For our fifth artist feature in anticipation of our BOLT Works in Progress exhibition, we invite you to learn more about Abraham Cone, whose practice focuses more on producing space and creating atmosphere than fixating on minutiae. “I want my paintings to have a wide presence and soft power,” he shares, so “viewers can have a physical encounter with the painting, so the work is more than optical—painting then becomes both spatial and architectural."
Cone is considerate about the materials he uses, and thoughtful about the ways these materials provide depth to his subject matter. His materials are increasingly gathered, gleaned, traded, and exchanged—there is an erotics to passivity, and form unfolds from waiting. Of late, Cone has been mulling his own paint from sandstone, limestone, and clays, while monotyping and screen printing with watercolor. suspending in hide glue–itself a waste-by product made from discarded collagen and connective tissue, with a storied history as the traditional sizing for oil painting. Hide glues are the primary material in traditional water gilding techniques of antiquity–an ornamental trade Cone apprenticed at for nearly two years after leaving SAIC.
History, spirituality, and natural forces have been important overarching themes spanning Cone’s work.
“Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about firmaments, the idea of space above your head, or in the heavens…a mythological and auspicious space where perhaps winds of change can blow from,” says Cone. He adds, “‘firmament’ denotes too a sphere of the world viewed as a collection of people. The paintings become more than the sum of their parts—relational; charged or embedded in materials are different entangled connections, perhaps like biomes: animal, vegetable, mineral.”
Since beginning the BOLT residency, Cone’s work has increased in scale “[taking] up the viewer’s field of vision, so that the painting produces a place in and of itself,” he says. “My largest painting before beginning the residency was 9 feet, because that was the biggest wall in my apartment where I painted.” Like vapor, Cone’s paintings expand to fit their container—currently 13 feet in length.
Nighttime has a special quality that Cone finds himself drawn to, both as a time to create and a time to be preserved through his creations. “When I work at night, it feels timeless. It has a suspended quality,” he says. “I am interested in the history of the nocturne as a painterly form, through works like those of James Abbott McNeill Whistler.” You lose track of yourself at night because the light doesn’t shift. I am able to inhabit a different time and place in myself and my work than during the day: It’s a differentiated space—separate from daily life, just like paintings are. So, to me, nighttime is the natural place to think about painting, and vice versa.”
There is an interconnection between pictorial and real space that forms the ground Cone’s paintings stand on—befitting one another.
Meet Abraham and view his work in person at our upcoming BOLT Works in Progress exhibition on September 29 from 5-8pm!
Headshot: Evan Pete Jenkins
Photo #2: Ashley Baranczyk
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