The Dynamic Duo painting is undoubtedly my most complicated work of art to date. I named it the “Dynamic Duo” for several reasons. First off, it is TWO paintings in one. One oil and acrylic painting on the front, and another intricate, articulated interactive painting on the back. This is explained in depth below.
Secondly, it pays tribute to TWO artists that changed the world of art forever with their iconic art styles, Andy Warhol with Pop Art, and Jackson Pollock with Abstract Expressionism. The Gulf Pride oil can hanging to the left of the Pollock is a flash back to a previous painting of mine, #22, The Ghost Of Andy Warhol. It was done as a tribute to Andy Warhol and his soup cans. After reading that seven of ten of his soup can paintings had been stolen from a gallery in Missouri, I felt compelled to paint about it. And with painting #44 being a tribute to Jackson Pollock… I just thought it was fitting to have two American Artists who had such a profound effect on the world’s art scene hanging side by side.
The third reference to Dynamic Duos is TWO robots: the Big Robot and the Smaller Robot, obviously parent and child.
The forth Dynamic Duo is TWO super heros: referenced by the Caped Child Robot and the little Caped Rabbit.
The fifth Dynamic Duo reference is the double numerals of the paintings themselves, painting 22 and painting 44. Both have TWO identical twin numbers 2-2 and 4-4. I know you probably think I am reaching here, but it was actually planned out that way, that’s how my mind puts this stuff together.
Let me take you on a tour of the Dynamic Duo painting. As stated, it is painting #44 in my robot series. All of my paintings have a number in them that designates where they fall in the series, sometimes they are hidden and sometimes they are quite evident. The 44 on the front side of this painting is hidden on the wooden floor of the Art Museum. The two 4s are difficult to see until you spot the error made by the workers who installed the hardwood floors. Look for the place where two side-by-side boards begin or end at the same spot and cause a seam of sorts. Any floor installer worth their salt would never let that happen. There is also a “cheater” #44 located on the painting information plaque located at the bottom corner of the Pollock painting. You see, Pollock didn’t like naming his paintings because he felt that by doing so, people would be compelled to “look” for a particular subject matter or a meaning in his art along the lines of the given title. Instead he wanted them to appreciate the paintings for what they were, so he simply assigned them a number. This is why I quoted Pollock on the back, lower right section of the painting saying: “If people would just look at my paintings, I don’t think they would have any trouble enjoying them. It’s like looking at a bed of flowers, you don’t tear your hair out over what it means.” I searched and searched, trying to find a 44 within his painting bibliography so I could emulate it in my painting, but I could not find evidence that Pollock ever painted a 44, so it was almost perfect that I use #44 for my pseudo Pollock the robot is studying in this painting. Consider it as possibly the “missing” Pollock.
The front side of this painting shows a robot in an Art Museum carefully and thoughtfully studying a Pollock (my version) with a thought bubble above his head that shows what he is thinking. If you turn the crank at the bottom center of the panel, the image in the thought bubble will change to reveal another possibility for how the painting might have come into being. There are a total of three different thoughts of how the painting was created, but only one is correct. There is some debate as to whether Pollock actually used a swing or not, but I chose to use the swing method as my image of Pollock in the process of creation.
You will notice on his jet pack backpack an assortment of stickers. A Curiosity Rover Sticker, because the robot is somewhat doing at the museum what the Curiosity Rover does on Mars for NASA, studying the surroundings very carefully and reporting the findings back to mission control. There is also a MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) sticker because the first museum to purchase a Pollock was MoMA. (I hope to capture the attention of such a museum myself one day, and hopefully while I am still alive to explain it). And lastly, a Blue Origin sticker with a feather, my nod to Jeff Bezos and his work on the future of space travel, but more directly linked to the passing of my brother and my best friend who both passed away at 44 years old. The story of their passing and the appearance of the feathers is quite long and complicated and is not necessary at this time. So I will leave that story for another time.
The words “Inquire, Discover, Learn, Share, Repeat” are scratched into the paint of the jet pack as inspiration for anyone who cares to look closely at the details of my painting. This is my mantra of sorts, and it is reflected in the thinking that goes into each piece of my work.
The smaller robot looks bored, almost pouting, wants to be anywhere but an art museum. The Marvin the Martian sticker on the chest is there because of our current fascination with sending a manned mission to mars, but also to further express the little robots’ “Can we go now!” attitude. In the little robot’s hand hangs a stuffed super hero rabbit, rounding out that Dynamic Duo.
The front side of the painting is signed and dated in purple on the product label attached to the rabbit’s leg.
Now let’s talk about the thing that makes this painting so unusual, the painting on the backside of the painting. I thought if I was going to put all this work into making it possible for the viewer to change the thoughts of the larger robot, I might as well make it incredibly interesting as well as accessible to the viewer. Like everything else my mind throws at me when I paint, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to pull this off. How could a two-sided painting be displayed so that both sides could be viewed without taking the painting off the wall, or without suspending it, or displaying it in the middle of a room? After many half nights of sleep and half a dozen drawings of possible solutions, I finally settled on the frame you see before you now. Finding an engineer with enough vision to build it for me was a bit of a challenge in and of itself, but I finally found one brave enough to accept the challenge. I will be forever thankful of the time Paul Markum spent in making the frame for this painting into a reality.
The painting is positioned within the frame using super strong “rare earth” magnets spaced ¼” apart, one on each side of the painting, and one on each side of the frame. If you reach through the black “whiskers” around the edge of the frame and grasp the sides of the painting, and pull gently forward, the painting will swing out of the frame exposing two beautifully milled aluminum swing arms. Once the painting has swung fully forward, simply spin the panel in either direction exposing the backside, and gently return the painting into the frame until you feel the magnets “grasp” it. You are now inside the mind of Jackson Pollock. The painting can be displayed with either side facing forward. This will allow for some memorable party tricks when someone leaves the room for a second and returns to find the art they had seen earlier has somehow changed. Never-the-less, I digress.
On this side of the painting you will find big chunky gears looking as if they are covered in oil and drippings of paint. Darkness rules and brightly colored drips and smears pop and sizzle against the chaos. Electrical wires are exposed, dripping pipes, rusted welds, and rivets set the stage. Down the left side of the painting three black, paint stained wires converge, running from the top of the art to the bottom. One wire is labeled “POSITIVE”, another is labeled “NEGATIVE, and the third is labeled “GROUND”. The meaning is this: All public artists will be subject to criticism, positive and negative, it cannot be avoided. However, one must stay “grounded” in order to navigate the art world and stay true to their artistic vision. These wires hint of the troubles that lay ahead for Jackson Pollock.
The Mona Lisa sits alone in the darkness, spattered and worn. Once she, and paintings like her, were the only art considered to be “true art”. A small red light sits above the head of Mona Lisa. When the battery pack it is attached to is turned on, a dim red light above her head glows softly in the darkness. It is as if she just got an idea about what the art if the future may look like. Could this the meaning behind that famous smile of hers?
Soon came the impressionism of Monet and Renoir, critics of their day likened their work to “pots of paint flung in the face of the public”. However, over time it was their art that collectors sought after and clamored for, and today one can scarcely afford such a piece. Paul Gauguin once said “art is either plagiarism or revolution”, and I agree whole-heartedly with that statement. The trouble is, often times the revolutionary artists are not recognized until long after they are gone with few exceptions, such as Dali and Picasso.
The criticism received by Renoir and Monet, revolutionaries of their time, was no different for Jackson Pollock, jokingly known as “Jack the Dripper”. When he introduced his new style of painting now known as Abstract Expressionism, people thought it to be an insult to the art world. “This is not art, it’s a joke in bad taste”, read a review in Reynolds News. Pollock received more than his share of negative criticism, with a sprinkling of some positive when he first presented his new style to the art world. But he never let it show that it bothered him and it seemingly didn’t affect his work, instead, he charged forward with raw determination and confidence.
The oil-spattered gears have some of the quotes that appeared in various reviews about his work scratched into them. Can you tell which of them are positive and which are not? In some cases the lines are somewhat blurred. For example, the quote on the biggest gear (the thought wheel) is from a negative critique by Jean Helion. It states: “It filled out the space going on and on because it did not have a start or end to it.” Pollock liked what it said and decidedly took it as a positive, even though he knew it was meant to be a negative comment. Pollock is quoted as saying, “There was a reviewer… who wrote that my pictures didn’t have any beginning or any end. He didn’t mean it as a compliment, but it was. It was a fine compliment”. Through all the criticism he remained resolute in his approach to his ground breaking painting style. Though his work was not readily received by the art world, it was eventually accepted and revered while he was still alive, and as a result, he enjoyed much success.
The spaces between the teeth of the gear with the Reynolds News quote hide my name: “ALANN”, and with a slight, one tooth turn; “JORDAN” (pronounced JER-dan), my middle name, is revealed. The spaces between the teeth of the gear with the Pollock quote on it, to the left of the Thought Wheel reveals: “JACKSON” and “POLLOCK” when positioned properly.
As stated earlier, the first of Pollock’s paintings to be purchased by a museum was The She-Wolf, bought by MoMA for $650, May 2nd, 1944. When The-She Wolf was painted, Pollock had not yet arrived at his famous “drip” style that forever changed Abstract Expressionism. Today however, any works of Pollock are among the most sought after paintings in the world. Pollock’s #5 1948 painting stands as the highest price paid for a Pollock painting to date. It sold in 2006 for $140 Million.
But the life of fame he suddenly found himself living wasn’t easy for him. His battle with alcoholism was difficult and he constantly wrestled with trying to get sober and stay sober. This is symbolized by the two oil cans sitting on a ledge just above the Oldsmobile keys and key fob. Note that one of the two oil cans has a octagon (stop sign) embossed into it. This represents the fact that he was well aware that he needed to stop, but try as he might, he just couldn’t get it under control. On August 11th, 1956 he lost this battle when he was killed driving his Oldsmobile convertible while intoxicated, he was 44 years old. This is why I chose Pollock as the subject for painting #44.
The number 44 is stenciled in red on the upper left quadrant of the painting with the quote by William Hazlett scratched on the wall above it: “Rules and models destroy art and genius“. Words to paint by.
The backside painting is signed in the lower right corner with clear epoxy, then painted over with silver spray paint and rusted with red oxide oil paints to look like it was signed with a welding torch into steel boiler plate metal.
There is a lot more I could say about this painting; the little hidden details, the struggles with making what was in my head work in real life as a painting, the struggles with the gears and mechanisms, the conceiving of and engineering of the reversible frame, even the making of the little clicker device that comes to life when the painting is rotated, but I won’t go into all that right now. Let’s summarize the painting by saying the “Dynamic Duo” is the most complicated painting I have accomplished to date. Everything the future art historians need to know about the creation of it is written down in my diary. I also shot time lapse while working on the painting just in case anyone ever wants to see it being painted in hyper-speed.
Update: The Original, two-sided painting has been sold (03.02.19) and is now in a private collection in Tampa Florida.