Red and Green #1
James Budd Dixon
Staff Pick | Monthly Muse March 2021
In preparing for the First Glimpse exhibition [which introduced the public to Gerald Buck’s private collection gifted to UCI], I visited IMCA’s collection storage to see several works I had selected from the collector’s dog-eared notebooks. James Budd Dixon’s Red and Green #1 was not on my list. The painting was out, leaning in a corner, and half unwrapped nearby the works I had chosen to view. Its loamy, thick, encrusted, fetid, forest-floor energy caught my attention immediately. I spent a good deal of time with the painting that day, eventually deciding that I wanted to include it in First Glimpse and was willing to swap a work to give Red and Green #1 a prime wall in the exhibition.
It’s not a particularly clear or neighborly picture. It is all about the internal search of the painter made external through a kind of brutal material exploration. Its clotted, sludgy surface has a gloomy air of painting as an embodiment of murky nature—decay—an all-over impasto that appears to have been mixed in a cauldron with a wooden spoon as much as it was painted with brushes on a stretched canvas. Budd Dixon’s inelegant motions feel hard won and brutally strained. The painting feels primordial.
I’m a painter first and like all artists I have my ways of constructing works that is particular to my personality and connected to my motives. As an artist pushing at my own boundaries, I tend to gravitate toward works I can’t fully understand—and towards ways of painting that are unlike my own and go against the grain of my predilections. Red and Green #1 fits this bill. It’s a painting that shows its own struggle of becoming. In that way, it is like fully entering into another painter’s process—a process that challenges my own to perhaps look for more mess. Or at least be open to the difficulties of making a more monstrous picture.
Artist, Professor and Chair, Department of Art at UC Irvine, and Interim Associate Director, IMCA