I make art, and think about art, to better understand life. Over the years this work has taken many forms, but a consideration of painting has always remained central. But in chasing these questions about art and life I have also written essays and reviews, published and edited magazines, organized exhibitions, and devoted a lot of time and energy to helping younger artists figure out what they need to do.
1975 - 1980
I moved to New York in 1975 in search of a community that would sharpen my thinking and support my growth. Within a few years I was publishing reviews and essays in Art in America and Flash Art, and participating in group shows in various non-profit spaces around the city. In early 1979 Susan Morgan and I began publishing REALLIFE Magazine, which sought to be a forum for younger artists working to reinvestigate the power of imagery following a decade of art’s dematerialization into idea and action.
1980 - 1990
During this decade I established a public voice as both a painter and a writer. I exhibited annually, between MetroPictures in New York, Richard Khulenschmidt Gallery in Los Angeles, and Anthony Reynolds Gallery in London. I also published a stream of essays in REALLIFE Magazine and Artforum, seeking to further develop my ideas about the moment in art history. In the late 80s I began to look for ways to expand the audience for my painting, and began a series of public works, mostly temporary murals in New York and various cities across the UK.
1990 - 2000
I had been teaching as an adjunct at various art schools during the 80s, and in 1990 made the decision to seek a fulltime position. Following an unexpected invitation, I began my long tenure as dean of the Art School at CalArts in January 1991. The year before I had mounted a survey exhibition at the Third Eye Center in Glasgow, and took that as an opportunity to reevaluate my studio practice. At the same time, influenced by my new perspective as an art teacher, I began thinking about the work of a younger generation. This work generated a number of exhibitions, interviews, and essays, many focusing on the new work coming out of London and Glasgow at that time. Thanks to a sabbatical, I was able to spend some time in Scotland during the 1998 referendum on devolution, and began research on a multi-year project concerning Scottish republicanism during the time of the French Revolution, a project which resulted in several series of paintings and installations, and several small chapbooks.
2000 - 2010
The Scottish project reignited my interest in painting, and I moved into a larger studio. By the end of the decade, I was showing in Los Angeles and New York, and was recognized for the work by an award from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. I also published several essays considering a range of painters, from Laura Owens and Richard Wright, to Patrick Caulfield and Gerard Hemsworth. In 2002 I became a co-editor of the London-based journal, Afterall, and continued with that collaboration until 2009.
2010 - 2020
After a year of design work, I launched East of Borneo, an online magazine and archive dedicated to documenting art as seen from Los Angeles. This gave me a dynamic platform from which to explore the ongoing histories and contributions of CalArts to that larger discourse, through commissioning essays, and writing my own. The platform also provided support for two ambitious projects, a reading exhibition about the experimental pedagogies tried in the early years of CalArts, and a book-centered place making project located in several communities in South Los Angeles.
The new decade began with a worldwide pandemic, closing down so much social and cultural life. Nevertheless, I continued painting and writing. We hired a new team at East of Borneo, and it continues to thrive. This section will highlight new developments as they occur, and we shall see if a theme arises.