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)

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.

FRANK MASI : The Remote Life of Images

FRANK MASI : THE REMOTE LIFE OF IMAGES

after his recent journey to Japan

 

 

 Rosanna Albertini to Frank Masi — Los Angeles, December 2018

Dear Frank,

Your photographs of Japan are a dream of unreality. They are beautiful in an odd, almost disquieting way. I look at them and think, maybe Japan is not the point. The man I met many times in the past is a well organized, a practical person in love with the arts, and a very interesting collector of art. But these images that you grabbed and printed: the partial opacity of a window through which you saw the uncertainty of a blurred garden, and the frame of leaves tickling your curiosity; your oblique gaze through another window big this time that seems to protect from intrusion the peace of an inner space; the silent observation of manufactured clay cups waiting to dry – you call them ‘quiet’- these are works of a dreamer. A less mercantile term than the word artist.

Did you ever meet Fernando Pessoa?

 In dealing with any object, the dreamer should try to feel the clear indifference that that object, taken as an object, inspires. The dreamer should know, with an immediate instinct, how to abstract from each object or event anything in it that is dreamable, leaving for dead in the Exterior World anything in it that is real — this is what the wise man should seek to achieve in himself.”  The Book of Disquiet

Still drying Kutani clay / quiet tools / no wind no fire / waiting

Haiku by Frank Masi

It seems to me that’s exactly what you do, whether the object of your attention is a river, a branch, a stone in a forest or an old wooden house falling apart, or a pair of pink gloves hung behind a glass door of a simple house, a daily routine sanctuary. Don’t mistake me, pulling the door of history shut behind you makes you free from the devils of History, objectivity and documentation.  But then, is Japan as a real country the center of your work? And, does it matter? Problem: the questions come from a limited experience that came to me via Japanese artists and friends in Los Angeles. My gardener Eto is my largest source of information. He was born near Hiroshima. He is reader of old poems whose language is today obsolete, forgotten.  He remembers trucks filled with corpses passing by his village, and stories of his life as an after war child, when he and his school friends worked in the countryside cutting vegetation with machetes. By accident, the head of one of them was cut along with the leaves. See, History is a bitch, a cutting weapon against art. 

Fact is, looking at your photographs I didn’t think of Japan, I mainly tried to unveil your perception while you captured moments that became images and in so doing mutated, moving from the surrounding reality to your instinct that hunted for silent meaning in a dreamed landscape. Photography is a surgical act, images are cut out from the body of reality. And yet it’s an act that guides me to your own sensations. Your images are the two faces of the same human reality: preservation of nature and urban variety of dignity and decay.

Forest shadow moss / mountain child rock / river clouds / sky somewhere

Haiku by Frank Masi

Visually omitted, the human presence is embedded in the scape of the land. And your eyes through the camera seem to rediscover fragments of a remote life in places and objects, a life that escapes time as well as control. Objects and landscapes are more foreign than national identities.  Maybe I felt something similar on a beach in Turkey, such a pristine and isolated site that I almost forgot about civilized life.  There was no sand, only red pebbles with round shapes sculpted by the waves. Not rocks, they were remains of pottery from ships sunk to the bottom of the ocean during ancient storms. I was walking on naked bones. 

Nature is not mechanical to that extent for all its mornings and evenings, for all its inhabitants of China, or India or Russia, for all its waves, or its leaves, or its hands. Its prodigy is not identity but resemblance and its universe of reproduction is not an assembly line but an incessant creation. Because this is so in nature, it is so in metaphor.”  Wallace Stevens, The Necessary Angel 

The true poem [or painting, or photograph] is not the work of the individual artist; it is the universe itself, the one work of art which is forever perfecting itself.” Ernst Cassirer,  An Essay On Man 

I must tell you, your photographs of Japan brought me into a cloud of nostalgia, reopening themes that never leave this blog, like termites attacking an old piece of wood. Nostalgia not for Japan, where I’ve never been, I’m thinking rather of an intellectual paradise with many comfortable chairs and humans sharing, comparing ideas, sometimes fighting to the death around the objects of their efforts, hoping to understand and to enjoy tremendously, face to face, the mysterious disconnection between images and words. How many times do we really feel the power of our voice, a sound which adds time and physicality to the bunch of words that we call ideas? Once more, writing eliminates sounds. Thoughts for eyes, strange as they are.

We are not far from Christmas, maybe the tail of The Kite will turn into a comet, and lift your images in a luminous constellation. 

I wish I had a kimono / and walked with others /wearing kimonos

Haiku by Frank Masi

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, Translated by Alfred Mac Adam, Exact Change, Boston, 1998

Wallace Stevens, The Necessary Angel, Essays on Reality and Imagination, Vintage Books, New York, 1942-1951

Ernst Cassirer, An Essay On Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture, Yale & New Haven, 1944

 

 

 

E’wao Kagoshima: WHITE AUTUMN and other visual stories

E’ WAO KAGOSHIMA

at THE BOX, Los Angeles, June-August 2018

After his exhibition, the artist started a mail art communication with the gallery and Mara McCarthy. 

E’wao Kagoshima, White Autumn 2016. Acrylic, pastel, ink, and collage on paper, 15″ 1/2 x 18″3/4 (framed dimensions)  Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BODY BOX BINDING 

— about E’wao Kagoshima’s world of physical language —

By Rosanna Albertini

Maybe the autumn wants to be white. A flood of summery red brightness fills his memory, he can’t get rid of it. Dryness is drifting across his eyes. The place is real and inscrutable. Shrunk to the bones or happily swimming in water, fish pull my hair and push my brain into an unfamiliar space, as if “rejecting the idea that everything is in its right place; there isn’t any.” (Robert Rauschenberg) A tree grows from a bone and a pink branch from a woman. There is no land or sky, we see an abstract space of transformation. The artist’s duty is to an absolute living, out of time or common sense.

Let’s pretend the alphabet starts with B. Art, area, affection, affliction, adoption, adulthood would disappear from language. Same kind of displacement wrings the world of physical language, E’wao Kagoshima’s pictorial world, out of any expected grammar. Every thing, and each form, have a mind of their own. Humans along with butterflies, toys, birds, plants and words communicate with the living landscape they are in as they like it, as they dream, without rules or restrictions. The same happens to humans, animals, objects or undefined figures.

Everyone is right. Things become true as soon as someone believes in them. Reality is within us; our mind creates its truths. And the best truth will not be the one sanctioned by reason.”  

André Gide, The White Notebook

Kagoshima’s colors might be the prevailing message, they fade or intensify like the daily mood. The artist has absorbed the natural beauty and sends it back as luminous islands from his brain: sometimes dry, often wet images, can he feel his brain is wet, as neurobiologists have discovered? They didn’t see red fish though, with smiling lips after swallowing dreams of government (John Kennedy), a cat, now part of their aquatic body — red fish looking after a red human baby.  But E’wao did. 

E’Wao Kagoshima, Parallel Case 2012. Pastel, colored pencil, ink, graphite, and collage on paper, 10″ 3/4 x 13″ 3/4 (framed dimensions)  Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery  

E’wao Kagoshima, Breathing Skin 2012. Pastel, colored pencil, acrylic, ink, and collage on paper, 10″ 3/4 x 13″ 3/4 (framed dimensions)   Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

It’s a space beyond limits where some artists like to be. John Baldessari taught a plant the alphabet in 1972. He showed the plant the letters with patience, repeating their sound to make sure that the plant’s brain could grasp and memorize. And Nico Muhly composed I drink the air before me in 2010. Sounds and atmosphere of the living environment enter his entire body, not only filtered by the ears. Steve Galloway placed American alligators walking on the clouds in mid-air. Many other artists can probably be added, but these I know well, as well as Haruki Murakami’s books in English translation.  

E’wao Kagoshima, Saving Diaspora 2016. Pastel and colored pencil on paper, 15″ 5/8 x 18″ 3/4 (framed dimensions)  Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

But in the end, I see what I see, missing Japanese language and Japanese life experience. I don’t understand Kagoshima’s images, like a blind woman talks of colors never having seen them. Simply, I love them. There is a stark naked reality in his painting and drawings: a spellbound territory, completely personal, that seems to me distant from either Japan or New York, where E’wao  moved  in 1976. My illusion? Could be. I hoped to learn from Japanese literature, only to realize that many characters and situations of Murakami’s books also belong to the Western tradition; they circulated all around the world in fables and stories for centuries. As I would like to pick out some Japanese evidence in Kagoshima’s images of Saving Diaspora, I could cry like his blue mouse, my mind lost and taken by the transparent lines of a butterfly, almost invisible, which to me is the feminine organ — as my grandmother called it since I was able to understand language. Of course I loved to detect the butterfly in such a claustrophobic room where a face cries blood and memories are petrified on her forehead.

 Storytelling is a universal art, each artwork by Kagoshima is a visual story. A woman slips out from the elephant’s trunk, maybe the cats dancing around her came from the elephant’s nostrils. The elephant seems happy to throw a shower on her and the cats. There is no separation between the three different species.   They bear the same light colors of nakedness and celebrate their closeness.

E’wao Kagoshima, Distortion One 2015. Acrlic on paper and pencils, 24″ x 19″ 1/4 Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

E’wao Kagoshima, Nose and Tails 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 80″ x 60″ 1/2 Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

Breathing Skin opens an incongruous series of dialogues: a fish with a crab, a bird to a fox, a woman to another identical woman, an undefined human creature bubbles water in a tank that could be a head. An exquisite gentleness permeates the drawing, lines are smoothed by water. It could be mist, or a layer of air flattened on paper.

Kagoshima’s life wasn’t easy at times, his art congealed feelings into poetry of distortion, and open-eye dreams. In his personal new world fish are bigger than the Statue of Liberty, and Sleeping Beauty floats in a miraculous clarity in the middle of an intestinal maze. The forest around the castle grows in green spots so powerful they cannot be contained, and spread on the frame. Happy birthday E’wao, it’s so good to meet your dreams. 

E’wao Kagoshima, Sleeping Beauty 2017. Mixed media on canvas, 24″ x 20″ Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

“It’s all a question of imagination. Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine. 

It’s just like Yeats said: in dreams begin responsibilities.

Flip this around and you could say that where there’s no power to imagine, no responsibility can arise.

Just like we see with Eichmann.”         Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore                  

Kagoshima was born in 1945 in Niigata, one of the 4 cities destined to become a target for The Atomic Bomb in Japan. The town was spared in favor of Nagasaki.  We are both children of the war sprouting from the same year, new leaves in a time obscured by lack of imagination. Only one Italian scientist around Enrico Fermi in his laboratory imagined the scientific monster they were pursuing. He was a Neapolitan dreamer. He quit, and disappeared. To write it now, it sounds like a fairy tale. Our little brains born then did not know anything and yet kept growing as if their souls had been wrinkled by the fears and destructions around. To these days, any personal deception is linked to a primeval spot of darkness in human hearts. As an art student, one afternoon with friends E’wao was enchanted by the sunlight going through the beer falling from the pitcher into the glass. He had the idea of two metal sculptures that made him one of the few pop artists in Japan.

At the Box I saw his artwork for the first time during the summer, a one person exhibition. Immediately after, E’wao’s mail art to Mara started, almost weekly, from New York to Los Angeles, sending little by little fragments of his life to a place of trust, of friendly reception, a sort of harbor.  

                                           

 

 

SCULPTURE IS IMPLACABLE : YOU GET WHAT YOU SEE

SCULPTURE IS IMPLACABLE : YOU GET WHAT YOU SEE

Richard Deacon and Sui Jianguo

at L.A. Louver, Venice, CA — September 2018

 

Installation view, photo RA

SUI JIANGUO, Planting Trace – Constellation 1, 2018  cast bronze 19 1/4 x 9 7/8 x 9 7/8 in.
© Sui Jianguo. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

Holding a humming bird inside

by Rosanna Albertini

What you see, at first, is a population of hand made bodies, mostly small size, on pedestals and little tables. Their shapes are unique, any comparison with the natural world is pointless. Only three of them are taller than a normal human. Tables are part of the piece. But it’s not easy to focus on each single piece. A circulation of movement in the air around the sculptures, the light they spread maybe from inside their artificial organs, as if air was their blood, pushes me from one to another and from one to another room without thinking of objects, perhaps following an inaudible music, a four hand concert with a Chinese-European score.  “Open up, bloom, pause. Breath, pause, pause and breath.” 

Indirectly, Richard Deacon suggested this metaphor years ago, describing his play with a vocabulary of forms: “ten different shapes, together they can make a sentence, even a song.” 

RICHARD DEACON, Flat 10, 2014 glazed dark clay
22 1/4 x 27. 1/2 x 22 7/8 in. © Richard Deacon.
Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

RICHARD DEACON, Fold in the Fabric 5, 2018
Sculpture: wood (Holly and Cedar), epoxy
Table: fumed oak and MDF board; Sculpture: 
12 1/4 x 13 3/4 x 11 in. Table: 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.© Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, 
Venice, CA

RICHARD DEACON, Cuttings 1, 2018
Sculpture: stainless steel;Table: oak and MDF board. Sculpture: 18 x 14 3/4 x 13 1/4 in.
Table: 21 7/8 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
© Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venic

Variations on the same theme in modestly sized pieces fill the space with gentle songs, and with peaks of sculptural actions in two registers: the first one pausing in neatly cut geometrical surfaces, some shiny, some completely rough—the stainless steal’s whistle joins the voice of the wood cracking and protesting—  and this is Deacon’s work; the second register comes from a folding and unfolding of sculpted bodies, like buds who discover the emergence of leaves, or figures of body parts covered with skin language: Sui Jianguo transferring into his pieces the surface of his own hands, a universal language which is uniquely his, not necessarily Chinese, just his own.

SUI JIANGUO,Planting Trace – Meteor Garden 3, 2018
galvanized photosensitive resin 3D printing 7 x 9 7/8 x 4 in.
© Sui Jianguo. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

RICHARD DEACON, Size is Everything #2, 2018
Sculpture: wood (Oak), epoxy, pigment, bronze
powder, aluminum powder. Table: fumed oak and MDF board 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
 Sculpture: 11 1/8 x 12 x 2 in. 
Table: 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
© Richard Deacon. Courtesy
of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

RICHARD DEACON, Size is Everything #2, 2018
Sculpture: wood (Oak), epoxy, pigment,
bronze powder, aluminum powder
Table: fumed oak and MDF board
Sculpture: 11 1/8 x 12 x 2 in.
Table: 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
© Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m told the two artists are friends, no reason to doubt it. I’m wondering whether they connect via visual vocabulary, rather than spoken language. And asking myself what Jianguo’s titles mean, all Planting Trace, with a few qualifications added: matter, constellation. ganoderma. Opposed to Deacon’s titles: Flat, Cuttings in various numbers, New Alphabet, Fold in the Fabric. Deacon tells me that “cutting” is what makes his pieces. He cuts and fabricates and asks the matter to cooperate. Jianguo, this time, squeezes the clay, lets his fingers find the forms. Maybe some of these pieces are from his blind work: the artist refusing to see what his hands are doing. Had he realized how implacable sculpture is.

A glimpse of history pierces my mind making me think that both artists, (and myself for the matter) belong to the after war generation. Deacon’s father was in the RAF, Jianguo lived through communism and cultural revolution in China. The outcome is these artists are workers, builders of their lives, perhaps rediscovering their lives through the art they produced. 

Their art isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about life. Sui plants fragments of his body into our mind: traces, as he says, marks. Which seems to me a real revolutionary move out of the pain or mixed feelings he had about Mao and Maoism and the artificial equality that ideology had forced into people. His little and big sculptures bring up his personal self, the one unmistakably marked by his fingerprints. Although he will never be a Western artist, he has to wear, here and there, fashions that other artist of the past almost codified in the public imagination. Art history is an open book, as landscapes are, even in the small space of a garden. I like to call them gardeners, these two artists, gardeners planting their art.

Alternating in the same big space, their sculptures take me into a familiar sense of enjoyment that fills me every time art pieces I see for the first time greet me, waking up remote impressions, not at all déjà-vues, rather déjà-felt, in front of other sculptures. The problem is, life and manners and perception of real things wrap around the person of the artist, and sink beyond the skin, invisibly, exactly as it happens to the viewers of an art piece. I can’t explain why the twisted and almost screaming gestures of Jiankuo’s big pieces, as if form was unfolding herself free from her material essence, make me think of Camille Claudel’s reckless women, trying to get out from their feminine body, and from a history of humiliation.

SUI JIANGUO,Planting Trace 1, 2014-2016 cast bronze 114 1/8 x 70 7/8 x 67 in.
© Sui Jianguo. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

RICHARD DEACON, New Alphabet GHI, 2018  stainless steel and paint
94 x 80 3/4 x 18 1/2 in. © Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Ve

Showing me the three vertical layers of his Alphabet, light gray and white painted like a wedding dress, Richard Deacon displays his pleasure in finding, trying, combining, working with helpers, solving problems during the fabrication…until the middle layer almost disappears but is there, “like the ham in a sandwich.” He is telling, very simply, that the invisible part is the clue of the piece. Yes, what you see is what you get, but you have to look through the surface, beyond the drawing, to pose your eyes on the sleeping beauty. 

The visual world fills his perception, and stay inert in his memory, until the secret humming bird moves his sharp beak, the tiny scissor, from a recess of his heart. Then Deacon is at work to bring his way of splitting away from the continuous ligaments that keep our bones, our cities, our days and years together, anchored in natural necessity. Cuttings, separation, disclose a different image of the world: by avoiding the natural look of any of his creatures, Deacon fills the art pot with mysterious treasures: a spot of red in the middle of a square piece of wood thick enough to stand, for example. A square hollow centers the back of the same wood. Red color reappears. Beware of the words! What I see is a sensation of something existing, not a sentence. Title is: Size is Everything.

Physical entities whose content “is the significance of its material.” They represent “nothing other than themselves.”  They “suggest and reflect our existence,” They are “thoughts produced by action.” All the quotes from Giuseppe Penone. Deacon’s creatures are cut out from reality to direct our attention toward repetition and reinvention of forms, time doesn’t matter, to renew our attachment to infinite variety.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Giuseppe Penone, Ramificazioni del pensiero-Branches of Thougth, Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles, 2014

Mario Merz, Lo spazio e curvo o diritto, Hopeful Monster editore, Firenze, 1990

And this is the link to Douglas Messerli’s beautiful text:  http://artla-bas.blogspot.com/2018/09/a-sculpture-of-small-writ-large-richard.html

RICHARD DEACON, Courtesy L.A. Louver, Venice CA

SUI JIANGUO – Courtesy L.A. Louver, Venice, CA