WOOFISM and beyond

Category: Philip Guston

Freddie Brice

I cut and paste the press release information here as I came across this man’s work by chance. Immediately reminded me of Guston, Matisse and Alfred Wallis in use of foreshortening. It also reminded me of one of the main influences on the Suit of Nettles which people didn’t pick up on i.e. Southern States Folk and Outsider Art especially Bill Traylor

March 27 – May 1, 2010

KS Art is pleased to present an exhibition of paintings by Freddie Brice (1920-1998). This is the first solo exhibition in ten years of this recognized outsider artist who lived and worked in New York City. Freddie Brice’s plywood panels are painted in mainly black and white with an urban minimalism and immediacy. Depicting animals, interiors, clocks, watches and jewelry, they reduce complex forms and groupings to their graphic essence, interchanging black and white and positive and negative. As contemporary artists continue to look at outsider art for inspiration Brice’s raw painting style finds a renewed relevance in the work of painters such as Joe Bradley, Chris Martin and Donald Baechler.

Also included in the exhibition is a newly restored video of the artist at work, “Freddie Brice Paints Two Paintings”, made in 1990 by Les LeVeque & Kerry Schuss. In this video, Brice completes two paintings. While demonstrating his rhythmic painting style, he sings and speaks in a poetic verse about painting, hobbies and life.

“It’s in my way of drawin’. It’s in my conscious of drawin’. It’s in my mind. It became to be lovely to me. It became to be likely to me. Why, I like it more than I like anything else. I think it’s a hobby. You know, speaking about a hobby. A hobby is a true thing … When you begin to love something; when you begin to do something, a constructive, something that you like and love, it becomes a hobby. It becomes regular. It becomes continuously. It becomes outrageous. It becomes magnificent. It becomes to be something that you like to do for a hobby. And I like to do drawing for a hobby. I like to do drawing because I get understanding of what I’m doing. It gives me understanding of talking. It gives me understanding of books. It gives me understanding of drawing and hearing what I listen to. It gives me time, it gives me patience and it also gives me ability. Ability is when you gain what you’re doing, and when you get enough of it you begin to have rehability rehabiliteality of what you’re doing. It becomes a whole lot to you. Drawing is rehabiliteality to me. I began to do it often and I began to do it much. And it’s ability. It’s rehabiliteality of what I love. And it’s a hobby. –excerpt from video

Freddie Brice was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1920, and at age 9 moved to Harlem, where later he spent much of his time at the Apollo Theater, a fan of acts such as: Diana Washington, Chuck Webb and the Inkspots to name a few. Brice held numerous jobs including an elevator operator, a laundry worker and most importantly at the Brooklyn Navy Shipyard, where he painted ships. After a long history of incarceration and institutionalization he started making paintings in 1983 at an art workshop on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. In 1991 Brice’s work was featured in the exhibition “Art’s Mouth” at Artists Space curated by Connie Butler. Freddie Brice’s work is in the collections of: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Milwaukee Museum of Art and The Old Dominion University, Gordon Collection, Norfolk, Virginia. Additionally Brice’s work has been exhibited at The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, Williamsburg, VA and Milwaukee Museum of Art, Milwaukee WI. He died in New York in 1998

Studio Diary Day 1: Practice based research?

Ok so here I am back in the studio at the beginning of the second year of my M.A. by registered project and after a summer of drawing related ‘research’ I am standing in front of a very old work on paper (c.1988) and two new canvases done over the summer in the time not spent researching Frayling’s Categories (which wasn’t much). So what do the canvases have to do with research if anything?

I am struggling already to codify or analyse the works from any kind of methodological perspective. The ideas ’embedded’ in the paintings are intuitive, visceral (acrylic paint applied to canvas) and come from a half-formed naive idea of ‘comic’ forms from looking at various comic and graphic novels and studying Philip Guston’s work in some depth especially his drawings. I did read the book ‘Night Studio’ by Musa Meyer which I remember was quite a harrowing account of how his depressions and rages affected his family ( Musa is his daughter). It did however convince in describing the sheer effort that went into his work.

I suppose if I mined back into other works on him I would find material relating to his genesis of the comic forms that replaced his earlier ‘abstract expressionist’ period. I also own the book ‘Sweeper up after artists’ by Irving Sandler which I was half way through and which is very telling in its depiction of the fraught nature of post Abstract Expressionist careerism in New York in the early 1960’s. But is this research…it is art historical research for sure but unless it impacts on my physical creation of an object could it be said to describe anything but ‘contextual knowledge’. To impact on the creation of an art object surely it has to be more profound than that?

I am just asking questions here as at the start of a difficult journey. Turning ‘intuitions, feelings and observations’ into theoretical research is a hard task. I am not convinced as I start this ‘Studio Diary’ that it at all possible but I may learn something else in the process.

I am standing looking at the works. Day One. I photograph them so as to show the similarity in pieces created nearly twenty years apart and in very different locations and circumstances. Maybe that affects how I create images. Maybe the context is more important than I thought.

I am also awed by the quotation from Dickens that I discover Guston had on his wall, which he held to, about complete devotion to the cause. I have never liked ‘Sunday painting’ but never had the means to devote my life to painting and this the reason I have stopped painting for long periods. I found an interesting article online by chance detailing Guston in the studio by Dore Ashton.


This appears to be completely available online at:


Now here’s some art history to get my teeth into.

Quite a start…..but is it research?