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.”


 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.


from:   Sankofa, 2006

Leiden: John Outterbridge’s installation at Naturalis, The National Museum of Natural History, The Netherlands. 





Photos: Peter Kirby

John Outterbridge’s statement:  Nature in the city, the city in nature: rocks, gnarled roots and tangled twigs, bicycles and plants, dried and desiccated bones, a sailing ship of old, birds and animals, sprouting potato and yams, together beneath a glowing orb (is it moon-ness, the female?)

It is a microcosm of our environment, a fertile garden from which we can harvest ideas and reflect on our history and our present existence, on our connectedness and the spirit that informs it all. It is a metaphor that speaks of change, of fossils in dormancy or in transition, as well as of the organic that germinates and nourishes. All of this together signals the living future.


to:   JOHN OUTTERBRIDGEs assemblages and sculptures in RAG MAN at ART + PRACTICE,

Los Angeles 2016,  until February 27.

A FULLNESS OF LIFE      by Rosanna Albertini 

Sankofa was the dream of a sower, il seminatore. I looked at Outterbridge for a week while he was preparing the installation, and the key moment wasn’t the display of bones and animals from the museum’s collection interspersed with tiny bicycles, it was the final throw of white beans all over the floor of his fossilized garden, the accurate positioning of yams and potatoes, some already sprouting. Only then did we sit down, as gardeners do, waiting for the natural growth as an infusion of living into the dryness of history. For the first time we spent a considerable length of time together, letting the talk veil curiosity about one another and the many things art can be. I was writing portraits of women artists then, a bunch of interesting flowers indeed, and John gave me as a present one more flower to discover after, back in Los Angeles: Dominique Moody. “Legally blind, she goes by bicycle” -he said, and laughed remembering that his attempt at being a real dutchman on a bike along with the many swarming through Leiden like mosquitoes, had just ended in a spectacular fall.

JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE, Caged, 2008 Mixed media

JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE, Caged, 2008  Mixed media   Courtesy of the artist and Tilton Gallery, New York    Photo: Peter Kirby

Never is his art separate from the feeling that living things and people could be lost and broken down forever if there isn’t somebody caring for them, presenting them in a personal, surprising way, as if art were an offering to life asking for clemency, or inclusiveness. Universe isn’t an audience, doesn’t listen, cares even less. If it wasn’t for humans, lady earth wouldn’t have a face, the many faces she shows to the sky who still cries tears and storms over their eternal separation.

JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE, Rag and Bag Idiom II, 2012, Mixed media

JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE, Rag and Bag Idiom I, 2012, Mixed media, The Eileen Harris Norton Collection    Photo: Peter Kirby

JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE, Rag and Bag Idiom VI, 2012. Mixed media, 14 " x 12" x 6" The Eileen Harris Norton Collection Photo: Peter Kirby

JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE, Rag and Bag Idiom VI, 2012. Mixed media, The Eileen Harris Norton Collection Photo: Peter Kirby

As an artist making assemblages, John Outterbridge is the sower who picks up, and takes in, debris left on the ground by rush and forgetfulness. Some debris were recently wrapped up in small bags: soft, irregular forms of a self  contained visual idiom.  We don’t  know exactly what they are, sometimes they became pillows, three of them placed on top of  a rag almost a flying leaf that carries bodies bigger than she. If the leaf is a soul, I can see the artist painting the heaviness of the burden with the colors of a fruit salad: yellow, orange and green and a touch of watermelon.

Colors, fabrics, shapes, are the harvest of thousands of years chewing them till they mutate. Art works become dust and dirt despite the efforts of the art conservators. Yet an artist like John doesn’t care, his creatures were born old, they look old, already damaged at birth. Like the Asante Adinkra symbol in Ghana, he is the bird turning his head backwards to take an egg off his back. Sankofa: go back and get it. You don’t forget that a couple of wings are not enough for a machine to fly, they rest in a box almost protected by the lives they had, folded tenderly against their skin. Rags and bags? So are we.




This post is first of all addressed to John Outterbridge, as a token of mine and Peter’s affection. I just received from Dominique Moody two evocative photos: the first is a bicycle made by an African boy, donated to John in South Africa during a trip that followed his visit to Leiden-the city of bicycles; the second is a picture of John Outterbridge and Dominique Moody taken by Tami Outterbridge at the opening of RAG MAN, December 12, 2015.


John and Dominique