In these new works, Sagerman continues his established painting practice, building his paintings of thousands of applications of high chroma oil paint applied one-by-one with a palette knife.
The title of the exhibition Activity is meant to operate on several levels, referencing in part the hypnotic opticality of the work. Quoting Michael Fehr, historian and curator, the works are meant to present the viewer with “an indissoluble thicket in which the eye becomes entangled and perception may become an…intensive experience of seeing.”
Recorded in the title of each painting is the number of strokes of color applied. The artist’s decision to make paintings in this way, and to keep a record of the repetitive processes, gives insight into the multiple levels of conceptual and philosophical intention Sagerman brings to his paintings. The repetitive activity of applying paint to canvas a dab at a time is a form of meditation. Sagerman states, “for me, the numbers themselves are the most direct expression of my work activity; it is they that suggest the immaterial essence of the work. The sense in which I refer to the work as ‘meditational’ relates to the analogy that I am inclined to make with medieval Jewish meditational practices,” the subject of the artist’s current doctoral pursuit.
Robert Sagerman’s paintings and practices were featured in a November 2003 ARTnews article entitled Driven to Abstraction, by Amei Wallach. While establishing relevance to his practices is important to Sagerman, he is quoted at the end of the article as stating: “In the end, I know I’m just making paintings.”