IN CONVERSATION: PRESTON DOUGLAS & MARK FLOOD
Sam Trioli spoke with Mark Flood and Preston Douglas in the lead up to Douglas’ online viewing room launch, TENSION // HANGING ON. The two artists share a unique connection, both artistically, as friends, fellow Texans, and collaborators in their two-person exhibition at PRP in Dallas, TX titled Stretcher Barbecue.
Sam Trioli: One thing I really liked in the press release for your show, Stretcher Barbecue is this idea that all that is left of painting are the “bones of the stretcher bar skeleton.” Can you both expand more on that? How do you feel that connects with your current work in TENSION // HANGING ON, Preston?
Preston Douglas: Thanks Sam. Yeah Mark and I actually talked about this aspect of these paintings from this series when I finished them up and sent the images over for a classic Flood critique session. I like to say that I received my MFA from the Mark Flood Academy… and let’s just say I’ve gone through my fair share of crits haha.
Upon further inspection of these paintings you can see the little areas of stretcher bar being revealed. The transparent fabric allows the viewer to see through the painting, but these little areas where the fabric is barely holding onto the stretcher and the aluminum is exposed really makes these works. Hence the tension, and hanging on. I allow myself when creating these sewn works to not stress out over having to cover the entire surface of the stretcher and that allows for much more creative freedom during the construction of the fabric paintings, and always results in a positive surprise reveal after stretching the work and standing it up against a wall.
Mark Flood: What are we supposed to talk about? What's it called? Fashion 58? Fashion from 1958?
PD: Yes, we’re focusing on geriatric women's wear…
MF: Oh, that’s what I wear at night …What is the show called?
PD: It’s called TENSION // HANGING ON
MF: And you're showing your stretcher bar pieces with fabrics? Or fashion? Or both?
PD: The black and white monochromatic fabric paintings. They have paint on them. They’re constructed, then stretched over the aluminum stretcher bars.
MF: These are the ones that are not the stretched printed fabrics. There are multiple pieces hanging off of it?
PD: Exactly. And these were the first ones that I made with this process. It's similar to the stretched fabric pieces I make, but I delved deeper into it at the residency. I made a couple of really big ones.
Preston Douglas. Quick Ascension. 2020. Acrylic, latex, chiffon, organza, and satin on two aluminum stretchers, 64 x 112 in (162.56 x 284.48 cm).
I sent you the images and to my surprise, you actually liked them. Because you usually hate when I put any paint on them.
Your feedback initially was that you liked the aluminum stretcher bars, peeking out where the fabric runs out. On the corners, and stuff like that.
MF: Can we look at them on your phone? Because I don't remember!
PD: Your studio! There’s a spray-painted Pepsi machine cover in front of us..that says AMAZON! And an 8 by 10 ft. classic Mark Flood painting, that says Kill Your Family….
MF: It doesn't say that – I erased it. It’s a lace painting of a guy from San Luis wearing those giant pointy boots they wear…For that music called tribal… A long time ago!
Did you pull anything up for me to look at? Oh, yeah, I like those pictures. Yes. So they remind me a lot of those early Rauschenbergs with stretched fabric, like Yoicks!. These look great. I like the whole exposed stretcher bar plus fabric look…
PD: I do that too, and I stole it from you.
Mark Flood. Green Box. 2008. Collage on found coroplast box, mounted on wood frame, 50 × 60 1⁄2 in (127 × 152.4 cm)
MF: How did you do that?
PD: I mean, you've been making a stretcher bar work since the nineties –
MF: Like what?
PD: You know, you're making these collage works for forever. And then you'd – disrespectfully – attach one collage work on paper, on a stretcher bar. And it was like this unique Mark Flood-ism from your practice, that you just put stuff on a stretcher bar and then hung the stretcher bar on the wall. And so, my reaction to that was…
In fashion, the idea of putting a t-shirt over a stretcher bars has been done many times. Taking that to the next level is – putting it on the stretcher bar than putting it on the wall as a way to relate to painting. But also it's kind of a disrespectful, ironic way of dealing with displaying artwork in a gallery setting.
MF: It is funny how the stretcher signifies… Its surprising how much emotional energy is in it. It's a signifier for me because I always had so much trouble with stretcher bars. So now I hire people who know what they're doing.
PD: You have to do all that prep, all the not fun stuff, to be able to paint.
MF: To me, my stretcher bar art looks dated, because it's all wooden. But I had to use wooden ones to make the PRP work. Your work mainly uses the aluminum, and that looks much better and much more of the moment. And then it's silver, which makes a good conversation with the black and white fabric.
Your work is relatively traditional because it's rectilinear and wall-based and has images on fabric.…Yet its still totally weird and different. Your fabric is very different – It’s not canvas! You do come from this fashion perspective, you do fashion shows.
PD: Mark let me paint in one of his Studios, almost exactly three years ago. PartyTyme studio – this old quinceanera dress shop. I was out of a studio. I had to move out of my… tough family situation. The Kill Your Family painting seems quite pertinent.
Mark gave me a couple of stretcher bars and they were all Tri-Mars. And I had always painted my stretcher bars silver or some sort of color – something that I noticed you did with your 90s work – the stretcher bars are white or black.
MF: Some of them.
PF: Mark induced me to try the aluminum, the silver. I'm always been a silver guy. So it made sense. They feel like some sort of future relic. They feel alien in a way; they're very cold. I like the aesthetic of the aluminum stretcher bar by itself.
MF: How many of these works on the current show have sewing on them?
PD: All of them.
MF: I know that's something you've got into. You use a sewing machine. Next you’re gonna tell me you type 100 words a minute
PD: Well, actually I’m a pretty fast typer.
MF: My God! And yet you’re completely illiterate! Such a contradiction! And what about the zippers? Are there any zippers in this work?
PD: There's some safety pins. There’s all this safety-pinned stuff that's hanging off the front of the painting. Going back to the sculptural elements of the clothing design practice.
It's a formal way of dealing with blank spots in the two-dimensional image. I was not happy with those. And then, when you walk around the work, you see it's like a sleeve hanging off. Then if there's any wind in the gallery, or a fan, the work flutters. I like that movement in a traditionally static medium.
MF: Do people still use safety pins in real life?
PD: I have no idea. But I bought some good safety pins, and I safety pinned stuff on.
MF: Because you ran into the fact that they're is so little wood on the aluminum stretcher bars.
PD: Yeah, you can’t staple down into the painting!
MF: Yeah! Thats why I use the old wood bars. Sometimes I use the aluminum but…it’s the wrong tool for the job!
PD: I know you love collage and I love collage as well. And I'm always thinking – how do I make collage in a new way? One thing was using those safety pins. I can directly apply fabric to fabric. I don't have to have it flat. I don’t have to glue using any sort of other acrylic medium or anything. I can stand there and drape the fabric, almost like draping a model.
MF: And it's kind of permanent too because that safety pin ain't going anywhere…
MF: And all that polyethylene fabric ain’t going anywhere either!
So I remember the ones of mine you were talking about. They were collages on pieces of coroplast. I remember why I attached them to stretcher bars; it was because it's difficult to hang a piece of coroplast. Especially when I like using beat up, raggedy coroplast, sometimes harvested out of the trash or off the streets.
It’s good to control the presentation of that work by somehow attaching it to a structure of stretcher bars. I’m not into the normal values about framing; I hate precious framing. But if you give people something too rough, like that battered coroplast, the first thing they're going to do is put it in a glass coffin…
Your paintings… usually you make them too big, so they can’t do that! But your stretcher bars give the work presence. And I never thought about it, but what I do is slightly like what you're doing. But you take it to a whole new level. I only want a 10% cut, because I feel like you take it to a new level.
PD: I think we both relate on the… glass coffin thing. We don’t like looking at works on paper under glass, or really any art under glass. It kind of ruins it. But it is strange that we still have to frame the work.
MF: I usually don’t like it when you put paint on the fabric works because I feel like you're gilding the lilly. But I liked these.
PD: The reason why it works in these paintings, when in some of the others it hasn’t, is because this fabric wasn't printed to begin with.
MF: What do you mean?
PD: None of this fabric is printed. It's all pure fashion fabric.
MF: Oh, I see. Well, that is quite different.
PD: So the paint serves as the printing in a way.
MF: Did you make images with your paint?