In 2008, I began a ritual of photographing the streets surrounding my studio on rainy days. I took a picture of every oil rainbow I could find on my daily travels in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Having learned that my studio was situated above the outer rim of the world’s largest urban oil spill, I began to interpret these oil rainbows as manifestations of the unseen amalgamation of oil below. Like blossoms, they opened up, thirsty in the rain. In the barren industrial landscape of the eastern-most section of Greenpoint, I began to regard the oil spill as my only local natural resource, and decided to begin to tap into it, exploit it. Like Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, I would become a prospector, an oil man, a profiteer, a maker of petroleum-based cultural artifacts.
Furthermore, I found myself interested not in the remediation of an environmental disaster, but concerned more with the essence of the accidents and apathy that led to a massive geologic displacement under my neighborhood. For against all rhetoric of efficiency, profit, and human ingenuity, the true manifestation (or monument) of our endeavors was the accident itself, defined by the impossibility of containing that which cannot be contained.
A residency at Dieu Donné then became a perfect metaphor for these slippery concerns. The essence of paper is to provide a ‘ground’ on which to execute a performance of artifice, a transcription of meaning. The paper pulp itself reminded me of the ground (a muddy earthy slop), which is harnessed into the convenient rectangles or lots that we use to compartmentalize our world. Attempting to make the paper defy its own materiality inevitably led to accidents, which created revelatory form. Paul Wong provided me with the structure I needed: a perfectly crafted ground, meant to appear like asphalt or pavement. We then subjected the rectangle-bound waterlogged sheets of paper to a hydraulic press, which would force the water to evacuate, leaving behind trails (Paul called them ‘tributaries’) of their exodus. The results were paper sheets that decided their own shapes. From there I began the process of call and response as I applied digital prints on Japanese paper to the sheets’ surfaces: tearing, wetting, and wrinkling until my deliberate intentions and the paper’s indeterminate shapes became gestural companions.
— David Kennedy Cutler, 2011
David Kennedy Cutler received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2001. He is currently represented by Derek Eller Gallery, New York, NY.