Patrick Todd





Granular Alchemy and Event Horizons
The Art of Patrick Todd
–Sarah Schmerler

There's a delightful quality to Patrick Todd's art—as light a that term as that might initially sound—in part because of its sci-fi, other worldly feel (Todd took six years away from the studio to make synthesized audio compositions under the robotic alias of 'Autofac1'); in part because of a palette so bright that it borders on exuberant; but mostly for the utterly inscrutible way that he masters and mixes materials, colors, and themes for no other purpose than his own satisfaction. Todd wants to put into Form all the stuff in his heart and life that he might not otherwise put into words. Todd makes art to surprise himself. Along the way, he surprises us, too.

Playful as Todd's philosophy may be, in terms of studio practice it's a serious, often labor-intensive business. In point of fact, in order to be the protean practitioner he is today, Todd's found that he's had to master all sorts of old-school skills. Look at archival photos of his installations from 1996 to 2003: there's metal welding and clay- and ceramic-casting; paper making and screen printing and straight photography behind the scenes. Look at the paintings he's making now, from 2010 on: they're built up of colors the traditional way, via layers of translucent medium. Even Todd's sound art is composed via granular synthesizer, a digital method that breaks sound down to mind-bogglingly-abstract minutia, 1/50th particulates of what we normally think of as music. David Linton has played and collaborated with Todd;

choreographer Noémie Lafrance of Sens Productions used his work (in which he samples Joseph Beuys's voice) as music for Unseen: Landscapes, an ambitious ampitheater-size work commissioned by the Neuberger Museum of Art in 2004; and Yoko Ono, if she knew Todd, would probably nod her head and smile along to the 'beat' of his more out-there, noise-scape barrages.Todd has a unique, part-to-whole approach to making art because, simply put, it's the best way he knows to arrive at a 'whole' that is greater than the sum of its parts. "It's part of my ocular struggle," the artist opined when I questioned him about why he bothers to mix colors optically, the slow way. "Every morning I make stacks of drawings while I'm still kind of asleep. I'm trying to access my subconscious," he says, "I'm trying to arrive at forms that are 'immediate' in a way that's meaningful for me. Once I nail a composition, though, I'm not interested in just finding a single color for a single shape in it and being 'done.' I never just go for it."

Part journey, part final product: isn't that what all art is? Well, in Todd's case, one would have to make distinctions of such an Existential and hair-splitting nature to that statement that, to do him justice (as well as for the sake of brevity), I hesitate to attempt them here. Instead, let me point out the (true, and utterly reassuring) fact that, within all this diverse work there recur a number of strong, overarching, and clearly unifying themes. Todd is obsessed with birth; he wants to chart the unchartable event horizon you cross from pre-conscious Spirit to Human being; he wants to depict cathartic states of ecstasy, and trace the primordial bonds that link mother to child;

he wants to map in color and geometry the way he's personally trying, via meditation and lifestyle choice, to have his self more truly know his Self. Want recognizable imagery?You got it: there's homunculi, mammals of all kinds (beasts of burden a favorite), crystals and rainbows, Buddhas and other Asian-history tropes, and interlocking abstract puzzles so hard to 'solve' they look like Rubicks Cubes or Chinese finger traps. I feel sort of flip for the fact that I'm sitting here, summarizing with words the sorts of States-of-Mind that Todd's taking time to render into forms, environments, shapes. His latest conundrum is papier-mache based and utterly practical: How much is just the right amount of slip-release to pour into a clay mold so that the new geometric (yet slightly anthropomorphic) shapes he's crafting out of paper pulp inside them will slip out easily?

Who knows what he'll do with them once he finishes them. Perhaps even Todd doesn't yet, either. But the shapes are compelling, and the problems they're causing him are infinite, fascinating.

Sarah Schmerler is a New York-based art critic . She contributes regularly to Art in America, TimeOut NY, Photograph, and ARTnews and has been writing about contemporary artists who live and work in Brooklyn since 1996.