E’wao Kagoshima: WHITE AUTUMN and other visual stories

E’ WAO KAGOSHIMA

at THE BOX, Los Angeles, June-August 2018

After his exhibition, the artist started a mail art communication with the gallery and Mara McCarthy. 

E’wao Kagoshima, White Autumn 2016. Acrylic, pastel, ink, and collage on paper, 15″ 1/2 x 18″3/4 (framed dimensions)  Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BODY BOX BINDING 

— about E’wao Kagoshima’s world of physical language —

By Rosanna Albertini

Maybe the autumn wants to be white. A flood of summery red brightness fills his memory, he can’t get rid of it. Dryness is drifting across his eyes. The place is real and inscrutable. Shrunk to the bones or happily swimming in water, fish pull my hair and push my brain into an unfamiliar space, as if “rejecting the idea that everything is in its right place; there isn’t any.” (Robert Rauschenberg) A tree grows from a bone and a pink branch from a woman. There is no land or sky, we see an abstract space of transformation. The artist’s duty is to an absolute living, out of time or common sense.

Let’s pretend the alphabet starts with B. Art, area, affection, affliction, adoption, adulthood would disappear from language. Same kind of displacement wrings the world of physical language, E’wao Kagoshima’s pictorial world, out of any expected grammar. Every thing, and each form, have a mind of their own. Humans along with butterflies, toys, birds, plants and words communicate with the living landscape they are in as they like it, as they dream, without rules or restrictions. The same happens to humans, animals, objects or undefined figures.

Everyone is right. Things become true as soon as someone believes in them. Reality is within us; our mind creates its truths. And the best truth will not be the one sanctioned by reason.”  

André Gide, The White Notebook

Kagoshima’s colors might be the prevailing message, they fade or intensify like the daily mood. The artist has absorbed the natural beauty and sends it back as luminous islands from his brain: sometimes dry, often wet images, can he feel his brain is wet, as neurobiologists have discovered? They didn’t see red fish though, with smiling lips after swallowing dreams of government (John Kennedy), a cat, now part of their aquatic body — red fish looking after a red human baby.  But E’wao did. 

E’Wao Kagoshima, Parallel Case 2012. Pastel, colored pencil, ink, graphite, and collage on paper, 10″ 3/4 x 13″ 3/4 (framed dimensions)  Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery  

E’wao Kagoshima, Breathing Skin 2012. Pastel, colored pencil, acrylic, ink, and collage on paper, 10″ 3/4 x 13″ 3/4 (framed dimensions)   Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

It’s a space beyond limits where some artists like to be. John Baldessari taught a plant the alphabet in 1972. He showed the plant the letters with patience, repeating their sound to make sure that the plant’s brain could grasp and memorize. And Nico Muhly composed I drink the air before me in 2010. Sounds and atmosphere of the living environment enter his entire body, not only filtered by the ears. Steve Galloway placed American alligators walking on the clouds in mid-air. Many other artists can probably be added, but these I know well, as well as Haruki Murakami’s books in English translation.  

E’wao Kagoshima, Saving Diaspora 2016. Pastel and colored pencil on paper, 15″ 5/8 x 18″ 3/4 (framed dimensions)  Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

But in the end, I see what I see, missing Japanese language and Japanese life experience. I don’t understand Kagoshima’s images, like a blind woman talks of colors never having seen them. Simply, I love them. There is a stark naked reality in his painting and drawings: a spellbound territory, completely personal, that seems to me distant from either Japan or New York, where E’wao  moved  in 1976. My illusion? Could be. I hoped to learn from Japanese literature, only to realize that many characters and situations of Murakami’s books also belong to the Western tradition; they circulated all around the world in fables and stories for centuries. As I would like to pick out some Japanese evidence in Kagoshima’s images of Saving Diaspora, I could cry like his blue mouse, my mind lost and taken by the transparent lines of a butterfly, almost invisible, which to me is the feminine organ — as my grandmother called it since I was able to understand language. Of course I loved to detect the butterfly in such a claustrophobic room where a face cries blood and memories are petrified on her forehead.

 Storytelling is a universal art, each artwork by Kagoshima is a visual story. A woman slips out from the elephant’s trunk, maybe the cats dancing around her came from the elephant’s nostrils. The elephant seems happy to throw a shower on her and the cats. There is no separation between the three different species.   They bear the same light colors of nakedness and celebrate their closeness.

E’wao Kagoshima, Distortion One 2015. Acrlic on paper and pencils, 24″ x 19″ 1/4 Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

E’wao Kagoshima, Nose and Tails 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 80″ x 60″ 1/2 Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

Breathing Skin opens an incongruous series of dialogues: a fish with a crab, a bird to a fox, a woman to another identical woman, an undefined human creature bubbles water in a tank that could be a head. An exquisite gentleness permeates the drawing, lines are smoothed by water. It could be mist, or a layer of air flattened on paper.

Kagoshima’s life wasn’t easy at times, his art congealed feelings into poetry of distortion, and open-eye dreams. In his personal new world fish are bigger than the Statue of Liberty, and Sleeping Beauty floats in a miraculous clarity in the middle of an intestinal maze. The forest around the castle grows in green spots so powerful they cannot be contained, and spread on the frame. Happy birthday E’wao, it’s so good to meet your dreams. 

E’wao Kagoshima, Sleeping Beauty 2017. Mixed media on canvas, 24″ x 20″ Courtesy of the artist and The Box Gallery

“It’s all a question of imagination. Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine. 

It’s just like Yeats said: in dreams begin responsibilities.

Flip this around and you could say that where there’s no power to imagine, no responsibility can arise.

Just like we see with Eichmann.”         Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore                  

Kagoshima was born in 1945 in Niigata, one of the 4 cities destined to become a target for The Atomic Bomb in Japan. The town was spared in favor of Nagasaki.  We are both children of the war sprouting from the same year, new leaves in a time obscured by lack of imagination. Only one Italian scientist around Enrico Fermi in his laboratory imagined the scientific monster they were pursuing. He was a Neapolitan dreamer. He quit, and disappeared. To write it now, it sounds like a fairy tale. Our little brains born then did not know anything and yet kept growing as if their souls had been wrinkled by the fears and destructions around. To these days, any personal deception is linked to a primeval spot of darkness in human hearts. As an art student, one afternoon with friends E’wao was enchanted by the sunlight going through the beer falling from the pitcher into the glass. He had the idea of two metal sculptures that made him one of the few pop artists in Japan.

At the Box I saw his artwork for the first time during the summer, a one person exhibition. Immediately after, E’wao’s mail art to Mara started, almost weekly, from New York to Los Angeles, sending little by little fragments of his life to a place of trust, of friendly reception, a sort of harbor.  

                                           

 

 

SCULPTURE IS IMPLACABLE : YOU GET WHAT YOU SEE

SCULPTURE IS IMPLACABLE : YOU GET WHAT YOU SEE

Richard Deacon and Sui Jianguo

at L.A. Louver, Venice, CA — September 2018

 

Installation view, photo RA

SUI JIANGUO, Planting Trace – Constellation 1, 2018  cast bronze 19 1/4 x 9 7/8 x 9 7/8 in.
© Sui Jianguo. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

Holding a humming bird inside

by Rosanna Albertini

What you see, at first, is a population of hand made bodies, mostly small size, on pedestals and little tables. Their shapes are unique, any comparison with the natural world is pointless. Only three of them are taller than a normal human. Tables are part of the piece. But it’s not easy to focus on each single piece. A circulation of movement in the air around the sculptures, the light they spread maybe from inside their artificial organs, as if air was their blood, pushes me from one to another and from one to another room without thinking of objects, perhaps following an inaudible music, a four hand concert with a Chinese-European score.  “Open up, bloom, pause. Breath, pause, pause and breath.” 

Indirectly, Richard Deacon suggested this metaphor years ago, describing his play with a vocabulary of forms: “ten different shapes, together they can make a sentence, even a song.” 

RICHARD DEACON, Flat 10, 2014 glazed dark clay
22 1/4 x 27. 1/2 x 22 7/8 in. © Richard Deacon.
Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

RICHARD DEACON, Fold in the Fabric 5, 2018
Sculpture: wood (Holly and Cedar), epoxy
Table: fumed oak and MDF board; Sculpture: 
12 1/4 x 13 3/4 x 11 in. Table: 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.© Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, 
Venice, CA

RICHARD DEACON, Cuttings 1, 2018
Sculpture: stainless steel;Table: oak and MDF board. Sculpture: 18 x 14 3/4 x 13 1/4 in.
Table: 21 7/8 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
© Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venic

Variations on the same theme in modestly sized pieces fill the space with gentle songs, and with peaks of sculptural actions in two registers: the first one pausing in neatly cut geometrical surfaces, some shiny, some completely rough—the stainless steal’s whistle joins the voice of the wood cracking and protesting—  and this is Deacon’s work; the second register comes from a folding and unfolding of sculpted bodies, like buds who discover the emergence of leaves, or figures of body parts covered with skin language: Sui Jianguo transferring into his pieces the surface of his own hands, a universal language which is uniquely his, not necessarily Chinese, just his own.

SUI JIANGUO,Planting Trace – Meteor Garden 3, 2018
galvanized photosensitive resin 3D printing 7 x 9 7/8 x 4 in.
© Sui Jianguo. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

RICHARD DEACON, Size is Everything #2, 2018
Sculpture: wood (Oak), epoxy, pigment, bronze
powder, aluminum powder. Table: fumed oak and MDF board 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
 Sculpture: 11 1/8 x 12 x 2 in. 
Table: 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
© Richard Deacon. Courtesy
of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

RICHARD DEACON, Size is Everything #2, 2018
Sculpture: wood (Oak), epoxy, pigment,
bronze powder, aluminum powder
Table: fumed oak and MDF board
Sculpture: 11 1/8 x 12 x 2 in.
Table: 18 x 21 5/8 x 21 5/8 in.
© Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m told the two artists are friends, no reason to doubt it. I’m wondering whether they connect via visual vocabulary, rather than spoken language. And asking myself what Jianguo’s titles mean, all Planting Trace, with a few qualifications added: matter, constellation. ganoderma. Opposed to Deacon’s titles: Flat, Cuttings in various numbers, New Alphabet, Fold in the Fabric. Deacon tells me that “cutting” is what makes his pieces. He cuts and fabricates and asks the matter to cooperate. Jianguo, this time, squeezes the clay, lets his fingers find the forms. Maybe some of these pieces are from his blind work: the artist refusing to see what his hands are doing. Had he realized how implacable sculpture is.

A glimpse of history pierces my mind making me think that both artists, (and myself for the matter) belong to the after war generation. Deacon’s father was in the RAF, Jianguo lived through communism and cultural revolution in China. The outcome is these artists are workers, builders of their lives, perhaps rediscovering their lives through the art they produced. 

Their art isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about life. Sui plants fragments of his body into our mind: traces, as he says, marks. Which seems to me a real revolutionary move out of the pain or mixed feelings he had about Mao and Maoism and the artificial equality that ideology had forced into people. His little and big sculptures bring up his personal self, the one unmistakably marked by his fingerprints. Although he will never be a Western artist, he has to wear, here and there, fashions that other artist of the past almost codified in the public imagination. Art history is an open book, as landscapes are, even in the small space of a garden. I like to call them gardeners, these two artists, gardeners planting their art.

Alternating in the same big space, their sculptures take me into a familiar sense of enjoyment that fills me every time art pieces I see for the first time greet me, waking up remote impressions, not at all déjà-vues, rather déjà-felt, in front of other sculptures. The problem is, life and manners and perception of real things wrap around the person of the artist, and sink beyond the skin, invisibly, exactly as it happens to the viewers of an art piece. I can’t explain why the twisted and almost screaming gestures of Jiankuo’s big pieces, as if form was unfolding herself free from her material essence, make me think of Camille Claudel’s reckless women, trying to get out from their feminine body, and from a history of humiliation.

SUI JIANGUO,Planting Trace 1, 2014-2016 cast bronze 114 1/8 x 70 7/8 x 67 in.
© Sui Jianguo. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

RICHARD DEACON, New Alphabet GHI, 2018  stainless steel and paint
94 x 80 3/4 x 18 1/2 in. © Richard Deacon. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Ve

Showing me the three vertical layers of his Alphabet, light gray and white painted like a wedding dress, Richard Deacon displays his pleasure in finding, trying, combining, working with helpers, solving problems during the fabrication…until the middle layer almost disappears but is there, “like the ham in a sandwich.” He is telling, very simply, that the invisible part is the clue of the piece. Yes, what you see is what you get, but you have to look through the surface, beyond the drawing, to pose your eyes on the sleeping beauty. 

The visual world fills his perception, and stay inert in his memory, until the secret humming bird moves his sharp beak, the tiny scissor, from a recess of his heart. Then Deacon is at work to bring his way of splitting away from the continuous ligaments that keep our bones, our cities, our days and years together, anchored in natural necessity. Cuttings, separation, disclose a different image of the world: by avoiding the natural look of any of his creatures, Deacon fills the art pot with mysterious treasures: a spot of red in the middle of a square piece of wood thick enough to stand, for example. A square hollow centers the back of the same wood. Red color reappears. Beware of the words! What I see is a sensation of something existing, not a sentence. Title is: Size is Everything.

Physical entities whose content “is the significance of its material.” They represent “nothing other than themselves.”  They “suggest and reflect our existence,” They are “thoughts produced by action.” All the quotes from Giuseppe Penone. Deacon’s creatures are cut out from reality to direct our attention toward repetition and reinvention of forms, time doesn’t matter, to renew our attachment to infinite variety.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Giuseppe Penone, Ramificazioni del pensiero-Branches of Thougth, Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles, 2014

Mario Merz, Lo spazio e curvo o diritto, Hopeful Monster editore, Firenze, 1990

And this is the link to Douglas Messerli’s beautiful text:  http://artla-bas.blogspot.com/2018/09/a-sculpture-of-small-writ-large-richard.html

RICHARD DEACON, Courtesy L.A. Louver, Venice CA

SUI JIANGUO – Courtesy L.A. Louver, Venice, CA

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON : Mi mamà era preciosa

MY MOTHER WAS GOLDEN  2017-2018

an art piece by Sylvia Salazar Simpson to celebrate her mother

 Veneranda Emanuela Gutierrez 

 

( Images of “Mi mamà era preciosa” in the final configuration)

 

text by ROSANNA ALBERTINI – photos by SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON

 

Poetry, poetry, is a gesture, a lanscape, 

your eyes and my eyes, girl; ears, heart,

the same music. And I say no more, because 

no one will find the key that no one has lost

And poetry is the chant of my ancestors

a winter day that burns and withers

this melancholy so personal.

Elicura Chihuailaf, “The key that no one has lost”

subterranean poetry from South America

Sylvia’s poetry is visual. It comes from moments and days that don’t sit in the memory, nor are they saved in a notebook. Time particles lacking the illusion of shape or names. Time is one name without a body. It’s hard for me to distinguish it from another strange name, life. Yet, both of them are the source of Sylvia’s attachment to decay as one of the most impressive, stirring and surprising living processes. A rosary losing pearls. Petals and fruits softened by their lack of effort in keeping their self separate from natural dissolution, and from human disillusion. Showing the decay as a body of marvels, Sylvia the artist reveals the physical apparition of time, and it’s a phantom.

ALLAN KAPROW      “Just steps along the way, and the artist’s eyes may have opened up a little…”

“But let’s say that art is a weaving of meaning-making activity with any or all parts of our lives.” 

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON      “I had received some photographs of my mother. I reproduced them but didn’t want to put them on the wall. In the meantime the mantel of the fireplace accepted to receive some Indian globes, at the edges. On a round table adjacent I started to place flowers in glasses, with water. An old wrinkled squash and giant fresh Persian lemons were added to the globes. Persian lemons have a fungus on them that lets them rot quite rapidly. Some are green, some black. They were followed by pieces of bread from a Eucharistic celebration, and pieces of cedar. My mother crawled into the piece. It was appropriate for her to be on the wall, but her photographs wanted to be in the piece. There is a small owl. Some flowers were removed, or replaced, or added every day for fifteen, sixteen months, starting in April 2017. Drippings were done at Christmas to make beads and small candies shine for the day. They were drippings of piloncillo sugar liquified. My mother was a very proper person. The contrast of the baroque decay and her image is what makes the piece. The piece is a small offering, a celebration.”

Not only a celebration of Veneranda, also a salutation to

“The greatness of every day life, and above all its details, the sparkle of flames, eyes, hands”

as in the South American poem by Elicura. Eyes must become hands to approach Sylvia’s pieces, hands and tongues, two imaginary mouths opening when the moon fades and the sun is still pale, chewing and swallowing what the day brings, and at night, closing the gate of  teeth. Past and present are only one canvas. Dates, facts, would make hole and cuts in it as in Burri’s paintings. Family stories are a mirage from her childhood spread by words of the old women of Veneranda’s house in New Mexico, and later by Veneranda herself in Mexico City.

There is a pond of blood in their memory

a great great great great great…grandmother 

went to New Mexico with the first settlers coming from Mexico

Catalina Robledo gave birth to the first Spanish

 child to be born in that part of the world

they came with a land grant 

they had received from the king of Spain

not without disputes with the local Indians

Indians had their feet cut off

a puritanical morals in the house

more and more children were born

and when Sylvia arrived she was told 

she was better than darker people 

so when she grew up an adult woman she 

embraced the darker people’s side and started to say

about herself “I am Mexican”

she cooks and eats like a Mexican woman

it’s an art-making for her

ephemerality and messiness 

poverty and art were inseparable in Mexico City

where Veneranda lived with her husband and children

she sat in the park with them and taught 

them to draw and to revere art

Rufino Tamayo, Diego Rivera and the early colonial churches

metal or silver hearts, candles, flowers and food in front of them

miracles were described

every thing as real as light through the window

transforming objects in treasures

as if raining sparkles of gold

On the round table near the fireplace a jungle of dry and fresh flowers, candles, glasses, fruits, sticks of wood, almost cover an odd piece of wax: Silvia’s foot cut off and changed into a candle.

“Do you know my mother’s last words?” Sylvia told me years ago. “She suddenly woke up from her quiet absence and asked me, ‘what time is it?’ And I thought, in myself, the time to die.”

She died, — this was the way she died;

And when her breath was done,

Took up her simple wardrobe

And started for the sun.

Her little figure at the gate

The angels must have spied,

Since I could never find her

Upon the mortal side.

VANISHED. by Emily Dickinson

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Emily Dickinson, Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, 1982 Gramercy Books New York • Avenel

Allan Kaprow, Essays on The Blurring of Art and Life, University of California press, 1993

Elicura Chihuailaf, Two poems on Poetry, in Technicians of the Sacred, edited by Jerome Rothenberg

Source: Rodrigo Rojas, from “Three Mapuche Poets, ” in J.R. & J.Bloomberg-Rissman,

Barbaric Vast & Wild: A Gathering of Outside & Subterranean Poetry from Origins to Present, Boston, Black Widow press, 201

“Elicura Chihuailaf Nahuelpán (his fill name) has been referred to as the lonco, or chieftain, of mapudungun poetry, and works at recording & preserving the oral traditions of his people. Elicura is from Mapudungun phrase for ‘transparent stone,’ Chihuailaf means ‘fog spread on the lake,’ and Nahuelpán is ‘tiger/cougar.’ ”

 

FIONA CONNOR : Corpses For Dry Eyes

 

FIONA CONNOR, Closed Down Clubs, 2018 Mix media installation at The MAK Center, Los Angeles

 

FIONA CONNOR: CORPSES FOR DRY EYES

text by Rosanna Albertini    

    Photos by Peter Kirby

From far, they look like vertical pages separated from their book, pages that thickened enough to stand up in an empty space. They are the last page of different volumes. Volumes of a time that was. 

Glass and wood and metal might have absorbed over decades after-shave perfumes, coffee steam, and smells of sweat, garlic, burned bread, beer, whisky and bad breath — “better bad breath than no breath at all,” sings Willy Nelson. That’s just me, I have a strange system of senses: enough to think about a crowded bar, I can smell it and absorb the cigarette smoke blending with the car exhaust on the sidewalk. All gone now. 

But the sculptures in person still carry the hidden volume of stories moving through the doors open or closed, by the years in numbers.

Fiona Connor remade the vertical, thin bodies as they were their last day of work, after opening and closing for people in search of food, drinks, music, eager to clasp hands, or lost in rage. She couldn’t reproduce the secret feelings each geometrical guardian shared with the fingers touching them, pushing or pulling. Music could do it, not visual arts. 

Remade, opened to a new life in spaces for art, usually neat and aseptic like hospital rooms — surgery happened for sure — the inanimate guardians move in a limbo, following the uncomfortable translation into a body of language: walls and ceiling disappeared, as well as the address. The remains are a calligraphic profile.

It’s a day filled with smog and smoke in Los Angeles. My vision might be blurred, but I see Fiona Connor putting together little by little faithful archival alter-egos of the original architectural elements, adding handwritten signs, eviction notices, other messages to the public, as a spider does secreting the thread for geometrical webs. And I see Allan Ruppersberg rewriting in a perfect copy on canvas the whole text of The Portrait of Dorian Gray. 

As their own life goes through the time of building and making, the two artists become one thing with the process.  Once their work is done, “reality slips away from them because she is real again, and marks a distance.” Albert Camus. “Such thickness and strangeness of the world is nothing but absurdity.” They both deal with a reality which is thick and quaint; in a word, the absurdity of the physical world, which is a primitive substance refusing dominion: humans made it their own only to toss it, or forget.

Eh bien, voilà. That’s the art. To feel the growing power of natural or cultural blocks, stronger than dragons, and fight against them, or move away. Apparently protective, historical frames keep at bay any wish to move out, far from them, from their mask of permanence, even from their beauty.   

THE WALLS DON’T FALL, wrote Hilda Doolittle in 1944. One year before I was born. She was born in Bethlehem, PA, in 1886 and died in 1961 in Zurich.

XLIII

Still the walls do not fall,

 I don’t know why;

there is wrr-hiss,

lightning in a not-known,

unregistered dimension;

 we are powerless,

dust and powder fill our lungs,

our bodies blunder

through doors twisted on hinges,

and the lintels slant 

cross-wise;

we walk continually

on thin air

that thickens to a blind fog,

then steps swiftly aside,

for even the air 

is independable, 

thick where it should be fine

and tenuous where wings separate and open

 

XXXVIII

my mind (yours),

your way of thought (mine),

each has its peculiar intricate map,

threads weave over and under

the jungle-growth

of biological aptitudes,

inherited tendencies,

the intellectual effort

of the whole race,

it’s tide and ebb;

but my mind (yours) 

has its peculiar ego-centric

personal approach 

to the eternal realities,

and differs from every other

in minute particulars,

as the vein-paths on any leaf

differs from those of every other leaf

in the forest, as every snow-flake

has its particular star, coral or prism shape. 

 

Like Hilda Doolittle, Fiona Connor is a voyager, a discoverer of the not-known and unrecorded. She has no map, nor rules of procedure. How could she bring to us the death of these social spaces without knowing what death is? She made a flat coffin for each of them, a profile. “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.” (Gertrude Stein) There is no way in, no way out. But they are strongly anchored in the floor, solitary skeletons offering their nakedness to the viewers, with no regrets.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe, Paris, Gallimard, 1942

Revolution of the Word, editor Jerome Rothenberg –a new gathering of American avant garde poetry 1914-1945, New York, The Seabury Press 1974.

 

DREAMING A FILM

Michael C. McMillen DREAMING A FILM

Cinematographic art in process by Michael C. McMillen, conceived and composed for

THE KITE

 

 

COUSIN MICHAEL, MYSELF AND ROBERT BRESSON

by Rosanna Albertini

Michael McMillen and myself adopted each other as cousins. It was a mythological time. I had just landed in Los Angeles on a flying horse, following the blue chevalier I had met in Paris: my American in Paris who is now my husband. Everything about film, isn’t it? Not only, really. 

I found in Michael the odd incarnation of a quiet familiar human typology, and mysterious at the same time. An artist, an inventor. A smiling face hiding layers of uneasy stories behind a friendly, often funny mask. In a word: a Neapolitan face. 

By pure coincidence, our mothers -the powerful phantoms of them- were both Neapolitan women. There is more, since our grandfathers, an Italian painter on my side, an Italian-American immigrant on his side, had the same unusual name: Oreste. We couldn’t simply be friends. To become cousins was the perfect illusion of a family connection that we liked to look at through an imaginary prism. Better than being stuck in facts. Neapolitan roots were enough.

I kept my old typewriter with me after the migration. One day cousin Michael knocked at the door with a big box in his hands. It was full of crumpled paper. In a corner, something solid: a little bottle sealed with wax to avoid the evaporation of a magic yellow density at the bottom: “Distillate of Metaphor.” “Keep it next to the typewriter,”  cousin Michael said.  I believe it had something to do with my mutation from scholar to storyteller, writer with no attributes.

Robert Bresson Only one mystery, people and objects.  

As I find my words in the dictionary, Michael picks up his images wherever life left signals of multiple meanings suggested by displacing objects in unusual spaces: the realm of visions. 

Robert Bresson In editing work, you only visually connect people to other people and to objects.

OK Robert, let me tell you about Michael’s most recent metaphorical editing: which is a sculpture. Don’t freeze. Apparently, not a film. But in the essence… McMillen masters visual associations. His mind, “from the thought of one thing, immediately passes to the thought of another, which has no likeness to the first.” This was Benedict De Spinoza.

Forget it. You, Robert, only wrote that images look different when they are in contact with other images. I’m telling you that it is Michael’s mind doing the work on the fashion and function that images assume. Film images are nothing but the old skin of a snake who grew out of it. So does the artist at the end of the work. 

This time McMillen placed on the recess of a sidewalk, and inside an adjacent abandoned room of a film studio, a physical sculpture of a film set. The buildings look already aged, rusty; they are the solid face of a missing shelter. Smaller than the camera that towers on them. Windows and doors will never open. Oh, the sleeping nature of objects! As in a fairy tale, they need a poetic kiss to wake them up. The big door of the studio, on the left side, has holes for the eyes. The passers by can see a dusty, crumbling room with a desk, on the desk a typewriter, an empty cup of coffee, spectacles, the writer could come back any second. And he is the real mystery that nobody will ever see.

Is the scene a projection of the future? Or a fragment of the past sitting like a tired old man? Maybe the film had dropped his worn out clothes on the sidewalk and an artist had pick them up with love, and remade a visual poem out of them: a sturdy, durable, and tangible illusion. 

For so long had he handled the metallic body of his sculptural device that in the end he was happy to give back to the images their thin, fleeting, and flexible cinematographic connection. Not only on earth, also in the air, in the water. Forever metaphors. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael C. McMillen, Back Lot  2016-2018 – A permanent exterior and interior art installation. 15′ x 69′ x 11′  Cast steel, concrete, video, various fabricated and acquired elements for interior installation.

Commissioned by CIM Group for the West Hollywood Urban Art Program. Site location: Google Map link: https://goo.gl/maps/9gVAQevDjdp

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Robert Bresson, Notes sur le cinématographe, Paris, Gallimard, 1975

Benedict De Spinoza, Ethics, Edited and Translated by Edwin Curley, Penguin Books 1996

VULNERABLE PHANTOMS

THE BAADER – MEINHOF’s STORY revisited by two LOS ANGELES ARTISTS

Daniel Martinez and Erin Cosgrove

1

DANIEL JOSEPH MARTINEZ : I AM ULRICHE MEINHOF, 2017
Roberts and Tilton Gallery, Los Angeles

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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ERIN COSGROVE : HISTORICAL, HYSTERICAL, HISTORECTOMIST

She wrote “The Baader -Meinhof Affair”  2002

 

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

 

Erin Cosgrove,  A Heart Lies Beneath, 2004

By Rosanna Albertini

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

EWERDT HILGEMANN : BEAUTIFUL RUINS

 

LA CARESSE DE L’ARTISTE

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

Bibliography

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