russell crotty’s studio,
in a beautifully-lit, former 3(maybe 4?) car garage, is in rural lake county, california.
here’s an image of russell’s last show at my gallery, consisting of astronomical drawings (both flat and 3-d) like those he’s exhibited internationally. the “globes” are spheres of fiberglass with paper mounted on the surface, that he draws on with ink and water color. the imagery is based on his astronomical observations and his experience of the place where he looked at the sky. they’re like planetariums that have been turned inside out…
but before he was known for his astronomical drawings, russell, a life-long surfer, made simple ball point pen drawings of surfers and surf culture. serial, the drawings took the form of journals or grids of small cartoons laid-out like eadweard muybridge’s stop-action photos. once again, russell is exploring surf imagery, though this time in a way that’s quite different.
his early surf drawings are simple compositions of a few sketchily drawn ball point lines. there is no color. done quickly, they’re beautiful because of their spontaneity. they’re narrative. storyboard-like. they capture the elegance of the physical prowess of the surfer engaging the natural power of the wave.
the new work is fundamentally changed. rather than a relatively uniform line of ball point, russell now uses brushes and twigs to apply pigment. the mark is irregular, varied, prone to accident — more expressive. there’s a similarity to the practices of classical chinese calligraphy or landscape painting.
they’re still spontaneous and playful. but more confident. mature. they feel like meditations. the physical practice of a spiritual endeavor. which is arguably what both art and surfing are…
and somewhere, the presence of surfers in the drawings shifted. from central to inconsequential.
it makes sense, i think. what, other than studying the night sky or following the tides, is more convincing of human insignificance?
some views of the studio:
plastic beach detritus – collected in ireland.