In his thirty-year painting career Douglas Argue has created a body of abstract work that displays a diversity of mediums and formats. His approach includes spatial construction and figural depiction in an oeuvre that evokes metaphors and art-historical references to the past and present. Argue’s shapes, computer-generated stencils of scattered letters scatter across canvasses to form their own lexical cosmos.
Inspired by literary classics from Moby-Dick to sonnets by thirteenth century poet Petrarch, Argue’s texts are inspired by psycholinguistic and scientific phenomena. The artist explores abstraction syntactically: paragraphs, sentences, and words compose and decompose into one another, until they are only letters; stretched and skewed, elastic and malleable as meaning itself.
Doug Argue was born in 1962 in Saint Paul, Minnesota and lives in New York City. From 1980 to 1982 he attended Bemidgi State University in Bemigdi, Minnesota and the University of Minnesota in 1983.
"In many of my paintings I am interested in this overall use of space and the feeling that the painting will continue expanding onward in all directions. I cannot think of one abstract expressionist painting that looks like one of mine in particular; but I think in some cases they do share this overall use of space. Pollock used a similar sense of space and flow as Thomas Hart Benton, or even Tintoretto for that matter, but as we know they are very, very different artists. I am not very interested in positioning myself within painting history, within the context of abstract expressionism or any rearguard action against them. That is a very boring pattern that reminds me of scholasticism on a subject like 'Do animals have souls?'
I have made few paintings where you can read any words. In addition to one that says, 'Please! No Painting', another is Little Sorrows in which the word 'sorrow' is literally small and spread randomly throughout what might feel like a universe. Otherwise, I can think of none I have done that fit the description. Certainly you are right that I play with the convention of brush strokes and the idea that they are the hand of the artist, but my stenciled letters are very expressionistic. They are also built up slowly over long periods of time. Each of my thousands of letters are painted one at a time in multiple colours and tones, this is not mechanical. The use of stencils not only gives a precision and variety I find important, but it also uses a recognisable image. In the newest paintings I am working with weaving brush strokes and texts together, I am very curious about how we think with and think without the use of words and text, and how all of that blends together in our minds."
Untitled, 2019, oil on canvas, 72 x 70 inches
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