OUT OF THE RIGHT PLACE

WHERE THE RIGHT PLACE IS AN ILLUSION:

LOS FELIZ
an art/film by Edgar Honetschläger, 2001-2016

by Rosanna Albertini

LOS FELIZ. The scroll has become a film, a Babel of spoken and visual stories sometimes shed like tears in the form of raindrops; images struck by sounds or submerged in silence, dragging fears and fights for control along with a deep sense of how meaningless they are. And yet LOS FELIZ is an art piece gnawed at its heart by desire. An art piece longing for a space in which BEAUTY escapes the torture of being used to seduce the public, and becomes lively and lovable in a pot of grass.

Los Feliz1

The visual stream built by the artist stretches and transforms reminiscences of Edgar’s journey between three faraway pots of civilization: his personal experiences in Rome, Los Angeles and Tokyo. His own displacement in the back of his mind, he fills the screen with an undefined space of waiting, searching for and letting go, as if the few persons involved in the fictional trip were figures wrapped around an inner empty hole, measuring the distance that keeps them far from their own lives. Symbols, only looking like humans.

Los Feliz1-1

Los Feliz1-13

Los Feliz1-3

I travel, instead, through the remains, I would say the ruins of his spiritual and intellectual digging for thirteen years into the solid ground of places and people, until he resets and expands in the now their visual presence through a different story, in a rarefied as well as imaginary world. The question: “Does what we see or understand have anything to do with things as they really are?” wears certainties away. I better avoid truth as a word. I can’t avoid seeing the display of episodes in and out the blue car like parts of a long painting, mostly gray: the remains of a feast on a long table, they make me think of André Derain’s late still lives.

Los Feliz1-2

The image of the three ridiculous cardinals each standing on each other’s shoulders while turning the wheel of the entire story, shifting gears while not much happens in the characters’ inner journey, throws humor over the process. Guns and violence look as absurd as the false teeth of the prelate blocking the gears of a possible new story. Nonetheless, although feelings are vanished from the thread of the story, images and sounds hold on them, strongly.

(Looking at the next image try to imagine an orchestra of insects in summertime:)

Los Feliz1-7

 

Los Feliz1-4

Los Feliz1-10

 

 

 

 

 

Writing itself, unfortunately, has driven the aforesaid paragraphs into the film logic. I don’t regret it because in LOS FELIZ the artist has embraced the film format in the first place, 102 minutes of a hybrid creature. As God is generated by it’s own name, a bunch of letters makes an absence. My head has been cut off, Edmond Jabès lent me his words for a short while. The world is sound, sound like a head. “Drive,” he says.
Emptiness is your face
Emptiness is your trip
You must carry the film as a sin.
He is talking to Edgar, and to me if I don’t stop writing about the film.
As if it were only a film. It’s also a piece of theater, using the backdrop of ‘miles’ of Edgar Honetschläger’s black and white drawings: the spare profile of the land of freedom as lonely as the universe. It’s a river of music and singing birds and silence and water merging into each other. Almost floating in time, a sequence of accidents in and out the blue car pretending to move from one station to another – the strongest illusion in LOS FELIZ – gives rise to a development that doesn’t go anywhere, very much like in Pat O’Neill’s experimental films. Since the beginning, the idea of a story (Deus ex machina) hovers over the blue little car like a flying stork holding a baby who won’t become an adult. Why the grass? “Oh, it’s NECESSARY,” says Edgar’s shinto goddess. “The necessary angel,” Wallace Stevens would say, and he corrects my Italian vision of angels with wings sitting on clouds. Life is a disturbing storm around, but the artist “merely enjoys existence.”

“The way we live and the way we work alike casts us out of reality.”

“I am the truth, since I am part of what is real, but neither more nor less than those around me. And I am imagination, in a leaden time and in a world that does not move for the weight of its own heaviness.”

Wallace Stevens spoke these words in 1943. Honetschläger’s feeling of flatness is the equivalent, today, of Stevens’ feeling of heaviness. In his art piece in motion LOVE, FAME, FATE become mirages. The more humans rush toward them, the farther away they move. After all, they are nothing but words.

Los Feliz1-9

Los Feliz1-8

Los Feliz1-11

La vie est plus belle que les idées. Life is more beautiful than ideas. Music and sounds are stronger than words: they convey the infinite vibrations, sudden changes, weaknesses and pitches of living things; they adhere to the artist’s body like a second skin made by past and present others: beauty is sharing. As for images, beauty pervades them when they become flat bodies of a moment, sparkles of time asking our senses to embrace them and let them go, in a river of emptiness.

Los Feliz1-5

MITCHELL SYROP ― NIZA GUY

MEANDERINGS

Los Angeles – About Mitchell Syrop – NIZA GUY  (Nice Guy)

at François Ghebaly Gallery

Hidden026 C

Mitchell Syrop, HIDDEN, 2014. Fragments of scroll texts .

ROSANNA ALBERTINI, Meanderings:

Who knows if reading is seeing or knowing things hidden by the gray filament on paper twisting stopping moving on a paper face. I smell ink and graphite there is none of them really only images on a screen. I smell them anyway. Words for nothing to eat or spit I saw the paper I saw the small steel bodies on the floor. Not the same smell.

It was a smell of rain but it was raining steel. Small heavy bodies like black fonts of a printer white beard crusted with tomato paste looking out of the window. The ink was missing. Steel having swallowed the fonts is a black pupil absorbing a story from the artist’s mind. Broken stories like Etruscan ruins no words to recompose logic or syntax no images to recognize, something’s there obscured by thickness showing metallic names we cannot see.

Cave man this artist Syrop chopping our present in blocks. Now and then are nothing distant nor ours either. Writing, seeing, still go somewhere, maybe, if we cease believing things we can’t see well enough and yet are there on the branches, like Alice’s cat and his smile. Maybe feeling what we don’t see? No pyramids these days, tiny houses on wheels.

Mitchell Syrop, STEEL, 1974-2015

MITCHELL SYROP, A Form od Bread 2015. Steel, 7" x 7" x 1" Courtesy of the artist and François Gebaly Gallery

MITCHELL SYROP, A Form of Bread  2015  steel, 7″ x 7″ x 1″
Courtesy of the artist and François Ghebaly Gallery

MITCHELL SYROP, Stay Away (from old testaments names) 2015. Steel, 9" x 12" x 1" Courtesy of the artist and François Gebaly Gallery

MITCHELL SYROP, Stay Away (from old testaments names) 2015  steel, 9″ x 12″ x 1″
Courtesy of the artist and François Ghebaly Gallery

MITCHELL SYROP, Another Reason 2015, Steel, 10" x 10" x 1.5" Courtesy of the artist and François Gebaly Gallery

MITCHELL SYROP, Another Reason 2015  steel, 10″ x 10″ x 1.5″
Courtesy of the artist and François Ghebaly Gallery

MITCHELL SYROP, His Last Name Is Her First Name 2015. Steel, 16" x 8.5" x 4.5" Courtesy of the artist and François Gebaly Gallery

MITCHELL SYROP, His Last Name Is Her First Name  2015  steel, 16″ x 8.5″ x 4.5″
Courtesy of the artist and François Ghebaly Gallery

MITCHELL SYROP, Than That Now 2015 steel, 12" x 5" x 5.5" Courtesy of the artist and François Gebaly Gallery

MITCHELL SYROP, Than That Now 2015  steel, 12″ x 5″ x 5.5″
Courtesy of the artist and François Ghebaly Gallery

MITCHELL SYROP, What am I Missing 2015 steel, 9.5" x 9.5" x 4" Courtesy of the artist and François Gebaly Gallery

MITCHELL SYROP, What am I Missing 2015 steel, 9.5″ x 9.5″ x 4″
Courtesy of the artist and François Ghebaly Gallery

 

 

LIFE AS IT IS

according to GREG EDWARDS, painter

IN A SKETCHBOOK, A STROKE OF BEAUTY IN THE IRON AGE

By Rosanna Albertini

Artist Greg Edwards has driven and drives most of his urban life in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He paints and draws, draws and drives. He paints abstract actions on large canvases in his studio. His body, big and tall, towers over my caucasian, limited size. He needs a big car. Like most artists, he must work in order to survive. Greg is a limousine driver. The first year I moved to Los Angeles, about twenty five years ago, he showed me his paintings in an exhibition hosted by a shopping center in Crenshaw. He was proud to bring me among his people, the African American community in Los Angeles. I ate my first gumbo. I felt ‘white.’ To me, white and European, it was only a deeper immersion in a foreign world, no more surprising than other Korean, Japanese, or Mexican communities in Los Angeles. So many street names sounding perfectly Italian, with effort I had to tell myself they were Spanish, made me feel at home.

GREGORY WILEY EDWARDS, Sketchbook Drawing, bac814, ink on paper, 12" high x 9" wide Courtesy of the artist


GREGORY WILEY EDWARDS, Sketchbook Drawing:On The Razor In Paris” ink on paper, 12″h x 9″ w
Courtesy of the artist

I think I decided that day I would never considered Greg Edwards a ‘black’ artist, just a very interesting artist. Time showed me I was wrong. It took years to learn an American history that for most Italians was a fantasy around Uncle Tom and cotton fields. Gone with the wind and no more. Our imagination was stuck in the Eurocentric confidence that we knew almost everything, which is worse than having our thoughts blocked by their own limits. Imagination is the key to what we do not know.

Greg’s art has become to me as important as his friendship. Many obstacles we had to overcome to built a reciprocal trust through personal wounds and stories of pain and separation, and stories of daily violence in the U.S. despite new written rules and equalized civil rights. It’s the IRON AGE: humans must work for survival, they can’t contain their passions, nor regulate the amount of pain they suffer or inflict. They kill, place explosive belts around their waist, lie and betray their families. Hesiod had seen it coming six century before Christ appeared. Terrorism and wars wear iron shoes. I can’t write a new post pretending the massacre in Paris did not happen. Not to mention others in Africa, Turkey, Lebanon, India, Iraq, Palestinian territories and in the U.S., only some among many.

GREGORY WILEY EDWARDS, Sketchbook Drawing, 818, ink on paper, 12" high x 9" wide Courtesy of the artist


GREGORY WILEY EDWARDS, Sketchbook Drawing: “The Purchase Of Sky And Forest” ink on paper, 12″ h x 9″ w
Courtesy of the artis

GREGORY WILEY EDWARDS, Sketchbook Drawing bac821, ink on paper, 12"high x 9" wide Courtesy of the artist

GREGORY WILEY EDWARDS, Sketchbook Drawing: “Visionary Roadmaster At Home” ink on paper, 12″h  x  9″ w
Courtesy of the artist

The paintings made by my grandfather Oreste, and the war stories recently written for this blog by his son Alberto, happened in a worse time of bombs, starvation, and dedicated fascists, practicing torture on their human companions if they believed they had different ideas about civility. Yet grandfather kept painting, and his mountains, his lakes were free from the surrounding violence. They emanate hope.

GREGORY WILEY EDWARDS, Shetchbook drawing, bac824, ink on paper, 12"high x 9" wide Courtesy of the artist

GREGORY WILEY EDWARDS, Shetchbook Drawing: “The Spirit Of Monk’s Girlfriend” ink on paper, 12″h  x  9″w
Courtesy of the artist

I feel the same in front of Greg Edwards’ drawings: beauty is held by his big hands in a warm human cave among the lines that life has written on his palms. He drives, he has to wait for indefinite time. There, in a buffer space before the necessary adaptation to somebody else’s needs, he opens his notebook and lets his fingers to put images down, shadows of things seen hovering on his mind, already light. He draws them as presents of the moment, as they take place in the thickness of time: textures of feelings as if art allowed him to collect them from the daily confusion and lie them on a paper floor, half dream, half geometry, decoration as well as vanishing wishes more than real in his mind.

Beautiful things

like a mouse, like

a red slipper, like

a star, a geranium,

a cat’s tongue or ―

thought, thought

that is a leaf, a

pebble, an old man

out of a story by

Pushkin       .

Ah!

rotten beams tumbling,

.       an old bottle

mauled

from: WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS – Paterson, 1946

ORESTE ALBERTINI

ORESTE ALBERTINI, Primavera (Springtime) 1946 

EILEEN COWIN: MAD LOVE n.2

OUT OF PLACE

Los Angeles, mad love for life   – by Rosanna Albertini

EILEEN COWIN, Untitled from Courtesy of the artist

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

If I had a place I think I’ve lost it one day. It was the first day I could call of summer in Los Angeles. Windy, with the smell of the ocean mixed with stinky rotten jacaranda flowers. If I were Paco Ignatio Taibo II I would invent at least a picturesque name, but there is no need. Life on the bus is made with give a place to, take the place of, go places, keep somebody in his place until the common destiny of being humans goes all over the place and I pretend I was somebody else. Or I was for real, can’t be precise about it. Tags in my brain got confused: it started at the museum. Mark Bradford paintings were an intimate place where his own skin, his organs mutate into moments of natural expansion of spots and branches, and unnamed maps. A loud docent looking fifteen, his assurance tells he is older, pontificates in front of twenty African-American teens showing them one painting, the first in the exhibition. “Can we see the rest of the show?” asks a boy. Desire in his voice. “No, there is no time, go to the other galleries.” Click, push, go, follow directions, you are only an occasional machine. Can’t choose on your own. Art, art, what am I thinking? Walking through a not far away time of my life I follow the directions in the same museum that spells: Telephone, Restrooms. If that’s the spirit I better obey. No problem with the restrooms, but the public phone was real only in my memory; an empty niche in a wall whispered, “I miss it.” A janitor passing by must have found me pathetic. I was staring at the hole. The young docent’s voice, implacable, bumped my eardrums along the staircase to the very exit. He had become an expert on AIDS percentages in the U.S.. Jeez, why does art scare him so much? He’s made of himself a perfect machine, maybe the system might fix his engines if he goes wrong, as they do with aircraft. My place is out of there although it is not clear how it happens that drivers waiting for the green light keep their metal wrapping still instead of killing us all in our little shoes on our feet. A cloud of fear materializes around me. I can be surprised, still love the wind caressing my neck. I jump on the n.1, drop my body on the closest seat half covered by the smooth, half naked black thigh of a handsome big guy with black glasses John Belushi style. “Aren’t you scared sitting next to somebody like me?” He was the least of my concerns that day, and yet instead I didn’t want to offend him. He was a soft, large presence. By eye, I would say half my age. “Why, because you are a big guy?” Idiot, I told myself, this is after the killing for racial hatred of nine people in Charleston, history is being rewritten taking the confederate flag out of the roof, he is black, I’m white. Or, my Southern Italian blood, who knows, could have drops of black blood. As he could have drops of white blood in his veins. “I’m not dressed properly” he said. Things are confusing. He is clean and smells good, no perfume. “Where do you live?” I asked needing to place him somewhere out of Santa Monica Boulevard. “In the Palisades.” Pause. “Why do you ask?” he replied. His voice, low and pleasant, awakes the spark of a question about my … intentions? “I don’t know,” I answered with a tiny, undetectable shudder of my shoulders. I was amused. “Maybe you could be scared of me.” I said it and felt the terrifying old woman that I am, the three horizontal wrinkles on my forehead almost pricking my face.

EILEEN COWIN, Untitled from Mad Love, 2014,  Courtesy of the artist

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

PS    Mad Love is an ongoing project by Eileen Cowin. These are two of the many images from the project.

AN AMERICAN IN INDIA

Jason Underhill – FROM LOS ANGELES TO LONAVALA

By Rosanna Albertini

American, but a son of Los Angeles which is America and the edge of it, lapped by the Pacific. Our young artist had to go to London and stay there for two years to realize that post-colonialist echoes in Europe have a resonance and a flavor that is missing in his frontier city. But he needed one more step out to personally experience a colonized country. In November 2103 he went to India for a month keeping his behavior perfectly coherent with a “gross” —as he says— American side to whom he is attached more than he thought.

JASON UNDERHILL, Paradise Lodge Catalogue Text, 2013 Silkscreen print on paper 6 x 8 inches Courtesy of the artist

JASON UNDERHILL, Paradise Lodge Catalogue Text, 2013  Silkscreen print on paper, 6″ x 8″
Courtesy of the artist

Only after coming back he started to think about his residency at the Paradise Lodge in Lonavala, among eight artists, as a long game that changed his life. Jason is nor afraid of clichés, for self irony saves him from shots Munchausen style. People from the Valley (continental part of Los Angeles) do act sometimes like barking dogs and laugh about it. It’s a natural thing like yawning when the day is too long, but “it being a natural thing makes it a curious thing a very curious thing to almost anybody’s feeling.” (Gertrude Stein – Narration) No doubt Jason is Jason because his dog recognizes him. Simplicity shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, “it just does take about a hundred years for things to cease to have the same meaning that they had before.” Stein again. And besides, it’s extremely hard to understand the habits of societies in constant transformation all over the world.

Underhill landed into a hilly place non far from Mumbai. Monks excavated the mountains with caves. People of these days filled the walls with simple graffiti. Four castles towered on four of the hilltops. In the small town the foreigners became bizarre celebrities: children wanted to be filmed with them.

Jason Underhill, INT. CHICKEN STALL – NIGHT, 2003

Running: Camera by Chinmoyi Patel, Merike Estna. Driver: Justin Gainan

Train: Camera by Justin Gainan

Kumar Resort: Camera by Chinmoyi Patel

Slam Book : Camera by Justin Gainan

Underhill filmed his own daily life in Lonavala. He looks like an American character incrusted into a place where jogging on the road, or sleeping as a standing horse on the train, do not make any sense. The image of India that he grabs, on the other side, gallops across imitations of western water parks and urban settlements by the same, undeterred pertinacity that fills the image of the young American guest. The two images might merge their foolishness, yet they don’t. None of them is idealized.

Underhill brought to India his human nature and gently revealed his displacement. India crossed over him cutting his breath with pollution and filling his sleeping hours with local music and sounds; he did the equivalent looking deaf. Reality was much more effective than Jason Underhill shows in the films and left marks on his mind. But, as everyone knows, the mind only relates to human nature, they are not the same: the India visitor needs to make sure he is still himself, despite the pleasure of being immersed in a much more communal life than the one he has known in Los Angeles. I’m sure for instance he wants to keep his dog for himself. Mind or nature? Never mind. Of course, there is more.

turtle

WHAT’S A REAL STORY WHEN PAINTED N.3

 137ac  JANET LAING

JANET LAING, Untitled, 2015, Oil on canvas 18

JANET LAING, Untitled, 2015, Oil on canvas 18″ x 18″ (round)   Photo: Bianca Sforni
Courtesy of 137ac

Artist Statement

A PERSON VIBRATES, MOVES, CHANGES  By Janet Laing

 “I have been painting for 13 years—ever since I first got sober at 49, and began art therapy groups. Painting is healing and therapeutic for me, it frees my mind of clutter so I can concentrate on what is in front of me. 

I love art because it is such a great tool for self-expression. Both singing and painting are my fortes because through these vehicles I find my inner voice. 

There is something magical about capturing a sound, a color, and the vibrancy of telling a story. It also makes me only too aware of how I must evolve, stretching beyond my comfort zone, taking some risks so that my personal truth can come to light. 

Lately I have been painting in oil on canvas and giving myself themes: People and Pets; Kissing Couples; and Waterfalls.”

TIME HAS A WAY OF BEING FEMALE     I was born in Los Angeles in 1952 and raised in a working class family attending schools in Covina and West Covina.  I knew I wanted to be a professional singer by the age of eight, but was never encouraged in this or any other art form.  In my twenties I did a lot of different jobs, but mostly worked as a legal secretary because my typing was fast.  When I found out my mother died at 38 from Huntington’s Disease, and  I had a 50/50 chance of inheriting the gene, I decided I better work at what I love, singing.

That is when I moved to New York City and sang with the Funktionaries. Later I formed my own female band, Wanda and The Way It Is.  I sang, wrote songs and breezed past my late thirties and forties without getting HD but my two brothers were not so lucky. They both passed away. Me, I was living the fast, wild and wooly lifestyle of an entertainer. It didn’t take long before I was a full-fledged alcoholic.

Recovery brought me to my knees and then my senses were awakened in art, music and writing. I became prolific in all three and recaptured my long lost soul.  My spirit had been pushed down all my life because it was impractical to be an artist. Now I am thriving in all art’s glory. Thanks to Annatina Miescher, founder of 137ac, I have a studio with supplies to paint in and get to work with like-minded people who love to paint. Our collective is innovative and challenging and we are blessed to have each other to inspire. My band, Wanda and The Way It Is, has come full circle as well.

CCI00004_3fixed

“When we look at the blue sky for the first time, that is to say not merely see it, but look at it and experience it and for the first time have a sense that we live in the center of a physical poetry, a geography that would be intolerable except for the non-geography that exists there — few people realize that they are looking at the world of their own thoughts and the world of their own feelings.

On that occasion, the blue sky is a particular of life that we have thought of often, even though unconsciously, and that we have felt intensely in those crystallizations of freshness that we no more remember than we remember this or that gust of wind in spring or autumn.” (Wallace Stevens)

 

JANET LAING, Swimmers, 2014, oil on canvas  24

JANET LAING, Swimmers, 2014, oil on canvas 24″ x 18″       Photo: Bianca Sforni
Courtesy of 137ac

THE BLUE SKY SHUTTERED IN PIECES FELL INTO JANE LAING’S PAINTINGS

By ROSANNA ALBERTINI

What’s in front of her, in front of us all, is the most malleable scene. Only the mood, and the way we step into the new day will tell if the beach, or the towers downtown are easy or impossible to reach. Los Angeles is in my mind, the place where Jane Laing came from and where I live; a non geographical spreading of trees houses water and sky so expanded and intertwined with different languages and communities that nobody thinks of human nature as something interesting. Human nature is just a drop in the water.

So I’m not sure what disconnected Janet from her nature nailing her fast fingers to a typewriter except the idea maybe that humans are good when they make money and compete with machines. A very diffused feeling around parents of young people of her generation, also in Europe, a sort of after war syndrome. “Tears are not the chorus. Food is not the chorus. Money is not the chorus. What is the chorus. … Anyway there is the question of identity.” (Gertrude Stein) And that also has to do with the cat.

Jane built her living space despite the broken glass around her, perhaps a broken sky. Her cat recognizes her. In the end she became an artist.

Her painted stories are songs of separation: she paints a life pushed down to earth, rocks or asphalt. There is no open sky, no sky at all. Buildings and roads as brown as dirt. They are scenes of movement. Flatness liberates them from realism. Painted life is not reproduced life. It’s her dream of a living place charged with physical energy: human bodies float rather than swim in the ocean because the water does the work after swallowing green and blue and azure and pale blue and she can tell the humans “you know? I don’t care. I’m the strong one.”

JANET LAING, Waterfall, 2014 (?)  oil on canvas Courtesy of 137ac

JANET LAING, Waterfall, 2014,  oil on canvas
Courtesy of 137ac

The painter as well found her voice as if crystals of freshness exploded in her mind, as if she had seen the sky melting in waterfalls so the rocks can wear a liquid dress that constantly changes, at the same time sounding like an orchestra for the invisible birds hidden in the green. Of course, somewhere, there is always a cat.

JANET LAING, Caramela and the Birds, 2014, Oil on canvas  18

JANET LAING, Caramela and the Birds, 2014, Oil on canvas 18″ x 20″
Courtesy of 137ac

Her painted cats are bodies of tense muscles, concentrated: “Shall I jump from the window? mmm… Maybe the birds are too distant.” But a crazy desire spreads from the eye in yellow, follows the birds, becomes a yellow stream from a window… and the azure surrounding the cat like a river, whatever, why should words count?

JANE LAING, Portrait of Jonathan, 2013, Oil on canvas, 18

JANE LAING, Portrait of Jonathan, 2013, Oil on canvas, 18″ x 24″
Courtesy of 137ac

That’s why I love Jane Laing’s portraits. They are silent. Although they happen to be in a particular place, the person’s outline is surrounded by a white halo, maybe a reflection of her/his/whose mind which travels elsewhere, and doesn’t stay inside.

JANET LAING, bicker chicks, 2013, Oil on canvas, 23.5

JANET LAING, bicker chicks, 2013, Oil on canvas, 23.5″ x 31″
Courtesy of 137ac

Let’s go, let’s go girls, springtime is calling. Musicians are ready. “Azure, the afternoon is too azure and too long for me. I might take the train and come to see you. But, the train of my desires and the one of my thoughts go in opposite directions.” What about a lemon ice-cream? “Azzurro, il pomeriggio è troppo azzurro e lungo per me. Quasi quasi prendo il treno e vengo da te. Ma il treno dei desideri e dei pensieri all’incontrario van.” From Azzurro, a song by Paolo Conte.

HUMAN COLORS

Painter MATSUMI KANEMITSU, nickname MIKE

by Rosanna Albertini

Early 1950s in New York. It seems that Jackson Pollock started to call him Mike. Kanemitsu was one of the artists going to the Greenwich Village Cedar Bar as Pollock did, and Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, de Kooning, Phillip Guston, Joan Mitchell, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouak, Frank O’Hara, Lee Krasner. Women, I read, were treated like cows. “In 1956 his work was included in a Whitney Annual, and in 1962 Kanemitsu was one of the 14 Americans at the Museum of Modern Art. And yet, his name remains largely absent from most histories of the New York art world in the fifties.” (John Yau)

Please read the beautiful story written by John Yau for The Brooklyn Rail, May 16th, 2008: “Kanemitsu in California during the 1960s and 1970s.”

Why his name disappeared from the New York scene remains a page of unanswered questions. Maybe Mike was tired of New York. Or he was more Japanese than American: although born in Utah in 1922, he grew up near Hiroshima from the age of three. After coming back to the U.S. in 1940 he was drafted in the army (442nd infantry) and had his first one man show on the army. Had he stayed in Japan he would have been drafted in the Japanese army. The place, in time of war, becomes a demanding home. For a double citizen, the war is a splitting knife. Los Angeles had a bigger sky, just in front of Japan. Maybe a less vertical city than New York, a better place for scattered lives keeping two souls, or more, in one body. Mike stepped out of human time in 1992, we can’t ask him.

MATSUMI KANEMITSU, The Hunter, 1960, Oil on canvas Courtesy of Nancy Uyemura

MATSUMI KANEMITSU, The Hunter, 1960  Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Nancy Uyemura

But his work is here, I’ll ask his paintings. They resurfaced from his studio only at the end of last year, 2014, for a double exhibition at The Mistake Room, Los Angeles: Ed Clark—Matsumi Kanemitsu. Exposed to the public for the very first time. Once more, I resist calling them ab-s-tractions as if they were portraits of real fragments, cut out from the space around us, or pulled off the ground like a tree. That’s a pre-neurosciences standpoint. Colors are not qualities of things separate from us.

Artists participate in the sacred dance of nature like everybody else. But their work goes further, disclosing the personal forms of pain, joy, surprise and their difficult conversation. Which could be what happens in The Hunter, Kanemitsu made it in New York in 1960. There were sky and sun and depth somewhere, until a black looking like bitumen floated over a sort of screen bringing flatness, hiding them. Not completely though; figures of light, Proserpina’s hands, push from underneath the edges of blackness. The dark blocks could be bodies (not necessarily human) making love, or uncertain petals of an unknown flower. Time to leave.

MATSUMI KANEMITSU, Hawaii #3, 1973  acrylic on canvas Courtesy of Nancy Uyemura

MATSUMI KANEMITSU, Hawaii #3, 1973  Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy of Nancy Uyemura

Colors are like pain, no one feels pain −and sees colors− in the same way. So it’s a real mystery the way artists go beyond intellectual barriers, the countless ways they manifest the world absorbed and reshaped in playful, unpredictable forms. Hawaii #3,1973, is a fluid dream of bodies with no edges, liquid and impermanent, made with air and water and long necks veined with red, to remind us of blood and all those channels, even in fantasy creatures. In Winterstorm, 1978, we can feel the tension of a mental storm. Yet, I could be completely wrong. It’s hard to be a viewer. Like Ed Clark’s paintings, Mike’s canvasses expel the stiffness of meanings and categories. They are gentle, and free. They are beautiful.

They make me dream of an age (imagined, of course) in which “words and things were not yet separate — different beings adapted to one another, trees connecting to the animals, the earth with the ocean, and humans with everything around them.” (Michel Foucault) In the natural magic, all the figures in the world would relate to each other by similarity: the sky has eyes and the earth has mouths. No need of words.

MATSUMI KANEMITSU, Winterstorm, 1978  acrylic on canvas Courtesy of Nancy Uyemura

MATSUMI KANEMITSU, Winterstorm, 1978  Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy of Nancy Uyemura