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)

JENNIFER NELSON : “From Zero to Gold”

JENNIFER NELSON: “FROM ZERO TO GOLD”    

                   

Myths are the soul of our action and love. 

We cannot act without moving toward a phantom. 

We can only love what we create.   

(Paul Valéry, A Fond Note on Myth, 1928)

Jennifer nelson as a living Caryathid under the lintel of the National Bank of Greece

JENNIFER NELSON  at the National Bank in Athen (Greece)

 

THE LIVING CARYATID, by Rosanna Albertini

 

This is a story of time going in a circle and art losing the pace 

of climbing eternity and rather emerging from human turmoil 

like a white lily from the mud

for Jennifer Nelson is an adhesive substance attracting 

as a magnet the needles that four years ago History scattered 

in Greece giving the country entropy in a broken vase leaking 

disorder and randomness feelings of pain and dreams of hope

that usually remain buried for us looking from afar

under the surface tension of the news

and sink and disappear in the ocean of human despair

which remains untold because life collectively doesn’t have commas or periods

those only belong to single humans not so clear about their meaning

 

her family life in Greece was blessed by motherhood a spring of joy 

while austerity appeared like a collective disease invading the citizens’ soul

stifling them under neutral computation as if numbers had ingested 

a secret justice held by the clock of the European Central Bank

International Monetary Fund European Stability Mechanism

 

July 3, 2015 Alexis Tsipras  OXI Speech NO to the EUROVULTURE

 mythological politics where time present and time past are only one

 “…it was from this very place that Zeus abducted Europa.

 [and with her generated the Minotaur]

It is from this very place that austerity technocrats want to abduct Europe again

from its democratic traditions. NO. We tell them NO on Sunday. 

[The referendum brought up 61% of NOs]

Our NO will make History. Whatever happens, we are the winners. 

I urge you to ignore the sirens of terror. Greece is and will remain

the cradle of European civilization.”

From LINKS, International Journal of Socialist Renewal. July 31, 2016

had the prime minister mentioned the small man in the streets of Athen who 

revealed some time ago in the past the beauty of human conversation 

including lack of illusions and ended his own life Socrates drinking cicuta

to obey a power stronger than his philosophical approach to life

this contemporary prime minister would have known he was only

postponing his poisonous drink …. nine months after

“Europe offered Greece 86 billion euros of loan in exchange 

for a tightly policed Greek government implementing a package of reforms:

pension cuts tax increases privatizations labor market deregulation”

and Tsipras said YES

We were at that speech in Syntagma Square. It was quite moving as we got off the train, we couldn’t get out of the station, there were so many people. 

And everyone was amazed. We’d all thought we were alone in our thoughts and then suddenly it was clear that we were a massive democratic block standing against this insane policy. 

As everyone looked around in surprise to find that people of all stripes and persuasions were agreeing with this resistance, a chant of “No” broke out in the metro.

The square was, in fact, a huge party that night…But democracy didn’t help us. The banks were more powerful. (Jennifer Nelson)

 

Nothing grandiose or expensive was possible for Jennifer Nelson 

American artist who moved to Greece to discover she was married 

to the place with “heavy commitment and light material” 

“wind in and wind out breath and sound and voice held by the lungs 

ingesting the seeds of grief from which one gets coughs and bronchitis”

 

Greece 2015 – Austerity time

Pointless to add that any country could fall into the same pit. 

Debts: the way they become visible, is on paper. People read them as if they were a natural outcome of the banking machine, “instead they are constructed, games of power, art isn’t any different,” says the artist. One has only to decide what kind of game, who are the participants. Jennifer wanted to be fertile despite every challenge, to do something out of nothing. 

An artist friend who had been close to Joseph Beuys, Soulis Moustakidis, showed her the way: ZERO CAN BE GOLD. Moustakidis made an underground press carving messages in potatoes and used potatoes to stamp on papers he stuck under unknown cars so when the cars moved all the papers flew around like leaves. This action took place under the Junta dictatorship.

 

Jennifer Nelson’s ART piece: UNTITLED ( MESOGHEIA) 2016

The Caryatids Porch of Erechteion, Athens, 421-407 BC (Wikipedia image)

Intricate hairstyle of a Caryatid, displayed at the Acropolis Museum in Athens (Wikipedia image)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standing between two columns underneath the lintel of the Greek National Bank,

Nelson embraces the posture, silent exposure and stillness of the feminine statues   

holding the ceiling of the porch that sticks out of the Erechteion, a temple placed on an Acropolis ledge facing an ocean of petrified waves. Poseidon’s rage after throwing his  trident against this temple? This is the city of Athens. The six Caryatids, steady and quiet, lift a knee as if starting a step to fly out of their temple. If they go, the porch doesn’t have any more reason to be.

JENNIFER NELSON, Untitled (Mesagheia), 2016-present, Bills, Home made glue, Gold paint (from Germany) Work in Progress,  Photo Panos Kokkinias

A PAPER WEDDING DRESS. Jennifer’s phantom is in her mind. The idea moved her knee towards an art piece born in Greece, wrapped by the stone walls of her husband’s family house. The PAPER DRESS  was her reaction to the hours spent in long lines in front of the banks’ doors waiting for the weekly money, like everyone else, in a dignified solitude. Banks were shut down. It was like “being taken prisoner of the contingent numbers and times” Jennifer says, “you can loose house, electricity, commodities, but also something bigger. Dead end has been experienced individually, in secret and in shame, within each small family unit.”

Delving mind and hands into the bills’ paper our Jennifer artist captured the numbers negative energy, and touched the paper’s resilience, to readdress them into a new life of opposite sign. She collected as many papers she could and used them to make a replica of the traditional Attic wedding dress, symbol of fertility and richness, mostly embroidered with gold and covered with jewelry. Around her, with her, many other hands -children, women and men- worked and are still working to accomplish the artwork. The enormous neckless is exclusively made out of paper bills whose fibers were broken and made flexible again by human tips of fingers, also by her son Nasos’s fingers.

Working Hands, Photo by Athena Stamatis

Her long hair braided exactly like the Caryatids’ hair, Jennifer Nelson has made herself a Caryatid of our time. Nameless and voiceless. Except for her dress that spreads a j’accuse louder than thunder, and brings the feelings of shame to a glorious, collective ending.  

As she wears them, all those numbers printed on paper, credit cards, bonuses, bank symbols, are changed into embroidery, decorations, become talismans. But the art is not the dress by itself. It is the dress around the artist’s body, touching her skin and bones, keeping her flame alive. 

Jewels of Debts

Fragility turns into strength. Such a delicacy is probably the best adhesive substance. It gave to the makers of the piece an uncertain space in their minds through which a personal dream could appear, for a second or perhaps forever. We don’t know. Socrates again: the value of thinking, and of exposing thoughts to the public. Ancient myths were based on the belief that, when we think, we touch something despite distance and separation. Our mind’s eyes have fingers. Sensations from our physical life are saved inside the mind, their energy can be replicated and amplified. 

This PAPER DRESS is the kind of art piece I would like to see as the prototype of a generation of pieces, all over the world, the talisman to get out of a misery that is not from lack of money. As T.S. Eliot’s words put it:

“Internal darkness, deprivation

And destitution of all property,

Desiccation of the world of sense,

Evacuation of the world of fancy,

Inoperancy of the world of spirit;

This is the one way, and the other

Is the same, not in movement; while the world moves

In appetency, on its metalled ways

Of time past and time future.

T.S.Eliot, Four Quartets 

 

And Jennifer Nelson:

Of egg opportunities lost

and debt that won’t be forgiven

naked to your math,

I loved I love I will love 

The Alchemist’s Account (four line excerpt)

JENNIFER NELSON, Democracy is a Party, 2019, videostill

 

Bibliography

T.S.Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950, Harcourt Brace & Company New York, San Diego, London, 1980

Rosanna Albertini, Technological Rituals, USC Annenberg Center for Communication, 1999

 

TRULEE HALL : a story of baskets, women and eggs

A STORY OF BASKETS, WOMEN AND EGGS

About THE OTHER AND OTHERWISE by TRULEE HALL

an immersive installation at Maccarone Gallery, Los Angeles 2019

TEXT BY ROSANNA ALBERTINI

When a new form appears, it isn’t to express a new content. … We must turn over the object as if we were turning a log over the fire. Than the object can be perceived as if it was the first time.” (Viktor Sklovskji)

 WOMAN CHICKEN EGGS   Trulee’s installation spreads out in two rooms as big as a plaza: painted, sculpted, in videographical stories, partially contained in incomplete rooms, the main theme seems to reproduce itself endlessly, each time with a different configuration. It’s one body with separate parts, each of them a story of woman, chicken, and eggs. Despite the cold isolation of limbs, as if a 3D computer graphic had been transformed into a physical, surreal landscape, the interaction with each part is compelling, absorbing, disorienting. 

Baskets are everywhere, even hung on the ceiling, mostly empty, gracious, useless, decorative. I wonder about baskets, they might be the core of the site. They might be the artist’s offering, silent mask of her personal self. Just filled with life. She can be in a basket, and be contained. She, and all of us, only believe we lead our journey. The eggs made us, the basket transports us to the end of days and our stories with us, until we disappear and the stories remain, as in the Maori legendary tales. My brain is pulsing, just a fleeting moment. Something new fills Trulee Hall’s space,  it could be that it makes me think. For an artwork of these days, a rare trove.

Viktor Sklovskji of 1976 helps me to keep my distance from intellectual temptations about art. Trulee Hall is my present antidote.

“Oh yes. Another of those intellectual passions — new perception, new ways of displaying, and you go on dreaming that reality will change. In 1916 we invented a poetic practice centered on estrangement. I was personally so involved that much later I wrote about art pretending art is not an object, nor a material; it is pure form, arithmetic relationships. I wrote it with passion, but I was wrong. Art is pulsing thinking. We just produce a parallel imaginary reality in which, as Albert Einstein said, ‘We transfer the center of gravity of our spiritual life to find a peace that does not happen in the storm of life.’”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE OTHER AND OTHERWISE    A fictional conversation between Emmanuel Levinas, Trulee Hall, Plato, Rosanna Albertini

RA      Otherwise?  

EL      “Otherwise than Being!” To be human very simply means that we live as if we were not beings among beings.” “You forget – Emmanuel Levinas continues –  that you began somewhere when your existence started. Your being alive, on earth, is not disembodied.”

PLATO,      untouched by idealism:  “Humans are bipeds without wings.”

RA      And here the artist invites us into an enchanted palace where both bipeds, with wings and without, share the eternal ritual of giving birth, producing eggs and being stupefied in front of the sexual essence of every body. The immaculate conception is such a beautiful fable, je vous salut Godard! 

TH      What happens in my sculptures? Legs and feet are fragile, the bust has been reshaped by thousand years of history. Altered like the mountain excavated  in their veins and with limbs mutilated by cannonballs, bullets, hurricanes and diseases, rebuilt out of remains. Still, personality and energy swirl around the body revealing their physical movement. They have colors and shapes. 

“The other” of my piece is female. She is a double her: the one we think and the one we see, the one I belong to in my body, and the one who happens in my brain. A computer image along with her technically generated other, a clay mate.   

RA      Are you saying that we forget we are animals among animals? Content to carry a brain prisoner of a box, an object easily seduced by the book of faces and links without roots? It’s true that your chickens also have their double. 

TH      It’s hard to see ourselves as human animals. We get lost in our head.

EL      I am actually filled with my materiality, she makes who I am. Not true that spirit and mind fall into the body to become prisoner of a deadly box. My freedom grows and expands through and out of my physical life. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I write about the whole body of this palace of wonders I realize that names are not included, except, maybe, as eggs of multiple names. Moving between small rooms with no doors or ceilings, walls that are  paintings and paintings that are walls for video images, clouds under the ceiling tickled by a population of swaying baskets, islands of colors keeping paintings, floor and walls together in the same atmosphere, I don’t have any doubt, this is not a place for pure forms, or intellectual distinctions. It’s an art piece giving a body to real feelings of our time, about the female figure in her entire natural power, stripped from propaganda of any kind. The artistic effort and accomplishment are monumental.

 

 

TRULEE HALL, Side By Side By Suggestion, single channel excerpt from a 2 channel video in an immersive installation. First shown at Gamble House in 2016, and in 2019 at Maccarone Gallery Los Angeles. Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery.

 

Trulee Hall builds a  monument for the female beast, turning beauty and the beast (the old story) upside down. The male was a cursed monster, the female a model of beauty, patience, and devotion. Female existence in Trulee’s art seems to be extricated from cultural stereotypes and brought back to a sweet common destiny: to be a vase for eggs. No different from a chicken for the same purpose. In one of her fantasy video stories a chicken is asked to understand if the ear of corn offered to her is edible or not. The chicken’s eye looks like a piece of glass, petrified in a dilemma. John Baldessari did the same teaching a plant the alphabet. 

TRULEE HALL, Serene Vulnerability 2018,   Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

TRULEE HALL, Oblivious Baskets 2018,   Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

TRULEE HALL, Showing the Rooster 2018,   Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

TRULEE HALL, Chicken Lap Lady Portrait, Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

A hand made fairy tale. Surprising, disorienting like a forest with many trails. We don’t know where they go. Being more and more under the spell of looking at art in museums or museum like galleries, we are driven to thinking that space and objects in it are the point. Here instead, obsessive variations around the same theme connect every part of the installation with an impeccable logic structure. Threads are invisible. No directions. One has to perceive the invisible connective texture. 

Oh, Simone Forti’s freedom in letting her body talk to the place! With her in mind I follow my body, ignoring where I am. But at every corner, in front of every call for attention, I realize that each stop is time, the time of a face to face with the organs of a scattered female body. Not the kind of time that doesn’t belong to anybody, the banality of proximity, nor time measured by the hands of the watch. Nope, it is the face to face with my own physicality displayed in front of me: funny, playful, ridiculous. Curious as a child who discovers her own flesh, I don’t blush. It’s an orchestra, and I’m part of it. 

A choreography for the same forms: woman, chicken, egg, holes, rooms for living mutate into different entities. Dots on the fabric fly toward the ceiling as white snow flakes, expand in the clouds, solidify in eggs. Between forms, no need of words. Conversation is only visual. The spiraling forms could be snakes, roots, or nothing determined, like a trace of energy in the air. In some cases, their end blooms with an ear of corn. Sexuality and fantasy aren’t separate. Which makes harder the task to mention them, or to identify them with only one single name. It all depends on the way our imagination works.

Perhaps, once more, words are getting separate from things, disconnecting from books, and similitudes are reinstated between forms, from one to another image. The difference with the ages preceding printed books is the man made nature of contemporary images. We read the outcomes of human labor. We read for instance Trulee Hall’s visual statements. Only my passion for writing convince me to put words on them. A group of birds drawing their flight in the sky would be more appropriate. Whether the artist is aware or not of these many implications of her art, is not something I know. 

Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

A celebration of giving birth.  Female breasts expanded into golden ears of corn?  Not only that, entire bodies of many women are sculpted, almost encrusted in the thick, golden wall at the entrance. Surprising, shiny and painful. To step into the round hole between two active breasts spreading a small, white fountain of milk, opens a hole in my stomach as if I were bringing my present body into the birth space I knew well when I brought my daughter to the light. Like then, I feel my animal nature taking over any other part of me; no identity card, just a female beast.

 

Bibliography

Viktor Sklovskji, Theory of Prose. Translation Benjamin Sher, Elmwood Park, Ill. Dalkey Archive press, 1990

Emmanuel Levinas, Le Temps et l’Autre,  QUADRIGE/PUF, @ Fata Morgana, 1979

Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, Published the first time in 1974. Translated into English by Alphonso Lingis, Springer, Dordrecht, 1991

Simone Forti, Thinking with the Body, Edited by Sabine Breitwieser for the Museum der Modern, Salzburg, Hirmer, 2014

A.W Reed, Maory Myths & Legendary Tales, New Holland Publishers (NZ), 1999

 

Suzanne Jackson : Another Angle of Vision

SUZANNE JACKSON : ANOTHER ANGLE OF VISION

text by Rosanna Albertini

about Suzanne Jackson’s “holding on to a sound” at  O – TOWN HOUSE, Los Angeles 

February-March 2019

 

SUZANNE JACKSON, Inventory Letters 2010, Acrylic, handmade paper, mesh fabric, Plexiglas, wood, 28.5 x 66 in  Courtesy of the artist and O-Town House LA

The geography of our consciousness of reality has enormously complex coasts and is broken up by any number of mountains and lakes.”  

There is no mirror that shows us ourselves out of ourselves because there is no mirror that can draw us out of ourselves. Another soul would be necessary, another angle of vision or thought.”   

(Fernando Pessoa)

A painting, maybe? This is me, the painter’s granddaughter. He used to hold my hand after dinner as if a journey was starting. It was, all around the perimeter of his studio where I slept my best nights. Before getting into sleep, we moved from a painting to another. There were no words. I learned that landscapes, those painted by him, were a thin layer of reality he had brought home for us to see again, the feeling of their light.

Smell of turpentine. And smell of cows began in my memory, of grass and mountain cheese. Paintings were not mirrors of the land, neither of our perceptions. A mixture of now and then, seventy years after, tells me that we held hands while a part of us slipped out of our bodies to join the painted image, the invisible soul of her. Like flying for real, not dreaming. I was too young to be aware what it was. Thinking?  Even now I avoid it. Art asks for another angle, many many others. 

With Suzanne Jackson I messed up titles and artworks. I’m going to find the correct combination. But, for a moment, I like to miss it. I stay with her suggestion: “holding on to a sound.” I open our discovery of her paintings with a Mexican poem from Nahuacatle.

In the house of paintings

the singing begins

………

With flowers you write,

O Giver of Life:

with songs you give color,

with songs you shade

those who must live on the earth.

 

SUZANNE JACKSON, birdmusic – holding on to a sound 2011, Acrylic, Bogus paper, string, 28 x 29.5 x 6 in   Courtesy of the artist and O-Town House LA

SUZANNE JACKSON, Gamet Zagbite 2016, Acrylic on layered acrylic, Garnet medium, and mixed papers, 36 x 57 in   Courtesy of the artist and O-Town House LA

SUZANNE JACKSON, finding joy in the mirror 2016, Acrylic, wood veneer, Bogus paper, loquat seeds, 55 x 37.5 in Courtesy of the artist and O-Town House LA

Having the sound to continue in her and prolonging its waves in her painted and sculpted work, Suzanne Jackson grabs the texture of the space she is in. Sounds spread and travel without geometry, they hit the chambers of our ears like the light hits the receptive sticks in our eyes. So does this artist, a woman of my age, a mature woman. She hits our soul.  In each piece is the geography of her feelings and thoughts in a specific moment: valleys and streams and spots of joy, sunny, next to the bloody moments or dark layers of…I don’t know if to call them colors…they are personal reverberations of the living, so intense that wood, paper, fabrics fold and turn and adapt to her need to escape flatness, maybe also the verbal simplification.

 

SUZANNE JACKSON, Moons in Double Copper Sea 2017, Acrylic, wood veneers, acrylic detritus on cradled Arches papers, 35.5 x 45 in   Courtesy of the artist and O-Town House LA

SUZANNE JACKSON, Good News Baby! 2016 Acrylic, graphyte on un-stretched canvas, 54 x 62 in
Courtesy of the artist and O-Town House LA

A long scroll becomes a solidified wave on the wall. We can read the feelings. Stories have been filtered, some marks remains. The response to her painted reality is a preverbal silence. The chest filled with emotions.

The sigle pieces expand, wrinkle and contract, accordion like.

SUZANNE JACKSON, Voiding Petitions 2014, Acrylic, graphite on canvas, 14 x 12 in   Courtesy of the artist and O-Town House LA

 If the surface is flat, sometimes, the painted action is not. How our consciousness opens up: by layers, ideas at times, the flesh other times, and not without lacerations. Red wounds. It’s the theater of life.

SUZANNE JACKSON, Marilyn and Maya Watch Fog 2006, Watercolor on hardboard panel, 8 x 10 in   Courtesy of the artist and O-Town House LA

Marylin and Maya watch fog: maybe the most naturalistic of this group of recent artworks by Suzanne Jackson. It’s a very small watercolor, two open hands joined by the thumbs could frame it. It stops me like a bullet. Close and far images will disappear. They are devoured by the big mouth of fog like memories fading through time. I can’t stop watching this tormented scene. From the void of my mind another painting surfaces and floats over Suzanne’s image without covering it. It’s maybe the same intent in both pieces, I don’t really know. The other painting is an Italian oil painting by Pietro Annigoni, the portrait of a country side villa near Pisa, which becomes lontananza (an absent distance) behind a gate in the foreground, and a tree. The gate seems closed forever. The singing stops.

Mark Rothko 1943

“The world is what an artist makes it.

And in this world the eye is only an element of the totality of experience, has no precedence over feelings and thoughts.

A picture is not its color, its form, or its anecdote, but an intent entity idea, where implications transcend any of these parts.”

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

Mark Rothko, Writings on Art, edited by Miguel Lopez-Remiro, Yale University press, New Haven and London, 2006

Technicians of the Sacred, edited with commentaries by Jerome Rothenberg, Third edition, University of California press, 2017

ALBERTO ALBERTINI : a scent of afterlife

ALBERTO ALBERTINI

A SCENT OF AFTERLIFE

Every age has periods of feverish growth, some more than others. As a young man, very young, I was infatuated with the Nineteenth century, time in which everything happened, although the embryos had been fertilized in the Eighteenth century: chemistry and electricity. Rail roads, electrical engines, the discovery of chemical elements, radioactivity and cinematography! Not to mention music, painting and literature. Here too, as the Eighteenth had prepared the Nineteenth century, the Twentieth century’s evolutions sprouted in the previous century. If we look at the Twentieth century and compare it to our days, how many, impactful ferments in the first half, even in the first quarter. Cubism, futurism, dodecaphonic music, the new architecture, nudism, naturism: the automobile and the aeroplanes! Researching in every direction, feeling certain about technical and scientific progress: new richnesses, new aspirations of ambitious, advancing classes. This limitless creative euphoria flew, perhaps, into the first incommensurable tragedy for the humankind. Excessive confidence in humans has been denied and no thing has been like before.

Yet, if I go backwards not with my memory -I wasn’t there- following the traces I can still find, I can easily imagine a world of expectations maybe impossible to fulfill, but captivating. I think of Monte Verità and the cult of sun, of nature. I think of romantic artists, and composers: Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Bartok, Schoenberg. How much nostalgia, and a desire projected into a mysterious and indefinite future that could maybe never come. Schoenberg, his Gurre Lieder. I don’t follow the story, those desperate voices, I am rather in the orchestra round them, in a tense atmosphere transparent, suspended, mysterious, as large as the infinite, sensing my existence without body, moving through my thoughts. The essence of a being that doesn’t need matter anymore. This music, maybe more than Rachmaninov’s symphonic poem dedicated to the Isle of the Dead, Arnold Böcklin’s painting, makes me think I am already there, on the other shore. Does it happen with all the past events? I am certain that that beginning of the Twentieth century could never be repeated; pointless to think it’s better it doesn’t repeat. War, the wars, humans didn’t stop making them anyway. There is a ring at the door: it is the springtime.

 

 Conversation between Alberto and Rosanna Albertini

To refresh my memory about Böcklin I look online.

“Alberto, did you know that the Isle of the Dead was Hitler’s favorite painting?….”

He replies: “Bah, maybe he found it too expensive to transport them there, they were too many…”

Alberto’s wit makes me realize how deeply the political obsessions of these days in America have stained my attitude toward a painting and his artist. It was not painted for Hitler, too early. And Hitler could find in it an esoteric symbolism, Alberto adds in another email. 

The painting had a first version in 1880 and several others until 1886. It was so popular that its prints, which version? could be found in every home in Berlin. Nabokov’s observation in his novel Despair. The images evoke the English Cemetery in Florence, where rests his baby daughter Maria.

Böcklin was apparently mentioned by Marcel Duchamp as having had a major influence on his art. Matter of doubt. Because this is history: somebody says one sentence which is reported and changed who knows how many times, making us skeptical. The past vanishes as in the fog. But artists are surprising: John Cage liked Satie and saw his music like pleasant furniture. He wrote it, I believe him.

In 1932 Salvador Dali  painted his version of The Isle of the Dead. The opposite of Böcklin in the same kind of visual situation: no one can see the dead but they fill an implacably horizontal space. A vertical line of coffee descends from the sky ending in only one cup: “The true painting of the Isle of the Dead at the hour of the Angelus.” What puzzles me is the Angelus. Nostalgia for the flesh? Angel is the incarnation symbol, the divine messenger telling Mary she is pregnant with Jesus. No one cared if she was happy or not. Symbols are not allowed to have feelings. In my childish brain she was a brave lady, for her foot crashed the perfidy snake who offered the apple to Adam and Eve.

 Her statue made with stone -my vague memory- grows on the top of a hill in my native village. Children used to be guided in a procession to her at the time of the Angelus, six in the afternoon, holding torches. The hair of one of girls in front of me suddenly caught fire. Was the snake still powerful? 

Alberto’s photographs evoke Böcklin without symbols. (R.A.)

Alberto: “I’m trying to understand my attention to that painting. That moment in history first of all, symbolists, Pre-Raphaelites: Dante Gabriele Rossetti and the drowned Ophelia, the positivists, symbolists, Previati, Segantini, the tree of life. But I believe it connects to my childhood, and the terror of watching my dead grandma on her death bed, as well as a dead pope in the encyclopedia, both with the same posture. About the dead a lot has been made up, while Böcklin instead, immersed in his time’s atmosphere, thinks of the isle, he’s brilliant. The dead are there, not visible, but there they are. The isle is hazardous, nobody can go and trouble them, they feel at ease because if the isle is protected by rocks, there are trees and gardens inside. Facing the pressure of the “fourth state,” the bourgeoisie escaped, also backed up by proletarian painters dependent on her who paint love, a luminous future, an idyll of lights and against light, escaping from a world on the verge of crumbling. Despite my attempts at explaining, there is no explanation. 

 

 

 

 

 

Ogni epoca ha i suoi fermenti, qualcuna di più. Quando ero giovane, molto giovane, ero infatuato dall’ottocento, il secolo entro il quale tutto era accaduto, benché gli embrioni siano stati fecondati nel settecento: la chimica e l’elettricità. Ferrovie, motori elettrici, centrali elettriche, la scoperta degli elementi chimici, la radioattività e il cinematografo! Per non parlare della musica, della pittura o della letteratura. Anche qui, come il settecento ha preparato l’ottocento, nell’ottocento germogliano le evoluzioni del novecento. Se guardiamo il novecento confrontandolo ad oggi, quali e quanti fermenti nella prima metà, anzi nel primo quarto. Il cubismo, il futurismo, la musica dodecafonica, la nuova architettura, il nudismo, il naturismo: l’automobile e l’aeroplano!! una ricerca in tutte le direzioni e ancora una fiducia nel progresso tecnico scientifico: nuove ricchezze, nuove aspirazioni delle classi alla alla riscossa. Forse questa sconfinata ebbrezza creativa è sfociata nella prima grande immane tragedia dell’umanità, l’eccesso di fiducia nell’uomo è stato smentito e le cose non sono state più come prima.

Però se io vado a ritroso, non con la memoria, non c’ero, ma con le traccie che ancora trovo, mi posso immaginare un mondo di aspirazioni forse inappagabili ma affascinanti. Penso al monte Verità e al culto del sole, della natura. Penso ai grandi romantici, non quelli del secolo prima, ai musicisti: Prokofief, Rachmaninoff, Bartok, Shoenberg. Quanta nostalgia, quanto desiderio proiettato in un futuro misterioso e indefinito che forse non arriverà mai. Schoenberg: Gurre Lieder. Non seguo la storia, quella voce disperata, ma quell’orchestra che le sta intorno, quale tesa atmosfera, trasparente, sospesa, misteriosa, ampia come l’infinito, il senso dell’esistere incorporeo, del navigare nei pensieri. L’essenza dell’essere che non ha più bisogno della materia. Forse più del poema sinfonico di Rachmaninov dedicato all’isola dei morti, quadro di Böklin, questa musica fa pensare di essere già di là. È così per tutti gli avvenimenti passati? Sono sicuro che quel primo novecento sia irripetibile ed è inutile pensare che è meglio che non si ripeta, la guerra, le guerre le hanno rifatte lo stesso. Hanno suonato alla porta: era la primavera.

 Conversazione fra Alberto e Rosanna Albertini

Per rinfrescarmi la memoria cerco Böcklin on line.

“Alberto, lo sapevi che L’isola dei morti era il quadro favorito di Hitler?…”

Alberto risponde: “Beh forse l’ha ritenuto troppo costoso trasportarli li, erano troppi…”

Il botto di spirito mi fa capire che le ossessioni politiche di questi giorni in America mi hanno offuscato la mente nei confronti del quadro e dell’artista. Non era stato dipinto per Hitler, troppo presto. E Hitler poteva trovaci un simbolismo esoterico di suo gusto, aggiunge Alberto in un altro messaggio email. 

Il quadro ebbe la prima versione nel 1880 e alcune altre fino al 1886. Era così popolare che se ne potevano trovare stampe in tutte le case di Berlino. Ma di quale versione? Osservazione di Nabokov nel romanzo Disperazione. Le immagini evocano il Cimitero inglese di Firenze dove riposa Maria, la figlia infante di Böcklin.

Pare che Böcklin fosse citato da Marcel Duchamp come una delle maggiori influenze sulla sua arte. E’ materia di dubbio. Perché la storia è cosi: ciascuno dice una frase che viene riferita e cambiata chissà quante volte, e noi diventiamo scettici. ll passato sparisce come nella nebbia. Ma gli artisti sono sorprendenti: John Cage ammirava Satie e vedeva la sua musica come una serie di mobili piacevoli. Lo ha scritto, io gli credo. 

Nel 1932 Salvador Dali ha dipinto la sua versione dell’Isola dei Morti. L’opposto di Böcklin nello stesso tipo di scena: i morti nessuno li vede nonostante  riempiano uno spazio implacabilmente orizzontale. Una linea verticale di caffè scende giù dal cielo e finisce in una tazzina, una sola: “Il vero dipinto dell’Isola dei Morti nell’ora dell Angelus.” L’Angelus mi lascia perplessa. Nostalgia del corpo? L’Angelo è il simbolo dell’incarnazione, messaggero divino che annuncia a Maria la sua condizione di donna incinta. Che a lei piaccia o no non importa a nessuno. I simboli non hanno sentimenti. Nel mio cervello di bambina lei era una signora di coraggio, il suo piede schiacciava il perfido serpente che aveva offerto la mela ad Adamo ed Eva.

La sua statua di pietra – un ricordo vago – si innalza sulla cima di una collina nel mio paese nativo. Noi bambini eravamo guidati verso di lei in processione all’ora dell’Angelus, le sei del pomeriggio, ognuno con una torcia accesa. D’improvviso i capelli di una bambina nella prima parte della processione, davanti a me, presero fuoco. Eterno potere del serpente?

Le fotografie di Alberto evocano Böcklin senza simboli. (R.A.)

Alberto: “Sto cercando di capire la mia attenzione a quel dipinto. Innanzitutto l’epoca: i simbolisti, i preraffaelliti, Dante Gabriele Rossetti e L’Ofelia annegata, i simbolisti positivisti, Previati, Segantini, l’albero della vita. Ma io credo si ricolleghi alla mia infanzia, al terrore di quando ho visto sul letto la nonna morta, e un papa morto sull’enciclopedia, collocato uguale. I morti, sui morti, ci hanno costruito sopra di tutto, invece Böklin, immerso nell’atmosfera del tempo pensa all’isola, geniale: i morti sono là, non si vedono ma ci sono. l’isola è impervia, non si può andare a disturbarli ma ci sono e si trovano bene perché se l’isola è protetta dalle rocce, dentro ci sono alberi, giardini. Di fronte al premere del “quarto stato” la borghesia evade, assecondata anche da pittori proletari ma da essa dipendenti e che dipingono l’amore, l’avvenire luminoso, un idillio di luci, controluce, evade da quel mondo che si sbriciolerà presto. Nonostante i miei tentativi di spiegazione, la spiegazione non c’è.”

ARNOLD BÖCKLIN, The Isle of the Dead, 1st version 1880, oil on canvas, 111 x 155 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel

Lenz Geerk : MAGIC SOLITUDES

In the exhibition ‘The Table Portraits’ at ROBERTS PROJECTS, Culver City, CA – September-October 2018

 

LENZ GEERK. Untitled, 2018 Acrylic on wool 60 x 40 cm
Courtresy of the artist and Roberts Projects

MAGIC SOLITUDES

by Rosanna Albertini

“I like the way the art world is changing in the last few years, especially since Trump and #Me Too, there is more focus on relevant topics, psychology, society – which for me is often more meaningful than art about art.”  Lenz Geerk

 

The sky is flat and gray over the rain. As gray as the pages of a book Geerk painted with no words inside; only a small branch with leaves  appears, it might be an alien presence. 

There must be something personal I share with Geerk’s paintings. And it is not only a sense of familiarity with a painted world explored by Italian modern artists from the beginning to the middle of the 20th century, such as  Massimo Campigli, Mario Sironi, Filippo De Pisis, Giorgio De Chirico, Carlo Carrà and others – even Amedeo Modigliani. Their sceneries were often called ‘metaphysical.’ Big word in these days, I let it go. Perhaps these Italian artists only preserved an ossified gallery of figures and buildings to replace a landscape of ruins dominated by wars and misery — humans and cities under the same spell —  with imaginary monuments of their minds. Artists avoided resemblances to reality, bringing to life new under-cover mythologies wearing beauty and distance.

LENZ GEERK, Study for Gray Flower, 2018 Acrylic on wool 30 x 40 cm  Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

LENZ GEERK, Bee, 2018 Acrylic on wool 40 x 60 cm    Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

LENZ GEERK, Blue Flower, 2018 Acrylic on wool  50 x 40 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

Although holding some vague echoes from the past, Lenz Geerz figures belong to this present time, and are completely physical. I meet him here. And  I need to keep his painted images as soft as the compressed wool on which they appear. I want to see them through the body of the painted world, many steps before understanding. 

They are all equal in their lack of gaze. Their eyes are closed or they look down, absorbed by the body itself or by it’s action: eyes focused on a gray flower became gray, maybe thinking of a dirty look. Pupils lost among gray pages are opaque, inert like felt. It seems the act of throwing the gaze around, or looking far, is deadly dangerous. The grabbing is questioned: long fingers more like flowers stems than bony limbs, touch  without trying to possess, to appropriate. Yes, reality as we know it has become a disturbing, invasive machinery. The artist isolates his creatures from the ordinary, tired visual language of our time, he lets humor and tenderness take shape apparently without effort, a blue flower on his belly. He is not protesting nor letting go, he calls for intimacy, introversion, and pensiveness. 

These bodies  expose themselves and in so doing they conceal their own secret. Folding, throwing the arms in odd gestures, or magically sitting on the water, birdlike, in a space out of time, they could be boneless figures finally free from  the renaissance myth of the man bringing the whole reality into the measure of his mind, and replicating the fruits of his intellectual power until he can’t control them anymore and starts devouring them, like Chronos with his children.  There is the pressure of reality, but Geerk’s painted images resist, their secret untouched. I don’t want to break it, do not know what the artist had in mind, but I have to the impression to breath a secret pleasure of solitude. 

LENZ GEERK, Pressed Leaf, 2018 Acrylic on wool   60 x 40 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

 

“They are more than leaves that cover the barren rock

They bud the whitest eye, the pallidest sprout,

New senses, in the engendering of sense,

The desire to be at the end of distances,

The body quickened and the mind in root. 

They bloom as a man loves, as he lives in love.

WALLACE STEVENS, The Poem as Icon

 

LENZ GEERK, Beach Scene, 2018 Acrylic on wool 24 x 30 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

 

Each painting is filled with interrogative figures, they are human and yet, they seem to miss something. Their state of mind is sucked into their body. A head, her long dark hair and the hands turn into silent, physical language: while she heavily lays her jaw on a table her hair and hands expand, growing bigger as cats know how to do. It’s a humanscape shaped by sleep’s heaviness, an island smothered by a coat of snow. 

LENZ GEERK, Sleeping, 2018 Acrylic on wool   20 x 30 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

I see myself as one of those figures, a twenty-seven year old woman turning her eyes inside her own body dumped in a large chair surrounded by palms, in the hall of a Parisian student housing. Daydreaming, she was lost in the palms’ movement: hands with more than five fingers, too weak and floppy to grab anything around. In Paris she was completely alone for the first time in her life. She was confused. Suddenly the barricades of books she had physically built in ’68 during the student upheavals, and the imaginary ones she had constructed in her mind, trying to make sense of an incomprehensible decision her parents had taken when she was ten, fell apart all at once.  Dust from the Berlin Wall made her memory even fuzzier. Almost twenty-eight years old! Life doesn’t solidify in the twenties; the only thing one can do is to move on. Her desires had been chopped as well as her hair since she was ten. They both grew again. Not immediately, not fast. I look at her embraced by the chair. I see an immaculate conception taking shape in her mind puzzled by a bundle of feelings. During that daydream, she received a desire of pregnancy she had never had before. I don’t know where such grace came from. From the absence of immediate pressures? From solitudine, perhaps. A few months after, a new life was in her. 

Lenz Geerk is twenty-eight years old. 

LENZ GEERK, The Lovers, 2018 Acrylic on wool   80 x 59.9 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects

Bibliography

WALLACE STEVENS, “The Rock” in  The Collected Poems, p.525,  Vintage Books Edition 1990

Karen Carson RIGID FORMS PULSANT COLORS

What’s sensibility? It is that which exists beyond our beings and yet constantly belongs to us. … Imagination is the sensibility vehicle … We will make fun of our conventional psychological world, to make ourselves free from it.

Yves Klein 1959

THE SECRET DOVE      

Karen Carson’s most recent bas relief paintings, Los Angeles

By Rosanna Albertini

Rou-cou spoke the dove,

Like the sooth lord of sorrow, 

 Of sooth love and sorrow,

Rou-cou spoke the black to the wooden body that bursts open in the center of the painting with a song of yellow and pink.

“ I am more interested in the glamorous visual product that comes out of pain as opposed to the painful, dark, victimized images.” KC

It’s a fact: the splendor of two wings not completely symmetrical overcomes the terror of a body not allowed to move; colors marry the wooden limbs brushing against them like memories of a sunny day. Colors ask angles and lines to preserve a feeling of joy as humans cannot, and box it in so perfectly that time wouldn’t steal it, its hands were lost.

And a hail-bow, hail-bow, 

To this morrow.

Three windows smile and cry. The architectural forms are rudimentary and irregular like each cell of our body making faces at every change of food, temperature, or the daylight sinking into the night. A house for the heart, hidden behind curtains of paper thoughts. A house for closed eyes, pulsing in our veins.  

She lay upon the roof,

A little wet of wing and woe,

And she rou-ed there,

Softly she piped among the suns

And their ordinary glare, 

The forms get sharper and pointed. The rectangular edges of the painting are elbowed aside, and the twin triangles try to grow out of it like skeletons in search of their body. As might be expected, they already are in the artist’s body, but they slip out through the tip of her fingers, and the hair of her brush. “Rou-cou” whispers the center, “Leave me quiet, it’s hard for me to separate one day from the other, not to mention the colors of my feelings. I get darker and darker despite the suns of the flowers, and the sunset pink. Let me withdraw, and disappear.”  

The sun of five, the sun of six,

Their ordinariness,

And the ordinariness of seven,

Which she accepted,

Like a fixed heaven,

Also in the life of painted forms there is a moment of acceptance. Not resignation, or giving up with standing proudly through the waves of light and time and days and nights. It’s ordinary life. Forms accept their need of changing, smoothing their edges, almost trespassing into the body of the next form. The painting becomes a place of encounters: each bar waiting for the meeting with another, close, bar. Stripes rather than bars? No, for they are rigid, making obstruction. The closest bar is an alien presence. Not a mirror, she is opaque. Next to another bar the first who walked in is finally allowed to know how she can be, what to say or not, in their visual conversation. They pull triangular tongues and lick each other. 

Not subject to change . . .

Day’s invisible beginner,

The lord of love and of sooth sorrow,

Lay on the roof

And made much within her.

The story takes shape as it happened since the beginning. The landscape is done, although Adam and Eve didn’t know how to call it, how to name each other. Fire and water and air over the ground were also unnamed. But the biggest surprise was Eve generating strange creatures unable to stand by themselves. Eyes weren’t big enough to contain the infinite surprises of the new world. Painted forms over thousand years became enormous eyes absorbing the measured, the artificial dress of the earth. And the lord of love and of sooth sorrow made within Karen Carson the artist, as he did ever since within so many artists, the most recent miracle: a magnificent construction, for no use nor abuse. It is called art, if someone still remembers what it means. 

Wallace Stevens    SONG OF FIXED ACCORD

Rou-cou spoke the dove,

Like the sooth lord of sorrow,

Of sooth love and sorrow,

And a hail-bow, hail-bow,

To this morrow.

 

She lay upon the roof,

A little wet of wing and woe,

And she rou-ed there,

Softly she piped among the suns

And their ordinary glare,

 

The sun of five, the sun of six,

Their ordinariness,

And the ordinariness of seven,

Which she accepted,

Like a fixed heaven,

 

Not subject to change . . .

Day’s invisible beginner,

The lord of love and of sooth sorrow,

Lay on the roof

And made much within her.

 

The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, Vintage Books, New York, 1990

Originally published: Knopf, New York, 1954

In the last paragraph indirect, undeniable reference to The Diaries of Adam and Eve, by Mark Twain.

All the paintings are “Acrylic on bas relief wood” N.I Untitled 5   16x29x1 1/2 inches;  N.II   Untitled 18   18x24x1 1/2 inches;  N.III Untitled 11 18x24x1 1/2 inches;  N.IV Untitled 2  18x24x1 1/2 inches; N.V Untitled 16  18x24x1 1/2 inches;  N.VI Untitled 20   30x24x1 1/2 inches

Alberto Albertini : A GLIMPSE OF AFTER LIFE

ALBERTO ALBERTINI  from MILAN, Italy  

A letter to Eugenio Scalfari, December 2018 

and photographic Self-Portraits 

This  letter is addressed to a man, Eugenio Scalfari, who is one of the founders of La Repubblica, one of the most popular Italian newspapers, more or less equivalent to the New York Times, and  L’Espresso, a weekly magazine. Scalfari has recently become a good friend of Pope Francesco, it is not clear if also having some religious turns of mind. From his apartment in Milan, Alberto has always been an acute observer of Italian political life, and sometimes in crucial moments he sent his thoughts to those in charge, to the president of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano, for instance. Feeling the candle burning the tail, this time Alberto’s considerations about end of life and the attempt at finding meaning in the inscrutable, has rather an existential quality. But no complaints.  RA (editor)

 

 

Caro Eugenio,

mi permetto questo tono confidenziale non tanto perché sono stato un lettore de “L’Espresso” della prima ora ma perché, in conseguenza di quel fatto, non posso che essere vecchio ( 91 ), vicino alla tua età e pervaso dall’idea che comunque è bene pensare alle operazioni di chiusura. Forse mi manca ancora qualche anno per giungere a conclusioni mistiche perché al momento, anche se la cosa infastidisce, sono convinto che tutto si chiuda, finisca. È irritante pensare che dopo aver lavorato, progettato, desiderato, immaginato, costruito la mia vita, la vita dell’umanità che ci ha dato Prassitele, il Bernini, Galileo e Umberto Eco, l’umanità tutta, abbia il medesimo destino. Eppure non può essere che così. L’energia, questo è il vero grande mistero! L’energia che prende calorie per il nostro cervello viene a mancare, non c’è più trasmissione, è finita. Non possiamo più nemmeno dolercene. So che quando arriveranno le prime avvisaglie, non sarò più così lucidamente logico, forse anche questo fa parte della procedura di atterraggio. Comincio a guardare gli oggetti che mi circondano, che amo, come se potessi goderli di più o forse fissarli nella memoria per portarli inutilmente con me. Mah. Sono però certo che se noi potessimo uscire dal mondo, dall’universo e vedere laggiù come stanno le cose, rideremmo di come sono semplici e comprensibili. Già ma se l’universo è infinito come potremmo uscirne? Anche l’infinito è cosa poco chiara.

aa

Dear Eugenio,

I dare to use this confidential tone not so much because I’ve been a reader of L’Espresso since the first day, but because of that fact it follows that I can only be old (91), close to the age you are and pervaded by the idea that it’s anyway good to think of the ending procedures. Maybe in a few years I will reach mystic conclusions; at the moment I am convinced, although frankly annoyed, that everything has a conclusion, and ends. It’s irritating to think that after having worked, made projects, desired, imagined and build my life, the humans’ life that gave us Prassitele, Bernini, Galileo and Umberto Eco, the entire human race has the same destiny. And yet, this is how things must be. Energy, that’s the real big mystery!  When the energy that provides calories to the brain is missing, transmission is gone, finished. We can’t even be sorry about it.

I do know that, when the first warnings will come, I won’t be so clearly logical anymore, maybe this is also part of the landing procedure. I’m starting to look at the objects around me, objects I love, as if I were able to enjoy them more, or to fix them in my memory hoping to bring them with me, pointlessly. Mah. I am sure nevertheless that, if we could get out of this world, out of the universe, and see from afar how things are down there, we would laugh about how simple and understandable they are. But, if the universe is infinite how could we get out of it?  Infinity as well is not such a clear thing.

aa

Alberto is the oldest member of the Albertini family, my father’s brother. He is one of the pillars of this blog. Four years of on line collaboration produced a number of posts in which our family life is intermingled with our experiences in the art world, since childhood, sharing passion and life with his father Oreste the painter, my unforgotten grandfather.