Bo Joseph Artist Statement, 2000
My work involves the appropriation and mingling of iconic forms from disparate cultures and historic periods, often as layered silhouettes in a fragmented abstract field. It also involves an intuitive, process-oriented methodology where chance and deconstructive techniques partly determine the final outcome of the work. From myriad printed sources, such as books or auction catalogs, I scavenge images of objects that transcend cultural boundaries without losing their intrinsic charge. I transcribe and layer silhouettes or outlines of these reproductions, abstracting them to further strip away any inherent meaning or point of reference, withdrawing any cultural context. Typically, these referential hybrids evolve within environments of intuitive gestural marking. Whether painting on a fragmentary used drop cloth or a sheet of paper, I regard the painting support as a charged found object, more than just a surface. I incorporate deconstructive, chancy techniques like sanding, masking and rinsing to invoke the anomalous and transient nature of material meaning and to instigate new roles for these archetypal sources. I utilize abstraction as a means of examining how our beliefs and perception charge the experience of "reality," and affect how we compile collective knowledge. The resulting works are by-products of my exploration and reconciliation of diverse cultures and they assert signs of ideological syncretism and contemporary interdependence.
In my work, abstraction is a questioning process. It is a way of undefining things so that they may define themselves. It is a way of constantly breaking down presumptions about my knowledge and experiences, about the integrity and vitality of forms. Abstraction provides a way to reconcile diverse information. I seek ways to subvert my ego and open up to the demands of the image/object and my intuitive impulses. I avoid predetermined notions about content which often make the process of building an image obsolete.
Whether a painting, work on paper, or sculpture, each work consists of a series of visual responses, of acts committed, displaying a connection to my vocabulary, beliefs, and a connection to my understanding of dynamics and relationships in nature. The work is not guided by a self-conscious motive; it is not guided by an accommodation to style or trend. The relationships between works emerge with the effort to discover something new using the tools or processes which I have previously developed. Each piece leads me to a new bit of knowledge, a slight expansion of my vocabulary, one stage in the development of a personal philosophy.
When working I seek confrontations which demand decisive reactions. I usually begin in response to a particular material or form that I have seen or invented. I superimpose abstractions, evocative forms and symbols rooted in my experiences. I engage in activities which continually put an image physically at risk, like sanding, scraping, rinsing. I may also impose a seemingly foreign or disparate element, to unsettle an image, providing a point of reorientation or relationships which I could not anticipate. These elements come from books, illustrations, photographs, other unfinished works, which I transpose to the surface, collage or attach as panels. When I work in series it is to repeatedly test my motives and responses with one particular structure or device. The elements that remain begin to come to life, appear to have grown there or somehow appear self-determined.