Modern sculpture makes us aware that it's materials can be it's subject. And Todd Norsten offers the same idea about paint: "Paint is used by people to paint rooms and to make signs," he told a 2007 interviewer. "[Paint] is a material that is used to directly express many things including when and where commerce occurs."
So when Norsten paints witty words or pictures on his white-field canvases, the substance of the paint is part of his plan. The paintings alone can seem direct and even confrontational - this painting marks this moment says one of them - but what he's done with the paint itself is part of the intrigue. For a recent work called endlessceaseless, boundless joy, he made bold block letters that seemed to be made of housepainters' blue masking tape, yet they were pain instead. For a print of the same image, Norsten pulled off a similar illusion, with ink.
Norsten is a native of Sunburg, MN, and often honors plainspoken Midwestern language in his works. Words aren't his only subject; he might also show a bucket of blood with a surfacing monster, or a streaked and smeared black mask. One curator explains that Norsten's works "range from the bitterly critical to the supremely comical." The artist himself claims to have had two goals in life, to catch a record walleye and appear in the Whitney Biennial exhibition; so far he's achieved only the latter, in 2006.