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)
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
Free donations would keep THE KITE flying over the stormy encounters of art and life.
And I will give you the sun, the secret life of THINKING in unusual artists, because thinking is LIFE and ART is the DESIRE of thinking fresh. THE FOREST FLOOR of contemporary arts is plentiful and still unknown. It's the beating pulse of our time, our keeper of hope.
Donazioni volontarie sarebbero d'aiuto per mantenere il kite, l'aquilone, in volo sopra gli incontri tempestosi fra l'arte e la vita.
In cambio posso darvi il sole, il pensiero segreto di artisti insoliti, perché il pensiero è vita e l'arte è desiderio di pensieri nuovi. Il sottobosco dell'arte contemporanea è fertile e in buona parte sconosciuto.
E'il nostro tempo che pulsa, uno scrigno che protegge la speranza.
It’s a steep way going into a painting. It drops down almost vertically, leaving the skull up in the air. My whole body is a filter. Memories and thoughts are the leftovers, like dry leaves and flowers of camomille sitting in the strainer after the water has washed away their juice. Life’s juice is fluid, uncontrollable, bloody, one and many lives so confused with each other they become sombre, and gather under names: feelings for instance, with all their court of terrors and wishes. Daughter and mother and son among the most mysterious, a vaste biological landscape we never cease to explore.
Kristin Calabrese is no exception. But her visions as an artist escape simple stories. They come to light after dipping and sleeping in darkness, belonging to many other Kristins, one below the other, joining hands to reach the strength of being herself completely, one and many, detecting her feelings, undoing cultural artifacts, digging for all the truths she doesn’t know. When the vision comes, she has to paint it.
What I mean is: underneath the precision, the well defined visual figures of each painting, the process heading there is the opposite of a clear design of ideas. She is immersed in personal experiments, needs that are not defined at all. Like walking in the dark and yet keeping going.
We have grown weary of the woman that thinks.
She thinks and it is not true. The woman below
Imagines and it is true, as if she thought
By imagining, anti-logician, quick
With a logic of transforming certitudes.
Wallace Stevens, Sombre Figuration.
(“The woman” replaces the original “the man”)
Painted things look like a surface, not different from the skin wrapped around veins and organs of the human tree. HOW THINGS FEEL, she paints. Capital letters overwhelming, visually, the texture of pencil words underneath repeating and repeating one idea: it flows effortlessly, it’s so easy, it just flows, without effort. Beware! she means the opposite. I don’t know any step in her life that was easy. And I follow her in an incognita middle zone where life moves in a fluid, between the way things look and the new presence they develop under her brush strokes, minute after minute, day after day, sometimes for years before they say “i’m done, I am here.”
Let’s join Kristin Calabrese emerging from the last three years of painting.
K C 2021: “My realistic oil paintings tell the truth when I can’t.
I don’t think art should always be forward-facing to the audience. Sometimes it should be seemingly unpresentable.
I work forward rather than start with an overarching idea and then set about to illustrate it. I believe in following the work.
I’m trying to get free. I’m trying to manifest what I see in my mind’s eye. I’m trying to keep from influencing my own work, let come what naturally arrives so it’s the real and natural thing – distrustful of whether our consciousness is actually natural (only half true).”
Life size on the canvas, Kristin’s mother’s panty is such a punch in my stomach I can only laugh, speechless. Two years on her small chair, two years cleaning every stroke from the burst of motions in her soul. There is a day when she/me/every girl, almost by accident, looks at the real forms of an adult woman, what she wears directly on her skin. Mother is the closest. “Never like her” was the knife in Doris Lessing mind for most of her life; and my obsession for fifty years. We open mother’s drawers when she is not at home, shivering with fear. How can those things be so big, and mother herself: breasts, big belly by pregnancy. Yet, the worse part of such intrusion into the intimate garments of adult age, the most shocking, is the crack that starts breaking the childhood’s imagined world. Reality becomes solid. Kristin’s mother’s panty is a delicate monument painted over an entire life of conflicting feelings, of struggle for a distant life. An image that reappears: soft, semitransparent, solitary. Light blue as the sky, a leaf of infinite tenderness.
Over the years Kristin the artist has acquired the ability to go beyond the rigidity of things as they are. She imagines, and the ecstatic expression of feelings goes through her images. Her paintings don’t want to draw attention because they are spectacular, or unusual subjects. Whatever they are, how they are painted is their appeal. The pictorial quality brings together the objects she sees and the vaporous bubbles of a fantasy world that must remain hidden inside her cells, coming to life only through light and colors, and composition.
And these are the stories I listened to from other paintings. My own reaction, not necessarily coincident with Kristin’s experience.
My mood is dropping. I’m the canvas waiting to be ready. She put something wet on me, and I‘m softer, not so tense as when I’m dry. Oh no, dry again. And now? Worse: same spots I had when I was wet, but oil painted. I hate her. Could she paint little flowers? Noooo. Cigarette’s butts! Yes, life has burned the tail, - I under - stand - but the butts look so real they smell… insensitive, I must be. BUTT 2020
So much talking in this painting, it is blue. And vertical streams of red straight down from the glasses. A friend devours my life talking and talking for hours because I’m there but not really whiteness in my eyes and grinding teeth an empty bag I have become looking into the void little by little I empty my glass my blood pours down. FOUNTAIN 2020
No more periods one month like the other no more anticipation fear wondering no more condoms pills diaphragm starvation fluctuating estrogens no eggs anymore no reproduction a part of me was dead tic tac I am a mammal with clock and this is what happens we all go away little by little piece by piece as we keep cutting celery making soup buying eggs washing dishes cleaning the sink. SAVING MY EGGS 2019 Magnificent painting!
They gather take some distance meet the same color then depart towards the black always avoiding geometry being little spots or drops the little painted things like the cells of our body during their uninterrupted conversation the chemistry of the living things. Here they wear their Sunday dress and happily dance on the flat space. They celebrate the importance of nothing just existing they are not content but bring to the eyes the seconds of time free from the clock the beauty of colors meeting for no reason flowing without effort some of the time. In reality they are the side effect of the painting with dirty dishes and broken eggs in the sink’s corner being the left over paint that becomes something else on a different canvas. A LOT LIKE LIFE 2019
As I write these two words, ’‘in memoriam,” my brain moves to details I remember, about meeting Jane and becoming friends to the end of our days. Yet, single facts are the opposite of what I want. Here I’m only bringing up my “brief little dreams” about her, hoping they can explode like flowers of dandelion when a child blows on their fragile globes: heads covered with tiny soft stars, white, that spread everywhere in the wind not far from the ground.
That’s what Jane was, a field of energy planting seeds inside people around her, into the ground of the desert. Her attachment to the land, and to her family history as a blooming garden of humans and trees, moves the past into the present and gives roots to the future. Her memorial was the epic of an extraordinary figure of a woman never tired of learning, giving, and improving the juice of life. And, at the same time, the least conventional. She was dancing by the pool with her daughter the evening before she died. Friendship was a secret pleasure without embellishment, or explanations. A sharing for real, no safety belt.
Even during the memorial it wasn’t possible to elude the impression she was sowing a new garden of connections passing me on to her five sons and daughters, and to their proliferation as fathers and mothers. For the first time I met her two sisters. They are equals to Jane in intensity, grace and generosity. One had eight children, the other nine.
A long time ago Jane decided to produce bread for the Inn, family and guests, sourdough bread of course, but how to make it? She found a French chef, invited him to teach the technique, and the Inn has fresh sourdough bread every day since. All the facets of women’s lives dismissed or underestimated because careers and professional skills -by necessity- erase them from the personal storyboard, were valuable, intact treasures in Jane’s hardworking days. One day in August, 120 degrees in the garden, I helped to clean a big quantity of mesquite pods, because Jane wanted to transform them into flour like Native Americans do. Her oasis is an ancient Native American site.
The wave of energy that for me started with Jane, became an ocean after she moved to eternity. Waves follow one another gently overlapping, they never stop. Same bad habit time has. The memorial turned into an island of kindness. Running tears and smiles and enchanting youngsters: one of them, a five year old girl with dark hair and big open dark eyes, not afraid to shoot them in my face, touched my heart. The same fearless gaze as Jane. It was, it is, a face to face conversation stripped of words: who are you as a human being?
Little Gwyneth helped my pick up colors and paper to make washi flowers for grandmother’s ashes. Behind the couch where we were working, the box with the ashes was looking at us. It had migrated from the main house to another residence of the Inn. I was surprised and pleased seeing Jane’s remains move through the oasis where she was born, lived and didn’t say goodbye. With them next to us, we all worked as much as we could. Jane gone? not at all. Each inch of the garden, each step of the cabins, the old friendly furniture reverberate her figure, they will keep her myth alive.
Myths are the souls of our actions and our loves. We cannot act without moving toward a phantom. We can love only what we create. —Paul Valéry
The garden of Jane is unexpected in the desert. The metal gate was designed by an artist. The soil grows mint, thyme, basil, parsley, grapes, lettuce, cabbage, pumpkin, zucchini, fava beans, figs, and pears. This year grapes were promising, I took a picture of her hand thanking the plant. With Jane I picked zucchini blossoms and cooked them for her birthday. Exchanging recipes, stories, and cooking together we built friendly moments of happiness from which time flies away, and the beauty of being human stays.
I’m dreaming that early in the morning, when she squeezed her soul out of her body, she flew to the boat house in which she had spent years with husband and four children on the ocean water. Moving back to the oasis with the whole family to continue her father’s commitment in keeping the Inn running, she brought the boat with her, and placed her in the pond. It is the only monument in that place, a boat impregnated with the growth of young lives. On July 22 she took the boat with her one more time, likely a light aerial replica, and happily left, to explore infinity.
Holding her hand, I thank every second of my present, past and future. Sometimes I think back, in some fleeting delusional flights, on the smell of African and oriental spices of my favorite drugstore in Paris. I know she would love it.
2015-2020 Five years of Matt Wedel painting potted plants
gouaches on paper
“I have been painting these potted plants over the past five years. They seem to be about my mother who is a gardener and my father who is a potter. They remind me to be in the garden, or to make a garden. They are a reminder to celebrate that garden and learn about other ways to be alive in the world. In many ways they are not about being art at all. They are about finding ways to exist.”
— Matt Wedel
FROM MY BROKEN POT
by Rosanna Albertini
Memories are dull. The present scene is red. I still am trying to understand my mother, rethinking untold stories. If red is blood it must be invisible, said Jochen Gerz from his conceptual fantasy, otherwise it stains everything. That’s why along with his students he lifted each stone in the municipal square during the night and engraved them with the names of the Jewish cemeteries near the extermination camps in Germany, then put the stones back in place —their engraved face on the ground— as if nothing had happened. German people did not know they walked over their manipulated memory. Memory is like blood, it must be stopped from running.
It’s May 4th, 2005. In the Kurdish city of Irbil a street is streaked with the blood of job seekers: one of the daily suicide attacks in Iraq. The soldiers’ boots are splashed with blood. It is the same red of the flag that carried socialist ideals for half a century, my little stamps on the cover of my blue Catholic doctrine book were red; but now, right now I see each of these images as a spring of lifeless memory. Every day human blood runs on the ground somewhere and soaks the first toast of my breakfast. No news anymore, no movies, ketchup please, mayo and chocolate, Paul McCarthy is a prophet. Since Cain and Abel, this is how war works. I scream against such massacres of human grace by myself, my blood vessels cry through the skin.
Footprints trod on the page. Please mother, go away. She doesn’t. She mails me a baby clothe for my recently born daughter: a white shirt with tiny red dots. Something is wrong in that red for a newborn girl, as if the color punctuated our distance as well as inevitable blood links. Her skin, I can touch it on me. The eyes instead —the ones I found in pictures— are never present in that instant, as if they were moving her away from her own face. Invisible, her blood flows in me. It is the only undeniable connection, a thread impossible to break despite the stories that the mind brings up justifying abandonment, long nights and days on the train from North to South and back, by myself, hugging a pillow. I am twelve, thirteen, fourteen… Next to me faces of immigrants coming home from Germany. None of us knows if home is there, at the end of the trip.
The curtain is pulled through the open window, it barely trembles. Sunlight, and rumbling noise from the freeway, and bird screeches interrupted by silly mocking birds who imitate snoring early in the morning, make a sort of density, a rumor kept outside by the curtain that I see like a luminous screen, vibrating and warming. Yes Kristin, for the first time I understand why you painted on canvas a big, vertical curtain with little flowers blue and green. The painting is an absorbing screen raised to take time, asking things from the world not to come in for a while. Let us veil their impact. Maybe the Muslim veil that covers the women’s face allowing them to see through, while keeping them perfectly hidden, is much more than a discriminatory symbol. It could be a privilege.
Not to be seen anymore is the reason one leaves, not to be regarded by people who are only partially in touch with our life. I have been biting my tail going away by degrees over decades, while the story which is mine followed me like an unknown ghost. I see why people do not usually leave their hometown or their country unless their roots have been snatched and pulled out. When they do, they often move as if they were inside a diving suit that makes their movements slow and uncertain, as if air were water.
It took me a remarkable number of years to realize how strongly my eyes have been wide shut to the ghost story that was glued to me like a shadow. I had to adapt my sense of space to the New World’s sky, my nervous system to the soil’s vibrations, my mouth to the tongue, my whole perception to an American story that seemed to be forever new. I was yearning for the excitement of the new —a curse that makes me think of my own death as the very last adventure. You float over your worn out body, mother, and fly god knows where. Will I join you? Instead of receiving food from you, or dresses that I did not like, I would rest with you on an apricot tree. We rest and laugh, hidden by the foliage. Your body was your screen, wasn’t it?
She smiles like Alice’s cat, her smile expands in the air until there is nothing else than an impression of her. She is back being an absence. I can only sing through her genes, enumerating the few keys she gave me to understand her mysterious withdrawing —most likely not knowing she was doing so. A movie and an opera have become indelible detective stories in my mind. My mother’s pink lipstick was also indelible. The cream for her face —why am I remembering such details?— was named from herbs and leaves: “botana.”