Dance of ideas for a woman with a blue guitar

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

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

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

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

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

ADELA GOLDBARD : AN EXPLOSION OF LAUGHTER AND FEARS

ADELA GOLDBARD: An explosion of laughter and fears

by Rosanna Albertini

 

ADELA GOLDBARD, Sheep, light jet print 23.5 x 70 inches.  From the series Fictions, 2006  Courtesy of the artist

I start the new year reminding myself that art goes beyond the artist’s person, art is an action sometimes opening eyes and heart, our intimate perception, in moments of clarity: we can see how things are. Then we cover them up quickly, as if they were sounds of one note that doesn’t becomes music unless other notes come around to give her meaning in a collective song. As we keep going we forget, looking for the next change, hoping not to be stuck, filled with disquiet, on a doorstep that leads to nothing, to pages that never turn, where stories have lost the possibility to be told.

Adela Goldbard is a Mexican artist. Part of her family went to Mexico from Poland and Lithuania; her name has European roots, but Mexico is her home. The body of her art not older than ten years. It’s a body well fed by concepts received through other contemporary artists, conceptual in the first place. I look at her work and hear Chris Burden telling me of his attention to relics, that are wrecks with no value, signs for memory. Lived life doesn’t come back. He adds, “I thought: a few minutes of performance, that I will never redo… it becomes a myth.” “You can make your tombstone out of cardboard, but then the graveyard won’t look real, will it?” “What’s real? What does it cost to do that?”

What’s real for Adela Goldbard as an artist? At the beginning it was one photographic image, the instant life of places in which she had introduced imaginary alterations in a physical way, with real objects: little red horses on a dry road, hats in the air, books among sheep on a field of grass. I wonder at her listening to dust, water, grass and landscapes who are perhaps asking for surprising horses, or dreamed flowers in a lake.

ADELA GOLDBARD, Horses, light jet print 27.5 x 70 inches. From the series Fictions, 2006
Courtesy of the artis

ADELA GOLDBARD, Lake, light jet print, 27.5 x 70 inches. From the series Fictions, 2006
Courtesy of the artist

Those foreign objects are placed with gentleness to play with the natural scene, not to hurt, they are only fleeting guests introduced by an artist. Images, one for each place, become crystals of memory. Some facets from the past, some of them completely new.

Down to the soles of my feet.
Down to the palms of my hands.
At the apex of my thought.
At the core of my extremities.

My spirit has feet,
my soul has hands,
my veins leave tracks,
pulses of time and the way.

I can talk with the dawn,
can submerge myself in turbid waters of torrential rivers,
barefoot can walk up the incline,
can hurl my song against the wind.
Indigenous poem from Mazatec, Mexico*

Did she feel like the woman of this indigenous Mexican poem? If Adela’s images are symbols, they seem to bring up a sense of resistance, an attempt at not stifling the art piece within only one meaning, or a simple verbal definition.

Quite rapidly Adela Goldbard started to interact with the Mexican human landscape: a texture of unexplained killings, social inequality, small airplanes or helicopters crashing with no survivors for the governmental or military members traveling in them; the feeling of an undeclared, bloody war tearing into pieces the canvas of peoples’ daily life; layers of cultural and religious veils wrapping the souls of the forgotten and the unconsoled, and infusing an extraordinary creative ability into their hands.

Their hands met with hers. Not only helping her to build three dimensional copies of newspaper images, the crashed small airplanes and helicopters becoming in their sculptural form visual monuments once more hiding from the viewers, as before to the readers, the reasons for the deadly accidents. The artist made them as white as silence. She kept the final photographic image and destroyed the piece. Little by little, Goldbard’s art makes tangible one of the still most diffused of our illusions: the belief that a written report, or a paper body, allow us to see and understand what really happened. So, if they are paper tigers, what to do with them? And how to preserve some sparkles of memory? Her answer is: by destruction. Let’s remake them and blow them up. How much I wish she would do it with the Tower of Pisa!

ADELA GOLDBARD, Cessna 208 XA-TWK, Analogue photography/ light jet print 55 x 69 inches. From the series Fantasy Island, 2012.
Courtesy of the artist

Monuments become a stop, a hole in the human landscape. Yet it is precisely what we don’t know that makes them attractive. During the making of her artworks, supported by many many hands of Mexican builders, Adela Goldbard felt her art had something in common with allegorical meanings of local rituals, older than the Spanish colonization. In some cases intertwined with Christian stories: the image of Judas for instance, burned out by fireworks in a search of purification. And her artworks, as she says, do work “opening space and time, expanding through a collaborative effort, then closing again.” No illusion, once again. If nothing else, they are a vibrant, heartfelt restitution of feelings to people used and abused by various powers over their heads. An ephemeral explosion of laughter and fears: Goldbard’s most recent work comes from three years of preparation and blew up in twenty five minutes. The soundtrack in the Pomona College Bixby Plaza spreads real gunshots, screams and groans, the voices of violence in Mexico. The action displays the unofficial protest of an artist who knows where she belongs, how much she, we all, transpire the air and the soil we walk on. The title, hard to believe, is in the lyrics of a song made by Walt Disney: It’s a small world after all. She let it enter her mind, didn’t push it away.

 

A WORLD OF LAUGHTER, A WORLD OF FEARS

Concert for sounds and pyrotechnic colors and action  

 Bixby Plaza, Pomona College (CA)  November 18, 2017

Video – Courtesy of the artist and Pomona College Museum of Art

 

 

Photographic documentation:

Photo: Peter Kirby

Photo: Peter Kirby

Photo: Hannah Kirby

Photo: Hannah Kirby

Photo: Hannah Kirby

Photo: Hannah Kirby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Hannah Kirby

Photo: Hannah Kirby

Photo: Hannah Kirby

Photo: Hannah Kirby

Here the fiesta ends / the road is closed, the song is over. / Lucidity is lingering in the copal, / kernels of corn close up their pages, / standing guard over the journey’s secrets.

A mystery is disappearing, / new ways emerging, ways to fathom life. / The birds trace paths, the earth is fasting. / The moon confides her troubles to the sun / and dawn shakes loose on the horizon.

Here the fiesta ends, / the song rests in the morning’s arms. / The children who spring forth open the world’s heart, / nature is sending signals.

Indigenous poem from Mazatec (Mexico)**

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The two stanzas are the n.8 and 10 from a poem translated by Jerome Rothenberg in Like A New Sun: New Indigenous Mexican Poetry, edited by Victor Teran & David Shook (Los Angeles, Phoneme Media, 2015). I read them in Jerome Rothenberg,  Technicians of the Sacred, University of California press, 2017, pp. 364 and 365. Thank you Jerry!

Rosanna Albertini, White Owls – Artists I found in Los Angeles 1994-2011, Oreste & Co. Publishers, Los Angeles. Quotes from Chris Burden’s voice in “Boxed In”, pp.100-109.

 

 

 

Charlie Morrow & Jerome Rothenberg

 

San Francisco, November 13, 2017

Songs of Flowers and Stones

New wilderness friends, to preserve the nuances of musical language and the chant of poetry

by Rosanna Albertini

Charlie Morrow, 1971:
My work has taken me into two large areas in the past
year: numbers and the language of nonhumans. Both interests
derive from chanting music, which has been my central concern.
My first chanting pieces were about ecstasy and anger,
the strongest emotions, in their longest and most intense form.
As the ecstatic chanting became more familiar, I found myself
curious about the roots of chanting music in the natural world;
that is, the natural world as perceived by humans.
[…]
In my search for a rhetoric of chanting music, I was
reliving the ancient process of anthropomorphism, looking for
the animal world in me and for myself in the natural universe.

As part of this search, the technology that gathers sound
from the bottom of the water, the outer reaches of spaces,
the low levels of quiet places and so on, is a kind of sacred
instrument.

And the sound processes in these innumerable locations
are exciting both in themselves and as wonderful models. They
are models for composing and performing, models for communi-
cating, models of processes within humans. Using models, I
am not just myself.”

“Counting is a move toward the basic biological functions, toward pulses.
Like breathing exercises.

CHARLIE MORROW, from NUMBERS & SPELLS

Hanging numbers like signposts on locations, as in the performance of
my counts with complex sound systems or several counters, is a meditative
geometry: the space as many shapes, the numbers are
fireflies of my mind.”

CHARLIE MORROW, from NUMBERS AND SPELLS

And Jerome Rothenberg? He is a poet who did for the American avant garde poetry and for the new indigenous poetries of the Americas, joined by indigenous poetry from Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania a monumental editorial work. I don’t hesitate to compare his books to Diderot and D’Alembert’s Encyclopédie. The anthological form makes his collections more fragmented and easier to consult than the eighteen century compilation.

Jerome Rothenberg 1974:
“It was 1948 & by year’s end I was seventeen. I had been coming into poetry for two years. My head was filled with Stein and Cummings, later with Williams, Pound, the French Surrealists, the Dada poets […] The thing was to get off on it, to hear one’s mind, learn one’s voice. But the message clear & simple was to move. To change. To create one’s self & thus one’s poetry. A process.”

and 2017:
“For myself —early along— I turned to “reinterpreting the poetic past from the point of view of the present.” […] With this as my impulse I began to scour areas that had been closed to us as poetry — hidden, outside & subterranean — to discover what was clearly poetry but also forms of languaging that had ever been within poetry’s domain.  […]
I was also able to drop the notion of the “primitive” as a kind of simplistic or underdeveloped state of mind & word, & to begin the pre-face to the book with a three-word opening I can still adhere to: “Primitive means complex.”

The San Francisco performance opened for me the way to merge into a variety of unknown poetry from different continents printed in Technicians of the Sacred at the third edition. (First edition 1968) This book is a secret cave of poems mostly conceived for oral transmission, a concert with dancing tongues and feet. Also shamanic songs. It’s a treasure trove, a place where poems unfold meanders of life free from time and rules, they run like a stream.

[….]
Poetry, poetry, is a gesture, a landscape,
your eyes and my eyes, girls; ears, heart,
the same music. And I say no more, because
no one will find the key that no one has lost
And poetry is the chant of my ancestors
a winter day that burns and withers
this melancholy so personal.
Elicura Chihuailaf, a Mapuche poet (Chile)

Technicians of the Sacred has 643 pages. I asked my hands to magically open the book: with big surprise I found first, with no hesitation, the poem Rothenberg had moved back to sounds in his performance: a poem from the Yaqui Deer Dance. Immediately after, at the following opening of the book, my eyes stopped on two poems by Marcela Delpastre, from Occitania (France). I couldn’t quit. Was my European blood orienting my fingers? I had found The Scream of the Stones, words that triggered my memory like a shotgun.

1/THE STONE

I don’t know if they bleed, the stones. Or if they scream, if they howl
under the wheel & the mace, or if the knife’s blade wounds them, deep in
their flesh, slicing through them.

I know that the loam that sometimes runs from them, no matter how
red, is not blood.

And I’ll say nothing of their tenderness, from stone to stone, from water
to air.

But what I know is that our blood comes from the stone. And our flesh
comes from nowhere else, come from stone we are stone, we are dust and
wind’s smoke.

That our blood is blood of the stone, and our heat is of the sun, and our
wail the howl of the stone, through which our soul passes full-bodied,
that we are the soul of the stone — but tell me, the stone, who is the
stone — where does she come from?

Marcela Delpastre, Occitania (France)

My stones were painted pink by my grandfather’s stories. Were his words more effective than the real mountains I saw? The mountains were called “monti pallidi,” or Dolomites. He was a plein air painter, he loved them so much he spent the entire good season, every year, walking on their skin and making paintings of them. I went with him the last five years of his life. I was seven when he turned into a golden breath that never left, still around my body. We never talked when walking on the pale ladies, words only arose in the evening, bringing up invisible elves and fairies. “Who is the stone” was my hidden question at the time not even expressed in words, it was a vague, inner uncertainty. We used to drive on the top when the road made it possible. Curves made me throw up every time. But once out of the car, humans disappeared. I was left alone, or swallowed by the landscape, I can’t say. The pale mountains had finally shrunk to my size, I could touch them, run from one to another and discover with amazement the bluest flowers, the eyes of that place. Now I wonder if I felt I was on the moon. Maybe the soul of the stones passed through my body, she did not go away.

ORESTE ALBERTINI, Dolomiti, year unknown

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Revolution of the word; a new gathering American avant garde poetry, 1914-1945.  Editor Jerome Rothenberg, A Continuum Book The Seabury Press, New York, 1974

Technicians of the Sacred, a range of poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. Edited with commentaries by Jerome Rothenberg, University of California Press, Oakland, California,  2017. Third edition, revised and expanded, 50th anniversary.

Charlie Morrow, NUMBERS & SPELLS, an unpublished anthology sent to me by the author in digital version. RA.

 

GIULIANA CUNEAZ : Remaking the Natural Magic

I speak within the time and out of time.
I speak for yesterday and today;
for yesterday which is a lesson of life,
for today which is a lesson of death.

Edmond Jabès

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Le cabinet de la neige, 2014  Video installation  3D animation, wood, clay and acrylic paint with crystal dust, monitor.  76 x 65 x 50 cm.   Courtesy of the artist and Gagliardi e Domke Gallery, Torino

A myriad of interior sceneries from mother earth,
always struck with amazement

by Rosanna Albertini

Common sense says that we only see what we know. Giuliana Cuneaz invites us to the opposite journey and brings us, at least in our imagination, to a living universe out of the reach of our perception, a realm of infinite transformations and a variety of forms. She is attracted by the invisible presence of the same kind of patterns shaping the forms of neurons, roots, or mineral structures. She wonders about the natural ‘thinking’ that seems to have been designed for the shell, bark or minerals’ inner architecture. ‘Designed?’ By whom? When? Hard to find the proper words for the secret growth of a living world that doesn’t need humans to exist.

Her art is one more physical process, something in between visible things as they appear in the daylight and invisible configurations revealed by electron microscopes and digital simulations.

As an artist, she can only be absurd:

The absurd work illustrates how thinking gives up with prestige and accepts to be nothing more than intelligence activating appearances and covering with images what doesn’t have a reason to exist. If the world were easy to see, art wouldn’t be.  Albert Camus

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Le cabinet de la neige, (details), 2014   Uncooked clay, acrylic paint with crystal dust.  
 

Through valleys and woods, Giuliana put her green eyes at work to discover the fairies’ sites – each of them has a name in her mountains. At the mouth of cracks, or caves, she placed a music stand holding a piece of music written for one instrument. She gave to the silent fairies a musical voice that the public could listen to in a building, where humans and invisible presences were wrapped in the same vibrations. Fairies are not always good, they can be scary or threatening.

One of these invisible fairies, hidden in the image of her place, followed me through a photograph — given to me by Giuliana — in all the moves I went through since my visit to the mountains: the site looks quite dark, with rocks and pine trees ravaged by the wind. The Fairy of Grand Brissogne is now here in front of me, between the keyboard and the computer screen. In my attachment to that picture I probably did see my own life as the life of an absurd woman accepting sadness and fear as a present. Obstacles needing to be defeated.

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Matter Waves Unseen, 2013  Video installation. 3D animation, wood, monitor, plexiglass, led, sand, clay, acrylic paint. 165 x 113,5 x 40 cm.  Courtesy of the artist and Private collection.

Giuliana Cuneaz engaged her life in a similar struggle, at the same time asking her hands to remake the natural magic, covering with handmade figures of curiosities and rarities the shelves of contemporary Wunderkammers, the chambers of marvels. Only one of her many artworks. It’s so wonderful to see a snow that doesn’t melt on the wood and shines forever, crystal by crystal, and to realize how the artist’s hands transformed uncooked clay into stars, corals, and seeds and flowers: natural forms whose story is only “invincible progress of the form, a sort of visible music”. (Paul Valéry)
For once, the fairies have been benevolent.

To break the crust of solid material bodies, trying to turn inside out the natural birth of crystals, rocks, or shells, this is the challenge that Giuliana Cuneaz seems to have embraced for a long time, offering to us her imaginary visit into the heart of matter. Her handmade objects are humble replicas. That’s for their marvelous configuration. Where they came from, at first, is a process lost in the dark of undetected beginnings, as if an artist had made them.

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Matter Waves Unseen, 213, details

Happiness and absurdity are two children of the same ground. …
When sadness raises up in a human heart, the rock is winning, sadness is the rock itself. …
The absurd woman contemplating her suffering shuts all the idols down. In the universe suddenly brought back to silence, appear thousands of small, stupefied voices of the earth. …
Sisyphus teaches the superior loyalty that denies gods and lifts rocks. She also believes that everything is good. This universe deprived of gods doesn’t seem sterile to her, nor trivial. Every grain of the stone, every mineral sparkle of this mountain filled with weight is a world by itself. Struggling toward the top can fill up a woman’s heart. Imagine lady Sisyphus is a happy one. … The absurd woman says yes and her effort will never cease.
Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe, 1942 (with my alteration into a feminine mode).

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Matter Waves Unseen, 2013, details

3D computer graphics helped her to add a mental magic to the physical appearance of objects. Sculpting forms is not enough. They die in their frozen stillness. Giuliana Cuneaz’s chambers of marvels include a screen showing the 3D computer graphic version of the same objects she had made. The fantastic sceneries she displays have two different lives: one is a lesson of death cherished, honored by the artist’s fingers accepting the drama of making a physical form, the other on the screen is a lesson of life in search of visible modulations, bursts of changes, phases of passage, movements.

 

Giuliana Cuneaz, Matter Waves Unseen, 2013  3D computer animation  Courtesy of the artist and Private collection

Giuliana’s waves are earthly as if the clay, the shy and silent skin of the earth, had suddenly made her surface strong and dynamic like the ocean waves — each bringing new presents to the seashore. Although supported by numbers and programs, artificial life doesn’t cease to be human. It’s our brain trying to approach, to understand the admirable quality of natural artifacts. Inner landscapes suggested by microscopic photographs and nanotechnologies gave to my artist, maybe, the same surprise as the anatomic drawings gave to the 15th century’s artists. We see her imagination at work, and we can be transported with her inside her earthly waves, like we were invisible particles of dust.

Un saggio: L’anima verso cui andiamo è un paese di neve. …
Un saggio: … Un paese tagliato nell’acqua indurita dal gelo. L’acqua ci custodisce. Cosi i ghiacciai, gli occhi dilatati degli scomparsi.

Edmond Jabès

A wise man: The soul we go after is a country of snow. …
A wise man: … A country cut into the water hardened by cold. Water preserves us. So the glaciers, and the dilated eyes of the dead.

Yes, crystals are black in the valley of snow. They can’t forget they need to pause on the rocky surface of mountains, or the smoother layers of clay. Black is memory of their love joining them to the pebbles, of melting on the skin of an obstinate, stringent partner. Water and dirt are inseparable like day and night. Chemistry tells us that life springs from that wedding. We should unite our body to them, and remember in our cells what we are not able to know.

 

Giuliana Cuneaz, Chrystal Growth 2012, 3D animation Courtesy of the artist and Gagliardi e Domke Gallery, Torino

Giuliana Cuneaz at work

Bibliography

Edmond Jabès, Le livre des questions, Paris, Gallimard, 1963. Il libro delle interrogazioni, trad. it. di Chiara Rebellato, Casale Monferrato, Marietti, 1985

Paul Valéry, L’homme et la coquille, Paris, Gallimard, 1937

Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe, Paris, Gallimard, 1942

William Bryant Logan, DIRT, The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, New York, The Berkley Publishing Group, 1995

 

SIMONE FORTI : how to position yourself in the world, with grace

Free Consultation — Chicago, January 30, 2016

“I’m trying to find the relationship to my dance and the world.” Simone Forti 1989

Stills from Video: Jason Underhill

 

 

From Simone Forti’s notes written in Vermont, in the spring 1989:

David Bradshaw came to visit me a few evenings ago. We were talking about the phenomenon of development and damage to environment. He said, “people are in such a hurry to get symbols of satisfaction.” I don’t remember the exact context, but it made sense. It reminds me of my sense about posturing that goes into having certain political attitudes or ‘positions.’ Making choices out of concern for how you are perceived, being hot stuff, liberal, or patriotic, or what have you.

One thing that strikes me in the winter is the sweetness of warm-blooded beings. I sit surrounded by ice and snow, warm in my clothes like a juicy hot plum, a rare thing, knowing that here and there there is a bird, a rabbit in its hole under the snow, warm, juicy, marvelous.

It keeps coming back to me that certain things I am aware of, the national, global things that strike me, frighten me, break my heart, come to me defined by the news. Not homelessness. I see that. But the rest, it’s like a body of information that comes to me and makes me shout “Don’t you see?” And I do believe that media gives a kind of reflection of the world. The world. Gives me images that seem solid.

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 a 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.

What I am learning, I am learning slowly. My previous living gives me no way to name it. Of the things I expect to name, I see only traces. That which I see, I have no names for.

 

When she performs, Simone moves sending out into the air, sometimes, stories and names, or songs, that are told by her entire body. Powerful as well as invisible, the world goes through her mind like the birds’ voice in the morning, or the river flush of the freeway through the city.
I first thought that her own words from 1989 were more than eloquent company for the images of Free Consultation, her performance by the lake in Chicago. But then, because my previous living gave me the pleasure of reading, through words and grammar, the imaginary visions of brilliant, dead people,  I’m challenged even more by living friends. And Simone is not less alive than the the yellow butterfly I see every day dancing among the yellow flowers of a bush in my garden. Her immersion in the world tunes her feelings without turning out the lights of her thinking body.

A few years ago I went with Simone for a walk in Will Rogers Park. I think it was in June. The delicate undulating of the new grass grabbed our attention, but at a certain moment we stopped seeing it. “That which I see, I have no names for.” We were in a corral, no horses around. Yet we were seeing horses running, and listening to their high-pitched neighs. We were just standing still in the middle of a vibrating place, absorbing smells and hints, those dispersed by the wind. That was also what we call world. It’s constant transformation, natural power and beauty often mistaken for entertainment. How she is perceived, nature doesn’t care.

As for Simone, she likes to speak with her dead. Once more, she follows invisible threads of a natural history. Her dead father, now under the surface of the Westwood ground. She tells him, “You were in a military prison, right? Watching how the flies cleaned their front paws and then their back paws.” She says these conversations help her clean her mind. I also talk to my dead people, my Neapolitan blood. Maybe they increase my confusion, the sense of how much I don’t know about them, but they also make me aware that my life is much easier than the one they had. I even have time for writing and publishing, the least productive of all activities. “As long as you are free, says my grandmother Rosa, and she offers to me a handful of pastina.”

AMERICAN ALLIGATORS IN MID-AIR

 

Paintings and drawings by STEVE GALLOWAY, Los Angeles

“I travel through time,” says a seven year old, “Which time? Ancient, a far past?”
asks the adult. “I come from yesterday night.”

A conversation reported by artist Giuliano Nannipieri, from Livorno (Italy)

STEVE GALLOWAY, Suppose 2011  14″ x 11″ Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

STEVE GALLOWAY, Terrestrial Patterns 2007 15″x 11″ Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

MEMORY BEHIND THE EYES

by Rosanna Albertini

John Cage wrote that the means of thinking are exterior to the mind, and we might leave the mind ready to welcome divine influences. It is so hard to do. Maybe the handstand on the back of heron, giving our feet to the sky, would help if we could accept being displaced in an unfamiliar landscape. Steve Galloway places the heron on an alligator and the alligator in mid-air. This pathetic description, that says nothing about the art, only sends the art to hell.

You can only count on your eyes and look through charcoal and pastel until the imaginary land the artist found behind his eyes starts filling the paper. Along with him, we believe he saw it, he discovered it, he felt the power of images somehow as people did when they did not have books in their hands, and written language. “Tout faire parler,” let everything talk, representing the “large uniform flatland of words and things.” (Michel Foucault)

STEVE GALLOWAY, Floating 2008 52″ x 72″ Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

STEVE GALLOWAY, Moonflight 2015 20″ x 25″  Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose gallery

Words, animals, and trees as figures of the world, limbs of the same body: neither too big nor too little, as they must be deep in a dream: feelings wearing the heaviness of matter: they are so dense and persistent that maybe only the alligator’s skin reveals their bumpy, obstinate proliferation. Now, as well as in the night of times, we know there is an infinite mystery we were born in. It doesn’t matter if computers try to visualize the back holes as if they were organs of the universe. How can we believe in what scientists say today, which is different from what they told yesterday night? At least in my countryside Italian legends we found and believed newborn babies were picked up from underneath a cabbage leaf. God’s eye, only one, inscribed in a triangle, was piercing the clouds to look at us, even listening to our thoughts. I don’t know about dreams. I suspect they were secret. He was not a god we children could love, his son was much closer to us, with his bloody cut in the chest and nails through his hands and feet. Children feared the father, not the son.

Sorry, I traveled back through time. It is what Steve Galloway’s images do to me: they bring my mind to a time before the order of grammars, to the time when I believed dreams were not distant from the frozen trees I was watching through the ice crystals on the window. Seeing was believing, although most of the images were made up. Nature couldn’t be copied. Books were the end of my era of belief.

STEVE GALLOWAY, Hibbies ol’ Place 20″ x 25″  Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

We live today in an age of disbelief. Let’s read Wallace Stevens:
“It is for the poet [and the visual artist] to supply the satisfaction of belief, in his measure and in his style….
To see the gods dispelled in mid-air and dissolve like clouds is one of the great human experiences. It is not as if they had gone over the horizon to disappear for a time; … it is simply that they came to nothing. Since we have always shared all things with them and have always had a part of their strength and, certainly, all of their knowledge, we shared likewise this experience of annihilation. It was their annihilation, not ours, and yet it left us feeling disposed and alone in a solitude, like children without parents, in a home that seemed deserted, in which the amical rooms and halls have taken on a look of hardness and emptiness. What was most extraordinary is that they left no momentous behind, no thrones, no mystic rings, no texts either of the soil or of the souls. It was if they had never inhabited the earth.”
WALLACE STEVENS, Two or three ideas.

STEVE GALLOWAY, Handstand 2011 50.8 x 63.5 cm Charcoal and pastel on paper    Courtesy of the artist

We had the Greek gods in mid-air, we had utopias, and later on in a similar vein Marx, Gramsci, Lenin and Che Guevara; now we have American alligators. They give us back impenetrable truths, and yet become our nautilus, the vehicle towards Galloway’s landscapes filled with irony and gentleness. It’s enough we “suppose” things that he doesn’t dare to entrust to words. We shouldn’t either. His image are not objects, they are “expressions of delight.”

STEVE GALLOWAY, Coyote Sky 2017, 30″ x 24″ oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

Bibliography

Wallace Stevens, “Two or three ideas”, in Opus Posthumous, edited by Milton J, Bates, Vintage Books, New York, 1990

John Cage, composition in retrospect, Exact Change Cambridge, 1993

Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses, Une archeologie des sciences humaines, Gallimard, paris, 1966

 

SEWING FRIENDSHIP AND ART

with Sylvia Salazar Simpson, Allan Kaprow, Judy Fiskin, Peter Kirby

 

and Richard Tuttle getting rid of frames and capital letters:

“ art is not a copy of nature but an extension

how to make this extension concrete

it will be absolutely not be prethought
(absolutely not be absolutely)

the one an extension of the other without reference to priority ”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON, Eggs Verbal A / Z , 1973, Courtesy of the artist

 

THE TABLE FIRST OR THE EGGS? THE WORDS OR THE PAGE?

by Rosanna Albertini

Sylvia made me aware of the sensuality of language. Of shameless decay as a mystery, a smelling, progressive alteration of fruits and flowers and things with flesh, or leaves.
She taught me to honor a molding lemon as well as the ashes of her burned out house. She made small altars with the remains, friendly places where other abandoned objects could be added over the years, tricky homes hiding the prick of cactus spines. They dislike to be touched.

Sylvia became the best companion for playing at life, pointing out to me how life becomes “life,” “something that floats, outside of time, in our thoughts.” Allan Kaprow. Kaprow had been one of her teachers at Cal Arts, CA, she was already mother of two. They remained friends to the end of his life. I also became his friend, having married Peter Kirby who worked with him for years, and cherished him like very few. Allan Kaprow allowed Sylvia to see herself as an artist, a mother and wife embracing “life,” the an-artist life. But she was not confused about the ungraspable separation between art and life, and built her own experience. Never gave up with physicality. Sewed uncooked eggs to the table, wore shoes made with celery, strawberries or ice cream, pinned into her ankles and feet. She made books with sugar, or paprika, or oregano attached to their pages. Imposed to them the destiny of decay.

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON, Imitations, 1977  Courtesy of the artist

About twenty years ago, one of the many days of playing at life with Sylvia, she introduced me to Judy Fiskin’s photographs, I vaguely remember they were at LACMA. It was such a surprise to discover photographic miniatures, of a kind I had never seen. Such a pleasure for the beginning of my new American life. As pleasurable as cooking and eating with Sylvia, mixing Mexican and Italian traditions, sharing pain and joy, as life brought them to us.

There is something amusing and embarrassing about the work” — wrote Sylvia Salazar Simpson years ago. These books’ pages don’t carry words, nor images. Each book is a physical story going bad and smelly over time. “Can you fold the page please? That’s the ritual.” “Disgusting? Why?” Any repulsion disappears when the most terrible things are written words. A jelly beans-bacon-pearl page should be sucked, read by the lips, by the same voracious tongue of a newborn exploring surfaces around her before names appear.

Art only needs an alien space to physically exist. The Sugar Book, the Spit Book? What do they mean if the book is a tongue as rough as a cat’s, black sandpaper growing Tylenol at the heart of chewed bubble gum. “Can you fold the page please?” Can you touch what your brain has produced, who knows if it is human or not it must be but it does not perfectly fit. Art is not an experiment. Sylvia Salazar Simpson’s books are flowers lying on old stems torn from the ground of history, on pieces of wood soaked with tar, cut for the railroad. They can’t hurt.

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON, Blue Sugar Book, 1997   Photo: Hannah Kirby

We have in common a passion for natural growing: trees, bushes, and flowers. The first art piece made by Sylvia that she shared with me by giving me a picture of it, was of a group of trees she had to abandon, when moving from their Los Olivos ranch. And the art was a gesture, of wrapping them with clothes and fabrics as if covering them for the winter, adding decorations to their trunk, or letting them know how much she cared for them, which is the same thing. I’m sure they understood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Allan Kaprow, Essays on The Blurring of Art and Life, University of California press, 1993

Richard Tuttle, In Parts, 1998-2001  Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, © 2001 Richard Tuttle;  2001 the authors.

 

 

JUDY FISKIN : Photography is a mental thing

“Imagination applied to the whole world is vapid in comparison to imagination applied to a detail.” Wallace Stevens

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 234 Courtesy of the artist

“The mind is the most terrible force in the world principally in this that it is the only force that can defend us against itself. The modern world is based on this pensée.” Wallace Stevens

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 242 Courtesy of the artist

UNTITLED  by Rosanna Albertini

Each little house is a song of solitude. A body opening limbs in a space where the distance between the sky and the ground has been reduced to zero: a flat, white empty space. They would float like islands. A scrawny bush, a pole, or little trees sometimes shaped by an odd haircut are ornaments in the wrong place, a complement to the odd shape of the houses.

“I am more interested in creating an experience than in summarizing experience.”JF
“The most interesting part is looking at this little universe of representation that I can make out of the world.” JF

It’s not the maternal opening of doors and windows of people’s homes that makes the artist happy. Each print gives the houses a face, the front of a building that seem to say the viewer: “True, things are people as they are.” Wallace Stevens, Like Fiskin, isn’t afraid of absurdity.
Am I ridiculous, with my single window and the bricks on my feet? You can say so, it doesn’t touch me. Oh, my forehead is too low, maybe two round eyes, of course closed, make me smarter looking. But I have three legs and two enormous garage doors (?)
Each house is a song of indifference, a self contained score only showing the mask of a secret, not immaculate conception.

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 233 Courtesy of the artist

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 235 Courtesy of the artist

jUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 240 Courtesy of the artist

“Impenetrable, opaque, obdurate: these are good terms to apply to the work. They all express something about what the world feels like to me.” JF

Through Judy Fiskin’s mind passes, maybe, the temptation to escape architectural codes and history of forms. Her 1988 eyes isolate each house from the landscape. Each house is a detail, almost a cut out, free from aesthetic rules or repetitions of architectural patterns.
See? My windows have curved eyebrows, and they stick out from the roof!
I am, instead, the reminiscence of a stilt house. And I grew like a barn with a vague Chinese flavor of a pagoda roof. I’m better than you, replies another house whose origins are uncertain: big ears and a city look under a hat low enough to evoke a pagoda, but centered in a way that makes more evident the asymmetrical face of the house.
Each house is a chant of styles speaking different languages in the same building.

“Idealized images from my mind.” JF

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 238 Courtesy of the artist

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 239 Courtesy of the artist

One house is the queen of flatland, another is so shy she hides behind a tree, the lateral side leaning on a tall chimney. Lady symmetry sits in the body of an urban figure waiting for cars, she has two garage doors. A pale, gray creature seems to be there by mistake, what a romantic mistake!
The high contrast prints reveal a flash of light not only erasing the context around these little houses, also removing all sign of memory, and comparisons to famous buildings. What’s wrong with common life? It’s mostly stifled by an eccessive closeness, to siblings and objects. Really, we need an artist to gently building a distance, and revealing its twisted, uncanny beauty.
Each house, a scream of silence.

OF MERE BEING

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind move slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

— Wallace Stevens —

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 245 Courtesy of the artist

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 249 Courtesy of the artist

Bibliography:

Some Aesthetic Decisions, The Photographs of Judy Fiskin, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2011

Wallace Stevens, Opus Posthumous, Edited by Milton J. Bates, Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc. New York, 1990