SEWING FRIENDSHIP AND ART

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

 

and Richard Tuttle getting rid of frames and capital letters:

“ art is not a copy of nature but an extension

how to make this extension concrete

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

by Rosanna Albertini

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

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

SYLVIA SALAZAR SIMPSON, Imitations, 1977  Courtesy of the artist

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

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

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

 

 

JUDY FISKIN : Photography is a mental thing

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

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

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

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

UNTITLED  by Rosanna Albertini

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Idealized images from my mind.” JF

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

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

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

OF MERE BEING

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

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

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

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

— Wallace Stevens —

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

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

Bibliography:

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SMART DEAR PLATITUDES

by Rosanna Albertini

About THREE FUNERALS AND SOME ACTS OF PRESERVATIONS

a film by JUDY FISKIN, 2016

It’s a film because images move, but after months of simmering this art piece in my mind, now I see it as visual music, very much as John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes: simple as dripping water, unassuming textures of reverence for a life we cover as a mysterious distance.

Three Funerals and Some Acts of Preservation 2016_fade up

 

How not to be elusive about death? How to be personal and elusive, personal and intuitive, wearing a dress of courtesy, some hints of humor. Judy’s film is a visual score. Lines of people moving horizontally and of cars rolling on the freeway. Notes are replaced by stories in a natural flow from which rough edges are smoothed out.
One funeral at the beginning, two funerals in the end, and stories of physical care in the middle: the statues’ maintenance.

That’s Fiskin’s quite unique art: to keep courtesy in the face of death. To clean the artwork of most intellectual rules, making art like a veil lifted from life, tied around her face often laughing at modernist obsessions, maybe at any kind of mental constructions. How long do they last? Is there knowing or believing?

Time is the body of films and music. Images and sounds are surfers in a pond of time, they exist as a savor, a perfume. We can only “integrate that savor into the fabric of our own identity.” George Steiner*

Once we have arrived to a certain life degree, by experiencing and understanding other humans, every relationship, even with our wisest or lovely friends, is only valuable in the atmosphere soaking them completely; and conversations, profound as they can be, have lost the power to give us intellectual happiness; they rather work in us like musical melodies.” Arthur Schnitzler**

 

Three Funerals and Some Acts of Preservation 2016_fade up-1

Three Funerals and Some Acts of Preservation 2016_fade up-5
Three Funerals and Some Acts of Preservation 2016_fade up-4

 

In the film, the sculptures by Isamu Noguchi, Henry Moore, Arturo Martini and others artists of the modern era (only with the exception of Charlie Ray), scattered in the gardens of the Getty Center, are washed and dried as if the Getty Museum conservators’ hands engaged in a caress because they must. There is no love, just periodic maintenance. The sculptures are rigid and heavy forms from day one, corpses. Don’t be mistaken. Judy Fiskin presents them as a trickster would: shiny, perfect, wonderful images that vanish through time. Death is the cord that ties them all, one more string of the music. I remember Homer: shoulders and muscles described as the pride of the living hero, seen at once like future shadows, lifeless, as if Achilles and the other warriors were already dead. This was then, in the ancient times, but now? Art history is a strange museum by itself, calling for veneration, offering exceptional and surprising specimens… do we really care?

 

Three Funerals and Some Acts of Preservation 2016_fade up-2

 

In the countryside house where I was born there was a bronze, the head of Jesus sculpted by a local artist, maybe Celeste was his name but I’m not sure. Jesus was sad. When grandfather died, I was seven, the family put a pillow embroidered by me under his head and the bronze on his grave. It is still my favorite sculpture. Facing death, Jesus was hiding his deep feelings, had a quiet expression. I can still see that face as I think, my eyes open. Grandfather used to say that life is so marvelous, something must continue after the threshold is passed. It was faith in a non religious artist.

Judy Fiskin lights a dim lamp at her window. People and words and images are a simple parade of acts and speeches we modulate without thinking in our daily journey. Common senses, platitudes. I’m not the first naming the aesthetic of courtesy, George Steiner is the master, but as far as I know very few artists of our time place this secret, inner feeling at the core of their work as Judy does. I love it because it’s not only about her, it unravels with grace the way she addresses the viewers, all of us. We are in her she can be in us. Platitude is not flatness, it is life as it is, true and fake, modest and grandiose, a little scary, mostly impossible to fish by words. Not without values.
Civility, courtesy and kindness in these days more reliable than truth.

JUDY FISKIN,Three Funerals and Some Acts of Preservation, Film, 2016 (excerpt)

*George Steiner, Real Presences, The University of Chicago Press, 1989
** Arthur Schnitzler, Relations et Solitudes, Aphorisms (Original title: Beziehungen und Einsamkeiten, 1967) Editions Rivages, translation from German by Pierre Deshusses, Paris,1988. Translation from French of this quote by R.A.

A perfect tense

Rosanna Albertini about Judy Fiskin’s 

I’LL REMEMBER MAMA      2014, Video:10′

JUDY FISKIN, I'll Remember Mama, still from video, 2014. Courtesy of the artist

JUDY FISKIN, I’ll Remember Mama, still from video, 2014. Courtesy of the artist

Present, past, future at once. It’s a memorial, and yet nobody has died. Judy calls it a “pre-memorial.” At this point it’s a mystery novel, a story immersed in taste, courtesy and good manners. They are not junk. Mother and daughter are both strong, passionate women, with the occasional tart tongue. Between them, despite the normal lack of seeing who’s who that is maybe a natural, evolutionary condition for humans of the same family, there is

the issue of civility – a charged word whose former strength has largely left us – towards the inward savor of things. What means have we to integrate that savor into the fabric of our own identity? We need … a courtesy or tact of heart, a tact of sensibility and of intellection which are conjoined at their several roots.*

Think of painted flowers woven in a tablecloth: that’s life. Willing or not, we are one of the threads of the fabric and we will bear visible and hidden features of the family texture while our body is around. Even broken, the thread tickles the brain, wraps the curtain of feelings. It never extinguishes, it’s irritating.

Time and tenses don’t really exist in real life, they are just grammar, and this video is free from measurements or directions. Seeing and not seeing, looking through the dark, the artist’s eye comes to a stop in front of specimens of a living space. Already they have lost their meaning, many frames are empty. Little by little the sense of distance deepens, and the house becomes a doll house, which it was from the beginning but we didn’t know it. Big fingers touch the miniature furniture, les meubles, rococo curly objects made to be moved, constantly, from the winter palace to the summer castle and back. Had they tongues they would speak their own mystery story, the real life of Cecile so carefully hidden by the order of things around her. But these same things, only apparently irrelevant, also protected her. Despite the historical distance, and showing the distance between the two women, the artist shares with us the touching part of the story, she reveals her “taste,” as the eighteenth century people defined it:

Taste is nothing but the art of knowing ourselves in little things and this is very true, but since it is through a texture of little things that life becomes pleasurable, these kind of concerns are very far from being uninteresting; they are the way we learn to fill life with goods that our hands can reach, for all the truth we are able to grasp in them.**

*George Steiner, Real Presences, 1991 ** Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762

 

 

 

 

 

Los Angeles, at the Hammer Museum Biennial: “Made in L.A. 2014