YELLOW MOON – LENZ GEERK

About LENZ GEERK  “Mixed Blessings”

at Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, September 2019

 

LENZ GEERK, Untitled 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 100 x 70 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles CA

LENZ GEERK, Croissant 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects Los Angeles CA

YELLOW MOON

by Rosanna Albertini

No, says the child, the moon is white. That is not the moon, it’s a croissant. 

I am not in the mood for fighting, words assume they are right, so does the child. 

I keep seeing the moon wearing a puffy dress, looking kindly at the people of the house. 

They look at her or keep her in their minds in an uncanny way, even when the moon-croissant, the crescent moon, is off stage, or he looks as if he is wondering where she is, the man about to pick up his briefcase or maybe only passing by through the corridor. His thoughts, heavier than the bag, make him greenish. He might be a tree man growing out of the bag like a Houdini. It’s a painted reality, at the mercy of the marketplace.

 But the artist knows that and he is conscious at the same time, deeply conscious, that he makes people and rooms and objects in his paintings “the only way that he is able to get the picture to exist.” Therefore the story doesn’t have to be necessary,  “it has to exist but it doesn’t have to be necessary …. because the minute it is necessary it has in it no possibility of going on.” 

LENZ GEERK, Pearl Painting and Pearl Necklace 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 49 x 35 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles CA

Gertrude, you are welcome. Did you notice the woman adjusting the necklace underneath her hair, she only has a portion of an arm, maybe she is a statue. Her pearl is so powerful that turns into a giant pearl, a mother pearl? floating between painted waves in another painting. Mystery grows, for the two figures, the woman statue and the painting, float in the dark emerging from the canvas like Venus from the ocean. The painter, I wonder, maybe the painter is realizing he doesn’t have the soft, absorbing surface of felt underneath anymore, he is painting on canvas, not so easy, not so welcoming. He stops remembering the felt. He chops the arm, acts anew and lets the brush make the job.

Pirandello would call the figures six characters in search of their author, so lost in their own nature that they barely deal with the density of the living. Geerk’s painted creatures are not even completely human. They stand rigid, or slightly folded on themselves like leaves, or fall down in a strange angle as flowers do in a vase when the water has soaked the stem and petals dry up.  Impossible to imagine them in a less empty space, less anonymous. A man leans toward the crescent moon on the table, can’t reach her. His woman companion on the chair seems suspicious, keeps her distance.

LENZ GEERK, The Croissant 2019, Acrylic on canvas 80 x 115 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles CA

 Another woman in a small gray painting looks at the yellow presence from afar, half hidden behind the doorway. That is the epilogue of the mystery story, the same that unfolds in five views of the same place: one of the two corners of the moon has been eaten, or stolen. It’s a croissant, not a moon anymore. Exactly as in an old Inuit tale: the house was flying, people inside asked the house to stop, they were cold. The house stopped and the people put some light snow in their lamps, the snow burned and gave them light. Someone from the street went in and said, “the snow is burning!”  And the flame disappeared. 

In our story the flame remained lit in the painter.

An interesting closeness to Morandi’s palette, and to the soft edges of his painted cups and pitchers, goes along with the quiet intensity of the figures locked in themselves and unrevealed dreams. If the crescent moon is their dream, it’s obviously unreachable. But the painter ate it. 

LENZ GEERK, Untitled 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 150 x 200 cm Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles CA

 BIBLIOGRAPHY

GERTRUDE STEIN, Look at Me Now and here I Am,  Writings and Lectures 1909-1945, Penguin Books, 1967

Inuit stories in Jerome Rothenberg, Technicians of the Sacred, Third edition, University of California press, 2017

MORANDI, Catalogue of Giorgio Morandi, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1981. The catalogue I consulted belongs to Lucas Reiner, painter. He lent it to me with trepidation because it was one of his mother’s favorite books. Thank you Lucas, both the book and myself hope to see you soon.

 

TETSUYA YAMADA : THE MAN IN THE CLOSET

TETSUYA YAMADA

and his 3 days-installation in an empty Minneapolis hardware store

FRONT AND BACK BACK AND FRONT  2018

Photographic documentation by Rik Sferra

 

“As with most truths, the simpler the words, the stronger and more straightforward they are and most forcefully they strike our hearts.”  Rikyu, 15th century Japan

Tetsuya Yamada: “How can I create an artwork with a life independent of my intention? 

I mean the work has to be given its own life.”

I ask Gertrude Stein to answer him: “The master-pieces do not exist by human nature…they exist because they come to be as something that is an end in itself and in that respect it is opposed to the business of living which is relation and necessity.” (Look at Me Now and Here I Am, Writings and Lectures 1909-1945, Penguin Books 1990)

 

 

the man in the closet

by Rosanna Albertini

Wearing the title words as clogs for walking, my mind goes. Almost one year after November 2018, photographs are the place in which the installation still lives. The storefront has absorbed the images of the city across the street, gently struck by winter light over trees that already forgot the green. The scene makes the front of the store the natural background of houses trees and cars as if the windows had captured the cycle of time only by acceptance: relation and necessity. That’s the place, not the art. A bicycle appears.

The art is different. An uninhabited building, waiting for new users, certainly didn’t expect an artist born in Tokyo was about to transform the inner space into an art temple. No parts of the building were changed. A verbally expressed idea, FRONT AND BACK BACK AND FRONT (title of the art installation) was printed white on black on the exhibition’s poster, floating on the front of the building as a pediment in a miracle of symmetry.  It’s a steady statement perfect for capital letters from which doubts and hesitations are banned. The artist could wear it on his own forehead. If I mentally look at his body I have no doubts about his front side, but I must turn around him to see his back. I can do it, he can’t unless he uses a double mirror.

Truth is, the physical body supposed to be in between FRONT and BACK throws the linguistic perfection to hell. As soon as I say it, it goes dead. Must zip my lips to keep the brain restrained. The key is conjunction, the little AND. It has a limitless dimension. Supposing the question arises, I say yes, the imaginary space between FRONT and BACK is the core of the apple, the hydraulic electrical engine of each human underneath the skin, hard to please impossible to control. A human body is yet one of the most mysterious and unpredictable creatures in the universe. So is any emptied living place in which a door screeching, steps on the floor, a bird flying in by curiosity, hands exchanging money for screwdrivers, or fixing all those mechanical engines of our homes that we only notice when they break, become a cacophony, a concert immersed in a peculiar density of smells emanating from wood, metals, industrial oils and plastic tools. Oh, someone stole a pliers!

It’s possible that Yamada explored the inner emptiness of the store like a man in the closet. The black and white poster works as a guardian in uniform waiting outside. Inside, the store becomes the inside of a body with two hearts. Two beating engines meeting for the first time and learning how to beat together: the artist’s and the fifty year old store’s, two distinct lives. Their acquaintance is three days long.  They are the same age, the artist and the midwestern space, now dreaming of voices and people and big tables and shelves all gone. Wood or metal scraped from the floor left their shape, wounds in the middle of room’s and corridor’s floors painted gray. Under the neons’ light, they might be small rivers, or a pond for the many ghosts filling the air, working. They never abandoned the store. Myriads of traces on the floor and on the wall panels tell their story.

Yamada brought in art that could relate to the hums of presences all around him: his own gestures, when writing with tar the skin of the land, or forcing his hands to blindly write and draw underneath the table, and photographs of unrest in the landscapes. Contrasting with the lack of windows in the basement, he hangs on the wall panels outdoor images and language alterations. His body language expands through images reaching the ghosts’ language in a silent conversation. Silence in this case is practical and functional. In this doubled conversation that we can only imagine the art in her entirety reaching the peak of beauty.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tetsuya’s younger body skating on the floors. The athlete in him is the forebear of future gestures. 

Nevertheless the space is livable. It needed a fan: Tetsuya introduces a TV fan looping every four minutes twenty eight seconds. Did Nam Jun Paik leave an unconscious echo in him? The ground floor has a population of sculptures, light and rigid, perfectly symmetrical, no name on them. 

Why there are no conjunctions, why colors are avoided, why clay for the cylinders, usage is possible but unlikely, like: the table is set for guests to come and stand, adding their own freedom of language.

What a scene! All the mess of life, so many efforts to make impersonal what the artist creates almost despite himself, looking at himself from far, putting himself and the work in a big closet, and so escaping the social game of the art world based on money and power. In three words: Honor to him.

Please walk through the photographs. 

TETSUYA YAMADA, Fan (video) 2018 4:28 loop

TETSUYA YAMADA, Tar Gestures series, Gelatin Silver print, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, Pun under the table Drawing series, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, Tar Gesture series, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, From the series Tar Gesture, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, From the series Trace, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, from the series Trace, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, Slowly fast, Fastly Slow from the series Pun under the table Drawing, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, Light in the Dark, Dark in the Light, from the series Pun under the table Drawing, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, sculpture, Front and Back Back and Front, T-shirts with coat rack, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, installation Top and Bottom, Bottom and Top, fired clay and wood, 2018

TETSUYA YAMADA, installation Top and Bottom, Bottom and Top, fired clay and wood, 2018

PS       This piece is dedicated to another man in the closet. He spent most of his life in tiny rooms inventing, fixing and building. Exploring the life of melting metals and electronic circuits.

Often the place was literally a closet, with no windows. His tools, the holes in the wall panels, photographs and microphones were his new world, where his brain might work and maybe rest, separate from the outdoor reality. Charles Trenet’s songs were crackling coming out from one of the radio foreign channels he was able to capture.

A fading page of an old local newspaper has the photo of a working micro-engine in a thimble. He made it when he was twelve. They said it was the smallest engine in the whole world. As a young soldier, not more than a boy, he worked for the American army near Cassino, at the end of WWII.  Transmissions were his specialty. He was borrowed from the Italian army. Although Italian, he was far from home. His family thought him dead for a long while, when there was no communication between North and South Italy. The war left indelible marks in his mind. They never found a way out. The closet, that was his brain and his universe. He was my father.

 

 

 

 

SEWING LIFE AND DEATH: Material Art from China

S E W I N G  L I F E  A N D  D E A T H

The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China

at LACMA, Los Angeles, until January 5, 2020

Text by Rosanna Albertini

Here is the thread sewing my mind to the first generation of Chinese contemporary female artists: “my mother was a seamstress.” It’s a recurrent matter of fact in their lives during or immediately after the cultural revolution. I avoid capital letters. I could also say, “my mother was a seamstress, so was her mother, as the other grandmother couldn’t be, having lost four fingers of her right hand cut off by a machine in a factory producing thread for sewing.” Many women were seamstresses in Italy at the end of WW II. Such a heavy heritage didn’t make me an artist. Unless my hand-making books has some roots there, but probably not, the thread that I like to handle comes from the narrative thread in the written book, from the writing tension.

Among many interesting artists at LACMA, four female artists stopped my heart: 

MA QIUSHA    LIN TIANMIAO    YIN XIUZHEN    PENG YU

These artists were all new for me. The more online research I did trying to have a more comprehensive idea of their work, the more astonished I was by their art and by them in person, interviews revealing the struggle of identities as fragile as butterflies fluttering at first, and becoming very steady in the blink of an eye, flying out of the cocoon of collective mythologies mixed with communist ideology, not to mention thousands of years of a powerful civilization. They bloomed by working hard. Still with one foot in patriarchal families and the other crossing one of the fastest social transformations in history. Studying and living in the US for awhile, and going back, to preserve cultural values in the storm of energy that pervades their country. Feeling the pain as well as the positive influence of change. Lin Tianmiao winds thread around bodies and every object she can find, physically changing them with raw materials. She has in mind “a simpler past” while she accepts that her existence cannot be separated from everything around, and not only in China, all over the world. 

“Being an artist is a very personal thing and often a lonely thing” she says.

Sewing, fabric, and the thread itself are just the right materials to portray emotions still on the seesaw between past and future, to keep them flexible as long as possible. The present seems to be faceless for the time being, still veiled, still needing a human blanket over the sharpness of changes that are planned more than asked for.

 It was always a matter of slowing time, with sewing or weaving, from Penelope waiting for Ulysses to the time when Bertha filava, in Italian fairy tales.  The matter yes, but time first, time driven by female hands, the juice for the metaphor. Slowing time, maybe, allows these artists’ minds to pause on the physical world like migrating birds. They need to fly, no matter the risks. And they do. Their wings are large and strong. They cover the human condition, in China and elsewhere.

MA QIUSHA, Wonderland: Black Square, 2016  cement, nylon stocking, plywood, resin, iron, 96 7/16 x 96 7/16 x 23/16 in. Courtesy of Beijing Commune.   LACMA 2019 Photo RA

The Wonderland Amusement Park of Ma’s childhood has slowly disappeared. The rough surface of the road on which the artist used to skate back and forth from her mother’s to grandmother’s house is the solid canvas of the square, covered with black stockings. In other similar pieces of this series colored stockings or clothes soften the same ground. If it’s a map, roads are not traced, there is only a soft proliferation of irregular fragments of nylon, they all had walked slipped on women’s legs, and now they are a body on their own, never flat, petals of blackness. 

LIN TIANMIAO, Day-Dreamer, 2000, white cotton threads, white fabric, digital photograph, height adjustable on actual site: 196 13/16 x 86 5/8 x 59 in. Courtesy of the artist. LACMA 2019. Photo RA

The artist’s body floats midway from the sky face down, and sends her profile towards a pedestal on the floor. Cotton  threads edge with stitches the flat shape of her figure —a wound marked with no blood— before it falls like vertical rain. The base is empty. Has Lin embroidered the artist’s destiny? limited in time but persistent as a challenge, an impossible dream. 

LIN TIANMIAO, Here? or There? 2002, mixed media  Courtesy Gallery Lelong

LIN TIANMIAO, Endless  2004, mixed media Courtesy Gallery Lelong

Yin Xiuzhen moves Lin Tinmiao’s inner struggle into an outdoor landscape. She doesn’t fear showing attachment to remnants of the past, old and more recent, inexpensive traces of daily life quickly erased from the cityscape. She collects used fabric, clothes and shoes from all over the world, surrounding herself with so many past lives that her personal relevance turns to zero, a molecular, an alchemical function. Through her art, the face the present shows is a texture of multiple times. The most significant threads are invisible, broken like dry branches. They are the same in every human, by genetic or cultural recomposition; and they exist beyond national borders, different languages and food. 

YIN XIUZHEN, Shoes with Butter 1996, color photograph Courtesy Pace Gallery Beijing (Hybrid of spirituality and materiality inTibet)

YIN XIUZHEN, Transformation 1997, B & W photographs mounted on used cement tiles. 7 1/16 x 7 1/16 x 1 15/16 in.  LACMA 2019, Photos RA

YIN XIUZHEN, Transformation 1997, Beijing, Photo Song Dong, Collection of the artist, Courtesy Pace Beijing

With Trojan, at Venice Biennale 2019, Yin Xiuzhen brings back the homeric tragedy as a topic of our own contemporary drama: not only the horse has entered our world, we do more, we enter the horse! And inside it’s strangely appealing, a space of thoughts we would disclose in an empty cathedral, far from conflicts, aware of our fractured ideas. We get ready to crash. Yin Xiuzhen adds Nowhere to Land, always in Venice. I don’t feel like adding words on that. Silence on our folly. She got it all. 

YIN XIUZHEN, Trojan, Venice biennale 2019 (Photo designboom.com)

YIN XIUZHEN, Trojan (inside) Venice biennale 2019 (Photo designboom.com)

YIN XIUZHEN, Nowhere to Land, Venice biennale 2019 (Photo designboom.com)

Peng Yu is perhaps the extreme edge of the boat. Spiritual threads link her to the afterlife humans whose bodies were left behind, buried or forgotten in frozen rooms for medical experiments. Exile is not for them. Feeling our own exile she filled a jar with fat sucked out of those bodies, sort of a lacrimal bottle to collect tears, but gigantic. And she poured the fat into a river that runs around Beijing, to merge with all the other leftovers pushed around by the water. But first of all she sewed visible leftovers of life in the river to a tangible, physical component of death, so completing the circle: never give up with feelings, one doesn’t need to be dead to be nice, affectionate, a gentle dead. One can be gentle, even when living. 

PENG YU, Exile 2000, still from video. Duration: 3′ 12″ Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp-M HKA, on view at LACMA 2019

ALBERTO ALBERTINI: A ROOM OF SURVIVAL

ALBERTO ALBERTINI — A Room of Survival

Text and images by Alberto Albertini

  Nobody cares if someone dies provided he is unknown and far.  Eugenio Montale                                                         

 The story started when Alberto was sixteen, around 1943, in a Northern Italian village. The same story is told in words and images, 16 images for his 16 years. He is now 92.

                                                     

Everyday life in time of war

War is disquieting, the most inhuman manmade activity! Disheartening to think that, at a short distance from destruction, while destruction is happening, there is a calm, quiet state. Such was our condition as adolescents, not yet at the age of being butchered, but mature enough to understand it. It happened that prealpine valleys were crowded with people evacuated from a half destroyed Milan and mountains were the partisans’ refuge. Only some distant exchange of shots caused us to remember. Small towns were under fascist and German control; we used to go to school in Varese by bicycle, ten or fifteen kilometers wouldn’t have been a lot without steep slopes and descents, we went anyway, trains couldn’t go because of the machine guns firing from the allied airplanes. While crossing the town we met squads of black brigades that marched singing hymns of death. Although tragedy was palpable in those moments, we were able, at that age, to get rid of it very quickly.

A secret bubble around him, his entire life

Dear friend of my sixteen, I must confess I arbitrarily used you as a secret room of survival. This door that I quite often opened, and it allowed me to evade the heavier pressures of my existence, represents my unresolved inmost being: that age full of dreams, desires, aspirations, contradictions and disappointments. While we changed, the world also was changing. The war, the loneliness of being antifascists, the golden cage whose privilege we could perceive through the anguishing feeling of what was happening far from us, was an intangible weight on our unprepared mind. The freedom we enjoyed wasn’t deserved, and yet we held her tightly while creating our stories, the first emotions. Nobody —I believe— will hold on so much. Those who came back from the camps, from the war, only have terror in themselves, humiliation and a torn consciousness. We were not able to imagine how much beyond humanity human beings went, but we had unconsciously absorbed the war into the arcadia of our bare fields and chestnuts trees with no leaves on whose branches we rehearsed for the life to come; our magic bubble could hardly contain the overflow that had happened in our most charming and mysterious age. This marvelous nebula floated around me over the years and still does even if I don’t call for her, I feel her presence, and it’s sweet for me to drift away…

Alberto Albertini, Partisans in Varese

Alberto Albertini, Partisans in Varese

                                         

 

Alberto eating grapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My companions and myself were guiding some friends in the mountains to reach the Swiss border, still open for a few days. September was sultry. Growing hot, we took our shirts off. … A woodland behind us was expanding toward the fences at the border, and it was one of those moments in which a stop brings awareness of what was happening to us: separation from friends, a future about to grab either them or us, and meanwhile we were surrounded by an enchanting beginning of autumn, a sort of laziness that starts with leaves looking tired, and fading colors. As the group began to walk again, a girl was still leaning on a tree. Small, with an exuberant breast, she gave off sweat, heat and pherormones, maybe only tired, maybe available. This is something I will never know.

 

The train to school – before the bombs –  was the place for meeting students of other villages.

 

It’s strange, I entrust my memory to the photographs: I don’t remember at all where and where I made the photo. For instance: the photographs of young people I sent you, I don’t remember I was there making them; one day instead I had talked to the father of a girl about antifascism and Jewish people expatriating and after that I went out with her for a walk on the meadow without taking pictures. And this I remember! AA in 2019

ARTISTS’ TALES – GUTSY STORIES N.1

A R T I S T S’  T A L E S — G U T S Y   S T O R I E S 

N.1

 

with the participation of ERIN COSGROVE (Los Angeles), SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON (Los Angeles), GUILLERMO KUITCA (Buenos Aires, Argentina), ROSANNA ALBERTINI

(Sylvia Salazar Simpson’s foot has free access to this page. A wax creature, the foot pretends to be invisible and moves from the sidewalk to my studio in the most silent way. Photos: Hannah Kirby)

I go first only because this blog is my house. I must open the door. Also because history and unanswerable questions around the mutant forms of her body, transformed into strange alphabetic flooding of signs on tablets or pages, has been my research island when I was a scholar, for twenty years. My head must have been bigger than my whole body at that time. Now I am a woman who writes with the tips of her fingers, and thinks better when her feet move on the outdoor pavement, without studying, waiting for words coming by themselves. Laughing, they sometimes come with one of my old aunt’s expressions: “ego et ego,” that I mutter watching the garbage spread on the street. Little aunt never studied Latin, but mess was egoetego. A word as inscrutable as the birds’ songs hidden in the lilac in front of her window. The meaning was clear to me before I knew about languages or dictionaries. 

The other women I knew in my family look back at me from the mirror: my mother’s shoulders, grandmother’s Rosa jaws, my southern grandmother Giuseppina’s mole in my clavicular left cavity, and god knows how many other spots of heritage from older branches I never met. My body is history! My voice is a concert: every single word I utter or write are history pebbles, their conglomeration is monumental, like an enormous midden. 

And it is for me the most exhilarating discovery to see that from the Papua in New Guinea to the northern Netsilik Inuit to my old friend from the Eighteenth century, Rousseau Jean-Jacques, the mind resides somewhere in the larynx, the memory in the belly, and the force of magic “does not reside in things; it resides within man and can escape only through his voice.”* “Songs are thoughts, sung out with the breath when people are moved by great forces & ordinary speech no longer suffices. Man is moved just like the ice floe sailing here and there in the current.”**

When words shoot up of themselves, there is a new song, a new song from my porous bones. It might have holes of undefined shapes. It might rise like fog around human monuments, it’s only words. “Confusion will be my epitaph,” and that was Jim Shaw. I think he made a nest in my liver.  RA

 

HISTORY — historical origin of the word: it comes from wit, old English witan from Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit “Veda” (knowledge) and latin “videre” see. The passage from wit to Hist is clearly phonetic. It belongs to the spoken more than to the written language. 

 

       THE MARCH OF HISTORY by Erin Cosgrove

 

 

ERIN COSGROVE, The March of History 2012. Live action video 15′ 17”

Before you enjoy watching the whole video, let me pay a few words of introduction; please listen to them with your ears. I’m the mocking bird who repeats all the possible sounds, who can sing some snoring out of your window. My song simply repeats some of Cosgrove’s words. The March of History is an art piece, spoken words go with the actor’s body language. Like me, he also walks, like history we all float through horizontal currents … of time? of air? mainly keeping our feet on the ground. But our mind is disrupted by disturbances: questions, centuries of conjectures and ideal constructions, interpretations, philosophical frames: which are histories, maybe rather stories, with people trying to give their present lives the proper ancestry from recent and ancient past stories rewritten and manipulated ad hoc. An endless work, worthy of Sisyphus. If there are truths making history’s rock too heavy, too painful to absorb, a new revisionist version will be entrusted to the words. Voilà! A march of lies. Erin Cosgrove is a conceptual artist who tears to threads any scholastic disguise. She is not immune from sarcasm and allegoric representations. Her art melts stories into romance, drawings, tapestry and animated films.

Here she deals directly with the big monster of History, a creature as fragile as Polyphemus who is one more symbol of single vision, the railroad of unidirectional thinking. She throws her pole into his unique eye, HISTORY’s single name, although hélas, not without pain for her. As in Camus’s Sisyphus descending the cleavage to recuperate the rock and push it back to the top of the mountain, an infinite sadness appears at the end of the story.  Erin knows too well that lady History, altered and imperfect as she is in her verbal dresses, is our inevitable backbone, no less mysterious than each of her conscious and unconscious performers. Losing History, no doubt, we would lose our shadow. Come to the march!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of Erin Cosgrove’s words, moved around by me in a cloud of thoughts:

The past refuses to die

even if there is a past, history is falsified by everyone

let’s face it; memory is malleable, even in personal history

plausibility?

is history different from fiction?

Abba Eban: “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely only once they have exhausted all other alternatives.”

It is part of the very warp and woof of life that the poor do not appear in history. As the African proverb goes, until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter. Is it so very surprising then that a brilliant few will be valorized over the many? We cannot undo the past. To think you can demonstrates a fragility of mind. The very price of understanding history is an impotence to do anything about it.

 

SYLVIA’S FOOT

(One of 20 feet exhibited in the water of a big pond at Barnsdall Park, Los Angeles, CA, 1978. An installation for The Great American Foot Show, Junior Visual Arts Center.)

Here Sylvia’s foot meets one of Erin Cosgrove’s paintings on wood:

 

It’s a foot, it’s a candle. The replica of the artist’s foot cut off below the ankle was born in 1978, 41 years old. Nineteen identical siblings didn’t survive the fire of Sylvia’s house. 

It is a base without pillar, maybe he forgot the body he came from. It has become a mental thing in my mind, abandoned by name and personal history. The foot belongs to the realm of death secretly swallowed into the silence of wax, colors also were lost. Only for one day the foot floated in a pond of water at Barnsdall Park in Los Angeles. Children were allowed to grab the feet as if they were fish. “Oh, sea,  what fish is this / so tender and so sweet? / -asked Gregory Corso, his boyish soul-  —Thy mother’s feet.” 

Words are absent minded. They often abandon us mid-way.

Wrongly or rightly, reb Souassi drew the logical conclusion that death was nothing but a coarse distraction of life. Hélas! It was fatal to us.

It is far from the shore that books have a shipwreck, like improvised boats knocked down by the storm.  

Whiteness, by distraction, found herself without color. Unless it was the color that, suddenly, discreetly, found its whiteness again.

EDMOND JABÈS

Jamais le sang ne connaitra la blancheur      Blood will never know whiteness

GUILLERMO KUITCA, one part of Missing Pages 2018, Oil on canvas 285 x 380 cm 18 parts, 95 x 63 cm each.
From the catalogue published by Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles for the Kuitca’s exhibition 18 march-11 August 2019

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Guillermo Kuitca, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles 2019

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

Gregory Corso, Mindfield, @ 1989 Gregory Corso, New York, Thunder’s Mouth Press

Edmond Jabès, L’ineffaçable L’inaperçu, Paris, Gallimard, 1980 (transl. of the quote by RA)

*Statement by Trobriands, Papua Nuova Guinea, in Jerome Rothenberg, Technicians of the Sacred, University of California press, 2017

**Statement by Orpingalik, Netsilik Inuit, in Jerome Rothenberg, Technicians of the Sacred, University of California press, 2017

TRULEE HALL : a story of baskets, women and eggs

A STORY OF BASKETS, WOMEN AND EGGS

About THE OTHER AND OTHERWISE by TRULEE HALL

an immersive installation at Maccarone Gallery, Los Angeles 2019

TEXT BY ROSANNA ALBERTINI

When a new form appears, it isn’t to express a new content. … We must turn over the object as if we were turning a log over the fire. Than the object can be perceived as if it was the first time.” (Viktor Sklovskji)

 WOMAN CHICKEN EGGS   Trulee’s installation spreads out in two rooms as big as a plaza: painted, sculpted, in videographical stories, partially contained in incomplete rooms, the main theme seems to reproduce itself endlessly, each time with a different configuration. It’s one body with separate parts, each of them a story of woman, chicken, and eggs. Despite the cold isolation of limbs, as if a 3D computer graphic had been transformed into a physical, surreal landscape, the interaction with each part is compelling, absorbing, disorienting. 

Baskets are everywhere, even hung on the ceiling, mostly empty, gracious, useless, decorative. I wonder about baskets, they might be the core of the site. They might be the artist’s offering, silent mask of her personal self. Just filled with life. She can be in a basket, and be contained. She, and all of us, only believe we lead our journey. The eggs made us, the basket transports us to the end of days and our stories with us, until we disappear and the stories remain, as in the Maori legendary tales. My brain is pulsing, just a fleeting moment. Something new fills Trulee Hall’s space,  it could be that it makes me think. For an artwork of these days, a rare trove.

Viktor Sklovskji of 1976 helps me to keep my distance from intellectual temptations about art. Trulee Hall is my present antidote.

“Oh yes. Another of those intellectual passions — new perception, new ways of displaying, and you go on dreaming that reality will change. In 1916 we invented a poetic practice centered on estrangement. I was personally so involved that much later I wrote about art pretending art is not an object, nor a material; it is pure form, arithmetic relationships. I wrote it with passion, but I was wrong. Art is pulsing thinking. We just produce a parallel imaginary reality in which, as Albert Einstein said, ‘We transfer the center of gravity of our spiritual life to find a peace that does not happen in the storm of life.’”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE OTHER AND OTHERWISE    A fictional conversation between Emmanuel Levinas, Trulee Hall, Plato, Rosanna Albertini

RA      Otherwise?  

EL      “Otherwise than Being!” To be human very simply means that we live as if we were not beings among beings.” “You forget – Emmanuel Levinas continues –  that you began somewhere when your existence started. Your being alive, on earth, is not disembodied.”

PLATO,      untouched by idealism:  “Humans are bipeds without wings.”

RA      And here the artist invites us into an enchanted palace where both bipeds, with wings and without, share the eternal ritual of giving birth, producing eggs and being stupefied in front of the sexual essence of every body. The immaculate conception is such a beautiful fable, je vous salut Godard! 

TH      What happens in my sculptures? Legs and feet are fragile, the bust has been reshaped by thousand years of history. Altered like the mountain excavated  in their veins and with limbs mutilated by cannonballs, bullets, hurricanes and diseases, rebuilt out of remains. Still, personality and energy swirl around the body revealing their physical movement. They have colors and shapes. 

“The other” of my piece is female. She is a double her: the one we think and the one we see, the one I belong to in my body, and the one who happens in my brain. A computer image along with her technically generated other, a clay mate.   

RA      Are you saying that we forget we are animals among animals? Content to carry a brain prisoner of a box, an object easily seduced by the book of faces and links without roots? It’s true that your chickens also have their double. 

TH      It’s hard to see ourselves as human animals. We get lost in our head.

EL      I am actually filled with my materiality, she makes who I am. Not true that spirit and mind fall into the body to become prisoner of a deadly box. My freedom grows and expands through and out of my physical life. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I write about the whole body of this palace of wonders I realize that names are not included, except, maybe, as eggs of multiple names. Moving between small rooms with no doors or ceilings, walls that are  paintings and paintings that are walls for video images, clouds under the ceiling tickled by a population of swaying baskets, islands of colors keeping paintings, floor and walls together in the same atmosphere, I don’t have any doubt, this is not a place for pure forms, or intellectual distinctions. It’s an art piece giving a body to real feelings of our time, about the female figure in her entire natural power, stripped from propaganda of any kind. The artistic effort and accomplishment are monumental.

 

 

TRULEE HALL, Side By Side By Suggestion, single channel excerpt from a 2 channel video in an immersive installation. First shown at Gamble House in 2016, and in 2019 at Maccarone Gallery Los Angeles. Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery.

 

Trulee Hall builds a  monument for the female beast, turning beauty and the beast (the old story) upside down. The male was a cursed monster, the female a model of beauty, patience, and devotion. Female existence in Trulee’s art seems to be extricated from cultural stereotypes and brought back to a sweet common destiny: to be a vase for eggs. No different from a chicken for the same purpose. In one of her fantasy video stories a chicken is asked to understand if the ear of corn offered to her is edible or not. The chicken’s eye looks like a piece of glass, petrified in a dilemma. John Baldessari did the same teaching a plant the alphabet. 

TRULEE HALL, Serene Vulnerability 2018,   Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

TRULEE HALL, Oblivious Baskets 2018,   Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

TRULEE HALL, Showing the Rooster 2018,   Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

TRULEE HALL, Chicken Lap Lady Portrait, Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

A hand made fairy tale. Surprising, disorienting like a forest with many trails. We don’t know where they go. Being more and more under the spell of looking at art in museums or museum like galleries, we are driven to thinking that space and objects in it are the point. Here instead, obsessive variations around the same theme connect every part of the installation with an impeccable logic structure. Threads are invisible. No directions. One has to perceive the invisible connective texture. 

Oh, Simone Forti’s freedom in letting her body talk to the place! With her in mind I follow my body, ignoring where I am. But at every corner, in front of every call for attention, I realize that each stop is time, the time of a face to face with the organs of a scattered female body. Not the kind of time that doesn’t belong to anybody, the banality of proximity, nor time measured by the hands of the watch. Nope, it is the face to face with my own physicality displayed in front of me: funny, playful, ridiculous. Curious as a child who discovers her own flesh, I don’t blush. It’s an orchestra, and I’m part of it. 

A choreography for the same forms: woman, chicken, egg, holes, rooms for living mutate into different entities. Dots on the fabric fly toward the ceiling as white snow flakes, expand in the clouds, solidify in eggs. Between forms, no need of words. Conversation is only visual. The spiraling forms could be snakes, roots, or nothing determined, like a trace of energy in the air. In some cases, their end blooms with an ear of corn. Sexuality and fantasy aren’t separate. Which makes harder the task to mention them, or to identify them with only one single name. It all depends on the way our imagination works.

Perhaps, once more, words are getting separate from things, disconnecting from books, and similitudes are reinstated between forms, from one to another image. The difference with the ages preceding printed books is the man made nature of contemporary images. We read the outcomes of human labor. We read for instance Trulee Hall’s visual statements. Only my passion for writing convince me to put words on them. A group of birds drawing their flight in the sky would be more appropriate. Whether the artist is aware or not of these many implications of her art, is not something I know. 

Courtesy of the artist and Maccarone Gallery

A celebration of giving birth.  Female breasts expanded into golden ears of corn?  Not only that, entire bodies of many women are sculpted, almost encrusted in the thick, golden wall at the entrance. Surprising, shiny and painful. To step into the round hole between two active breasts spreading a small, white fountain of milk, opens a hole in my stomach as if I were bringing my present body into the birth space I knew well when I brought my daughter to the light. Like then, I feel my animal nature taking over any other part of me; no identity card, just a female beast.

 

Bibliography

Viktor Sklovskji, Theory of Prose. Translation Benjamin Sher, Elmwood Park, Ill. Dalkey Archive press, 1990

Emmanuel Levinas, Le Temps et l’Autre,  QUADRIGE/PUF, @ Fata Morgana, 1979

Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, Published the first time in 1974. Translated into English by Alphonso Lingis, Springer, Dordrecht, 1991

Simone Forti, Thinking with the Body, Edited by Sabine Breitwieser for the Museum der Modern, Salzburg, Hirmer, 2014

A.W Reed, Maory Myths & Legendary Tales, New Holland Publishers (NZ), 1999

 

ALBERTO ALBERTINI : a scent of afterlife

ALBERTO ALBERTINI

A SCENT OF AFTERLIFE

Every age has periods of feverish growth, some more than others. As a young man, very young, I was infatuated with the Nineteenth century, time in which everything happened, although the embryos had been fertilized in the Eighteenth century: chemistry and electricity. Rail roads, electrical engines, the discovery of chemical elements, radioactivity and cinematography! Not to mention music, painting and literature. Here too, as the Eighteenth had prepared the Nineteenth century, the Twentieth century’s evolutions sprouted in the previous century. If we look at the Twentieth century and compare it to our days, how many, impactful ferments in the first half, even in the first quarter. Cubism, futurism, dodecaphonic music, the new architecture, nudism, naturism: the automobile and the aeroplanes! Researching in every direction, feeling certain about technical and scientific progress: new richnesses, new aspirations of ambitious, advancing classes. This limitless creative euphoria flew, perhaps, into the first incommensurable tragedy for the humankind. Excessive confidence in humans has been denied and no thing has been like before.

Yet, if I go backwards not with my memory -I wasn’t there- following the traces I can still find, I can easily imagine a world of expectations maybe impossible to fulfill, but captivating. I think of Monte Verità and the cult of sun, of nature. I think of romantic artists, and composers: Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Bartok, Schoenberg. How much nostalgia, and a desire projected into a mysterious and indefinite future that could maybe never come. Schoenberg, his Gurre Lieder. I don’t follow the story, those desperate voices, I am rather in the orchestra round them, in a tense atmosphere transparent, suspended, mysterious, as large as the infinite, sensing my existence without body, moving through my thoughts. The essence of a being that doesn’t need matter anymore. This music, maybe more than Rachmaninov’s symphonic poem dedicated to the Isle of the Dead, Arnold Böcklin’s painting, makes me think I am already there, on the other shore. Does it happen with all the past events? I am certain that that beginning of the Twentieth century could never be repeated; pointless to think it’s better it doesn’t repeat. War, the wars, humans didn’t stop making them anyway. There is a ring at the door: it is the springtime.

 

 Conversation between Alberto and Rosanna Albertini

To refresh my memory about Böcklin I look online.

“Alberto, did you know that the Isle of the Dead was Hitler’s favorite painting?….”

He replies: “Bah, maybe he found it too expensive to transport them there, they were too many…”

Alberto’s wit makes me realize how deeply the political obsessions of these days in America have stained my attitude toward a painting and his artist. It was not painted for Hitler, too early. And Hitler could find in it an esoteric symbolism, Alberto adds in another email. 

The painting had a first version in 1880 and several others until 1886. It was so popular that its prints, which version? could be found in every home in Berlin. Nabokov’s observation in his novel Despair. The images evoke the English Cemetery in Florence, where rests his baby daughter Maria.

Böcklin was apparently mentioned by Marcel Duchamp as having had a major influence on his art. Matter of doubt. Because this is history: somebody says one sentence which is reported and changed who knows how many times, making us skeptical. The past vanishes as in the fog. But artists are surprising: John Cage liked Satie and saw his music like pleasant furniture. He wrote it, I believe him.

In 1932 Salvador Dali  painted his version of The Isle of the Dead. The opposite of Böcklin in the same kind of visual situation: no one can see the dead but they fill an implacably horizontal space. A vertical line of coffee descends from the sky ending in only one cup: “The true painting of the Isle of the Dead at the hour of the Angelus.” What puzzles me is the Angelus. Nostalgia for the flesh? Angel is the incarnation symbol, the divine messenger telling Mary she is pregnant with Jesus. No one cared if she was happy or not. Symbols are not allowed to have feelings. In my childish brain she was a brave lady, for her foot crashed the perfidy snake who offered the apple to Adam and Eve.

 Her statue made with stone -my vague memory- grows on the top of a hill in my native village. Children used to be guided in a procession to her at the time of the Angelus, six in the afternoon, holding torches. The hair of one of girls in front of me suddenly caught fire. Was the snake still powerful? 

Alberto’s photographs evoke Böcklin without symbols. (R.A.)

Alberto: “I’m trying to understand my attention to that painting. That moment in history first of all, symbolists, Pre-Raphaelites: Dante Gabriele Rossetti and the drowned Ophelia, the positivists, symbolists, Previati, Segantini, the tree of life. But I believe it connects to my childhood, and the terror of watching my dead grandma on her death bed, as well as a dead pope in the encyclopedia, both with the same posture. About the dead a lot has been made up, while Böcklin instead, immersed in his time’s atmosphere, thinks of the isle, he’s brilliant. The dead are there, not visible, but there they are. The isle is hazardous, nobody can go and trouble them, they feel at ease because if the isle is protected by rocks, there are trees and gardens inside. Facing the pressure of the “fourth state,” the bourgeoisie escaped, also backed up by proletarian painters dependent on her who paint love, a luminous future, an idyll of lights and against light, escaping from a world on the verge of crumbling. Despite my attempts at explaining, there is no explanation. 

 

 

 

 

 

Ogni epoca ha i suoi fermenti, qualcuna di più. Quando ero giovane, molto giovane, ero infatuato dall’ottocento, il secolo entro il quale tutto era accaduto, benché gli embrioni siano stati fecondati nel settecento: la chimica e l’elettricità. Ferrovie, motori elettrici, centrali elettriche, la scoperta degli elementi chimici, la radioattività e il cinematografo! Per non parlare della musica, della pittura o della letteratura. Anche qui, come il settecento ha preparato l’ottocento, nell’ottocento germogliano le evoluzioni del novecento. Se guardiamo il novecento confrontandolo ad oggi, quali e quanti fermenti nella prima metà, anzi nel primo quarto. Il cubismo, il futurismo, la musica dodecafonica, la nuova architettura, il nudismo, il naturismo: l’automobile e l’aeroplano!! una ricerca in tutte le direzioni e ancora una fiducia nel progresso tecnico scientifico: nuove ricchezze, nuove aspirazioni delle classi alla alla riscossa. Forse questa sconfinata ebbrezza creativa è sfociata nella prima grande immane tragedia dell’umanità, l’eccesso di fiducia nell’uomo è stato smentito e le cose non sono state più come prima.

Però se io vado a ritroso, non con la memoria, non c’ero, ma con le traccie che ancora trovo, mi posso immaginare un mondo di aspirazioni forse inappagabili ma affascinanti. Penso al monte Verità e al culto del sole, della natura. Penso ai grandi romantici, non quelli del secolo prima, ai musicisti: Prokofief, Rachmaninoff, Bartok, Shoenberg. Quanta nostalgia, quanto desiderio proiettato in un futuro misterioso e indefinito che forse non arriverà mai. Schoenberg: Gurre Lieder. Non seguo la storia, quella voce disperata, ma quell’orchestra che le sta intorno, quale tesa atmosfera, trasparente, sospesa, misteriosa, ampia come l’infinito, il senso dell’esistere incorporeo, del navigare nei pensieri. L’essenza dell’essere che non ha più bisogno della materia. Forse più del poema sinfonico di Rachmaninov dedicato all’isola dei morti, quadro di Böklin, questa musica fa pensare di essere già di là. È così per tutti gli avvenimenti passati? Sono sicuro che quel primo novecento sia irripetibile ed è inutile pensare che è meglio che non si ripeta, la guerra, le guerre le hanno rifatte lo stesso. Hanno suonato alla porta: era la primavera.

 Conversazione fra Alberto e Rosanna Albertini

Per rinfrescarmi la memoria cerco Böcklin on line.

“Alberto, lo sapevi che L’isola dei morti era il quadro favorito di Hitler?…”

Alberto risponde: “Beh forse l’ha ritenuto troppo costoso trasportarli li, erano troppi…”

Il botto di spirito mi fa capire che le ossessioni politiche di questi giorni in America mi hanno offuscato la mente nei confronti del quadro e dell’artista. Non era stato dipinto per Hitler, troppo presto. E Hitler poteva trovaci un simbolismo esoterico di suo gusto, aggiunge Alberto in un altro messaggio email. 

Il quadro ebbe la prima versione nel 1880 e alcune altre fino al 1886. Era così popolare che se ne potevano trovare stampe in tutte le case di Berlino. Ma di quale versione? Osservazione di Nabokov nel romanzo Disperazione. Le immagini evocano il Cimitero inglese di Firenze dove riposa Maria, la figlia infante di Böcklin.

Pare che Böcklin fosse citato da Marcel Duchamp come una delle maggiori influenze sulla sua arte. E’ materia di dubbio. Perché la storia è cosi: ciascuno dice una frase che viene riferita e cambiata chissà quante volte, e noi diventiamo scettici. ll passato sparisce come nella nebbia. Ma gli artisti sono sorprendenti: John Cage ammirava Satie e vedeva la sua musica come una serie di mobili piacevoli. Lo ha scritto, io gli credo. 

Nel 1932 Salvador Dali ha dipinto la sua versione dell’Isola dei Morti. L’opposto di Böcklin nello stesso tipo di scena: i morti nessuno li vede nonostante  riempiano uno spazio implacabilmente orizzontale. Una linea verticale di caffè scende giù dal cielo e finisce in una tazzina, una sola: “Il vero dipinto dell’Isola dei Morti nell’ora dell Angelus.” L’Angelus mi lascia perplessa. Nostalgia del corpo? L’Angelo è il simbolo dell’incarnazione, messaggero divino che annuncia a Maria la sua condizione di donna incinta. Che a lei piaccia o no non importa a nessuno. I simboli non hanno sentimenti. Nel mio cervello di bambina lei era una signora di coraggio, il suo piede schiacciava il perfido serpente che aveva offerto la mela ad Adamo ed Eva.

La sua statua di pietra – un ricordo vago – si innalza sulla cima di una collina nel mio paese nativo. Noi bambini eravamo guidati verso di lei in processione all’ora dell’Angelus, le sei del pomeriggio, ognuno con una torcia accesa. D’improvviso i capelli di una bambina nella prima parte della processione, davanti a me, presero fuoco. Eterno potere del serpente?

Le fotografie di Alberto evocano Böcklin senza simboli. (R.A.)

Alberto: “Sto cercando di capire la mia attenzione a quel dipinto. Innanzitutto l’epoca: i simbolisti, i preraffaelliti, Dante Gabriele Rossetti e L’Ofelia annegata, i simbolisti positivisti, Previati, Segantini, l’albero della vita. Ma io credo si ricolleghi alla mia infanzia, al terrore di quando ho visto sul letto la nonna morta, e un papa morto sull’enciclopedia, collocato uguale. I morti, sui morti, ci hanno costruito sopra di tutto, invece Böklin, immerso nell’atmosfera del tempo pensa all’isola, geniale: i morti sono là, non si vedono ma ci sono. l’isola è impervia, non si può andare a disturbarli ma ci sono e si trovano bene perché se l’isola è protetta dalle rocce, dentro ci sono alberi, giardini. Di fronte al premere del “quarto stato” la borghesia evade, assecondata anche da pittori proletari ma da essa dipendenti e che dipingono l’amore, l’avvenire luminoso, un idillio di luci, controluce, evade da quel mondo che si sbriciolerà presto. Nonostante i miei tentativi di spiegazione, la spiegazione non c’è.”

ARNOLD BÖCKLIN, The Isle of the Dead, 1st version 1880, oil on canvas, 111 x 155 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel