METAMORPHOSIS OF A FOLK TALE

THE GOLDEN GOOSE    by   SEAN SHIM-BOYLE

SEAN SHIM-BOYLE, The Golden Goose, 2016 Wood, Flex conduit, 138 x 382 x 131 in Courtesy of the artist and Various Small Fires Art Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Josh White

SEAN SHIM-BOYLE, The Golden Goose, 2016
Wood, Flex conduit, 138 x 382 x 131 in Courtesy of the artist and Various Small Fires Art Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Josh White

SEAN SHIM-BOYLE, The Golden Goose, 2016 Wood, Flex conduit, 138 x 382 x 131 in Courtesy of the artist and Various Small Fires Art Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Josh White

SEAN SHIM-BOYLE, The Golden Goose, 2016
Wood, Flex conduit, 138 x 382 x 131 in Courtesy of the artist and Various Small Fires Art Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Josh White

“Humans, like all living beings, have a special power, a power of transformation that is also suitable for things around us, as far as we make up our image of them. …

We are, first of all, a transformative organism more or less complex (according to the animal species) because life is necessarily given and taken, and modified, also between the persons and their environment.”
Paul Valéry, La liberté de l’esprit, 1939

The truth of this kind of statement is questionable; it’s Valéry’s positivistic intelligence of life as one bee house in which humans don’t have primacy that strikes me.

But, first of all, this is a New Year story: January 1, 2017

By Rosanna Albertini       A wall of a Los Angeles art gallery,* a few months ago, asked an artist to liberate his body from the white flatness between floor and ceiling. Nobody knew he had a body! An animal, hidden body. The more the artist opened up and moved out part of the geometrical forest of flat pieces of timber that keeps the wall steadily vertical, the more flexible the structure became, almost opening wings. The wooden surfaces became pieces of skin and bones pierced by nails, crying drops of glue, yellow tears but not like the gold the artist began to search for.

img_0203-2

img_0206-1
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Ovid, and so many artists from the dawn of time, Sean Shim-Boyle made his fingers the magic tool able to unveil and amplify a structure already far from the natural trees she had been, covered with leaves, pushing roots into the ground.
“Scarcely had I swallowed the strange juices that I suddenly felt my heart trembling within me, and my whole being yearned with desire for another element. Unable long to stand against it, I cried aloud: ‘Farewell, O Earth, to which I shall never return!’” This was Glaucous, speeding from the surface of Ovid’s book, Metamorphosis, chapter XIII.

The golden goose as well could scream: ‘Farewell O Wall, let me fly to my artist.’

img_0200-1
img_0193-2
img_0201-1
And the artist changes an inanimate stiffness into a movable variety of organs. Although silent, the wooden limbs develop a language directed to the eyes, pages of a story made with textures, colors and cuts. They push feathers of course, always made of wood, to open our mind to the popular versions of metamorphosis like the ones told by an old aunt near the stove, or by the bed, to children ready to grab the thread of her words and sew it into their dreams. Close your eyes with them, dear reader. Your sense of reality could expand. You might wake up holding a goose with golden feathers like the Brothers Grimm story about Dummling, a simpleton who picked up the precious bird from the roots of a tree and collected the funniest group of thieves around the goose. Trying to steal the golden feathers, the thieves remained glued to the goose in an absurd carousel. Looking at them, the king’s daughter finally laughed and married the Dummling. Same laughter in Italy, where the tale didn’t bring golden feathers, only a fine goose. But magic! As soon as somebody tried to grab her, the beast screamed: ‘Quack Quack, stick to my back!’ Another carousel of stuck people made the sad princess laugh.

img_0186-2

img_0196-2

 

No doubt Sean Shim Boyle felt in his own body a ‘power of transformation.’ Although The Golden Goose was supposed to be covered by something recalling a skin, the artist fell in love with the anatomical story. He gives us the pleasure to look at the inside of this sculpted body, and stop on his arbitrary ligaments. Back to physicality, veins in the panels, windows of connective tissues, spots of aging in flattened surfaces of bark. Changing colors. The signs of natural and artificial making are history and fairy tale at once. The gold is in the mind. His, mine, yours? Frankly, I couldn’t tell. Maybe it’s in the earth.
“A realm without perspective, a realm of sensuality and desire that gathers all into the lips’ uncertain space – uncertain because it straddles interior and exterior, self and other.
A space of fusion, of total osmosis.
A surface that envelops, that caresses the brain and the images that our thoughts produce.”
Giuseppe Penone, Branches of Thought, 2014

It’s a clear day, cold and without wind. Golden leaves are still on the trees in front of my window. I wish we could all laugh and mutate into our favorite imaginary body. Had this been possible we would have already started the journey. Instead, we start the day reading the New York Times.

img_0204-2

 

All the detail photos are by R.A.
*Various Small Fires Art Gallery, Los Angeles
Italian Folktales, selected and retold by Italo Calvino, Translated by George Martin, Pantheon Books, New York, 1980
The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Pantheon Books, New York, 1944

MOON FLOWERS

THE SACRED DANCE OF NATURE

and

various ways of telling the same story

Watercolors by Edgar Honetschlager      Text by Rosanna Albertini

IMG_0740 copy

P1000252
The moon wakes up in the night. Sometimes she pretends she is a gondola, a light sickle that rocks in the sky; or she pretends to be happy when the clouds make her round face wet, and her look is so bright that millions of bulbs would not be able to make the same.

IMG_0739

To tell the truth, the moon is as dry as a block of wood, as a stone dried up in the sun.  But deep in her memory ― and she does not know from when — she keeps something, she does not know what, a vague dream of grass, leaves, and most of all of white flowers.

RIMG2630

Let’s pretend ― this is the flower of stories — that all the white flowers on earth were born from the moon. The white iris in particular. Maybe they have eyes that the stars forgot. Once the petals are open, they look up at the sky, and the white of the iris becomes a nocturnal flesh, as if flowers had sucked light from stars.

P1020887
In the summer, magically, the moonflowers open up all at the same time of the same day. Maybe the moon sent stardust to the earth to wake them up? They do not live more than one day and one night. They dry quickly, maybe the moon wanted it so.

IMG_0893

This is the sacred dance of nature, in front of which we are only gaping. Let’s make a cake.

RIMG2600

 

 

 

KATE NEWBY: don’t be all scared like before

KATE NEWBY, Don’t be all scared like before
Rope, 2015
38 Ludlow St., New York

15

THE ROPE THAT LOST her tension BUT FOUND HER ARTIST

by Rosanna Albertini

38 Ludlow street, New York. I must raise my chin and eyes toward the top of the wire screen to see the rope, and follow the vertical face of the building to the last floor, which is frowning behind the red, incongruous, and irregular line: a red rope, again, from one side to the other of a flat modern face riddled with window holes.

One would think the residents inside would spend their energy glued to the glass, stuck like flies that can’t find their way out. The red rope grabs the side corners of the building tightly. It is there to stay for a while. A perfect parasite and a rebel form in which secret meanings are fastened: that fat bundle around the pole is as unreadable as the Chinese ideograms painted on a nearby banner. (Unreadable if one is not Chinese.) How absurd! But, I need it more than a dictionary. The garbage bags on the sidewalk and the cracks of the wall are easy, life cycle. Not the rope.

L38_NaturalFlavor_05

L38_NaturalFlavor_07

L38_NaturalFlavor_01

IMG_5841

Richard Tuttle* wrote:
IT’S THE COLORS INSIDE THE COLORS THAT ARE TOUCHING, THE MEANINGS INSIDE THE MEANINGS.

(HOW TO HANDLE THE ART WITH GLOVES OFF)

Watch out, even these artist’s thoughts, written in capital fonts, look like the modern building. They wrap my mind like a blanket. Get rid of it. There is a strange gap between me and my mind, still conservative. Kick it out, says my instinct. Out of the window? Yes, stop looking and jump. Kate Newby, where are you? I do know the red rope is your soul.

There are mostly Chinese children in the P.S. 42 Benjamin Altman school, 38 Ludlow Street. They like the red, it’s good luck color. They love the rope without knowing why, lucky them. They are confused. “What’s your job?” they ask the artist. And Kate tells them she moves from one country to another making forms and colors she can leave on the ground, or on the top of a building, so they become moments of other people’s lives, as footprints after footprints many other humans also leave their traces on the ground.

I’m flying out of the window. The red rope sounds like a musical instrument changing form at each loop, bending, stretching out. The artist is the player. The red of the bricks sends iron vibes toward the rope, one more voice in the visual music of city. And Rembrandt says hello through Benjamin Altman’s spirit who collected his portraits, so densely red. Meanings? Maybe. Or the simple evidence that art brings into the air: the evidence that children can only see as a mystery with no answer: what’s life? Not only children, for that matter. But they are inside the school, to be trained for life.

Looking at the red rope, they gasp. It’s impressive to look at something that unfolds, without words, the whole messy but strong and obstinate line between birth and the last breath. Perhaps the only case in which beginning and ending make sense. My legs disappear, wings grow from my shoulder blades, I am an owl searching for a palm tree to spend the night.  

Meanwhile teacher and kids paint red lines inside the school, at the angle where the wall meets the floor. Magically, a small palm tree starts growing from one of the new red lines.

IMPERFECTIONS BECOME VIRTUES

IN THAT RARE MOMENT WHEN SOMETHING REPRESENTS NOTHING, BECOMING ITSELF**

IMG_6014

  •  ***Richard Tuttle, In Parts, 1998-2001, catalogue of the exhibition at Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsiylvania, Philadelphia, Dec.2001 – Feb. 2002.

A COFFEE PAINTING

A painting writes to his painter: IVAN MRSIC

By Rosanna Albertini

 

IVAN MRSIC, Coffee Painting, about 2001 Courtesy of the artist

IVAN MRSIC, Coffee Painting, about 2001,  ground coffee on plexiglas 10″ h x 12″ w
Courtesy of the artist

Dear Ivan,

It’s me, your painting. It has been hard to be on my own: your friend the plumber packed me so well ― as if I were a leaking pipe ― that I couldn’t breathe. Was Peter his name? You had asked him to deliver me to the other Peter, the one from Los Angeles. But, his meeting with the other Peter did not go immediately well. The two Peters waited for each other at the museum entrance, each of them at different doors. Remaking the effort the day after, they finally have been able to reach the same entrance. Both were kind. The American Peter kept me in his hand baggage for the flight. It was good to be packed and not see how far was I going from New Zealand, over the ocean.

My real landing was on a bed, in a Los Angeles house. She unpacked me immediately, maybe she is claustrophobic. I was so disoriented and shy that, instead of blushing, I turned into the palest thing, almost invisible. I did not want to look vain. I didn’t know who the “she” was, but she really looked at me. With no words, so I could read her thoughts. “Did I already see you in Ivan’s house?” ― she mumbled ― “You must be one of the first coffee paintings he made, if not the very first.” I only know I never grew much, my size is 25 x 30 centimeters.

Holding me, she started the tour of the house, where to place me? I desperately wanted to be by myself. She must have felt it, she found two nails already hammered into the wall underneath a shelf covered with books, a shady place symmetrical with the picture of a two-year-old pretty girl: her daughter. Maybe she liked me. You know from your Croatian grandmother that coffee grounds have magic powers. Especially now, after some weeks, I can see her mind-set at first glance when she stares at me. I am so happy I could liquefy.

I am a coffee way that doesn’t need milk,

750 squared centimeters of universe blocked in infinite stillness,

the house for a fruit freed from plantations,

a solidified magic rag showing that beauty can be humble,

a piece of sky the same color of earth,

I am the grace of broken things that multiply, spread on archival drawers.

On the same wall where I am hung, but above the art catalogues, shines her Neapolitan mother’s picture. It makes me dream that in the night time I let the ground coffee go away and jump into the filter of a Neapolitan coffee maker to become fragrance in the morning, as it has to be.

(Letter of a painting to his painter Ivan Mrsic, from Los Angeles (California) to Auckland (New Zealand), sometimes in 2008.)

1945, my mother and me in her

1945, my mother and me in her

Ivan Mrsic is a visual artist and a musician. Born in 1957 in Zagreb, Croatia, when Croatia was still one of the six republics of Yugoslavia. Adopting a Maori custom, I place him in his genealogy: son of Tonica Ilijic, who was born to Ivan and Katarina, and of Andjelko (Angel), born to Andrija and Jelena, the grandmother who used to read the coffee grounds on the bottom of the cups and inspired Ivan, in a dream, to start a series of coffee grounds paintings. Ivan landed in Auckland on February 24, 1989. He was a professional printer for many years. Studied jazz percussion at the Conservatory of Music in Montreux, Switzerland. When I arrived in Auckland for the first time, Ivan volunteered to be one of my  guides through the new world. The kindest.

A FROG ON THE CROSS

LOOKING FOR JESUS SAINT PETER FINDS A FROG ON THE CROSS

by Rosanna Albertini

In memory of Martin Kippenberger

 

martinkippenbergerfrog

PREMISE: in 2008 one sculpture from the series “Fred the Frog” by Martin Kippenberger  was hung on a wall at the Museum of Modern Art in Bozen (Bolzano, Italy). Church and State, physically represented by clerk and politicians, did everything  in their power to force the museum to remove the artwork. It seems the pope himself, at the time Benedict XVI, supported the request. The president of the Council for South Tirole started a public hunger strike. Refusing to accept any intimidation, The Museum’s curators and director kept the frog where it was to the very end of the exhibition. Journalistic reports sound like wild products of imagination, but the real story was found in a supplementary booklet meant to complete Italo Calvino’s  Folktales.

THIS IS THE TRANSCRIPTION:

Despite his good nature -he liked to laugh and make jokes- one day raining gray drops of water dripping from the hat into his neck and shoulders for the sky cried the same pain of his heart, Martin Kippenberger sculpted a human body with the head of a frog, and nailed it on a cross. It was not Jesus. Hands and feet had only four fingers. The sculpture was a funny portrait of Martin’s moment of sadness. The frog had an egg in one of the hands and a stein of beer in the other.

Saint Peter, who likes to keep himself in touch with the aging of time, and loves to walk up the mountains, discovered Martin’s crucified frog in a museum close to the Dolomites, in Bolzano. His attack of rage was so strong that he almost became as green as the frog. Not because of Martin, Jesus was his problem. Where was he? And why was the human frog holding an egg? Being human, in no way Peter could explain miracles or religious mysteries. “Is the egg going to hatch — he wondered — and release the spirit in the form of a dove? The son is missing, where is the father?”

On the top of such questions, Peter’s permanent empty stomach. For centuries Italian people told their children stories about this fisherman always desperate for lack of food. Although Jesus made miracles to give him something to eat, he often challenged either his intelligence or his moral temper. In Sicily, while walking through the island with the 12 apostles all exhausted, asking for bread, “Pick up a stone”, Jesus suggested. Each stone became a big loaf of bread in the hands of the 11 fellows, but Peter found only a little roll in his hand. His eyes told Jesus it was not enough, and Jesus answered, “Why did you chose such a small stone?” This time Peter carried a big one, but the village they reached in a few hours had a bakery and the miracle was not necessary. Peter threw the stone away and once more did not eat.

Even worse in Friuli: Jesus found a hare in a field, and told Peter to open his bag and put it in. Arriving at a restaurant, Jesus encouraged him to go to the kitchen and cook the hare, which Peter did with great pleasure. The flavor was so attractive that Peter couldn’t resist tasting the liver, thinking that Jesus wouldn’t notice. I won’t tell you the end of the story, you can find it in Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales. I assure you it was not without humiliation for Peter. He had to suffer to become a saint.

Jesus in the meantime was hidden with no possibility to be found: back in the cave where he laid after the cross torture, and resuscitated two thousand years ago. This time he had a computer with him, and a calico cat. His beard was shaved and his hair cropped. For the next thousand years he was planning something very difficult to organize. “Poor Peter, he mumbled, you never really understood why I was not kind to you, nor the miracles: father me and the spirit knew from the beginning that humans fail, it’s their nature. We thought my body on the cross was such a terrible image that pity, or compassion, might help them. No way. Father’s mistake when he made me human, or my mistake for I am also my father, I am confused.” “Truth is, because I don’t want to be on the cross anymore, I will destroy all the images of me on the cross. Martin gave me the idea. They can replace me with a saxophone, a giraffe, a sound system, if they still want a cross. Machines are better then ever, not human nature: they kill in the streets, blow themselves up, build cities where hurricanes cannot be stopped, they spend money they do not have, and they eat too much.” Jesus sends an e-mail to father lord. “Remember Martin Kippenberger? He died not long ago. I don’t know where we put him. Can you make sure he is in Paradise?”

Anonymous small sculpture of undetermined age

Anonymous small sculpture of undetermined age