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TIMELESSNESS OR OMNIPRESENT TIME

I was never really interested in the aspect of the explicit configuration, but rather something that could be an association and stand for more than one thing at one time…a nonspecific iconography

And [my work has become] increasingly iconic.  By iconic, I mean…singular.  So the iconic—the Russian icon, the Czechoslovakian icon—the idea of one, one, one…There’s a tendency to draw you in and to absorb its powers.  Its hypnotic power.  It offers you no entertainment, no diversities.  It’s one.  It’s absolute.  It’s singular…And it’s contemplative in that respect.  You’re lost in it.

William Brice,

MoCA Walkthrough,

1986

WilliamBrice.org/Library/Video/Brice “Walkthrough”

Brice’s ‘mature’ art functions as pictograms that combine iconography and frontality—elements that are characteristic of non-narrative, religious art that addresses universal concepts of life and death, of spirit and of god/s.  Icons are found in other art beside the religious, such as Pop Art’s icons that draw attention to popular, ubiquitous, industrial, mass-market culture.  However, they, too, function as images symbolic of ideas.  Idea topics of icons, religious and otherwise, thus stand apart from time depictions, are timeless, or exist in omnipresent time. 

These two elements, iconography and frontality, create images that are the opposite of strategies of contrapposto, or counter pose, the classical Greek invention of depicting figures that stand, sit or recline with most of their weight on one foot, one elbow/hand, etc., so that figures’ shoulders, arms, or body twist off-axis.  Counter pose imbues the subject/s with the illusion of the actuality of life by depicting figures as subject to gravity, with gestures relevant to a specific personality and to the physical moment in time, and of a sense of skin and muscle—rather than of symbolic meaning, which is timeless.

Brice’s personal icons—derived from fragments of male and female body parts, architectural shards, and elements of nature—form the syntax of his meditations on, and explorations of, his ideas of certain fundamental, universal experiences and relationships that are timeless.

HYBRID TIME

Are Cubist strategies at work in this drawing of a female torso in three views as some might say? Is it a compilation of multiple views representing multi-time experiences of a figure?  Is the drawing the result of the artist analyzing a figure, “sampling” (to use current vernacular) its elements, and then reassembling them into an abstract, evocation of the torso as might have Cubism done? 

The drawing is not particularly abstract, though, nor is it a reconstruction of many elements.  It offers just three views, each of which is complete.  What about the strategies Brice uses to give the illusion of volume and perspective, which are decidedly anti-Cubist approaches, amongst whose objectives was the corroboration of the flat picture plane?  So, did Brice embrace Cubist strategies in it or not? 

If one looks at the first sampled element on the left side of the drawing, the vulva, one notices that despite its somewhat volumetric presentation, both its size and frontality seem to flatten space, and so begin to suggest a flat picture plane—at least, by contrast to the super illusionistic depictions of the middle and right torso elements.  What is going on in this drawing? 

The answer probably depends on whether the viewer feels that the drawing is a reassembling of “pieces” that are samples of an actual woman or is, instead, an assemblage of ideas about Venus. It appears to use Cubist strategies, but it is not truly Cubist.  So, then, is it a depiction of a cluster of three icons, each of which are representations of ideas about Venus—i.e. multiple symbols that, hence, do not deal with an actual experience of a real thing in time, but is timeless? 

However, if the latter is true, then why does the drawing use super illusionistic approaches that also contradict what icons are: symbols for ideas not life? We can accept that an icon may be depicted as rendered out of stone or some non-living material. However, these potential ideas about Venus, which at first appear rendered as if iconic fragments of a stone Venus statue seem on deeper inspection to morph into a rendering of palpable muscle and flesh—that is, into depictions of a real, living woman. The drawing is full of dichotomies on many levels. It’s tacit appeal is possibly that it offers both ideas about Venus and a feel for the sensuality of Venus concurrently. Therefore, it may be best to think of this drawing as a unique Brice invention—a kind of complex hybrid, formed of ostensibly contradictory strategies, but which work to articulate the artist’s manifold perceptions of the meanings of Venus—which include multi-time and timelessness implications simultaneously.

TIME AND SPACE

Kyoto

One of the qualities I associate with Piero della Francesca, a loftiness and sense of grandeur, has in part to do with his ability to create the effect of monumentality. Sense of scale does not depend on proportional relationship of forms…It also has to do with the way in which a surface is experienced. I experience Piero’s surface in small increments and very slowly. So, one of the determinants of scale in his painting is time. How long it takes to get from one place to another. In Piero, the pace is solemn and processional. It is beautiful to me. In my woodblock [Kyoto], I think my elaboration of surface has in part to do with a quality of time.”

William Brice
Crown Point Press Interview, 1985

The implications of time intrinsic in Brice’s art seem to suggest various thematic concerns:

Time and relationships
Unity vs. alienation
Permanence vs. impermanence
Existence vs. non-existence
Birth vs. death
Beauty vs. putrefaction
Matter vs. spirit
Time and memory