International painting program in Florence, Italy. He exhibits widely, and his work is included in the permanent collection of the Boston Athenaeum and the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York, among other esteemed institutions. Recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2004, Bok is represented by Steven Harvey Fine Arts Projects in New York City. He works and lives in Maine.
In conjunction with the opening of this exhibition, Gideon Bok will speak about his work in an illustrated presentation on March 5 from 5-6 pm in Art #133. This presentation and the following opening reception, held immediately afterward from 6 – 7:30 pm, are free and open to the public.
Jo Farb Hernández
Director and Professor,
San José State University
Image Caption (above):
King of Nails, 2006-2010
Oil on linen
80 x 80”
Courtesy Steven Harvey Fine Arts Projects, NY
Photo: Dave Clough Photography
Date(s) - March 05, 2019 - April 05, 2019