BEGGING for a BOOK PRINTING and BINDING

 

THE STORY IS READ BY THE ARTIST
EXCEPT … PAGES ARE BLANK.

About AN ART BOOK by FIONA CONNOR edition of 100

(The art book was bound by hand by volunteers and presented in the gallery at Red Cat, Los Angeles, January 9 -10, 2016)

By Rosanna Albertini

“A collection of sheets of paper or other substances, blank, written or printed, fastened together as to form a material whole.” The Oxford English Dictionary             

 

Fiona-book

Unfolding the pages, one after the other, Fiona Connor lets the voice flow out of her memory. From January to March, some details have already disappeared. One can follow her journey through Los Angeles from Cloverdale to San Pedro, Santa Monica, Riverside, Ventura, El Segundo, Pasadena, Burbank, asking a few people she had met in the past, but mostly others completely unknown, the favor to print for her as many possible pages, if possible one hundred, of a book she conceived as an art piece made with collective cooperation. A family of printers are from Persia, a young woman is from Australia, and a guy, he just had a baby. Linda, Rich, Tiffany, Lynn, Jesus, Becka, Joyce, Damaris, Ed, Ben, Kat, and everyone else she asked, “kindly obliged” and printed at the bottom of each right hand page the template the artist requested:

‘name’ of the printing machine
address of the place where the printing happened
first name of the person who did the printing work

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I can’t avoid seeing her as a beggar, the artist who breaks the commercial ritual of buying the service. She becomes the person who serves the needs of the art piece: her feet on the sidewalks of the metropolis or on public transportation; her intention and desire to involve and obtain a certain amount of work everywhere she can find a printing device.

Downtown, while wandering around the gray brownish grid of pavements and buildings, she happens to find herself face to face with Harry Gamboa Jr., another artist who has made himself, for decades, a vessel against the lures of a power based on money. Fiona recognized him, his face often printed in art catalogues and books. It seems they looked at each other, did not talk. Fiona’s private persona is a shy one. For sure, he didn’t know who she was. This story is not in her reading.

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A conceptual art project in 2016.
The personal mark of the artist isn’t physical. Her name goes along with “the concept.” The © belongs to Red Cat. No author, no title. Therefore the book is left on his/her/its own nature: born from so many it could be an orphan. Or an outcast book mainly white, home of the white noise, unidentified presences. The artist dares to expose the absence of a traditional text as a value: although we see and touch that something is lost, it’s almost impossible to say or write what it is, even if the desire to express it is more than alive. In the XVI and XVII century Europe, this contradictory sentiment – the awareness of missing the point – turned into unfriendly attitudes toward beggars, women, the insane, hermits and illiterate humans: those who didn’t share the common knowledge, and failed to be heard.  Michel de Certeau called MYSTIQUE their lack of knowledge and made them the angels of the Mystique Fable (Fable Mystique, 1982).

I wonder if, unconsciously perhaps, Fiona Connor has reversed history as she often does in her work, so that readers and writers are the ones devoured by our contemporary Mystique Fable. They, we writers, are becoming the excluded from a reality in search of a different medium. Looking for something better than written words. In the meantime, artists try to keep on with ordinary things that have become furniture of the human landscape in our brain, we like to sit on them.

Let’s step back a few decades to the early seventies: Allen Ruppersberg calling for attention to the human matter that goes through words and pages: the living time, more significant than personality. He drew a book perfectly recognizable: Sanctuary by William Faulkner, and added: “Reading time: 12 hrs 43 min.” We shouldn’t forget his visual replica, word by word, by his own hand, of Walden 1973, and The Picture of Dorian Gray 1974.

Fiona Connor instead replicates steps, walls, museum benches, fountains, bulletin boards, bricks. The reverse engineering of the objects, that are very accurately remade, makes it hard to distinguish them from the original. The original could be surprised facing the archival translation of it’s body.

“Art should be familiar and enigmatic, just as human beings themselves”
“Art should make use of common methods and materials so there is very little difference between the talk and the talked about”

Ruppersberg’s thoughts are his own conceptual coat that strangely fits quite well with Fiona Connor’s art. Keeping the similitude between the two artists suspended on the acrobat’s rope, I add one of Allan McCollum’s observations ― about Al Ruppersberg reproducing or even embracing America’s banal traditional rituals ― that I particularly love and feel appropriate to Fiona Connor and our present time:

“In my memory, it was Al who reminded our troubled generation that simple, normal, everyday rituals of human commerce (horrors!) contained a significant complement of decency and joy that needed to be recognized and appreciated ― not in spite of, but along with whatever else might have been wrong with the world in those especially uneasy years.

Our years are not less uneasy, they are only uneasy in a different way.

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Photos: Peter Kirby

MOTHER AND DAUGHTER : Susan and Rhoda

SUSAN MOGUL and RHODA BLATE MOGUL

By Rosanna Albertini

We are all primordially accustomed to consider ourselves mental realities while we consider others physical realities … we vaguely consider others mental realities, but only in the act of love or in a fight do we take recognizance of the fact that others, as we do for ourselves, have, above all, a soul.” Fernando Pessoa

RHODA BLATE MOGUL, 1967 (Susan at about ten)

RHODA BLATE MOGUL, 1959 (Susan at about ten) Photograph Courtesy of Susan Mogul

The mother. Rhoda, is alive. At age 88 she is moving out of her house; she will leave behind her life’s carapace. Fifty years of  measuring days and nights in the same shell. That’s barely imaginable. Only insects and snakes do it. And of course, snails. The rest, which is her body, will follow her.
The living matter becomes, all life long, an intangible bundle stored in the brain, the skin, the DNA, the organs, for changes ready to flow, to become physical events as capricious as the weather. Decisions, or feelings, are mysterious guests.

The daughter. Susan Mogul turned out to be one of the few artists able to add a comic dressing to “the salad of life.” Thinking about her mother’s move, though, she began to secrete and make visible a different cocoon, a thin silky thread that tied together mother and daughter in one inextricable bundle of stories.

Mama’s Girl Suite, video 3′ 45″ (Work in Progress) © Susan Mogul

The video Susan produced so far is a serious portrait of her feelings for another woman from whose body she came. Apparently, (I never met her) the body of a mother who built a fair game around the similarities with her daughter, an art of equal rights, at least in their mental exchange. Fragments from twenty years of letters to her daughter were read by Susan to the public in a comedic-cabaret performance in the mid eighties. Susan showed the copyright sign drawn by her mother on each letter. Just to make sure who’s who.

If Susan performed wearing her mother’s old dresses, Rhoda saw her own old body inside them. Such a special connection, to strip sentimentality from their relation. God knows how, love for ART took a significant place in their lives. Dresses, words, symbols, could be laughable. Not so the essence of the exchange between the two women.

In point of fact, we possess nothing more than our sensations; within them, therefore, and not within what we see, we must found the reality of our lives.” F.P.

As we look at the images in this video, in fact, we grab what’s behind them: the artist’s feelings about a woman who is more than her life’s tapestry: a mother of six, the smart decorator of her house inspired by contemporary arts and design, the gardener, the wife. In her daughter’s feeling she is an artist. Her figure and Diane Arbus’s overlap in Susan’s mind.

SUSAN MOGUL, Mom/Susan Pregnant Sextet,  1965/2014, digital print
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Sextet was created from Mom’s self-portrait as pregnant photographer and me mimicking Mom pregnant.  An iconic image in the project, it represents the fertile creative banter between mother and daughter.   S.M.

RHODA BLATE MOGUL 1967, photograph of her children

RHODA BLATE MOGUL 1967  (Four of her children) Photograph  Courtesy of Susan Mogul

Yet mother and daughter also share one more treasure, something which is often erased by educational and moral obsessions based on a supposed primacy of the mind: Susan and Rhoda could see each other as physical realities, and compare their bodies, and play with images of real and fake pregnancy.
This probably doesn’t mean the mother-daughter connection was so perfect that tensions, along with the normal daily competition, had disappeared. But Rhoda gave Susan the most rare present: physical awareness. Love and appreciation for the odd animal shape we are. Such bond comes first, it starts way before personality and actions bump into the skin of our physical status like rocks into a lake.

Life can be unfair. Culture even more, throwing contempt against the housewive condition.
Most of the time it was a necessity, not a choice. In many countries and even in the U.S., it still is. My own mother was a beautiful person forced to surrender to the after-war hardship. What happened to her is only partially my life, but the softness of her skin, her shoulders, her hand, her fingers, they are so much my life that I feel them in me, and with infinite gratitude.

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MOLE IN THE HOLE   1963

Magic marker on commercial birthday card

A birthday card I made for my mother at the age of fourteen.

Mom is the Mole and the Hole is her darkroom.  All my coinage.

As a teenager, I often made satirical humorous cards for Mom.

I always represented Mom besieged by six kids. This is the only card where I pictured her solitary, working in her darkroom – the one place at home where she could escape from Dad and the kids and be by herself. SM

AND I MAKE IT ALL WRONG

 MERNET LARSEN and her ‘irrational’ geometry.

By Rosanna Albertini

(From “Mernet Larsen: Things people do” some studies
at James Cohan Gallery, New York)

It’s a painted world based on measurements, but staging the least reasonable forms and social stories. A nosy face sends the nose inside another face to see what, who, why to describe? It’s delightful nonsense.

MERNET LARSEN, Dialogue 2012, Acrylic on Bristol board 15 1/2" x 19" Courtesy of the artist and james Cohan Gallery

MERNET LARSEN, Dialogue 2012, Acrylic on Bristol board 15 1/2″ x 19″
Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

MERNET LARSEN, Study for Couple #2 2004, Acrylic on Bristol board 19" x 16" Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

MERNET LARSEN, Study for Couple #2 2004, Acrylic on Bristol board 19″ x 16″
Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

MERNET LARSEN, "Couple" Study #3 2004, Acrylic on Bristol board 17 3/4" x 11 3/4" Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

MERNET LARSEN, “Couple” Study #3 2004, Acrylic on Bristol board 17 3/4″ x 11 3/4″
Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bodies in the drawing are supported by a metrical grid like fish in the net. The artist brings them into a space that seems constructed, at times, with broken shards of glass suspended in mid air. I love her studies. The geometrical preparation is still visible, it refuses analog replicas of life, although colors suggest odd metamorphosis: a piece of sky that fills a human block sitting at the table, a tree who plays being human. Green light blue men similar no eyes no legs maybe the table is a cloud pretending to be solid.

MERNET LARSEN, Study for Cube 2005, Acrylic on Bristol board 19" x 24" Courtesy of the artist and james Cohan Gallery

MERNET LARSEN, Study for Cube 2005, Acrylic on Bristol board 19″ x 24″
Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

There is no way a single viewpoint can explore these visual stories without feeling destabilized, or without engaging the many viewpoints at work inside each piece, or conflicting with the natural perception outside the piece, until the brain isn’t sure. Except, Larsen’s people look as if shaped by a pasta machine, caged in parallel lines. This is evident. Forward or backward, parallels run like freeways dragging bodies out from the natural space, maybe into a timeless land.

MERNET LARSEN, Faculty Meeting Study 2008, Acrylic on Bristol Board 19" x 24" Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

MERNET LARSEN, Faculty Meeting Study 2008,   Acrylic on Bristol Board 19″ x 24″
Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

MERNET LARSEN, Study for Reunion 2014, Acrylic on Briston board 19" x 24" Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

MERNET LARSEN, Study for Reunion 2014, Acrylic on Briston board 19″ x 24″
Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

In this blog I usually don’t split art history hairs. I try to forget I was an eighteenth century philosophy scholar for a long time. But I can’t dismiss the reference to El Lissitzky and Chinese landscapes I found in Larsen’s statement and in every essay written about her. By old habit, I plunged my brain into Russian axonometry, Proun volumes floating in virtual spaces, [Proun: Design for the confirmation of the new], and the revolutionary hostility against the idea and practice of perspective since European renaissance painting.
“Space has been limited by perspective, closed into edges. In art, bodies of numbers have become more rich…” El Lissitzky. Mathematical thoughts defy infinity, political passion feeds a search for limitless expansion of geometrical ideas beyond Euclid, unconditioned by gravity or historical frames.

And really Chinese landscapes are light, slow motion eye movements presenting trees water and mountains not as they are, they are not realistic, just as a continuous expansion in space. The vanishing point? Impossible.

I can see Mernet Larsen inspired by both.

Yet, I would like to link her unique perception of our present reality, her search of an essence, to a post industrial experience I had not a long time ago, walking through the factory of Ferrari, near Bologna. I had the awkward sensation of moving my feet and legs across multiple crossings of invisible, parallel lines designed for robotic creatures. Humans weren’t welcomed. At every step they had to negotiate their space with fast metallic ‘artuditus‘ programmed to be efficient, not to observe good manners.

The factory is a climate controlled pavilion where air and humidity are adapted to the needs of chemical areas, fusion pits, and protected containers in which the car’s single separate organs and limbs are generated, with no intervention of human hands. Only robots can keep the required level of precision. They often look like the long bar legs and arms of Larsen’s creatures. Tropical plants in pots give the illusion of a green house. Some historical Ferraris at one of the edges look like a monumental bunch of flowers. Nobody knows why such marvelous technological champions are not able to win the races.
Although the factory makes it all right, the result is not what everyone expected.

“I want the mechanisms of my paintings to be fully visible, each painting an index of my painting behavior: measuring, layering, carving, texturing, coloring, pasting.”

“These paintings are at once a tribute, affectionate parody, and critique of Renaissance narrative painting. They reflect a longing for something lost, and a desire for a sense of space and narrative unity more in accord with contemporary concepts of reality.” Mernet Larsen

MERNET LARSEN, Indecisive Woman 2000, Acrylic on Bristol board 19" x 24" Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

MERNET LARSEN, Indecisive Woman 2000, Acrylic on Bristol board 19″ x 24″
Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

MERNET LARSEN, Gunfighters 2001, Acrylic on Bristol board 15" x 24" Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

MERNET LARSEN, Gunfighters 2001, Acrylic on Bristol board 15″ x 24″
Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

MERNET LARSON, Getting Measured Study 1999, Acrylic on Bristol board 19" x 24" Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

MERNET LARSON, Getting Measured Study 1999, Acrylic on Bristol board 19″ x 24″
Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan Gallery

It’s always illusion. Geometry is based on mathematical magnitudes generated by the human mind, it is a space with no equivalents in nature. Outlines and forms we discover through our senses: mountains or houses or horses, “are absolutely different from the space of geometry.” Poincaré, 1905.

But the human landscape infects Larsens’ geometrical figures with attitudes that it is impossible not to recognize. The arms grow following the position of shooting, become longer when uncertainty fills them, shrink in the act of waiting. Heads like bricks little gray hearts maybe not beating how to survive monsters who are bigger in the distance if one doesn’t have legs to escape? Shaped and reshaped by movement, and by sense of humor. Heads, witty heads without bodies are able to smile behind their flatness, even between the lines, they are still human.