Cloud Porn with Joël Frudden

Joël Frudden Untitled (Contrail), 2011 Oil on photo panel bought from a decommissioned 1970’s exhibit about the development of the Californian west 80″x 40″

A much-needed sideways rain hits the windows of San Francisco Art Institute’s (sfai) graduate studios.  Second year, MFA candidate Joël Frudden teaches me the key command for typing the umlaut in his name. For the record, I was curious how to get the umlaut when writing this blog entry from a desktop, opposed to  typing on an ipad or iphone.

hold option + u let go, press e =  ë    umlaut

After contacting Fudden a few weeks ago when writing a proposal for a new exhibition, I became curious to see what he has been working on in his studio. So here we are sitting on a clean couch in a very organized artist studio with only two short months until Vernissage, sfai’s graduate exhibition.  For a moment, I wonder if I am in the right place or is Frudden that on top of his game. As we catch up, our conversation jumps from artwork to traditional and alternative art programs to future opportunities and back to his paintings, old and new. At one point in the conversation Frudden mentions Cloud Porn as a term used to describe his work.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, it might be easier to show examples than describe it.

Joël Frudden  Untitled (Clouds)  2011
Oil on panel
138″ x 60″

Boom.     Clouds.

Joël Frudden
Out the Backside of Mount Rushmore, 2010
Oil on panel
56″ x 38″
Joël Frudden Untitled (Black Triangle F-117), 2010 Oil on panel 36″x 20″

As thoughtfully rendered clouds continue to make appearances in Frudden’s paintings, the term cloud porn is born.  The focus of the visit now becomes a discussion about the exploitation of a subject and his so called fetish with clouds.

Fudden describes his interest in clouds for their source of power and seemingly improbable physicality.  He expands with how clouds command moods, carry tons of water yet float in air, and look soft yet shake the shit out of airplanes.  His work is not so much about the clouds themselves, rather the relationship they have with other subject(s).  The works above give context and depict perspective. Apocalyptic colors, land masses or blackened fighter planes imply human interference and manipulate our categorization of what is natural or dare I say,  normal.  His work by no means starts or stops with cloud porn.  To be honest, this entry focuses on the term not because it was a hilarious comment but because it highlights one of the many questions one asks themselves when working with representational imagery. Where is the point if distinction between representation, fetishization and exploitation? Frudden’s newer works continue to parallel concepts of history, perception, and impact in order to draw alternate realizations.  Some works contain clouds but many do not.

In my opinion, the clouds in Frudden’s above paintings prompts our relationship to the work. They provide an point of access to the varying sub-layers that play a larger role in understanding the work.  If you have a moment, stop over to Joël’s website to see the rest of his portfolio.  We look forward to Frudden’s new work at SFAI’s Vernissage Exhibition to take place in San Francisco at The Phoenix Hotel in May, 2012.

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