The progression of a painter’s work, as it travels in time from point to point, will be toward clarity: toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer. As examples of such obstacles, I give (among others) memory, history, and geometry.

Mark Rothko, 1949


by Rosanna Albertini

I wonder, what happens with the progression of a writer’s work? Just the same I think, as objects and humans share the same destiny: “an equal indifferent value in the algebra of the mystery.” (Pessoa’s voice) I don’t know why I kept for 6 years UMAN paintings’ files – regularly sent by the artist, and I didn’t write. Perhaps they were a treasure I didn’t want to share. I’m not John Ruskin, criticism was refused by my heart since day one of my journalistic journey. But all this is memory, history, therefore to be discarded. Geometry applied to human reality reached sublime peaks only with Spinoza and Wittgenstein, the art of their minds. It floats like a flock of thin and parallel clouds for a moment, then vanishes. Obstacles removed.

UMAN paintings,  I observed them year after year trying not to dissect them with thoughts, for fear they could bleed. Now, in the middle of isolation and pandemic threat, I chose my favorites, grouped by year. I made a new year small exhibition showing the artist’s progression toward clarity, which is the opposite of simplicity. My Christmas present to unknown readers. UMAN painter is a homeless spirit as I am, transplanted in a new landscape far way from the native place. Over time, the two homelands merge in each of our bodies but nostalgia remains.




UMAN doesn’t paint what she sees, the work unfolds and makes visible the living world of many organs that have ingested myriad sensations in Africa, European countries, and North America, upstate New York. Paintings are life filtered through colors. The artist’s body, as anybody else’s, is porous like a colander. At each instant absorbing the mood of the day, temperature, palm leaves or pine branches swaying in the breeze, a blow of dust, the concert of traffic, preschool children laughing next door, the smell of food on the stove, constantly we are transformed, all life long. And things that happen underneath the skin, things we don’t see nor control, have a story on their own, only some of it becomes words, or paintings. There is no day that UMAN doesn’t think of Africa, when nostalgia shrinks her stomach it is not pain, it’s a sensation of missing something that is strangely already within the person and is eager for more, more of the old home. To be an immigrant is to be forever homeless. Memory is not enough, she also changes when triggered. Spoken stories never the same. Although, watching  birds in migration UMAN “wants to be in that moment with them,” this a permanent thorn, and a rose at the same time.

Every day is surprising with the passage of light, sound, as we go through a carousel of scenes melted into one another, our legs are the stitches, the eyes the most selective and capricious camera, while the brain doesn’t always do the work. So much of the process is unconscious. No theories are needed to understand that the major incongruous ingredient in the salad of life is the human being, each single person different from the other like the leaves of the same tree.



Every person sends out her own, digested, or badly filtered, unique world. In home-made short films from all over the world during this pandemic a popular message is repeated: art opens a different way to look at reality.  But, what’s reality? if not the singular, peculiar perception of everyone. Artists do not envision a better reality. They are a musical instrument introducing resonance and vibrations into parts of our reality at times ignored, other times dismissed. Most of all, they don’t ask permission to express basic human emotions as they want and can. That’s what UMAN does every day, along with the many usual chores. 


Progression toward clarity is undeniable. UMAN paints how Mombasa and her Somalian origins made her, as well as Vienna and New York City. Never followed rules here or there. Indian Ocean, stars in the Northwest desert of Kenya, stars over child UMAN on a mat, outdoors. A pickup truck full of empty water jugs goes to the village twice a day to refill them. Turkana the beloved place for vacation with an aunt. No electricity, except for a generator one hour a day, in the evening, to listen to the news on the radio. Now lifted in her mind, Africa is not distant.  Nothing but movement drives the artist’s fingers. Obstacles disappear for mind and hands digging into life and resurfacing full of presents: whatever you see in the paintings is a messenger of the living, in its fullness of pleasures pains and nostalgia almost choking my throat how beautiful and more and more clear they are.

 Did I reach my clarity? I don’t know.  Merry Christmas to you all.



Francesca Lalanne, Lamentations 2020

At Galerie Lakaye, specializing in Haitian Art, Los Angeles

September 26-December 26, 2020

to be with them

by Rosanna Albertini

The artist scratched lines of feeling into the metal. The metal is flat like a page. It has natural colors as if earth and sky had been absorbed by the implacable stillness of the surface that doesn’t bear any resemblance to any living space. Francesca Lalanne followed her feelings during the many months of ronawave, let them work through her hands grabbing and carving the outlines of human bodies she never saw, they were numbers, massive clouds of names and addresses. She carved the memory of their presence. Giving legs to the coffins, or placing the coffin on human shoulders, without place. They move in the emptiness of a non-lieu, tableau vivants (as the artist calls them) of the dead peoples lives, or maybe after-lives, because emptiness is great, and beautiful, escapes description.  

 She had to cross the line of the unknown and, in so doing, gave form to an imagined flow of gentle, elegant movements for flat bodies and their flat houses, carrying  other bodies with grace and silence, a dance in the void sometimes becoming one thing with the house. She freed the figures from the heaviness of memory.

“Description is revelation. It is not

The thing described, nor false facsimile.

It is an artificial thing that exists,

In its own seeming, plainly visible,

Yet not too closely the double of our lives,

Intenser than any other life could be….     

WALLACE STEVENS, Description Without Place vi, in Transport to Summer, (1947)

Yet the plague is a burden on our hearts. The artist is one of us. Heaviness must be in the scene. And it is, completely out of the scene carved on metal: a piece of granite hung with a white thread seems to cut vertically each picture in the middle, and ends beyond the lower edge of each tableau. Images open a sense of balance, pain that is contained, almost hidden. 

Francesca grew up Catholic in Haiti. Left the island at age 8, a very young political refugee. The more I dive into the scenes she recently carved, the more I recognize the same style of the rituals of my childhood in an Italian village. Catholic culture is a master of controlled, staged actions inducing the many to pour themselves into a common moment of grace, in which routine, fatigue, chores, despair are lifted, even only for a little while. As I opened my mouth for the communion, the mystery was so overwhelming that I had to shut down rational questions and try not to feel I could hurt Jesus with my teeth. For a seven year old, the issue was serious. Confession was an inner trial. During the ritual and after, personal feelings were not allowed to leak out. Balance and composure disclose a non-invasive sense of beauty, the art of sharing without words, giving to the body the primary role. Such a mysterious gift of life! One by one, like leaves of the same tree, each is one. If to face death without place brings back a sense of debt for the unique story we are one by one, I mentally give back to this artist a deep thanks, my mouth never opened.  

Francesca Lalanne, Under Construction, 2015-17
Francesca Lalanne, Under Construction, 2015-17

Yaron Michael Hakim : SELF-PORTRAITS AS A BIRD

Mother, you gave me the days of my own death.

You gave me the day because you could only give me what you are.

Since then, I live and die in you since you are love.

Since then, I‘m reborn from our double death.”




by Rosanna Albertini

Since birth and death are the edges of the same stretch of what we call life, I bring poetry here to fill the middle space with all the range of surprises I encounter every day as I struggle to find words to unfold the ungraspable mystery in each human, starting from myself. Artists spur me on this infinite search of meanings… We call them so, but they are just sparkles of life we dress with words as if giving them a form to share with other people. They aren’t clear when we experience them, clouds of sensations. 

“The words that matter most are the ones we don’t understand.”

“How will our lives be better if we entrust ourselves to mystery, rather than to intelligibility, to understanding?” ADAM PHILLIPS

Yaron Michael Hakim paints his own face becoming a bird. I don’t want to explain that. It happened to me that a few days after I met him in his studio, still stunned by the big human birds prisoners of a canvas that is wrinkled and irregular, a piece of sail made to catch the wind and propel the boat, I started to leaf through one of my favorite books, for no particular reason. I could barely believe my eyes: “Look at his face becoming a bird, Reb Elfer said to Reb Yod. And the squirrel trying to recognize himself in that face. Look at the face becoming a branch. And the branch blooming for the face… For us too, time of transparency will come.” Oh, Jabès, how did you know what I was searching for? I let these words simmer through my life for months. Transparency of these words is beyond the words, now I can see  the artist’s heart sailing the random winds of his life, in a marvel of wonder.

Two Israeli parents went from Australia to Bogotà (Colombia) to pick up a one week old boy. One of them was from Jerusalem the other from Haifa, but they grew up outside of Israel: mother in India and father in England. They met the first time in Ethiopia. Moved to Australia where they stayed for twenty years. Adopted Yaron’s sister from New Zealand. Left Sydney for a year in England then moved to Geneva, Switzerland. Yaron spent his adolescence there. At the end of an International High School he studied in the US, at the Maryland College of Art. Life was good until September 11th. He went back to Switzerland, hoping to save enough money to try New York one day. Lady life had different plans. He stayed in Geneva working in a Franciscan institution fundraising for human rights. Graduate school was in his wishful thinking. When he saw Paul McCarthy’s Parody Paradise in Munich his feet grew invisible wings: with no hesitation he landed in Los Angeles. His heart, in my fantasy, was fluttering like the wings of a humming bird. 

No surprise that he dug into his DNA testing multiple times, every time finding some numeric components impossible to explain, discovering an intricate texture of geography and human lives from which he couldn’t extricate himself. He found thickness, rather than transparency. Phantoms of ancestors in a space he can’t explore, proliferating over the void of eons of time. But traces of them operate hidden in the core of each of his molecules, maybe they never rest, names are lost, they multiply, create proteins, virus, oh my god how disconcerting it is to conceive our body as a secret chemical engine definitely out of control. Every body a different mystery. 

Yaron the artist paints in parrots a metamorphosis of himself almost unfolding his own personal state of nature, prehuman, reversing the evolution from the present to the past. A mythical time appears, something we conceive and spit out in words as if words were something that really was. Statistical precision (only apparently perfect) about personal DNA history kills the myth and the slow movement carrying the artist away from the present. Words, images, are only “brief little dreams.” 

“Myth is the name of everything that exists and abides with speech as it’s only cause. Whatever perishes from a little more clarity is a myth.” PAUL VALERY

Yaron needs to see as if his eyes were able to detach from their sockets, and observe the impossible: the fable of sailing what we call space, for the term void is scary.  The most striking bird he made is a boat shaped like the Pacific Islanders’ hand-carved boats. One of those boats that natives considered a living entity asking for respect and honor, a natural deity. The spirit of wood in unison with the hands’ desire. Yaron built it, gave her a name: Unutea, and left the seashore sailing under a pressure that was not only wind in the air, in big part coming from the unknown within him that is nothing he can visualize or think. In a word, he navigated the myth of myths, his own identity. Too bad, just a word. 

The journey is in the space between two spaces.” YARON MICHAEL HAKIM

THURSDAY, JUNE 13, 2013 From Newport Beach to Dana Point on a 22-foot outrigger sailboat built by the artist: UNUTEA

The spars are constructed out of bamboo, teak and Douglas fir. The vessel is steered by oars: one of poplar, mahogany and aromatic cedar; the other made with African mahogany and teak. The waka, (main hull) and the ama (outrigger) are fiberglassed marine grade plywood. The cross beams connecting waka and ama are made of African mahogany and Douglas fir. Hawaiian elder Thomas Kalama blessed UNUTEA with tea leaves before the first journey.

But words are a precious tools. They suggest, for instance, that transparency for humans is possible. Yaron the father can look through his baby son and see the sky.


Reb Isaac: “I listen to you, my son, and through you I see the sky.” Edmond Jabès, who else? My heart flutters reading his words.


Paul Valéry, The Outlook for Intelligence, Bollinger Series XLV, Princeton University Press 1989

Wallace Stevens, THE NECESSARY ANGEL – Essays on Reality and the Imagination, VINTAGE BOOKS, New York, ©1942, 1944, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951 by Wallace Stevens

Edmond Jabès, Le Livre des Questions, Gallimard, Paris, 1963

Gerald M. Edelman, Wider than the Sky, the phenomenal gift of consciousness, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2004


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


Wallace Stevens, Collected Poetry and Prose, The Library 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



Nonaka Hill Gallery — September 2020

photos: Peter Kirby & Rosanna Albertini




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…


(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. 



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.


and her online art piece: 


produced by ISSUE Project Room, Brooklyn NY, 2020

by Rosanna Albertini

In the middle of June Things Mother Used to Make had its first online presentation in the evening, like a regular movie, or a performance. Brought directly into my home, I was excited. Dawn has few equals: she is her art. Over the last twenty years I saw her performances like wind in my brain. To tell the TRUTH? A way of speaking…not for Dawn Kasper. She branded the five letters one by one in the inner part of her right arm. On the left arm she bears the word LOVE, also branded. 


DAWN KASPER, Uncle Jimmy or TRUTH branding, 2008 1 hour site specific performance installation. Anna Helwing Gallery, Los Angeles. photo: Micol Hebron

Her thinking is movement through the whole body. For years she spent hours exposing her body as if she had been killed, every time a different character, a new situation, and preparing for the performance by drawing in detail all the components of the crime scene. We used to talk in my kitchen while, a knife in my hands, I was peeling potatoes and chopping vegetables. Dawn still remembers the wooden handle of my knife. I was all ears. Especially to the intensity of her respiration.

Yes, but my pieces are not about wanting or being prepared to die, they are about feeling life more. I become more myself through the work. Is it bad to admit it?

Short-circuit for my brain; I had the sense that a mysterious monster was petrifying Dawn temporarily for reasons unknown.

As I said in the kitchen earlier, I am consumed by curiosity in finding the meaning of life. But, I am dwelling so much on horrific imagery, asking myself why I am so attracted by this aspect of my existence. Perhaps I am already dead, I don’t know when or why.” 


DAWN KASPER, Evil Series #12 ‘the Pond’ 2003. 3 hour live site specific performance installation. Mount Washington, CA Photo: Mark Golamco


One day she stopped dying. New performances were sometimes dangerous, other times delightfully absurd: like painting on white paper with clear water and telling stories of daily life during the work. Always around her there was a palpable emotional field, a physical tension stronger than intellectual description. Coming out of the performing effort she was at times bruised, wounded, the very portrait of failure. And yet, she had made visible something that words express in a different way, with a rigidity we must force and penetrate to grab the movement of thoughts, or poetic visions. 

With Dawn, we face the power of a struggle with no guidelines, no safe edges, no idealism, for the soul is lonely, so desperately deserted in front of the task of living, that humor steams out of her body, while laughter and tears bring the spectators into the same tragicomic disorder. Art making disintegrates in her hands as does consequential thinking: if an action is planned, Dawn’s body makes it — her mind doesn’t know how emotions will play until the action starts. What comes out is a collage of circumstances, observations, reactions to place and people and the mood of the day Objects are simple tools, her body language the powerful center.


DAWN KASPER, Clues to the Meaning of Life part 6 (first time) 2008 1-hour site specific life performance, Echo Park, CA photo: Christopher Kreiling

A friend of her took his life and the artist had the strange privilege of being the first to find him. “The blue rope was strung through the rafters over two different points in the ceiling. Then came down and met David around his neck.” I’m wondering now, after so much time, if in her terror and despair facing this real death she had a tender wish hidden in her mind, like to give her dead friend a teddy bear. A few days after she made herself a bear, covered by mask and skin, and told David’s story reading a sheet of paper she had written on. Curiously, death goes with words: no more change.  

History repeats itself.

The movement exposed.

Turn into another.

And into another.

And another.

Over & over again.


These are words from the online piece. Twenty years after my first shock in front of her performances, Dawn Kasper keeps dealing with the tragicomic quality of the living. Things Mother Used to Make is a presentation of ingredients for the art piece. Spectators must put the pieces through their paces, discover and absorb their scent before the immersion into the peculiar flavor of the whole piece. The ingredients are:

—  A long musical piece, sounds of the “recording of a recording”

—  A group of words

—  Animations or old film images and sounds turning into another composition over and over during the collage performed by Dawn’s fingers

— The title comes from the title of a 1922 cookbook

—  One recipe more than 100 years old

Stills from the collage in motion:

I would add that Mother’s ghost hovers on the whole pile. And, like any good food, the piece needs to be eaten to exist; art pieces are not different from food. Except, senses here are stimulated without physical objects. Like Pessoa, Dawn Kasper leaves their real bodies for dead and instinctively picks up their souls, merged with her dreams and ours. Ronawave defeated by art.

Two hours after viewing the piece I wrote an e-mail to Dawn:

Cara Alba, (Italian for Dawn)

I liked your piece: it was puzzling in an interesting way,  music bringing an inward lack of expectations and high pitch listening of the same inside.

Probably helped by the sequence of subjects you had listed separately, insisting in separating words from images and sounds, you made me think of your mind and mine and everybody else’s revisiting what mother used to make through her own life, and yours, and mine, and others’. 

In this way the piece was a moment of separation from the constant violent mess around or mental confusion. It was a clean time of light feelings, and cartoon like memories, they flatten, don’t they?

I’m probably dreaming, as usual, but I felt your beating heart in your fingers making the visual collage. Another experience I already had with you in person, when you made the little books at my house. You think through your body.


DAWN KASPER, Collage on paper 2007, in the hand-made booklet Dawn Kasper life and death, Circus Gallery Los Angeles.


Dawn Kasper life and death, essay by Rosanna Albertini, booklet Circus gallery, Los Angeles, 2007

Rosanna Albertini, Life Piercing Art, a book of portraits and self-portraits,  Oreste & Co. Publishers, Los Angeles, 2013

Fernando Pessoa, The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa, Edited and translated by Richard Zenith, Grove Press/New York, 2001

Lidia Maria Gurney, Things Mother Used to Make, Macmillan Publishing 1922

KATE NEWBY : As far as you can

at Feuilleton  Los Angeles, July 2020


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. 


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






by Rosanna Albertini



Emilio Isgrò, GRANDE DIZIONARIO ENCICLOPEDICO / GREAT ENCYCLOPEDIC DICTIONARY, 1969, Indian ink on printed book in box of wood and plexiglas 100x41x67 cm  Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano

Remaining words: “passando da  312.000 a 314.000″ ” going from 312.000 to 314.000″

“riprendendo le dottrine platoniche della reminiscenza e della trasmigrazione delle anime” “bringing back the platonic doctrines of reminescence and transmigration of the souls”*

Words, and the arts, he says, are the essence of democracy. Emilio Isgrò started erasing printed pages and images around fifty years ago. Lines and lines obnubilate the words that had covered the paper like legs of insects, calligraphic bodies of the most movable and fleeting of human activities: thinking and writing thoughts to reach other people who are not in the room, and never will be. 

A few words remain. Some fragments of images still visible. “A word is a petal of the soul”, wrote Jabès. Isgrò saves very few of them in his garden. He plays with them and with language, art needs space, renovation, a long way of discoveries: words and images testing their limits, replacing each other, hiding, sometimes pretending an imaginary game: if you have two red squares, in which one is Trotsky going to fall, when he wears a red suit? 

Emilio Isgrò, MANIFESTO COMUNALE / MUNICIPAL POSTER 1974, Indian ink on printed poster in box of wood and plexiglas, 100×76 cm Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano


Emilio Isgrò, DOVE CADE TROTSKIJ / WHERE TROTSKY FALLS 1974, Acrylic on canvas mounted on wood, 59,7×104,5 cm  Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo  Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano


I have never met Emilio Isgrò, I wish I could. I want to talk to him.  If, inspired by him, I erase the enormous volume of words and voices that try to describe and reasonably explain what’s happening today all over the world, I’d like to stop the flood, but I can only see something that is terrifying and spellbinding. A potential of liberation … spread by the ronaweave. And I am not able to send away the image of a gigantic specter made with numbers of sick or dead real humans. My daydreaming has the lightness of unreal things. When I see doctors at work in emergency rooms, and I am face to face with them, then I am in the belly of the monster. Nobody expected that nature herself might start erasing. “Natura matrigna,” wrote my grandchild from Pisa, determined to become a doctor. But your erasure is different, dear artist, it opens space for thinking as the art of desire, and art as the desire of a journey beyond codified ways of thinking.                                                            

Emilio Isgrò, HENRICUS KISSINGER, EX 1974  Emulsified canvas  125×160 cm Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano



Emilio Isgrò, NEGLI OCCHI DI BEATRICE / IN THE EYES OF BEATRICE 1979 Acrylic on canvas
79×79 cm  Photo Cristian Castelnuovo  Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano


Emilio Isgrò, PURGATORIO XXVI /PURGATORY XXVI 1983 Acrylic on printed book in box of wood and plexiglas 40×50 cm  Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo  Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano



Emilio Isgrò, BERTRAND BARERE DE VIEUZAC 1979, Acrylic on canvas 80×80 cm Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo  Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano

“Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac, detto l’Anacreonte della ghigliottina, muove un dito nel rosso vestito di rosso, con molta nostalgia del verde. Tarbes, 1841.”   “Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac, called the Anacreon of the guillotine, moves a finger in the red wearing red, with acute nostalgia for the green. Tarbes, 1841.”


The past is a quite recent shadow, a pillow left after the night, we can still feel it touching the skin. As I go out my steps are counted, I say hello to the dogs, my face is covered. Cars are back, two fire engines scream like red elephants, birds still fly in formation. Humans avoid contacts. Smog. The careless freedom of going and doing has been erased. It was nice to be spensierati. No equivalent in English. More or less: out of the cage of thoughts, bipeds with wings. 

We live under the tyranny of not being too puzzling, both to ourselves and others … But above all it is when the pressure to understand is taken off that the most valuable words are spoken or written; the act, the struggle to make oneself intelligible must therefore be some kind of distraction; in psychoanalityc terms, some kind of defense. The words that matter most are the words we don’t understand. ADAM PHILLIPS

When you mentioned Pasolini, dear Isgrò, and it was about revolution: “Only the revolution can save the past,” and you added that today there is no past anymore because we don’t have a real revolution of habits, customs, of the living, you were right… a few years ago!  Here we are, a revolution is happening, so far rather a scarecrow with shredded clothes, but the wind blows.

Democracy, al least in the US, where I live, has become the home of institutions fermenting on their foundations, desperately trying to respond to this natural challenge of life or death. I call it ronawave like the chicano members of the LA community. It’s a word with flesh. The whole country quivers with emotion once more dipping fingers into fundamental, violated, human rights. No more quietly appeased. 

Erased, erased, erased is the silence. 

Every day brings new yellow butterflies on a small tree with yellow flowers. 

Los Angeles is home to me. So are Milano, Pisa, Napoli, Venezia, Paris, whose smell I can feel at the distance, just while thinking of them. The ronawave erased borders with no ambiguity: there are none in our souls. History, maybe, could be pushed aside. If a future remains, this present will be a revered past.


Emilio Isgrò, SPINOZA 2002, Acrylic on canvas 120×190 cm  Photo: Cristian Castelnuovo
Courtesy Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milano

A RED STORY     by Silvia Guastalla

Heart, imagination, reason. Let’s ask for their help in this time of uncertainty. They’ll listen to us.

This red story by Emilio Isgrò reminds us that life is a space in which anyone can write, with the signs of one’s imagination, and that imagination is a faculty that frees the power of existence and makes us masters of ourselves. For Spinoza, the philosopher who Isgrò makes appear and disappear in this large red color field, imagination is a virtue, not a defect in our minds, if accompanied by analysis. 

Imagination, as capacity to think about what doesn’t exist, and reason, that is awareness of reality, are the two poles between which our freedom to be human beings moves. And red is the potent color that symbolizes our ability to use our hearts.


EMILIO ISGRO – LA CANCELLATURA E ALTRI PARTICOLARI, Opere 1966-1993, Catalogue Studio Guastalla Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Editions Graphis Arte, Milano, 2012

ADAM PHILLIS, Equals. Published by Basic Books, © 2002 by Adam Phillips

*It’s a funny coincidence that precisely these doctrines are an irreverent disguise for the eighteenth century intelligence in a small book written by Montesquieu, L’Histoire véritable. The first (and unique) Italian edition was translated by me, with some words about transmigrations at the end of the book. Elvira Sellerio, A Sicilian publisher, made the book exactly as I asked, and published it in the Blue collection. I was thrilled. The Blue collection was my favorite among very many.

CHARLES-LOUIS DE MONTESQUIEU, Storia vera, Translation and note by Rosanna Albertini, ©Sellerio Editore, Palermo, 1983, 1992.

EDMOND JABES, Le Livre des Questions, © Editions Gallimard, 1963


BIRDS FOR A WHILE   by Rosanna Albertini




“Like the Druzes, like the moon, like death, like next week, the distant past forms part of those things that can be enriched by ignorance. It is infinitely supple and yielding; it offers itself to us much more than the future and poses fewer problems. One knows, moreover, that it is the chosen spot of mythology.”   Jorge Luis Borges



Lines and a six foot distance to buy bread, salad, whatever. Like flocks of birds? We move as a bunch, as if obeying, to whom is not important. Birds do better when they fly away from a power line, all together, and draw regular, movable forms in the sky. They migrate and cover continents of distance. They seem to know where they go. We didn’t move for about three months, and don’t know anymore where the future goes. Bipeds without wings.    

Do you think birds have a sense of time? ‘Just the difference between day and night,’ Peter answers. ‘Do you know what day it is?’ he asks me. ‘I am not sure, I thought it was Saturday. No, it is Wednesday.’ I am nailed to a wish of coordinates as empty as the page of a calendar. 

Printemps 2020 VUES n. 1   67 x 100 cm, © JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL

Printemps 2020 VUES n.2   67 x 100 cm © JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL

Printemps 2020 VUES n.3  67 x 100 cm ©JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL

Printemps 2020 VUES n.4 67 x 100 cm ©JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL

Printemps 2020 VUES n.5 67 x 100 cm ©JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL


Maybe I’m becoming free from counting and squeezing into an infinite grid of little windows the pleasure of looking at the sky, following the clouds, or smelling a peach. Imaginary volumes of time become hurdles, and I jump and jump to keep the schedule in order. Time? We make it, paint it, frame it, only to end up with a strange deception: I don’t have time!  And my watch has disappeared.

Like my ancestors from the Renaissance, I keep dearly in mind the illusion that, when I think, I touch something despite the distance. As my mind saves the immediate sensations of walking, or stroking my ankles disturbed by neuropathy, a careful register of my aging, she saves as well past sensations I hide somewhere, maybe behind my ears. For no reason my hands search through a pile of dusty papers I saved for decades. At the very end, underneath photocopies and magazines, a page cut from a newspaper appears, spiteful like a squirrel: the first important long article I wrote in Italy about contemporary art. I could write about the light going dim at the end of the day and the shadows stroking my yellowish piece of paper, but I don’t. Virginia did it in such a sublime way that I can just keep my words clean and poor. Without thinking, I decide to scan the article, frame it and put it on the wall. 

Tiptoing and creeping up from the marsh of the old habits sinking underwater, time comes back: it is a body of eight minutes and forty-six seconds, the time Floyd was deprived of life nine days ago. An online chain of messages offers the idea of a peaceful action, at home. “All we need to do is to go outdoors (rooftop, front yard, back yard, street, any place outdoors) and turn on a flashlight, or emergency light, and point it to the sky for exactly 8 min and 46 seconds starting at exactly 9:oo pm.” The full moon kept her face modestly behind the fog. Our lights hit the top of the palms. Floyd’s death felt as a long, very long time.

Back in the house I put the article on the wall, and saw my lost watch.



Borges, a Reader, Edited by Emir Rodriguez Monegal & Alastair Reid, New York, E. P. Dutton, 1981



The artist took a picture every day during his home isolation, and sent them by e-mail to his friends.

SPRINGTIME  by Rosanna Albertini

“This is a time when it is frightening to be alive, when it is hard to think of human beings as rational creatures. Everywhere we look we see brutality, stupidity, until it seems that there is nothing else to be seen but that—a descent into barbarism, everywhere, which we are unable to check. But I think that while it is true there is a general worsening, it is precisely because things are so frightening we become hypnotized, and do not notice—or if we notice, belittle—equally strong forces on the other side, the forces, in short, of reason, sanity and civilization. … We have the ability to observe ourselves from other viewpoints.” 

 Doris Lessing, Prisons We Choose to Live Inside, 1987

Lessing’s words drove me to the very far past of humankind, when we hardly knew the difference between humans, plants and the other animals. And opening my primitive instincts I saw each written page like a beehive, buzzing and humming movements of words, fonts, and ideas pressing the tools of language, asking to become honey.

reread Doris Lessing outside in the sun after six days of rage, fires, shouting—God undoing his week of creation. Yet the garden is still around me, screaming the beauty of spring. Not very far away, in the city, there is a wave of despair exasperated by the repeated, callous harm of a human to another human. As likely as not, frustration was already simmering before the killing that became a burning stamp into the soul of everyone. Maybe there is more, a sort of irrational response to the artificial, although useful, quiet, imposed on our daily lives in contrast to the virulence of the ronawave.

My honey, today, is the mysterious strength of friendship among humans, my uninterrupted friendship with two French artists that neither distance nor time can scratch: Yves Tremorin and Jean-Louis Garnell.  In this post and the next post the three of us will be together despite the ocean between us, inviting the readers/viewers to our table.

Homer, and Spinoza, are honey for sure. Compared with them, we work at a tiny scale, releasing blood drops. My Milanese friend Silvia’s e-mails regularly changed my spring days. She is a gallerist now, and a mother, a while ago one of my students of philosophy. Her short messages announced: BEAUTY WILL SAVE US. She sent one image of an art piece, and a few lines disclosing her take on it, a personal attachment to that work.  Because Silvia can only reduce her anxiety reading Greek poems and philosophical classics, her words are not about aesthetics, she digs them from within, asking heart, imagination and reason to give us help in this suspended time: “they will listen to us,” she says. I listen to her. 

Her six year old son is more concerned with action, not to say practical decisions. After a long day of online schooling at home, from 8.30am to 4pm, slouched in his chair, or disappearing under the table, or desperately asking for friends, he is finally in bed as his mother reads the Iliad to him. After listening,  “I’ve decided mamma,” he says, “I will offer myself in sacrifice, so the Gods will understand they have to send the virus away.” In a few minutes he will turn into Zorro, looking for a mask. 

Strange to tell, Ed Moses used to paint his abstract pieces with a similar sequence in mind: in 2001 I wrote an imaginary conversation between him and his paintings of that year. “Please forget nature. Thoughts and feelings are my true mine. When I project them onto a physical surface they become God’s fingers awakening dull pieces of matter.” Then mumbling, “God? Let’s say Zorro, he is perhaps a more popular character.” I read this to Ed sitting with him on the bench near his front door, he approved. 


Doris Lessing, Prisons We Choose to Live Inside, ©1987 Doris Lessing, New York, Harper & Row, Publishers

Arthur Schnitzler, Relations et Solitudes, Aphorismes, Translation from German by Pierre Deshusses, Paris,  Rivages poche Petite Bibliothèque, 1988

Ernst Cassirer, Individuo e cosmo nella filosofia del Rinascimento, 1927. Translation from German by Federico Federici, Firenze, La Nuova Italia editrice, 1974

Homer,The Iliad, Translated by Robert Fagles, Penguin Books, 1990

Rosanna Albertini, White OwlsArtists I found In Los Angeles 1994-2011, Los Angeles, Oreste & Co. Publishers, 2011