Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What is 'new'?

Kendall Shaw, New Iberia, Acrylic on paper 1972

This sketch called New Iberia was done by Kendall Shaw in 1972. So in some sense, it is old. But it was new to me as I viewed it in a gallery on Saturday. It precurses the work of Cajun Minimalism Mr. Shaw has developed over the years and how I came to have met him just a few months ago. 

On the work above, he states, "My colors have no system. I feel their energy in their juxtapositions. Color is reflected energy, everything is energy. This is not a sketch for a painting to be done from it. It is what it is; a sketch of colors I feel are real."

And if that idea is not particularly new, his application of it to his particular brand of minimalism is – something he attributes to his study with Mark Rothko in the late 1950s and a scale of anthropometric proportions called Modulor developed by the architect Le Corbusier. "That painting is a live animal, and the color is its blood", he attributes to Rothko whilst the system of Modulor scales the human form, the animal, to the space around it. Both ideas that were certainly new to Shaw at the time – but now new again through his paintings.

Yet, sometimes what is lauded as being new is not always improved – as referenced by too many claims in our advertising world.  Sometimes new is a well applied existing idea, executed in a fresh fashion and medium – as Kendall Shaw has continued to do with his art, well into his 90th new year.

Kendall Shaw, Tabasco, Acrylic on canvas, 5 panels, 4' x 5', 2013