I spoke to Fobes about these works and in all fairness; they are a relatively new investigation into what could potentially become something more dynamic and self-sustaining. At least I hope so. I can see them much larger and in sync with the architecture of the space they find themselves displayed in. It could make a difference between dominating the space with somewhat arbitrary and trite forms (a square for example) and incorporating imagery or shapes that respond to or play with/off the architecture, which I think would suit Fobes’ style much better. I’m thinking of course about the work of Sol LeWitt and the large murals he produced – or had produced for him – and some of Daniel Buren ’s early stripped wallpaper pieces.
But I want to get back to the main thrust of the works in the exhibit, the duct tape paintings, by using a loose definition of painting to describe them: “applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface (support base).” In Fobes’ case, the tape is applied directly to sheet metal which offers a smooth, consistent and tactile surface for the tape to adhere to. The sheet metal support also allows him to “cut” back into the painting revealing other layers of color or the sheet metal itself.
photo: David Fobes
They are not, as one reviewer proclaimed, portraying “the quaint professorial notion that ‘painting is dead.’” If this is true, painting has been dead and buried for over a century now. The crux of the reviewer’s complaint lies then in the belief that Fobes’ process in fabricating these works is so mechanically precise that they “reek with mechanistic deadness” and lack any “imperfections and defects [that] keep an artwork alive or create drama.” If you follow this logic to its detrimental end, then you do away with a large chunk of art history (notably Minimalism), architecture, music, literature, and design from Mies van der Rohe to De Stilj. Steve Reich, Malevich, Raymond Carver, ad nauseum on up to Judd and countless hundreds of other artists, all practiced a reductive style. Their works could hardly be considered emotional wastelands or attempts to kill off any artistic medium, style, or movement. And this is the key to fully appreciating Fobes’ work; they are not dead, nor is the illusionistic style of painting he is partially emulating. It is not about re-inventing painting as much as it is re-formulating it into a usable language of color and form.