It’s Hard To Write About My Art And Not Sound Stuffy, and somehow emotionally removed from the work, which is anything but the case. I’m trying to give people a sense of what I’m up to, and the following are some of my concerns and thoughts:
One motivation was to make my work unlike anyone else’s, and yet make it accessible to anyone, like a more folksy vernacular with a twist. This was in part a reaction to what I considered at the time - which I didn’t prior and no longer do - oblique art vocabularies such as abstraction, minimalism; I was moving in a more populist vein. I wanted to express a real sense of desolation and betrayed American values, such as basic tenets like ‘all men are created equal’, but not in any literal way but with a vocabulary that anyone could understand.
Dioramas compelled me, mostly because people can’t stop looking at them, and that is the level that I wanted to affect the viewer, the absorption. This impacted formal issues like choice of materials and application of the materials. It was my belief that relief - something defined in three dimensions - mimics reality more closely and heightens impact.
Frames change paintings and affect presentation. In this era in the East Village in New York there was a lot of death imagery around in art and fashion, and I saw an ancestral predecessor in the carvings of Puritan tombstones from the 17th century, which I updated in the frames of these pieces. Semiotics were the intellectual high of the period, and this too was loosely behind my symbology. As well as the chronic listening to rural blues, Hank Williams Sr., and the punk of the day, hip hop, and devouring J.G. Ballard and Phillip Dick.
These inventions and appropriations in the tombstone-referencing frames made them individual, intimate, and anecdotal, which served to warm up and personalize what they surround, images of barren, built landscapes of cyclone fences and razor wire, bridges, high-rises, high-tension wires, things described by metallic drawing, intense, moody, dark.
Within this bluesy mode of expression various themes were mined such as amusement parks (Coney Island), neon signage, drowned world, Americana, trains, separation, to name some. With all this as background, the genesis of these images was an idea flash. These works are exhibited alone, clustered, and/or grouped as floor installations, as a kind of graveyard.
The Timemarkers of Steve Sas Schwartz, Carlo McCormick, High Times, Feb., 1992
As our own age spirals down into its terminal point of ultimate, final closure, our culture now marks its time – its passing – with the aesthetic self-conception and construction of its future tomb. The 1990s have become the millennium burial site for an age that once was, but is now rapidly receding; an epoch of modern industry, art and invention that has come to collapse in upon itself.
Steve Sas Schwartz’s paintings – vistas of isolation, desolation, exhaustion and malignant mutation borne out in the darkest extremes of our post-evolutionary humanist remission – cull the latent images from a natural world that’s not so much physically extinct as it is psychically obsolete. At once a harkening back to the potent ancient archetypes that are buried deep within our collective unconscious, and a living witness to the atrocities yet
to be experienced in the future, Schwartz’s paintings are each contained within gravestone-like borders whose iconography is drawn directly from the mythical and mystical symbols of mankind’s prehistoric and even pre-linguistic primal inheritance.
Also included in this months’s High Art are some of the graphic designs from Skate NYC, a skateboard and skate apparel manufacturing and merchandising company started and operated by Schwartz. Like his paintings, Schwartz’s skate work has the vitality and power of a kind of post-modern folk art. Captivated by the energy and style of skate culture as a populist medium of expression – a daily performance art of the streets – Schwartz has continued to expand beyond the narrow realm of fine art to explore the radical visual possibilities of the skate medium as a sort of urban-youth, conceptual-art hybrid.