Dance of ideas for a woman with a blue guitar

Is this BLOG an experiment? I doubt it. It’s not a reasonable, predictable space. Words can be heavy. Stones, they were called. How to love them?

A place of pleasure, that’s my goal. Encounters and exchanges about art and life. A selected group of people will come and play the thinking game. They will send their thoughts by e-mail. We might be read by the global village. Let’s give them pleasure! Let’s learn to be light. Fleeting and temporary, at least for one year. Personal, fearless, bringing out uncertainties, pauses and hesitations, conflicts and doubts. Most of the artworks reveal idiosyncratic states of mind that are not allowed to writers: no smoking in the toilette during the flight! Unless they are poets.

I was an Eighteenth-century philosophy scholar who turned into a journalist and a maker of hand-sewn books. So my hands give the books a body as the secluded princesses of the old tales, making their lovers’ body with flour and water. None of them have a beating heart. Lack of love makes me sick. Lack of confidence, same effect. Plaintive commentaries about climate and institutional collapse are a black mask on my eyes. Reality is painted black. But The Arts keep me alive. Meredith Monk sings without words, only voice and feelings. I wish we could write like she sings.

No yes, no, I like, dislike, no evaluations. Intelligent kindness. No aggression nor rivalry. Reading, writing, “an exchange of desire becomes possible, of an enjoyment that was not foreseen. Games are not done, let’s play.” (Roland Barthes) Wind and earthquakes shake our landscape. Los Angeles is luminous in the middle of April. We can wear the on-line dress, all the possible colors and shapes, because ideas have colors, if someone cares. The kite needs hands holding the thread as well as the winds and the sky; it needs tension, inside and outside.

“I play them on a blue guitar / And then things are not as they are. / The shape of the instrument  / Distorts the shape of what I meant, / Which takes shape by accident. / Yet what I mean I always say. / The accident is how I play./  I still intend things as they are. / The greenish quaverings of day /  Quiver upon the blue guitar. (Wallace Stevens)

JEROME ROTHENBERG and CHARLIE MORROW: BREATHING

BREATHING …. our perennial COMEDY OF MISTAKES

with JEROME ROTHENBERG and CHARLIE MORROW, ROSANNA ALBERTINI and CHARLES-LOUIS de MONTESQUIEU

 

RA    missing eternity and perfection, we rely on counting, measuring and forgetting

JR    There are worlds here / hidden from sight / whose ends are like / their beginnings

RA    and yet we move on changing confident that time will do the right job and memory will be a safe

JR    that farce replaces tragedy / obscene even to think it / & yet to come into another age / & find it proven true

MONTESQUIEU    I’m not a poet, but I know it, the becoming is universal soul, almost a wind, a  life-giving breathing: a “principle” produced by an infinite chain of causes interwoven through centuries, until they tune the spirit of one age.  Once the tone is given, it is the only governing force, it dominates until the total destruction. If the tone is corrupt, humans can only forget themselves.

 RA    I’m not good at counting. Please Jerry, tell me it is not true we must be reminded of a vanishing earth

JR    some will proclaim the word / against all odds / others can only wait / & wonder  

 

 Rothenberg’s house, Saturday, August 24 — Videos by Peter Kirby 

Charlie Morrow playing various instruments, Jerry Rothenberg reading

       

Jerome Rothenberg, NEVER DONE COUNTING, 2019

Enclosed by matter /all my thoughts / scream for prophecy. / When I wake up on Mondays / the night is still hanging / above me galaxies / shedding their images /fading unknown / in the half light / a light that confounds me. / Nothing we know is unreal / & nothing is real. / There is only the face / of a woman / blind in the sun / & a voice that cries out / in a language like French. / When she raises her arms / they look distant and lame, / something there / that won’t work but falls flat / against me. I will follow her / up to the moon, will watch her / paint herself red / with no sense / of the distances still to be traveled, / no plot to adjust to / but numbers / that show me / the little i know,  /  the way one / vanishing universe /  shrinks till it swallows / another. / There are worlds here hidden from sight / whose ends are like / their beginnings,  / the world in daylight / turns dark / the blaze of noon / caught in their mirrors, / as the sun slips / through our fingers / never done counting / where the globe / has dropped / out of sight.*

Jerome Rothenberg, THE POEM AS LANDSCAPE, 2019   

the definition of place / is more than / what was seen / or what was / felt before / when dreaming / of the dead / the way / a conflagration / wrapped itself / around his world / leaving in his mind / a trace of dunes / the fallout from / a ring of mountains / reminders / of a vanished earth / the landscape / marked with rising tufts / the hardness of / clay tiles / that press against  / our feet like bricks / the soil concealed / beneath its coverings / through which  a weave / of twisted wires / crisscross the empty / fields as markers / to commemorate / the hapless dead / the ones who fly / around like ghosts / bereft of either / home or tomb / in what would once / have been their world / the count fades out / beyond 10,000 / leaves them to be swept / down endless ages / fused together / or else apart / lost nomads / on the road / to desolation / a field on mars / they wait to share / with others / dead at last**

 

The mystery is all contained in speaking

then the little silences

surround my words like poetry

I breathe them in & out***

 

Whiteness grows around Charlie Morrow’s images and words, around which we should imagine a space expanding, with no edges.  Each verbal suggestion is the core of a sound event. Our mind can hear.

 

CHARLIE MORROW

1 

 B o o k  of  B r e a t h

2

3

 

Life birth                                                                               breathing in

                                                    two hearts two years early on

4

Breath Chant

5

Kaddish Tibetan

6

Breeze

vegetable breezes

7

Whisteling in and out

8

Breath and Bells

9

Wind Song

10

Birth of the Eagle Voice

11

Remembering Breaths

12

Breath of Love

13

la petite mort

14

Death                                                                                 breathing out

                                                                            On the assent of the fragile

 

As for me, I hold my breath.

I hold my breath trying to keep it in me as long as I can, facing the last edge. That’s the way my life moved, from an edge to another, suddenly immersed in spaces where everything was new: faces, language, smells, temperature, colors. I was I because my dog recognized me? Not even that. My dog had been killed by cigarette smugglers near the house of my birth. I was moved to the city. My dialect, the freshness of leaves in the wind, and the small white, soft flowers climbing the bushes, careless of spines, were replaced by the odor of soup mixed with vapors of bleach at the entrance of my apartment building. The fog sucked me in, licking my adolescence out of me. Later the lagoon cuddled me every day on my way to work on the boat, the bus, the train, the boat again, shaking my more mature energy out of my body. Life was breathing, not me. And I was not more than one of the many particles she digests, like the ogre of fairy tales. One story after another, waves of living pealed the years off, bringing me in front of the unknown, one more time. What’s after the last breath? I am so curious I can’t express it. I am so happy. The desert where I am now erases all fears: it’s a blooming of nothingness, for the nothing we are. 

Now I see what my grandfather painted when he placed me sitting on the edge of a landscape, looking at the void. The painting was made in his studio, a fantasy about my future, probably. He also placed himself in the scene. He is the tree behind me, as I felt him all my life long. We are wrapped in light, and mad with love for this life that annihilates us.  

Rosanna Albertini

ORESTE ALBERTINI, Title and year unknown, about 1950

Bibliography:

*Jerome Rothenberg, The President of Desolation & Other Poems, Further Autovariations Reminders of a Vanished Earth, Arrangement and edition © 2019 Black Widow Press

**Jerome Rothenberg, The President of Desolation & Other Poems, 2019, Further Autovariations Reminders of a Vanished Earth, Arrangement and Edition © 2019 Black Widow Press

***Jerome Rothenberg, from The Mystery of False Attachments, Word Palace Press, @ 2019 

Charles-Louis de Montesquieu, Storia vera, with translation and postface  by Rosanna Albertini, Palermo, Sellerio Editore, 1983

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALBERTO ALBERTINI : CASTLES IN THE AIR

Alberto Albertini :  CASTLES IN THE AIR

August-September 2019  Alberto is ninety two

from Milan (Italy)- DRAWINGS AND PHOTOGRAPHS by Alberto Albertini

 

 

Note of the editor and translator, Rosanna Albertini

Alberto’s father was my grandfather, the painter Oreste. The family gave us a common humus in the same village and a pull of genes, but this blog is the place of our reciprocal discovery, challenge and collaboration. To be part of the same family is a coincidence, whereas to think and write together is a double journey, the way to question our attachment to the arts through the knotted branches of our lives. 

Each time Alberto sends me a new piece, I know that this project makes sense. The whole blog, not only the single chapters. Why? Fernando Pessoa already wrote it better than I could: 

“The simplest —but really the simplest— things, which nothing can make semisimple, become complex when we live them.” 

A sort of “shame of existing” most of the time shuts my voice off in public situations, as if having to speak out loud implied audacity. The blog doesn’t make any noise. Through the blog Alberto and myself listen to each other’s secret voice. I truly feel at home, if he also does I don’t know. I hope so. 

“The /constant/ analysis of our sensations creates a new way of feeling that seems artificial to anyone who analyzes it with his intelligence instead of with his own sensation.” (Pessoa) 

That’s why I open this post with a few lines Alberto wrote about infinity. They interestingly connect to Kuitca’s sensation of painting, in the post that precedes this one. And they perfectly fit in my vision.

The surface.

The canvas in tension immaculate.

A provocative portion of infinity, the infinite power to represent ideas on canvas. In front of the surface the dismay of tracing an essential sign that could express by itself not ideas, rather the act of opposing infinity, a sign containing every thing.

Fontana, with a slashing cut, hits this power that the surface gives off.

The surface is still there, and is not. The slash broke infinity as well as its power. It tells us the gesture, the extreme attempt at expressing by only one sign another infinity, unfathomable, of the artist.

Alberto’s canvas is his life slashed by the war, and lightened by simple things, like the castles. 

CASTLES IN THE AIR

by Alberto Albertini

I was nine years old when Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released, in 1937. I believe it was the first time I saw a castle. It grew bold in the sky, arousing my fantasy, in the movie it didn’t have to be rooted on the ground. Despite the boring songs and the shaky images, a sort of hitch, the movie revealed a dreamworld that could be extended afterwards. My brain started to produce its fancies, and I tried to draw more beautiful castles, more daring.

Having the right conditions, maybe I would also have built a castle as Ludwig II did in Neuschwanstein. I only dreamed of castles by making drawings. But drawing is a privileged activity: while you do it, it allows you to travel beyond the drawing, fancying romantic stories of young women in the clearing of the enchanted wood. That’s why maybe I couldn’t learn poems by heart; they were not fantasies produced by me! In the end, to stimulate fantasy is the true meaning of reality. Why should we stop reality in one click?  To preserve the starting image of a journey. 

Castles, castles, castles…

Castles in the air, as when I dreamed of having a camera I couldn’t buy and drew it in a project, taken by the illusion I could build it; or a little later, in 1945, I was struck down by the ERMANOX, Salomon’s fotocamera from the twenties, it was already vintage. In order to buy it I wanted to make an amplifier and sell it to have the necessary money. The amplifier was made but not sold: it ended being rented by the improvised after war ‘balera,’ an unpretentious dance hall nearby. 

Heart-wrenching mazurcas, tangos and waltzes, sounds reaching us from afar as she and I leaned out of the window of our room trying to absorb the pleasure of that sadness. Desire and imagination are also good for building and inventing as I eventually did: dreams in a drawer from which sometimes one takes something out. Because an intense activity of imagination requires time, if one doesn’t have enough time, it happens that his brain follows two directions at the same time: taking care of the job with the mind away from it, thus running the risk of losing the job. It happened to me just when I was beginning to go back up.

My conversion, nevertheless, was never complete. The business trips were a perfect opportunity: I could quickly abandon my contact person to get the train to the airport, glad when I saw from the window a profusion of broom flowers. I could breathe! And what about brooms near Lake Trasimeno?

Such alternative work can be also practiced quite late in life, but it’s less satisfying of course, one can’t throw himself too far and eventually makes do with sensations, atmospheres. Not memories! I detest memories. What are they for, to be stirred by happiness again? Certainly not. Facts existed, there they stay. Atmospheres are something else: a smell of wood’s sawdust instantly evokes the sawmills of the alpine valleys, the pinewoods. For a moment one feels there. Or the smell of the sea…

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Roofs in Corso Garibaldi, from his window.

I take my time reading the newspaper, then I stop and start looking at the objects around me: bookcases, books, photographs, memories piled in containers that I will not open; boxes, playthings scattered on the shelves blocking the access to books I don’t care of looking for, or on hold to be shelved. It will not happen. My big screen PC contains a life, my life taking photographs: I have in mind to select them by subject, to make virtual albums. I will certainly do it. There are also the paintings but I don’t see them, on the side walls. Their presence is enough to keep my mind at rest. The sun makes a square of light on the wooden floor that reverberates heat in the room, the window open, the morning air still pleasant. 

Twenty, twenty-two years in such an intimate island so much inside the city, almost unreal, to go down and communicate, to go up and meditate. How much more time? Not so much, it can’t be, yet I take it in wanting to exalt sensations that age is wearing out. What can be done in order to have such a long life? a lady asked me while waiting for her number: to have a project, a destination, a purpose! still I have some projects, if I don’t hurry I can keep them to prolong my life. 

I know I’m not eternal, I’ve started to feel my years a while ago and yet I also feel I’m eternal, who knows. Who knows who I really was, some remorse resurfaces, is it possible to live with nothing to regret? I can stand the stains spread on my consciousness.

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Outline of the nocturnal city, from his window

Late in the night, from the window I see the street, it’s almost empty. Somebody comes by. A few windows are lit: didn’t they go on vacation? What are they doing still on, at that time? 

ALBERTO ALBERTINI, Looking out the rear windows of his building

Bibliography

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, composed by Bernardo Soares, assistant bookkeeper in the city of Lisbon. Translated by Alfred Mac Adam, Exact Change, Boston, 1998

 

GUILLERMO KUITCA – THEATERS LITTLE BRAINS

About GUILLERMO KUITCA  

  exhibition  Guillermo Kuitca 18 May – 11 August 2019  Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles

 

GUILLERMO KUITCA, Untitled (Teatro Colón) 2018-2019, Mixed media on paper, 29 x 42 cm. 11 3/8 x 16 1/2 inches. 
© Guillermo Kuitca, Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Jeff Mclane

 

THEATERS LITTLE BRAINS

by Rosanna Albertini

 paintings are self obscuring bodies of historyJohn Cage

Crazy effort is ours to make sense

because we use words and they seem to exist for that job

although making sense or giving up with it are much bigger activities than writing or speaking words.

Kuitca makes paintings and “attacks” them from inside

since 2005 he realized he can barely introduce humans in the painted scenes

often they are replaced by numbers and geometrical signs for seats

he doesn’t have inspiring urgency to make art 

A mí no me sucede -he says.

No tengo necesidad de expresarme.

Cuando estoy trabajando, es como si la obra me fuera dictando lo que tengo que hacer.

Me aterra que la obra tienda a organizarse aun cuando yo trate de producir cambios importantes. 

En el intento de ruptura, muchas veces lo único que se consigue es una estructura tan organizada como la que se quería romper.

Reconozco que ese movimiento … es en parte el deseo de ruptura que nunca se cumplió.”

Desire of breaking off that never kept its promise.

GUILLERMO KUITCA, Untitled (Staples Center) 2018-2019 Mixed media on paper, 29 x 42 cm  11 3/8 x 16 1/2 inches
© Guillermo Kuitca, Courtesy of the artist and Houser & Wirth. Photo: Jeff Mclane

I admire the philosopher in these miniature theaters, the man walking around in his studio perhaps in search of his mind, as much as the paintings. Kuitca is right, boundaries and infinity share the same space, in paintings they join their power. The artist answers to their secret call and finds himself facing a sort of physical resistance in the paper or canvas as the composition takes form. 

As this happens, he needs to attack the image from inside. There is a circular movement in the pictorial process -as Kuitca describes it-  as if the “obra,” the art piece, had her own way to assemble images and colors, and the artist was listening to the silent forms coming from him or escaping from him? “If the obra unfolds herself, -he says- she makes it chaining, not breaking.” “Despite the effort of producing big changes…what I obtain is a structure as well organized as the one that I would like to break.”

I only can imagine stopping painting when my pictorial project accomplishes itself.”  “As if something ended and I stayed out of it.”

Real theaters and stadiums are large, well organized monuments of architectural order.

Numbers, prices, performances swirl in the artist’s mind as he performs as a painter. He doesn’t go beyond the map in these small theaters’ making.  He builds his own configuration no bigger than a hand, and the very idea of structure is forced to deal with the human nature of the hand that draws, paints and glues. While the architectural forms spring back into colors, their painted new life starts fighting against the order. As if it wasn’t enough, the artist floods the area over the orchestra, opens cracks in the stability of the building. The edges crumble, the center is shaken by lines that seem to activate an electric storm. The rows become black and pink feathers.

 

GUILLERMO KUITCA, Untitled ( Oslo Opera House) 2018-1019 Mixed media on paper 29 x 42cm 11 3/8 x 16 1/2 inches.
© Guillermo Kuitca, Courtesy of the artist and Houser & Wirth. Photo: Jeff Mclane

   

GUILLERMO KUITCA, Untitled (David Geffen Hall) 2018-2019 Mixed media on paper 29 x 42 cm 11 3/8 x 16 1/2 inches.
© Guillermo Kuitca, Courtesy of the artist and Houser & Wirth. Photo: Jeff Mclane

   

GUILLERMO KUITCA, Untitled (Metropolitan Opera House) 2018-2019 Mixed media on paper 29 x 42 cm 11 3/8 x 16 1/2 inches.
© Guillermo Kuitca, Courtesy of the artist and Houser & Wirth.  Photo: Jeff Mclane

                                               

The artist, contemporary Diogenes. Instead of holding a candle in the face of the other humans, looking for the honest one, Guillermo Kuitca places and holds in front of our eyes miniature portraits of our brains. Is he challenging our own virtue? They are also pealed open heads, stripped of the usual overdressed makeup. They might be many single heads, or one, rather, disguised through different modes. It’s our inner chaos that flickers in front of us. 

Don’t mistake me. We are not impenetrable safes. We are sponges breathing in and out infinite vibrations. Life of others enters our bodies like a bunch of needles, whether we want it or not.

Only literally these are theaters. They are theaters for sure, places that underwent a radical clean up from velvet, posters and decoration, as well as heads not only stripped from bones, hair and lipstick, also deprived of intellectual pride, that cloud of purity we honor, some times, to forget we are guests of a supreme intelligence which is our body, the magnificent container of growth and decay, under the will of time.

Each theater replicates the map of an existing theater, but the title of the painting  is UNTITLED. 

GUILLERMO KUITCA, Untitled (Teatro alla Scala) 2018-2019 Mixed media on paper 29 x 42 cm 11 3/8 x 16 1/2 inches.
© Guillermo Kuitca, Courtesy of the artist and Houser & Wirth. Photo: Jeff Mclane

Cynical like Diogenes, I like to drink in the cup of my hands. My eyes absorb the painted images in the same, simple way. It’s a new experience in front of each piece. I see numbered seats mutate into entangled neurons, loosening like pieces of thread cut into the seam. My own neurons curl up, still hurt by the pain I encountered on the sidewalk this morning, waiting for the bus. A man asked me for money for the fare. His eyes met mine only once, for an instant. Here it is, I told him, and tried to talk with him. He kept his face down until tears dropped, heavy like lead. A few words from him revealed he had just lost wife and two children, all dead. The only remains of his life were in his gray, double suitcase. His tragedy has become mine. Inner life is life of others. We obey life as this painter who is very dear to me obeys the obra, the work he does. A new world comes out of it. Pain is not hidden. Which creates disruption, uncertainty, and a lot of unknown.  

The space we share, in front of his paintings and every day, on the road. 

Everyone probably experiences something different. 

WITTGENSTEIN with one alteration: “painting” instead of “proposition”

A  painting … does not actually contain its sense, but does contain the possibility of expressing it. …

A painting contains the form, but not the content, of its sense.  (Tractatus, 3.15)

Only facts can express a sense, a set of names cannot. (Tractatus, 3.142)

 

GUILLERMO KUITCA, Untitled (Bayreuth Festspielhaus) 2018-2019 Mixed media on paper 29 x 42 cm 11 3/8 x 16 1/2 inches.
© Guillermo Kuitca, Courtesy of the artist and Houser & Wirth. Photo: Jeff Mclane

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kuitca’s words are all from his conversation with Graciela Speranza in GUILLERMO KUITCA OBRAS 1982-1998, © Graciela Speranza and Guillermo Kuitca, Editorial Norma S.A., 1998 Santafe´de Bogotá

GUILLERMO KUITCA, THEATRE COLLAGES, © 2005 Guillermo Kuitca, Hauser & Wirth Zürich London, Stephen Barlow, Karen Wright. Scalo Verlag AG, Zürich, Switzerland

John Cage, A YEAR FROM MONDAY, Weslayan University Press, Middletown, Connecticut, 1963

Ludwig Wittgenstein, TRACTATUS LOGICO-PHILOSOPHICUS, Translation by D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuinness, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961

 

 

YELLOW MOON – LENZ GEERK

About LENZ GEERK  “Mixed Blessings”

at Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, September 2019

 

LENZ GEERK, Untitled 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 100 x 70 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles CA

LENZ GEERK, Croissant 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles CA

YELLOW MOON

by Rosanna Albertini

No, says the child, the moon is white. That is not the moon, it’s a croissant. 

I am not in the mood for fighting, words assume they are right, so does the child. 

I keep seeing the moon wearing a puffy dress, looking kindly at the people of the house. 

They look at her or keep her in their minds in an uncanny way, even when the moon-croissant, the crescent moon, is off stage, or he looks as if he is wondering where she is, the man about to pick up his briefcase or maybe only passing by through the corridor. His thoughts, heavier than the bag, make him greenish. He might be a tree man growing out of the bag like a Houdini. It’s a painted reality, at the mercy of the marketplace.

 But the artist knows that and he is conscious at the same time, deeply conscious, that he makes people and rooms and objects in his paintings “the only way that he is able to get the picture to exist.” Therefore the story doesn’t have to be necessary,  “it has to exist but it doesn’t have to be necessary …. because the minute it is necessary it has in it no possibility of going on.” 

LENZ GEERK, Pearl Painting and Pearl Necklace 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 49 x 35 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles CA

Gertrude, you are welcome. Did you notice the woman adjusting the necklace underneath her hair, she only has a portion of an arm, maybe she is a statue. Her pearl is so powerful that turns into a giant pearl, a mother pearl? floating between painted waves in another painting. Mystery grows, for the two figures, the woman statue and the painting, float in the dark emerging from the canvas like Venus from the ocean. The painter, I wonder, maybe the painter is realizing he doesn’t have the soft, absorbing surface of felt underneath anymore, he is painting on canvas, not so easy, not so welcoming. He stops remembering the felt. He chops the arm, acts anew and lets the brush make the job.

Pirandello would call the figures six characters in search of their author, so lost in their own nature that they barely deal with the density of the living. Geerk’s painted creatures are not even completely human. They stand rigid, or slightly folded on themselves like leaves, or fall down in a strange angle as flowers do in a vase when the water has soaked the stem and petals dry up.  Impossible to imagine them in a less empty space, less anonymous. A man leans toward the crescent moon on the table, can’t reach her. His woman companion on the chair seems suspicious, keeps her distance.

LENZ GEERK, The Croissant 2019, Acrylic on canvas 80 x 115 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles CA

 Another woman in a small gray painting looks at the yellow presence from afar, half hidden behind the doorway. That is the epilogue of the mystery story, the same that unfolds in five views of the same place: one of the two corners of the moon has been eaten, or stolen. It’s a croissant, not a moon anymore. Exactly as in an old Inuit tale: the house was flying, people inside asked the house to stop, they were cold. The house stopped and the people put some light snow in their lamps, the snow burned and gave them light. Someone from the street went in and said, “the snow is burning!”  And the flame disappeared. 

In our story the flame remained lit in the painter.

An interesting closeness to Morandi’s palette, and to the soft edges of his painted cups and pitchers, goes along with the quiet intensity of the figures locked in themselves and unrevealed dreams. If the crescent moon is their dream, it’s obviously unreachable. But the painter ate it. 

LENZ GEERK, Untitled 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 150 x 200 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles CA

 BIBLIOGRAPHY

GERTRUDE STEIN, Look at Me Now and here I Am,  Writings and Lectures 1909-1945, Penguin Books, 1967

Inuit stories in Jerome Rothenberg, Technicians of the Sacred, Third edition, University of California press, 2017

MORANDI, Catalogue of Giorgio Morandi, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1981. The catalogue I consulted belongs to Lucas Reiner, painter. He lent it to me with trepidation because it was one of his mother’s favorite books. Thank you Lucas, both the book and myself hope to see you soon.

 

TETSUYA YAMADA : THE MAN IN THE CLOSET

TETSUYA YAMADA

and his 3 days-installation in an empty Minneapolis hardware store

FRONT AND BACK BACK AND FRONT  2018

Photographic documentation by Rik Sferra

 

“As with most truths, the simpler the words, the stronger and more straightforward they are and most forcefully they strike our hearts.”  Rikyu, 15th century Japan

Tetsuya Yamada: “How can I create an artwork with a life independent of my intention? 

I mean the work has to be given its own life.”

I ask Gertrude Stein to answer him: “The master-pieces do not exist by human nature…they exist because they come to be as something that is an end in itself and in that respect it is opposed to the business of living which is relation and necessity.” (Look at Me Now and Here I Am, Writings and Lectures 1909-1945, Penguin Books 1990)

 

 

the man in the closet

by Rosanna Albertini

Wearing the title words as clogs for walking, my mind goes. Almost one year after November 2018, photographs are the place in which the installation still lives. The storefront has absorbed the images of the city across the street, gently struck by winter light over trees that already forgot the green. The scene makes the front of the store the natural background of houses trees and cars as if the windows had captured the cycle of time only by acceptance: relation and necessity. That’s the place, not the art. A bicycle appears.

The art is different. An uninhabited building, waiting for new users, certainly didn’t expect an artist born in Tokyo was about to transform the inner space into an art temple. No parts of the building were changed. A verbally expressed idea, FRONT AND BACK BACK AND FRONT (title of the art installation) was printed white on black on the exhibition’s poster, floating on the front of the building as a pediment in a miracle of symmetry.  It’s a steady statement perfect for capital letters from which doubts and hesitations are banned. The artist could wear it on his own forehead. If I mentally look at his body I have no doubts about his front side, but I must turn around him to see his back. I can do it, he can’t unless he uses a double mirror.

Truth is, the physical body supposed to be in between FRONT and BACK throws the linguistic perfection to hell. As soon as I say it, it goes dead. Must zip my lips to keep the brain restrained. The key is conjunction, the little AND. It has a limitless dimension. Supposing the question arises, I say yes, the imaginary space between FRONT and BACK is the core of the apple, the hydraulic electrical engine of each human underneath the skin, hard to please impossible to control. A human body is yet one of the most mysterious and unpredictable creatures in the universe. So is any emptied living place in which a door screeching, steps on the floor, a bird flying in by curiosity, hands exchanging money for screwdrivers, or fixing all those mechanical engines of our homes that we only notice when they break, become a cacophony, a concert immersed in a peculiar density of smells emanating from wood, metals, industrial oils and plastic tools. Oh, someone stole a pliers!

It’s possible that Yamada explored the inner emptiness of the store like a man in the closet. The black and white poster works as a guardian in uniform waiting outside. Inside, the store becomes the inside of a body with two hearts. Two beating engines meeting for the first time and learning how to beat together: the artist’s and the fifty year old store’s, two distinct lives. Their acquaintance is three days long.  They are the same age, the artist and the midwestern space, now dreaming of voices and people and big tables and shelves all gone. Wood or metal scraped from the floor left their shape, wounds in the middle of room’s and corridor’s floors painted gray. Under the neons’ light, they might be small rivers, or a pond for the many ghosts filling the air, working. They never abandoned the store. Myriads of traces on the floor and on the wall panels tell their story.

Yamada brought in art that could relate to the hums of presences all around him: his own gestures, when writing with tar the skin of the land, or forcing his hands to blindly write and draw underneath the table, and photographs of unrest in the landscapes. Contrasting with the lack of windows in the basement, he hangs on the wall panels outdoor images and language alterations. His body language expands through images reaching the ghosts’ language in a silent conversation. Silence in this case is practical and functional. In this doubled conversation that we can only imagine the art in her entirety reaching the peak of beauty.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tetsuya’s younger body skating on the floors. The athlete in him is the forebear of future gestures. 

Nevertheless the space is livable. It needed a fan: Tetsuya introduces a TV fan looping every four minutes twenty eight seconds. Did Nam Jun Paik leave an unconscious echo in him? The ground floor has a population of sculptures, light and rigid, perfectly symmetrical, no name on them. 

Why there are no conjunctions, why colors are avoided, why clay for the cylinders, usage is possible but unlikely, like: the table is set for guests to come and stand, adding their own freedom of language.

What a scene! All the mess of life, so many efforts to make impersonal what the artist creates almost despite himself, looking at himself from far, putting himself and the work in a big closet, and so escaping the social game of the art world based on money and power. In three words: Honor to him.

Please walk through the photographs. 

TETSUYA YAMADA, Fan (video) 2018 4:28 loop

TETSUYA YAMADA, Tar Gestures series, Gelatin Silver print, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, Pun under the table Drawing series, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, Tar Gesture series, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, From the series Tar Gesture, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, From the series Trace, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, from the series Trace, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, Slowly fast, Fastly Slow from the series Pun under the table Drawing, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, Light in the Dark, Dark in the Light, from the series Pun under the table Drawing, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, sculpture, Front and Back Back and Front, T-shirts with coat rack, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, installation Top and Bottom, Bottom and Top, fired clay and wood, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, installation Top and Bottom, Bottom and Top, fired clay and wood, 2018

PS       This piece is dedicated to another man in the closet. He spent most of his life in tiny rooms inventing, fixing and building. Exploring the life of melting metals and electronic circuits.

Often the place was literally a closet, with no windows. His tools, the holes in the wall panels, photographs and microphones were his new world, where his brain might work and maybe rest, separate from the outdoor reality. Charles Trenet’s songs were crackling coming out from one of the radio foreign channels he was able to capture.

A fading page of an old local newspaper has the photo of a working micro-engine in a thimble. He made it when he was twelve. They said it was the smallest engine in the whole world. As a young soldier, not more than a boy, he worked for the American army near Cassino, at the end of WWII.  Transmissions were his specialty. He was borrowed from the Italian army. Although Italian, he was far from home. His family thought him dead for a long while, when there was no communication between North and South Italy. The war left indelible marks in his mind. They never found a way out. The closet, that was his brain and his universe. He was my father.

 

 

 

 

SEWING LIFE AND DEATH: Material Art from China

S E W I N G  L I F E  A N D  D E A T H

The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China

at LACMA, Los Angeles, until January 5, 2020

Text by Rosanna Albertini

Here is the thread sewing my mind to the first generation of Chinese contemporary female artists: “my mother was a seamstress.” It’s a recurrent matter of fact in their lives during or immediately after the cultural revolution. I avoid capital letters. I could also say, “my mother was a seamstress, so was her mother, as the other grandmother couldn’t be, having lost four fingers of her right hand cut off by a machine in a factory producing thread for sewing.” Many women were seamstresses in Italy at the end of WW II. Such a heavy heritage didn’t make me an artist. Unless my hand-making books has some roots there, but probably not, the thread that I like to handle comes from the narrative thread in the written book, from the writing tension.

Among many interesting artists at LACMA, four female artists stopped my heart: 

MA QIUSHA    LIN TIANMIAO    YIN XIUZHEN    PENG YU

These artists were all new for me. The more online research I did trying to have a more comprehensive idea of their work, the more astonished I was by their art and by them in person, interviews revealing the struggle of identities as fragile as butterflies fluttering at first, and becoming very steady in the blink of an eye, flying out of the cocoon of collective mythologies mixed with communist ideology, not to mention thousands of years of a powerful civilization. They bloomed by working hard. Still with one foot in patriarchal families and the other crossing one of the fastest social transformations in history. Studying and living in the US for awhile, and going back, to preserve cultural values in the storm of energy that pervades their country. Feeling the pain as well as the positive influence of change. Lin Tianmiao winds thread around bodies and every object she can find, physically changing them with raw materials. She has in mind “a simpler past” while she accepts that her existence cannot be separated from everything around, and not only in China, all over the world. 

“Being an artist is a very personal thing and often a lonely thing” she says.

Sewing, fabric, and the thread itself are just the right materials to portray emotions still on the seesaw between past and future, to keep them flexible as long as possible. The present seems to be faceless for the time being, still veiled, still needing a human blanket over the sharpness of changes that are planned more than asked for.

 It was always a matter of slowing time, with sewing or weaving, from Penelope waiting for Ulysses to the time when Bertha filava, in Italian fairy tales.  The matter yes, but time first, time driven by female hands, the juice for the metaphor. Slowing time, maybe, allows these artists’ minds to pause on the physical world like migrating birds. They need to fly, no matter the risks. And they do. Their wings are large and strong. They cover the human condition, in China and elsewhere.

MA QIUSHA, Wonderland: Black Square, 2016  cement, nylon stocking, plywood, resin, iron, 96 7/16 x 96 7/16 x 23/16 in. Courtesy of Beijing Commune.   LACMA 2019 Photo RA

The Wonderland Amusement Park of Ma’s childhood has slowly disappeared. The rough surface of the road on which the artist used to skate back and forth from her mother’s to grandmother’s house is the solid canvas of the square, covered with black stockings. In other similar pieces of this series colored stockings or clothes soften the same ground. If it’s a map, roads are not traced, there is only a soft proliferation of irregular fragments of nylon, they all had walked slipped on women’s legs, and now they are a body on their own, never flat, petals of blackness. 

LIN TIANMIAO, Day-Dreamer, 2000, white cotton threads, white fabric, digital photograph, height adjustable on actual site: 196 13/16 x 86 5/8 x 59 in. Courtesy of the artist. LACMA 2019. Photo RA

The artist’s body floats midway from the sky face down, and sends her profile towards a pedestal on the floor. Cotton  threads edge with stitches the flat shape of her figure —a wound marked with no blood— before it falls like vertical rain. The base is empty. Has Lin embroidered the artist’s destiny? limited in time but persistent as a challenge, an impossible dream. 

LIN TIANMIAO, Here? or There? 2002, mixed media  Courtesy Gallery Lelong

LIN TIANMIAO, Endless  2004, mixed media Courtesy Gallery Lelong

Yin Xiuzhen moves Lin Tinmiao’s inner struggle into an outdoor landscape. She doesn’t fear showing attachment to remnants of the past, old and more recent, inexpensive traces of daily life quickly erased from the cityscape. She collects used fabric, clothes and shoes from all over the world, surrounding herself with so many past lives that her personal relevance turns to zero, a molecular, an alchemical function. Through her art, the face the present shows is a texture of multiple times. The most significant threads are invisible, broken like dry branches. They are the same in every human, by genetic or cultural recomposition; and they exist beyond national borders, different languages and food. 

YIN XIUZHEN, Shoes with Butter 1996, color photograph Courtesy Pace Gallery Beijing (Hybrid of spirituality and materiality inTibet)

YIN XIUZHEN, Transformation 1997, B & W photographs mounted on used cement tiles. 7 1/16 x 7 1/16 x 1 15/16 in.  LACMA 2019, Photos RA

YIN XIUZHEN, Transformation 1997, Beijing, Photo Song Dong, Collection of the artist, Courtesy Pace Beijing

With Trojan, at Venice Biennale 2019, Yin Xiuzhen brings back the homeric tragedy as a topic of our own contemporary drama: not only the horse has entered our world, we do more, we enter the horse! And inside it’s strangely appealing, a space of thoughts we would disclose in an empty cathedral, far from conflicts, aware of our fractured ideas. We get ready to crash. Yin Xiuzhen adds Nowhere to Land, always in Venice. I don’t feel like adding words on that. Silence on our folly. She got it all. 

YIN XIUZHEN, Trojan, Venice biennale 2019 (Photo designboom.com)

YIN XIUZHEN, Trojan (inside) Venice biennale 2019 (Photo designboom.com)

YIN XIUZHEN, Nowhere to Land, Venice biennale 2019 (Photo designboom.com)

Peng Yu is perhaps the extreme edge of the boat. Spiritual threads link her to the afterlife humans whose bodies were left behind, buried or forgotten in frozen rooms for medical experiments. Exile is not for them. Feeling our own exile she filled a jar with fat sucked out of those bodies, sort of a lacrimal bottle to collect tears, but gigantic. And she poured the fat into a river that runs around Beijing, to merge with all the other leftovers pushed around by the water. But first of all she sewed visible leftovers of life in the river to a tangible, physical component of death, so completing the circle: never give up with feelings, one doesn’t need to be dead to be nice, affectionate, a gentle dead. One can be gentle, even when living. 

PENG YU, Exile 2000, still from video. Duration: 3′ 12″ Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp-M HKA, on view at LACMA 2019

ALBERTO ALBERTINI : DISASTERS

DISASTERS 

 by Alberto Albertini  

(Father and Son – Oreste and Alberto n.2)

DRAWINGS ALBERTO ALBERTINI MADE AS A CHILD

About the drawing of a falling airplane. Since Alberto was born in 1927, the following events started when he was about ten years old, more or less in 1937, and continued. Besano, Lombardia

The beauty of a disaster is fascinating, upsetting and attractive. Certainly not for the victims, but for us it’s incomparable. Attraction comes from breaking the usual routine, brightening up the attention by a sharply different happening. And something more is there —I believe— something dug up from unconscious or previous mental habits: hidden desires of revenge, failed achievements…

I was fascinated by disasters from my early years, they were in the air. At school we received fascist and military culture: we had to learn about muskets, grenades, anti gas masks and the complete military rank from simple soldier to general! I was never been able to learn it, but in the meantime the subtle pleasure of disaster was crawling in me. 

With Giorgio, who had a lot of toys and a great electric train on which he used to keep apples to dry, we used to produce railroad disasters: they were his trains. Had they been mine — I desired them so much — I don’t think I would have treated them that way. I made up for my deprivation by drawing more innocuous scenes. Giorgio and I also loved to take pictures of tanks hit by cannons. Tanks were the prevailing toys, but I was attracted by the caterpillar tracks, that gave the possibility to go everywhere, even off road. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving forward, I transformed an old little game my father had played with me into a complete military construction. Father used to put a match into a small tube, then using another match’s flame he heated the tube’s bottom and pfff, the first match was shot out of the small tube! Thanks to my inclination toward building, I moved to using bigger brass tubes and made a carriage with rubber wheels from other toys: a miniature cannon that I could drag. Such evolution involved the problem of the explosive substance that I fabricated following the instructions in the Sonzogno handbook. Actually it was a handbook for pyrotechnic work that I had bought in order to prepare the black gun powder: 75-15-10 saltpeter-carbon-sulphur. I understood from this that pyrotechnics could be more interesting, which I successfully undertook showing the blaze to the girls, more than sending rockets into space. I paid special attention to Micky Mouse’s whaling ship that I reproduced in wood in miniature, but this too had a small cannon with a harpoon. 

Recently, in a short autobiography in third person, Alberto wrote:

We consider superfluous to talk of the early years, our childhood because, although embryos of the future are already there, (at age five he conceived and made a net of trenches to gather chestnuts without bending his back) we believe that this is what normally happens in everyone’s childhood.  Only the stubborn time of adolescence brings the steady intention to proceed with a project. Which one? He, at that age, loved to say that he was a renaissance man four or five centuries late. And for that reason it would have been impossible for him to embrace all the arts and sciences that were possible in the renaissance, provided one had a special desire and a lot of brain. 

I hope you get the irony. My uncle Alberto is 92 and lives and works in Milano, Italy.