This thesis explores the process and the results of creating art without a preconceived intellectual concept in mind and how the physical aspect of making (in my case, carving wood blocks) manifests itself in the work that is produced. I will be examining how I came to this method of making through watching my father work in his shop building guitars. I will look at what his craft has taught me about my own art practice and work ethic in giving me a familiarity with and appreciation of manual work, and later rejecting purely conceptual art in my practice.
In this paper, I examine some twentieth-century artists’ techniques for freeing themselves from intellectual preconceptions of what their work should look like. Artistic processes I will examine in depth are John Cage’s use of chance operations in his visual art; Robert Motherwell’s “plastic automatist” painting process, and his theoretical writings, which mirror how I feel about the connection between the artist and his materials; Richard Serra’s manipulation of his drawing materials to alter the physical scale of making; and Jackson Pollock’s reinvention of painting by using nontraditional methods of application.
I address the value of physical labor and process through the time spent carving woodblocks; printing from them is a means of documenting that process. The connection between my medium and my hands informs the final images produced from this process. The woodblocks carved with thousands of marks and the accumulated hours of work required to produce them attest to the physical labor.