Current Conceptual Territory

This is a collection of work in progress by artist John L. Mueller of La Grande, OR.

Friday, April 30, 2010

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Worry Ball

This is a recent piece that is an example of a "chain of events" evolution of an idea. To a degree, it could be said that all works of art embody the progression of the thought process of the artist and material events that inevitably take place in the course of their creation, but I got a real kick out of this one.
I was getting a haircut one day when I noticed and began to consider a roll around drawer caddy of the barbers. It was the cheap plastic wal mart variety, but what got my attention was the labels on the individual drawers. They were the classic, self adhesive, all capital letter, embossed plastic type.
I began to think about them for what they are rather than what they say. These labels are iconic, ubiquitous and loaded. I was careening off into the thought. There is an expectation, even a responsibility for them to clearly indicate content or function. This is the immediate thought upon seeing them, even before reading them.
I've never been a fan of "text based" art. It seems to me to be a tedious if not treacherous, worn out territory that I have never been interested in pursuing. Still, there was something about the conceptual gravity and potential for mischief that I was detecting in the everyday embossed label that I couldn't resist. I went straight to wal mart and purchased one of the hand held stampers that creates them.
I went the studio, unpackaged it, loaded a roll of the label material, and sat there for awhile thinking "Now what?" I began clicking out labels with words like-
As the pile grew, I noticed that they were all curved from being dispensed off of a roll. I began peeling the backings off and sticking them to themselves. The result was a small sphere about the size of a golf ball. As I handled it, rolling it around in my fingers to read the words, I realized that a hilarious yet profound thing had just happened. The nervous, fidgety hand movement required to read the words on the ball does, in fact, bear a striking relationship to their meaning. It was as if the labels had somehow fulfilled their own purpose in spite of me. In honor of this, I created a clean, triangular shelf with a concave top to nestle it in, and I had a new piece.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

ketchup & mustard bottles

I recently purchased a mustard and ketchup bottle set. They were the cheap plastic sort that are found in restaurants everywhere. My purpose was to use them for cooking, (painting sauces over dinner entree's) but the more I looked at them, the more fascinated I became with their off the shelf state. The way they were shrink wrapped was a testament to the speed and mechanized chaos of the process. The cap on the ketchup bottle was actually slightly skewed and detached from the pressure of the wrapping. Then, a cheap plastic hook was hastily attached to the back and the label was slapped crookedly on the front. On the label, there was a blank rectangular area that was just begging to be written on. If I were to assign a human situation to these things, what immediately came to mind was a sudden, violent abduction. After considering that, I wrote in a scrawled hand on the label "god help us".

Thursday, July 5, 2007

This is an amazing old TV that I found at a yard sale recently. When I was inspecting it at the sale, I noticed that there appeared to be a molded plastic cover over the glass of the CRT. I hadn't encountered this before, and I saw the potential for the removal of the tube while retaining the molded plastic cover.(giving the appearance that the tube and the appliance are intact) I picked it up for five dollars and took it to the studio. When I opened it up, I was happy to discover that the cover was a seperate piece. I was thinking about putting an aquarium or an ant farm or a plant or something that would slowly decay into the "viewing chamber". Working with something as common and cliche' as an old TV made me realize that this probably wouldn't result in anything that I would consider to be a legitimate piece, but I still wanted to have some fun with it. I ended up lining the back of the molded plastic cover with black fabric, and it looked just like the front of a CRT. In the now empty housing, I mounted an electric motor with an off center piece of scrap steel welded to it's shaft. I then covered the bottom of the housing with small pieces of scrap steel. When it's powered up, it vibrates violently and makes a terrible racket. My next step was to place it where you can see it in the first image. (This is at the bottom of the stairs at the studio) I then adapted a motion sensor to a salvaged extension cord and positioned it so that when the TV is passed or approached it starts up. Once it was all in place, I tested it and realized that it would scare the hell out of anyone passing by that spot. While it was funny in a way, I decided that the potential liability wasn't worth it. Even when warned, there is a startling and menacing quality about it. I decided that was enough. Fun stuff indeed.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

lawnmower epiphany

I dont' consider myself to be a photographer, but I saw this from the road and was smitten with the image. It ties in seamlessly to my current conceptual direction. There is something superficially hilarious about the scene, but it also struck a deep chord in me. There is also a sense of sorrow and abandonment, attrition and isolation, and it suggests a sort of concealed yet perceptable anxiety and frustration. I have thought of quite a few titles.
My recovery
Moving forward
The Longing
And on and on, the title is central to the impact. I would like to emphasize the juxtaposition of the feelings that the scene evokes in me. I'm still not sure if and how I will print it, but if nothing else it has been rich territory for me ponder as I go about my days, and I got it posted here for you.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Things that barely work.

So, I was thinking about the idea of "things that barely work" and trying to come up with iconic representations of this everyday reality. What came to mind immediately were things like tennis shoes repaired with duct tape, automobile doors that are kept shut with bungee cords, household shelving constructed out of various hastily painted scrap materials, etc.. However, as I went further and further into the thought, I began to understand that this was the beginning of an enormous and complex conceptual consideration.
What led to this piece was a realization that came to me while eating lunch at a Taco Bell. I was trying to eat my order of nachos with a spork and was struck by the frustrating ineffectiveness of it. There are also things that barely work from the most fundamental design elements. The spork is a nearly perfect example of this. They are too small and made out of weak plastic. Its not a spoon, its not a fork, and it doesn't do either very well. In spite of this, they caught on and now there are there are millions of these things. It occurred to me that the spork is an excellent representation of novelty taking precedence over function. It seems like a great idea, but we all know what its like to try and use one of these things.
So, in honor of this supreme example of the human tendency to value innovation, or almost anything that even suggests innovation, I went to the studio and created a knork.

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