RUBEN ORTIZ TORRES : ALIEN OF EXCEPTIONAL ABILITY

Rubén Ortiz Torres : Alien of Exceptional Ability

After the exhibition ‘Plata o plomo o glitter’ at Royale Projects, Los Angeles, July 2020

All the drawings were made by Rubén Ortiz Torres for his journal of the ronawave period: Ahi viene LA PLAGA, 2020. A selection is published here courtesy of the artist.

He always played with joyful irreverence in the house of life

by Rosanna Albertini

October 2020. Like children jumping rope, training their feet to forget the obstacle and go fast, move, until the counting grows to the exciting discovery of a new ability, almost a different personality invisible to adults, but easy to share with the other little aliens lost in dreams of cheeseland or other outerspaces, all the art pieces by Rubén Ortiz Torres jump rope over borders: between Mexico and US, popular icons and sanctified boxes for arts, baseball mascots and codified symbols. His alien toys are incredible rope jumpers, some of them as big as real cars stripped of heavy organs, so they can move their limbs in the air like mechanical puppets, try to fly, and fall down on the stones where they finally dance the music of freedom. Why should they keep going straight?

Why should artists abandon the dirty dusty bumpy roads through the house of life and condemn themselves to the freeways? As Allan Kaprow says, “art tends to lose itself out of bounds, tends to fill our world with itself…” hard to believe he wrote it in 1958, if I say more than half a century ago it seems farther away, a long time ago. Kaprow was one of those wanting to put a bit of life into art. He was also saying, indirectly, modernism is not covering the whole of life, restrained as it is in the room of art. 

Rubén’s reality, which is also our ground and background since humans appeared, starts in ’64, when he was born on a planet still licking wounds after half a century of wars. Damage, pain, destructions, children deformed by nuclear radiation, people orphaned by the myth of eternal progress, by the cult of ideal forms. Trash, ruins and low price objects replaced the cult of human exceptional creativity. The idea of commodities became dominant. Although trained in a traditional art school in Mexico City, Rubén has dedicated his hands and mind to these disgraced creatures — artifacts in large numbers uncovering dreams and aspirations of most everyone trying to escape the pressure of reality. Artifacts and their producers, after all, are no different from the children of the Titans, the giants disgraced by Zeus. Titans stole fire, the fire that never ceased to burn and be cherished among us. For an artist of our days, this fire is the powerful, dense central region releasing the will to fight back against brutality and stupidity. A new enlightenment is necessary and heartfelt. 

RUBEN ORTIZ TORRES, Witness Protection Program, 2020 silverleaf, urethane, lead, candy paint, flake, one shot enamel, and Alsa chrome paint on decommissioned Tijuana Police car panel 48 x 62 x 5 in Courtesy of Royale Projects, Los Angeles
RUBEN ORTIZ TORRES, Chota, Cholos, and Narcos, 2020 silverleaf, urethane, lead, candy paint, and flake on decommissioned Tijuana Police car panel 48 x 62 x 5 in Courtesy Royale Projects, Los Angeles

Ortiz Torres: “I replace money with silver, and bullets with lead. I add glitter over layers of paint. Glitter is for me another form of power: power of seduction. Maybe more powerful what we do with culture, we fight back, making life something worth.” 2020, on the phone. 

That’s the difference between now and 1958: the house of art has exploded. Every fragment moves and brings beautiful flowers to the house of life which, instead, is shaken by disbelief. 

RUBEN ORTIZ TORRES, Burnt, 2020 urethane and crystals on decommissioned Tijuana Police car hood 48 x 62 x 7 in Courtesy Royale Projects, Los Angeles
RUBEN ORTIZ TORRES, Glitter Protest, 2020 silver leaf, urethane, lead, candy paint, flake, and pigment on decommissioned Tijuana Police car panel 44 x 56 3/4 x 5 in Courtesy Royale Projects, Los Angeles

Rubén picks up and reproduces images and objects when they have been disfigured, offered to the public in their cheap and funny version, winking to assure us that to be illegal is not a sin. Or he dismantles and remakes a lawn mower to let it perform like an artist, in honor of the immigrant gardeners in Los Angeles.

But recently, under the pressure of the ronawave, the magic transformer who had painted and transferred into art pieces Darth Veder, Ninja Turtle, Piolin, —marionette puppets for sale on the Tijuana border— calling them “Aliens of Exceptional Ability” (1998), has started to paint himself as an alien. As we all are, forced to distance, defaced, warriors. The ronawave needs it, for us it’s survival. No distance between the artist and ourselves. “The world goes round and round / In the crystal atmospheres of the mind, / Light’s comedies, dark’s tragedies, / Like things produced by a climate.” (Wallace Stevens)

The face Rubén shows, at the same time, are his paintings. Luminous mirrors of California colors and pictorial traditions, they mix pixels and crosses, innocuous splashes of silver and light, lots of light first of all. As if the paintings were telling us: look at yourself in our surface, and bring up the best of you. They were all painted on broken police car panels found in a junk yard in Tijuana.

“It is easy to see how underneath the chaos of life today and at the bottom of all the disintegrations there is the need to see, to understand: and, in so far as one is not completely baffled, to re-create. This is not emotional. It springs from the belief that we have only our own intelligence on which to rely. This manifests itself in many ways, in every living art as in every living phase of politics or science. If we could suddenly re-make the world on the basis of our intelligence, see it clearly and represent it without faintness or obscurity, Ortiz Torres artworks would have a place there.” 

Wallace Stevens, Briarcliff Quarterly, October 1946

 (The last line is altered by me replacing “Williams” with Ortiz Torres.)

RUBEN ORTIZ TORRES, Red Skin, (in 3 parts), 2020

bibliography

Wallace Stevens, Collected Poetry and Prose, The Libreary of America, new York, NY, 1997

Allan Kaprow, The Blurring of Art and Life, University of California Press, 1993

Rubén Ortiz Torres, DESMOTHERNISMO. Catalogue of the survey of work from 1990 to 1998 at Huntington Beach Art Center, curated by Tyler Stalling, Huntington Beach, CA Smart Art Press, 1998

Rubén Ortiz Torres–THE TEXAS LEAGUER, Catalogue of the exhibition organized by the Glassell School of Art of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, curated by Valerie Loupe Olsen, 2004

MASAOMI YASUNAGA : THE BEAUTY OF NATURAL IMPERFECTION

Masaomi Yasunaga: THE BEAUTY OF NATURAL IMPERFECTION

Nonaka Hill Gallery — September 2020

photos: Peter Kirby & Rosanna Albertini

 

 

WHEN EMPTINESS PREVAILS

by Rosanna Albertini

We have grown weary of the man that thinks.

He thinks and it is not true. The man below

Imagines and it is true, as if he thought

By imagining, anti-logician, quick

With a logic of transforming certitudes.

It is not that he was born in another land,

….

He was born within us as a second self,

A self of parents who have never died,

Whose lives return, simply, upon our lips,

Their words and ours…

WALLACE STEVENS, Owl’s Clover

(Try this: We have grown weary of the woman that thinks…)

 

Holes, holes! As I stepped out of the art gallery my brain didn’t hesitate. Holes like a whisper through my brain for no clear reasons. I had seen exquisite sculptures that one would call vases, cups, bowls, animals, beautiful objects. But for me holes as ideal bodies, almost an obsession, were not replaced by the physicality, the layers of petrified skin giving them a shape. Honestly, holes can’t be separated from their skin. At first, it was hard to even conceive them in words.

These notes about Masaomi Yasunaga, a Japanese artist ceramicist, are a bush of associations. Starting from the fact that his pieces are holes indeed, holes shaped by a temporary, soft skin of glaze rather than clay —combined with feldspar, glass and metal powders—  that melts and transforms during the firing in the kiln, absorbing or refusing sand or rocks or dirt that completely fill the container. Cracks and more holes define the finished work. The real sculpture starts when the artist liberates the new creature from incrustations, deciding what will stay and what will go. At least, this is what I have been able to understand from second hand descriptions, I wish one day I can meet Masaomi and ask more. 

 

Crawling through the mud:

Yasunaga studied ceramics under Satoru Hoshino, a second-generation proponent of the avant-garde ceramic group, Sodeisha (in kanji, 走泥社 literally means, crawling through the mud). Founded in Kyoto in 1948, in the aftermath of WWII, Sodeisha broke away from long-established conventions of Japanese ceramics, resolving to create non-functional sculptural works.” Art Viewer 2019.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My obsession with holes, nevertheless, goes beyond the making process or historical roots. Why do I love those holes. Ten years ago Masaomi’s grandmother passed away. He collected the fragments of her bones after the fire and mixed them into the skin of some urns. The chemistry of life and death is the same for living and inanimate beings. Still, to move to art making, the artist needed to deal with holes. And we need them as well, when we have to deal with loss, deception and acceptance of all things we don’t understand, most of our life. 

“My Mother” is an installation Ko Nakajima made in the late 80s. I saw it in France. Two monitors were covered with two small mountains of dirt. Only the screens were visible, each of them a living luminous hole. In one of them the new life of the artist’s daughter, from birth to the first steps. In the other, the remains of his mother on the table, after the fire. Slowly and gently, the family including children collected them and put them in a vase. A group of children during a school visit set in front of the two mounds that vibrated with sounds and images unfamiliar to say the least. They stayed still, sitting on the floor beyond any reasonable watching time. I also stayed, behind them, waiting for their voices. They did come. “I’m scared” a girl started to say, “the baby girl could be suffocated by all that dirt.” A boy answered (they were 9, 10 years old): “No, nothing to be afraid of, look at the two mounds, look at their shape, they are the mother’s breast.” 

I had to talk in the evening about the installation, each invited writer was asked to do the same in public, free to pick a favorite. The artists in the room. I reported the children’s reactions and words. Ko Nakajima openly cried. 

 

 

Something more: a book in which every day I spend time digging my own holes, adapting to a slow pace. The book doesn’t know rush, doesn’t resemble a tumultuous streams jumping on rocks. It’s a journey into the cruel coming of age and life of a group of clones conceived like shells around organs they have to donate…until they are done, completed, says the book. As if death wasn’t conceivable for entities who didn’t have a birth. Growing up, they become aware they are not different from humans, with soul, inner life…aren’t humans today, at times, becoming as the clones were supposed to be, complying with social orders planned for absurd goals or worse? Obedient servants…

It’s an unpredictable world we are living in. Maybe we should linger in the emptiness of holes and wait, enjoying the beauty of natural imperfection, getting lost among nuances of colors, and surprising forms generated by heat and melting matter, curled up inside the many niches covered by skin we have inside, where the self disappears and we are only one thing with our body from birth to ashes, only one grain of sand, maybe this is the secret of happiness. 

 Thank you Masaomi Yasunaga, thank you Kazuo Ishiguro, please, never let me go. 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go, First Vintage International Edition, March 2006. Published in the US by Vintage Books, Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

Wallace Stevens, Collected Poetry and Prose,  The Library Of America: Volume compilation, notes and chronology copyright © 1997 by Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., New York, N.Y.

KATE NEWBY : As far as you can

at Feuilleton  Los Angeles, July 2020

TIME BECOMING ART    DEVENIR DU TEMPS    OUT OF HER HANDS

by Rosanna Albertini

the printmaking process – Marfa 2017

and this is the printed piece:

KATE NEWBY, I’m glad we’ve done it just to see 2018, Soft ground etching, 22.8 x 18.2 in Ed. 7/10. Printed at Hare and Hound Press, San Antonio, TX
Courtesy of Feuilleton, Los Angeles

Time itself, not the idea of it, brings these art pieces from a non-state to a presence, from the sculptor’s mind to a dusty, arid spread of the ground. I think the place sculpts her mind with smells and winds and infinite distances, her whole body could be altered, I don’t know, it happens to me in the desert. In this case, for sure, Kate Newby has asked the place to give her back the prize of her trust in a limitless space whose nocturnal life she can feel, rather than see. 

Each art piece comes from a physical relationship with something living, in the air or in the ground, something that disappears as the sun rises. During the time it is exposed outdoors, the sensitive body of the flat metal is entrusted to whatever can happen around and on its surface. Animal life, likely. 

Loneliness is its condition, along with freedom from instructions. Kate prepared the scene on the ground, the flat plate with bird seed around, some other food. Then left  for one or two long days and nights. The art piece yet to be born is detached from her decisions, taste, or control. The physical little theater belongs to the desert, dwelling in a world without humans, and a population of things with no names as they have been consumed and transformed by rolling and drying. It is an anonymous field of existence.

KATE NEWBY, Just be prepared (backyard, birds, Southtown) 2017. Soft ground etching, intaglio, 22.5 x 23.7 in. Ed. 5/10. Printed at Hare and Hound press, San Antonio, TX
Courtesy Feuilleton Los Angeles

KATE NEWBY, New Guy, Shadow, Carrots and Carrots Two, 2018. Soft ground etching, 22.8 x 18.2. Ed. 7/10. Printed at Hare and Hound Press, San Antonio, TX
Courtesy Feuilleton Los Angeles

Kate withdraws, avoids to be vigilant. Her awareness – a philosopher would call it consciousness – goes to sleep. Paradoxically, she flees into the fullness of the unknown. (thank you, generous Levinas)

After a day or two of rising suns history is written on the plate. Language? Impossible to decipher. Understanding is a vanishing effort. On each piece signs are different, Sparse little marks near the edges, and emptiness in the middle are the outcome of a big desert storm. The printed piece is proud of its clarity: a beginning is undeniably there, you can touch it.

KATE NEWBY, Between Flavin and the Horn 2018. Soft ground etching, 22.8 x 18.2 in. Ed. 7/10 Printed at Hare and Hound Press, San Antonio, TX
Courtesy Feuilleton Los Angeles

The artist looks at the spectacle on display, she doesn’t need to draw attention to herself. “Life is impoverished, it looses in interest, when the highest stake in the game of living, life itself, may not be risked.” (SIGMUND FREUD) It doesn’t matter her life as an artist is at stake. The physical universe teems with wildlife, her plates are pregnant with traces of intelligent actions, surprisingly intense, formally well organized.

Their formation cannot be questioned, yet there is rhythm and precision in each set of ‘drawings?’

KATE NEWBY, But still LOVE this 2020. Porcelain, silk thread, handmade wool rope, 13.5 x 10 in.
Courtesy Feuilleton Los Angeles

C’est là voir de la musique — There is a sight of music  (VALERY)

A visual music following her own time. What about if Kate Newby is a bird, a unique species making her nest with pebbles. She doesn’t pick them up. She sculpts them and paints them, secret treasures for pockets. I can imagine her flying over Brooklyn in the night, looking for directions on her portable phone. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

KATE NEWBY POCKETS WORKS, a project for writing, Portland, lumber room, 2019

Emmanuel Levinas, Le temps et l’autre, Paris, PUF, 1979

Sigmund Freud,”Thoughts from the Time on War and Death” 1915, quoted by Adam Phillips in Equals, Published by Basic Books  ©Adam Phillis 2002, 

Paul Valéry, L’homme et la coquille, Paris, Gallimard, 1937

 

ALBERTO ALBERTINI : Blocked IN MILAN

In isolation like everybody else, Alberto hears voices from the past, sometimes in his village dialect, which is Lombard Besanese. Also his English takes a funny twist. 

 

B L O C K D O W N

Alberto Albertini, yesterday at 2:24 PM

there’s here amannn — ghe chi unomm

when I entered the house looking for Marisa, there was a woman I did not know and who did not know me: “Marisa, there’s here amann!”  Strange to tell, it was me, and never had I thought about me as a man! What else would I have thought I was? A non being?  Yet I was, but believing maybe I was still a boy, adolescent, a bodiless entity? Slightly stunned, as if suddenly I had fallen into reality. Because I’m constantly living inside myself that was a shock, a call to enter the real, but, what’s the real?

ghe chi unomm    there’s here amann

quando sono entrato a cercare la Marisa, c’era una donna che non conoscevo e non mi conosceva: “Marisa, ghe chi unomm!” Che strano, ero io, non ci avevo mai pensato di essere un uomo! Che altro pensavo di essere? Un non essere? Eppure ero, ma credevo di essere ancora bambino, adolescente, un ente incorporeo? Un piccolo stordimento, come essere caduto improvvisamente nella realtà. Forse vivo costantemente di dentro e quella fu una scossa, un richiamo ad entrare nel reale, che poi che cos’è il reale?

 

“We don’t want to be free, we dream it”  

           The earth is what has remained for you.

           The next door, the street.

           And you open it by such a disfigured sight that it can’t go far, a sight dragging itself.

           And you open it with a heart so consumed that it won’t support you for long.

           And you open it with such a rusty key that barely enters the keyhole. Also the keyhole is rusty.

           Walls pursue those who abandoned them.

           You were the palm that gave shade to the walls.

Edmond Jabès, Le livre des questions, 1963

(Text and images by Alberto Albertini}

EASTER DAY

APRIL 12 2020

PHOTOGRAPHS  YVES TREMORIN Saint-Malo, France

TEXT  Rosanna Albertini and Arthur Schnitzler

 

 

If Easter were a woman, this would be her face. Quiet like an eagle after a long journey, looking down at everything she saw during the flight. I turn around her face while an undetermined sense of awe grabs me, facing an inside space, unknown. A sense of beauty finds its presence across the darkness that strokes the forehead, the jaws, the chin. A sensation of living in a state of stillness. 

Mystery of human relations is inscribed in something deeper than individual qualities… something deeper than personality… is there an ear subtle enough to perceive the sigh of a fading rose?”

Words do what they can, not much really, to translate lights and shadows, and thoughts often turn around the words, even more confused. Sometimes an image drives our search for expressions, but remains mysterious. 

Every experience in our soul is surrounded by the luminous clarity of doubt; the shadow projected on such light is called faith.”

Our spirit can only grab the downward movement, it is never able to grab the  upward movement: we can have some knowledge of what’s inferior, for the superior, instead, we stop at premonition. Maybe, if this is true, we might be allowed to see the history of humans as an eternal fight against divinity, by necessity little by little destroyed by human actions. We might as well suppose that this element that goes beyond us and looks to us divine, — we barely feel it—, is overtaken by another higher, and so on to infinity. 

But, my God, how must I appear to the humans without terrifying them? asked Infinity.

God disguised her in the blue of the sky.

What about me? asked Eternity, how can I reveal myself to humans, avoiding that fear annihilates them?

God then said: I want to give humans an instant in which they will understand you. And he created Love.”

These photographs I just received from my long time friend Yves Tremorin silently pushed me to write this post and celebrate this Easter despite the shadows.

 

Quotes from Arthur Schnitzel, Relations et Solitudes, Aphorismes. Translation fron German Pierre Deshusses, Paris, Rivages poche 1988 

Original Title: Beziehungen und Einsamkeiten, by Arthur Schnitzler, Estate Vienna and S. Fisher Verlag, Frankfurt, 1967

Translation of quotes from French, RA

LOST AND FOUND IN THE RONAWAVE

LOST AND FOUND IN THE RONAWAVE

3 women 3 friends

JUDY FISKIN, FIONA CONNOR, ROSANNA ALBERTINI

JUDY FISKIN, More Art 1992-95, Plate 277

On Apr 4, 2020, at 3:06 PM, Judy Fiskin wrote:  Thank you again for sharing your uncle with us.  The photographs are surprising—so lush and filled with sculpture that we never see in our cemeteries.  I wish him more, too.  And all of us.  Judy

JUDY FISKIN, More Art 1992-1995, Plate 270

On Apr 4, 2020, at 6:40 PM, Rosanna Albertini wrote:  You got exactly the reason I put so many of them. The photographs. The rest was to make him happy, which worked, and for me counts more than making readers content.

JUDY FISKIN, More Art 1992-1995, Plate 272

Accidenti I miss you, today. I don’t know why I am depressed. Maybe it was time. A deflated balloon. Small attack of cleanliness: this time my desk with annessi e connessi: wires, boxes, books, a broken sculpture of marble that I had never seriously cleaned in 30 years.  Le Carré’s most recent book is beautiful and exasperating. I move to Jabès. Also exhausting, but linguistically more interesting. I can steal some expressions that make me think. Yesterday all my commitment was to a yogurt blueberries tart, authentically American recipe, Fanny Farmer’s. Maybe the name is misspelled. I try to update my art history info on line, listen to Analia Saban – I knew her when she was nobody –  now she sounds like a princess sitting on a printed pillow. She had one eye escaping the center, surgery corrected it. She discovered that computer circuits and the first computer patterns were the same as the texture of any piece of fabric. So now she prints and puts on the wall in various elegant variations the computer circuit patterns. I understand her, I fell in love with a couple of them a while ago, visually I mean, yet it doesn’t seem to me a great idea, etcetera, which is now art history. I wanted to transform my circuits in white embroidery on white canvas. Peter is throwing something away into the garbage bin. I don’t want to see what. Surprisingly, he is cleaning his office and the pre-office and the computer. Sacred space, I stay in mine. A French artist friend sent me an e-mail this morning, I started to speak to the gardeners in French. I was ashamed of myself, so much out of control. Is our brain really ours? What are you doing? And Jon? 

JUDY FISKIN, More Art 1992-1995, Plate 284

We had two night of heavy noise in the attic. Rats are back! — we thought. Maybe. We tried to pass the message to cat Carlos. He looked lazy. Still disturbed by the replacement cat door (corrected ‘candor’ by Mister Comp) Peter installed in the kitchen door. Too shiny. Complaining, he goes through. The last two nights, the noise stopped and Carlos up and down on the fence like a sentinel. Maybe the rat met him and got scared? We will never know. RA

On April 7, 2020, at 6.45 PM, Rosanna Albertini wrote:  Dear Judy, they call it ronawave in South Los Angeles, did you know it? I like it only one word, pinnacles away: mine, appropriated. Images of the ronawave look so much like regal crowns, we don’t need royalty. Yesterday I had black clouds in my mind. Couldn’t do anything. Maybe I read too much, all the possible mystery books I could find, from Camilleri to Le Carré. Same with the TV series; Peter and I got lost in BroadChurch and Hinterland, beautifully done, so that sadness prevails on horror and homicides. Still a human land. But in the end the dead were the only focus, and I ended up sharing with Alberto, and spreading through the blog, images of cemeteries. That was a memory trip. Maybe I never told you I bear the name of a stillborn girl, my grandmother’s only female child. “You are my girl” she used to tell me. Still it isn’t clear to me if she meant I was hers, possessively, or I was that girl reborn. Never found her grave, and I was going to the cemetery every Sunday morning, to bring fresh flowers and clean the vases.  Back to now, I only wanted to cry. 

JUDY FISKIN, More Art 1992-1995, Plate 275

Jabès again. I tried a full immersion in his pages. Very few each time. They brought me up, made me think again. “Safety is to restart, he says. Infinity, eternity are enemies of the pulp and of the peel,” if you are an orange. I had to restart my disciplined habit of wearing the mood of each day. No news for instance, for me it doesn’t work. Paper in the morning, and Brian Williams in the evening. We can’t escape. Jabès really kicked me with this: “We never know where we are and where we are not, so much the world is confused into us.”  Cat Carlos seems to follow the trend of these days. Needs company, and releases long feline talks, modulated, from 7 to 8 in the morning, forcing us to get up. Silence in the attic, no rat.  

I keep thinking about not knowing where I am and where I am not, and the sense of disoriented life in these days of isolation. Venice Boulevard is the same and it is not, with shops and restaurants closed, no traffic, people skipping away from each other as if we were absent walkers. For you I am not, don’t worry. Shall I touch the button of the traffic light? Why do I hesitate? But really Judy, confusion is us all the time. Walls and places get into our organs. Our inner music is different. When I was in Pisa, wrapped by century old walls and narrow streets, I was not the same person who walks on Grand View captured by the sky, the light. The ronawave can kill me or not. The coordinates of my daily life will be different for a while. So far, the air is clean and breathing is a pleasure. That’s enough. I hope your day was pleasant, RA

  FIONA CONNOR FROM NEW ZEALAND

On Apr 7, 2020, at 3:51 PM, Fiona Connor  wrote:  Dear Rosanna, Nice to get your messages here. This sounds nice.  Yes I like the series of images as they were.  Even if it is hard to see the drawing. The documentation seems nicely bound in time. Look forward to seeing Judy’s pieces and what you put together.
DRAWING AT THE BEACH
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Alberto Albertini : THE ISLAND

A L B E R T O   A L B E R T I N I

THE ISLAND

The island of the dead that our imagination is incapable of figuring out. Alberto found his island in photographs he took of a nineteenth century cemetery lost in the Lombardy woods, and in those of the small cemetery of Besano, the village where he grew up, which was also my nest. 

The first imaginary steps of Alberto and myself towards a painted Island are  In A Scent of Afterlife, another text  published in this blog, in which Alberto wonders about his attraction to a painting by Arnold Böcklin’s, The Isle of the Dead, an image he had seen reproduced in a certain unidentified book, one undetermined year of his ninety-three years of life. I wish him more. RA

 https://albertini2014.wordpress.com/2019/02/18/alberto-albertini-a-scent-of-afterlife/

All the photographs are by Alberto Albertini

 The island of the dead comes back. I wanted to go there, but they have closed the borders. The image comes back often, I can’t remember where this story began. I was convinced it was in an art book I mentioned to you, but there are no traces of it. Now I am thinking I could find something, maybe, in the old encyclopedia I believe is still at the family house, in Besano. They are five or six volumes … I won’t do it!

I was moving foreword in a gigantic and thick pinewood. The light dimmed, and silence was blocking the rustling of my steps. In a little while I would be lost among trunks impossible to distinguish from one another. I was seeing the island of the dead very far away, some shadows were moving, I thought they were real, over there, down there. It’s dark now, I can’t see space, space can be infinite, everything or nothing could be in that space, can’t see, I can only imagine but I don’t, why? I’m there and around me there is  everything I would like to define, to want  and desire, but I can’t grasp it … as well as the wondering shadows … a sensation inside my body, that’s the big mystery! The brain’s magnetic force fails, no transmission anymore. I can’t complain. Energy around me is the same that leaves me. Maybe I enter infinity. 

In the end, does it matter? Thinking of death is not what worries those who for some reason —often their age— are afraid they must begin the landing … no, it’s rather the unreal pause of sensations before the journey begins. It’s a world of its own that remains undefined, whose origine stems from childhood’s anxieties caused sometimes by legends, as the Valkyries’ legend, first sign of erotic buds: they were riding horses naked, says the legend. Or else the anxiety was produced by grisly stories of the afterlife, not to mention my withdrawn character. With hindsight, those stories were not that terrifying, at least in fragments preserved by the collective memory. In their narrative the dead, after all, were slightly human, lively and familiar. I find them touching because of their hard work finding the right solution in a context that will reach us as a story. 

Only late in the night a woman has the time to wash the sheets at the public washhouse. It’s dark and she doesn’t see that someone else is there, also washing … After rinsing, the woman must wring out the sheets to get rid of the water and asks the other person for help: one person is necessary at each end of the sheet. While the woman wrings, she realizes the other cannot do the same twisting in the opposite direction: where is the strength of your hands? She asks. Approaching to see better who the person is, she becomes aware the other is a skeleton!

Bored by the old people’s talk, mostly gossipy, the girls stayed aloof from participating. They didn’t always want to talk about boys, or impossible stories. After a few years of elementary school, parents liked better to take them away from the classrooms; they were more useful hoeing potatoes or putting the kitchen in order. Church and cemetery were their only possibility to go out. The cemetery, after all, was open air; cleaning the graves with eccessive zeal they were allowed to chat outdoors avoiding the smoke from the fireplace. Having spent the day at the cemetery, that evening they exchanged ideas.  

We usually go there during the day, but who would be brave enough to go there in the night? 

What’s the difference? The dead don’t get up to come out of the graves!

Then, why don’t you go? 

It’s that none of you would come and see.

True, you could tell us that you went, because you too are afraid!

No, I am not afraid.

Well, let’s do this: you go and plant this stick we are giving to you on my grandmother’s grave. The following day we will come and control.

Andreina, the following day, took the stick and went to the cemetery without a shadow of fear, looked for the grave, bent over it and slipped the stick into the ground.

The morning after her friends told to each other:

Let’s go and see whether she put the stick in the soil.

I believe she didn’t do it, she died of fear…

At the cemetery they found Andreina lying on grandmother’s grave: indeed she had stuck the stick into the grave, but her skirt was long, as women used to wear them, so the stick had passed through the skirt. When Andreina tried to rise she felt herself violently pushed back to the ground and the fright got her!

Even now, through the magnetic whirlwind of dust in my brain, I don’t see fragile skeletons whose bones are about to separate one from the other, only white skulls with big black holes, wrapped in cloaks that merge with imagination’s inability to work. It’s an atmosphere, a lazy world dominated by a lack of exactness, and as such it has to remain. Appealing to the unconscious —in my opinion— belongs to our search for a refuge, a sort of waiting room of the dentist; things we are not able to diligently place in our rational storage, end up there. 

I found a fascinating contribution in Arnold Shoenberg’s Gurre Lieder. This lieder is based on a Gothic legend from Denmark. I don’t follow the story: the voices, soprano, tenor, are a dramatic presence cutting through the orchestra. The orchestra is creating the atmosphere that enchants me: sounds, scattered sounds, wandering, a space whose borders escape me and yet is wrapped around me. Resonances chasing each other, getting dispersed, coming back, like my white beings with dark holes … a world towards which navigates the ship headed to the island of dead.  

Alberto, the man who tries to look beyond the island

 

A L B E R T O   A L B E R T I N I

L’ISOLA

L’isola dei morti che nemmeno l’immaginazione riesce a figurarsi. Alberto trova la sua isola nelle immagini di un cimitero dell’ottocento perso nei boschi della Lombardia, e in quelle del piccolo cimitero di Besano, il paesino dove e cresciuto, era anche il mio nido. Le premesse sono in un altro scritto di Alberto pubblicato in questo blog : A Scent of Afterlife, osservazioni su un quadro di Arnold Böcklin’s, L’isola dei morti, che Alberto aveva visto in immagine riprodotta in un libro sperduto nella memoria, uno chissà quale dei suoi novantatré anni di vita. Gliene auguro molti ancora

  https://albertini2014.wordpress.com/2019/02/18/alberto-albertini-a-scent-of-afterlife/

Tutte le foto sono di Alberto Albertini

 

 

L’isola dei morti ritorna, volevo andarci ma hanno chiuso le frontiere. Ritorna spesso ma non riesco a ricordare dove inizia questa storia. Ero convinto che l’origine fosse in quel libro di cui ti ho parlato ma lì non ho trovato tracce. Ora penso che potrei trovare qualcosa, forse, nella vecchia enciclopedia che credo sia ancora nella casa di famiglia, a Besano. Sono cinque o sei volumi … non lo farò!

Mi inoltravo in una gigantesca e folta pineta. La luce diminuiva, il silenzio bloccava il fruscio dei miei passi e di lì a poco mi sarei sperduto tra i tronchi tutti uguali. L’isola dei morti la vedevo lontana, laggiù si muovevano ombre che forse credevo vere, laggiù, laggiù. Ora c’ è il buio, non vedo spazio, lo spazio può essere infinito, in quello spazio ci può essere tutto o nulla, non posso vedere, solo immaginare ma non immagino, perché? sono lì e intorno a me c’è tutto quello che vorrei poter definire volere desiderare ma non lo afferro…come le ombre che vagano… una sensazione interiore, questo è il grande mistero! La forza magnetica del cervello viene a mancare, non c’è più trasmissione. Non posso dolermene. L’energia che mi circonda è la stessa che mi abbandona. Forse entro nell’infinito.

Infine che importa? Non è il pensiero della morte che tormenta coloro che per qualche motivo, spesso anagrafici, temono di dover iniziare la procedura di atterraggio … no, è l’intervallo irreale delle sensazioni prima che il viaggio sia cominciato, un mondo a sé stante che rimane nell’indefinito, con tracce di origine sia nell’infanzia turbata in parte da leggende fantasiose come quelle delle valchirie, segno dei primi germogli erotici: la leggenda voleva che cavalcassero nude! Oppure il turbamento veniva da truci storie di oltretomba, nonché dal mio carattere introverso. Riflettendoci, quelle storie tanto terrificanti non lo erano, almeno nei residui che ne sono rimasti. I morti che vi apparivano in fondo, erano un po’ umani, erano vivi e familiari. Facevano tenerezza per la loro intrinseca difficoltà a trovare il comportamento giusto nelle vicende trasformate in racconti. 

Una donna ha tempo solo a notte inoltrata per lavare le lenzuola al lavatoio, ovviamente quello comunale. Al buio vede che c’è un’altra persona li a lavare… La donna, dopo il risciacquo, deve torcere le lenzuola per far uscire l’acqua e chiede aiuto all’altra persona: ne occorre una per ogni capo del lenzuolo. Mentre la donna torce, constata che l’altra non riesce a fare altrettanto in senso inverso: ma non avete forza nelle mani? Si avvicina per vedere meglio chi è e si accorge che è uno scheletro!

Le ragazze si annoiavano a sentire i discorsi dei vecchi, pettegolezzi per la maggior parte, stavano in disparte. Non sempre avevano voglia di parlare di ragazzi, di storie impossibili. Dopo qualche anno di scuola elementare, i genitori le avevano tolte dalle loro classi perché erano più utili a zappar patate o rassettare la cucina. Per loro le uscite erano soltanto la chiesa e il cimitero. Tutto sommato il cimitero era un luogo all’aperto; con qualche eccessiva attenzione alla pulizia delle tombe, potevano chiacchierare all’aria libera anziché davanti al fumo del camino.

Avendo passato la giornata al cimitero, quella sera ne parlarono.

Ci andiamo sempre di giorno, ma chi avrebbe il coraggio di andarci di notte?

Bè, che differenza fa? I morti mica si alzano ed escono dalle tombe!

E allora perché non ci vai tu?

Tanto voi non ci verreste a vedere.

È vero, potresti dirci di esserci stata perché hai paura anche tu!

No, io non ho paura!

Bene, facciamo così: tu ci vai e pianti questo piolo che ti diamo sulla tomba di mia nonna. Il giorno seguente andremo a controllare.

Il giorno dopo Andreina prese il piolo convenuto e attese la notte. A notte fonda si recò al cimitero senza ombra di paura, cercò la tomba, vi si chinò sopra e infilò il piolo nel terreno.

La mattina seguente le amiche si dissero:

Andiamo a vedere se ha messo il piolo!

Per me non l’ha fatto, è morta di paura…

Al cimitero trovarono Andreina stesa sulla tomba della nonna: aveva sì conficcato il piolo sulla tomba, ma, portando le gonne lunghe, come era d’obbligo, il piolo era passato attraverso la gonna e quando Andreina fece per alzarsi, si sentì violentemente strappare a terra e lo spavento ebbe il sopravvento!

Anche ora, nel pulviscolo che turbina nel mio cervello scosso da un vento magnetico, non vedo fragili scheletri le cui ossa stanno per staccarsi l’una dall’altra, ma solo dei bianchi teschi dalle grandi cavità nere, avvolti in manti che si confondono con l’incapacità dell’immaginazione. È un’atmosfera, un mondo comodamente impreciso e che tale deve rimanere. Questo ricorrere nell’inconscio, mi pare, fa parte del rifugio di ciascuno di noi, una specie di sala d’aspetto del dentista, sicché tutto ciò che non riusciamo a collocare diligentemente nel razionale, è lì che va a finire.

 Un affascinante contributo lo trovo nei Gurre Lieder di Schoenberg. Il Lieder è costruito su una leggenda gotica danese. La storia non la seguo: le voci narranti, soprano, tenore, qui sono una presenza drammatica che fende tagliente l’orchestra ed è l’orchestra a creare l’atmosfera che mi incanta: suoni, suoni sparsi, vaganti, spazio i cui confini mi sfuggono ma mi avvolge. Sonorità che si rincorrono, disperdono, ritornano: come i miei bianchi esseri dalle cavità oscure … un mondo incontro al quale va la nave che porta all’isola dei morti.

KEATON MACON : THE FEELING OF THAT DAY

KEATON MACON : the feeling of that day

by Rosanna Albertini

 

KEATON MACON, Mary Tyler Moore/Women’s March [1979-1970]
Conte, Graphite and pencil on paper, black walnut, 18″ x 12 1/4″  2019. Courtesy of the artist.

It is typical of the artist Macon – a constant challenge to the flowing of life. His effort is endless like Allan Kaprows’s story of Pick Up Shadow: you are on the sidewalk on a sunny day, see your shadow that follows or precedes, never gives up with you. You turn to her with a zest of competition, and slowly start sending your hand down to pick it up wishing to take her by surprise, then quickly stick it into the pocket of your jeans. The shadow is still there and you continue, to the end of your breath. In 2015 Macon had imprisoned in audio cassettes the voice of each day of the year. The exhibition included the complete library of cassettes, each one with the date on the back, and drawings on the walls in which the tapes had escaped the cassette and made visible —through the graphite pressure—  the artist’s feeling of that day. 

In a new series of drawings the black walnut frames fill the role of the cassettes, containing and protecting. The idea of the frames came first, the content was still a void.  And the frames were the flash of a black walnut tree who died in 2016. The slab from this tree was purchased in a lumber yard. The  tree was gone, his presence though was preserved in the artist mind, inside his skull, one more container. I’m wondering whether the artist feels, secretly, he is  not different from the tree: a witness. As an artist he can shape one moment for the people to see, one image isolated from a much larger story. He puts it down on paper with care for it is a newborn, reproduced words or faces, like the tree puts his leaves down, one different from the other. Mother nature’s  art: visible foliage, and hidden volume of rings. 

Keaton can capture the surface of a trunk, the skin of the wall that replaced his favorite palm tree in Korea Town, the linear features of three presidents’ faces. The thickness of time escapes his pencil. That is in the frame. The trunk, in pieces, showed him the physical trace of aging in the rings. Counting backwards from the last one, Keaton saw an image of time produced by nature, as mysterious and alien as our shadow. Humans did not participate in it’s making. Instead, they danced their crazy history in the span of each ring. The wood was cut by the artist following specific groups of rings, and gave him a few black walnut frames: time itself, materialized.  

1979 -1970   The frame embraces the years of Mary Tyler Moore’s successful career as an unconventional, funny working woman on TV. Like the characters that have multiple lives in family stories way beyond the real time of their performances, (I had Buster Keaton and Ridolini in my family mythology),  Mary Tyler Moore was familiar to Keaton through his mother’s words. His own direct experience was of Mary’s departure from life the 25th of January, a few days after the Women’s March in Washington DC, January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of president Donald Trump. One of the largest protests in U.S. history. Prophetic. 

KEATON MACON, Burnt Palms Revisited [1992-1984]
Graphite and Pencil on paper, black walnut frame, 15″ x 20 3/4″ 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

1992-1984 “I used to live in Korea Town. Periodically riots exploded, some palm trees were on fire. I took photographs after the fire. As if following the cyclical nature of social movements, I kept going back, doing little journeys in my old neighborhood. New buildings had replaced the trees. In front of a church a girl gave me a flyer.” Keaton Macon  

KEATON MACON, The G.O.A.T. and the Southern Strategy [1968-1963]
Graphite on paper, black walnut, 15 1/4″ x 9 1/4″ 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

 1968-1963 The Greatest of All Time and The Southern Strategy. Contrasting feelings quiver with these words: sarcasm for sure, respect for a great basketball player, along with horror in front of political attacks on his people, and to himself as an African American artist. To bring LeBron James onto the same page as Nixon, Regan and Trump shrunk into only one face, is a kick into history’s waves, a tiny boat navigating hard times toward the shore of surviving. I love this piece. At the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, the Republican Convention nominated Donald Trump in 2016. Same year, same arena, James won the championship. In the meantime, the “Southern Strategy” enforced by Nixon since 1968 has not disappeared.  

Today, March 11, 2020, I look at Macon’s drawing with a special emotion. The “South,” Southern people, especially African Americans, have voted for a white Democratic candidate in unprecedented numbers. They have enforced the process —I wish— to change the Head of this country. As if the South had become a human vessel of hope. Many vessels, included the small and fragile by Keaton. It’s worth reading a Wikipedia text about Nixon’s strategy, because history has twisted teeth.

Although the phrase “Southern Strategy is often attributed to Nixon’s political strategist Kevin Phillips, he did not originate it but popularized it. In an Interview included in a 1970 New York Times article, Phillips stated his analysis based on studies of ethnic voting: 

From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that…but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Right Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the white will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.

KEATON MACON, Under God [1959-1954]
Graphite on paper, black walnut, 12 1/4″ x 6 1/2″ 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

1959-54 So it happened under the eye of god, might he/she/it have only one eye? that good and bad things became titles and words on the newspapers’ first page. The artist passed them through the filter of his soul, the ones hooked to his life.

The ‘wetbacks,’ (the online dictionary defines them immigrants from Mexico, mostly illegal), workers whose backs are wet, are brothers to him. 

KEATON MACON, That’s the way of the world/Do Ya Thing (Remix) [2016-2008]
Conte and Pencil on paper, black walnut frame, 20 1/2″ x 26 1/2″ 2018. Courtesy of the artist.

2016-2008 “That’s the way of the world/Do Ya Thing (Remix)”  here the artist goes back to the life cycle, life playing numbers and days, life the slave of time, the strange entity that god kicked down from his domain over the clouds, as he was mumbling: time is for my children not for me. 

The drawing is a portrait of musician Maurice White, who stopped breathing the very day of  Cam’ron’s birthday, waiving from afar to the Harlem rapper. As in a card game, chance is the power. 

T.S. Eliot, from Four Quartets

We die with the dying:

See, they depart, and we go with them.

We are born with the dead:

See, they return, and bring us with them.

The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree

Are of equal duration. A people without history

Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern

Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails

On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel

History is now….

Bibliography

T.S. Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays  1909 – 1950, Harcourt Brace & Company, New York – San Diego – London  Printed in the U.S.

Max Hooper Schneider : TRANSFER STATION

MAX HOOPER SCHNEIDER

Transfer Station, 2019 – HAMMER MUSEUM 2019-2020

 

AN ISLAND OF HOPE by Rosanna Albertini

 

“Unless life is interesting, there is nothing left (or, unless life is made interesting)”

“The interest of life is experienced by participating and by being part, not by observing nor by thinking.”

WALLACE STEVENS

Max’s fantasy landscape is real, not imaginary.  He worked on it like a gardener. His island, contained in a room, has all the space he needed to grow a jungle out of discarded objects found on the beach as well as branches, flowers, roots, leaves, ferns —artificial and natural— shoes, fake teeth, berries and buttons, necklaces and fake jewelry of every color and kind. 

Creatures of our desire on the wings of commercial infinite reproduction.

A rusty bar the young man extracts from the sand, or a big pipe from the guts of the city lingering in his memory enter a new cycle of life: night and day bathe the island as they do with the planet, and objects wake up to the museum room looking surprised to be there. They produce an illusion of impenetrable thickness, which is so well constructed that we miss the hybrid marriage between things for a while, until a clear center of energy emerges: the big reptile head, a dinosaur? holding a long gun and maybe screaming at the sky. An upside down supermarket cart completes this theater of absurdity. Our life as it happens, turning dreams into cheap pearls and adding colors to trick the eyes, oh if the heart needs fullness! 

I wonder. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plastic flowers last longer, it’s nice, he says. They are dead, I say. I wonder if a secret sorrow pervades this treasures trove built on affordable, popular decorations for a myth of survival. Beauty is included, made with accurate tending of artificial growths. The two humans figures are faceless. One day maybe we will wake up reshaped by hybrid forms.

His hands loaded with gifts, as Williams says, the artist built the most recent version of a romantic ruin, not a castle anymore, a transfer station to the end of time. Where nobody will cut the grass. 

And “the measure intervenes, to measure is all we know,

a choice among the measures . .

                                                        the measured dance   (William Carlos Williams, Paterson)

“Eventually an imaginary world is entirely without interest.” (Wallace Stevens)

Sorry Max, I tried to be part of your beautiful piece without observing or thinking, but ideas took over. I tried to contain them, to plant them in your garden. They thrived on their own, I had to follow them. 

Photos RA