Daniel Martinez and Erin Cosgrove


Roberts and Tilton Gallery, Los Angeles

“… the ink of reality stains the very fingers that put that reality in parenthesis.” (Emmanuel Levinas)

by Rosanna Albertini
Hello Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, as phantoms of my own past I prefer to keep you silent. Someone wrote that, if the future existed, maybe the past wouldn’t be so seductive. But the future is a figure of speech, “a specter of thought.” It was Nabokov.

DANIEL JOSEPH MARTINEZ,  Teltow Channel close to the Dreilinden roadhouse. The Teltow Channel, (German: Teltowkanal) is a canal that lies in both the states of Berlin (south) and Brandenburg, and at points forms the boundary between the two. Hidden away near the Teltowkanal is the old border control point and roadhouse Dreilinden. The area is part of a nature reserve. Nearby is a bridge across the canal which was divided by a piece of wall during the GDR period, making it impassable., 2017
Medium format black & white film printed digitally on Hahnemule Fine Art Baryta, Gloss 315gsm
60 x 72 in
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton

After ’68, dreams of revolution in Europe were quickly replaced by symptoms of something else: a diffused, unpredictable violence for many years bringing bombs on trains, in banks, garbage cans, subway stations, department stores, kindergartens. Under the verbal umbrella of terrorism, the seventies and early eighties that I witnessed in Italy and in Paris were years of a familiar terror, following our daily steps like an invisible dog. In Paris attacks were shamelessly announced by the radio early in the morning. “Are you coming to work today?” my friend Dany Bloch on the phone from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. “A museum and the subway will be under attack.” “Of course I will come.” Southern fatalism kept me active. It wasn’t courage, I would call it a passive state of consent. The night before, the post office near my apartment had blown up. An unfamiliar landscape in Paris, les terrasses, the cafes’ tables and chairs, were empty.

Terrorism in Germany was no surprise, at least it had names, and faces. One more idealistic failure. People of my countries were too busy checking for abandoned bags or packages on trains and buses to dig into the reasons that built the RAF (Red Army Faction), the tragic death of most of the members. Ulrike Meinhof was one of the founders of the terrorist group in 1970. It was almost fifty years ago. Yet Daniel Joseph Martinez, today, declares “I am Ulrike Meinhof or (someone once told me time is a flat circle).” The art piece is a series of large b & w photographs. He brings back the young woman’s images printed on banners he carries vertical, holding the pole, during a long and solitary parade through Berlin. Astonished, I couldn’t stop looking at Ulrike’s face, and to the artist’s silent standing, looking distant and obedient, like a boy in a procession. Pictures are dark. Light would disturb the intimate hospitality each place offers to these two strangers who keep their presence at the edge of forgetfulness, extremely quite. If they think, they seem to listen to walls, dead leaves, trees or bricks on the pavement of the street, as if silently answering a hidden invitation, locked in a missing answer without wonder. Being there is all there is.

DANIEL JOSEPH MARTINEZ, The Abspannwerk Humboldt (electrical power substation) in the Kopenhagener Straße is an extraordinary example, designed by the important industrial architect Hans H. Müller and built in 1927. The Wall was constructed directly next to the Abspannwerk Humboldt, so that it was in the East sector, and the Kopenhagener Straße was used as an entry point to the death strip by the border guards and their vehicles., 2017
Medium format black & white printed digitally on Hahnemule Fine Art Baryta, Gloss 315gsm
60 x 72 in   Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton

DANIEL JOSEPH MARTINEZ,  The inner yard of Märkisches Viertel. The Märkisches Viertel consists of a large housing estate of about 17,000 apartments with chains of high-rises up to 18 floors that were built from 1964 to 1974. To the east it shares its border with the Rosenthal and Wilhelmsruh localities of the Pankow borough, from which it was separated by the Berlin Wall until 1989. In 2003 Märkisches Viertel had about 36,000 inhabitants., 2017
Medium format black & white film printed digitally on Hahnemule Fine Art Baryta, Gloss 315gsm
60 x 72 in    Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton

DANIEL JOSEPH MARTINEZ   In the area between Königsweg Brücke and the pink amour memorial. A densely vegetated place, as you can see reveals a sparser background., 2017
Medium format black & white film printed digitally on Hahnemule Fine Art Baryta, Gloss 315gsm
60 x 72 in    Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton

Why, what, meaning, history, the artist’s intentions, my curiosity, stumped by the power of these images. Don’t expect any criticism, or aesthetic descriptions. Look at them. From Arthur Rimbau to Daniel Martinez resonates “I is another.” “I am I because my little dog knows me.” (Gertrude Stein) Time to decipher. No jokes?

The artist is in Berlin. Maybe Martinez is there too drinking coffee in the morning, but his “I” is already the artist, a human stripped of name or language, a naked being who becomes “a site, a whole world, a hospitable place.” Not because he has a deep, inner generosity; I would say his presence unfolds a message that is simple and astonishing: a silent listening. THERE the artist is: having a sort of primordial intuition of a story unraveled by philosophers for at least two centuries. Not only discovering that “inner life” is only a beautiful fantasy, also disclosing the flower of real life only blooming in the world. Maybe the artist in Berlin -my fantasy- opens up enough to see himself in Ulrike Meinhof’s image, and her image in himself as an artist. He is vulnerable. He offers himself exposing his own sensitivity. Suffering for Ulrike’s suffering, showing himself as human. I forget history and thank him. But, even trying to put the facts in parenthesis, the tip of my fingers remains stained by the ink of reality. Emmanuel Levinas has been my accomplice. Without his pages I wouldn’t never have seen all the things that Daniel Martinez doesn’t not say.




She wrote “The Baader -Meinhof Affair”  2002


…it is the past not the present which changes. We go on for a long time, taking the present as a constant, much as the self. At some point we raise our heads and are surprised at what lies behind us… DAVID ANTIN, 1972


Erin Cosgrove,  A Heart Lies Beneath, 2004

By Rosanna Albertini

For a long time Erin Cosgrove, no less than Jim Shaw to be earnest, has been my antidote against frustrations and illusions nested in my previous academic life, the one I had in Europe before I became a video art promoter and affectionada. Although still guided by ghosts of dead philosophers, I was incurably starving for apparently nonsensical, surprising moving images. At the time, I was far from realizing that images and words had already started a new journey in the universe of artifacts. And right now, moving lightly over my first immersion into contemporary arts I try not “to sink into history” and “stay at the exact level of the moment. Transparent things, through which the past shines!” Nabokov again.

Words gave up their primary, indisputable voice. The term revolution has a strange taste on the tongue like licorice mixed with absinthe; heroes and visual symbols turned into ruins underneath the crumbled wall in Berlin. But disappointment, disapproval, disagreement, yes, colorless and washed out through the increasing insanity of our world, still have meanings, a variety of meanings in each place, in each language. I let the change take me in, having learned to enjoy uncertainty and displacement. Erin’s art, after all, with her provocative and satirical storytelling, isn’t more scandalous than many stories written by my old friends Fontenelle, Montesquieu, or Jean Jacques. They are also “conjectural” in the same way.

Erin Cosgrove grabbed a piece of yesterday and reshaped it today: by romancing, the Baader-Meinhof tragedy was transplanted from Germany into an American college collective game, as if growing the same tree in a different place: The Baader-Meinhof Affair, Printed Matter 2002. The new place alters leaves and colors. In 2004 the written story was transplanted one more time, into seven minutes of a live action and animated video: A Heart Lies Beneath. I would lie if I hide from you that I was shocked by the energy and the intelligence of these two art pieces. Damn serious as they are in their purpose and execution, they also threw in the air my memories -already nebulous- I was afraid they would splash on the floor like a defective aircraft. But I was wrong: the past has changed. So much of it was romance. It’s pinned on my sweater.

Erin Cosgrove is a scribe of contemporary disagreement about almost everything: religions, wars, global warming, social games, evolution, borders, political regimes, and family life. Wars and new agents of terror and hurricanes and droughts and epidemics and bankruptcies are heaped on our road. Cosgrove doesn’t stop harvesting meanings. From cold winters in Saint Paul, Minnesota, she learned flatness and silence. Late in the night a wolf waited for her outside of the art school’s door. Half frozen after standing for hours in front of the federal Building protesting the first Gulf War, she finally fainted into a big basket of candies at a nearby shopping center. She learned from Samuel Beckett that silence could be told if the voice springs from inside and stops two steps from the feet.

She is a calligraphy queen free from chronology, conventional cages, and high and low. In words and images her calligraphic characters wear the faces of Darwin, Diogenes, Jesus, Leon Trotsky, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Andreas Baader, and everyone else, including faces that are real, imagined, forgotten, or effaced by history. No shadows on the ground. People remember only symbols and play with them to the exhaustion of meaning. In Cosgrove’s mind, and in her art, stories melt into romance, drawings, tapestry, and animated films.

Only one condition for human survival: that we step outside of belief systems. The ones who believe do not see what’s around them, if they see at all. Instead Cosgrove believes in looking and earnestly says what she sees: the immense variety of artifacts whose logo could be “human made.” So much the better, I won’t call it “culture.” The more impersonal, the more popular and down to earth, the better signs and images function: they are an infinite number of alphabetic letters morphing themselves. But, as with any language, there is no exit: that’s why, maybe, Erin displays a meticulous and detailed encyclopedic style leading to didactic explanation. It doesn’t mean that the story is reasonable or reliable. It is what it is, not something to remember or to forget. It’s romance. A heart lies beneath.


Emmanuel Levinas, Humanisme de l’autre homme, 1972, Fata Morgana, Montpellier, France

Vladimir Nabokov, Transparent Things, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1972

Gertrude Stein, The Geographical History of America, Random House, Inc., 1936

Erin Cosgrove, The Baader-Meinhof Affair, ©Erin Cogrove and Printed Matter, Inc., New York, 2002

A Hundred Flowers Have Bloomed, A Reader’s Guide to Erin Cosgrove’s The Baader-Meinhof Affair, 2004 Published by Carl Berg Gallery, Los Angeles

Catalogue of C.O.L.A. 2008  Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery Barnsdall Park




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



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.

























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.



JOSEPH BEUYS Sliding the Sun Light


Exhibited in Los Angeles, March/April 2017, at CMAY Gallery

“I was wondering where the animal starts vanishing and the living being becomes a human. All the different possibilities offered by everyday life, one has to arouse them from inside.”
— Joseph Beuys

 Words are by JOSEPH BEUYS himself from Was its Kunst? What is Art? 1986. They have been translated by the editor, RA, from the book’s French version which is in turn a translation from German: we can only hope that Beuys’s spirit and heat survived  the linguistic journey.

JOSEPH BEUYS, “Enterprise 18.11.72, 18:16 Uhr”  1973  zinc coffer, photograph, camera, felt
 16 x 12 x 6 in   Courtesy of CMAY Gallery, Los Angeles

What necessity can we establish from which something like art was born.

Ideologies are not ideas, they imply a violence imposed on ideas in order to embellish our instincts with a conceptual apparatus.

Art mustn’t remain something retinal… that’s why I was interested in substances… Gradually, substances get out of themselves aiming toward a supra-sensitive substance that doesn’t belong in the physical realm.

Thinking is already by itself a sculpture process about which we can prove it’s a true creative act, I mean a process that humans formed by themselves, free from any imposed authority… It’s important to listen to the images, to perceive sculptures through the ears, setting in motion a much more interior and deeper machinery, able to produce the substance of heat, the evolutionary heat that helps humans to progress, enabling them to be carriers of evolution.

JOSEPH BEUYS,  “Suite Schwurhand – Eiszeittiere” 1980  lithograph on white Arches paper
15 ¾ x 11 ¾ in   Courtesy of  CMAY Gallery, Los Angeles

JOSEPH BEUYS, “The Eurasian (Sulphur Work)” 1971 silkscreen, sulphur and pencil on paper       23 5/8 x 18 ½ in   Courtesy of CMAY Gallery, Los Angeles

I got interested in an intense way in the materials around me, of course in any state: dead or alive. The site where a plant reposes, her vertical function, her way to emerge, to orient herself; or otherwise we must give a sense to life, simply understanding that the life we live is important and not ignoring that it could be sad, it could bring a burden without being a big thing; the states of depression can be suppressed by getting rid of ourselves, making of ourselves something new. By the same means we must do something new with the other peoples… This will become heat through a communication process with other humans, listening to what they produce… The field of a social sculpture works like a new machinery, we could say, like a carrier of energy.

JOSEPH BEUYS, “Fingernail Impression in Hardened Butter” 1971 butter, wax in plastic box on gray cardboard 9 x 8 x ¼ in Courtesy of CMAY Gallery, Los Angeles

JOSEPH BEUYS, “Element” 1982 copper sheet and iron sheet 12 3/8 x 17 3/8 x 3/8 in Courtesy of CMAY Gallery, Los Angeles

A thing must talk. Sometimes it’s very hard to find the reason why a thing to whom one has dedicated work for so long doesn’t talk.

One day for instance I made a big marble relief and wasn’t really unsatisfied. I thought: it will be superb. When it was finished my thought has been: well, that’s it, finished, but it was enough to put it against the wall to realize that it did not talk, it did not make sense at all. I remade it completely. Yes, and sometimes things happen: for instance that crate isn’t bad, it’s even talking for me. The soil instead doesn’t talk at all… By all means, that crate has her own expression.

JOSEPH BEUYS, “Suite Zirkulationszeit – die Mütter” 1982 etching on laid paper 14 7/8 x 11 ¼ in  Courtesy of CMAY Gallery, Los Angeles

We do not know what sculpture is. The concept was used in order to say, this is sculpture, this is painting, this is architecture, this is dance, this is poetry, etc. I was always annoyed by people using a concept without knowing what it is. I understand very well Ad Reinhard’s reaction when he was asked his opinion about modern sculpture. Sculpture? -he answered- It is that thing one stumbles on while stepping back from a painting to see it better. … I told myself: although it’s a concept without foundation, it must have something in it expressing much more precisely what it’s made of. And I discovered something very simple: it is composed with forces, and components are very important… Our civilization, for instance, is conformed by the rectangle…
And men are organisms enlivened by heat, by the heat’s spiritual principles, we could call it love, love in the highest sense. It is surely a principle of heat.

JOSEPH BEUYS, “Suite Schwurhand – Vogel”  1980  etching and lithograph on paper, rolled on Arches paper 12 5/8 x 9 5/8 in Courtesy of CMAY Gallery, Los Angeles

JOSEPH BEUYS, “Suite Zirkulationszeit – Meerengel zwei Robben” 1982 etching and acquatint on grey laid paper 14 7/8 x 11 1/8 in  Courtesy of CMAY Gallery, Los Angeles


About influences, sharing and unexpected discoveries


“Art should make life more interesting than art”
Robert Filliou, quoted by Annette Messager, quoted by Sheryl Conkelton and who knows from how many others




Los Angeles. It was friendship that pushed us around Candy Jernigan at the same moment, and for the first time. Three women drinking her potion from a pink cup slightly twisted, offish. Pencils stand by not less reluctant to be touched. Their scrawny bodies curved by life, and their shadows, spread a sense of pain. Blue things cannot be on the same page: they would bring in liquid sparks of infinity as the sky and the water, the inner sensation that something larger, and intangible, goes around life but nobody can grab it. Candy’s images are small parenthesis in the big picture. The musical modes of her mood reflected by simple, quotidian object friends. Mostly, her name and art sit quietly on their parenthetic couch, waiting. Somebody might lift the plastic sheet.

A vague description floating in her memory, of an art piece from the Whitney collection that was on display at the New Whitney: made with something found, small papers with colored lines… Fiona Connor was chasing the artist’s name. She asked Judy Fiskin and me. Like a waltz by Gabriel Fauré, not too cheerful and not fast enough, the hunting started between the three of us, questioning, asking other people, getting lost. Soon Fiona found the name and sent it to us with a link to the anti-product web site: it was Candy Jernigan. She died in New York at age 39 in 1991, the same year I moved to Los Angeles. Eight images on the screen.
















Found online images. No captions, no dates. Yet, striking. I couldn’t stop looking at the artwork. Same reaction from Judy and Fiona. “Would you send me your response to Candy Jernigan’s work, for The Kite? I will add mine,” I asked both.

Judy Fiskin

Here is my response to Candy Jernigan’s leaves from Père Lachaise:



Fiona Connor

I went up to the Laurel Doody’s last week to stay on her house boat and found this board. I have become obsessed with casting it in bronze. I love this chopping board – it is perfectly shaped by somebody, it has scars, it is hard to pin down.

I think I responded to Candy’s work because it is about mapping the world, being out there exploring as her modus operandi, choosing a single thing to help make sense of it. At this moment a practice that does not try and sum it up or say it how it is directly feels good. There are life lines in her work.

I ordered her book. I will hopefully show it to you on Sunday, Rosanna.

I am wondering about collecting and drawing works – will they always be deemed minor? Can they survive being brought into full view when they become something that an artist does, their thing? Do they require a sort of ‘childs eye’ or naivety on everyones part?

Is this important probably not. Some bile in our romanticism.

I forgot to take your book the other day Rosanna, I have been reaching for it.

Did another Newspaper Reading Club readings at the Getty courtyard this week with Billy Woodbury he read Le Monde it was very powerful.

Judy I love your photo and I am so so so excited for your iPhone film. Fuck.

A response, some news.

There is another artist I want to point you to Yuji Agematsu. He walked round New York for a year and filled the plastic sheaths that come off of cigarette packets with bits of rubbish from the city’s floor.

Love from,




My response, R. A.

She was not just a collector. She picked up and took care, gently, of pieces of garbage and discarded used objects that somebody’s fingers had touched and tossed. She attached her treasures to a thick paper or drew them with precision as if honoring their existence: nicely, in order. Wraps and prints and labels and matches and found dope from the city life, a blade of grass, a leaf in the country. She organized her relics in a space of quiet.

I’m attracted by her need of order. I wonder, was her imagination “pressing back against the pressure of reality?” (Wallace Stevens) No doubt as an artist she revealed her ‘nobility’ which is spiritual depth. “Nothing distorts itself and seeks disguise more quickly. There is a shame of disclosing it and in its definite presentations a horror of it. But there it is.” Nobility makes art possible, helping to feel each day as a gift, every thing as a custodian of vibrations, changes, expressions. Candy Jernigan’s cans of beans dance her homage to Goya.

Graphic order is the first thing I was taught in school: we drew little apples, or triangles, all around the page guided by a grid of squares. We weren’t yet able to read and write. We had to follow the grid, and be precise. To be literal was obligatory. (My school was a rural school in Northern Italy, with one teacher for two classes in the same room and countryside children using ink as a weapon from the tip of the nib.)

In the end we had made ‘una greca,’ a decorative frame recalling Greek borders. But Greek was only a word and we didn’t know what it meant. La greca was our decoration and nothing else. The forms we used though, reproducing flowers fruits or geometric signs, were part of the visual experience in our messy daily life, but these images were not as attractive as real pears or apples. We couldn’t eat them. I guess we discovered the images’ misery when they are not art. And in that time after World War II, we really were hungry.

Influence —I think it’s a sort of nourishment you take from other artists— it’s like the little sparrows, they are needy like that. When you’re young, you take in from a lot of sources; and afterwards, with all you’ve seen, you never know where it all comes from, where you stop and it begins.
—Annette Messager


Wallace Stevens, The Necessary Angel, Essays on Reality and Imagination, New York, Vintage Book, 1942

Arthur Schnitzler, Relations et Solitudes, Aphorismes  Transl. from German by Pierre Deshusses, Paris, Rivage Poche, 1988

Annette Messager, Catalogue by Sheril Conkelton and Carol S. Eliel, Copyright © 1995 by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.



An imaginary dialogue between


Paterson  New Jersey    and     Los Angeles  California 

BETYE SAAR, Every Secret Things (Almost) 1982 Mixed media collage on paper 20 x 13.25" Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

BETYE SAAR, Every Secret Things (Almost) 1982. Mixed media collage on paper 20 x 13.25 in  Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Note from the editor, Rosanna Albertini. This dialogue is based on my impression that her visual poems made with found objects and his poems made with words -we find them as well around us, since the time our ears could grasp them- are nothing but small machines endowed with an “intrinsic, undulant, a physical more than a literary character.” (W.C.W.) Not only they are not sentimental, their subject is not their point. As works of art Saar’s visual poems are made as islands of perception, imaginary cages for human stories touched with gentleness, not to break their skin or alter their movable presence in her mind.

The price she pays to shape her land of wonder is distance: objects coming from other  lives, and fragmented images that were probably lost or hidden in her brain if she needs to add stitches to drawings and glue as if preventing them from vanishing, pinning them down. Time, in her art, seems to struggle against the eternal present of the art work when it’s finished, and becomes a still, impenetrable combination of feelings about all the things that stir our lives and do not have the same clarity of words. Directions, orientation, destiny, chance? They are cages for feelings before they solidify in concepts. Collages on paper, three-dimensional  assemblages are simply things living their own life.

They declare nothing. It is the hidden sparkle they surround with beauty that pulls our hair.

Their eyes look at us forcing us to wonder about what we do not, we can not see. The poet writes:

So let us love
confident as is the light
in its struggle with darkness

and the visual artist takes the wind in the same direction, through darkness and light. Darkness is time painted by history, and caged in words, but for her as an artist darkness is a fact that patiently, stubbornly, she brings back to light. Game of chance, or game of destiny: she is standing in the shadow of love. Which is the real step out of darkness, and makes each piece of her art a strong physical metaphor, a cage for magic, and a house for ideas.

(The poem is the second part of Shadows, in William Carlos Williams Selected Poems, (selected by dr. Williams himself), first published in 1949, New York, New Directions Books.

The images are from Betye Saar’s double exhibition: Blend and Black White at Roberts & Tilton Culver City, CA Oct.-Dec. 2016)


BETYE SAAR. Standing in the Shadow of Love

BETYE SAAR, Standing in the Shadow of Love  2000, Mixed media assemblage  18 x 26.25 x 1.50 in  Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA


BETYE SAAR, Destiny of Latitude and Longitude

BETYE SAAR, Destiny of Latitude and Longitude, 2010.  Mixed media assemblage  54 x 43 x 20.5 in  Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Ripped from the concept of our our lives
and from all concept
somehow, and plainly,

the sun will come up
each morning
and sink again.

BETYE SAAR, To Follow Separate Stars 1982, Mixed media collage on paper 18 x 15.5" Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

BETYE SAAR, To Follow Separate Stars 1982, Mixed media collage on paper 18 x 15.5 in   Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

So that we experience
every day
two worlds
one of which we share with the
rose in bloom
and one,
by far the greater,
with the past, the world of memory,
the silly world of history,
the world
of the imagination.

BETYE SAAR, Heartbreak Hotel, 2016 Mixed media assemblage 15.75 x 8.75 x 4" Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

BETYE SAAR, Heartbreak Hotel, 2016 Mixed media assemblage 15.75 x 8.75 x 4 in Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

BETYE SAAR, Heartbreak Hotel, 2016 Mixed media assemblage 15.75 x 8.75 x 4" Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

BETYE SAAR, Heartbreak Hotel, 2016 Mixed media assemblage 15.75 x 8.75 x 4 in Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

BETYE SAAR, Illusion of Freedom,

BETYE SAAR, Illusion of Freedom, 2009 Mixed media collage  8.5 x 18.5 x 11 in  Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Which leaves only the beasts and trees,
with their refractive
and rotting things
to stir our wonder.

BETYE SAAR, Always Just Out of Focus 1982, Mixed media collage on paper 18 x 13.5" Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

BETYE SAAR, Always Just Out of Focus 1982, Mixed media collage on paper 18 x 13.5 in   Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

BETYE SAAR, Collecting Twilight Corners 1982, Mixed media collage on paper 19.5 x 14.75" Courtesy of the artists and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

BETYE SAAR, Collecting Twilight Corners 1982, Mixed media collage on paper 19.5 x 14.75 in   Courtesy of the artists and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

Save for the little
central hole
of the eye itself
into which
we dare not stare too hard
or we are lost.

BETYE SAAR, Red Bone Black Scouts

BETYE SAAR, Red Bone Black Scouts, 2001   Mixed media collage on paper  17.5 x 25 in  Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA

The instant
trivial as it is
is all we have
things the imagination feeds upon, the scent of the rose,
startle us anew.

BETSYE SAAR, Dark Times 2015, Mixed media on vintage washboard 21.25 x 8.5 x 2.5"

BETSYE SAAR, Dark Times, 2015   Mixed media on vintage washboard 21.25  x  8.5  x  2.5 in   Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City LA

BETYE SAAR, Serving Time

BETYE SAAR, Serving Time, 2010  Mixed media assemblage  64 x 17.25 x 9.75 in  Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA


JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL’S  Photographic Plenitude

from Chatenay-Malabry (Paris) FRANCE




A Sparkling Goodbye   by Rosanna Albertini

A mental distortion, perhaps caused by my American life, shows me at a small scale the photographic representation of a big historical ending: European good manners’ last sparkle, humble objects in a splendid farewell.

Goodbye to the Age of Empire and to flaking off dreams of primacy that European countries had thrown like blankets over distant, different civilizations. It doesn’t matter that a new globalization has replaced the first one, built at the end of the nineteenth century. Each European country, the people in them, grow the arts and self awareness out of a specific state mind: a silk thread still holding the civilized road, despite the absence, today, of Eurocentric illusions. The notion of style, maybe, is stronger than political or intellectual empires. Bossuet and Pascal, longer lasting presences than Foucault and Derrida.

“The qualities of the spirit are not something we acquire by habit, we can only perfect them; from which we will easily see that delicacy is a natural gift, not at all acquired by art.”

“To be attached to one thought that doesn’t change, tires and ruins our spirit.”

Pascal, Discours sur les passions de l’amour

Delicacy, maybe, is Jean-Louis Garnell’s secret style.



Objects are dumb by nature, they have no speech. Not so their images, changed in spirit by human senses. Viewers indeed won’t stop wondering about their fantastic transfiguration, spreading thoughts like dead leaves on the ordinary life they come from.

George Steiner* wrote that poems, statues, sonatas, and we might add visual poems, “are not so much read, viewed or heard as they are lived.”* Did he open the magic gate? An invisible grid of feelings and intuitions, a crowd of unsettled thoughts produce in human lives a space for the arts. It is so boring that words must be precise trying to pin down such an uncertain matter.



Intimacy, through this changeable texture, is a molecular cohesion of humans searching for aesthetic forms they can love, maybe understand, if they accept that their thoughts are exhausted by life, and discolored by light. Only in embracing death as a fact can an artist bring the most mundane, fragile glass to an instantaneous, elusive smell of infinity. Words won’t catch it.

Shaped by daylight, stories we tell to ourselves are temporary and movable, like the dance of reflections the artist has captured, expanded life already flat and colorless. But among the lines and flat bodies around the edge of the table and the images of glasses and leaves on the table, of more leaves printed on the tablecloth, spreads the beauty of freedom. Visual joy as it might come from meeting a new, glorious day.


Jean Louis Garnell lights a candle, puts up an electric lamp. “An apple after Cézanne? more than one. Repetition isn’t only time, it’s also a new feeling of light that plays with human thoughts and contemplates them.”


The foreground, a devalued surface that seems to be the land of nobody because there is nothing beyond le bout de la table, is his secret planet. There, Garnell is a petit prince, inevitably grown up.                


*GEORGE STEINER, Real presences, Chicago – London, 1989

(A different version of A Sparkling Goodbye is published in the volume JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL, Centre photographique de Marseille, 2016)



by Rosanna Albertini

1095 B-N

I am in this painting, the little girl sitting in the foreground, 1949?

We say BLACK: as if the night was an impenetrable bucket of ink and a pupil was a colorless spot in the middle of the iris instead of a hole, calling for light to come, hello mister brain, would you please activate your colors.

WHITE, instead, is an imaginary brush canceling lines, mess, imperfection, the same as snowflakes in New York sticking on the sidewalk. Piles of garbage bags become hills of the city covered with a white mantle.

I was torn by a dilemma for a few days: some of my grandfather Oreste Albertini’s paintings, reproduced in black & white photos, seemed to me utterly beautiful, not less than his oil landscape paintings that I see every day before my eyes. But these are photos of old paintings that I had never seen. Regression, toward a sentimental confusion? And what about the myth of the original art piece, usually treated as a religious icon? Am I committing an abstract sacrilege? What’s more important: the object or the intangible aura spread by the painted object, in which the art secret is held like a hostage. A high price in tension is required to set it free.


1078 B-N

1103 B-N


Oreste’s paintings in my house are not decorative complements of my daily life, they are fragments of my own life magically brought together in one canvas or on a small wooden surface. The very moment of my birth is posed on a 15 x 11 inch painted tablet. The painter’s feelings are there, in the silent vibration of light over a day of labor, soaking grass and mountains with faltering strokes.

In the white shelter of our skull, through the gray matter of the brain, an almost unthinkable conversation between light and our neuronal trees unfolds flowers of color, sentiments, sounds.

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.

1107 B-N

Wanting company, I looked for original, clear minds. I found Giuseppe Panza di Biumo* and his memories as a collector, Mark Rothko,** Fernando Pessoa*** and Alberto Albertini, Oreste’s son.

Fernando Pessoa  “Life for us is what we conceive in it. For the peasant, whose little farm is everything, that empire is a little farm. … In point of fact, we possess nothing more than our own sensations; within them, therefore, and not within what they see, we just find the reality of our lives.”

Mark Rothko  “…making close the remote in order to bring it into the order of my human & intimate understanding. …”
Here, says the painter, is what my world is composed: a quantity of sky, a quantity of earth, and a quantity of animation. And he lays them out on the table for me to observe at the same distance, to hold in the palm of my understanding without editorship – and these are eyes or a head – that are the desires and fears and aspirations of animated spirits.”
I am interested only in expressing basic human emotions – tragedy, ecstasy, doom or so on – and the fact that lots of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I communicate those basic human emotions. … The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point!”

1094 B-N

Giuseppe Panza “The relationship between idea and form, so difficult, almost impossible to define, is the secret and mystery of art, its obscure and powerful core; its force that overcomes the limits of reason and connects to the unknown, to the mystery of life. As if one would touch something impossible to imagine, arising from the springs of life. Not an intellectual operation, rather a phenomenon that precedes and goes beyond us as human beings.”

1063 B-N

Alberto Albertini “My presence next to him as a child, while he painted, fills my vision. I often went out with him and watched him while painting outdoor, and more than anything else I absorbed the charm around him. I used to curl up by a hill’s shoulder to protect myself from the wind. In March the sun is barely warm. I could perceive the same atmosphere he was painting. He was able to transfer his perceptions into the painting; that’s what his paintings give me back, those immersive moments.”     ( )

My dilemma remains, along with my love for the black & white ghosts.



Oreste Albertini, Notebook

Alberto Albertini, A Socialist Painter, in this blog

Giuseppe Panza, Ricordi di un collezionista, Milano, Jaca Book Spa, 2006

Mark Rothko, Writings on Art, Yale University, 2006

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, Boston, Exact Change, 1998





NERO: lo dico ed è come se la notte fosse un secchio di inchiostro impenetrabile e la pupilla una macchia senza colore nel mezzo dell’iride invece che un buco, un buco che chiede alla luce di entrare, signor cervello buondì, mi faccia il piacere di accendere i colori.

BIANCO, invece, è un pennello immaginario che cancella segni, tracce di caos, imperfezioni, come fanno i fiocchi di neve sui marciapiedi di New York. Sacchi della spazzatura ammucchiati diventano colli urbani coperti da una mantello bianco.

Un dilemma mi ha turbato per qualche giorno: alcuni quadri del mio nonno pittore Oreste Albertini mi sono parsi bellissimi nella versione fotografica in bianco e nero, non meno dei quadri a olio che ho sotto gli occhi tutti i giorni. Eppure sono fotografie di vecchi quadri che non ho mai visto. Stavo regredendo verso una confusione sentimentale? Cosa ne faccio dell’opera d’ arte originale come mito, che di solito si tratta come un’icona religiosa? Sto commettendo un sacrilegio astratto? Che cos’è che importa di più: l’oggetto di per sé oppure l’aura che emana dall’oggetto dipinto, che quasi tiene in ostaggio il segreto dell’arte. Per liberarlo, ci vuole una tensione che non ha prezzo.

I quadri di Oreste nella mia casa non accompagnano la mia vita quotidiana come decorazioni. Sono momenti e luoghi della mia vita, dei frammenti che rivivono come per magia su una tela oppure su una tavoletta dipinta. Il momento esatto della mia nascita si è posato su una tavoletta di 38 x 29 centimetri. Sensazioni dell’artista, luce che vibra in silenzio sulle fatiche di un giorno, mentre i campi e le montagne prendono forma impregnate da un pennello esitante.

Nel ricettacolo bianco del cranio, attraverso la materia grigia del cervello, una conversazione inconcepibile fra la luce e gli alberi neurali sviluppa una fioritura di colore, suoni e sentimenti.

Suoni, colori e sentimenti sono diversi persona per persona. Sono corpo e anima delle arti.
Forse per questo le idee sono il cibo più convenzionale e opportuno, di bocca in bocca, qualche sosta sulla carta, niente di definitivo. Figlie della certezza solo in apparenza.

In cerca di compagnia, ho trovato alcune voci oneste e originali: Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, un collezionista con le sue memorie, Mark Rothko, Fernando Pessoa e Alberto Albertini, figlio di Oreste.

Fernando Pessoa “La nostra vita è solo quello che riusciamo a vederci dentro. La fattoria è tutto per il contadino, l’impero è una piccola casa. … E’ un dato di fatto che non possediamo niente più delle sensazioni; è al loro interno, non in quello che vediamo, che siamo in grado di trovare la nostra vita come è in realtà.”

Mark Rothko “… rendendo vicine le cose distanti per portarle nell’ordine della comprensione umana & intima …”
“Ecco, dice il pittore, i mio mondo è composto di: un po’ di cielo, un po’ di terra, e un po’ di animazione. E dispone le dosi sul tavolo per farmele osservare alla stessa distanza, perché le tenga nel palmo della mano senza alterazioni – questi sono occhi o una testa – che sono i desideri, o le paure, e le aspirazioni degli spiriti animati.”
“La sola cosa che mi interessa è esprimere emozioni umane fondamentali – tragedia, estasi, rovina o cosi via – e il fatto che un sacco di gente si emoziona e piange davanti ai miei dipinti mostra che ho trasmesso emozioni fondamentali. … Chi piange davanti ai miei quadri sta vivendo la stessa esperienza religiosa che avevo avuto quando li ho dipinti. E se tu, come dici, sei toccato solo dalle relazioni fra i colori, ti perdi l’essenziale!”

Giuseppe Panza “Un riesame del rapporto tra l’idea e la forma, rapporto difficile da definire, anzi impossibile da definire, è il segreto e il mistero dell’arte, è il suo nucleo oscuro e potente, è la sua grande forza superiore ai limiti della ragione, è il punto di connessione con l’ignoto, con il mistero della vita e di tutte le cose. E’ come toccare qualche cosa che non si può neppure immaginare, e come arrivare alle sorgenti della vita. Non è un’operazione intellettuale, è un fenomeno che precede il nostro essere e lo supera.”

Alberto Albertini “La capacità di dare corpo, consistenza, materalità ai volumi dei paesaggi mi pare straordinaria. Io tutto questo lo vedo in relazione alle mie presenze, da bambino, quando dipingeva. Spesso uscivo con lui e lo vedevo dipingere ma soprattutto assorbivo l’incanto che vi aleggiava. Mi raggomitolavo contro una riva, al riparo del vento, al sole tiepido di marzo. Percepivo l’atmosfera che lui dipingeva. Penso che avesse le stesse percezioni e queste riusciva a trasferire nel dipinto, questo mi rievocano i quadri, l’atmosfera, quei momenti.”