Broadly speaking, my work revolves around the language and concepts of landscape painting, while often eschewing a singular style or mode of representation. Rather, my work seeks to map ideas that engender our perceptions of ourselves in relation to our natural and man-made contexts.
Some of my earliest role models in art were landscape painters in the Hudson River school, particularly Fredrick Edwin Church, Albert Beirstadt, and Thomas Cole. In addition, my Grandfather, David C. Huntington was an Art Historian and the author of “The Landscapes of Frederic Edwin Church; Vision of an American Era”. As a scholar of Church, he documented and worked to preserve Church’s estate Olana, which I’m proud to say recently celebrated its 50th anniversary as a historic preservation site. From a young age, my grandfather would take me to museum exhibitions and discuss artworks with me. It was through these dialogues that I became interested in the idea that landscape could formulate identity, function as a screen on which we project our self-image and manipulate our senses. Consequently, these artists, alongside my grandfather, charted for me a distinct conception of an American identity that was tied to the natural landscape, whether that landscape is real, mythical, or a complex hybrid of the two.
My early works explore the landscape from an aerial perspective. For my exhibition, Poverty Porn, my paintings investigated the language of space we make and inhabit. Though they activated a language of formal abstraction, the paintings were grounded in the constructs of the social and political: conflict, chaos, consumption, and the structures we create to stabilize and standardize our conception of the world. Poverty Porn critiqued voyeurism: the simultaneous impulse to sympathize with, and to make spectacle of, the conditions of the abject.Patterns formed from life were juxtaposed with and within an aerial view of built landscapes. Places where structure stood in opposition to human reality were balanced by a perspective, which resisted overt voyeurism. The sites of these paintings were at once locatable, but also made visible dislocation, disruption, mutation, paradox, and the architecture of failure: shopping centers were being consumed, a city was under siege from within and left without, and a refugee camp tried to organize chaos.
In 2012, for my solo exhibition, Werther Effect, my work had evolved both stylistically and conceptually, large-scale acrylic paintings were direct and representational, a stylistic break from my earlier abstracted works that employed aerial maps of developed landscapes. These works referenced found Internet images that portrayed very specific events and places steeped in history and controversy. Using them as source material (but altering their appearance), I created emotionally provocative paintings that investigate the folly of utopian systems and the progression of inevitable failure. These paintings were a study of contradictions and collapse. The works represented a staging of ideals that never came to fruition, illustrating the conflict between a plan and its compromised actuality. For instance, Grande Hotel (2012), depicts the façade of the luxury hotel, located in Beira, Mozambique, that was billed as the “pride of Africa” in 1954 and widely regarded as the largest and most exquisite hotel on the continent. Open from 1952 to 1963, this once opulent hotel now sits in a state of decay and is currently occupied by approximately 2500 squatters, living in substandard conditions with neither running water nor electricity. With a gestural and stripping-away quality of acrylic paint on the canvas’ surface, Grande Hotel showed an architectural skeleton, a literal reminder of the wealth of the past and the poverty of today.
My 2014 exhibition, The Forgetting Factor, followed the birth of my son. A life-changing and awe-inspiring event. For it, I continued my exploration of the forms that model the ideal, the utopian, or the wishful, and the intrinsic fragility of these airless models. It is the erasure of the rational and the structural collapse that interests me. From images of the American landscape, formulated by artists that presented the fiction of an Edenic wilderness, ripe for exploitation and beckoning settlement, to deteriorating diagrammatic abstractions drawn from old textbook covers, which are elemental and rational in their form, then assaulted, degraded and left in a bare state of material substrate. This body of work drew from a history of rational, hopeful, and future-oriented thoughts expressed in both the works and writings of Buckminster Fuller and his geodesic domes, which are at once eternally futuristic and timeless follies. And The Whole Earth Catalogue in which progressive essays articulate a bright future accompanied by a catalogue of equipment one can mail-order to build a new world.
My latest work continues a lexicon of abstraction and failure/faltering systems. I've been exposing minimalist tropes to abuse- from being shot at with a squirt bottle while they are drying, sandblasting paintings to the point that the canvas deteriorates, and even allowing my son to disrupt my surfaces (then trying to find a resolution to his interjection/ideas- otherwise known as Parenthood). The most recent pieces have involved folding paintings, and then attempting to find a solution that 'restores' some previous configuration of structure/system/order/control. I have also been working with small canvases embedded within the framework of a burned-out wooden frame cubes, and books infused with plaster and paint, making them unreadable/illegible. Everything seems to be orbiting this desire for some kind of classical ideal in a world that is just too compromised to continue to absorb the disruption.