The placard before the sculpture reads “Neal Rock,” but Rock says he isn’t a sculptor. He’s a painter, painting on sculpted material. He can see where people might be confused.
Neal Rock will lecture at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in 116 Art Building West on how the practice of painting has changed, both in the materials used for paint and in the surfaces being painted. The lecture, titled “Herm 2016/1” uses Greek sculpture as an organizational method to discuss the changes of paint.
Neal Rock is at the University of Iowa as a Grant Wood Fellow for Painting and Drawing. He received an M.F.A. from Central St. Martins School of Art and Design in 2000, and a Ph.D. in painting from the Royal College of Art in London in 2015. His work has also been shown in exhibits in both the United States and Europe.
At first glance, his work resembles sculpture rather than painting.
“Most painters have a support, like a canvas, so I just think of my three-dimensional objects as different kinds of supports,” Rock said. “You take a canvas away and maybe replace it with a window, that could be on the floor instead of the wall.”
The support Rock uses is herms, dividers popular in ancient times to separate distinct villages or territories. Oftentimes, they were stone statues related to the god Hermes. Rather than using herms as literal barriers, Rock paints them to juxtapose different ideas against each other.
“I’ve been using it not as a physical object but as this tool that orchestrates material, ideas, thinking,” Rock said. “So when you see things in my work that look disparate, I see that as different culture spaces. So if the herm is, suppose, this thing that marks different spaces, for me it marks different ways of thinking.”
Rock plans to use the same philosophy to organize the conversation about how substances used in paint have changed the art form. For example, he uses silicon instead of traditional water or oil based paints. The same kind of silicon used in cosmetics and a variety of products that people use everyday.
“The reason I use silicon is that I think it does something else to what people think paint is,” Rock said. “Not only is it inside bodies, in breasts, it’s been used in horror movies, children’s toys, sex toys. To me, this material is already out there in culture, so when you use it, it has a different resonance than oil paint or watercolor paint. It’s kind of a vile substance.”
Neal Rock Lecture
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: 116 Art Building West