Contradictions of deliberate abstraction
The personality of colors and forms as well as the energy of work that is partly premeditated and partly involuntary swiftly appear on canvases. The personality of paintings that are 100% materiality and unfinished abstraction emerge through the movement of his body and continuous exploration.
Materials and the dichotomy between conscious and unconscious decisions are what almost all of his work is about. Color and composition are also the main concepts of an obsession that is responsible for structuring his work; an obsession based on mixing materials and combining colors that emerge from a specific moment, where the mental state of that moment conducts the final result of the piece like an orchestra.
Art has always been present in the life of the American artist Adrian Negenborn. Even though he didn’t decide to become an artist overnight, from a young age his hand pointed him towards the road that he was meant to take. It was the road of devoting himself to art in order to find himself and define his work. It was at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (where he received his Master’s in Fine Arts) where he learned that he must find, explore and constantly question the kind of artist that he wants to become.
Today, that exploration continues and it is exactly what makes him keep moving forward in order to construct paintings where he can explore, in his words, “contradictory notions of abstraction.” It is a work where flatness gives way to spatial depth and where swiftly created brush strokes are suspended and detached. Adrian plays with the nature of paint, which arises from spontaneous control and that ultimately gives rise to the unexpected, to error, and to opportunity. Therefore, it is his body that is in charge of leaving the colorful residue of a material on the canvas which is exhibited in front of the viewer in very different and personal ways.
Is there a relationship with “abstract expressionism” in your work?
I don’t consider myself an abstract expressionist. Abstract Expressionism is a movement that had historical significance at the time when it happened. I am displaced in time from that period and do not intend to recreate it in my work. However, I feel that I use a syntax similar to abstract expressionism in elements in my paintings. I use an obviously handmade painted mark in my paintings that takes cues from action painting and gestural abstraction. Unlike Abstract Expressionism, my paintings are not attempts to revise Classical European traditions in a rebellious American way. The mark making in my paintings are much more orchestrated and deliberate than those in many abstract expressionist paintings. Even though all the elements in my paintings are made with great speed, the work is usually made within a fairly rigid system. There is usually a certain predictable order in which things happen when the paintings are being made. That process is very counter-abstract Expressionism. I think my paintings are indebted to a heritage of as much of Minimalism and Abstract Expressionism as non-art sources.
Since it is work that is born from a much more deliberate or “orchestrated” action, Adrian’s work can’t quite be thought of as Abstract Expressionism, so his colors, forms and expressions are a type of debt from the minimalist and abstract legacy as sources of “non-art”.
His creative process, which he calls an “evolving entity”, has been the result of work that he has invested four or five years in; it is the reaction to prior pieces where –according to him– he worked excessively. A few years ago, just one of his canvases could contain 12 to 15 paintings each (minimum) and he would invest entire weeks on them. Contrary to this, Adrian now seeks to create work that somehow opposes said pictorial excess.
Willem de Kooning, an abstract expressionist, said that his paintings were like “fleeting shadows” and throughout his entire life he fought to define his identity as an artist. Today, Adrian identifies with the Dutch artist based on both points of view; he is still trying to find himself and his work, just as De Kooning did. Also, he is convinced that the paint and his paintings can be exactly what De Kooning said, shifting or fleeting shadows or signs, just as life is. That is exactly the resolution of Adrian’s work; the idea that paintings don’t have to seem finished on the canvas or have a detailed story behind them.
However, although there is no narrative on what is absolute, his paintings challenge the conventions of abstraction and the movement of the brush strokes. They have a sense of objectuality and spatial presence. There is power in the gestures which astonish the viewer in an experience that is presented as a colorful blast of energy.
Today, after many paintings that arise from nothing to fill blank, meaningless canvases, the artist keeps learning; learning to understand how to balance his work regarding how to control the movement; how to balance the spontaneity and what is thought out; to balance the oscillation between the visceral and the analytical. For now, something is clear: he will keep making art and will keep waiting for his work to feel right after every stroke, since that is the only way that he knows his painting is ready.