Eileen Cowin: MAD LOVE n.4

EILEEN COWIN, Untitled from the Mad Love series, 2014 5.5″ x 8.2″ Courtesy of the artist

EILEEN COWIN, Untitled from the Mad Love Series, 2014    5.5″ x 8.2″
Courtesy of the artist

A migration story

by Rosanna Albertini

In your old age you used your wooden prosthetic hand as an advantage against the many obstacles a working woman encounters, starting with the train’s schedule. You were always late. One morning, after grabbing the handle while the wheels were already turning on the rails, the door slammed on your hand. Four fingers were blocked outside. The station master dropped his hat, and almost fainted for he couldn’t understand: you were smiling through the window, over the locked door. “Didn’t you see they are wood?” you screamed after him. The wooden hand had several clones in the dresser’s drawers. If we found one of them in the kitchen and you were not at home, the main concern of everyone was, “Again, grandmother forgot the hand!”

As if it wasn’t enough, for two years at the hospital you became an experimental human field for doctors. They dug two channels through your right arm: one underneath the wrist, the other before the elbow, trying to figure out how to connect an artificial limb to the tendons. Having maimed soldiers in mind, – it was one of  World War I years, 1916 or 1917- they used you as a guinea pig and irretrievably broke your tendons. A seventeen year old girl could only be sacrificed to the young men’s future. You spent two years educating your left hand to writing and sewing, probably growing beautiful in your acceptance of a physical imperfection that did not prevent you from being admired. Soldiers used to throw secret messages on folded pieces of paper through the hospital’s windows. After leaving the hospital, your left hand got used to serving dinners. Your parents had invested in a restaurant with the money paid by the factory for your accident. Such a dreadful sequence of facts seem to have only strengthened your tenacity: this was always, for you, the best of all possible worlds. As a matter of fact, at the restaurant you met grandfather. His love messages were hidden underneath the emptied, dirty plates.

What I see looking at me right now from teeth to toes, is both your lives, mother and grandmother. I read vestiges in irrelevant gestures; I am the only person in the world who can give them a meaning. Since I have only one body, to make your magnificent ghosts compatible in the only space I have is not a matter of choice. I rarely allow my feelings to be transparent, or I strike the comic note. After all, the marks of yours I recognize in my own person are free from both your wills and my own. I walk on grandmother’s straight legs, and often I hold my right wrist, using my left hand like an open fan that completely covers the right hand mysteriously shrunk in a fist. It was grandmother’s most frequent gesture. Does it make sense? It did to her, to me it’s almost embarrassing, a religious gesture out of church. I’m covering a stump although my right hand hasn’t lost four fingers all of a sudden, as happened to her, when the four fingers of the right hand were cut off by a sharp mechanism of a thread producing machine, the common thread for sewing. Was the nocturnal factory life during World War I as bloody as the battlefields? Did I intensify such a mimic gesture after I moved to the U.S? Perhaps I am binding our lives with double thread, grandmother, bringing you back through me into this country that you met first when you were sixteen. It was in 1914. While sleeping on the bridge of a transatlantic steamer, or  learning English thanks to a waiter —you were sent by your family to join an uncle who had a drugstore in Pittsburgh— you certainly could not anticipate the stories to come, very much like Candide: back to Italy after a year with chilblains at your feet because you had spent the Pittsburgh’s winter wearing rubber boots; sent to Switzerland as a baby sitter to make money, this time you only had to cross a lake; brought back to your village at the beginning of World War I by your parents who, ignorant of neutral politics, wanted to have their child at hand. They surely lost the grab. Of you right hand, only the thumb remained.

A strong, rough awareness of my body, without shame or fear, grew in me since I was a child thanks to grandmother’s frankness and unusual metaphors. Bathing outside, in a wooden bucket full of water warmed up by the sun, was a sort of pagan ceremony on which she often put the ornament of unforgettable sermons such as, “remember, take a lot of care of your vagina, keep her always clean because it is your second face.” By the same natural franchise I worked on her skin often damaged by a common sickness that eats the tissues and produces large itching crusts. Never revolted, like the girl of a fairy tale who cleans up louses from an old woman hair and receives a generous reward, I cleaned the wounds, spread pomades, noticing every time as a miracle the simple fact that her skin, though injured, was the softest, clearest, good smelling skin I had ever touched, a rose petal. To be allowed to touch her was my reward, and perhaps my talisman against the senseless order into which my life was coerced. My will to love was reinforced by each visit, bringing flowers to my goddess, rushing as fast as possible up to the fourth floor —there was no elevator— through the smell of bleach on the gray marble steps cleaned early in the morning by the lady concierge, opening the door with impatience and finally, being at home. Who cares that we did not have a kitchen, only a three flame burner underneath a beige and brown curtain next to the front door and the bathroom for washing dishes and clothes. We had a big room and a wide terrace with flowers at the top of a modest building that survived the war. Via Cantoni, 10. It seemed a palace to me because of the constant care, the pride of people who lived there keeping it shining, no dust in the corners.

        The Sundays were filled with movies, or little trips out of town with grandmother and a boyfriend of hers who was an artists specializing in chapels and monuments in the cemeteries just like Lucio Fontana, —Fontana’s father had a company of funerary production —  usually ending in some tabaccheria to check the football game’s results. Totocalcio was the oracle for poor people, a chance of unexpected little money. Then we were running home to look at our receipt. When we won, not very often, grandma was not telling me so the following week we could have a surprise feast instead of our daily eggs and polenta. After dinner, and sometimes in the morning, coffee at the twin apartment on the same floor, the home of a skinny lady smoking so much that her fingers were browned by nicotine. At her kitchen table we did not need TV, almost nobody owned one at the time. It was enough to make the point about famous homicides, love stories among celebrities, other love stories among close family members, political scandals, whispering if a niece of the skinny lady had worked as a prostitute in a house when the houses were still legal before the “Merlin Law.” The two old ladies were dogged readers of newspapers and passionate storytellers. But a moral had to appear from some detail. Yes, the niece was a prostitute, she had a girl, “and you know, the girl wears glasses.” Punishment was as natural as inevitable. The final litany included a formal “thank you, Enrico.” We used to look toward the bedroom, sending our thought to the defunct husband looking back at us from a framed picture on the dresser. There was a red carnation in a vase in front of the picture, just one, to testify his wife’s gratitude. She changed the flower every month, the very day she received the money from his pension funds. Not a bit of nostalgia among us, and we laughed at our cynical detachment. He had been a socialist.

Money of course was the main subject of complaint. Sometimes, daydreaming about my future, grandmother and her friends could see nothing but a job as a secretary at the top of their wishes. They were fairly perplexed, mumbling with discomfort, as they realized my Latin and ancient Greek were not likely to become profitable in a commercial world. But their talking did not make me worried, any future was inconceivable. Besides, I was too busy discovering other people’s stories coming to me from the books. Yet I was far from suspecting that Helen’s role in the Troy war could have been compared to my mother’s disruptive function in our family war. After years of serious preparation for sure, the war exploded as soon as grandfather died, bringing grievance and stinginess into my goddess’ life. “Mother, don’t be angry at me. Sure, I was on grandmother’s side. More than once I felt hatred wrapped in silence flowing between the two of you. And I was myself in a muddle for my attachment to her was unassailable. The only version I have did not come from you.”

EILEEN COWIN, Untitled from the Mad Love series, 2014 5.5″ x 8.2″ Courtesy of the artist

EILEEN COWIN, Untitled from the Mad Love Series, 2014      5.5″ x 8.2″
Courtesy of the artist


V o y a g e   en   I n d e  

Chapter I:   Free music for six hands    by Rosanna Albertini



To Bianca:

Questo viaggio in India è la mia osservazione di te come artista senza esserti fisicamente vicina. La parte immaginaria scaturisce dalla distanza, dalle poche cose che so e le molte che non so.  Quello che capisco e sento essendo tua amica.  E’ un viaggio mentale, attraverso le tue sensazioni dell’India, ma sopratutto è la storia di un’amicizia, forse di due amicizie: surreale, semplice. La scrittura fa il testo. Se vuoi, l’India c’è come pre-testo in senso positivo. Ha creato l’occasione. Per dare un senso alle immagini che non sia solo per te e per me, devo metterle in movimento in un contesto che parli a tutti. 

This journey to India is my observation of you as an artist without being physically close to you. The imaginary part comes from distance, from the few things I know and the many I don’t. What I understand and feel being your friend. It’s a mental journey through your sensations of India, but first of all it’s a story of one, maybe two friendships: surreal, simple. Writing made the text. India is here, if you want, as a pre-text, in a positive way. It gave us the occasion. In order to give the images a meaning that won’t only be for you and me, I must put them in motion in a context which is for everybody.

Bianca Sforni (artist) traveling in India
Claudia Gianferrari (gallerist) crossing the US by car
Rosanna Albertini (writer)  at home, in Los Angeles

with special participation of: Peter Kirby, John Cage, Baruch Spinoza

India, 2016

BIANCA.     Did you sleep well? I was on a horse (equine) in a marvelous light. I slept there and you too, maybe, tomorrow night.

R.     Remaking my bed the morning after, I touch one of the sheets with palm and fingers flat on the cotton, over a print with ships, palms and American Indians of the time when Columbus mistook them for real Indians: my India for the day.

CLAUDIA.      She calls from Las Vegas, on her way to Los Angeles: “Can you make me some pasta? No cilantro please.”

R.     For how many?

CLAUDIA.      We are three, I have a nephew and an adopted son with me.

R.      Having been friends for fifty years, since middle school, when Claudia hadn’t yet discovered contact lenses, I plan pasta for dinner.

Cooking with India on my mind, I’m assaulted by smells as they spread from Indian restaurants in America. Immediately, I send a message to Bianca asking how is the smell of India. I am a person who can feel a smell only thinking about it.

BIANCA.      The smell of India is the same as Pasolini had mentioned: you don’t feel it.

India, 2016

India, 2016

JOHN CAGE.      Our poetry now is the realization that we possess nothing.
Anything therefore is a delight (since we don’t possess it) and thus need not fear its loss.
We need not destroy the past; it is gone. At any moment it might reappear and seem to be and be the present.


JOHN CAGE.      Would it be a repetition?

Only if we thought we owned it, but since we don’t, it is free and so are we.
Most anybody knows about the future and how un-certain it is.
What I am calling poetry is often called content.
I myself have called it form. …
Each moment presents what happens.

India, 2016

India, 2016

India, 2016


R.      Photographs. I tell Peter the more I look at them the more they are silent.
The artist gave them life during her dialogue with the light. Peter smells romanticism from afar. I click by instinct, so I’m not a photographer. Bianca is, instead. Peter makes a point which is crucial:

PETER KIRBY.      The photographer finds the frame for each image. That’s what makes her different from one who takes snap-shots. She hunts for the image and clicks when she finds it.

R.      My impression is, she might wait for the time between two heartbeats, like the archer. We still have feelings, but they move inwards. The image becomes a secondary effect of desire.


INDIA 2016-
JOHN CAGE.      In other words, there is no split between spirit and matter.

R.      John, you said it partakes of the miraculous when it happens, that I only have to a-wake to the fact. Would you like some pasta with mushrooms? I’m not sure I can. Maybe it works for music. A poem, a photograph, they are like doors. You can open them or not. If you do, you dive into their silence and find your own story. Art is the miracle. Artists.

India, 2016

BARUCH SPINOZA.      Desire is man’s very essence, insofar as it is conceived to be determined, from any given affection of it, to do something.
Exp.: We said above, in P9S, that desire is appetite together with the consciousness of it. And appetite is the very essence of man, insofar as it is determined to do what promotes his preservation. 1664-65.

R.     Claudia’s appetite was inextinguishable. My mothers meals! Claudia couldn’t wait. I don’t know where you are, now that you passed to the clouds. Can you read me? I think you sent Bianca into my life, and me into hers. She was one of your artists. I never told you that the first time Bianca and I met, in New York, we look at each other for a while through the frames and lenses of our glasses, without a word. Only one thought, untold: “Are you Claudia’s friend”?
It was forever. We celebrated our triple connection with a lunch you would have recognized as excellent. Let’s share some India this time. To the next.

INDIA 2016-


more or less…
a brief story of ITALIAN CINEMA IN THE 50’s


by ALBERTO ALBERTINI – February 2017, Milano (Italy)

Photographs: Alberto Albertini



Films were made without money, and Rome in the meantime was becoming modern. On the outskirts houses grew like mushrooms. But in the old center and by the river, as if displaying her beauty around squares and parks, Rome was wearing colors like an old lady with gorgeous dresses in decline: washed out bricks and layers of plaster on crumbling walls. The fading colors gave the impression the city was pink, or maybe it was the air, warmed up by the colors. Capers and herbs peeped out from the cracks between stones. The air announced a southern sweetness, as the South wasn’t far.

At the end of a sunny winter, wanting to visit her son Alberto and his family, my grandmother Rosa Maserati Albertini brought me to Rome. It was my first time. Images I’m adding to Alberto’s text are the record of that visit. Grandmother’s attitudes vaguely recall Ingrid Bergman’s. As for me, engulfed in the clumsiness of my ten or eleven years of age, I didn’t know where to place my hands, no less my feet. Besides, my red little coat with golden buttons made me feel like a Napoleonic soldier. I hated that coat, but it was the only one I had and children, in those times, did not have the right to choose what to wear. Luckily, the photographs are black and white.

Alberto was our tour guide and the photographer. His job at Fono Roma had evolved: in a few years he had become an expert in sound recording and dubbing techniques, an inventor as well as an organizer. But I didn’t have any idea of his professional life. It all reemerged in his writings for this blog. The premise of his involvement in the film industry, that made him an inside observer, more or less a historian, are in the following posts:

Rosanna Albertini



Film making was a well established kind of work in Rome, for shooting and sound recording and mixing. The first film dubbing studio was made in the early thirties. Later, it was Cinecittà. The end of the war brought mainly financial and organizational deficiencies. The big films were shot when possible and were marked by the trauma of war. They confronted tragic subjects with a few tools and not-professional actors not so much by necessity, but rather wanting to sweep the past away and give birth to stories urging to be told, somehow, by a literary realism. The least literary film, the driest and most rigorous, still is Umberto D, 1952, by Vittorio De Sica. That’s why film making, in the fifties, was reorganized on the wave of the ‘neorealist’ success. Production companies appeared, sets were reorganized, with everything was needed for the most incredible productions.

The music – happy time! – was still made with the an orchestra. Musicians had to be suited to the kind of film. Roberto Rossellini, for obvious reasons, put his brother in charge of the job, basically to develop only one theme, as Roman Vlad used to do: Gothic was his speciality. Occasionally some real composers appeared, those having a ‘serious’ career who were not interested in money, maybe because money wasn’t sure … Mario Zafred, Valentino Bucci and Marcello Abbado with twelve-tone music! Although musicians liked to conduct their own pieces, they were not excellent conductors. Nino Rota used the best conductor available: Franco Ferrara.

Always in a black pullover, tall and slim, Ferrara was the image of sobriety: essential, courteous, with no useless words. His speech was fast, the voice never loud: the orchestra could move as if suspended from his baton. The same orchestra of Cinefonico, under other conductors, was swaying as if rocked by the wind. Music for film was then composed according to different scenes and recorded while projecting the film section in a continuous loop; the conductor had to find the way to adapt the musical emphasis to the events in the scene by accelerating or slowing down the tempo.




Because the music was original, and all the parts of the score were hand copied, there were often mistakes due to the copyists. The same section with the same instruments, therefore, could sound wrong and bring up conjectures about why a certain musician was playing a different note.

Ferrara, after a first reading of the musical piece for a loop, used to explain and ask to repeat the beats, mumbling how to do it: here we are, more accent it’s OK, now everybody restarting from C. In particular, I remember when he asked the trombones to anticipate just a fraction of a second, because he could hear the sounds late in their coming from the back of the recording studio: no more than six, eight meters! Or he asked different musicians to repeat a difficult beat to find the best execution. He was the conductor always taking care of Nino Rota’s compositions.

The episode that stayed with me more than others is Ferrara recording the ouverture of Il Barbiere di Siviglia for the titles of the homonymous film. Films based on operas were popular: the singers and orchestra had four hour shifts. Ferrara’s rehearsal lasted the entire shift, beat by beat, repeating until he reached the point he really wished. At the end of the shift he recorded only once, it was the good one. How good? Exceptional, an exciting surprise. I would love to track down that movie to rethink about it after so many years.




Films revealed the variety of style and research also in their soundtracks: traditional, popular with climatic influences such as a moderate sun warming Rome, or music sailing over twelve-tone spheres. Music was often inseparable from the film. Nino Rota’s theme hovering on I Vitelloni, 1953, Federico Fellini’s third film, keeps a sorrowful and shady eye on the ‘boys’ thoughtless lives. Leopoldo Trieste and Achille Maieroni are alone on the pier, it’s night … what a scene … and the street, the solitary trumpet telling the other meaning of that film: solitude?

The foley artist. When you shoot the film with live sounds of the scene, you would say the only thing missing is music. Not so simple. The sound track, in the 50s, had to be completely rebuilt. The guiding track was just a guide: it contained the actors’ voices that needed to be dubbed, the director’s voice, the unrequested ambient noise. Strangely, the foley artist was the main tool to improve the sound track. What were the requirements? A memory organized as if the film roll were recorded in is brain, instantaneous responses and a lot of fantasy. (Film’s rolls are 305 meters long -1000 feet- equivalent to eleven minutes.) When the foley artist opened his suitcase one had the impression that an old gleaner had arrived looking for scraps: sets of keys, coconut shells, boxes and empty small containers, whistles, glasses, small and big clogs, tiles, dishes, little cups and a lot of other things. The studio kindly used to offer a door having only the frame and a handle for that specific noise. With all these objects the artist was able to recreate all the sounds necessary to follow the events. Other sounds: wind, rain, street traffic, were added by standard loops (loops were sound tracks on short films that we could close like rings and let go with uninterrupted movement; it was our job as sound technicians to open the sound faucet at the right moment.) At the beginning we had two foley artists, each with a different mindset: the older depended on a multiplicity of objects, not to be out of resources for an unexpected noise; the other instead, had the ambition of creating any kind of noise with very few essential objects, and was able to do it. His memory and responses as fast as lightening. Using the objects like musical instruments he could obtain different sounds from the same object.




When a film is sold abroad, it has to be supplied with an international track. It’s the film soundtrack with music and effects, but without dialog, so that the buyer has only to add the dubbed voices and complete the film in the local language. The international sound track had to be produced also for the Italian edition of Italian films, -it was a requirement of the production process. Such was the case for India, 1958, by Roberto Rossellini. The older of the foley artists was chosen for the international track’s sounds, the more traditional. Albeit the sound generation was artificial, collateral actions could help : finding the best way to place the microphone, following the sound levels or altering their ‘color.’ The foley artist was very much satisfied with my work, finding himself surprised: the effects seemed true!

An aside about the aesthetic of film sounds: Our brain works on his own, when watching the film. Think of the power of music transforming the meaning and emotional impact of a scene. The same happens with noise. The brain recognizes any (or almost) noise coinciding with the action. The task of the foley artist is therefore simplified, because his sound imitation is never perfect. The foley artist, for instance, created the illusion of a transatlantic liner uttering uuuuuuuuuuuuu and blowing on a cut in a postcard in a vertical position. It was convincing to me until I saw the first cinemascope film with magnetic stereo sound: the port of New York with many ships in transit: I was upset! Space, depth, truth, all immense!

Dubbing is accepted without discussion. I believe nobody today questions it, but the problem exists and there is nothing to be done: either one reads the subtitles or follows the film. Better to follow the film; when it’s dubbed, though, we see it and listen to it as if the voices were the real voices of the actors. Paradoxically, voice and acting of dubbers could even turn out better that the original, and it wouldn’t be right. I’ll mention as an example one of the first films by Bergman: I saw the original projection in Swedish and, not understanding the language, I noticed the very sharp, violent quality of the voices. Everything was dramatic. When I saw again the same film, dubbed in Italian, it was deflated, the story seemed useless.




più o meno …
piccola storia del CINEMA ITALIANO ANNI ’50

di Alberto Albertini, Febbraio 2017, Milano

Mentre i film erano fatti senza soldi, in periferia Roma diventava moderna. Le case crescevano come funghi. Ma nel centro, e lungo il Tevere, come se la città mettesse in mostra la sua bellezza intorno alle piazze e nei parchi, Roma era sfumata dai colori dei mattoni e degli intonaci sui muri vecchi, e dal fascino senza tempo delle rovine antiche. Capperi e erbe spuntavano dalle crepe. Era pervasa da un senso di calore, mentre l’aria annunciava la dolcezza del sud, non lontano. In uno scorcio di inverno soleggiato, la nonna (Rosa Maserati Albertini) mi portò a Roma per una visita alla famiglia di Alberto, che era suo figlio. La mia prima volta. Le immagini che seguono documentano quella visita. La nonna aveva atteggiamenti da Ingrid Bergman, e io, con la goffaggine dell’età della crescita, non sapevo dove mettere le mani, tantomeno i piedi. Per giunta, portavo una cappottino rosso coi bottoni dorati che mi faceva sentire come un soldato napoleonico. Lo odiavo, ma era l’unico che avevo. A quel tempo i bambini non avevano diritto di scelta. Per fortuna le foto sono in bianco e nero.
Alberto era la nostra guida turistica nonché fotografo. Il suo lavoro alla Fono Roma ebbe svariati sviluppi: in pochi anni, da semplice tecnico del suono era diventato inventore e organizzatore. Non avevo nessuna idea della sua vita professionale. Per me, è emersa dai suoi scritti per questo blog.

Il mestiere del cinema era ben radicato a Roma, sia nelle riprese che nelle sonorizzazioni. Nei primi anni trenta era sorto il primo studio di doppiaggio film e, successivamente, Cinecittà. Alla fine della guerra le carenze erano prevalentemente finanziarie e organizzative. I grandi film girati con i mezzi possibili, segnati dal trauma bellico, avevano affrontato temi tragici con pochi mezzi e attori non professionisti non tanto per necessità, ma per il desiderio di spazzare via il passato e dar vita a qualcosa che era impellente dire, anche se si trattava di realismo un tantino letterario. Il film meno letterario, il più asciutto, rigoroso, rimane Umberto D, 1952, di Vittorio De Sica. Dunque, gli anni cinquanta si trovano a riorganizzare le fila sull’onda del successo ‘neorealista’. Nascono case di produzione, si riorganizzano i teatri di posa, tutto l’occorrente per le produzioni più incredibili.

Bei tempi, il commento musicale si faceva ancora con l’orchestra. I musicisti adeguati al genere del film. Roberto Rossellini, per ovvi motivi, assegnava l’incarico al fratello Renzo, praticamente sviluppi di un solo tema, come Roman Vlad, specializzato nel gotico. Apparivano anche fugacemente compositori veri, cioè dediti alla carriera seria, non interessati al denaro o forse perché questo non era sicuro…Mario Zafred, Valentino Bucchi e Marcello Abbado con composizioni dodecafoniche! Spesso i musicisti avevano l’ambizione di dirigere personalmente le loro opere ma non erano ottimi direttori. Nino Rota si avvaleva del massimo disponibile: Franco Ferrara.
Sempre in maglione nero, alto snello, Ferrara era sobrio nel senso che era essenziale, cortese, senza una parola di più. Parlava rapido non alzava mai la voce: l’orchestra viaggiava come se fosse appesa alla sua bacchetta. Con altri direttori, la stessa orchestra del Cinefonico ondeggiava come cullata dal vento. Erano tempi in cui la musica per film era composta sulle diverse scene e registrata proiettando ad anello continuo il relativo brano del film; il direttore si industriava di far coincidere le sottolineature musicali agli eventi delle scene accelerando o rallentando i tempi.

Essendo le musiche originali, e tutte le parti copiate a mano dai copisti, spesso la partitura conteneva errori di copiatura. Succedeva così che stessa parte, per gli stessi strumenti, poteva differire e causare congetture sul perché un musicista suonava una nota diversa.
Ferrara, dopo una prima lettura del pezzo relativo ad un anello, spiegava e faceva ripetere le battute canticchiando come farlo: ecco più accentato ecco così va bene, ora tutti dalla lettera C. In particolare ricordo quando chiese ai tromboni di anticipare di una frazione di secondo perché sentiva il ritardo del suono che proveniva dal fondo dello studio di registrazione: non più di sei otto metri! Oppure faceva provare e riprovare una battuta difficile a diversi esecutori per far eseguire quel rilievo dal più idoneo. Era naturalmente il direttore fisso delle composizioni di Nino Rota.




L‘episodio che più mi è rimasto impresso è stato quando ha registrato l’ouverture de Il Barbiere di Siviglia per i titoli del film omonimo. Allora erano ancora in voga film basati sulle opere e i cantanti lirici, i turni di registrazione orchestra erano di quattro ore. Ferrara provò per tutto il tempo del turno, battuta per battuta, ripetendo finché non fosse emerso il senso da lui desiderato. Alla fine del turno registrò una sola volta perché era quella buona. Buona quanto? Eccezionale, una sorpresa emozionante. Come mi piacerebbe rintracciare quel film per giudicarlo a distanza di tanti anni.

Anche nella musica il cinema si distingueva per la varietà degli stili e di ricerca; tradizionale, popolare con influenze climatiche tipo il tiepido sole di Roma, fino a musiche naviganti nelle sfere della dodecafonia. Musiche spesso inscindibili dal film. Ne I vitelloni, 1953, il terzo film di Federico Fellini, il tema di Nino Rota incombe, vigila dolente e ombroso sulla vita sconsiderata dei ‘ragazzi’. La scena con Leopoldo Trieste e Achille Maieroni sul molo, soli, di notte…e la strada, con quella tromba solitaria che racconta il secondo significato del film, la solitudine?

Il rumorista. Girando il film in presa diretta, con l’audio della scena ripresa, sembrerebbe di dover aggiungere solo la musica. In realtà non è così semplice. Negli anni cinquanta la colonna sonora doveva essere ricostruita completamente. La colonna guida era appunto una guida: conteneva le voci degli attori da doppiare, la voce del regista, i rumori ambiente indesiderati, dunque bisognava ricostruirla e qui si concretizza il ruolo del rumorista. Quali erano i suoi requisiti? Una memoria come se il rullo fosse registrato nel cervello, riflessi istantanei e molta fantasia. (I rulli del film sono lunghi trecentocinque metri -1000 piedi- pari a undici minuti.) Quando il rumorista apriva la valigia sembrava che fosse arrivato un robivecchi in cerca di rottami: mazzi di chiavi, gusci di noci di cocco, scatole e scatolette vuote, fischietti, vetri, zoccoli e zoccoloni, piastrelle, stoviglie, tazzine e molto altro. Una porta, con il solo telaio e una maniglia, era gentilmente offerta dallo studio per il relativo rumore. Con questi oggetti ricreava tutti i rumori necessari a seguire gli avvenimenti della scena. Altri rumori, tipo vento pioggia traffico stradale erano aggiunti con anelli di repertorio ( gli anelli erano, sono, colonne sonore su film di breve lunghezza in modo che si può chiuderli ad anello e farli girare continuamente; noi fonici aprivamo il rubinetto del suono al momento opportuno). In principio i rumoristi erano due ma con scuole di pensiero diverse: il più anziano puntava sulla molteplicità degli oggetti per non trovarsi mai sprovvisto di fronte al rumore imprevisto, il secondo aveva l’ambizione di creare qualsiasi rumore con pochissimi oggetti essenziali e ci riusciva. Aveva memoria e riflessi fulminei. Usando gli oggetti come fossero strumenti musicali, estraeva suoni diversi da uno stesso oggetto.

Quando si vende un film all’estero, occorre accompagnarlo con la sua colonna internazionale. È la colonna sonora del film completa di musica e rumori ma senza i dialoghi in modo che l’acquirente possa aggiungere solo le voci doppiate e quindi avere il film completo ma nella lingua locale. Per i film italiani, il modo di produrre comportava che la colonna sonora internazionale dovesse essere prodotta anche per l’edizione italiana. Questo era anche il caso del film India, 1958, di Roberto Rossellini. Per la registrazione della colonna internazionale fu scelto il più anziano dei rumoristi, il più tradizionale. Anche se la generazione dei rumori è artificiale, esistono azioni collaterali coadiuvanti: trovare il miglior piazzamento del microfono e seguire i livelli del suono o modificare il ‘colore’. Il rumorista fu molto soddisfatto del mio lavoro e si sorprese perché gli effetti sembravano veri.

Occorre però fare una digressione sull’estetica del suono nel film. Il cervello lavora molto di suo, quando vede il film. Ne è prova il commento musicale in grado di cambiare significato ed emotività ad una stessa scena. Altrettanto accade con il rumore. Il cervello identifica per vero qualsiasi ( quasi ) rumore che coincide con l’azione. Questo facilita il compito del rumorista perché l’imitazione che fa del rumore non è mai perfetta. Il rumorista creava l’illusione del transatlantico facendo uuuuuuuuuu e soffiando su una cartolina tenuta di taglio. Era convincente finché non ho visto il primo film cinemascope con stereo suono magnetico: il porto di New York con numerose navi che transitavano: sconvolgente! Lo spazio, la profondità, la verità, immenso!

Il doppiaggio è fuori discussione. Credo che nessuno oggi si ponga il problema che invece c’è ma non ci si può fare nulla: o si leggono i sottotitoli o si segue il film. Meglio seguire il film, però quando è doppiato lo vediamo e sentiamo come se la voce fosse quella degli attori. Paradossalmente, la voce e la recitazione dei doppiatori potrebbe addirittura superare quella dell’originale, che comunque non sarebbe giusto. Posso, ad esempio, citare il caso di uno dei primi film di Bergman: ho assistito alla proiezione originale in svedese e benché non potessi capire la lingua, notai che le voci erano asperrime, violente. Tutto era drammatico. Quando l’ho rivisto doppiato, si era sgonfiato, la storia sembrava inutile.




more or less …
a brief story of ITALIAN CINEMA IN THE 5O’s  


by ALBERTO ALBERTINI – January 2017 -Milano (Italy)

Photographs by Alberto Albertini

Just a reminder: Alberto is my uncle, my father’s brother. Ninety years on his shoulders did not decrease his enthusiasm and his imaginative life. All his pieces in this blog (13 so far) have been requested by me and written for the blog, as far as the scroll unfolded. This on line work that we share  is inquiry about the arts of our time as well as archeology of our family life, our common tree where we hung words and images as they surge in our mind, and feelings, regardless how hard they sometimes are.  RA

While films were made without money, at the edge of the city Rome was developing a modern style. Houses grew like mushrooms. Poles were hammered into the ground for the foundations, buildings got higher and, in a short time, filled the streets. There was a valley whose wild side, near the Vatican railroad, was the border between the urban reality and the countryside. Today one wouldn’t recognize the place. Alberto and his family lived in one of those new buildings.


Enrica, Alberto’s wife and his love for seventy five years, with their children Mietta and Claudio

One wouldn’t find in other nations, I think, the same cinema that was boiling in Italy during the 50s. True, it was coming after Neorealism, that took everybody by surprise a few years before, yet it was really something else, made out of of research and adventures coming not as much from the the Neorealism experience, as from financial constraints: how to make cinema without money.

Cesare Zavattini was the major reference point, with directors and screenwriters around him, often recurring in later films on and supported by Cinema Nuovo, Guido Aristarco’s magazine of cinematographic criticism (I still have some copies) in which Cesare Zavattini used to write his journal. His notes were minimal observations of the ways people behaved or were pleased to utter words in vogue. He cared about peculiar, necessary details to set the customs of an age.

Actors, wanting to check if it was worth being sign up for a film, or if it was risky, used to visit the set and see if Vittorio De Sica or Totò were in the cast. If so, that meant there was some money and it was good to accept the engagement. The minimum wage. One of the ways to provide money for movies was the minimum wage. The bank, the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, would grant the money in relation to the project, but most of all to the cast. Director and actors were on a list of names at the Bank specifying: with this cast, the minimum wage is… the presence of a certain actor, or actresses in the movie meant the minimum wage would rise.


Serious films, comedies, the new comedy, impossible films, failed films, opera in a film. Nothing was neglected, neither serials nor social inquiries. I believe it was Zavattini who promoted a series of inquiry films, with no equivalent afterwards. I remember: Italians swivel their heads to look at girls.

The first genetic mutation of neorealism was Due soldi di speranza [Two Cents Worth of Hope, 1952] in which realism was contaminated with the comedy chromosome and the brilliant dialogues of Titina De Filippo. Followed various Pane amore e … eccetera. Every time a film was successful, imitations in the same genre were proliferating.


Some films did not find financial support and remained incomplete: “Ciofanna, Ciofanna,” declaimed Ingrid Bergman in Santa Giovanna al rogo by Claudel, directed by Rossellini, and the actor who was supposed to perform with her refused to do it: if they don’t pay me, I don’t perform! Who ever saw that movie? Maybe that was the reason why Ingrid Bergman went back to the U.S.

A Filomena Marturano shot by Eduardo De Filippo, with Titina in it, was never released. Some films with unknown financial support, maybe not very interesting, never went around. I remember Vacanze al mare [Vacation by the Sea] with beautiful music by Nino Rota but never released. Un medico di campagna [A countryside doctor], in which a striking Giovanna Ralli appeared for the first time, maybe with Fabrizi, was dispersed into space, or came out with a different title.

Rossellini in India is a book dedicated to this period. The story of his affair with Sonali das Gupta is believable, yet another malicious story says that, while the crew was shooting the film, he seduced a guru’s wife. And the two stories aren’t incompatible. A seducer, Rossellini? No doubt, but it would be better to call him an enchanter. His favorite editor, Iolanda Benvenuti, told me that often times she and the other women collaborating with him had to wait hours and hours in order to work, making up in their minds violent reactions against him as soon as he would appear: and he happened to arrive at ten in the evening, very quickly enchanting them all. They were incapable of reacting.

Professional film making was a concept in evolution also because, in order to be professional, one had to adapt to the new technical possibilities. Neorealist films had proved it was possible to work with actors picked up from the street, not actors at all, thanks to the director’s talent and thanks to the possibility to dub, replacing the non-actors voice with the voice of real actors. The sound, recorded along with images, had the only function of guiding the post-synchronization, in a word, the dubbing.

One could hear the director’s voice telling the actors how to move: here you go, forward, go on, continue as you are doing, turn, stare at the house… and so on. Many males and females, in such a way, stepped into the film world without acting or diction school, and it often happened that good looks helped more than expressive abilities. Some of them studied, and improved, some others left, women especially, a few ended with a good marriage. Some industrialists created production companies to organize the promotion of their protégées. Rizzoli created an important house of production, and signed up Miriam Bru.


Claudio (left), Mietta (right)

Actors swing in their jobs, so between pauses and waiting moments either for the scene requirements or the set preparation, they get lost in chatting, gossiping about colleagues. Rumors about Vittorio De Sica telling he had two families, and used to spend the evening with the legal one, but instead of sleeping there he was spending the night with the other. The two ‘wives,’ I think, were Giuditta Rissone and Maria Mercader. He was constantly searching for money that he regularly lost gambling, and this was the reason why he accepted daily jobs the producer was using to increase the minimum wage and not spend too much. Yet, in the meantime De Sica shot films such as Umberto D.

Abandoned by Rossellini when he shot Stromboli with Ingrid Bergman, Anna Magnani was the protagonist of La carrozza d’oro by Jean Renoir. In the middle of a financial storm, and waiting for the director, Anna Magnani let herself go through long conversations about her life. At forty eight she had the opportunity, in Bellissima, with Visconti, to perform the non-acting, along with Walter Chiari on the bank of a stream, as if they were two people meeting there to discuss something. The dialogue unfolds a without script, only following the director’s generic suggestions. The top of realism or the strongest truth? It wouldn’t be art, would it? The scene couldn’t be better, a flower for anthology.

After the black and white intense realism, Luchino Visconti shoots Senso in color (1954); the battles scenes, as the touch of the artist had made them totally believable, are still impressed in my mind. Was he inspired by Giovanni Fattori’s paintings? Meanwhile people spread stories about how expensive it was to work with Visconti: for the curtains in Senso, he wanted to have them dyed the color of tea using real tea!!


Claudio with sheep

Dino Risi shot Poveri ma Belli [Poor but Beautiful] 1957, launching a new pseudo-realist trend with actors who later became professional. Luciano Emmer, after Le ragazze di piazza di Spagna 1952 shot a documentary about Picasso artworks in Provence, followed by Camilla, 1954, the story of a maid. Vittorio De Seta was making his unusual documentaries, about fishing for swordfish, and Gillo Pontecorvo at his very beginnings made a report on Porta Portese in Rome. (To be continued)


Alberto with his children in the Fifties

più o meno …
piccola storia del CINEMA ITALIANO ANNI ’50

di ALBERTO ALBERTINI – Gennaio 2017 – Milano

Mentre i film erano fatti senza soldi, in periferia Roma diventava moderna. Le case crescevano come funghi. I lavoratori battevano a lungo pali nel terreno per fissare le fondamenta, poi iniziavano a far salire gli edifici e in poco tempo avevano riempito la contrada. Il confine tra città e campagna è uno dei fianchi della vallata. Oggi la zona è irriconoscibile. Alberto e la famiglia vivevano in una delle nuove case con appartamenti.


Non credo che si possa trovare, in altre nazioni, un cinema paragonabile a quello che bolliva negli anni cinquanta in Italia. Se è vero che esso era successivo alla grande sorpresa destata dal neorealismo, pochi anni prima, è da rilevare come in realtà da esso si sia discosto e proliferato in miriadi di ricerche e di avventure, in parte conseguenza dell’esperienza, non tanto estetica del neorealismo, ma finanziaria: cioè come fare del cinema senza soldi.

Il filo conduttore nella direzione ricerca fa riferimento a Cesare Zavattini col supporto di registi sceneggiatori, ricorrenti spesso nei film a seguire e a loro volta supportati dalla rivista di critica cinematografica Cinema Nuovo, di Guido Aristarco ( ne ho ancora alcuni numeri ) sulla quale Cesare Zavattini teneva un diario. Annotava osservazioni minimaliste sui comportamenti o sul compiacimento che alcuni provano nel pronunciare parole in voga, a riprova della sua attenzione ai dettagli, ai particolari determinanti per inquadrare il costume di un’epoca.

Per verificare se una scrittura valesse la pena, non fosse un rischio, gli attori si recavano sul set per vedere se erano presenti, e lavoravano, Vittorio de Dica o Totò. Se c’erano, significava che c’erano anche i soldi e si poteva accettare la scrittura. Il minimo garantito. Una delle modalità per finanziare i film era quella del minimo garantito. La banca finanziatrice, cioè la Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, concedeva il finanziamento in funzione del progetto ma soprattutto del cast. Il regista gli attori, avevano il loro listino presso la banca che diceva: con questo cast, il minimo garantito è … la presenza di certi attori, o attrici, nei film, non aveva altro scopo che di elevare il minimo garantito.

Film impegnati, film commedia, la nuova commedia, film impossibili, film falliti, opera lirica filmata. Nulla di trascurato, inclusi film a episodi o di indagine. Credo proprio che sia stato Zavattini a promuovere una serie, forse senza seguito, di film indagine. Ricordo: Gli italiani si voltano a guardare le ragazze.
La prima mutazione genetica del neorealismo fu Due soldi di speranza, 1952, film realista ma con il cromosomo della commedia e i dialoghi brillanti di Titina de Filippo. Seguirono i vari Pane amore e…  ecc. da ogni film di successo proliferavano le imitazioni di genere.

Film che i soldi non li hanno trovati e sono rimasti incompleti: “Ciofanna, Ciofanna,” declamava Ingrid Bergman, nella Santa Giovanna al rogo di Claudel, regia di Rossellini, e l’attore che doveva recitare insieme a lei si rifiutava: se non mi pagano, io non recito! Chi ha mai visto quel film? Forse è per questo che Ingrid tornò in USA. 

Una Filumena Marturano girata da Eduardo e con Titina, mai uscito. Film che non si sa come siano stati finanziati perché di scarso valore e mai visti in circolazione. Ricordo un Vacanze al mare con un bel commento musicale di Nino Rota ma mai uscito. Un medico di campagna, la prima apparizione inquietante di Giovanna Ralli, forse con Fabrizi, disperso nello spazio o uscito con altro titolo.
Rossellini in India, è un libro dedicato a questo periodo. Spiega credibilmente la sua storia con Sonali das Gupta, ma i maligni raccontano che mentre la troupe girava Roberto seduceva la moglie di un guru e le due storie non sono incompatibili. Rossellini seduttore? Sicuramente, meglio incantatore. Mi raccontava Iolanda Benvenuti, la montatrice, di sua fiducia, che spesso lei e le collaboratrici l’attendevano ore e ore per lavorare e loro si facevano progetti di violente reazioni non appena fosse arrivato, magari arrivava alle dieci di sera e in breve tempo le incantava tutte senza che fossero capaci di reagire.

La professionalità era un concetto in evoluzione anche perché i professionisti erano influenzati dalle nuove possibilità tecniche. Il cinema neorealista aveva dimostrato che era possibile lavorare anche con attori presi dalla strada, cioè non attori, grazie al talento del regista e alla possibilità di doppiare, di sostituire la voce dei non attori con quella di attori. L’audio, ripreso insieme all’immagine, serviva solamente come guida per la post sincronizzazione, il doppiaggio. E si udiva la voce del regista dare suggerimenti agli ‘attori’: ecco, vai avanti, avanti, avanti così, girati, fissa la casa… ecc. Così, molti e molte entrarono nel cinema senza scuola di recitazione e di dizione e, spesso, più che le capacità espressive giovava il bell’aspetto fisico. Qualcuno studiò, si perfezionò, qualcuna uscì di scena e qualcuna concluse con un buon matrimonio. Alcuni industriali misero in piedi case di produzione per promuovere le loro protette. Rizzoli creò una importante casa di produzione, e scritturò Miriam Bru.

Il lavoro degli attori è altalenante perché composto da pause, attese, sia per le esigenze di scena che per la preparazione dei set e dunque non rimane loro che di chiacchierare, pettegolare sui loro colleghi. Di De sica dicevano che aveva due famiglie e lui passava la sera con quella legale ma poi invece di andare a letto con questa si recava dall’altra. Le due ‘mogli’, mi pare, erano Giuditta Rissone e Maria Mercader. Aveva continuamente bisogno di denaro che regolarmente perdeva al gioco e per questo accettava lavori a giornata; servivano al produttore per elevare il minimo garantito e spendere poco, ma intanto girava anche film come Umberto D.

Anna Magnani, lasciata da Rossellini mentre lui girava Stromboli con la Bergman, era protagonista ne La carrozza d’oro di Jean Renoir, del 1952. Nel mezzo di vicissitudini finanziarie burrascose, nell’attesa del regista la Magnani si concedeva lunghe conversazioni sulla sua vita. A quarantotto anni ebbe l’occasione in Bellissima, 1951, con Visconti, di recitare la non-recitazione insieme a Walter Chiari, sull’orlo del fiumiciattolo, come fossero due persone che si trovano lì per discutere. Il dialogo si svolge senza copione seguendo solo le generiche indicazioni del regista. Il massimo del realismo o il massimo della verità? Non sarebbe arte perché, vero? Eppure la scena è insuperabile, da antologia.

Dopo l’intenso realismo del bianco e nero, Visconti gira Senso a colori, 1954, mi rimangono impresse le scene delle battaglie con il tocco dell’artista che sa ricostruire l’evento con totale credibilità. Si sarà ispirato ai dipinti di Giovanni Fattori? Intanto raccontavano che era costosissimo lavorare con lui: per i tendaggi di Senso volle che fossero tinti color the col the!!

Dino Risi girava Poveri ma belli nel 1957 lanciando un nuovo filone pseudo realista con attori che poi professionisti lo sono diventati. Luciano Emmer, dopo Le ragazze di piazza di Spagna del 1952 aveva girato un documentario sulle opere di Picasso in Provenza e successivamente Camilla, 1954, la storia di una domestica. Vittorio de Seta girava i suoi insoliti documentari, sulla pesca del pesce spada, e Gillo Pontecorvo, anche lui agli inizi, faceva un rapporto su Porta Portese. (Continua)



by Rosanna Albertini

SHARON ELLIS, Desert Bouquet, 2015 alkyd on paper, 16" x 12" Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica

SHARON ELLIS, Desert Bouquet, 2015
alkyd on paper, 16″ x 12″ Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica

You like it in the desert when tiny flowers bloom in the dryness as if petals of color had come from the sky, and you forget the sun, to listen to the air, the wind whispering about a river that disappeared, people and cattle who moved. And there you are, alone like the land around you, as blue as a bird. Your mind one with the space. Your nature shrinks to the bones. Red and blue burst into the hidden heart of what you still call a human. No gravity. No weight. Colors become the music contained in only one musical tempo; if you want, you can call it a painting.


SHARON ELLIS, Messenger, 2016 alkyd on paper, 12 1/8" x 16 1/8" Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica

SHARON ELLIS, Messenger, 2016
alkyd on paper, 12 1/8″ x 16 1/8″ Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica

SHARON ELLIS, Firefly Fugue, 2016 alkyd on paper, 12 1/8" x 16 1/8" Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery

SHARON ELLIS, Firefly Fugue, 2016
alkyd on paper, 12 1/8″ x 16 1/8″ Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery

A few threads attach Sharon’s mind to the world. Colors. The changing presence of light.
The thin silk of her hair. What she sees is a dissolving organism filling her pupil drop by drop: her own feeling of something, she doesn’t know what it is, if it is, where? A miniature expands with no feet. A liquid existence that doesn’t disappear. Maybe she gets lost like Alice in a field of weeds and shrinks and regrows until the fireflies put together a figure, it can be human, maybe not. The secret being of things.

SHARON ELLIS, Galactic Heart, 2015 alkyd on paper, 12" x 16" Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery

SHARON ELLIS, Galactic Heart, 2015
alkyd on paper, 12″ x 16″ Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery

It is not an image. It is a feeling.
There is no image in the hero.
There is a feeling as definition.
How could there be an image, an outline,
A design, a marble soiled by pigeons?
The hero is a feeling, a man seen
As if the eye was an emotion,
As if in seeing we saw our feeling
In the object seen and saved that mystic
Against the sight, the penetrating,
Pure eye. Instead of allegory,
We have and are the man, capable
of his brave quickenings, the human
Accelerations that seem inhuman.

WALLACE STEVENS, Examination of the hero in a time of war, stanza xii

SHARON ELLIS, Ghost lake, 2016 alkyd on paper, 16 1/8" x 12 1/8" Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica

SHARON ELLIS, Ghost lake, 2016
alkyd on paper, 16 1/8″ x 12 1/8″ Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica

Is this a trompe l’oeil? A trick for our eyes? Should I polish the words and soften them until they mutate into the strange fat fingers almost marzipan coral for the moonlight, sitting by the milky way? The physical, the chemical, have gone astray. Her existence – the artist is always there holding her brush – for the time being slips out of time, in an outer space completely silent. She is the only one who can glide on the mysterious planet where flatness, and poverty of spirit, are never, will never be admitted. Even the stars have lost their dust.

Sharon Ellis paintings on paper were presented at Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, in December 2016.


At Edward Cella Art & Architecture, Los Angeles ― NOW MORE THAN EVER

by Rosanna Albertini

JEFFREY VALLANCE, Satan hotels good art 2001 Pencil and pen on paper 22 1/2 x 30 inches Courtesy of Beth Rudin De Woody and Edward Cella Gallery, Los Angeles

JEFFREY VALLANCE, Satan Hates Good Art 2001
Pencil and pen on paper 22 1/2 x 30 inches Courtesy of Beth Rudin De Woody and Edward Cella Art & Architecture, Los Angeles

So what does good art do in 2016 that is different from the time of the Renaissance. Satan took his revenge then more than now, killing the artists, and everybody else, at a very young age. If you take it cum grano salis, simply following your good sense, you might say ‘a lot,’ and yet there is no change in the dreamlike essence of art. Think of Piero della Francesca painted eyes looking into eternity, almost extracting their bodies from earthly, painful struggles for survival. Good artists know perfectly that names and images and facts are masks of inner uncertainties, like stickers we peel from the refrigerator. We still don’t remember what’s inside.

JEFFREY VALLANCE, The Octopus of Life 2016 Mixed media on paper with commercial labels, stickers, and printed paper collage 23 x 29 in. Courtesy of the artist and Edward Cella Gallery, Los Angeles Photo: Gene Aguri

JEFFREY VALLANCE, The Octopus of Life,  2016
Mixed media on paper with commercial labels, stickers, and printed paper collage 23 x 29 in. Courtesy of the artist and Edward Cella Art & Architecture, Los Angeles.  Photo: Gene Ogami

JEFFREY VALLANCE, Chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) 2016 Mixed media on paper with printed paper collage, 221/4 x 30 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Edward Cella gallery, Los Angeles, Photo

JEFFREY VALLANCE, Chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus),  2016
Mixed media on paper with printed paper collage, 221/4 x 30 in. Courtesy of the artist and Edward Cella Art & Architecture, Los Angeles, Photo Gene Ogami

The point is our presence in the landscape: and Jeffrey Vallance is the wizard artist showing our uncomfortable loss of power once our ordinary self confidence goes to hell. Satan’s most subtle intrusion. What happens then? There is no more separation between our animal self and the tentacular temptations of a rationalized landscape reducing to dead meat our hopes and desires. VONS, RALPH’S, IKEA, RITE AID, OFFICE DEPOT, HOME DEPOT, GOOGLE, you mention others, solve any problem, answer all the questions. Our red blood is spilled into money. The more tentacles expand, the more our brain is emptied, like an impersonal bag filled with surprising and repetitive acts of obedience. Economy is so ‘reasonable.’ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel shivers in his grave. He knows he was the first to tell -and write- that real things are reasonable. He didn’t expect poets and visual artists were going to be his future fellows, even those who never read his name. It all depends on what one means by ‘real things.’

Real are the chicken scratches in Jeffrey Vallance words :

“Before I put an image on paper, I make the scratchy markings as a ground. To make these scribbly backgrounds for the drawings, first I must get myself into some kind of altered state, in which I find myself surprisingly ambidextrous. With eyes closed, both of my hands rapidly jerk across the paper, but unexpectedly my feet want to move with the same motion. The gyrations get so intense that it feels like my body is about to have a seizure. Although the process is quite exhausting, I enter into a rapture-like state bordering on uncontrollable laughter. Granted, the lines are just scribbles; however I can’t draw them the same way in normal consciousness.”

(From RUDIS TRACTUS – Rough Drawings, Edward Cella catalogue, 2016)


JEFFREY VALLANCE, Scared Fruit Bat (Pteripus tongamus) 2016 Mixed media on paper with commercial labels and printed paper collage 22 x 29 3/4 inches Courtesy of the artist and Edward Cella Gallery, Los Angeles

JEFFREY VALLANCE, Scared Fruit Bat (Pteripus tongamus) 2016
Mixed media on paper with commercial labels and printed paper collage 22 x 29 3/4 in. Courtesy of the artist and Edward Cella Art & Architecture, Los Angeles.  Photo: Gene Ogami

JEFFREY VALLANCE, Squirrely Squirrel (Sciurus griseus) 2016 Mixed media on paper with printed paper collage 23 x 29 inches Courtesy of the artist and Edward Cella Gallery, Los Angeles Photo: Gene Ogami

JEFFREY VALLANCE, Squirrely Squirrel (Sciurus griseus),  2016
Mixed media on paper with printed paper collage 23 x 29 in.  Courtesy of the artist and Edward Cella Art & Architecture, Los Angeles.  Photo: Gene Ogami

JEFFREY VALLANCE, Kittens in a Basket 2016 Mixed media on paper with printed paper collage, 22 1/4 x 30 in. Courtesy of the artist and Edward Cella Art & Architecture, Los Angeles. Photo: Gene Ogami

JEFFREY VALLANCE, Kittens in a Basket,  2016
Mixed media on paper with printed paper collage, 22 1/4 x 30 in. Courtesy of the artist and Edward Cella Art & Architecture, Los Angeles. Photo: Gene Ogami


Images placed into such a rapturous and agitated field of signs springing from the artist’s uncontrolled hands can’t resist the frenzy dance of his spirit: whatever they represent, in their “animal realm of the spirit,”(Hegel again) a bat or a squirrel, a cat or a chicken (the eternal Blinky sacrificed to the supermarket devaluation of her single, unique living adventure), they look electrified. Estranged from the artificial mess of ordinary life on earth, terrified because they feel their skin cracking and bleeding, their fur becoming spare, drops of blood replacing their tears, filling their lips, their nose. As if exposed for what they are underneath the skin as the anatomic medical drawings of our obsessed Florentine memory. But the real one who is exposed is the artist: Jeffrey Vallance’s mental state of discomfort. His own skin is hung in every drawing. They are not the Cappella Sistina, where Michelangelo painted the laid skin of his body in a corner of the ceiling. They portray our own reality, from where dreams and values fly away like rockets beyond the horizon. “Leaving for dead in the Exterior World anything in it that is real.” Fernando Pessoa, the master of disquietude.

“The dreamer is not superior to the active man because dreams are superior to reality. The superiority of the dreamer derives from the fact that dreaming is more practical than living, and that the dreamer extracts from life a grander, more varied pleasure than that of the man of action. …
Since life is essentially a mental state [I can see Hegel’s large smile] and everything we do or think is valid for us to the degree we think it’s valid, its validity depends entirely on us. 
The dreamer is one who sends notes, and the notes he sends course through the city of his spirit in the same way notes do in reality.
What does it matter to me that the paper money of my soul can never be converted into gold, when there is never gold in the factious alchemy of life?”
Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, Translated by Alfred Mac Adam, Exact Change, Boston, 1998

Thank you Jeffrey, your dreams are my gold.

JEFFREY VALLANCE, D.C. Hypodermic 2016 Mix media on paper with sticker, and printed paper collage 22 x 29 3/4 in. Courtesy of the artist and Edward Cella Art & Architecture, Los Angeles. Photo: Gene Ogami

JEFFREY VALLANCE, D.C. Hypodermic, 2016
Mix media on paper with sticker, and printed paper collage 22 x 29 3/4 in. Courtesy of the artist and Edward Cella Art & Architecture, Los Angeles. Photo: Gene Ogami



Walking Drawing and Ceremonial Pole and a Rock
at Denler Gallery, University of Northwestern, St. Paul


All the photographs by Tetsuya Yamada, courtesy of the artist

Writing itself should be untied from canonic habits: these sculptures are not meant to be monumental, or reproductions of anything physical. They are shaped by a secret feeling the artist has every day of his life: such a deep awe for the living that ordinary trees, stones, and the color of the day seem to him extraordinary gifts from the present. Just the very existence of things that surround us with no voice, not particularly appealing, many times invisible for lack of attention. Humans only see what they already have in mind, so it happens that ordinary things can look at us with detachment.

Yamada likes to think through Basho’s poems (1644-1694):

“in my view a good poem is one in which the form of the verse, and the joining of its parts, seem light as a shallow river flowing over its sandy bed.”

The true and the beautiful of his art must flow in a rarefied landscape; a place in which the artist tries to detach himself from physical desire and wish of possession. His art making becomes an absolute gesture: walking around the walls of the gallery for hours moving his arm up and down, letting the arm trace on the walls an horizontal action which is personal only because he did it, but has an impersonal quality like the blades of grass in a field.



It has been written that art, for the Japanese Gutai Group in the Fifties, “speaks of the delicate interaction between spirit and matter that ultimately enables art to tell a story and possess life and freshness.” (Wikipedia)


The Gutai experience is for sure on Tetsuya’s mind, and yet it is there along with many other Japanese rituals that Tetsuya knows well enough to keep their essence, and let the pods go away. It’s a way to unwrap his feelings, make them as pure as possible, but also to fill the space with them, this seems to be his goal. The lines he traced are light and thin as human hair. Up and down, into the mid space which is the active living between the ground and the sky. Life is a temporary density that rolls on herself. And art is the simple left over of a regular motion, the hand beating, the hand touching, exactly as with the prehistoric graffiti makers and the Anasazi shepherds leaving white little hands on a cave’s ceiling to mark their presence, once or more.

Tetsuya Yamada says he likes Zen ideas, not the practice itself. He doesn’t wear any specific religious habit. Maybe his ritual around the walls of the gallery was meant to be stripped from style, or cultural definitions, as if preceding human communication, or pretending to. The ritual scene has two witnesses, the stone and the tree at the center the room. They are both silent. Wondering what that human machine was doing around the room? The tree and the stone smile patiently at the bundle of lines all around them, so regular, and softly repetitive, without really disturbing one another: was that human body allowed to dream on his own -the will was gone once the action had started- until a thought appeared, the first of many: humans can only dream of the roots they don’t have.


The artist’s studio

Being Italian, I can’t avoid comparing Yamada’s sculptural artwork to the practice and ideas of Giuseppe Penone, an Italian delicate interaction between spirit and matter.

What is sculpture? (by Giuseppe Penone)

A work that evolves in space, occupies space.
A work whose form is necessary in all its parts.
A work whose form is possible only by way of the materials it consists of.
A work whose content is the significance of its material.
A work that contains the wonder of the material.
A work that represents nothing other than itself.
A work that reflects an anthropomorphic vision of the world.
A work that suggests and reflects our existence.
A work that does not describe but is described.
A work that is created by hand.
A work that is a thought produced by action.
A work that…

From Branches of Thought, by Giuseppe Penone, a little book published on the occasion of Penone’s exhibition at Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, 2014