MORE CHALLENGES for Alberto

MORE CHALLENGES, AROUND THE WORLD (Fragments of memory)

by ALBERTO ALBERTINI

Photos: Alberto Albertini

The seventies were a time of violent events in our country, and because I traveled a lot, it wasn’t difficult for me to find coincidences between my movements and those episodes. It’s also true that such coincidences are easier to remember than all the other travels that went smoothly.

Philips was a technological company: manufacturing, selling, researching; it was not by accident that the CD was born from the Philips-Sony collaboration. But earlier Philips big commercial success was the magnetic tape audio cassette. Born as a small portable recorder with battery, the tiny Philip cassette entered into the high fidelity circuit among builders who produced recorders/players with unexpectedly high quality.
The pioneers in the commercial distribution of audio cassettes had started to duplicate tapes using banks of consumer recorders and at real speed. Considering the demand, someone started to produce machines able to duplicate at high speed. Very quickly cassettes became more popular than the 45 record. It was also market in which the production of audio cassettes was not always legitimate.
One of my clients had made enough money, thanks to “his” productions, to address his mind towards building a recording studio in order to complete the production cycle: from the singer to the finished cassette. This client was so incompetent, and not only in the details of production, that to explain to him the quality of my machines seemed to me not only an impossible task, but also a pointless one. And yet my competitor, who had the advantage of providing duplication machines, had infinite patience trying to introduce data into my client’s brain! My tactic was: to also have a lot of patience, so much so that one day I brought my client to London, to visit a fabulous studio and see a recording console that was the best at the time . It was the winning move. A challenge, always!
The studio for him was completed and I was on vacation at the beach, reading the newspaper under a big umbrella. On the inside pages I saw the picture of a person who looked familiar to me, yes, for sure! it was him, my client. But his presence in the paper was also certifying his absence from our world: he had been killed by a gun shot! Uncertain gossip told me that it hadn’t been a story of jealousy, rather a failure to reimburse the expenses to his wife’s lover, which he had agreed to pay if he would end the affair.
Mah!

PARIS

March 14 1972, coming back from Munich (Germany), I was struck by the news that a corpse had been found underneath a tower carrying high voltage electric cables: it was Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, the publisher. I had met him at TTC in 1969.

The chief exists but is invisible. Only in some rare occasion he shows up, and not for lack of time, just because this is required by his role. So was the founder of Fonoroma, and so was Willie Studer, the creator of the Studer factory. I don’t believe Studer was formal, he seemed to me a reserved man, maybe a little shy, not very communicative for sure, and probably aware he had created the biggest and more perfect factory producing magnetic tape audio recorders.
He had two lines of production: REVOX semiprofessional for amateurs and the professional A80 for recording studios. In a few words, the construction was “Swiss.”
The factory I visited several times was a model: the labs for planners-technicians filled with instruments, and with automatically precise production machines.
The coffe pause was at ten, canteen and gardens. They, the Swiss, had the industrial zone separate from the residential zone… and their taping machines could record on magnetic tape, the text could be corrected and only at the end one or more copies were printed.
Gas was self-service and paid by Bancomat. It was 1970! All that because the personnel was scarse, those available were used in production, everybody produced, the factory couldn’t afford non-productive people. The Italians employed also did produce, and in order to learn the language they had a small blackboard with a written sentence to be learned every day.

 

SWITZERLAND

On September 5, 1972, eight members of Black September, a movement connected to Yasser Arafat’s Organization for the Liberation of Palestina, entered into the Olympic village quite easily, helped to cross the surrounding wall by a group of athletes who had drunk too much and didn’t realize what they were doing. From where had I returned? I don’t remember exactly, probably from a sleeping coach on the train from Monaco!

I had a long technological relationship with RAI (Italian Radio-Television), at every level, because they needed audio equipment for their radio and television programs. I introduced for the first time Studer audio recorders; the representative’s function as a mediator is quite interesting. From my previous experiences I knew the existence of synchronized audio recording system using a pilot tone (NAGRA), and RAI needed to have that kind of system. I convinced Studer to produce such recorders to provide them to RAI. Later on, RAI gave me the job of building a truck equipped for audio recording outdoors. The project had been developed by RAI technicians, and I was providing equipment and following the preparation. It was the occasion for me to introduce my design for the air conditioning diffusion, distributed by large surfaces in such a way that one couldn’t detect from where the air was coming, or the noise.

Air conditioning was my specialty: everywhere clients complained of the cold air blowing on their backs, or the lack of cold air. My system for recording studios consisted of using large surfaces with small holes, or long vents, in such a way that the air was moving at a low speed, but the change of air was fast and complete. Even the smoke —people used to smoke in the studios— immediately disappeared. I was also paying a lot of attention to the noise sent through the air conduits.

 

UK

May 17, 1973. Another return, another accident: the attack in front of the police headquarters Fatebenefratelli, organized by Gianfranco Bertoli. Four people passing by were killed, and forty five wounded.

London, the gray and foggy city. Absolutely not. I went there many times: the air was always clear and windy, in the winter the climate is often mild. The London I saw was lively and colored, music overflowing from houses and stores, maybe on the wave of the Beatles success sales grew, or maybe the Beatles were a great opportunity to export an impressive professional audio production.
Beatles, cockroaches, is there a relationship to carpets? Carpets everywhere, with cockroaches underneath? The empire has left its marks: big marvelous parks with benches that are not flimsy, consistently made with cast iron; marble palaces and red brick houses around a little square with a garden that becomes a small park.

A festive Heathrow. Meadows and hills by the freeway spread with people in groups, isolated, laying on the grass as if participating in a gigantic picnic organized by a national treasure hunt, waiting for a historic event:  the inaugural flight of the Concorde!

They were better off, the English people, under the benevolent eye of the Queen, yes the Queen, “the better sold product”, my client used to say, a perfect gentleman. Although he had a  slight limp, his style was impeccable. Perfect connoisseur of high society, he knew all the most “in” places to bring his guests. He never told me he could speak Italian until one day, suddenly, in perfect Italian he asked me how sales were going. What own earth? We were only beginning. Later I earned a champagne party and a gold record. At the toast, he lifted his goblet exclaiming: “the Queen!!!!” Perbacco, he really believed it.

November 2, 1975. I arrive to Rome for a fair of my equipment: they had murdered Pier Paolo Pasolini!

 

ALTRE SFIDE, FRAMMENTI DI MEMORIA

di ALBERTO ALBERTINI

Anni 70. Quei tempi erano ricchi di episodi di violenza in casa nostra e io, viaggiando molto, non avevo difficoltà a trovare coincidenze con alcuni di questi episodi. Naturalmente si ricordano le coincidenze e non tutti gli altri viaggi andati lisci.

Philips era veramente un serbatoio di tecnologia, fabbricava, vendeva studiava, non a caso il CD nasce dalla collaborazione Philips-Sony. Prima però il grande successo commerciale di PHILIPS è stata la cassetta a nastro magnetico. Nata come piccolo registratore portatile a batteria, la minuscola cassetta Philips era riuscita ad entrare nel circuito dell’alta fedeltà con costruttori che avevano prodotto registratori/lettori dalle qualità inaspettate.
I pionieri del commercio cassette avevano cominciato a copiare nastri su batterie di registratori consumer e a velocità reale, poi vista la richiesta, qualcuno cominciò a produrre macchine per la duplicazione ad alta velocità, in breve la casetta divenne più popolare del 45 giri. Nell’ambito di questo mercato sorsero produttori di cassette registrate un po’ ovunque con produzioni legittime e anche non.
Ebbi un cliente che con le “sue” produzioni aveva guadagnato a sufficienza per pensare di fare uno studio di registrazione per completare il ciclo produttivo: dal cantante alla cassetta finita. Questo cliente era totalmente incompetente in materia, e non solo quella specifica, cosicché spiegargli i pregi delle mie macchine pareva impresa non solo impossibile ma anche inutile, eppure il mio concorrente, fornitore delle macchine di duplicazione e che per questo si trovava avvantaggiato, aveva una pazienza sconfinata nell’inserire i dati in quel cervello! La mia tattica era: se resiste lui, io non posso essere da meno ed ho avuto anch’io tanta pazienza, tanta che un giorno l’ho portai a Londra in uno studio favoloso per vedere una console come si deve e questa fu la mossa vincente. Sempre una sfida!
A studio completato, mi trovavo in vacanza al mare sotto l’ombrellone a leggere il giornale. Nelle pagine interne vidi la foto di una persona che mi sembrava familiare, ma si, certo! Era lui! Il mio cliente, solo che la sua presenza sul giornale certificava le sua assenza nel nostro mondo: era stato ucciso con un colpo di pistola! Indiscrezioni non confermate mi dissero che non era stata una storia di gelosia ma di un mancato rimborso spese del marito all’amante della moglie per fine rapporto! Mah.

14 marzo 1972, al ritorno da Monaco di Baviera la notizia del ritrovamento di un cadavere sotto un traliccio: era Giangiacomo Feltrinelli! ( l’avevo conosciuto nel 69 in TTC! )

Il capo esiste ma non si vede, si concede solo in qualche rara occasione, non perché non ne abbia il tempo ma perché il ruolo lo richiede, così era il fondatore della Fonoroma, così era il creatore della Studer, Willy Studer. Non credo che Studer fosse così ligio al ruolo, mi sembrava un uomo schivo, forse un po’ timido, certamente poco espansivo, probabilmente consapevole di aver creato la più grande e perfetta fabbrica di registratori audio a nastro magnetico.
Aveva due linee di produzione: REVOX semiprofessionale per amatori e A80 professionale per studi di registrazione. In poche parole, la costruzione era “SVIZZERA”. La fabbrica che ho ripetutamente visitato era un modello: i laboratori dei tecnici progettisti erano colmi di strumentazione, le macchine per la produzione automatiche di precisione.
Pausa caffè alle dieci, mensa e giardinetti. Loro, gli svizzeri, avevano la zona industriale separata da quella abitativa…poi avevano le macchine per scrivere che registravano su nastro magnetico, si facevano le correzioni e solo a controllo finale si stampava in una o più copie.
La benzina era self service e si pagava col bancomat. Era il 1970! Questo perché mancavano le persone, quelle che c’erano erano in produzione, tutti producevano, non potevano permettersi uscieri portieri, gente improduttiva. Anche gli italiani producevano e per imparare la lingua, c’era una lavagnetta sulla quale veniva scritta una frase da imparare ogni giorno.

Il 5 settembre 1972, alle 4 del mattino, otto membri di Settembre nero, un movimento affiliato all’Organizzazione per la Liberazione della Palestina di Yasser Arafat, entrarono senza troppe difficoltà nel villaggio olimpico, aiutati a scavalcare la recinzione da un gruppo di atleti che avevano bevuto e non si resero conto di quello che stavano facendo. Da dove ero tornato? Non ricordo, mi pare in vagone letto proprio da Monaco!

La RAI è stata oggetto di un lungo rapporto a tutti i livelli tecnici perché necessitava delle apparecchiature audio per i programmi da trasmettere. Ho introdotto per la prima volta i registratori Studer e quello che può essere interessante è la funzione mediatrice del rappresentante. Dalle mie precedenti esperienze, avevo la conoscenza di un sistema di registrazione sincronizzata a mezzo frequenza rete ( NAGRA ) e la RAI televisione aveva bisogno di un sistema simile. Riuscii a far produrre a Studer, registratori con questa possibilità e fornire quindi la RAI TV. Più avanti, la RAI mi affidò l’appalto per la costruzione di un autocarro attrezzato per le riprese audio esterne. Il progetto era stato sviluppato dai tecnici RAI ed io fornivo le apparecchiature e seguivo i lavori di allestimento. In quell’occasione introdussi i miei criteri di diffusione aria condizionata, distribuita da ampie superfici in modo che non se ne rilevasse la provenienza e nemmeno il rumore.

L’aria condizionata era una mia specialità. Ovunque i clienti lamentavano il classico fastidio dell’aria condizionata che, arrivava gelida nella schiena, o non si avvertiva affatto. Il mio sistema, nella progettazione degli studi di registrazione consisteva nell’utilizzare ampie superfici con piccoli fori, o fessure lunghe, in modo che la velocità dell’aria fosse bassa ma il ricambio rapido e completo, anche il fumo, allora si fumava negli studi, scompariva immediatamente. Grande attenzione per la trasmissione dei rumori attraverso i condotti dell’aria.

17 maggio 1973. Altro ritorno, altro accidente: l’attentato davanti alla questura Fatebenefratelli da parte di Gianfranco Bertoli. Morti 4 passanti e feriti altri 45.

Londra, la grigia e nebbiosa. Assolutamente no. Ci sono stato innumerevoli volte: sempre limpido e un po’ ventoso, spesso d’inverno il clima è mite. Londra mi era apparsa vivace, colorata, le case, i negozi che traboccavano musica, forse sull’onda del successo dei Beatles vendevano tutto ma soprattutto, forse, i Beatles sono stati l’opportunità per una imponente produzione di audio professionale da esportare.
Beatles, scarafaggi, forse c’è una relazione con le moquettes, ovunque moquettes, non ci si accamperanno sotto gli scarafaggi? l’impero aveva lasciato le sue tracce. Meravigliosi grandi parchi con panchine costruite senza economia fatte di consistenti fusioni di ghisa, palazzi marmorei e caseggiati di rossi mattoni, a quadrilatero in modo di farci stare un giardino che è un piccolo parco.

Heatrow in festa. I prati, i dossi che fiancheggiavano l’autostrada, cosparsi di gente, a gruppi, isolati, accomodati sull’erba come partecipanti ad un gigantesco picnic organizzato da una caccia al tesoro nazionale o in attesa di un evento messianico imminente: attendevano il decollo inaugurale del CONCORD!

Come stavano bene, gli inglesi, sotto l’occhio benevolo dalle regina, si la regina, il prodotto più venduto, diceva il mio rappresentato, perfetto gentleman. Zoppicava un pochino ma riusciva a contenersi in uno stile impeccabile, perfetto conoscitore dell’alta società sapeva tutti i posti più “in” dove portare i suoi ospiti e non mi aveva mai detto di conoscere l’italiano finché un giorno, improvvisamente, in perfetto italiano mi chiese conto dell’andamento delle vendite. Diamine eravamo solo agli inizi. In seguito mi sono meritato un party a champagne e un disco d’oro, al brindisi levò il calice esclamando: “the queen!!!!” Perbacco, come ci crede!

2 novembre 1975, arrivo a Roma per una fiera di settore: avevano assassinato Pier Paolo Pasolini!

 

Laurel Doody : DEJEUNER SUR L’HERBE

Déjeuner sur l’herbe – Garden Lunch  
February 28, 2016

Los Angeles, 3632 Grand View Boulevard, LA 90066

Lucie Fontaine’s employees hosted the thanksgiving lunch of Laurel Doody, Fiona Connor’s non-profit art space that has been active in Los Angeles for about a year. March 2015-March 2016.

 

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FIONA CONNOR, plates   Photos: Fredrik Nilsen

The gallery was also Fiona Connor’s small apartment. Often she moved her bed downstair during the day and brought it back for the night. The exhibition space was rigourously empty. The table for the ritual dinner at each exhibition was improvised and built at the moment. Laurel Doody was not only a whimsical initiative of a single person. Values were at stake. Exhibition by exhibition, it became an offering to the art makers, and their friends. By choice, not a commercial experience. Cooking and eating were parts of the ritual. A little like the Maori who offer hot soup to the stars, sitting on the seashore. Curators, writers, gallerists, designers, photographers, filmakers, performers were part of the collaborative group.

Many people in Los Angeles can say they were there, In Laurel Doody’s space, experiencing sincerity, honesty, passion for art and joyful time. Fiona Connor is an artist who likes displacements of objects and of their common meanings. She brought from her apartment to the Garden Lunch materials for the table: a small cupboard and two doors. The table setting was displayed on the doors. The artist set the table with ceramic plates made by her and with old white and blue Ginori 1900.

 

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Photos: Peter Kirby

As Claude Lévi-Strauss  would say, “The same mind which has abandoned itself to the experience becomes the theater of mental operations which, without suppressing the experience, nevertheless transform it into a model to release further mental operations. In the last analysis, the logical coherence of these mental operations is based on the sincerity and honesty of the person who can say, like the explorer bird of the fable, ‘I was there; such and such happened to me; you will believe were you there yourself,’ and who in fact succeeds in communicating that conviction.”

Fiona’s plates are made by pressing clay on architectural surfaces and the ground, then peeling them off and letting them dry over moulds. They were fired at Laurel Doody. At the end of the garden lunch, the friends of the project received their plate as a present.

EDGAR PISANI: REBEL and MASTER

EDGAR PISANI: REBEL and MASTER in the art of politics

        C’est beau la politique! There is beauty in politics!

  in memoriam                by Rosanna Albertini

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Photograph by Peter Kirby

Twelve years ago. The old man has flown back to France. Los Angeles was the Pacific edge of his life, one more seashore after his native dunes in Tunis and after the Atlantic, flinging its rage against Normandie and Bretagne. I still see his silhouette on the sidewalk, his legs walking steady and brisk. Arms and shoulders don’t move, a walking statue. Even the long sleeves of his shirt look dignified. I don’t know if history or simply age, made him exiled from decades of active political life, among other things serving France as a minister for two presidents, Charles De Gaulle and Francois Mitterand. He knows what he was and still is: first of all, “serviteur de l’Etat.” The two leaders, in his words, became political artists (plasticiens): De Gaulle like a Rodin “travaillant le marbre a grand coups de ciseaux,” working the marble with strong strikes of chisel, and Mitterrand “caressant indéfiniment la glaise,” endlessely fondling the clay.*

His eyes barely contain the urging of thoughts and the pressure of projects he needs to achieve before his feet are pointed to the sky, I hope without socks. So far his eighty seven years move on his feet back and forth through a Los Angeles sculpture garden, populated by a number of bronzes by Auguste Rodin and some by Bourdelle. There he feels at home. Not so much among contemporary geometries or textures emptied of figures, or Mel Bochner’s interrupted lines: language is not transparent. Far from me the idea of guiding his mind through LACMA’s meanders, we both know too well that art and politics can speak only to unpredictable motions of a personal sensitivity. He connects instantly to Gerhard Richter’s abstractions, though: a tormented embrace of greens and reds, as if the canvas had absorbed an informal density, completely earthly. The viewer could wonder whether the sky had ever existed, not to mention the humans.

Outside, in the garden, a full size bronze emerges from the bushes, the legs are hidden. Look at that figure, “It’s enough to look at,” says the old man, “this is solitude.” My eyes follow his feeling. Yes, life is heavy on that man’s sculpted shoulders, it is a dress he/we wear every day, it gets heavier and heavier, and yet the person is the core, the kernel of the story: instead of being put down, the person keeps light, and resilient. I turn myself, staring at the face of the old man: the statue is his mirror, that’s him. “Poor Bourdelle!” — he says — “Il a la même énergie, pas le même génie.” Rodin comes first.

The old man runs the clock backward repeating thoughts he does not want to forget, writing in the air the wisdom he has distilled from the vapors of power. Democracy, he truly cares about it. Food for everybody, he cares even more. We walk for almost an hour and he doesn’t look tired. If I suggest to take the bus, “Don’t treat me like an old,” he replies promptly, dropping a smile into his throat. He likes to talk sitting on the benches by the ocean.

What are you doing here?” he asks me for no reason. “I keep myself Italian, and partially French: here everything I’ve learned makes more sense.” As a matter of fact, in a couple of months the old man has turned on in me strings I had kept silent during a decade spent adapting to American life, trying to. Observing his struggle to keep his life active and interesting, for the first time I look at my own aging, still an odd thing, hard to believe that everything will stop, and one day, a day that I will not be able to see, I will not be here or there, where?

So far, my heart is pumping well: it sends me to see friends and grandchildren, other people older than I, animated by a ridiculous energy like a sonata by Ludwig Van Beethoven. I wear a red shirt from my husband’s collection and look at myself in the mirror: It fits me well, I burst out laughing! although they had told me when I was eleven or twelve that red was not a good color for my complexion. I suspect they had in mind the untold idea that red is too appealing, maybe suggests illicit sex, but then, what about Santa Claus? I was five when I learned that Garibaldi’s shirt was red. Garibaldi Giuseppe, of course, like most of my family members bearing the same name, on his feet in an oval frame. This was the way children learned history: Romolo and Remo, Nero, Napoleon, Garibaldi, pictures of famous humans in an oval frame.

We were sure they were truly dead like all the people looking at us from the gravestones in pictures with the same kind of oval. Mysterious that the twins were represented as babies nursed by a mother wolf, as if they had never grown up. A short sentence about each of them…. done, we knew that ancestors had prepared the life we are in. Garibaldi was l’eroe dei due mondi, the two worlds hero: meaning Europe and South America, or the deeply parted Northern and Southern Italy. The red shirts invaded Sicily. They killed, robbed, raped, only one hundred and fifty years ago. Why should Sicilians feel proud of being Italians. Of course they don’t. I wish I could grow my legs in a Munchausenian fanfaronnade and put one foot in Naples, and the other in Los Angeles, which is as far from being a truly American city as Naples from being an Italian one. Displacement is my favorite habit. Will I be a displaced ghost in the afterlife? I wonder. Will I stop dreaming?

 

A NOTE on POLITICS, by Edgar Pisani

Politics is the refusal to be resigned to fate and fatalism, but also brings a wish to fight, build, and negotiate. A luxury for the affluent, politics is a necessity for everybody else. Giving rise to free examination, politics gives meaning to what appears to be inevitable.” (Translation R.A.)

As it is human, politics does not only obey laws of ‘reasoning reason” and it is not only subject to the rhythm of the moments. It sanctions the importance of a “sentient reason,” and of duration. It is based on a philosophy of the world and the species, it tries to be prophetic by bridging the present that is known and the future that is negotiable; it is a poetics, for it sings the human adventure out of dramas and catastrophes; it is an ethics, for it identifies the rules that make it possible and good to live together; it is a pedagogy, for it help us to read and understand; it teaches us curiosity and method; it also teaches us responsibility. Politics is an ethics, for it teaches mutual respect and encourages learning. It helps us to understand that liberty can only exist if linked to responsibility. It is wisdom and courage for, when it has to confront forces and passions, it does not claim to stop them through decisions, but to tame them by mediation.

Edgar Pisani, A Personal View of the World, Utopia as Method, New York, Ottawa, Toronto, LEGAS, 2005 Translated and edited by Paul Perron
*This quotes were reported in Patrick Roger, Mort d’Edgar Pisani, résistant et ancient ministre de De Gaulle et de Mitterrand. LE MONDE 21.06.2016

PHILIP GUSTON’s touch on MY BLINDNESS

Something happened in New York City, May 21

By Rosanna Albertini

This is a piece on the physical status of painting and the dominant illusion that intelligence is not physical: rather an immaterial spark of infinity that makes humans different from monkeys… If such a deceiving idea has a comfortable room in your mind, listen to the story. Maybe you will stop recalling theoretical or historical stereotypes when you look at a painting. You might feel like a bird, perched on the artist’s shoulder, rolling your eyes into the display of wet colors.

PHILIP GUSTON, Untitled, 1967 Brush ans ink on paper, 18 1/8 x 23 1/8 inches @ The Estate of Philip Guston - Courtesy Hauser and Wirth

PHILIP GUSTON, Untitled, 1967 Brush and ink on paper, 18 1/8 x 23 1/8 inches
@ The Estate of Philip Guston – Courtesy Hauser and Wirth

For most of my life as an art writer I have not been able to respond to Guston’s paintings. It was like having a locked door in front of me. There was no reason why. His paintings, those with figures, were flooding me with sadness, a fog in my brain. Reading essays and books did not rift my clouds. I couldn’t understand what was really going on, if it was me or Guston’s manner of operation, raising a barrier.

“It is writing of course it is the human mind and there is no relation between human nature and the human mind no no of course not. … oh yes the flatter the land the more yes the more it has may have to do with the human mind.” Gertrude Stein

Also Gertrude’s ‘of course’ was to me a matter of doubt. But her writing and thinking have something  of the painting’s flatness, they do not do not climb geometrical logics. On May 21, in New York City, my stubborn brain had to give up: I had to admit she was completely right: Guston’s paintings as probably any other great paintings for that matter don’t have much to share with human mind. I realized it after my head, on May 21, was seriously knocked down by a biker who hit my body like a balloon. I was crossing the street. For weeks each step has been painful, I’m still not my usual walking self. The day before the accident, I had seen Philip Guston’s exhibition of abstract paintings and drawings (1957-1967)  at Hauser and Wirth.

PHILIP GUSTON, Accord i, 1962 Oil on canvas 68 1/8 x 78 1/2 inches @ The Estate of Philip Guston - Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

PHILIP GUSTON, Accord I 1962,  Oil on canvas 68 1/8 x 78 1/2 inches
@ The Estate of Philip Guston – Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

Prisoner of a bed for hours, days, I started to revisit his paintings, those that are called abstractions, with new sympathy. They were inside my body along with bruises and changing colors around my left eye; they kept me in a state of questioning, about the human sites Guston had laid down carefully, layer by layer, but he didn’t clean them, nor idealized them; they are painted as messy  as they are: until a state of painted harmony is reached between strokes and colors.

PHILIP GUSTON, Untitled 1958 Oil on canvas 64 1/8 x 75 1/4 inches @ The Estate of Phiip Guston - Courtesy of Houser and Wirth

PHILIP GUSTON, Untitled 1958,  Oil on canvas 64 1/8 x 75 1/4 inches
@ The Estate of Phiip Guston – Courtesy of Houser and Wirth

As still lives do, these paintings block in a configuration that is not allowed to change the most undefinable nuances of a daily conversation: bodies and sounds and gushes of wind in their invisible, constant mutations. Guston could feel them, he paints his own sensations through the moment and place he is in. His feeling of existence.

He wrote in 1960: “I think a painter has two choices: he paints the world or himself. And I think the best painting that’s done here is when he paints himself, and by himself I mean him and his environment, in this total situation.”

Give a look to The Year, 1964: it has two empty pupils, black. Each of them is beginning and ending. Hadn’t the tormented fury of time crossed their holes already, they wouldn’t be  looking at us announcing a quiet end of the day after all; actions or changes continue not to be compatible, and yet The Year keeps all the chopped stories together, floating in the same gray light. White and pink still peep out gently, they are not foreground.

“I don’t know why the loss of faith in the known image and symbol in our time should be celebrated as a freedom. It is a loss from which we suffer, and this pathos motivates modern paintings and poetry at its heart.

PHILIP GUSTON, Group II 1964, Oil on canvas 65 1/8 x 79 1/8 inches @ The Estate of Philip Guston - Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

PHILIP GUSTON, Group II 1964, Oil on canvas 65 1/8 x 79 1/8 inches
@ The Estate of Philip Guston – Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

PHILIP GUSTON, The Year 1964, Oil on canvas 78 x 107 1/2 inches @ The Estate of Philip Guston - Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

PHILIP GUSTON, The Year 1964, Oil on canvas  78 x 107 1/2 inches
@ The Estate of Philip Guston – Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

At work in his studio, Philip Guston looks like a fisherman. Aquatic density in his compositions, floating of perceptions maintaining their chaotic and movable quality. Never twice the same. Never rigid, either. Known images and symbols are gone. What remains, then? The physical status of painting.

Finally, now that my body has been wounded, and my mind absorbed by pain, I see how great is Philip Guston’s art. I needed the loss of faith in the image of myself I had met most of my life: positive, invulnerable, independent. I became one of the many anonymous black holes Guston repeated  and repeated inside the bundle of matter, the formless nest of our daily situation. His paintings of the sixties are not images of anything one recognizes, nor portraits of ideas. He looks down. The narcissus he sees is a black spot on the asphalt where I bumped my head.

He does nothing to fill the blackness, his own or others’. And if sameness is everybody’s destiny what can he do? Paintings will carry it; vertical objects lifting an horizontal scene, so the angle is changed. There are not forms, not hierarchies, only a common ground.

PHILIP GUSTON, Painter III 1963 Oil on canvas 66 x 79 inches @ The Estate of Philip Guston - Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

PHILIP GUSTON, Painter III 1963,  Oil on canvas  66 x 79 inches
@ The Estate of Philip Guston – Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth

The extremely simple drawings assembled on the same wall brought tears to my eyes: the line is not Paul Klee’s vein reproducing nature’s growing energy, memory and identity are not in these marks on paper.   Each sign says ‘I’m here, now. I am unique, not sure what I’m doing here, and yet don’t be mistaken: I am the language the Guston artist practices to tell himself he is alive, the marks of his human nature, looking hesitant as well as strong.’ Existential beauty, no need to explain.

Philip Guston in his studio, New York, 1957 Photo: Arthur Swoger @ The Estate of Philip Guston - Courtesy Hauser and Wirth

Philip Guston in his studio, New York, 1957
Photo: Arthur Swoger
@ The Estate of Philip Guston – Courtesy Hauser and Wirth

WALKING THE LINE BETWEEN PEACE AND WAR

WALKING THE LINE BETWEEN PEACE AND WAR

“All the matter and difficulty of being alive in a place of peace and a place of war.”

Sebastian Barry*

A note by the editor.
John Eden’s art is human life condensed in forms as clean as an ideal. And the light they reflect will never depart. Eternity is the challenge of any art. My blog’s reality is the opposite: based on moments, moods, displacements, coincidences, it “traces and contains something unruly, energetic, improbable.” My friend Fiona Connor just sent me these words about her most recent art piece. They also work for The Kite. I would only add that the tail of my Kite has become a long string of collaborations, fragments recalling each other. They often oddly crack like pomegranates and the red bloody juice of an artist melts into the veins of another artist. There is no explanation, my gratitude is the glue. RA

 

CAPTAIN OF MY SOUL

By John Eden

JOHN EDEN, Vietnam,

JOHN EDEN, Vietnam 1950-1962 (Fuselage & Wing), from the Roundel (Military Aircraft Insignias) Series 2013. Automotive metal flake paint on a 28″ diameter fiberglass disc. Courtesy of the artist.

 At the end of WWII, my father accompanied the first group of American scientists into Hiroshima just days after the atomic bomb blast to measure that city’s unimaginable devastation, seeing firsthand, the burn victims and the phantom human forms that were seared onto its city walls. Similar to what I saw displayed secondhand, thirty-five years later when I visited Hiroshima’s Peace Museum at ground zero.

Like Saving Private Ryan, my mother’s oldest brother waded onto France’s bloodstained Omaha Beach during the Normandy invasion as a ‘replacement soldier’ and then fought his way throughout Western Europe. He said that he walked all the way to Germany with a M-1 rifle in his hand.

He’s gone now, but every time he tried to talk about those horrific experiences (the smells & images), he would choke up and say something like ‘I’m no hero, I was lucky, and that’s all. The ones who didn’t make it are the real heroes and I can’t get those ghosts out of my head. I just tried to stay alive.’ He believed his success in staying alive grew out of his boyhood hunting experiences that might appear counter-intuitive. His Oklahoma country-boy father taught him to always target the animals that were bunched together, because the odds of ‘bagging your dinner’ were mathematically higher. He figured that German soldier would have learned the same basic hunting skills, so his thoughts were always to ‘stay apart and not to bunch up.’

To Examine Critically: Stay Apart, Don’t Bunch Up and Question Everything

To observe, to live inside oneself, apart and separate; it’s what I believe writers and artists need to do, and that has been my calling for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a small Southern California town that skirts the extreme northern fringes of the San Fernando Valley, just north of where the Interstates 5 and 14 meet. The Newhall-Saugus area has now been eclipsed by major development projects within the Santa Clarita Valley and the art world knows it as the unlikely location for Cal Arts. It had been a quiet farming community until the never-ending real estate boom that started there in earnest in the mid ‘40s, but during my early childhood it was still mostly open farmland surrounded by hills that were riddled with mining caves dug by Chinese migrants searching for their American dream.

JOHN EDEN, Black-Hole

JOHN EDEN, Black Sphere AKA The Black Hole, 2011-2012. From the Sightless Installation Series, slate black nickel plated SLA Epoxy resin, steel and glass, 54.25″ x 12″ x 12.” Courtesy of the artist.

Escape, Escape, Escape

Up until the age of 16, most of my weekends were spent exploring our valley’s arid surrounds, but with a driver’s license, wheels and a few bucks for gas my life changed forever. Roads out to the city and the beach became El Camino Real, points of teenage interests connected together by circuitous routes washed down, first with bland AM radio that soon gave way to Madman Muntz’s audio tape cartridge players that poured out more dangerous FM album sounds by The Animals, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones at will, and like Kerouac, I was ‘On The Road,’ moving forward and yet compulsively glancing backwards too.

JOHN EDEN, Eye for an Eye,

JOHN EDEN, Eye To Eye, 2010. Glass eye, red enamel and lacquered aluminum, 1″ x 1″ x 3.625.” Courtesy of the artist.

If I were asked what defining moments in my formative years put me on the road less-traveled, I would have to say it was the archery accident that took place when I was twelve and my time spent in the U. S. Air Force during the Vietnam war.

I had been given an archery set for Christmas and during the following holiday weeks I would spend most of my time roaming ‘Indian-style’ around a nearby dry riverbed that snaked its way through our valley mostly shooting at imaginary targets. My mother’s family connection with Eastern Oklahoma’s Choctaw tribe has instilled a lifelong interest in Native American culture and at age twelve I was all about being Ishi, ‘the last wild Indian’ in America.

On one occasion an older neighbor boy came along hoping to try archery for the first time. Early on, he suggested we play a game where the boy holding the bow would yell ‘look out’ and the other boy would duck down to let the shooter fire the arrow over his head at an imaginary bad guy. The major problem with that suggestion, besides just being a really bad idea, was that neither one of us were skilled enough with the bow to perform the maneuverer safely.

It was my bow; therefore I went first, after yelling the warning he ducked as planned, so I pulled back the arrow to release, but the arrow’s tip fell off my bow hand. I had to reset the arrow and go again. In the confusion, he must have thought that I had already released the arrow, because he stood up just as I let go of the shaft, it thrusting point blank into his eye. His doctor said later that he was ‘lucky to be alive,’ but having lost one eye, he would go through life visually impaired, with no depth perception.

From that moment on, I carried the hidden indelible stain of that boy holding his bloody hand over his punctured eye, permanently etched into my mind’s eye and all the gut-wrenching anguish associated with doing such a terrible thing. There was nothing I could do or say that would undo the pain and damage that I had caused him and his family. Looking back, I’m sure we both suffered from PTSD syndrome, but at the time, therapy for such things were nonexistent. This traumatic experience made me a natural pacifist, not wanting any more virulent images in my head, like the ones I knew my uncles and father brought back from World War II. Perhaps, they were heroes —I knew, I was not.

JOHN EDEN, I Walk the Line

JOHN EDEN, I Walk the Line, 2014. Photo collage. Courtesy of the artist.

Will we be heroes of our own lives, or will we merely be swept along by our own particular circumstances?

That to me is the primary question that I had to come to terms with. We can’t control what life throws at us, but we can control how we respond to those adversities. During the Vietnam War, all young men of draft age had to register with the Selective Service for possible military duty selection. Some made the decision to evade the draft and others were granted various deferments thereby avoiding military service all together.

Shortly after graduating high school, my father suggested I join the Air Force to avoid being drafted into the Army or Marines, which certainly meant fighting in Vietnam. Having taken an Aviation Science class in school that stoked my interest in flight, I mistakenly assumed that by enlisting in the Air Force proactively, I would be trained in a non-combative air support role with skills that could be used later in civilian life. But like my ‘Auld Da,’ Murphy’s Law mandated that my initial duty was to be a Military Air Policeman.

My first stateside assignment was to guard SR-71 Spy Planes and the B52 Strategic Air Command long-range bombers. These B52 aircraft were somewhere in the air over the United States 24/7, armed with nuclear bombs and were missioned to destroy whole cities in the case of a nuclear war. This policy was known as Mutually Assured Destruction (or M.A.D.). Before being cross-trained into my final job as a base photographer, I walked a mosquito-ridden flight line in the rice-paddies of Northern California as an M-16 toting “AP” waiting to be cycled on through to Vietnam while guarding those deceptively beautiful nuclear-armed aircraft, all when the end of the world seemed so palpable and real.

JOHN EDEN, India 1943-1945,

JOHN EDEN, India 1943-1945, (Fuselage & Wings), from the Roundel (Military Aircraft Insignias) Series, 2015.  Metal flake paint on fiberglass disc, 46″ x 46″ x 12.” Courtesy of the artist.

Breakdown And Conversion
Working the nightshift on the flight line was grueling; exposure to the elements for 8-hour shifts took their toll, especially on cold winter nights. I kept wondering about which city the aircraft I was guarding was designated to target. I was haunted by what the devastation might look like and if I was in any way culpable. On one hand, I was not a fan of anti-democratic hegemonies around the world, but conversely, I really hated how our politicians and their military counterparts allowed so many of our young soldiers to die without any long-term goals or endgame plans in mind. It all seemed so unconscionable.

My fear of becoming part of some dark historical event was looming large and my psyche was compelled to push back by way of exhibiting extremely erratic behavior on the flight line in a nuclear weapon zone. The behavior was noticed, a breakdown really, and I was sent to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Truly, I could have just gone along with the program, but I sensed it would have been the end of me, as I was.

I was diagnosed with manic-depressive tendencies, but not severe enough to be discharged. It was then, that I was cross-trained into photography and my future path was clear. I think I had learned from my archery accident a micro truth: if something feels wrong, don’t give into the impulse to go along just to get along. More recently, a macro truism has presented itself: one generation’s truths do not necessarily transfer on to the next.

JOHN EDEN, Nor are we afraid

JOHN EDEN, Nor Are We Afraid, 2009-2010. Three primary colors cast resin skulls with acrylic pedestal, from the Memento Mori Series, each skull is 6.5″ x 5.125″ x 9.5.” Courtesy of the artist.

  • Sebastian Barry, A Long Long Way, Penguin Books, 2005

NUCLEAR EPHEMERA

“Kim Jong-un announced via state TV Korea is ready to fire its nuclear weapons. The threat was a response to new UN sanctions announced this week against his region.” The Guardian, Friday, March 4, 2016.

A  LETTER  from  HARRY GAMBOA Jr.

Los Angeles, March 5, at 8.32 AM

Dear All,

I recall being a young boy in the 50’s when the sky lit up one evening.

The birds sang briefly then silence rang out without a peep.

Nuke testing was the rage for more than a decade with more than 1,000 nuclear devices being detonated not too far away from L.A.

The notion of Mutually Assured Destruction wasn’t very assuring but certainly put the seal of excellence on the notion of existential angst.

Being born into the atomic age was a mixed blessing of fallout, smog, and a million years of genetic memory.

21st Century playthings are what made up horrific nightmares in the minds of previous generations.

Post-existentialist nihilism is portrayed as the newest fad.

Social cannibalism and all manner of auto destructive practices fill whatever air that is left to breathe.

Freakish beings are devoid of soul and they are ever ready to launch all out war.

We all share ground zero.

Enjoy each day as though there will be no tomorrow.

                                                                                                                                      Harry

6thStBridge27feb16EMAIL
The Sixth Expanse (Action 11)   © 2016, Harry Gamboa Jr.

performers
l-r:
Luis A. Vega
Donna Brown
Christopher Velasco
Gerard Meraz
Benjamin Quiñones
Sofia Canales
Barbie Gamboa
Harry Ortíz Liflan

Virtual Vérité

Harry’s letter was written in response to a message from Felipe Ehrenberg  sent on Friday, March 4, 2016 at 8:06 PM. Felipes’ questions:

“The USA has nuclear weapons, right?
And you guys have them as a deterrent against whoever you think are your enemies may be at any given moment, right?
So who’s to say other countries can´t have the same weapons for the same reasons, especially if they sense the USA will use them whenever the feel like doing so?”

FIONA CONNOR’S PORTRAITS AND REPETITION

Fiona Connor

FATHER DIGESTING THE NEWSPAPER    ―   New Zealand, January 2016

“One of the things that is very interesting thing to know is how you are feeling inside you to the images that are coming out to be outside of you.” (Gertrude Stein with one alteration: images instead of ‘words’)

Fiona-Dad-1

Fiona-Dad-3

Fiona-Dad-4

Fiona-Dad-2

Courtesy of the artist – Photos: Peter Kirby

Gertrude Stein’s portrait writing (from “Portraits and Repetition”)

“We in this period have not lived in remembering, we have living in moving being necessarily so intense that existing is indeed something, is indeed that thing that we are doing. And what does it really matter what anybody does. The newspapers are full of what anybody does and anybody knows what anybody does but the thing that is important is the intensity of anybody’s existence. Once more I remind you of Dillinger. It was not what he did that was exciting but the excitement of what he was as being exciting that was exciting. There is a world of difference and in it there is essentially no remembering.

And so I’m trying to tell you what doing portraits meant to me, I had to find out what it was inside any one, … and I had to find out not by what they said not by what they did not by how much or how little they resembled any other one but I had to find it out by the intensity of movement that there was inside in any one of them. … I must find out what is moving inside them that makes them them, and I must find out how I by the the thing moving excitedly inside in me can make a portrait of them.”

“Portraits and Repetition” is one of the five lectures Gertrude Stein wrote in 1934.
They were originally published in a book called Lectures in America, New York, Random House, 1935.