Saturday, December 31, 2011

Artist Visit: Don Griffin

On a rainy, windy, and overall dreary day, I boarded a MARC train a couple of weeks ago for an undeterred, scheduled visit to Baltimore to meet with artist, Don Griffin and his representative, Diana Harris. The resulting visit in the artist's home/studio was a complete contrast to the weather; his space was filled with art, art supplies, warmth, and infused with jazz and lively conversation. This physical background was the perfect setting for spirited, stimulating, and engaging dialogue in which the three of us spent hours viewing and discussing some of the series of works that Don created over the past few years. The conversation vacillated between discussing the artist's creations, including interpreting and analyzing his art, to extended discussions about the art world with a focused interest on the art market. Expansive territory was covered as we pulled back the layers on the artistic process, marketing, galleries, collectors, museums, auctions, and the like.

Don Griffin, Paperworks 6.10 Vol 2 Plate 14,
 2010, Mixed media collage on paper,
18" x 18"
Don Griffin studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland. He has an extremely large body of work that falls into the category of abstraction. If he has to be categorized, he considers himself a "third generation" Abstract Expressionist. However, there were a number of works viewed that were figurative abstractions which happen to be productions created during his "off time," meaning that time that he is not engaged in his primary discipline, Abstract Expressionism.

Don's mixed media works incorporate found objects in many formats; there is a strong sense of recycling or green art. His works span the spectrum of subdued blacks, browns, and whites to his most recent incorporation of vibrant colors all guided by and in support of the theme of the series on which he is working. The recycled items include newspapers, pages from books, corrugated boxes, and peeled labels that serve as a substrate and background field of the work. According to Don, "a common thread between all the works are the Tracks or Ladders which are seen as sometimes subtle and other times predominant. Viewers see the icons as both Tracks and Ladders. In either case, whatever is seen represents a journey in some sense. To me, the Tracks represent a horizontal passage being connected to the earth, while the Ladder represents a vertical journey and more of a spiritual upward journey."


Don Griffin, Night Fall in Brazil
 (Nyte Life Series), 2011,
Mixed media on paper, 11" x 15"
The Nyte Life series is comprised of 10 mixed media works on paper, featuring the "Black Suited Man" as derived from the Passport to Equinox audio visual installation. In the words of the artist, "In Passport to Equinox, three black men were faceless with their backs towards the viewer and seeking knowledge through life's journeys. They ponder the vicissitudes of the black man, the isolated artist, creating and living in the real world, interacting and functioning productively despite conflict." The "Black Suited Man" experiences all phases of the Nyte Life. The variant colors represent the environs of the imagination with "the Man" being the constant... as he perseveres.  

Don Griffin, Nights on Broadway (Nyte Life Series), 2011
Mixed media on paper, 11" x 15"

Don Griffin, Concierto de Aranjuez
(Public Notice Series), 2011,
Mixed media collage on paper, 22" x 30" 
Another featured series, Public Notice, is the visual experiences of various techniques that the artist has explored. In this series, there is a predominant use of commercial labels from corrugated boxes, accentuating the artist's use of found and recycled materials that have been thrown away. According to Griffin, "The red line, featured in the series, is the continuity or the interconnectedness of all the pieces. Some of the works in the series are imagery inspired by visual artists like Basquiat or Twombly whose work I've studied in the past and others by my current contemporaries. Along with the artists, there are musicians and rhythm and blues vocalists' influences found throughout the series. The very first work evolved from a jazz composition entitled Concierto de Aranjuez, and it set the stage for the balance of the works to follow." 

Don Griffin, Acts of Dispensation (Public Notice Series),
2011, Mixed media collage on paper, 22" x 30"

Additional samples of Don Griffin's most current series of art work may be seen with accompanying descriptions at Baker Artist Awards. If you are interested in seeing more of Don Griffin's works or need specific questions answered, contact him at

1 comment:

  1. Love the Tanner & Phillips paintings. Met you on the Metro (graffiti museum?). Would have loved to be a fly on the wall for the Griffin discussion.