About recent work

My paintings investigate ephemeral language and geometric abstraction. They contain written lists, mapped into urgently chromatic structures. These panels might be called illuminated lexicons of 21st century life.

Written in these paintings are collections of ambient found language from street signs, email, user agreements, packaging, news reports, and other sources. From the relentless flow of information surrounding us, I collect words, sort them into themed lists, and diagram the lists into generative forms. Each panel is essentially a slate, on which penciled and inked text and notations accompany gridded configurations of acrylic gouache paint. In some paintings the same text is coded in two different ways. Simple visual elements accumulate to make complex systems. Process unifies paintings variously containing tiled structures, linear networks, color gradients, and clusters of dots.

These works originated with small studies on graph paper in my datebook, made while riding the subway. To escape my habits of composition, I played games with numbers, randomness, and, finally, words. The written and visual results had a crazy logic and optical complexity that I'm still pursuing two decades later.

I find lists inherently lyrical. The words in these paintings reflect how things are, in my life and in the world. Some lists document a journey or record intimate conversation. Some are catalogs: as of acronyms, names of streets, and bird species. Others collate related fragments from disparate sources: strings of assorted instructions, guarantees, warnings. The lists are artifacts of twenty-first century culture. These mismatched lexicons of contemporary language often make sense in some non-linear, even ridiculous way. In vernacular scraps, I find absurdity, hints of narrative, and statements of truth.

Some viewers choose to read the panels; others experience them primarily optically. The writing is a resonant fine print. I hope the works as a whole, with their regimented tangles of notation and paint, have a visual presence requiring no glossary.

Lists of found language are my DNA for highly optical paintings, rhythmic but not orderly, neither abstraction nor image, located in the present moment. I compile lexicons of ambient text that make a kind of irrational sense, and transmute those words into forms that arrest the eye.

Leslie Roberts