The tape does get in the way at times, so much so that we can’t seem to stop talking about it . That we are amazed by its use sometimes detracts from what we are looking at. Fobes fully understands the limitations of working with a “democratic” (i.e. “blue collar”) material and accepts its limitations and connotations as part of the process and the medium. The interest in “its history” stops pretty much there and is of no interest to him, I believe, beyond what he is able to achieve with the material (technically or otherwise) – which is quite a bit. The most obvious of course is the vertical stripping and juxtaposition of colored bands and twisted forms that populate his canvases creating visual examples of color theory in the round so to speak. Looking closely at the work will reveal a blending of the cloth and vinyl tapes creating both shiny and matte areas creating a sort of overall varnishing of the surface, yet another reference to painting.
On a historical and conceptual level, the work harkens back to Frank Stella of course, Daniel Buren, and Barnett Newman among others – Ron Davis for example, and to some extent even Rothko for their pulsating, glowing and shimmering light (like colored heat rising from the surface of the painting) that they induce. Fobes has also acknowledged the influence of Gene Davis and Tim Bavinger and the ground covered by the Op artists a few decades earlier. This isn’t meant to put Fobes at a disadvantage, or to turn him inward face-a-face a wall of historical precedents that even he cannot overcome.
No, not at all. It is a simply a reminder that there are several methods, formats, and techniques that any of these predecessors and current contenders have used to investigate a similar and desirable end result – visual effects to elicit multiple and sometimes physical experiences within a viewer’s mind, body and eye. If we can accept that Fobes and others are turning a process (technique, skill, medium, language, etc.) into a visual one, which in turn becomes a passion, then a labor of love (more of that mechanistic deadness), imagine then what it must be like for the artist who is producing the work. They too must be experiencing the same visual or multiple realities we do when looking – surely more intensely. It draws the production aspect of the work away from simply being a gesture back into the realm of an idea synthesized into a concrete and wholly entertaining if not enlightening work of art. It also allows for an emotional and not just conceptual response to the work from both the audience and the artist. Big claims of “mission accomplished” ring throughout this analogy, but the end results are no less accomplished. The paintings work and function like they’re supposed to.