Jeff Way


The series, “Grid Head”, synthesizes various aspects of my artistic practice.  My geometric abstract “Chalk Line” paintings from the early 70’s, utilizes the grid as an organizing principle.  The formal structure provided a sense of order and stability against which I dispersed powdered pigments, applied with a chalk line, creating tension of opposition or duality – a tension I revisit in the “Grid Head” series.

In 1974, I turned from this purely abstract approach to art making to an image based practice, reflecting a psychologically charged direction.  Faces, or heads, in my personal iconography, are the source and center of psychological expression.  Beginning with a fascination with German Expressionist painting, these symbols subsequently became a major motif in my paintings. 

To create the “Grid Head” paintings, I used a technique I developed in the early 1970’s, forcing a Xerox machine to act as a camera.  Objects placed on the Xerox machine’s glass plate are moved while the machine is scanning, allowing for abstractions and distortions of the images to develop.  The “Grid Heads” themselves are comprised of multiple versions of a small, white plastic mask, an abstract face with just holes for eyes and nose; the face formed with horizontal and vertical bands that intersect to form a grid.  This mask was combined with a piece of fabric, also displaying a grid pattern.  In the resulting images the fabric becomes drapery, which billows and folds as the head bends, stretches and twists in space. In these paintings, the grid, which would normally provide a sense of structure and stability, becomes completely destabilized.  Color becomes a formal element to intensify the emotional and psychological aspects of the work.

In the “Topsy-Turvy” series of “Grid Heads”, the proportion of the heads is elongated and two are joined along the nose shape.  This gives the heads a more anthropomorphic presence, amplifying the disorienting content of the paintings. This in turn is reflective of our contemporary collective state of mind.  My intention in these paintings is to intensify their visual and psychological impact through varying degrees of abstraction, creating a feeling of displacement, while attempting to retain that essential, latent, tension between a sense of spontaneity and control.