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Frank Bunts is an established New York Artist who has been on the art scene with the pioneers of formalism.
A Stream of Consciousnes
By F. Bunts
During the Art School years of learning and teaching the traditional tools of Fine Arts, I experienced a growing awareness of the importance of the observers participation in artwork. What the viewer brings to and contributes to the art. Including His or Her mind set, position in front of the art, and the sub-conscious mental transformation of binocular vision into a sense of depth,
The visual arts, under the influence of work done in the latter 19th and early 20th century had moved away from the Western tradition of painting things as seen through a window with one eye. A tradition reinforced by photography. The perspective in these pictures, appearing behind the actual surface of the work, places the viewer’s eye at a particular location in space. No matter where the viewer stands or moves, he or she will continue to see the picture from a fixed place in space. A portrait looking directly at you will always look at you no matter where you stand in front of it. This is not because its eyes are moving but because you are always seeing it from the same viewpoint no matter how much or how fast you move. As far as the portrait is concerned, the viewer is always seeing the portrait from the same place with one eye. The sculptor, architect, or environmental artist does not have this problem, but they are also very concerned with the movement of the spectator around and in their work. As we move through space at ever greater speeds and distances, this tendency of much traditional artwork to freeze viewers in space becomes more and more abnormal although perhaps a rest from a frantic world.
My work began to appear and sometimes literally to move from the picture plane toward the viewer, reversing the window affect. I also used the classic illusion of a space literally moving back from the surface of a picture plane, but lit so it appears to come forward. The result, the concave object interpreted to be convex seems to turn in space as the viewer moves. A work of mine called “HEAD CASE FOR JACKIE” does this. The means of having a picture shift as the viewer moved (Motion Parallax) became available within a flat surface through the traditional moiré pattern, the lenticular screen embedded in the surface, and the photographic hologram. These things began to satisfy my desires concerning the viewer and also made possible the use of our minds unconscious translation of the slightly different view from each of our two eyes into a sense of depth (Stereo Vision). Geometric abstraction (typified by the artist Mondrian) helped me to set up a flat surface to move against with the aid of new depth illusions becoming available. The physical movement of the viewer produces a visual feed back of virtual depth amidst these static, platonic, iconic forms with the addition of expressive, mood setting color as in the 1965 work “COLLISION”. This was intriguing to me and evolved toward an exhilarating tension between the implied weight of a solid geometric figure and movement, lightness and flight as in my series “METAMORPHOSIS / AWAKENED PYRAMIDS’ in where the translucent forms seem to unfold, move off the traditional rectangular enclosure and contain areas displaying moiré driven binocular depth and movement illusions creating simultaneously a different image for each person looking at them from different positions in real space. These interpenetrating depth and movement illusions were created by layers of paint and glazes with multiple lenses cast into their surfaces. Interpenetrating because the less movement one was aware or the more depth and vice-a -versa
For a period of time these techniques were used to capture my reaction to moving to different places on earth, such as “ASHKABAD” and “LOS ANGELES”. These works were named and hung as “FLAGS” an appropriate designation for various geographical locations.
My interest in surface and our mind’s grasp of movement and depth lead me to creating with the help of two Icelandic assistants a series of “BIND RUNES’ engraved into a moving textured surface of indeterminate depth, thus creating the dichotomy of carving into a surface of illusive presence. Separately these two combined runes are sometimes called “EOH & LAGU”.
“RACING WITH THE MOON” – that old expression, and song, evolving from motion parallax. Like the moon, a distant object moves in the direction you move, while closer objects move past you in the opposite direction. One of the most extraordinary things to happen in my lifetime was the original sending of a man to the moon. This inevitably led to thoughts of all the science fiction that preceded the actual event. Images came to mind of “GEORGES MELIES” early fantasy film “Trip to the Moon”. Film, a usually monocular look at a framed picture where the traditional Western relationship between the viewer and the viewed is reversed. The picture moves and the viewer is literally stationary. In situations where both the picture and the viewer move in an uncoordinated way, mental confusion often rains. As a child I remember the chaotic joy of moving in front of a theatre screen with a moving picture in front of me. A series of impasto bullet like rockets, the background space moving as the viewer moved felt like the clumsy beginnings of our exploration of space. The series is named after “TRIP TO THE MOON”.
Ravenna, with its magnificent Byzantine mosaics, is hard to shake off. The reflected light from the white light works called “MOSAICS” emerged from an abstraction, not from Ravenna’s anthropomorphic icons. The illusion of space, movement and depth was added, not by shading, but by parallax, the shifting light inside each tessera moving in different directions with the viewers movement and also sending a slightly different image to each eye.
Moving into a New York studio in the early 1980s, I found the remains of an atomic bomb shelter in the basement filled with barrels of water and crackers.. I had lived through the horror of seeing the results of two atomic bombs dropped on Japan and the childhood cold war fear of an atomic attack (bomb shelters were being built in American back yards - children were being taught to hide under there school desks). The metal sign yellow and black with its three triangles symbolizing radiation pointed to the basement shelter. I brought the sign up to my studio and began to make a series of ‘SHELTER’ pictures. Mementos of a period when we were less fatalistic about nuclear explosions, not so assured by the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction. The Hydrogen Bomb was yet to come, but those missal silos in the Mid-West fields were being built. The pictures dark spaces moved slowly amid the sets of radiation suggesting triangles.
During a period of feeling like a particularly strange bird, I began a gestural and largely sub conscious exploration of birds, their potential for flight and their cages. With the exception of one drawing that appeared to be a clogging donkey, the “STANGE BIRDS” showed strong personalities and life stiles or sometimes deaths to me.
The large “HANGINGS” include a version of the “YGGDRASIL TREE” related to Odin’s horse, a central part of Norse legend inspired by my Icelandic assistants. The tree in legend is enormous and Holy. Odin, the chief of the gods, hung from it and looking down, took up the runes. Odin is also said to have sacrificed himself on this tree. Other hangings try also to capture the mood of legends.
The neurologist Oliver Sacks in his article “Stereo Sue” has described the mysterious ability to unconsciously generate a sensation of depth from two slightly different binocular images. Oliver Wendell Holmes, inventor of the Holmes Stereo Viewer, has said that stereo vision “produces a dream like exhilaration”. In the end, artwork should provide enough visual content to engage what the viewer brings to it in an exhilarating and hopefully transforming interaction. That is transforming both the art and the person involved with it.
The architectural suggestion of a Greek temple’s façade suggested “STAGES” on or in which I could feel out the tension of the pull between surface and depth with color and parallax inducing advancing and retreating columns against engraved marks on the surface. The image moves in harmony with the viewer.
My more recent work of 2008 to 2010 takes a different approach to the relationship between the viewer and the image. After photographing from the air the enormous drawings and lines of great length made in Peru on an arid desert of stones by the pre-Inca inhabitants of the Nazca River area. These earthworkers, also collectors of human heads, removed dark surface material to expose the lighter areas of there drawings. These areas experience little rain fall or strong wind. Little erosion has occurred. In the large altered prints of my aerial photos the viewer is confronted by what appears to be a flat surface covered with lines and drawings. My hope is that as one becomes involved with this large space up to 10x12 feet in size, the space will open up and the observer will be mentally carried back further and further away from the print as spacial clews are taken into account such as the shadow of the light plane from which I took the pictures. At the same time the enormous size of the actual drawings can be felt. The original photos and the altered prints have been made as much as possible without traces of the traditional photographic perspective that fixes the observer to a specific point in space. Spatial clews like the shadow of the photographing plane create considerable distance, but do not force a particular location in that distance. The Sun’s position is unknown. The Nazca Lines also provided an opportunity to work with the geometric and organic comfortably together on a grand scale.
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