“I think [my paintings] are pretty unpopular,” Assistant Professor of Studio Art Logan Grider said while scanning the walls of List Gallery, which feature some of his most current work. “They require you to stand in front of them for more than a few seconds.” On display through Feb. 21, the exhibit, entitled “Logan Grider: Recent Work”, features the artist’s “rigorous yet exuberant abstractions,” in which “his saturated palette, densely worked surfaces, and eye for unexpected rhythms result in compositions with a presence and complexity that far exceed their small scale,” as stated in the event listing on List Gallery’s website.
Subjects are conspicuously absent in Grider’s abstract paintings. Titles, which are given to completed works by his wife, serve as “yardstick measurements” to gauge the aura of a work while still allowing “association to be a second priority.” This consequentially enables viewers to have “more of an experience, and for the paintings to emotionally register,” Grider said.
The paintings, while perhaps intimidating to a general audience due to their lack of subjects, are “relatively simple,” Grider said. “I’m not making a big statement — they’re quiet, small paintings.” There are a number of approaches viewers can take to relate to and appreciate the pieces, regardless of prior exposure to abstract art. For musically inclined visitors to List Gallery, color can be related to tone: “a [specific] color in a painting is like a tone that sets everything else, and influences the rest of the painting — other aspects are built on top of that tone.” For the literary, it may help to think of the paintings as “more like poetry than expository essays,” with a meaning that “isn’t so understandable,” Grider said.
The medium used for the pieces on display at List Gallery is encaustic paint, which Grider turned to after a trip with his advanced painting class to R&F Encaustics last spring. A combination of refined beeswax, dammar varnish, and dried pigment, the paint presented a challenge in that it cooled rapidly after being heated, allowing only a small window for manipulation after being applied to panel (or canvas). However, the difficulties of the medium, while undoubtedly frustrating at times, were the factors which ultimately provided Grider with the effects he found impossible to achieve with oil painting — encaustic paints added texture and depth to what he previously felt to be controlled, flat and thin. The switch from oil to encaustic additionally gave his basement studio a reprieve from the noxious turpentine.
Once the paint was applied, Grider acheived refinement by using a knife to scrape away layers. The paintings were begun without any sketches or plans; the process consisted of “reacting to the decisions I had just made,” Grider said. “[I was] trying to answer the question of how to keep a painting balanced while still keeping it interesting — how [to] create harmony with dissonance.”
Paintings progressed slowly, according to Grider, although perhaps not as slowly as work done in other mediums. Most of the work on display at List was begun in June 2011; one piece on display was completed only two weeks before the exhibition’s opening.
Students passing through Grider’s classes at Swarthmore aren’t your typical art students, which is all the better in Grider’s opinion. “The students here are brilliant. Most of [the students I work with] aren’t art majors — some of my best students are neuroscientists or engineers or biology majors,” he said. “I would much rather teach here than at an art school.”
Grider derives his energy for teaching art from his students, as he finds it can be a “serious challenge to keep learning going … I ask a lot of them, and get a lot back.”
“If I have to paint before and after class to keep myself going, then that’s what I do,” he said. “A part of teaching is constantly reevaluating what you’re interested in; if you don’t teach, you can become isolated in your studio, and don’t question your values.”
Grider spent a significant portion of his undergraduate education drawing and painting nude models, a skill which was given a heavy emphasis. The process became “boring and repetitious — I got tired of looking and painting.” Careful not to make the same mistake with his students at Swarthmore, Grider looks to stimulate his class through trips and exposure to a variety of different styles and techniques.
Stephanie Carrera ’15, enrolled in Grider’s First Year Seminar “Making Art” last semester, only saw Grider’s work online, and yet still noted the visceral reaction she experienced. “He would never show us his work — he is all about teaching, and showing us what he knows,” Carrera said. “[But his pieces] are these really vivid, thick things — they’re such fun pieces. And he’s such a fun guy.”
One project the students in the seminar undertook involved progressing from a sketch of a form to a clay model to a charcoal drawing, culminating in an animation which included the original form. Carrera said the incorporation of so many different elements of art — from modeling to drawing figures from memory — seemed like “the strangest way to learn, and yet afterwards, seemed like the only way to learn. He really gave us a taste of what we should have going forward.”
Grider will give a lecture on the progression of his art at 4:30 p.m. today at the Lang Performing Arts Center, which will be followed by a formal reception in List Gallery.