Art of Extrapolation
Mark Boulding Art Archive
This archive presents over four decades of art, beginning with current work and going back in time through extrapolations with bricks, electroluminescent light, jet contrails and highway skid marks, conceptual artifacts, traces and early conceptual work in clay. The archive is structured chronologically and cross-referenced by categories for closer observation of related groups. Essays, catalogs, reviews and captions for visual work are found as PDF file attachments to images, many of which are "slide shows" with multiple views.
The term "extrapolations" is a unifying concept throughout my work. That is, extrapolating from principles, processes and perspectives in the natural and human environment. This excites my passion and need to make what isn't here yet, happen. I like to explore things visible but not seen, or seen but not visible. I am as excited about what is not there as what is there. I like limitations but I like to push limits.
My work has its genesis in the conceptual art movement of the 1970's. One of the important contributions of the conceptual movement, in my mind, was to challenge esthetic boundaries. That included questioning what constituted a "movement". Historians and critics seem to like linear patterns and order. I like to embrace the non linear nature of time and space which might be explained as: Everything in all of time and space really happens all at once. In one big universal "picture" of past, present and future existing all at once, each of us is able to view, and participate in, an infinitesimally small part of the whole. It seems to follow that every "view" must be an integral part of the unknowable whole. Every view is to be revered.
Life changes have a way of moving us from one part of the "universal picture" to another. I experienced a shift from the academic life of teaching and pursuing grants to a professional life of doing and pursuing business. That shift is visible in my choices of subject matter as seen in the "Elevator Project" and "Shadow Collision" during the 80's to the "Untitled" brick forms of the 90's. This shift also corresponds to the explosive ascendency of the digital revolution. All of a sudden everything is bits, bytes, pixels, megapixels and gigabytes. Everything is either on or off, "0" or "1". 000011011000100001111! In a world of algorithms and apps, my hands reached for the most fundamental "pixel" of human civilization: the clay brick. This also took me back to my roots in clay.
I began a series of brick arrangements using paving brick. The proportions of these brick are made for placement without mortar. These were inspired by a circular stack of fire brick I had been shown behind the studio of ceramic artist Jim Melchert. Fire brick is also used without mortar. Extrapolating from that elegant brick placement, new expressions and variations of form continue to proliferate — I was giving form to images that came into my mind like thoughts that had to be written down or they would be lost.
I have described these forms as the product of meditation, but they come to me at any time in any place. The brick arrangements are given to me as little snippets of things that may have once been or will be yet to come. Some forms come to me whole. Some seem to deal with relics or ruins. Sometimes I visualize something and have to say "that can't stand up", and yes it does. Occasionally a form comes out as a module or component of some unknown structure. I follow wherever it leads. It has led to a new species of twisting shapes of flexible electroluminescent film. It has led to a new style in furniture which can be seen in this archive. It is now leading to forms that can only stand up buried underground.
By contrast, back in the 1980's my extrapolations were descriptive of things seen but not understood or understood and not seen. The Skyline Project, Shadow Collision Project, and others focused on mathematical extrapolations and drawings of things that one usually sees from a singular point of view — which often misses the multi-dimensional reality and beauty of the thing itself. Another example of this was the Elevator Project which is a series of conceptual artifacts consisting of spirals left in time/space wherever I was able to walk circles in elevators.
My work in the 1970's was motivated by indiscriminating wonder at processes I observed in the world: geology, animal behavior, human behavior, traces, growth and decay. I saw that intervention in any process could describe and predict artifacts. Air travel at the time was threatened by hijackers. The technological answer to this threat was to x-ray all carry-on bags. The gray scale x-ray images fascinated me. I learned, by putting different materials in my carry-on, how to create an image of something that wasn't there at all. This led to what turned into an outlaw theatrical piece — Airport Project. Another intervention of this kind was exposing the grass under every waste receptacle in a city park to growth by the light of day. This is one of my favorite pieces because it was done for the Invitational "Works in the World," sponsored by the National Ceramic Educators Conference Association. It was the only piece in the show that didn't have clay in it.
Much of the work I did during that time sprang out of my study of ceramics and clay. I was drawn to the richness of process in that discipline and the opportunity to break through deep traditions that seemed to prevent Ceramics from entering the mainstream of Contemporary Art. The Hidden Valley Project, Forest Firing Project and Ground Squirrel Project were all interventions in natural phenomena to describe and create unique artifacts in varying time frames from geologic time to a blink of the eye.
It was also in the1970's that I became preoccupied with highway skid marks and skyway contrails. They seemed to mirror each other — man-made conveyances creating drawings on the ground and in the air. Was it possible that some of these drawings were in fact intentional? Could there be an underground movement in this? There must be. Early pieces explored this potential as whimsical art criticism. Other pieces sought to predict what could happen. Always on the lookout for intelligent design on the road and in the sky, the latest observation was an intersection of five contrails at one time over southern Colorado, recorded in 2012 and added to "Contrail Convergence" created in 1975.
Please feel welcome to revisit this site as new work is added and email your inquires or thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org .
- Mark Boulding