Artist Statement: For the past several years I have investigated the ways that language, thought, and information relate to contemporary culture and the creation of self. Drawing from early conceptual art practices, Zen Buddhism, information overload and data collection practices I make beautiful, spare, laborious works on paper. Recent projects use the contents of various information streams including The New York Times, Artforum, and Amazon.com as source material for describing how information functions, shapes and reflects contemporary thought and beliefs. For me, these sources are part of a foundation of contemporary culture, but they are also part of an ever-growing field of information noise that begins with a never-ending internal dialogue and continues through to Twitter, Facebook, and more broadly, the internet. Central to my projects is the linguistic dependence embedded in this diverse range of information and the tension between this reliance on language and it’s inherent limitations.
Amazon God confronts these inherent limitations through an examination of books found in a search for the term “god” on Amazon.com. Attempting to describe God using language is an absurd proposition and yet it is one that has been tried ad nauseam. This project is a foray into this Sisyphean task but with the acknowledgment (or perhaps the outright intent to demonstrate) that this is a fool’s errand. In addition, this work explores the question of what happens when language is reconfigured to emphasize its role as form. Using very small handwritten lettering allows language to transform into abstract form. This creates a synthesis of (language and drawing) two systems of description; line becomes language and language becomes line. These pieces never fully settle into one system or the other. In the end, this “portrait” of God transcends its linguistic armature.
Amazon God points to the massive amounts of information continuously buffeting us by transforming a particular information stream into quiet, contemplative drawings. Like my other projects, described by Washington Post writer Michael O’Sullivan, these pieces “. . . draw our attention away from the cacophony of information we’re asked to process on a daily basis to a kind of beautiful formal silence that our eyes can’t possibly “hear” — until all the notes have been removed.”
Speaker Bio: Born and raised in Chicago, Martin Brief is an artist whose recent work, long-term, absurd, drawing- based tasks, explores the way that language, thought, and information relate to contemporary culture and the creation of self. Martin’s work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally including exhibitions in New York, Paris, Zurich, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Chicago. In addition, his work is in several public collections, including those of the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona and the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts in Honolulu, Hawaii. He recently received fellowships from the Howard Foundation and the MacDowell Colony. Martin currently lives and works in St. Louis and is an Associate Professor at Saint Louis University.
Sponsored by: The Paper Fox Printmaking Workshop, Wriston Art Galleries and the Art & Art History Department