‘Arizona Biennial 2015′ Opens at Tucson Museum of Art

July 26th, 2015 | No Comments

arizona biennial 2015 opens at tucson museum of art
Now on view in Arizona Biennial 2015: Confluent, The Lake a Lilac Cube, and A New Way of Thinking About Everything by Grant Wiggins.

Arizona Biennial 2015 was unveiled at Tucson Museum of Art on Friday night, and I was absolutely delighted to experience the show in person at the opening night celebration.

You’ll be able to find the three paintings I’m showing at the very end of the exhibition — where the abstract works are located — on what I believe is the museum’s tallest wall. I fondly call this the “Great Wall.” It has an epic, almost monolithic quality, and for me holds a special meaning.

In 2007, I showed my painting ff0000turo in this exact same location. Having the opportunity to exhibit here eight years later, on the full breadth of the wall, I could not ask for more. I feel both a circularity and a sense of advancement — an awareness of how much my work, my thinking, and my life has changed.

arizona biennial 2015 opens at tucson museum of art
A return to Tucson Museum of Art’s “Great Wall”: From left, ff0000uturo in Arizona Biennial 2007 and the same wall today.

The curator of Arizona Biennial 2015 is Irene Hofmann, Phillips Director and Chief Curator of SITE Santa Fe. For this exhibition, 530 Arizona artists submitted nearly 1,500 works. Ms. Hofmann selected 50 works by 33 artists.

In her statement discussing her curation of the exhibition, Ms. Hofmann observes that while she “didn’t initially set out to develop a thematically structured show,” several “strains of exploration” emerged in her review of works submitted. The show is arranged according to those themes.

Works that reflect upon nature, and humankind’s impact upon it, open Arizona Biennial 2015. The theme of reclamation is later explored by works that give new life to discarded materials, as well as overlooked, everyday objects. Violence and control are then addressed in a variety of media.

At the conclusion of the exhibition — where my work hangs along with sublime paintings by Mike Stack and Angie Zielinski — “the Seduction of painting offers the last word,” Ms. Hofmann affirms. By exploring color, design, and imaginary worlds, she writes, these abstract pieces “insist on the enduring power of painting and offer us the reprieve of visual delight.”

arizona biennial 2015 opens at tucson museum of art
The sedution of painting: Abstract works by Grant Wiggins, Angie Zielinski (right), and Mike Stack conclude the show.

I am deeply honored to be showing in Arizona Biennial 2015. It is energizing and inspiring to be exhibiting among so many gifted, accomplished artists, who were united by masterful curatorial judgment. I offer my gratitude to Ms. Hofmann and the entirety of the Tucson Museum of Art’s staff, who have staged an exhibition that proudly represents the artistic currents flowing through our state.


Three Paintings Selected for Arizona Biennial 2015 at Tucson Museum of Art

June 25th, 2015 | No Comments

I am absolutely thrilled and honored to announce that three of my paintings have been selected to exhibit in Arizona Biennial 2015, to be held at the Tucson Museum of Art from July 25 through October 11.

This will be my fifth time showing in an Arizona Biennial — and my seventh show overall at the Tucson Museum of Art — since 2003. I exhibited consecutively in the 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009 biennials. After six years away, my upcoming return to Tucson is especially meaningful.

Nearly 1,500 works were submitted to Arizona Biennial 2015. Juror Irene Hofmann, director and chief curator of SITE Santa Fe, selected 50 works by 33 artists. A range of mediums will be represented, including painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, video, and installation art.

The three pieces selected for this summer’s biennial, shown below, reflect my maximalist and minimalist approaches to painting.

arizona biennial 2015

A New Way of Thinking About Everything. 2014. Acrylic on canvas. 24 x 28 inches (61 x 71 cm).

arizona biennial 2015

The Lake a Lilac Cube. 2014. Acrylic on canvas. 40 inches square (102 x 102 cm).

arizona biennial 2015

Confluent. 2015. Acrylic on canvas. 40 inches square (102 x 102 cm).


First organized in 1948, the Arizona Biennial is a juried exhibition that provides an opportunity to see some of the most interesting new work being created in Arizona. It is the oldest running juried exhibition featuring exclusively Arizona artists. The Arizona Biennial is open to artists age 18 and older who currently reside in Arizona.

“This Arizona Biennial represents ambitious and thought-provoking ideas as well as works that captivate the senses,” observes Dr. Julie Sasse, chief curator and curator of modern and contemporary art at Tucson Museum of Art. “It shows that contemporary art in Arizona is fully competitive with the rest of the country in formal concerns while addressing the specific qualities of place and culture that make this state so unique.”

In closing, I offer my most sincere congratulations to my fellow Arizona Biennial 2015 artists: David Emitt Adams, Elizabeth Burden, Carlton Bradford, Curt Brill, John H. Clarke, Jeffrey J. DaCosta, Jeff Dodson, Abigail Felber, Denis Gillingwater, Jennifer Holt, Alan Bur Johnson, Daniel Johnson, Carolina Maki Kitagawa, Carolyn Lavender, Ellen McMahon and Beth Weinstein, Brooke Molla, Katherine Monaghan, Anthony Pessler, Emmett Potter, Rembrandt Quiballo, Robert Renfrow, Prima Sakuntabhai, Patricia Sannit, Steven R. Schaeffer, Mike Stack, Lauren Strohacker and Kendra Sollars, Novie Trump, Zachary Valent, Kathleen Velo, and Angie Zielinski.


“Let in the Light”: Painting for America SCORES Benefit Auction

June 1st, 2015 | No Comments

grant wiggins - america scores inspired art benefit auction 2015
Let in The Light: A painting recently produced for the America SCORES Inspired Art Benefit Auction in Cleveland, which will raise funds for America SCORES’ creative after-school programming. The piece measures 16 by 20 inches and is framed and ready to hang.


This Saturday, June 6, I’ll be exhibiting at the America SCORES Inspired Art Benefit Auction in Cleveland. A painting I made especially for this fundraiser event will be on display among pieces by 50 artists who have made art that responds to the work of young Cleveland poets.

My contribution, “Let in the Light,” is inspired by the poem “Light” by Tre’Shaun A., a 10th grader at Cleveland Central Catholic High School.

Light

I walk in the shadows looking for the light
The darkness was too strong so I took flight
I have to keep pushing towards the light
Because one day I’ll be out this fight
I walk in the shadows looking for the light
I feel something loving and caring
I finally found my light

— Tre’Shaun A., Grade 10
     Cleveland Central Catholic High School

America SCORES Cleveland is a comprehensive youth development program that uses the tools of poetry, soccer, creative expression, and service-learning to empower urban youth to lead healthy lifestyles, become engaged students, and grow into community leaders.

Proceeds will directly benefit America SCORES Cleveland’s creative after-school programming, which includes creative writing, soccer, and service-learning for more than 600 Cleveland students.

If you’re interested in attending the event, which will be held at smARTspace at 78th Street Studios in Gordon Square Arts District, please visit inspiredartcleveland.com.


New hard-edge paintings: The ‘Confluent’ series

February 21st, 2015 | No Comments

I’m pleased to introduce this new pair of studies, part of a series I’ve assigned the working title Confluent.

Each is painted on a cradled panel measuring 10 inches square by 1.5 inches deep (25 x 25 x 4 cm).

hard-edge painting
hard-edge painting
hard-edge painting
hard-edge painting
New hard-edge paintings: Confluent #1 in white, and Confluent #2 in navy-black.


I’ve had hard-edge painting on my mind quite a bit lately, as I’ve begun to re-examine minimal painting. I’ve been thinking about how Frederick Hammersley had two different styles of painting: his hard-edge pieces and his organic “hunches.” As I have veered between minimalism and maximalism in my own work, I can appreciate how Hammersley explored these two very different, very personal approaches to painting throughout his life — one very rational and formal, another very subjective and intuitive. When one approach went stale, he returned to the other.

Right now, I’m pursuing a more rational and formal approach in my work. While I’m starting from familiar ground, it seems like I’m going somewhere new. I will certainly share my newest discoveries with you soon.

Grant Wiggins


A Return to Minimal Painting

February 12th, 2015 | No Comments

Over the past two months I have shifted my focus back to minimal painting, with new focus, commitment, and energy.

I embarked upon a new series, titled Reciprocal, in December. Thus far, I have produced six paintings. Below are the three larger works.

minimal painting
minimal painting
minimal painting
Minimal paintings Reciprocal 1, 2, and 3. December 2014 – January 2015. Each measures 40 inches square (102 cm square) and is acrylic on canvas.


Why return to minimal paintings? Essentially, I felt like I had unfinished business to address.

I had made sketches for minimal paintings over the past couple of years, but I was merely filing them away. As those sketches formed a growing pile, making geometric, pattern-oriented paintings — what I call maximalism — excited me more.

Ultimately, I hit a wall with maximalism last September. I was beginning to see pattern-on-pattern artwork and design everywhere. I felt as if I had nothing to add to the conversation. Lacking direction for nearly three months, I painted nothing.

In early December, I turned a corner. Emboldened by interest in my minimal work from a major fashion design house, I carefully revisited that pile of unpainted minimal sketches. I began to see the sketches in a new way, and realized that they deserved to have a life in physical reality, not simply in pixels.

In 2007 and 2008, I had a remarkably prolific outpouring of minimal works, of nearly three dozen paintings. Most were smaller — each about 10 inches square, painted on panel. Looking back on that era, I realized how much flexibility those smaller works afforded me.

As a part of a new way of working, I am placing greater emphasis on smaller works, viewing them now as studies. For example, below is a trio of studies for Reciprocal 3, made on wood panels.

minimal painting
minimal painting
minimal painting
minimal painting
Three studies for minimal painting Reciprocal 3. December 2014 – January 2015. Each measures 10 inches square by 1.5 inches deep (25 x 25 x 4 cm) and are acrylic on panel-mounted canvas.


Considering the dimensions of these cradled panels — 10 inches square by 1.5 inches deep (25 x 25 x 4 cm) — I’m forced to pay attention to how the compositions will travel onto the sides of the panels. These pieces seem to be more sculptural in nature, as a result. A 40-inch-square (102 cm) canvas would need 6-inch-deep (15 cm)sides to achieve the same effect.

What I have learned from these six paintings, produced throughout December and January, is that minimal work is not just about design and composition. It’s also about mindset. I have found that my thinking has calmed somewhat. I feel more appreciation for subtlety, and I find myself “listening” to the negative space in each composition.

Perhaps this sense of calm and focus is why I have returned to minimal painting. I feel a new freedom to explore space. My mind is remaining quiet and receptive, carefully listening for combinations of line and color that excite me.

I’m not forcing paintings to happen, and it feels wonderful.

Grant Wiggins


Collaboration with Jil Sander on fall / winter 2015 men’s collection

January 30th, 2015 | No Comments

I recently had the profound pleasure of traveling to Milan as a guest of luxury fashion house Jil Sander, to view its Fall / Winter 2015 men’s collection — from a front-row seat.

Graphic motifs from several of my minimal paintings will have a presence in the sportswear and casual range of Jil Sander’s fall collection for men, which will be available in some of the world’s finest stores starting in September.

What’s more, invitations to the runway show featured a reimagined version of my minimal, 70s-inspired painting Blactan.

Blactan by Grant Wiggins with invitations to the runway presentation of Jil Sander's fall 2015 men's collection
Above: The study for my 2007 painting Blactan among invitations to the runway show for Jil Sander’s Fall / Winter 2015 men’s runway show, held January 17, 2015, as a part of Milan Men’s Fashion Week.


I was contacted by Jil Sander in December, out of the blue, to my great surprise. Quite simply, the brand’s design team had found my work online, and wished to license selections from my catalogue.

Naturally, I didn’t say no.

All the same, I have said “thank you” to the Internet a few times.

Nearly 6,000 miles (9400 km) separate my studio in Tempe, Arizona and Milan. Traveling between the two points takes nearly one full day.

But it’s particularly fascinating to me that, despite this distance, my work might resonate with, and possibly inspire, a highly accomplished designer and his team — one that’s virtually on the other side of the world from where I paint.

The world is even smaller than I once imagined.

I have long believed that my paintings could have a parallel life in fashion. Friends and family have asked me this repeatedly, “Why don’t you make clothes? Your paintings would look fantastic on shirts!” However, I never imagined that a global luxury brand like Jil Sander would get the process started before me.

Led by creative director Rodolfo Paglialunga, Jil Sander’s fall/winter 2015 runway collection for men was impeccably presented. I was immensely impressed by the overcoats, which balanced angularity and structure with luxuriousness and comfort. I can also appreciate how the collection’s palette was accented by punches of bold hues, such as vivid red-orange, which blazed down the runway more than once.

It was a thrill to have the opportunity to meet Jil Sander staff in person. The fashion house has been perfectly generous with me.

Once images of garments featuring my work become available, I will certainly share them with you in this space. There’s more to come this fall.

No excuses — there’s plenty of time to set aside some of your wardrobe budget for a Jil Sander / Grant Wiggins sweater!

Until next time, ciao ciaoooo!

— Grant Wiggins


Celebrating 20 years of painting

December 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Well you’re in your little room, and you’re working on something good.
But if it’s really good, you’re gonna need a bigger room.
And when you’re in the bigger room, you might not know what to do.
You might have to think of how you got started, sitting in your little room.

— The White Stripes, “Little Room”

Twenty years ago this week, I painted my first painting. The experience of making that first work is something that I shall vividly remember. While I have made hundreds of paintings in the decades since, no other artistic experience I’ve had can quite match the feeling of adventure and freedom I felt when I was first starting out.

scramp king by grant wiggins
Scramp King, my first painting, which I painted in late December 1994.

Back then, I was a senior-year English major who wrote poetry and considering a career as an English teacher. Despite my stated ambitions, I found myself spending countless hours in the art section of my school’s library, transfixed by one art history book after another.

One title stood out: Andy Warhol: A Retrospective. I couldn’t put that book down! I had fallen in love with Warhol’s early advertising paintings — of household appliances of vacuums, drills, and refrigerators depicted in newspaper ads. In these seemingly unfinished portraits on canvas, everyday products were exalted.

Before returning home for Christmas break, I took out a loan for the Warhol retrospective catalog. I consulted that book continuously throughout vacation, each time feeling emboldened to start my own journey as a painter.

One night following Christmas, I took the plunge into making art. With images of Warhol’s paintings and a painting idea of my own glowing in my brain, I wandered into my mom’s art studio, tore the shrinkwrap from a pre-stretched canvas, grabbed some tubes of acrylic paint and a brush, and embarked upon realizing an idea for a painting that I had carried with me for more than a year: the wrapper of a 3M Scotch Brite sponge. Thing is, this new painting wouldn’t say Scotch Brite. I wanted it to say Scramp King! This was to be a portrait of a product that could exist only in a parallel universe!

scotch brite scouring pad by 3m
In the mid-1990s, Scotch Brite scouring sponges looked something like this. A wrapper that looked similar to this provided the source of inspiration for Scramp King.

Where did Scramp King come from? In the summer of 1993, I worked as a groundskeeper at an apartment complex. One project was to wash tenants’ front doors with Scotch Brite scouring sponges. (Man, were they abrasive! I scratched the heck out of quite a few doors!) In the process of removing dirt (and paint), the word “scramp king” jumped from a sponge’s wrapper into my brain, after I misread the packaging out of the corner of my eye.

That first painting seemed like such a transgressive act. It wasn’t the subject matter that was transgressive. It’s that I was a literature major who had never taken a studio art class — just a few art history classes. To me, painting is what studio art majors did! I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be painting. And yet, there I was, painting (straight out of tubes!) and working my way through a painting. I was taking a step toward becoming who I am.

Back at school, my friends told me they actually thought my painting was cool, and encouraged me to keep painting. Slowly, over time, I did just that. My confidence grew. But I never did take a studio art class. (Perhaps it shows!)

Reflecting upon what I have learned over the past two decades, a few lessons stand out. If I could go back in time and give myself advice, I’d probably tell myself the following five things:

1. If you want to make art, then make art! It’s that simple! You don’t need anyone’s permission or approval. Just make.

2. Never allow anyone talk you out of giving yourself to your art. I can’t tell you how important learning this lesson has been. People very close to me tried to convince me that devoting myself to my art was a kind of a selfish waste of time, that I’d struggle financially if I were to devote my life to making art. I was told I’d never make a living at it, and I’d be better off focusing on a career that made money. Unfortunately, at pivotal times, I listened to these people. But guess what? They were all wrong! The naysayers could never understand the bliss of having a great idea for a new painting, then finding a path to realizing it.

3. Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Creative successes may come along — especially when you least expect them — and your visual agenda might be validated by a curator, gallery owner, or collector now and then. It’s nice to be recognized. But whatever happens, don’t believe your own hype! Stay humble. You’re only as good as your next painting.

4. Make art for yourself. For me, the true test of a work is whether I’m able to live with it on a daily basis. That said, making art with other people in mind doesn’t work for me. The applause or indifference of others is irrelevant. And don’t hope for others to like your work. If comrades or critics don’t like something you make, so be it. When you make art for yourself, the conversation surrounding the finished work is a separate matter. If something good happens, it’s bonus-round material.

5. Don’t compare yourself to other artists. And don’t compare your situation to that of other artists. As Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” We sometimes read about artists who have ascended to international fame and fortune, or sell their work for ridiculous sums. Don’t let their success discount your self-opinion. Just because another artist seems to be “successful,” that doesn’t mean you can’t be, too. Keep believing in your gift. When in doubt, revisit point #4 above.

But ultimately, when I look back on 20 years of painting, I feel gratitude. I am grateful for having had the time, space, and gift of health to be able to make what I’ve made. I am grateful to my mom for allowing me to “borrow” her art supplies during Christmas break 1994, and to my sister who taught me how to mix paint. I am grateful to all of the fellow artists, friends, loved ones, collectors, and curators who have believed in my talent, and have supported me over time.

Being an artist can be a crazy calling to have. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Here’s to 20 more years!

— Grant Wiggins


New Painting: “A Newness Clean and Pure”

July 25th, 2014 | No Comments

a newness clean and pure by grant wiggins
A Newness Clean and Pure. 2014. Acrylic on canvas. 30 x 24 inches (76 x 61 cm).


This week’s Painting of the Week is A Newness Clean and Pure, which I finished Thursday. It’s an acrylic on canvas piece that measures 30 by 24 inches (76 x 61 cm).

Pure and simple, this painting is a mashup of graphical motifs that have interested me of late. This painting is just me having fun — trying to make something new!

The grid and heraldic vair-en-pointe waves served as the starting point for this composition. The patterns at the top and bottom were added later, in an improvised fashion. A work-in-progress photo shows what the painting looked like before I began to improvise my way toward the finish.

a newness clean and pure by grant wiggins
A Newness Clean and Pure, in progress.


The title comes from a phrase I heard in a Freakonomics podcast about Japanese residential architecture, titled “Why Are Japanese Homes Disposable?” Noting how the all-wood Shinto shrine at Ise is rebuilt every 20 years, architect Alastair Townsend points out that Japanese culture values newness as something “spiritually clean and pure.” This might help to explain why Japanese homes are torn down every 30 years. (A bigger reason, Townsend observes, might be fear of earthquakes, and a perceived need for the latest earthquake-resistant technology.)

a newness clean and pure by grant wiggins
A Newness Clean and Pure nearing completion.


Each painting is a voyage into newness. The act of conceiving a painting feels like tapping into the electricity that permeates everything, that energy that powers the creative act.

I have been putting greater emphasis on improvisation lately, as well. With the recently loss of the late jazz great Charlie Haden, I have had free jazz on my mind lately. Haden said, “The artist is very lucky, because in an art form that’s spontaneous like [jazz], that’s when you really see your true self.”

And so, obsessed with making, I continue to make. It is not a question of good or bad, or of right or wrong. To make, to improvise, this is a way of connecting with newness and seeing one’s true self.


Painting and Space: New Geometric Painting “Discovering Worlds Yet Undreamt”

July 20th, 2014 | No Comments

Discovering Worlds Yet Undreamt a new geometric painting I finished this Wednesday. The title is inspired by the closing remarks that Neil deGrasse Tyson makes in the final episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

painting and space - new geometric painting 'discovering worlds yet undreamt'
Discovering Worlds Yet Undreamt. 2014. Acrylic on panel-mounted canvas. 16 x 20 inches (41 x 51 cm).

deGrasse Tyson says:

We and the other living things on this planet carry a legacy of cosmic evolution, spanning billions of years. If we take that knowledge to heart, if we come to know and love nature as it really is, then we will surely be remembered by our descendants as good, strong links in the chain of life. And our children will continue this sacred searching, seeing for us, as we have seen for those who came before, discovering wonders yet undreamt of, in the Cosmos.

When I heard deGrasse Tyson’s phrase, I couldn’t help but capture it on paper, thinking it would be a great title for a painting. Over time, the word wonders became worlds. And when I completed this painting, the title Discovering Worlds Yet Undreamt seemed completely appropriate.

Space exploration is something that has fascinated me throughout my life. Perhaps this may sound like a stretch, but to me, painting is like searching through space, literally and figuratively. Whether one is sitting in front of a telescope or an easel, one is exploring phenomena and cataloging insights.

Discovering Worlds Yet Undreamt reminds me of another painting that I named after a significant event in space exploration. Last September, I named a painting Between Stars, because I was painting it when the Voyager spacecraft began its departure from the Solar System.

painting and space - geometric painting 'between stars'
Between Stars. 2014. Acrylic on panel-mounted canvas. 8 x 12 inches (20.1 x 25.4 cm).

The two paintings seem to share a similar spirit. They may not be about space exploration in a literal sense — or representations of outer space, for that matter — but they both encapsulate how I feel about exploration in my art.

On a related note, a pair of paintings I made in 2008, titled Space Loop I and Space Loop II, were most likely unconsciously informed by space colonies envisioned in the 1970s by artists Don Davis and Rick Guidice for NASA. Those images of self-sustaining colonies floating through space captivated me as a child, and still do.


New Painting: Everything Is A Landscape (Or Not) 2

June 29th, 2014 | No Comments

grant wiggins - everything is a landscape (or not) 2
Everything Is A Landscape (Or Not) 2. June 2014. Acrylic on canvas. 24 x 30 inches (61 x 76 cm).


I have to confess, the World Cup has “parked the bus” in front of my easel! I simply haven’t been painting as much as I probably should lately.

While I might deserve a yellow card for time-wasting, I did recently complete this painting, Everything Is A Landscape (Or Not) 2, an acrylic-on-canvas piece that measures 24 x 30 inches (61 x 76 cm).

This painting is a remix of a painting I finished last month, shown below. I simply wanted to rework the composition, with some small adjustments to the square ribbon motif, in a completely different colorway.

grant wiggins - everything is a landscape (or not)
Everything Is A Landscape (Or Not). May 2014. Acrylic on canvas. 24 x 30 inches (61 x 76 cm).



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