by Rosanna Albertini

Ewerdt Hilgemann: “I’m full of stories, they sit everywhere in my whole body.”

(From a conversation with Klaus Altevogt for metalligent, May 2017)

He had a solo exhibition at Royale Projects, Los Angeles CA, in 2017

It would be exciting to know how exactly each cell, each molecule, each organ reacts to stories and physical realities every time they grab our attention. They become a part of us whether we invite them or not. Here we have an artist born in Germany in 1938 who grew up among bombs and marching boots in the Ruhr area, and had the fortune of having grandparents in countryside, where for a while he enjoyed nature and the experiments on different materials in a cement factory where his grandfather was director of a laboratory. Strange objects fell from the sky. They ruined the hands of his best friend. Half of the house was destroyed. Ewerdt experienced a hostility conveyed by objects, but originated by humans. It takes a long time to find a personal answer to these kinds of absurdities.

I don’t know how he made up his mind. It’s a fact that, in 1982, Hilgemann made what Camus would declare the perfect absurd piece: The Rolling Cube. From Camus’ standpoint, it’s a compliment. Ten tons of Carrara white marble, a cube whose faces were polished by the artist for weeks, soft like a skin he caresses, gently, at the end of the work, is carried on a truck to the top of the mountain. And thrown down the ravine, to become again a broken splinter of the mountain. After the fall though, it is different from the other fragments of rocks throw down by the quarry workers: it had been sculpted. The whole action was filmed.

The caress: “The caress is the waiting for a pure time to come, time without a content. She is made with growing hunger, and more and more enticing promises, something that brings new perspectives on the things we cannot grasp.” (Emmanuel Levinas, Le temps et l’autre)

I was struck looking at the solitude of the artist and the rock during the physical transformation of the piece of marble. “I had to do it,” says the artist, and not for fame or money. He paid for the cube. In exchange, I would say, he became an anonymous field of existence. The cube had to be perfect, and meaningless. There is past in the men, as well as in the object’s material nature, but the object will not have the time to remember, it will be dead in a few minutes, leaving to the artist a beautiful ruin. Ugliness and pain of an inhuman history, its thickness, the smell of war, along with impenetrable political decisions, still heavy like a storm of memories, were persuaded for a very short time to get in touch with beauty. Like Marie Antoinette climbing the scaffold. It won’t last.

Maybe the present starts there for the artist, his own journey free from the weight of the past. Returning to himself, the artist is chained to Ewerdt as never before. He is finally in the present. “C’est un présent d’être et non de rêve.” It’s a living present, not of a dream. “The present has shredded the texture of the infinite existing; history is ignored; the present starts from right now.” (Emmanuel Levinas, Le temps et l’autre)

In the art that came after killing the cube, a sense of damage remains that Michelangelo, Bernini, even Camille Claudel, couldn’t conceive. After so many proofs of destructive power among humans, how could artworks remain untouched? Hilgemann sculptures succeed in being beautiful despite the distance and the separation the artist has organized between his hands and the shape that appears. He prepares a regular volume, connects a pump to the inside of the piece, and waits for the implosion of the form, while little by little the extraction, almost an abduction of the air, produces shrinking, moaning, strong noise at times, for the art body has to be born by himself.

In Europe the beginnings of conceptual experiences in the arts were quite different from American conceptualism. The finitude of the object must pay a price to a very diffused state of mind still disturbed by real ruins and graveyards facing the permanent, immutable natural splendor. There was need “to make violence to the present, forcing art (for instance) to reach levels that are beyond the concept of art. Vincenzo Agnetti. “ Intuition is conscious reality bumped in the dark.” 1970

And Hilgemann’s sculptures of today, with their unsteady balance, deformed as if they had been pinched by invisible inner demons, show their imperfect body with pride, they are so human one can only sympathize with them. Does your heap hurt? Are you strangely bent? Look at me, they say, my odd angles will never change. And I did it by myself. Like you, isn’t it? Yet, they also express care, and a secret determination of the artist to give at least a direction to their taking form. ‘Conceptually,’ I don’t know if it is the proper word, their luminous charm emanates from the artist’s caress, as “waiting for a pure time to come, time without a content.”

An already imploded sculpture at Royale Projects:

And the process of implosion of a new piece at the gallery, during the opening:  (details)

















Photos: Peter Kirby

“Only art can go someway toward making accessible, towards waking into some measure of communicability, the sheer inhuman otherness of the matter – the retractions out of reach of rock and wood, of metal and fiber. … Without the arts, form would remain unmet and strangeness without speech in the silence of the stone.”  George Steiner


George Steiner, Real Presences, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1989;  Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe, Gallimard, Paris 1942; Concettuale in Italia 1965-1972, Galleria Milano, 1987; Ewerdt Hilgemann, Art Affairs, Amsterdam, 2015; Emmanuel Levinas, Le temps et l’autre, PUF, Paris 1983.

Emmanuel Levinas, 1906-1995. French philosopher born in Lithuania to Jewish parents. At home they spoke Yiddish as well as Russian. In 1928-29 he studied under Edmond Husserl and Martin Heidegger. He was the first to introduce their ideas into France. Levinas was a prisoner of war in a German camp, while his wife and daughter hid in a French convent. One of his early books, Le temps et l’autre, taught me nuances and defaults of our understanding, and the lack of reality of idealistic abstractions: time, being, existence merge into the fullness of life, and only the face-to-face with other humans allows them to exist. Levinas took his notes for this book when he was a prisoner. RA


ADELA GOLDBARD: An explosion of laughter and fears

by Rosanna Albertini


ADELA GOLDBARD, Sheep, light jet print 23.5 x 70 inches.  From the series Fictions, 2006  Courtesy of the artist

I start the new year reminding myself that art goes beyond the artist’s person, art is an action sometimes opening eyes and heart, our intimate perception, in moments of clarity: we can see how things are. Then we cover them up quickly, as if they were sounds of one note that doesn’t becomes music unless other notes come around to give her meaning in a collective song. As we keep going we forget, looking for the next change, hoping not to be stuck, filled with disquiet, on a doorstep that leads to nothing, to pages that never turn, where stories have lost the possibility to be told.

Adela Goldbard is a Mexican artist. Part of her family went to Mexico from Poland and Lithuania; her name has European roots, but Mexico is her home. The body of her art not older than ten years. It’s a body well fed by concepts received through other contemporary artists, conceptual in the first place. I look at her work and hear Chris Burden telling me of his attention to relics, that are wrecks with no value, signs for memory. Lived life doesn’t come back. He adds, “I thought: a few minutes of performance, that I will never redo… it becomes a myth.” “You can make your tombstone out of cardboard, but then the graveyard won’t look real, will it?” “What’s real? What does it cost to do that?”

What’s real for Adela Goldbard as an artist? At the beginning it was one photographic image, the instant life of places in which she had introduced imaginary alterations in a physical way, with real objects: little red horses on a dry road, hats in the air, books among sheep on a field of grass. I wonder at her listening to dust, water, grass and landscapes who are perhaps asking for surprising horses, or dreamed flowers in a lake.

ADELA GOLDBARD, Horses, light jet print 27.5 x 70 inches. From the series Fictions, 2006
Courtesy of the artis

ADELA GOLDBARD, Lake, light jet print, 27.5 x 70 inches. From the series Fictions, 2006
Courtesy of the artist

Those foreign objects are placed with gentleness to play with the natural scene, not to hurt, they are only fleeting guests introduced by an artist. Images, one for each place, become crystals of memory. Some facets from the past, some of them completely new.

Down to the soles of my feet.
Down to the palms of my hands.
At the apex of my thought.
At the core of my extremities.

My spirit has feet,
my soul has hands,
my veins leave tracks,
pulses of time and the way.

I can talk with the dawn,
can submerge myself in turbid waters of torrential rivers,
barefoot can walk up the incline,
can hurl my song against the wind.
Indigenous poem from Mazatec, Mexico*

Did she feel like the woman of this indigenous Mexican poem? If Adela’s images are symbols, they seem to bring up a sense of resistance, an attempt at not stifling the art piece within only one meaning, or a simple verbal definition.

Quite rapidly Adela Goldbard started to interact with the Mexican human landscape: a texture of unexplained killings, social inequality, small airplanes or helicopters crashing with no survivors for the governmental or military members traveling in them; the feeling of an undeclared, bloody war tearing into pieces the canvas of peoples’ daily life; layers of cultural and religious veils wrapping the souls of the forgotten and the unconsoled, and infusing an extraordinary creative ability into their hands.

Their hands met with hers. Not only helping her to build three dimensional copies of newspaper images, the crashed small airplanes and helicopters becoming in their sculptural form visual monuments once more hiding from the viewers, as before to the readers, the reasons for the deadly accidents. The artist made them as white as silence. She kept the final photographic image and destroyed the piece. Little by little, Goldbard’s art makes tangible one of the still most diffused of our illusions: the belief that a written report, or a paper body, allow us to see and understand what really happened. So, if they are paper tigers, what to do with them? And how to preserve some sparkles of memory? Her answer is: by destruction. Let’s remake them and blow them up. How much I wish she would do it with the Tower of Pisa!

ADELA GOLDBARD, Cessna 208 XA-TWK, Analogue photography/ light jet print 55 x 69 inches. From the series Fantasy Island, 2012.
Courtesy of the artist

Monuments become a stop, a hole in the human landscape. Yet it is precisely what we don’t know that makes them attractive. During the making of her artworks, supported by many many hands of Mexican builders, Adela Goldbard felt her art had something in common with allegorical meanings of local rituals, older than the Spanish colonization. In some cases intertwined with Christian stories: the image of Judas for instance, burned out by fireworks in a search of purification. And her artworks, as she says, do work “opening space and time, expanding through a collaborative effort, then closing again.” No illusion, once again. If nothing else, they are a vibrant, heartfelt restitution of feelings to people used and abused by various powers over their heads. An ephemeral explosion of laughter and fears: Goldbard’s most recent work comes from three years of preparation and blew up in twenty five minutes. The soundtrack in the Pomona College Bixby Plaza spreads real gunshots, screams and groans, the voices of violence in Mexico. The action displays the unofficial protest of an artist who knows where she belongs, how much she, we all, transpire the air and the soil we walk on. The title, hard to believe, is in the lyrics of a song made by Walt Disney: It’s a small world after all. She let it enter her mind, didn’t push it away.



Concert for sounds and pyrotechnic colors and action  

 Bixby Plaza, Pomona College (CA)  November 18, 2017

Video – Courtesy of the artist and Pomona College Museum of Art



Photographic documentation:

Photo: Peter Kirby

Photo: Peter Kirby

Photo: Hannah Kirby

Photo: Hannah Kirby

Photo: Hannah Kirby

Photo: Hannah Kirby












Photo: Hannah Kirby

Photo: Hannah Kirby

Photo: Hannah Kirby

Photo: Hannah Kirby

Here the fiesta ends / the road is closed, the song is over. / Lucidity is lingering in the copal, / kernels of corn close up their pages, / standing guard over the journey’s secrets.

A mystery is disappearing, / new ways emerging, ways to fathom life. / The birds trace paths, the earth is fasting. / The moon confides her troubles to the sun / and dawn shakes loose on the horizon.

Here the fiesta ends, / the song rests in the morning’s arms. / The children who spring forth open the world’s heart, / nature is sending signals.

Indigenous poem from Mazatec (Mexico)**


The two stanzas are the n.8 and 10 from a poem translated by Jerome Rothenberg in Like A New Sun: New Indigenous Mexican Poetry, edited by Victor Teran & David Shook (Los Angeles, Phoneme Media, 2015). I read them in Jerome Rothenberg,  Technicians of the Sacred, University of California press, 2017, pp. 364 and 365. Thank you Jerry!

Rosanna Albertini, White Owls – Artists I found in Los Angeles 1994-2011, Oreste & Co. Publishers, Los Angeles. Quotes from Chris Burden’s voice in “Boxed In”, pp.100-109.





Heavy! With thoughts? ― A BRICK

by Rosanna Albertini

Los Angeles, UCLA School of Architecture and Design, Room 1020 B Perloff Hall

An art exhibit in a classroom confirming that art is a strange ritual sometimes involving understanding and feelings, but not necessarily. The story features:

FIONA CONNOR, the artist, SIMONE FORTI, artist and friend, ROSANNA ALBERTINI, friend and writer, ALLAN KAPROW, the father of lifelike art

The three of us met the first time sitting on the grass of the Barnsdall Park with a few artists of Made in LA 2012 who were curious to know each other. Fiona was there, stretched out on her belly, handling a tape recorder.
She had in mind an alternative catalogue, and the conversation was a good starting moment, and was printed as it happened as a flux of words voiced by nameless people.

Simone felt easily part of that book out of order, more a bottle of water than a collection of statements. Words were kept in motion, escaping from their temporary blockage in meanings. When she performs, Simone’s body in movement is a fullness of feelings channelled into a slow motion physical language, almost savoring the quality of each gesture.

“I held a large grasshopper in my open hand. It swayed from side to side as we gazed into each other’s eyes. We sustained this alignment of sight through an exact correspondence in our movements, which created a certain resonance between us. We danced together like this for many minutes. I had just saved his life and we were very curious about each other.” (Simone Forti, Handbook in Motion, 1974)

Kaprow “When you do life consciously, life becomes pretty strange … so … a new art/life genre came about, reflecting equally the artificial aspects of everyday life and the lifelike qualities of created art. For example, it was clear to me how formal and culturally learned the act of shaking hands is; just try to pump a hand five or six times instead of two and you’ll cause instant anxiety. I also became aware that artworks of any kind could be autobiographical and prophetic. You could read paintings like handwriting, and over a period of time chart the painter’s abiding fantasies, just as you might chart writers’ thoughts from collections of personal letters or diaries. Happenings, and later activities, being less specialized than paintings, poems, and the other traditional arts, readily lent themselves to such psychological insight.” (Allan Kaprow, “Performing Life,” 1979)

The brick should be allowed to raise his protagonist voice in the room. No way. Kaprow hasn’t be around for a while. He never died for me. He might be happy to see a sort of happening resurgent in a school room in 2016. The brick, the English name doesn’t help to describe it. Italian is more direct: il mattone. Tongue and palate must stick to one another before the weight falls on the tip of the tongue and the lips shape an oval for the second o, that receives the accent. Sure heaviness, a compact thing. Like two teenagers dancing very close for the first time: il ballo del mattone, the mattone dance we used to call it. Brick, instead, is a Teutonic and French hybrid name: a broken thing, and the form of a loaf. Therefore, a baked form of clay. Architects of that day mainly saw the practical usage, the stillness of facts.

Our brick, along with 74 brick friends, lies in a corner of the room. On the walls, some bulletin boards replicate the originals at the Pacific Clay factory. Some bricks are wrapped with a printed sheet about the history of  bricks of the UCLA buildings. The building itself, and most of the other buildings on the campus, speak unmistakably brick language. But to hold only one, naked, unfinished, is handling a rough unit, a number asking to be a body, a body that would like to be something else: “I want to be an arch,” the brick told Louis Khan. The architect accepted the challenge. But here, in the school room, the only challenge is “doing life consciously” and feel a solid piece of clay transformed into a book.

Maybe Fiona looked at the brick like Simone at the grasshopper, were they very curious about each other? Clay is the opposite of an inert material. Minerals trap water into their molecules. And, in this Happening at the end of day, because of all the elements orchestrated around the little heavy red rough block, the mind goes through walls and buildings, the mind can feel what happens: the brick is a catalyst like any book, a substance that increases chemical reactions in our brain without changing her own composition. Water is trapped in our brain’s chemistry.

Suddenly The UCLA buildings appear melted back to the original condition of the clay, which was entirely dug from a site near Lake Elsinore. Let’s pretend it’s a virtual reality experience: bricks meet from ancient China, India, Egypt, and Northern Italy of course, they shake hands with their California siblings and go back to their functions in the walls, buildings reappear intact. It wouldn’t be history without hands and tools of their makers at the factory, without the people who provide the loafs, architects designing the forms, others teaching how to build, and inevitably taking the bricks for granted, as we do with our legs and arms. Fiona Connor gave to the brick a day of glory knowing it wouldn’t last. “Life,” also “conscious life” absorbs everything: geology, fantasies. The brick, a human idea.


ALLAN KAPROW, Essays on The Blurring of Art and Life, edited by Jeff Kelley, University of California Press, 1993

SIMONE FORTI, Handbook in Motion, An account of an ongoing personal discourse and its manifestations in dance.  Contact Edition, Northampton MA, 1974

Commentary by Charlie Morrow:  

bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi
mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS
bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi
mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS
bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi
mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS
bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi
mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS mAttONi bRickS




2016: UNDERGROUNDS : Art, Land Use and Democracy

From July 5, 2016 to an unknown day, at the mercy of nature and other unexpected events.



It’s hard to tell if there is or there was Amboy, in the middle of the Mohave Desert (CA). It was an expanded station for travelers journeying on Route 66 by horse, by car or by train since the late nineteenth century. They called it a town because it had a train station, a post office, followed by a motel, a gas station, a church and a few houses. For awhile also a school, that died in 1999. Never more than eighty people were brave enough to spend their life in Amboy over a hundred and a few more years. The local monument is a volcanic cinder cone, bare as a Richard Serra sculpture cooked in the earth’s  belly, overlooking the driest land one can imagine. The whole town has been bought and sold as only one urban body more than once, maybe by charming the newcomers with a faded, modernist look.

“With the opening of the DRYLANDS LAB in 2015, Matza Amboy dedicates its program to the question of water and its distribution.”

ONCE A YEAR FOR FOUR WEEKS it “brings together a selection of artists but also researchers in social sciences, engineers (solar energy, water) and architects.”




This is the exhibition I saw in Amboy, a population of art pieces shrunk by heat, covered with dust, transformed by the place. Maybe it also happened to the artist this year, more connected to the sense of loss and abandonment inspired by empty distances around the town, a space devouring the meaning of any direction except maybe imaginary lines between Amboy and constellations, planets, moons and meteorites so similar to the surface of this empty land that, at a distance, shines with salt.

There is no water on the moon”, writes Katharine in a beautiful text pinned on the wall. She describes the desolate rooms of the Amboy School, left as they were at the end of a normal morning, books on the tables and drawings and something written on the blackboard, as if a sudden disaster had forced everybody out, out in the sun, out of the inner spaces in which breath and perspiration were spread and absorbed by the skin, escaping the cruelty of being dispersed in open air. I should see Katharine’s textile banner twisted by the wind; it’s not there. School books, drawings and cyanotypes on display aren’t safe neither, the sliding back of the display cabinet is open: some papers move around on the floor. Peter and I felt entitled to put them back, definitely captivated by open doors, and lack of edges, while the heat sucked our brains out of the skull. Not completely though, we could still enjoy the ideas behind the desiccated or altered bodies of the art pieces. Our and their nostalgia hung to almost nothing, just enough to click on our cultural sensitivity.


The six white rooms of a defunct motel open their door to the art of visionary strangers with a warm heart. Concepts turn into feelings, giving form to physical awareness of common challenges for all humans: the suffocating protection against global warming in a room; white curtains flying through the windows in another room, the white room that breaths and invites us to look beyond the walls. There is the Post Office in front of the cabins, on the other side of the road. An artist, Delphine, paints a white crosswalk. Illegal! For sure she didn’t know it. Now her white stripes have been covered with black paint. They remained stripes, not very precise on the sides, as if painted with a broom.



Five weeks of solitude after the artists left, and the nails of democracy brought by Séverin have probably given to the locals the wish to be actively part of the installation, for better or worse. Although the Rain Book was stolen, somebody partially replaced it with two pages for a new rain book: writing about a day of rain near Amboy, and adding two photographs from her backyard. I can’t tell for sure, but I believe it was a girl. It’s great when the art expands beyond the initial, limited object, expanding the idea in other minds, through other fingers.





Half of the art pieces are outdoors, not easy to identify because some local sibling keep them company. Dear friends from Switzerland, you have followers!
Maybe they didn’t grab the beauty of the Ghost Drops and even stole the water jar from the excavated hole, it doesn’t matter. The order you brought into the desert doesn’t belong there. That’s why it is striking to touch it, with long fingers from the eyes. The pyramid in small size, the windmill, the hole, the bridge are as basic as the wheel, one would believe that time has vanished, you remade in the American desert symbols of a culture exposed to failure, silence, misunderstanding. Maybe without wanting you all approached Allan Kaprow’s idea of un-art, almost becoming un-artists, “the offsprings of high art who have left home.”


Jardin å la Française, the only piece the goes directly from the mind of the artist to the visitor’s mind, is a revelation in the landscape, not less than the vision in front of a French castle’s over designed garden. There was a moment, after driving guided by your instructions, when I almost screamed “stop!” “It’s here!”
Maybe I was wrong au pied de la lettre, yet I was sure the whole dryland, the bushes and the far away mountains had assumed a sense of order, an imperfect geometrical perspective around an unpaved road whose end could only be imagined. Yes! A sense of enthusiasm made me almost forget the 110 degrees of the air, wind and dust. Not for long. A grumbling noise from the road woke me up. Twelve Harley Davidson’s with their riders covered in black leather stopped in front of the white little cabins, perfectly lined up. Language was French. Laughing, my midwestern husband exclaimed: “order is only cultural.”  Maybe art is not, not completely, and it is for the best.




Marie Velardi, Frederick Choffat, Katharina Hohmann, Thierry Maeder, Delphine Renault, Severin Guelpa, Delphine Renault, Thierry Maeder, Maxime Bondu, Daniel Zamarbide, Leopold Bianchini, Laurence Piaget-Dubious


Photographs: PETER KIRBY




About AN ART BOOK by FIONA CONNOR edition of 100

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

By Rosanna Albertini

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



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

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



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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photos: Peter Kirby


ROBERT BARRY’S Installation at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mid Compton, Los Angeles.
A Thomas Solomon exhibition


by Rosanna Albertini


Acrylic words on canvas by John Baldessari, 1966-68. I would love to replicated them today, but I can’t. They would become:



Conceptual art and minimalism have been the thread sewing my philosophical training in contemporary art, still they light in my mind either the joy of understanding or the certainty that understanding as an abstraction has exploded, and more and more words have become images. Ideas themselves might be hung in Plato’s cave, obscured by a big rock blocking the entrance. We want to live first, think sometimes, maybe, and replace explanations with sensations. The artworks, enhancing our conflict between reasonable goals and inner demons, reveal the immense variety of possible worlds, and signal at the same time the power to regenerate, to expand the very idea of language.

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church, Los Angeles Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles
Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

If the page is no longer the privileged garden, other sensory experiences expand the conceptual struggle in different mental spaces. The term conceptual sounds odd because it’s mostly an aura, a breeze around the translation from vague intuitions to physical signs, from calculations to a possible visibility: the new planet, ten times bigger than the earth, has not yet been seen: conceptual astronomy? Why not?

Capital letters grouped into words appear like phantoms on the walls of Los Angeles Bethlehem Baptist Church. I don’t know whether those white words on white walls are a text or not. They climb the walls and seem to be there to be seen, not read. Reading is possible, not mandatory: the art piece has been conceived and realized by artist Robert Barry. The displacement it creates in the visitors, quietly, indirectly, is of the best conceptual texture. Come, recreate yourself in the piece.

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles
Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles
Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

The small church was built by Rudolph Schindler in 1944, abandoned and recently restored by Thomas Solomon to become, temporarily, an art temple. The original building was painted red, blue and black; now it’s white. Words turn around the corners, walk up or down in diagonals, or enjoy being upside down. They become luminous limbs of light, while the church functions as a buffer space between the age of books and the time of a phoenix which is still difficult to describe. A virgin landscape in which the idea herself of a church is condemned.

This church is a house, an open place bringing in from the windows the other houses around, flying birds and airplanes, trees, street noise and voices: the opposite of the isolating, hiding place of the past. The human signs on the walls aren’t very different from frescoes, or from the little white hands painted on the walls of a cave by the vanished Anasazi. (See in The Kite https://albertini2014.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/little-white-hands/) Nevertheless, these almost flying words so light, so out of grammatical or syntactic order, are a pulsing image of our beautiful thoughts in a day of freedom, having lunch on an urban soil. Scattered, luminous shadows of the mind’s children, they show the absurdity of our days: vulnerable and obstinate, broken up but shining like the tail of a comet. After all, as the food plates of Allen Ruppersberg’s Cafe made with dirt, leaves and pebbles were uneatable for the mouth, although devoured by the eyes, Robert Barry’s words slip into the eyes to be chewed by the brain, maybe reinvented.

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles
Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory Photo: Peter Kirby

ROBERT BARRY, 2016 Installation at Bethlehem Church Los Angeles
Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Solomon Art Advisory                   Photo: Joshua White / JW Pictures