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

AMERICAN ALLIGATORS IN MID-AIR

 

Paintings and drawings by STEVE GALLOWAY, Los Angeles

“I travel through time,” says a seven year old, “Which time? Ancient, a far past?”
asks the adult. “I come from yesterday night.”

A conversation reported by artist Giuliano Nannipieri, from Livorno (Italy)

STEVE GALLOWAY, Suppose 2011  14″ x 11″ Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

STEVE GALLOWAY, Terrestrial Patterns 2007 15″x 11″ Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

MEMORY BEHIND THE EYES

by Rosanna Albertini

John Cage wrote that the means of thinking are exterior to the mind, and we might leave the mind ready to welcome divine influences. It is so hard to do. Maybe the handstand on the back of heron, giving our feet to the sky, would help if we could accept being displaced in an unfamiliar landscape. Steve Galloway places the heron on an alligator and the alligator in mid-air. This pathetic description, that says nothing about the art, only sends the art to hell.

You can only count on your eyes and look through charcoal and pastel until the imaginary land the artist found behind his eyes starts filling the paper. Along with him, we believe he saw it, he discovered it, he felt the power of images somehow as people did when they did not have books in their hands, and written language. “Tout faire parler,” let everything talk, representing the “large uniform flatland of words and things.” (Michel Foucault)

STEVE GALLOWAY, Floating 2008 52″ x 72″ Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

STEVE GALLOWAY, Moonflight 2015 20″ x 25″  Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose gallery

Words, animals, and trees as figures of the world, limbs of the same body: neither too big nor too little, as they must be deep in a dream: feelings wearing the heaviness of matter: they are so dense and persistent that maybe only the alligator’s skin reveals their bumpy, obstinate proliferation. Now, as well as in the night of times, we know there is an infinite mystery we were born in. It doesn’t matter if computers try to visualize the back holes as if they were organs of the universe. How can we believe in what scientists say today, which is different from what they told yesterday night? At least in my countryside Italian legends we found and believed newborn babies were picked up from underneath a cabbage leaf. God’s eye, only one, inscribed in a triangle, was piercing the clouds to look at us, even listening to our thoughts. I don’t know about dreams. I suspect they were secret. He was not a god we children could love, his son was much closer to us, with his bloody cut in the chest and nails through his hands and feet. Children feared the father, not the son.

Sorry, I traveled back through time. It is what Steve Galloway’s images do to me: they bring my mind to a time before the order of grammars, to the time when I believed dreams were not distant from the frozen trees I was watching through the ice crystals on the window. Seeing was believing, although most of the images were made up. Nature couldn’t be copied. Books were the end of my era of belief.

STEVE GALLOWAY, Hibbies ol’ Place 20″ x 25″  Charcoal and pastel on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

We live today in an age of disbelief. Let’s read Wallace Stevens:
“It is for the poet [and the visual artist] to supply the satisfaction of belief, in his measure and in his style….
To see the gods dispelled in mid-air and dissolve like clouds is one of the great human experiences. It is not as if they had gone over the horizon to disappear for a time; … it is simply that they came to nothing. Since we have always shared all things with them and have always had a part of their strength and, certainly, all of their knowledge, we shared likewise this experience of annihilation. It was their annihilation, not ours, and yet it left us feeling disposed and alone in a solitude, like children without parents, in a home that seemed deserted, in which the amical rooms and halls have taken on a look of hardness and emptiness. What was most extraordinary is that they left no momentous behind, no thrones, no mystic rings, no texts either of the soil or of the souls. It was if they had never inhabited the earth.”
WALLACE STEVENS, Two or three ideas.

STEVE GALLOWAY, Handstand 2011 50.8 x 63.5 cm Charcoal and pastel on paper    Courtesy of the artist

We had the Greek gods in mid-air, we had utopias, and later on in a similar vein Marx, Gramsci, Lenin and Che Guevara; now we have American alligators. They give us back impenetrable truths, and yet become our nautilus, the vehicle towards Galloway’s landscapes filled with irony and gentleness. It’s enough we “suppose” things that he doesn’t dare to entrust to words. We shouldn’t either. His image are not objects, they are “expressions of delight.”

STEVE GALLOWAY, Coyote Sky 2017, 30″ x 24″ oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist and Rose Gallery

Bibliography

Wallace Stevens, “Two or three ideas”, in Opus Posthumous, edited by Milton J, Bates, Vintage Books, New York, 1990

John Cage, composition in retrospect, Exact Change Cambridge, 1993

Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses, Une archeologie des sciences humaines, Gallimard, paris, 1966

 

SEWING FRIENDSHIP AND ART

with Sylvia Salazar Simpson, Allan Kaprow, Judy Fiskin, Peter Kirby

 

and Richard Tuttle getting rid of frames and capital letters:

“ art is not a copy of nature but an extension

how to make this extension concrete

it will be absolutely not be prethought
(absolutely not be absolutely)

the one an extension of the other without reference to priority ”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON, Eggs Verbal A / Z , 1973, Courtesy of the artist

 

THE TABLE FIRST OR THE EGGS? THE WORDS OR THE PAGE?

by Rosanna Albertini

Sylvia made me aware of the sensuality of language. Of shameless decay as a mystery, a smelling, progressive alteration of fruits and flowers and things with flesh, or leaves.
She taught me to honor a molding lemon as well as the ashes of her burned out house. She made small altars with the remains, friendly places where other abandoned objects could be added over the years, tricky homes hiding the prick of cactus spines. They dislike to be touched.

Sylvia became the best companion for playing at life, pointing out to me how life becomes “life,” “something that floats, outside of time, in our thoughts.” Allan Kaprow. Kaprow had been one of her teachers at Cal Arts, CA, she was already mother of two. They remained friends to the end of his life. I also became his friend, having married Peter Kirby who worked with him for years, and cherished him like very few. Allan Kaprow allowed Sylvia to see herself as an artist, a mother and wife embracing “life,” the an-artist life. But she was not confused about the ungraspable separation between art and life, and built her own experience. Never gave up with physicality. Sewed uncooked eggs to the table, wore shoes made with celery, strawberries or ice cream, pinned into her ankles and feet. She made books with sugar, or paprika, or oregano attached to their pages. Imposed to them the destiny of decay.

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON, Imitations, 1977  Courtesy of the artist

About twenty years ago, one of the many days of playing at life with Sylvia, she introduced me to Judy Fiskin’s photographs, I vaguely remember they were at LACMA. It was such a surprise to discover photographic miniatures, of a kind I had never seen. Such a pleasure for the beginning of my new American life. As pleasurable as cooking and eating with Sylvia, mixing Mexican and Italian traditions, sharing pain and joy, as life brought them to us.

There is something amusing and embarrassing about the work” — wrote Sylvia Salazar Simpson years ago. These books’ pages don’t carry words, nor images. Each book is a physical story going bad and smelly over time. “Can you fold the page please? That’s the ritual.” “Disgusting? Why?” Any repulsion disappears when the most terrible things are written words. A jelly beans-bacon-pearl page should be sucked, read by the lips, by the same voracious tongue of a newborn exploring surfaces around her before names appear.

Art only needs an alien space to physically exist. The Sugar Book, the Spit Book? What do they mean if the book is a tongue as rough as a cat’s, black sandpaper growing Tylenol at the heart of chewed bubble gum. “Can you fold the page please?” Can you touch what your brain has produced, who knows if it is human or not it must be but it does not perfectly fit. Art is not an experiment. Sylvia Salazar Simpson’s books are flowers lying on old stems torn from the ground of history, on pieces of wood soaked with tar, cut for the railroad. They can’t hurt.

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON, Blue Sugar Book, 1997   Photo: Hannah Kirby

We have in common a passion for natural growing: trees, bushes, and flowers. The first art piece made by Sylvia that she shared with me by giving me a picture of it, was of a group of trees she had to abandon, when moving from their Los Olivos ranch. And the art was a gesture, of wrapping them with clothes and fabrics as if covering them for the winter, adding decorations to their trunk, or letting them know how much she cared for them, which is the same thing. I’m sure they understood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

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

Richard Tuttle, In Parts, 1998-2001  Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, © 2001 Richard Tuttle;  2001 the authors.

 

 

JUDY FISKIN : Photography is a mental thing

“Imagination applied to the whole world is vapid in comparison to imagination applied to a detail.” Wallace Stevens

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 234 Courtesy of the artist

“The mind is the most terrible force in the world principally in this that it is the only force that can defend us against itself. The modern world is based on this pensée.” Wallace Stevens

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 242 Courtesy of the artist

UNTITLED  by Rosanna Albertini

Each little house is a song of solitude. A body opening limbs in a space where the distance between the sky and the ground has been reduced to zero: a flat, white empty space. They would float like islands. A scrawny bush, a pole, or little trees sometimes shaped by an odd haircut are ornaments in the wrong place, a complement to the odd shape of the houses.

“I am more interested in creating an experience than in summarizing experience.”JF
“The most interesting part is looking at this little universe of representation that I can make out of the world.” JF

It’s not the maternal opening of doors and windows of people’s homes that makes the artist happy. Each print gives the houses a face, the front of a building that seem to say the viewer: “True, things are people as they are.” Wallace Stevens, Like Fiskin, isn’t afraid of absurdity.
Am I ridiculous, with my single window and the bricks on my feet? You can say so, it doesn’t touch me. Oh, my forehead is too low, maybe two round eyes, of course closed, make me smarter looking. But I have three legs and two enormous garage doors (?)
Each house is a song of indifference, a self contained score only showing the mask of a secret, not immaculate conception.

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 233 Courtesy of the artist

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 235 Courtesy of the artist

jUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 240 Courtesy of the artist

“Impenetrable, opaque, obdurate: these are good terms to apply to the work. They all express something about what the world feels like to me.” JF

Through Judy Fiskin’s mind passes, maybe, the temptation to escape architectural codes and history of forms. Her 1988 eyes isolate each house from the landscape. Each house is a detail, almost a cut out, free from aesthetic rules or repetitions of architectural patterns.
See? My windows have curved eyebrows, and they stick out from the roof!
I am, instead, the reminiscence of a stilt house. And I grew like a barn with a vague Chinese flavor of a pagoda roof. I’m better than you, replies another house whose origins are uncertain: big ears and a city look under a hat low enough to evoke a pagoda, but centered in a way that makes more evident the asymmetrical face of the house.
Each house is a chant of styles speaking different languages in the same building.

“Idealized images from my mind.” JF

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 238 Courtesy of the artist

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 239 Courtesy of the artist

One house is the queen of flatland, another is so shy she hides behind a tree, the lateral side leaning on a tall chimney. Lady symmetry sits in the body of an urban figure waiting for cars, she has two garage doors. A pale, gray creature seems to be there by mistake, what a romantic mistake!
The high contrast prints reveal a flash of light not only erasing the context around these little houses, also removing all sign of memory, and comparisons to famous buildings. What’s wrong with common life? It’s mostly stifled by an eccessive closeness, to siblings and objects. Really, we need an artist to gently building a distance, and revealing its twisted, uncanny beauty.
Each house, a scream of silence.

OF MERE BEING

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind move slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

— Wallace Stevens —

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 245 Courtesy of the artist

JUDY FISKIN, From New Architecture 1988 Plate 249 Courtesy of the artist

Bibliography:

Some Aesthetic Decisions, The Photographs of Judy Fiskin, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2011

Wallace Stevens, Opus Posthumous, Edited by Milton J. Bates, Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc. New York, 1990

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Objects of a dysfunctional time: PETER SHIRE’s TEAPOTS

At MOCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles

 

MUSICAL, WHISPERING VOICES

 by Rosanna Albertini

Photos: Hannah Kirby

One can look at them naked, or encrusted with the shells of futurism, art deco, Milanese design, post modernism, California surrealism, like the door of a lobster cage. I would prefer to put all the verbal definitions into a fishnet and throw them deep into the ocean. The abandonment of the teapots to themselves “is an act of generosity,” as Mario Merz would say, “deciphering is the will to die.”

They are sirens these teapots singing the music of colors and forms: an endless, nostalgic song longing for water. Their nose too big, too long for their body, and the body shrunk like a musical instrument, or borrowing heaviness from a building, or eternalizing a fruit that tries to preserve the beauty of a flower and misses the branch moved by the wind. The teapots know there is no use for them. They are sculptures, born from an artist who likes to lie on the void, trying to forget rules and all the rational roads to understanding. Search for beauty is a source of anxiety.

“to orient
not to compel
to orient
in architecture
as in sculpture
like in a drawing of oriental vocal sensibilities
that is to say musical”
— Mario Merz

“All value depends upon somebody else’s opinion. For it is the essence of this philosophy that things have no independent existence, but live only in the eye of other people. It is a looking-glass world, this, to which we climb slowly; and its prizes are all reflexions. That may amount for our baffled feelings as we shuffle, and shuffle vainly, among those urban pages for something hard to lay our hands upon. Hardness is the last thing we shall find.”
— Virginia Woolf

That’s why there is no futurISM in these teapots, no celebration of civil and warlike mechanical machineries expected to pierce the present with energy, violent breaks, and, at least verbally, to introduce hardness. Instead, the teapots are a whispering voice, like the French and Italian words avenir, l’avvenire. From the late Latin ad-venire.

I find their softness and I don’t know what it is that touches me, unless what I like is just the uncertainty about what they are. They are displaced and useless, but searching for their face to face with us. The human side which is in them, the artist’s making, meets other humans in a present which is constantly coming to be, fleeting and incapable of standing as an accomplished future. Displacement is everywhere: between words and things, dreams and reality, thinking and making. What a dysfunctional time!

And yet, I miss stroking them, giving them a caress. I can only send them a philosophical caress, the most beautiful I found.

“The caress doesn’t know what she looks for. Such ‘not knowing’ such fundamental incongruence, is essential.” “The caress is waiting for a pure time to come, time without a content. She is made with growing hunger, and more and more enticing promises, which brings new perspectives on the things we cannot grasp.”
— Emmanuel Lévinas

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

Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader, London, The Hogarth Press, 1935

Emmanuel Lévinas, Le temps et l’autre, @Fata Morgana, 1979. First edition February 1983, PUF, Paris.

 

BRIAN BRESS : He Doubled Himself as a Body of Colors

B R I A N   B R E S S

About BRIAN BRESS’s Video-sculptures and sculptures

— In Lieu of Flowers send Memes —
Cherry and Martin Gallery, West Los Angeles — May-June 2017

HE DOUBLED HIMSELF AS A BODY OF COLORS

by Rosanna Albertini

We commonly give the color of our notions of the known to our ideas of the unknown: we call death sleep because it outwardly resembles sleeping; if we call death a new life it’s because it seems like something different from life.

Hi, I am Rickybird, mint, hot pink, a wintergreen Members Only, and mister Still Life, orange to blue. Although you see three figures in separate frames, it’s always me, the replica of a human body, with three different heads. They bear the burden of intellectual effort, their failure to see through unknown realities.

To restore life to art, my artist looked for visual songs hoping to reverse the meaning of what we see. He choose to hide his body and especially his head in a rigid container that makes him blind and deaf. He is a master of collage. Don’t stop there, the word only speaks technique, or combination of styles, technique again. I am not a collage, I am a sculpture that rotates 360 degrees within a frame hung on the wall. Yes, I am a body of logarithms and pixels, with no weight and no senses.

BRIAN BRESS, Still Life (orange to blue), 2017
High definition single-channel video (color), High definition monitor and player, wall mount, framed.
40.75 x 23.125 x 2.5 inches, 21:32 Loop. Courtesy of the artist and Cherry Martin Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among the many things I can repeat, from my artificial mind, there is some Robert Musil: we live “in a period of civilization that had simply filled with rubble the access to the soul.” “The most important things take place today in the abstract, and the most trivial ones in real life.” Memory is as solid a part of me as my numerical soul. I don’t give a damn if humans are faltering, or losing the sense of self. I bring simple truths afloat: I spread silence, and around my invisible skeleton I display a rotation which is only my inner clock: free from night and day, far from shadows, brushing any subjectivity away from me.

Let’s make a fresh start: my heads can be severed, then reconstructed as classic monuments of cumulative clumps of ideas, resting in peace in their sculpted form. My severed heads are white, white and impersonal as if the hand-work of the artist was forgotten. They conjure up a variety of moods —a little like the verbs moods— that you can discover walking all around the heads. Some serious, others ridiculous, over all impenetrable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Men and things have the same destiny — because it is abstract — an equally indifferent value in the algebra of the mystery.
But there is something else… Oh how many times have my very own dreams arisen before me like things, not to take the place of my reality but to confess that they are equal to me in my not caring for them, in arising in me from without, like the trolley that turns at the far curve of the street.”

In all my dreams either you appear, dream, or, false reality, you accompany me.
With you I visit regions that are perhaps your bodies of absence and dishumanity, your essential body disfigured into a calm plain and a mountain with a cold profile in the garden of a hidden palace.”

BRIAN BRESS, Members Only (wintergreen), 2017.
High definition single-channel video, high definition monitor and player, wall mount, framed.
40.75 x 23.125 x 2.5 inches, 19:25 Loop. Courtesy of the artist and Cherry Martin Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is only one way my artist could see himself doubled like an alien looking at him from a distance, from a land of dreams in which my features do not have names, nor have a tongue on their own. He doubled himself as a body of colors: his unknown self.
I am his disfigured double, soaked in colors as a flower, an evergreen, a shiny fish luminous with scales, or a changeable mother pearl. Intention, decisions and the strength of will were melted, sent to another planet. Feelings remain, the certainty I exist, along with an eternal uncertainty about who am I.

I’m not the illusory image given back by the mirror: that really would be one exclusive way of seeing myself. No, I can feel my head navigating through time, embraced by million spaces. I wear the heroic, shiny helmets of Agamemnon and Achilles and Patroclus fighting around the walls of Troy, some futurist angles turning cubist maybe, some pop disguises as if I were pointing my tongue at the viewers, except I don’t have a tongue, nor eyes, nor ears, only my inner flame that makes me happy to rotate on my axis so slowly I seem still. Rush is banned in my space. I am as my artist made me, as light as a butterfly.

BRIAN BRESS, Rickybird (mint, hot pink), 2017
High definition single channel video (color), High definition monitor and player, Wall mount, framed.
40.75 x 23.125 x 2.5 inches, 24:18 Loop. Courtesy of the artist and Cherry Martin Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything around us become part of us, infiltrates us in our carnal or vital sensation, and the web of the grand Spider subtly ties us to whatever is at hand, binding us in a light bed of slow death, where we rock in the wind.”

Quotes are from Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, translated by Alfred Mac Adam, Exact Change, Boston, 1998.
And from Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities, translated from German by Sophie Wilkins, Editorial consultant Burton Pike, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

 

 

METAMORPHOSIS OF A FOLK TALE

THE GOLDEN GOOSE    by   SEAN SHIM-BOYLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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