New York

David Budd

Max Hutchinson Gallery

One offers a description in a review—something that might be missed in the reproduction. The review acts within the area of possible error; what you see is not always what was there—especially in a photograph of an art object. This area may be elucidated by describing David Budd’s paintings. He has painted a set of all-blue paintings. Painted with a palette knife in thick, fingernaillike strokes from left to right, they all appeared pretty much the same, being manufactured in a similar fashion. They were about three-and-a-half, maybe four feet, roughly square. The only complication arose in the fact that they were painted very thickly. You may not get this from a photograph, but the track lighting created small “pools” of light reflecting off the “puddle,” the valley of each stroke. Certainly what you can’t see in a reproduction is that as one moved, these reflections also moved. My description ends here—both of the objects and the experience of the objects. I cannot tell you what the blues were like, except to say that they were all different.

Any reader will now know roughly how the paintings looked. They are hardly unusual kinds of 1979-style painting—one color, one panel, small regular markings repeated over the entire surface. But the gallery let viewers know that these blues were skies. The difference becomes then that the paintings are frankly, admittedly skyscapes. But as paintings, they are paint on a surface. Sky is blue, so the paintings inspired by it are blue. (It’s Arizona sky. New York sky would not inspire these royal, lush, sensuous, opulent colors.) They are, to repeat, also paintings, and must remind us that they cannot represent sky; they must bring our ever-divided attention to paint—thus the thickness. The success relies on the well-known, precarious balance between the inspiration and the fact. Budd is juggling his two subjects (“sky” and “paint”) and one is always threatened with being thrown into the air and not being caught in its descent. Or perhaps simply being thrown up and disappearing into thin air.

Now, more than the possible error to be made between the object and its photograph, there is the error between what Budd meant and what I understood. Before I discovered the paintings were “skies,” I thought they were quite obviously “water.” The incessant patterns of texture look like waves, the glare like foam or reflected sunlight. After discovering that this clear (to me) connection was a mistake, I had to switch gears. What follows became more interesting to think about, speculate upon, than to experience in the paintings.

Paintings which rely on the exigencies of gallery lighting present a problem. This light often destroys the ability of see Budd’s paintings. Then, armed with the “sky” inspiration, I began to think. The track lighting does to the paint what sunlight does to objects, diffusing them in a glare which liquifies, obliterates, their shape, volume, color. Could Budd possibly have meant for this artificial light to substitute for natural sunlight? We usually experience art as giving off light, as a light source which glows or illuminates—especially in this kind of “colored field” painting. And, of course, because the paintings were “skies,” what could it mean to have “skies” “lit” by artificial lighting? Skies “are” light, already. Harsh, direct, raking light creates glare, but it cannot glare itself. Perhaps Budd paints artificial skies to be illuminated by artificial light, and all this artifice is the art, the point?

Jeff Perone