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)
It’s late. The night will fall soon, also on the convent. A bare cell, the bed attached to the wall at the end of the day is brought down, one table, a window. Essential things, a place for meditation. I was struck when I visited the convent, as I was young, I meditated. Now I hear from afar the bells of another convent, and enter the cell more deeply. I disengage myself from the world. Free from thoughts, from passions. The immense pleasure of solitude: sharp like a gash in a canvas by Fontana.
My real solitude, instead, is surrounded by objects that keep going again over parts of my life. I haven’ t touched them for years but I know. Something wraps around me like a cocoon. I accept it as a solution not to think too much. Yes, the idea of the absolute fascinates me. Also my cat at sunset goes out and meditates.
É tardi, tra poco calerà la notte, anche sul convento. Una cella spoglia, il letto che scende dalla parete, un tavolo, una finestra. Essenziale per meditare, anch’io ho meditato quando ho visitato il convento, mi ha colpito, ero giovane. Ora odo lontane le campane di un altro convento, ed entro di più nella cella, mi sono liberato dal mondo, dai pensieri dalle passioni. Il piacere immenso della solitudine: un taglio drastico come lo squarcio in una tela di Fontana, invece la mia reale solitudine è circondata da oggetti che ripercorrono la mia via, non li tocco da anni ma so. Un involucro, come un bozzolo mi avvolge e l’accetto come la soluzione giusta per non pensare troppo. si, l’idea dell’assoluto mi affascina, anche il mio gatto al tramonto esce a meditare…
Paintings 2021-2022 at Roberts Projects, June-July 2022
LENZ GEERK, Hotel II2022, Acrylic on canvas 75 x 100cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects LA Ca, Photo Ivo Faber
INDOLENCE by Rosanna Albertini
and a few words about Geerk’s paintings I received from Alberto Albertini, Milan, Italy
"Tutto assolutamente a posto, le ombre, le nubi attorcigliate e compatte. Le figure ferme fissate nell’istante del fermo immagine attendono che il tempo passi e non passerà mai, così. Attendono,
Everything’s perfectly settled, the shadows, the twisted and compact clouds. Figures are still, as if blocked in a photographic instant, they wait for time to pass and time will never pass, so. They wait", AA
To embrace life to the furthest extent is painful. To accept every thing is impossible, we can only let go of the brakes and let our living engine expand as if the body wasn’t an obstacle. The artist placed his mental figures near the water, each on their own, each of them a separate island. The light is dim. Human bodies seem consumed by an inner struggle, as if trying to distance themselves from a reality they can’t control. They look like people who can’t escape from themselves either: by no means can they arise above mediocrity in the modern society. Lenz Geerk doesn’t fool the viewers and maybe this is the reason why his work is seductive.
ARRIVAL … WHERE? In a space that is painted. A space of indolence. With no pain, that’s the original meaning of the word. Are the figures supposed to describe a state of rest, a harmonious tranquillity between humans and rocks, sand, water and mountains? No way. They are still like statues, eyes and faces sucked in into their inner home we will never visit, nor be invited to. Big hands, big feet. They give out the opposite of the lack of feelings: the odd effort of locking the door to any reaction, to avoid rage or complaint.
LENZ GEERK, Beach Couple II 2021, Acrylic on canvas 40 x 50 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects LA Ca, Photo Ivo Faber
LENZ GEERK, Beach Couple VI 2021, Acrylic on canvas 40 x 50 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects LA Ca, Photo Ivo Faber
LENZ GEERK, Beach Couple V 2021, Acrylic on canvas 40 x 50 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects LA Ca, Photo Ivo Faber
We are In a Landscape, not very different from the music John Cage put together under the same title. Tunes for a prepared piano, no vibrations, yet the pleasure of floating, through sounds that move quietly and equal in intensity, is undeniable. Restrained sounds as quiet as the blue and grey and the skin pale colors of Geerk’s paintings. Same pleasure, visual this time. Not only the palette, the background is the same in each of these paintings immersed in silence, on the beach and inside the hotel room. Emptiness has the striking power to make us feel the nonsense we have built around.
LENZ GEERK, Beach Couple III 2021, Acrylic on canvas 40 x 50 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects LA Ca, Photo Ivo Faber
LENZ GEERK, Beach Couple I 2021, Acrylic on canvas 40 x 50 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects LA Ca, Photo Ivo Faber
I keep feeling that all these figures abstracted from the noise and chaos of city life are winging their way out as if flying, like falcons. Blue and gray are the colors of the falcon’s feathers on top of the wings. These painted humans are not asleep. They rest, temporarily. Probably by a lake. Only the lake’s water looks so flat, almost as dense as ink. Sorry, my memory of lakes, the real ponds of water, is intruding. I must bring it in, although I know Geerk’s paintings are far from real places. They give form to an imaginary space where loneliness and disconnection aren’t hidden. The artist, at the same time, doesn’t conceal his love for all those dysfunctional beings. Art connects him to them and us to him. We are the same tribe.
Apparently, the painted figures try not to feel the pain of sharing, every single day, the evidence that our intelligence is killing us. Remember Jochen Gerz? Strange closeness of names with the younger artist from Germany. Jochen Gerz’s questions aren’t far from Geerk’s paintings, either. Jochen didn’t really care of nature: “The trees in our imagination are our trees, and the branch, wet, covered in moss, is the image that returns to us like the prodigal son.” ( Jochen Gerz) “Will our imagination devour us?” “Is the artist going to disappear?” At the bottom, the biggest question: how to share the sense of growth, of freedom from time and space limitations that an image gives out, despite the fact that images reveal an intellectual and emotional link in an instant of time. To accept such contradiction gives to these paintings, made by our artist who wasn’t born when Gerz was screaming to the wind his existential disappointment, the strength of disillusion. The courage to give a presence to an uneasy state of mind.
Yes the end
that’s the very end
Of a lot of things
& all sort of things
That’s the end
We are coming
Here we are
We are coming
There we go
We are coming
That’s the end of art
We are coming
Soundtrack of Jochen Gerz’s video We are Coming, 1980
Arrival? I don’t know. I am sentimental. Beyond words and thoughts, I love the craziness of these painted images, the intentional mistakes that make them a space of freedom, not subjected to the tyranny of reality.
I recognize the sense of isolation and the coat of loneliness during a vacation by the beach, because I like to have familiar things around. True vacation is a vacuum cleaner putting neurons at rest, no more stimulation. Not easy to achieve, but to be turned off for awhile put’s your entire life through a sieve. In one piece Geerk paints a dream; a naked man flying like a falcon, same perspective as Mantegna’s Jesus. That was a corpse. This is an anonymous man, strongly alive. He is not diving.
LENZ GEERK, Falcon 2022, Acrylic on canvas 160 x 120 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects LA Ca, Photo Paul Salveson
Yet the artist brings up the idea of packing, of rolling the paintings and getting ready to put them away in a manner that is original and persistent in each of these works: the landscape is a vertical backdrop, painted flat. It is a surface pushing the bodies toward a very close foreground. They don’t look comfortable. When resting in the hotel room, their face is flattened, as if their mind collides with air and body. A small feminine body dives at a strange angle, another seems to dive over a figure of herself, already in the water. It might be my invention. Or my diving into the paintings. You should try, and see what happens.
Lenz sends letters to us, monochrome envelopes with no address, only the stamps have figures. Letters to No One, he says. We could wrap ourselves in their gray and blue and light skin color, and whisper in his ears. No one is all of us.
LENZ GEERK, Moon Couple 2021, Acrylic on canvas 160 x 120 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects LA Ca, Photo Ivo Faber
LENZ GEERK, Letter to No One II 2022 Acrylic on canvas 45 x 60 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects LA Ca, Photo Ivo Faber
Jochen Gerz, Selfportrait, The Genia Schriber University Art Gallery, Tel Aviv University
Fingers dripping black on white paper remake nebulas and galaxies by hand, dot by dot as if space was their matter … images appear that will never be what they seem to say … the bodies of plasma, shining spheroids pulsing from a heart of hydrogen that fuses into helium and release such a bright light that we can see it, piercing the blanket of the night. Images are absurd. Spreading from chaos and illusions, also the scientific images pulsing from a core of numbers and measurements, they shape million years of movement and transformation. They are figures of time.
EPHRAIM PUUSEMP, Nebula3 2022
Yet we see them like space, and the artist lets his mind float over the natural explosions of gasses feeling his soul, probably, floating alike. Dot by dot, for months and months.
There are moments in which life makes one feel like having feet in the air. The floor of existence cracks. How can an artist walk straight under the pressure of gravity if he encountered a rupture of his daily living, while confusion and darkness loom through the windows. Am I romantic? I wish he hadn’t revealed me the state of sorrow he had crossed, waiting for a bridge. But he did. I can’t ignore it. Real as it is, the thing doesn’t explain his drawings.
EPHRAIM PUUSEMP, Nebula2 2022
EPHRAIM PUUSEMP, Nebula 2 2022
They are pure beauty taking shape despite the bitter of coffee and the taste less routine of the day. They were three flat creatures waiting as well for their moment of transformation. I imagine it happened when Ephraim, dot after dot, started to accept the idea of darkness. The kind of darkness one experiences closing eyes and pressing fingers on the eyelids. So that he feels he “was made of a changing substance, of mysterious time.
Maybe the source is in me.
Maybe out of my shadow
the day arises, relentless and unreal.” (Jorge Louis Borges)
The white becomes black and the black dots turn into white. Art, sometimes, is a gift of new life, yes, relentless and unreal.
All the remnants of words, broken objects and dead flowers floating on something like a river, go on their own, far from life and strangers to art. The artist picks up the bones as if their corpses had been cremated, and puts them together: Sepulture/Sculptures.
I can’t even tell what it is, what these things in the space really are. Evocations maybe. Evocations of a dancing creature who celebrates the lands in her life and the spirits of nature, wandering everywhere except in unfriendly countries run by dictators. Her name is Simone. The Box, the gallery, turns into a space with punctuations. And the so called still objects, not many, silently evoke the surprising moments of Simone’s art of improvisation: her way of filtering the world removing edges, a codified syntax, measurements. Feeling the flow of life, the spirit of places.
It’s a space in between lives she inhabits with love, grace and intelligence. Here I see her art as a space in between stories, gestures never repeated in the same way, homage to reality that changes our cells every second. A black something was tossed in a corner and left there. Loud vibrations hover over it, one must hear them just looking at the gong hung from the ceiling. Let your mind dance in her space, hear and imagine.
Thinking doesn’t come first for Simone. Perception works, per-ception, discovery of living moments or forms, observation of the many sides of each story from the worm’s standpoint, for instance, who is always clean when he or she or it comes out from dirt and dust. Or she pays attention to the fear of some spiders “who can look up from the floor and see you and run for cover.”
Did you ever meet Simone? If not, start now with me. At the opening of Another Pretty Autumn she gave Peter and I a walk through the show. After bringing herself out of the wheel chair, she turned it and pushed it, like children like to do. Let’s move! And pushing her Parkinson around the gallery, with all the strange angles the disease had added to her body, she looked pretty as a teen, with her flattering, short hair cut and a bright red shirt. Space binds, she writes. Space loves her body rolling jumping and often lying down, as if listening to invisible voices, merging with lost or future steps.
Simone’s texts from OH, TONGUE 2003
I started reading the news when my father died. He got us out of Europe very early when we still could. And still I sometimes dream that I’m hiding in the grass, And I hear the soldiers’ boots and voices and I hide very still. And in my dreams they never find me, I can see them go by. And now I see images of villages bulldozed in the desert. Wells, wells poisoned. An eye for an eye. And…
Issues are named. In a way they are names. They are constructed of experiences. They come to me, as the digestion of many stories. They identify the tide of problem. But it’s hard to say what you mean with grace. By grace, I mean the way thoughts and perceptions really go. A maze of juxtapositions of sense and nonsense, pulling towards meaning.
For me, dancing has almost always been a way to explore nature. I find material from forms in nature. More than that, I identify with what I see, I take on its quality. its nature or “spirit.” It’s an animistic process. When dancing, I somehow return to the memory of the source experience and I become what I feel or see or hear, or even what I think.
These impressions animate me. In my feelings, I loose the distinction between the things I sensed out there, my perception of them and myself. I return to the humidity in the air, the rich scent of white clover blossoms thickens the cells of my body, while my hands re-experience the coolness in the shade under the squash plants’s umbrella leaves.
There are moments when I get completely lost in the movement. In the sound and rhythm of the words. I still have all the concerns of space, of timing of movement interest. And it’s this choreographic consideration which gives form to the improvisation and makes it intelligible. I often feel that movement is like paint and words like pencils, or vice versa, together, on a canvas. LOGOMOTION.
How to explain what I learn from the snow, from the compost bin, from the stars?
When a fresh wind is blowing down the mountain, I absolutely gulp it down. Gulp it in.
Or reaching into the dirt for the potatoes, my self dives into my fingers and I am the dry crumbly ground.
I am the cool round things of delicate russet skins, emerging miraculously clean.
There’s something I was thinking. Well maybe it was sad. Mercy. I was thinking about mercy. That’s why I got to the worm. And I was thinking about when I was twelve and we went back to Italy after the war. And this man came stumbling down the street, very tall. Very Gangly. And he was praising Mussolini. And he was crazed. And starved. And the grocer man was taking little tiny apples, little hard apples and pelting! Pelting the man with the apples. And the man was scooping them up and eating them. Scooping them and eating them. Scooping them and eating them. Scooping them and eating them. And … “Il Duce! Il Duce!” he was (bang!) pelted and eating them eating them eating eating eating the bullets. Eating bullets.
Thanks to Mara, Jason and the Box for providing and sharing the images, but first of all for making this show.
Simone Forti, OH, TONGUE, 2003 Beyond Baroque Books, Los Angeles. edited with an afterward by Fred Dewey
estrarre, aspirare, succhiare dall’immagine tutto il colore finché non rimanga che l’essenza, il significato, la materia, il ricordo…
la fotografia B&W.
To extract, inhale, suck from the image all the color until the only thing that remains is the essence, along with meaning, matter, memory…
Early years, not easy for anybody. Alberto documented my moods.
Nothing is real in this landscape, but this was my world.
Rosanna Albertini 16/05/2022
Colors, sounds, sentiments, are different for each person. They are the body and soul of the arts. That’s why ideas, maybe, are the most conventional and convenient food of our lives, from mouth to mouth, resting on pages, never definitive. They only sound like the daughters of certainty.
I do know from the creeping sense of belonging inside my body these images are the grainy texture of my own life, as real as I can be.
My grandfather’s paintings in B&W photos — I was painted in some of them— are the most unreal. But, an imaginary world which was mine as a child is completely there. Family instead is the true mystery, a gallery of portraits of unknown persons, some voices in my memory, who are they? Yet, they are my family. Alberto is one of the few I know a little more, late in our lives we became friends. This blog, a binding space.
La nonnina, little grandmother was her name. I don't remember her at all, she was grandfather's Oreste mother, gave birth to numerous children, I met seven of them.
From aunt Lina's stories: father was a blacksmith who wanted his four daughters to be strong. He used to give them a very thin dust of iron he had prepared, to be swallowed in a wafer. All the girls had colitis but survived for a long time.
Not much food in the house. Lina only had an apple for lunch when she went to school. She agonized smelling the salami sandwich the teacher was eating, and smiled of satisfaction as the teacher, after lunch, had the hiccups.
Father (great-grandfather Luca) was also an inventor. His machine to separate the grains of rice from husk worked well. No financial advantage ever touched the family.
Alberto and Enrica, a couple from the 40s to these days
Grandfather Oreste was an itinerant painter. The Dolomites his favorite landscape. This photo of him holding the painting on his shoulder, was taken the first day of World War II, in September 1939. Family often followed him. Grandmother Rosa Maserati never stopped being well dressed, even up in the mountains. I'm very much like her.
Odd photo of three noses. It's also a portrait of the 30s' life style. Grandmother Rosa, first on the left, with friends. The tall man was one of grandfather's best friends, psychiatrist Enrico Morselli. I met him and didn't like him. I was in my twenties, discovering a new life in the university years, often tortured by headaches and stressed by an enormous amount of work in order to survive: since I was eighteen no one supported my life or my studies. Morselli used to say women should not work nor study... Or was I not compatible with his family? Grandparents brought me with them for dinner at his house when I was three years old. I disappeared under a table. Not even an appealing glass of dessert with a cherry on top -I can still see it- convinced me to reappear. The first unshakable NO of my life. Mister psychiatrist and his sisters didn't avoid framing me: "the girl has character" they said. What did it mean? I certainly did not know.
Below a painting by Oreste Albertini that I never saw except in this B&W photo. An imaginary landscape. Maybe hardships of war and after war life took the shape of mountains.
Alberto with his beloved dog, I don't know if Petunia or Baldo.
His first retrospective at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
February – May 2022
ULYSSES JENKINS, Inconsequential Doggerel, video 15:21, 1981
The human capacity to imagine is an example of our connection with remote fields of energy. If human consciousness is able to capture, and therefore understand, these realities, then imagination and visionary consciousness are linking us to other types of reality. MALIDOMA PATRICE SOME´ One day, maybe, we will believe that the expression ‘inner life’ is uniquely referred to production and reception tools. PAUL VALERY
Ulysses opened the door of OTHERVISIONS, an Artist Studio Workshop in 1983 and has not closed it since. Locations changed, not the soul of his art. In video or performing in person he made his own body the icon of a questioning person who happens to be an artist. His figure became the hub where stories of others: lives and collective memories pulled out of their land by force or natural disasters, displaced people of all colors and cultures. In Ulysses’ art they become visions of a human history floating on the thread of his voice or musical instruments, they embody rituals spread in the middle space between the moon and the seashore. Severed flowers and severed lives at the mercy of waves.
They are atomic veils separate from real things. The images of real things they reproduce, as you perceive them, become dreams. (From Epicurus, atomic materialist) In our case, atoms of light. In the artist’s mind the human substance flickers like a shiny fish through the stream of time. Strong, or gentle, who am I? “I was made of a changing substance, of mysterious time. / maybe the source is in me. Maybe out of my shadow / the days arise, relentless and unreal.” (Jorge Luis Borges)
ULYSSES JENKINS, Inconsequential Doggerel, 1981
Reborn into another world, the audio visual reality, Jenkin’s images often look ruined and fuzzy. Like migrants through the desolate desert of human understanding? I found myself absorbed by Jenkin’s art pieces with the same emotion and surprise I had in the mid eighties, in front of early video art, what we could see in Europe. For our eyes used to painted masterpieces it was a revelation: forms, words, sounds, brought back to the energy of conception, energy particles dancing without nostalgia over the memories of the still, little pebbles of thoughts blocked on pages, film, canvas, or walls.
DREAM CITY, 1983 — Thirty minutes of a dynamic fresco unfolding scene after scene. A visual challenge. The tyranny of time, that shapes our perception of reality, moves toward a dream city that is people, human bodies. “You are your own hero.” Bodies turn into metaphors, words merely sounding like musical instruments. Nothing, nobody escapes history. Yet artists dissolve all the bad things of Los Angeles, from smog to a dead black cat, a black man arrested, oil pumps, ambulances and poverty, into a symphony of images and sounds, another space, other visions. One metaphor leads this human landscape whose meanings seem to be as ungraspable as the dreams’ flashes of stories: the naked man circling around with a lawnmower in the middle of a crowded stage. Artists perform as if he wasn’t there. Tragedy of language, impotence of ideas. Flattening powers, destroying diversity. You don't like reality? It doesn’t matter. Dig your space in it. Keep dreaming.
I was then and remain a writer, a person of books. I love paper so much that I even publish books that I make by hand as ancient monks used to do. I noticed though, videos are not so far from books: they are time based, therefore sequential. Time unfolds scene after scene as pages do, but the freedom of combining words is cerebral, images and sounds fusion or alteration is physical, especially with phantoms of light.
Written words are “the Spirit’s dark mirrors.”
“I who am the Was, the Is, and the Is To Come
again condescend to the written word,
which is time in succession and no more than an emblem.” Jorge Luis Borges
I think Ulysses could describe in the same way his audiovisual art pieces without changing a word. Something that is clear to me now, and was not in the eighties. Technological novelty was throwing our brains astray. But it was my passion for writing that started a new collaboration with Jenkins. Condescending to the written world he asked me to help him with his mémoir that became a book in 2018: DOGGEREL LIFE, made by my hands. He spent his artist experiences with musicians, performers, other artists, from Harry Gamboa to May Sun, names are many, as life moved his steps around, from one to another wave. Was he asking for my collaboration? I felt honored. The work we did was a merging pond of two lives trying to transfer personal stories on the same boat, and to find a common language. He became my brother.
Ulysses created his manner among other artists who saw themselves like “the artists of humble infinity.” Check it out, this is not a lecture of art history. Look for Studio Z in the seventies. “They needed no platform, no underground, no avant-garde.” No rules the only rule. Also, El Anatsui’s motto today, he tells it while stroking the fabulous skins he made with found poor materials, helped by volunteers in his studio in Ghana, up to 40 persons each day. He has a large audience, the Los Angeles artists of Humble Infinity didn’t, and were ignored for a long time. Conceptual and economic validity of their work was denied. Yet, the passion persisted. From ‘others’ they became ‘Othervisions, an artist communal studio workshop, a place to become ourselves, our work, our dreams, our futures. Loosely…the ability to flow as the wind, to ride in the tides, to shine like the stars and revolve in harmony with the planets, reaffirming our ritual models. … We remember it as an attempt at a true relatedness to the Infinite —- our Doggerel Period.’ (Ulysses Jenkins)
Back to his manner of operating, Ulysses found a griot in himself, a storyteller with shamanic powers and African rituals in mind, able to go beyond words, enlarging the crack between reality and the birth of images.
PEACE AND ANWAR SADAT, 1985. video, 21:34 Shrunk to the bones History fades in shadows. Who is the time History is made of? The artist’s answer is visual: History is eyes: stars looking down from the sky, hidden pupils in the sand, reflections into the human organs hit by vibrations of light. Therefore History is an echo: Ulysses’ voice rising from his guts. Words are also an echo, resonant sounds, ignored crowds, when a leader is killed, drowned in silence. Sound might be a shadow, a manifest feeling of existence sent to the universe, as if it could spread the vibration of the meaningless things that happen on earth, so quickly forgotten, so easily altered. Humans are sparkles of noise in the general chaos that we call life. Art doesn’t cease opening puzzles, colors and movement are her language.
“What are the important questions: what is that is not just beautiful but also ugly, not just good, but also evil, not just true, but also an illusion.” “Every something is an echo of nothing.” John Cage. Jenkins becomes a living echo, his body an empty shell as if the griot in him had asked to turn into time, in the span of a dream.
Deconstruction? Non linear narrative? Just words, old like theories that always seemed to me academic soap bubble rarely touching their subject matter: art.
A century of literature had already open the door to our need for compositions without a score, but Jenkins’ videos add something hard to obtain from words. They bring back the primeval power of sounds, the strength of physicality, of movement. Songs and dances and flashes of our collective life spread, implacable, the scent of a cruelty that Millennia of History couldn’t cancel. They regurgitate unwanted losses into our time of nonsense and intelligence, brutality and compassion. I’m not trying to estrange you from such art, the opposite. The poetry of an artist who doesn’t protest, doesn’t accuse, and shares his inner pain giving us the music, the sound of his feelings to the point that words do not matter anymore, is a present of kindness, a reminder of gentleness. Ulysses Jenkins reports, despairs, is saddened, never is angry. He often looks down. The big mess of our world is where he and we all belong. Absurd and beloved. Ulysses: “Do you have soap that gives good visible bubbles? I am making a metaphor.” One more, in these days of darkness? “Yes, for a video camera.”
My bar of soap bubbles became visual vocabulary in Ulysses Jenkins’ most recent video, which is fresh like a loaf of bread. Thanks to Ulysses’ generosity I offer to the readers and viewers of this blog
By Ulysses Jenkins, video 6:21 2022
―an artist outlook on our turn of history―
This is the very first public presentation MAY 1, 2022
Ulysses Jenkins, Doggerel Life, 2018. Oreste & Co. Publishers, Los Angeles
Malidona Patrice Somé, The Healing Wisdom of Africa, 1998, Penguin Putman Inc. 1999, New York.
Jorge Luis Borges, In Praise of Darkness, A Bilingual Edition. Translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni, Allen Lane – Penguin Book Ltd, London, 1975 (Elogio de la Sombra, Emecé Editores, Buenos Aires 1969)
Metamorfosi della Visione – Saggi di pensiero elettronico, Rosanna Albertini and Sandra Lischi editors, ETS Editrice, Pisa 1989, second edition 2000.
Paul Valéry, The Outlook for Intelligence, Translated by Denise Folliot and Jackson Mathews, Bollingen Series XLV Princeton University Press, 1962 first edition. First Princeton / Bollingen Paperback printing, 1989.
I also encourage you to read two excellent articles about the Hammer Retrospective published by the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times:
Drawings, Paintings and Photographs at Roberts Projects
The Spring Cycle: January – March 2022
Every day is the day it is, and there was never another exactly the same in the world. Identity exists only in the soul… for which reason everything resembles everything and becomes simple. The world is things noticed at angles that are different. FERNANDO PESSOA
From nothingness of daily life to moments of pause with an edge
by Rosanna Albertini
Resistance to change, in every state of matter including animals plants and humans, is a long straight line that moves without shaking through a reality that never ceases changing. We keep going, carrying the illusion we have an immutable statue inside, or a shapeless blob, it depends on the angle of your mind, that makes us unique. A secret sameness all life long. We change and are the same. Not without conflict. Had we known before … the present is implacable. Life and death take over regardless.
It takes courage to draw and paint scenes of suburban life as an insider, clear mind and aching heart. Ed Templeton has both. A master of absurdity. Black and white snapshots of the place where his life has developed for quite a long time aren’t only images of the land transformed into geometrical scenery, with space squeezed between sidewalks and roofs too close to his eyes to even have a vanishing point, or a perspective. They are segments of NOW the artist grabbed for an instant. Desiccated walls and words, poles and electric lines, a small American flag whose stars painted on a brick wall cannot shine. Jesus versus Hell, Faith versus Fear seem to die out in their alphabetic body.
But Templeton doesn’t stop there. Symbols and formalisms went to hell? There is still a lot to do observing and transforming the nothingness of daily life into moments of pause with an edge: humans holding within the shell of a distant and impervious look the same vulnerability, the same wondering as everybody else.
Borderline people like the artist himself, the skateboard prodigy. For decades he photographed the human condition of his street companions all over the world and became their hero. They find themselves existing in his images in a way much more essential and deep than funny hair, purple nails or other irrelevant stuff. He paid attention to them. And they share the same shoreline, maybe needing asphalt and sidewalks to roll their lives without giving them a particular direction.
Now Ed Templeton paints his experience, the emotional response to humans perpetuating their existence in a sunny environment that is absurd, very sad and gently regenerating under his brush at the same time. His colors are tender.
And a new world comes up on canvas. The sensitivity to pain that clicked the camera through the inside space of a car to end on a curved little man fragile like a dry branch, watering a rectangle of grass on the sidewalk, transforms the man into a normal guy watering a healthy lawn next to a thick, green bush. A black bird looks away from the corner of the roof.
I would call tenderness the general sensation spread out from all these paintings. Instead of judging, or inquiring, the artist quietly paints persons, houses and sidewalks as if he was trying not to hurt them. The same colors are used for dresses, skin and paint on the walls. Different kinds of skin that wrap organs and daily life.
If sadness in this artworks sometimes makes my eye sockets heavy, my pupils shrinking in front of the girls on canvas — their pupils like bullets ready to fall, or lost in an inner desert — well, sadness is still a noble feeling, the natural reaction to a senseless reality. The Prosperity Gospel piece is pure beauty. The back of a monumental sign, creating shade for a tired man on the ground. ”The hell of the present is finally his kingdom.” (Camus) Electric power structures and wires stand up like phantoms.
Frankly, the reality Templeton presents is scattered everywhere in the city and not only around it. It recently struck me, on a sidewalk in Beverly Hills, the vision from far of a skinny man pushing an enormous, squared cart in front of him, completely empty. I found it strange. While I was looking for the bus, and almost running, that same man blocked me with the cart and tripped me. He didn’t rob me, it seems he was playing. Bumping my head on the sidewalk, I passed out. After I woke up bleeding and blocked by pain someone told me what had happened. I found it meaningless. And I felt absurd, I could have died of nothing, laughing at my own non-sense.
Distillate of Metaphorby MICHAEL C. MCMILLEN, 1996 A blend of thirteen selected images, triple steam distilled and aged by chiaro di luna. Bottled on 1.Feb.1996 Gillock Laboratory and Research Institute* 13313
Photographsby PETER KIRBY
Quotes from Wallace Stevens and John Cage and indirectly from Paul Valéry
E-mail conversationwith SIMONE FORTI
Winter in Los Angeles is short if it ever comes. The sky cries out all the the clouds he can spread like blankets closer and closer to the tree tops but it’s easier to smell the rain’s proximity than to see how far the gray pillows hover on our heads. December days are short.
It rains. Sitting on a chair surrounded by darkness I reach the big hole within. I don’t have metaphors to describe what I will never see, and if I could I wouldn’t have the words. The distillate of metaphor that cousin Michael collected in a bottle for me in 1996 keeps silent. It cries for the moon. The liquid density sealed with wax, like envelops or parcels from a past world —a metaphor escaped, it is not this or that. Which is the common secret between the tangible bottle and my intangible inner hole.
The day was dripping lack of light like an hourglass passing sand through the bottleneck. The day slipped into the night. “By metaphor you paint a thing,” says Wallace. Language becomes a freeway of meanings running away and stopping very briefly on pebbles and papers and poles and palms and on the spots of dirt the violence of rain spatters over the glass. We don’t really see the single moments —a camera does it much better that the natural eye— we feel them in the dark hole until they come out god knows how, words? images? watercolors?
Here they are, Edgar Honetschläger’s watercolors. In some ways Austrian, in other ways Japanese, as the artists holds both spirits in his experience. Even though that is not that important. It’s our liquid nature so masterfully disguised by the skin that craves for merging into the fluid landscape diluted and melted by some ungraspable force out of human control.
From John Cage Silence:
‘When desire is silenced and the will comes to rest, the word is beautiful
and removed from the struggle for existence.
This is the world of Art.“ (I Ching)
“What are the important questions: what is it that is not just beautiful
but also ugly, not just good, but also evil, not just true, but also an illusion.”
Edgar’s spirited images awaken all the wet winters soaking my life like a castle of sponges. But first of all they bring back a mysterious sense of excitement, being immersed in an indistinct, fuzzy world deprived of clear definition. A physical experience of merging and getting lost, without disappearing.
In the morning, beyond the glass door to the deck, a little squirrel appears. Peter talked to him and took a picture. I sent it by e-mail to Simone:
Simone answered, “After a cold night. A lively image.”
Rosanna “Do you need a blanket?”
Simone “I don’t need a blanket but I thought maybe the squirrel did.”
Sculptures by MICHAEL C MCMILLEN Poem by WALLACE STEVENS
and a story by ROSANNA ALBERTINI
Photographs by PETER KIRBY
my Christmas is a kitchen looking at the road through a line of shivering trees they are phantoms of trees for eyes behind a window opaque with ice in the room poor as the winter. the stove mumbles chewing the red pieces of coal as red as the persimmons on top of the credenza. mother and daughter have a Christmas dream to celebrate deeply hidden in the night of time. they place some dry grass out of the window on the windowsill for the donkey of little Jesus coming by with Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. it was mother and daughter’s secret not to be told not even to grandma. a silent tiptoeing in the morning to check: the grass was gone and my heart lifted.
I WISH MERRY CHRISTMAS TO EVERYBODY
WITH THE SAME SIMPLICITY
OF THE SECRET CELEBRATION OF MY EARLY DAYS
FOR A CLEAN SPACE IN OUR MINDS
AND A BROOM OF LIGHT SWEEPING FEARS AWAY
STANZAS FOR “THE MAN WITH THE BLUE GUITAR” by Wallace Stevens
The parrot in its balmy boughs / Repeats the farmer's almanac.
A duckling of the wildest blood / Convinces Athens with its quack.
Much too much thought, too little thought, / No thought at all: a guttural growl,
A snort across the silver-ware, / The rose-leaves flying through the air.
....... I read. "The subject of poetry / is poetry, things are as they are."
We hear them on the blue guitar. / The poet picks them as they are,
But picks them on a bue guitar / A guitar that makes things as they are.
But then things never really are. / How does it matter how I play
Or what I color what I say? / It all depends on inter-play
Or inter-play and inter-say, / Like tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee,
Or ti-ri-la and ti-ri-li / And these I play on my guitar
And leave the final atmosphere / To the imagination of the engineer.
I could not find it if I would. / I wouldn't find it if I could.
I cannot say what thing I play, / Because I play things as they are
And since they are not as they are, / I play them on a blue guitar.
I play them on a blue guitar / And then things are not as they are.
The shaping of the instrument / Distorts the shape of what I meant,
Which takes a 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.
To ride an old mule round the keys-- / Mature emotional gesture, that--
Blond weather. One is born a saint, / Complete in wind-sucked poverty,
In such an air, poor as one's mule. / Here, if there was a peak to climb,
One could watch the blue sea's blueness flow / And blacken into indigo.
But squint and squick, where no people are: / On such a peak, the blue guitar--
Blond weather. Give the mule his hay, / True, things are people as they are.
Michael C. McMillen’s sculptures were exhibited by LA LOUVER Gallery in “A Theory of Smoke, ” 2021
in the exhibition NOW AND THEN, CMAY GALLERY Los Angeles
November 14-December 18, 2021
Lies Kraal : what painting does to reality
and words, how real are they?
by ROSANNA ALBERTINI
The sound of a day in a hidden garden surrounded by city life can be recorded: but the real sound is lost, in no way can it be reproduced. Who’s the listener? Where? Still or in movement? The real sound is the imaginary activity shared by one or more living persons and a density of invisible waves hitting each other in the air before they reach -some of them- the nerves in the ears, vessels to the brain. I can’t avoid the doubt that our trust in knowledge as a way to the truth is mainly hoping to access, like a poet says, “the only access to true ease, /the deep comfort of the world and fate.”
Lies Kraal kept seven large pantings made in 1989 in her studio, never shared them with the public until now. Let’s avoid the mystery. It’s a fact and a surprise. On linen, vertical on the walls, they are painted images of the floors of seven different art galleries in their 1989 temporary space. Some galleries moved, others disappeared, fragile and fleeting like the art they embraced, like the lives of visitors, owners and workers.
Yes, we go back in time in front of them, not able to see the reality of each place because the solid nature of the floors has been violated by painting. Not at all reproductions, these images are portraits. Layers of ghostly presences: steps, flying eyes, a long range of feelings if they were artists, gallerists, buyers or curious visitors or writers hunting for juicy food to fill their pages. First of all Lies and Judi’s experience. Judi is Lies’ devoted companion. Judi Russell, artist.
Seven paintings who are not monochromes, and they are alive. They don’t want to be monuments for a world oblivious to yesterday or cynical toward tomorrow, not to mention skipping today. They make me think of sails slowly navigating through time. Breezes pushes them in our lives with a gentleness that is not easy, and a beautiful nostalgia for Turner. Lies made herself the storyteller of life details under-estimated, forgotten, diluted in conventional words. What appears is the painted breathing of the places, as if ironic abstractions could undo the stiffness of floors, bring up a light memory of geometrical grids by evoking, invoking, the atmospheric aura of each room as it was more than thirty years ago. Portraits become interiors; for some of us now it’s a pleasure to return, knowing without illusion we step into a mental journey scattered with images, also of artworks sometimes placed into the floors.
Once painted, each space moves out from chronological frames, becomes the intemporal image of the artist’s perception. Exactly like the monochromes: reality is in them, and it’s intangible, forever elusive. See for yourself, I accept my ambiguity.
A few notes by Lies and Judi go with the paintings. They are all 54 x 52 in, all made in 1989, acrylic and cement on unstretched linen.
Burnett Miller What a fabulous gallery this was. He introduced so many important international artists to Los Angeles. Very intense, yet gentle man. Always made us feel comfortable about our naiveté, having just moved here from Santa Cruz. One day when we walked in to the gallery on La Brea, Ulay and Marina Abramovic were sitting there back to back with their hair braided together. He and us loved food and talking about it. One time he turned us on to getting uni (sea urchin) fresh off the boat in Santa Barbara. We got a whole bag full of live ones for around $10. More than we could eat at once. Loved him for that experience.
Shoshana Wayne This is from their gallery on 5th in Santa Monica, before she and her husband became the developers of Bergamot Station. They had David Pagel as a receptionist at the front desk. I remember his red frame glasses in particular... he was a rebel. Among always very interesting, provocative artists, in the back room they once showed some very strange videos from an Austrian performance group… I think it was Hermann Nitsch and company.
Margo Leavin A very brash, yet classy woman who had a good pulse on the contemporary art scene… local, national and international. I learned a lot about art looking at her shows. One time I was invited to the backroom for something and I was overwhelmed by the smell of cigarette smoke. I had to comment on it... it was: oh yeah, Margo smokes. I imagine she must have lived so long because of her passion for art. I think she was great. Her floor was pristine.
Luhring/Augustine/Hetzler On 4th Street in Santa Monica, another nice surprise bringing New York and international artists to Los Angeles. One time we saw Jeff Koons’ provocative paintings of he and his porn-star wife, Cicciolina.
Richard Bennett On La Brea Richard Heller and Bennett Roberts had the gallery together. They were young and fresh. Smart. Their floor was like them: high contrast that works together very nicely. Now they both have their own galleries here in Los Angeles.
Ace This floor was somewhere in this vast, beautiful gallery. There were so many nooks and crannies full of surprises and so many rooms on such a grand scale. Doug Christmas did a remarkable job of directing many great exhibitions here. Kudos to him for using that space so beautifully.
Santa Monica Museum of Art Tom Rhoads was the director of this new venue on Main Street in Santa Monica. In an old 1908 ice storage facility he had exhibitions of fresh new and emerging artists, including a lot of conceptual art that was kind of new for Los Angeles. The first show was while the building was still under renovation. It was by David Bunn and had ramps up to telescopes that focused on various spots he found beautiful in the patina of the old construction. The floors had lots of fertile material for my series, so it was hard to pick a spot.
Twenty years ago I wrote a text about Lies Kraal’s monochromes. I include part of it below without changing a word, yet I need to rethink the way I objectified her self expression, as a separate thing that doesn’t intrude into the smooth perfection of the monochromes. That’s unreal, simply impossible. Lies’ art renews our world in every piece, her life filters light and colors so well that new colors appear, reminding us of flowers or rocks, never being them. In the end, they are human, they are her colors. Reproduction is impossible. The following images are imperfect suggestions of the real pieces.
From the year 2000, in a catalogue with a white cover:
And one cannot help feeling looked at by the paintings as if they were impenetrable presence, compressed volumes underneath a smooth, regular surface that doesn’t speak a human language — silence of the matter is disconnected from any psychological temptation.
“Leaving no trace”: Kraal’s touch on the canvas is made with hundreds of layers, always the same color which is made of many, it doesn’t matter in the end it looks monochrome, it’s impure dominance of one color over the others. The physical impression of a thickness has the same undetermined quality of the unwritten book we hold inside, a transparent page after another, on which a tint is put by marks slightly impressed in our mind by the transient perception of things around us; colors and shapes not really needing to be sewed in names, so movable is the quality of attention one turns on them, usually thinking of something else.
Thickness one grasps in these paintings is an absorbing power, endless giving and receiving between the artists and her materials, the art piece and its environment. Each painting an impersonal presence — the ultimate purpose– rather than the tool for the artist to reveal her own self. Yet it is also an individual form becoming a painting through a sacred dance that doesn’t take from humans any anthropomorphic similitude or naturalistic analogies.
Today, my wish is to have all the seven painted floors around me, in one room, a table in the middle with friends, and a moment of ease as Wallace Stevens wrote it:
An ease in which to live a moment’s life,
The moment of live’s love and fortune,
Free from everything else, free above all from thought.
It would have been like lighting a candle,
Like leaning on the table, shading one’s eyes,
And hearing a tale one wanted intensely to hear,
As if we were all seated together again
And one of us spoke and all of us believed
What we heard and the light, though little, was enough.
WALLACE STEVENS, A letter from Opus Posthumous, 1957
I am happy to add a short text about Lies Kraal’s paintings I just received by e-mail.It comes from Alberto Albertini, my 94 years old uncle (my father’s brother, son of Oreste Albertini, painter), a frequent contributor to this blog . He wrote it only looking at the paintings, without reading my text. I found interesting that he wrote it without knowing about the floors, only considering the artworks as paintings.
Se Fontana con lo squarcio nello spazio bidimensionale tradiva l’inquietudine di andare oltre, Lies, al contrario dice il suo equilibrio sereno di fronte alla tela: lo spazio è l’essenza dello spazio, sereno, implacabile nel suo essere fermo e sicuro come una pietra: l’equilibrio oltre il quale è inutile cercare. Vuoi del bianco, vuoi nel colore. E nemmeno crolla l’ansia nel coprire gli spazi con strascicati stati di pensiero indefinito ma brulicante nell’intimo, sia che sia pacatamente distribuito senza ingiustizia, sia che un doloroso stracico lasci traccia della sua stanchezza. Come se un nuovo processore fosse riuscito a stendere sulla superficie il protocollo della sua esistenza. ALBERTO ALBERTINI
While Fontana, tearing apart the two-dimensional surface, revealed his desire to go beyond, Lies on the contrary reveals her serene balance in front of the canvas. Space is the essence of space, calm and implacable, showing the same stillness and certainty of the stones: a balance beyond which it is useless to search. Either white or in color. And anxiety doesn’t even crash as the surface keeps being scuffed with layers of undefined, and yet swarming thoughts: either peacefully distributed without injustice, or moved by the remnants of something painful leaving trace of its weariness. As if a new processor had been able to lay out on the surface the protocol of its own existence. by ALBERTO ALBERTINI