Thursday, December 31, 2009


This is the first of a series of models and small pieces which I have done over the last
month and which I will be posting on a daily basis throughout January 2010.
Some are sketches for public arts projects, such as this "Fire Rider" which I
would like to actuate on a scale in which it might be walked through. Others
are one-offs; I did a number of them. It felt, towards winter solstice,
as if I was into the manufactory of sylphs and salamanders out of Faust Prt 2
or the Rape of the Lock, so many odd shapes hung in my kitchen . This is where
I tend to work on cold days when my main studio room gets drafty. One night
I worked late, later than I normally permit myself, and as the kettle boiled
and my old dog was underfoot and the radio was playing the Snowflake
chorus from the Nutcracker, I felt assisted by the djinn.


There, faraway, on a starless night
I saw a pinpoint diamond light
and lacking otherwise a place to go
travelled towards it (unless it drew
me thither)as I came closer to
this point in empty space I saw
it was no diamond,or a star
but single tear suspended there

And as I watched, it seemed to grow
much larger and I felt it draw
me within; I was inside a clear
coursing crystalline solution where
the flux of solids was laid bare

Yet racing in these floods or seas
I could discern the shapes of trees
and a much trafflicked avenue,
ships, books, and battles--also you
who first appeared ,and then withdrew

I saw all this and yet outside
another I remained and watched
in joy and sorrow, mystified
that a tear contained so much.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


You play against yourself. The skill lies in not knowing what your opponent is thinking.


By Insomnia, Gray, and Ashen
The Old Man Anchovies
Cosi fan Sposi
The Spoils of Portnoy
For Whom The Knell Tells
Four Croquettes
Flann's Last Krapp
War and Punishment
All the King's Mice
Amahl and the Mice Visitors
The Age of Mirth
The Joy of French Sex
The Manuscript Found in A Cask of Amontillado
Azure Like It
The Hedda Edda
Desire under The Streetcar
Some Call Lust Circumstance
Slouching Towards Louche Stances
The Horseman on the Hot Tin Roof
The Matchgirl of Notre Dame
The Trilogy Quartet(I'm missing a volume)
From Here to Kon Tiki
The Ballad of the Harelip Cafe
Death Comes for the Handpuppet
The Tussymussy of Hissyfit
The Carpaccio of Caravaggio
The Asparagus Patient
The Lotos Eaters' Sutra
The Denunciad
The Red Badge Comes To Yellow Sky
Tender is the Part
Ebenezer Marionette
The Cacaphonous Sarcophagous


As a child, Glenn Gould was nauseated by the saturated colors of Disney's Fantasia.He longed for a black and white movie of sailors crossing northern seas or a darkroom to escape the teaming sea of idioretinal colors which Fantasia induced.
`To dream without sleep soon becomes a headache.
A character in Randall Jarrell's PICTURES FROM AN INSTITUTE is colorblind, butnever-the-less finds(as he tells the narrator) rainy days more colorful than sunny ones.He is different from a real life case, found in Dr. Sacks, of a painter who lost all color sense in an accident. The world looks dead to him, skin tones seem cadaverous,and only in his sense of smell can he find some residual glory.
A character in Calvino--being Calvino, a being rather than a human being---plays a continuous hide and seek with his beloved in an achromatic world of light and shadows, but then the world exfoliates into the spectrum (he makes it sound like 'Toon Town), and he loses her in technicolor, foreverafter an elusive prescence never to be found.
The colorized black and white feature movie looks more drained of color, more oddlyand arbitrarily faded, than the black and white original, dyed in the imagination's richest hues.
And there is a category of painter who paints or draws in gray scales only but who is actually "colorful",while others are not, just as there are blacks which are "really" crimson and others which are "really" blues.
Is it the act of translation between black and white and color that stimulates this?Barnett Newman used to say that whenever a painter was starting a new chapter or phase of his work he fell back on black, in which everything else was implicit.
If black were to become a musical instrument, it would be a grand piano.

Monday, December 7, 2009


That distinguished list of literary figures who also have suffered from them--Hildegard von Bingen, and Auden,Joan Didion,and Oliver Sacks--is no more comfort while one is suffering from them than is the also very distinguished list of those who underwent black depressions. One can compare symptoms:mine happen approximately every ten days, which is to be preferred to Joan Didion's every three or four days. Yes, there is the pre-migraine aura, which begins with lightheadedness and a certain sense of visual inflation,as if the Potempkin village or Hollywood stage- set aspect of reality is distorting, swelling in the middle and curling at the edges. For me, it is as if the visual world has grown too heavy for my eyeballs to continue to process.

The aura is a sure signal for the second phase, what I call"full-body neuralgia" except it is less a matter of nerves than the sense that my skeletal structure is at odds with the muscular structure at the borderlines of the integuments:I feel stretched and compacted. There is an argument between the mind and the body which is called the neck.I can't get the headquarters to balance properly on their pylons, stretched and compacted as I am.This is the time for retreat into a darkened room.

I tend to visualize a great deal--I have learned how to imagine a painting while driving, for example--but the migraine hallucination is different; all the spatial and coloristic aspects of normal looking, and painterly devices of visualization, and that zone between conciousness, sleep, and dream beneath the eyelids,is thoroughly out of control. If the migraine is mild I am in the sea of colors, which is much like the more abstract episodes of Disney's Fantasia, or Kandinsky in a goofy, theosophical mood. If the migraine is severe the sea becomes stormy, lightning-streaked, spaces opening upon spaces full of baroque chiaroscuro, crucifixions or shipwrecks or mass migrations;and if this is the case, I feel deeply but helplessly connected to the grief of the world.

Since I am,like every member of my devout and nutty family, prone to putting a religious spin on everything--the temperature!the teapot!--I am also skeptical of the efficacy of my saintly headaches. The literature is rife with such interpretations,though, of Heine as well as Hildegarde of Bingen finding a sense of religious communion via their physical pain. Dostoyevsky speaks of a conciliatory quality of peace preceding an epileptic seizure. We try to make use of what happens to us, and find a purpose to it. During a migraine I howl a great deal to God, but I doubt if a theology could be constructed of it,or if much might be derived from it if it could.

I watch my imagery intently, if involuntarily.A dream coalesces on the retina in one way, the waking imagination pictures something in another.During a migraine,it seems to be that the equipose which imagery rests upon has been upset.It is humbling to discover that one holds in common that which one held of oneself most private and distinct, but I recognize migrainous imagery in an number of contemporary painters, which I thought peculiarly my own.

Some of these are basic to the structure of our retinal cones. When I was little I used to rub my eyes to see the pictures contained in them. They looked like architectural floorplans which were also hexagonal snowflakes in crimson and gold. (This is probably why I needed glasses early on.)These are like migrainous imagery at one phase, before it mounts into a blizzard with geometry at its interstices.

Hildegard saw these as angelic choirs. Sacks points out a typical "fortress"structure in one of his essays on the subject--one of the staples, apparently,is a tower with crenellations--but to me St. Hildegard's images look much like W.S. Bentley's snowflake pictures, particularly the later plates, which depict "deformed" or partially melted snow-flakes.

This might be enjoyable were the cranial fissures not lite by strobes.Indeed,I feel my skull in exact detail far, far to much, the shape of the skull where the noses attaches its vividly outlined in fluorescents, the sinus passages with an exact pressure- serrated edge. All those small veins beneath the skin get topographically specific; dental work from years ago is concretely recalled. I almost said I wouldn't wish them on Hitler, but he had them, and envisioned the Third Reich.

Dietary protocols, whereby a great deal of pleasure is officially sacrificed,governed me for a while as I attempted to elude the migraine. Dark chocolate,meats using sulfates--such as pepperoni and salami--black olives, capers, coffee--also confusingly prescribed for migraines as well as being on the list of migraine-incubators--wine, cheese. A friend has become macrobiotic. I did that for a while. I seem to remember having fewer migraines but being too listless to care.

Most accounts of the migraines conclude with a resolute tone, which is how one feels when they are over. I feel grateful due to the fact that it is done. The world dread has been surmounted, until it accumulates again. The sense of being cleansed is religious to the religious and functional to the agnostic. My metaphysic tends to run like a fever, from high to low;the question is how to be steadfast.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Zohar 1 15a;
In the beginning--When the will of the King
began to take effect, he engraved signs into the heavenly sphere.
Within the most hidden recess a dark flame issued from the
mystery of AIN SOF...neither white or black, neither red
or green, of no color whatever. Only after this flame began
to assume size and dimension, did it produce radiant color.
From the innermost center of the flames sprang forth a
well out of which colors issued and spread upon everything
beneath...It could not be recognized at all until a
hidden supernal point shone forth...the primal center
is the inmost light, of translucence, subtlety, and
purity beyond comprehension...Beyond this point
nothing can be known. Therefore it is called
Raishett, beginning...
(trans. Scholem)

Friday, November 20, 2009


"If a blind man were to ask me "Have you got two hands?"
I should not make sure by looking. If I were to have
any doubt of it, then I don't know why I would trust my
eyes. For why shouldn't I trust my eyes by looking to
find out whether I see my two hands? What is to be tested
by what? (Who decides what stands fast?)
"And what does it mean to say that such and such stands
fast?" ( Wittgenstein:On Certainty)


Advertisement boredom

Ad Hominem Boredom:You are who I categorize you as being,and fall into that category by the name I apply to you, individually or by demographic group,because its good for my numbers

Anthemic boredom:getting misty-eyed whilst pledging allegiance to the crowd one is standing amongst; "uplift"; "Amazing Grace" sung in sports arenas; the general view of human relationships as portrayed on television; the transcendence of barbarity or death via sentimental denial.

Antinomian boredom, or the marital indiscretions of the Elect

Anime boredom:the appalling unsurprise of discovering oneself to be a robot

Apocalypse boredom:there are those for whom a certain sense of anticlimax attends the subject

Avant-garde boredom:being shocking with the same shocking things as last year; being shocked by these things.

Boredom of the Blurb:reading them, one thinks:were this so, the dead would be raised

Boredom of Hyperbole: Whosoever opens a dry-cleaning business is a "visionary". Every business plan is a Vision. The search for capital is a Vision Quest.

Boredom of the Machine: In Science Fiction the Robots invade. In reality, we are subjected to the POS system, the computer screen, the television, and the automobile. As the late Guy Davenport put it, we have automobiles for bodies and televisions for minds. The boredom of the machine conceals the unequal struggle not to be dominated by our machinery. The degree to which this struggle is unequal can be calibrated by the number of people who worship their automobile and believe that the characters of a sitcom are their boon companions.

Buddy Movie Boredom

Capitalist boredom:who do you exclude from your gated community? and which of your possessions loves you best?

Communist boredom:the same as Evangelical boredom, with a tractor instead of an automobile as the Golden Calf

Corporate Boredom:What is good for us is good for you and here is the Anthem to prove it.

Country Music Boredom

Determinant Discourse Boredom:a disability of ad hominem boredom, corporate boredom, capitalist boredom, and communist boredom

Futurological boredom:an accurate weather forecast would encourage guarded trust

Interior Decorator Boredom:intense concentration on the subject of finials

Jane Austen or Booker Prize Boredom:you're a member of our civilized club armpatch

Prayer Breakfast Boredom

Pundit Boredom

Pornography boredom:the visual dominance of a tactile medium

Public Speech boredom:each additional moment proportionately lessens its value

Metalinguistic boredom:or the inability not to speak jargon following ndoctrination

Metanovelistic boredom: time invested to the point of indoctrination due to length of text

Minimalist boredom:folding that futon just so

memoir boredom

Nobel Laureate Boredom:what I come to say when I think, "the World will listen now."

Networking Boredom and its cyber-adjunct, Social-media networking boredom

Orgy Boredom:somehow it's always the dwarf who is the master of ceremonies

Rebellious denim boredom

Science Fiction Apparatus Boredom

Serial killer boredom

Small vegetable and free-range chicken boredom

Spectacle Boredom: car chase scenes; helicopter explosions;championship wrestling, military parades and religious processions

Spy Boredom:unhappy spies, conflicted spies, spies with amnesia but gymnastic skills

Solipsistic boredom:the belief that perception is factual because it's my/ your own

Superhero boredom:always some erotic glitch

Triumphalist Boredom:Albert Speer designs the set for the Star Wars Ballet to the Alpine Symphony at Disneyland Nurenburg

Titanic Theme Liebestod Boredom:the beauty of those vows of love beyond the grave is in how little wear they entail

Traffic Boredom

Waiting Room Boredom

Water Filter Sales Pitch Boredom;or Vacuum-cleaner feature indoctrination boredom

Wholesome boredom:or conception without lose of virginity as a means of reproduction for the general public

Unsolicited boredom :the only kind


in the National
Gallery in London;
I have a copy on my desk.


Talking years ago with the late Jessica Mitford on her bungalow porch in Oakland, I discovered that she,too, thought the motel journey in Nabokov's Lolita took half the book. It takes seven pages. This is due to Nabokov's magicianly art, which gives narrative heft in the form of memorable details keenly observed and put. W.G.Sebald's spiralling tangents have a similiar effect. And here is Tanizaki's IN PRAISE OF SHADOWS, merely twenty five pages long. I had thought it the length of a short novel. This is thanks to its implications.
It is a study in contrast between the old ways of Japan and their rapid transformation--or destruction--because of westernization. Shiny surfaces,electrical lights and their garish relationship to the traditional Shoji screen,the glaring white porcelain western toilet, the electrical fan, all are subjects of Tanizaki's eloquent grumbling.He misses the patinas of darkness, the way shadows overlap and deepen in niches,textures polished by handling but otherwise unadorned. Japanese buildings seem like umbrellas to him, their roofs spread out beyond their walls to protect their inhabitants from rain; western buildings seemed to him like towers with caps. All around--for he is an inveterate nostalgist--he sees mindfulness sacrificed to efficiency, textures to legibility, and the resonance of shadows banished from brightly impersonal hospital-like modern dwellings.
The spell of Tanizaki' is such that on finishing his essay one wants immediately to turn off the lights.This is where it is newly relevant.I remember a snowfall of five years ago which put out our electricity for almost a week. We immediately entered an older rhythm, a candlelite rhythm, and woke at the crack of dawn. When the electricity came back on ,it was with a great deal of noise. The television was like the announcement of a perpetual catastrophe. The look of a light-flooded room at midnight seemed suddenly un-natural. The items of nostalgia for Tanizaki may be specifically Japanese but the sensation is universal. It is nostalgia for nature.
That emptiness, the abscence of technology, the prescence of shadows or darkness ,might become the ne plus ultra of luxury is something Tanizaki implies throughout.If only the rich can afford NOT to have cell phones, he is right, of course. And near-emptiness has already proven to be a commodity over the last forty years:think of the prices a Mondrian, a Rothko, an early Brice Marden or a Yves Klein monochrome, a Robert Ryman white painting--not to mention a Malevitch!--command. The larger the population,greater the premium on emptiness.
Darkness, likewise, becomes a matter of inverse de luxe in Tanizaki, finding its ultimate expression in the ever-dark alcove of a windowless room through which falls, never-the-less,the faintest tinge of light through its walls of rice paper. This brings to mind James Turrell's beautiful early installations, literally large rectangular holes in the walls, faintly lit themselves by very indirect illumination. Turrell had seemingly found the exact degree of dimness at which the human retina starts to scintillate, for this wall-space seemed both deeper than it was, and visually active, active with the apparition of something nebulous nearly but never to take form.It recalled Proust's phrase, "the kaleidoscope of darkness".
Troy Brauntuch's paintings, which are given wide currency right now, do this differently.They are representations of, say, a stack of shirts depicted as under a light so dim as to be near darkness.The eye adjusts accordingly, in stages in viewing a it does in life.What he offers us is the great luxury of being able to reach for the subject matter when almost everything else grabs at us. The problem of darkness is converted to the pleasure of re-searching it.

Shadows, too, are increasingly present in our art,after having been almost entirely banished from the hard bright art of the 'sixties.Virtuoso shadowcasters could be nominated from a number of approaches, hugely different, the celestial mechanics of an Eliasson casting shadows of a different genre from the shadows cast by the trellised structures of Christina Iglesias.Some of the best, and least known,work of Andy Warhol is his shadow-paintings;his shadows slice the field of the canvas much like the anamorphic death's head in Holbein'sAmbassadors does, and for similiar reasons. Warhol's shadow is a reminder he must die and that he still remains; it is an integral part of making something fleeting permanent----more permanent than one's own fleeting self.
Perhaps we, the public, will become connoiseurs of shadows, too, fleeing neon glare for retinal quietude. The greatest rebellion in a culture which demands more efficiency is to grow slower. The antidote to hyper-information is silence. The nuances sacrificed for impact take a life of their own. Tanizaki 's essay, meanwhile, also reminds us that our interest in the fleeting, the immaterial, the shadowy, the near-minimal,the pregnantly empty, and voidness,began not with phenomenology, or its adjunct, minimalism, but in the concious poverty of Zen Buddhism, and the generative emptiness of the Tao.
(painting by Troy Brauntuch)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


"...I am aware of something in myself, like light
dancing before my soul, and if it could be brought
out with perfect steadiness, it would surely be
life eternal. It hides and then again it shows.
It comes like a thief, as if it would steal everything
from the soul. But since it shows itself and draws
attention, it must want to allure the soul, and
make the soul follow it, to rob the soul of itself."
(Meister Eckhardt quoting Saint Augustine)

"God is the light of the heavens and earth.
The likeness of His Light is as a niche
where a lamp burns--
the lamp in a glass and the glass, as it were,
a star of brilliance.
The lamp is kindled from a blessed Tree
an Olive neither of the east or of the west
the oil of which is almost incandescent by itself
without the touch of fire, Light upon Light.
God guides to His Light whom He will."
(Qur'an:Surah 24:35)


Sunday, November 8, 2009


....the more south we were, the more deep a sky it seemed,
till, in the Valley of Mexico, I thought it held back an element
too strong for life, and that flamy brilliance of blue
stood off this menace and sometimes, like a sheath or
silky membrane showed the weight it held in sags.
Saul Bellow:from the Adventures
of Augie March

...and Bluebeard's Tower above the coral reefs,
the magic mousetrap closing on all points of the compass,
capping like petrified surf the furious azure of the bay,
where there is no dust and life is like a lemon-leaf,
a green piece of tough translucent parchment,
where the crimson, the copper, and the Chinese
vermillion of the poincianas
set fire to the masonry and turquoise blues refute the clock...
Marianne Moore:from
"People's Surroundings"

Turn blue on fast and it becomes purple; turn
purple on fast and it becomes black. Slow down
blue to get grey. Slow down grey to get white.
Blue is half-way between white and black; fulcrum
of light, hinge of darkness.
Malcolm de Chazal:from Sens Plastique

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Should you be able to negotiate the outer walls of the tower
which have fallen haphazardly where they were pulled down and after
generations are overgrown, resembling the quarry which they
came from,
you would first traverse the outercourt, its paving stones
now split with bramble, thorns,
and then the chapel,
its ecclestiascal character preserved somehow,
though the famous stained glass windows
were shattered by catapaults
and such stones as the invaders --their victory complete--
could throw.
Finally you would come to the Keep,
its spiral stairs ruined, too,
difficult to climb in the dark,
and should you ascend
find the abscence of illumination seemingly final,
though thickening with each step,
compelling you to touch each step,
orienting yourself via the wall.
The stone is cold and cracked,
sometimes damp,
sometimes covered with moss or rough herbs
which you imagine--though it is impossible to perceive--
as albino.
As if it is a well you descend
rather than stairs you climb.
Your problems, moreover, multiply in this ascent
due to the uneven-ness of the steps, some wide and flat
some broken off so that your feeling hand
touches empty space, a drop, before discovering
the narrow margin you might rest upon
in order to continue
a necessity now as
much like a childhood dream
quite forgotten until the event
proves it premonitional
the steps behind have begun to disappear,
quite soundlessly at first,
but proven empirically true by your attempt to back track,
a wafture of cold air
such as is felt from a gorge of unprecedented depth
touching your face,
a pebble falling then
as if to illustrate that is is an empy space
it falls to
by making no sound for
five six seven heartbeats
before it hits the floor.
You have no time to exclaim
as the ledge on which you balance
begins to evaporate
and now your climb is a matter of haste
instinctual self-preservation granting at last
dim sight of a ladder at the parapet
barely nailed together,
a rung wrenched by your hand,
yet your sole means of escape.
Climbing with more agility
than you have shown in years,
you hoist yourself up
and notice the Castle Keep some great distance below,
half-disguised by cloud,
and yourself parallel to some faint star.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009



The air is full of infinite, straight, radiant lines crossing without ever entering
the path of one another, and they represent for each object the true form of
its cause.


A course in mathematics would not be wasted on a poet, or a reader of poetry,
if he remembers no more from it than the geometrical principle of the
intersection of loci:from all angles lines converging and crossing establish
points. He might carry it further and say that in his imagination apprehension
perforates at places, through to understanding--as white is at the intersection of
blue and green and yellow and red. It is this white light that is the background
of all good work-- (from Williams' essay on Marianne Moore)


It is...electrochemical energy in brain cells derived from photosynthetic sugar
in vegetables whereby we can see a star at all, and the fire of the star which
we call the sun thus arranged that it could be seen and thought of by the
nourishing brain. Is that system closed? Did the sun grow the tree that
made the paper that you are holding, and in the ink on it, so that it can read
this book with your eyes?

(from Davenport's essay on the poet Ronald Johnson)


Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I find
my house empty
All the wine

The river
my naked joy

the epitaph
in white.
(trans. Anselm Hollo)


Watching the Tibetan monks meticulously construct a mandala made of powder of malachite, granulated lapis lazuli,topaz ,and other rare gems and minerals was an education.The technique involved spooning these powdered gemstones into a horn-shaped receptacle with a narrow spout from which these ingredients fell grain by grain. This naturally was done to the recitation of sutras.
The mandala they were constructing from particles of sand was the Kalachakra mandala. To briefly synopsize its iconography would require starting from the center with Kalachakra, multi-armed,and his consort deity, Vishvamata, the eight female deities surrounding them, copulating deities in the second enclosure--the males with three heads and six arms-- and so forth down through the fifth and outermost level.An inventory of the subsidiary deities gyrating in their own wheel of enlightenment or their own mandorla would take a page.
I went to view the monks--who were performing this ritual at the Museum of Natural History in 1988--a number of times,which was possible as it took two months to construct.On one such visit I spied someone among the novice monks who I had last seen a decade before shooting up with one of Warhol's lesser superstars. But I was not present when the mandala was taken to a pier, and there with ritual prayers dispersed into the river.

A Process such as this as this may seem remote from the concerns of a contemporary artist but appears to be at the root of Joe Mangrum's work. He has been making mandalas with his own toys and with his own methods since the mid-nineties. The word "toys" is accurate, as these include plastic soldiers and jungle animals. He has also used bullets,and compact disks.Also, in his more perishable altars, the petals of flowers such as Jane Magnolias, Birds of Paradise, or Heliconias from New Zealand.Stupa-like forms uphold these objects as well as sea-shells,twigs,twine, crepe banners, prayer flags, etcetera. Symmetry anchors this profusion. Somewhat.
His basic formats are not really western but the grids from which the Hindu forms are extrapolated. This is one of the few times that they have been used successfully by a western artist that I know.(The other instances,paradoxically,are in ' minimalists' generations and continents apart, in Malevitch, Ad Reinhart,Sol Lewitt, and by remotest retinal suggestion Agnes Martin.)
There are altars for ecological causes, against war, and for world peace. I don't regard their idealism as stupid, but as a dire need.
Lately, Mangrum has been making sand-paintings throughout Manhattan,twenty-two at last count.The colors are idioretinal, as in a Huichole yarn painting, or a Van Gogh, the forms wheelswithin wheels rather than mandalas.They share the quality of construction via reiterated prayer with his earlier work. He takes the altar-making process to the street.It's a blessing.


Somewhere between the flat and the crooked is the scissored,somewhere between drawing and sculpture,a step that more or less skips painting. The material is paper, cardboard, mylar aspiring to the condition of lace, string,twine,or rope which can be straight , or curved,or knotted and tangled. Scissored imagery often uses the symmetry of the fold- and- cut process and then slices it, crumples it or tears it into a thousand pieces and reassembles it in a flurry. The space that such artifacts occupy is not painting space or sculptural spaceor enigmatic conceptual altar space. It feels like gesture space--the big abstract expression-ist swatch of a loaded brush of paint across canvas, but in this case across the whole room and in this case in a stroke which proves to be made of meticulously wrought fragments.
Two virtuosi of this process are Mark Fox, who shows at Larisa Goldston, and Chris Natrop,based in L.A. They are more like each other than they are like anyone else, but no more like each other than were Pollock and De Kooning. Fox tends to work towards a tornado-like centrifugal motion.Natrop tends to make constructions which may be leisurely walked through, a jungle of opaque and semi-transparent pieces and their complicated shadows. If speed were an attribute, one might say that Fox slings his imagery faster, Natrop more slowly--but of course this is absurd. It is simply that installation art is evolving its own time-sense,its own musicality, and this is something for which there is as yet more gesture, more pointing-towards, than legitimate vocabulary.

Fox's largest statement to date is DUST, which though not completely characteristic of his technique(s),is certainly a testament to his skill. Over a period of two years he made a painstaking reconstruction of every object that he owned as a paper cut-out facsimile which he then hung as if spiralling away in a tornado. Each of these cut-outs was painted toxic green from below in memory of the green underside of a tornado he saw as a child.It combines pedantic detail with wild centrifigal motion.It is the epitome of re-assembly through fragmentation.
It feels like a piece by James Surls done almost thirty years ago, which was a tree-sized sculpture made of an actual tree depicting a tree under possession suspended as if swirling with each of its branches transformed into a wielded axe. No formal relationship, in truth , save for this sense of churning centrifugal motion, and the sense that both conjure the storm.
Other of Fox's work is in the vein of urban ghost-making, floating paper constructions hyper-filigreed and drawn upon with the delicacy of etching. He will sometimes festoon these over sawhorses, which seems to be his muse- among- objects as the apple was Cezanne's. He also makes creatures threatening and/or forlorn.His earliest work was as a puppeteer--he won a Jim Hinson award for his work in theater. I envy those who have seen it.

Natrop's big pieces have the quality of painterliness in their use of swatches and washes of color,the quality of sculpture in its orchestration of shadows. Why it feels like a rainy day Vuillard or Bonnard eludes me, but it does.Natrop's smaller work--even those pieces 96 inches high--has an exquisiteness which is neither twee or precious due to the formal demands he makes on himself, which are far more varied than the mere turning out of prettiness on a lathe.The components add up.They seem to broach some near- moment when a shadow transforms into a silhouette or illustration. Almost and never quite yet.

Installation art has entered a period where it discorporates and re-integrates space in ways previously unknown. It is as if baroque alterpieces had volunteered to de-construct themselves as a ballet, as if the decor of Ravel's opera L'enfant en la Sortilege, with its lamenting wallpaper, cantankerous arm-chair, and coloratura fire were normal home furnishings.Some new relationship between sculpture and architecture is being worked out. Some of the best of this makes scissors and paper rock.

(Illustrations one and two are by Mark Fox, the second from Dust, which was installed
at Rice University in Texas; three and four
are by Chris Natrop; five is a reiteration
of Fox . Videos of the work of both
can be seen on the web.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009


A BOOK OF LIGHT AND COLOR (1)(foreword)These are my gleanings on the subject of light and color from a period where I had no studio, and consequently was unable to paint. It was a difficult period and I divertedmyself by compiling an anthology of the texts on light and color which I liked the best. It soon became evident that our perception of light pervades our use of language to a degree which makes the idea of compiling a comprehensive work on the subject ridiculous. I am seldom deterred from the ridiculous, however, especially when such a project allowed me to vision and envision.
Several authors have assayed something similiar. By far the best, in my opinion, are Alexander Theroux's The Primary Colors, and its companion volume, The Secondary Colors. Both immerse the reader as if they are being dipped in red blue yellow et al. To read each was to become this or that color for a time--a novel experience, almost out of L.Frank Baum. I was delighted,I admit, to find that we cited different texts. Richard Feynmann's QED, on the physics of light, is a masterwork of plain-ness making intricacy clear.I discussed this project with only two or three people, primarily the poet Ronald Johnson,now dead, whose poems are a hidden glory of literature--particularly his long sequence ARK,which I feel is a psalm of the future. It is to his memory that I dedicate these notes,scattered as they are.

"In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth,And the earth was without form and voidand the darkness was upon the face of the deepand the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the watersAnd God said, Let there be light; and there was light.And God saw the light, that it was good;and God divided the light from the darkness,And God called the light Day and the darkness He called NightAnd the evening and the morning were the first day." (Genesis 1-5 in the King James Version)
"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the word was God,The same was in the beginning with God All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made.In Him was life and the life was the light of men, And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehendeth it not. (The Gospel of St. John 1-5 in the King James version)
Creator of germ in woman,maker of seed in man,giving life to the son in the body of his mothersoothing him that he may not weep,nurse even in the wombgiver of breath to animate everyone that he maketh! ...How manifold are thy works!They are hidden from before us O sole God, whose powers no other possesseth.Thou did create the earth according to thy heart. (14 century BC)
There is a light that shines beyond all things on earth,beyond us all, beyond the heavens,beyond the highest, the very highest heavens;this is the light that shines in our heart.All the universe is in truth Brahman. He is thebeginning and end in life of all. As such,in silence, give unto Him adoration.There is a spirit that is mind and life, lightand truth and vast space. He unfolds the whole universeand in silence is loving all.This is the spirit that is in my heart, smallerthan a grain of mustard seed, greater than the earth,greater than the heavens, greater than all those worlds.He contains all works and desires,all perfumes and tastes.This is the spirit in my heart. This is Brahman.To Him I shall come when I go beyond this life.And to Him will come he who has faith and doubts not. (800 BC)


The first two images are of the work of Richard Greaves, the anarchitect, who
has built a community of salvaged-material structures in the wilds of Canada;
the photos were taken by Mario del Curto, and shown at Andrew Edlin gallery.
The third is one of Adam Cvijanovic's gigantic paintings, formerly shown @
the now defunct Bellwether gallery. Images four and five are by the admirable
Ben Grasso, who is based in Brooklyn. Six and Seven are also by Richard Greaves.
(Parenthetically, I would like to observe that both Cvijanovic's and Grasso's
paintings were done well before the housing-foreclosure crisis, and consequently there
is a case for regarding them as prescient, if not prophetic.)


From the French of Arthur Rimbaud
A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue, vowels,
Someday I'll tell you where your genesis lies;
A--black velvet swarms of flies
Buzzing abpve the stench of voided bowels,
A gulf of shadow; E--where the iceberg rushes,
White mists, tents, kings, shady strips;
I --purple spilt blood, laughter of sweet lips,
In anger--or the penitence of lushes;
U--cycle of time, rhythm of the seas,
Peace of the paws of animals and wrinkles
on scholars ' brows, strident tinkles;
O --the supreme trumpet note, peace
Of the spheres, of the angels. O equals
X-ray of her eyes; it equals sex
(translated by F.Scott Fitzgerald)


The images of heavenly choirs received by the Abbess Hildegarde von Bingen are much the same images reported by sufferers of migraines according to Oliver Sacks.

When Leonardo wrote of being able to see fantastical shapes in the stains on a wall which had been much-spat upon, he was pointing to a basic facultyof the mind, says Valery:its tendacy to scrawl monsters on the margins of pages.It is as if we have an image-making device, the opposite of a screen-saver, which begins to doodle whenever a lecture gets dull. This faculty is related to but not synonymous with an eidetic mechanism, the talent of finding forms and faces, even illustrations, among patterns--such as those made by foliage--or shapes, such as those of clouds.

According to the art dealer Ron Feldman, Leonardo habitually concealed anamorphic imagery or visual puns throughout his paintings.This sounds right, but is hard to honestly confirm once one's own eidetic impulses have been triggered. Once we have started decoding hidden faces we will find hidden faces whether or not they are to befound. The great Safavid dynasty master of the miniature, Sultan Muhammed, hid them in the rock-work throughout his masterpiece, The Court of Gayumars, but though I have tried to locate each of them there remains a question between what I am actually seeing and what I think I see and am projecting myself, which baffles my account.

Wallpaper and other patterning metiers such as Indonesian batik or Ikat weaving do this in a different way, via the shifting in a pattern between foregroundand background. To be able to do this rhythmically is possible with geometry alone.To do this with fluidity requires the arabesque.

What Dean Byington does with wizardry is move among these levels. His paintings are collages of frottages disguised as wallpaper. This involves copying copies, blurring,enlarging,re-engraving, disguising, sewing up seams. Patterning camouflages illustration,and vice-versa.The one becomes the other's ground.
Enlarging a detail as large as I could on my computer screen simply captivated me with his ingenuity:it looked like an engraving by Hercules Seghers shading off into what might be an illustration for La Fontaine's fables by Gustave Dore which filigreed into lace-like or leaf-like reticulations. What fascinated was how seamlessly they mesh.
Quite without data or empirical proof, they seem to me to be work at the threshhold where images become stories, where the idioretinal aftermages on the retina of the sleeper coalesce into a dream. In this case, one does not have to be asleep to see.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


"...Richard Dadd,spending nine years, from 1855 to 1864,painting the FAIRY-FELLER'S MASTERSTROKE in the madhouse at Broadmoor, England. A fairly small painting that is a minute study of just a few square inches of ground--grasses, daisies, berries, tendrils of vines, hazelnuts,leaves, seeds--in which the depths of which there appears an entire population of minuscule creatures, some of them characters from fairy tales and others who are probably portraits of Dadd's fellow inmates and of his jailersand keepers. The painting is a spectacle:the staging ofthe drama of the supernatural world in the theaterof the natural world. A spectacle that contains another,a paralyzing and anxiety filled one, the theme of whichis expectation:the figures that people the paintingare awaiting an event that is about to take place at any moment now. The center of the composition is an empty space, the point of intersection of all sorts of powers and the focal point on which all eyes are trained, a clearing in the forest of allusionsand enigmas; at the center of this there is a hazelnut on which the stone axe is about to fall. Althoughwe do not know what is hidden inside the hazelnut, we know that if the axe splits it in two,everything will change:life will commence to flow once more and the curse that has turned the figures in the painting to stone will be broken...(from THE MONKEY GRAMMARIAN by Octavio Paz 1981;trans. Helen Lane)

Friday, October 30, 2009


"I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse and a turtle-dove, and am still on their trail.
Many are the travellers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks,
and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who have heard the hound,
and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud,
and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves."

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Merce Cunningham, who died on July 27th at the age of ninety, has been aptly described as the Einstein of dance. Much as Einstein questioned the interstices smoothed over by Newtonian mechanics, so Cunningham questioned the precepts of choreography. He released dance from its traditional dependence on music, and plot. There are no stories in his dances -- or rather, we are on that dream-like border where stories flicker in and out, like reading the embers or clouds. Stage space, too, which in ballet tends to a Palladian regularity and in expressionist choreography to writhing mounds, seemed in his work to be limning an invisible architecture which--if the dancers were writing instruments—might resemble the floor plan of the Sydney Opera house or the buildings of Frank Gehry well before his day. The frontality of traditional stage space was thoroughly upended. Watching his dances, I frequently had the sense of looking into an aquarium whose fishes have no sense of audience as they move.

His movement, more deeply classical than is commonly acknowledged, took Balanchine's segmentation of the body into new levels of complexity. If it seemed as if a dancer were going in several different directions at once, it was because they probably were. His ability to conjure living sculptures from two or more bodies was as compelling. And he treated his works, at least until this last decade, as recombinant, as if to be mixed like a salad with whatever ingredients were next at hand, including the sound. His dancers, consequently, were sometimes as surprised by the music as the audience.

The music was an additional source of controversy, being "musique concrete" or based on chance operations devised by his partner, the composer John Cage , and others in his sphere. Retrospectively, these have proven to be a very distinguished roster, Earle Browne, Christian Wolff, David Tudor, Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma to name a few. Cage and Mumma, in particular, were blithely able to create the auditory equivalent of a katzenjammer or even a train wreck, and a few of Cunningham's strongest critical partisans never-the-less objected to the decibel levels that chance apparently decreed, preferring the mysterious silences punctuated with web-washes of sound that characterized Browne or Wolff. The point, however, was to violate the sense of inevitability to which music in the west has aspired, and open perception to the random.

It always puzzled me that Cunningham and Cage could break so many rules and reveal so much beauty. Perhaps this was because it was purposeful, not merely nihilistic, and if shocking not merely meant to shock. Cage's noise-music had the happy effect of making me hear my surroundings anew-the overtones of the dish drain! the Webern-like properties of the dripping faucet! And often after viewing Cunningham's dances, it would seem to me that the pedestrian traffic of a Manhattan intersection would be mysteriously elevated into a dance. Thus did the random come to make the random seem deliberate. The real underpinning of Cage's and Cunningham's work was not anarchy, but a Buddhist mindfulness transposed to the conditions of New York. This present-mindedness shook the pedestal of preconception and unobtrusively re-sacralized daily life.

Before Merce was hobbled by arthritis, he was also one of the most arresting stage presences I have seen, always as alert as an exclamation point. In the early days, he was frequently compared to a faun strayed from a satyr-play, which can be seen in his incredibly goofy wrestling bout with a five or six sleeved sweater documented in Antic Meet. This was a parody, it is said, of Martha Graham's self-regarding psychological strip-tease way of shedding clothes onstage. Others compared him to the Winnebago Trickster figure who at one point in the myth-cycle removes his penis, which grows a propeller, and chases him around a lake. Things like this seemed to happen to Merce, more or less. Later still, he became a bemused deity moving among his dancers haplessly making adjustments (making anarchy) in the midst of, say, an exquisite and intricate quintet. He was not like Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin, but something in his demeanor recalled the greats of silent comedy.

Many years ago, the choreographer Elizabeth Streb invited me to see an "event" at Cunningham's Westbeth studio. It was a sultry July evening, and soon a lightning storm blew across the Hudson; its progress could be seen through the great studio windows as a backdrop to the dancers. When it came upon the building the electricity went out, but the concentration of the dancers did not, and we watched them silhouetted in the dark or illumined by a sudden flash of lightning. They did not waver an iota, I recall, but somehow seemed monumental, imperturbable, as if we were permitted to spy upon the hidden workings of an angelic crew. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever pried my eyes to see. Then the lights came back on, and Merce did a cryptic, calligraphic solo. It didn't seem much at the time, but several hours after, back at my loft, I found myself impulsively standing up and repeating what I remembered of it. It was as if his little solo had gotten under the radar, and registered its impact without my knowing it. His work was like that.


Ruins, of course, have been a leitmotif in western art since Claude Lorrain and Poussin. What is different now,perhaps, from the period of the baroque with its nostalgia for the pastoral, or the Enlightment with its grand seigneural overview of civilization's rise and fall in the form of a folly, is vertigo. This begins--it is a commonplace to say so--with Piranesi, both the recorder of the vestiges of imperial Rome, and the fabricator of the Carcerari, the Prisons, those dark interiors replete with huge intruments of torture and tiny humans,whose spatial ambiguities are said to presage cubism. They come with a distinguished literary geneology, moreover, ranging from Choleridge and de Quincy to Marguerite Yourcenar.

De Quincy, who devotes pages of Confessions of an English Opium Eater to the Prisons, projects a curious error on Piranesi's etchings. He finds in one the figure of Piranesi himself (how he is so identified is unknown) who is seen not only on the ground floor of one such prison,but at intervals on the stairs. He finds in Piranesi, in short, the same effect which in heraldry is called mis en abyme, in which the image contains an image of itself and that in turn an image an image of itself ad infinitum.But couldn't these receding figures on the stairs be Piranesi's descendants rather than Piranesi himself? There would be not only Kafka, then, but Borges, and Dino Buzzati, and the Cavafy of The City, and M.C. Escher and George Tooker among visual artists. Several artists of our time might find themselves on Piranesi's stairway, among them Anne and Patrick Poirier, Cheryl Goldsleger, Jean-Michel Fauquet, and most recently,the photographer Lorie Nix.

I am trying to remember where I first saw the Poirier's early work--Sonnabend? The De YoungMuseum? They had constructed a vast ruined neo-classical city out of charcoal in a dim room .It had stadiums, temples, monuments, a fallen colossus, racetracks, and thoroughfares.We viewers loomed above these like titans in mourning. I found the work unsettling then--charcoal was once wood and the wood a tree:now it is burnt; an altogether more symbolically freighted material for models than cork.There was also the sense of clumsiness that being a giant in the near dark provoked, a sensation almost of guilt at the ruin of such a vast-if even-so miniature civilization, as if we off-stage were somehow at fault.Finally, there was what we might call the Ozymandias effect, a mixture of regret with relief at the passing of civilizations,for so many monuments have been made under the whip, and not only during antiquity.

Charles Simonds, at about the same time, was covertly placing his tiny and artfully constructed models on fugitive sites through the Lower East Side.If the imagery of thePoiriers might be described as Graeco-Roman with a dollop from Roland Topor's cartoon epic,the Fantastic Planet added, Simonds' seemed to derive from the abandoned cliff dwellings in New Mexico or the bee-hive shaped brick structures--prototypes of the dome--originating in Cappodochia. He invented an anthropology of the little people who had dwelled there--it was an age of anthropology, with the semi-Utopian counter-cultural aspiration to posing alternative social structures--and his placement of these beautifully constructed buildings was done with the co-operation of the neighborhoods,which were then mostly poor. His work is now in museums, and the neighborhoods are high-rent.

A salient feature of the Carcerari is the wedding of the constructive with the destructive , a quality especially noticeable when the earlier versions are compared to the much revised later plates, which sacrifice coherency for depth. The earlier Prisons are buildings; the later Prisons are buildings and the destruction of buildings and the reconstruction of buildings over the relics of their destruction.It is this quality of multiple perspectives which causes them to be cited as proto-cubist.

Something of this multiple-perspectivedness is to be found in the paintings of Cheryl Goldsleger, whose work, on first glimpse,seems to be a skillful depiction of early Renaissance or late nineteenth century Beaux Arts architecture, but proves on inspection to be many layers of depictions of such buildings skillfully --I am tempted to say almost harmonically--sequenced to co-exist, as if we are viewing their construction through layers of time. Her colors are mostly amber, honey,and black, remindful of architectural drawings of Bramante or the Sangallo clan, done in sepia or bistre. Now and then she will overlay what might be called a "memory scaffolding" over the other layers in white. She glazes a sedimentary metaphor for time on the flat surface of canvas.

Two others I admire who also use architecture to metaphorize the workings of time are Jean Michel Fauquet, who does sequences of dark stairways descending (they don't appear to ascend)into oubliettes, and Lori Nix, whose recent photographic sequence, The City, is a surveyof the imagery of disaster.Nix has had to take pains to clarify the point that these works were conceived before the destruction of the Twin Towers. This says more about our historical attention-span than her art.Nor would post 9/11 imagery account for a vein of humor in the dread--there is an archaeopteryx or pterodactyl or something with leathern wings not to be found in an aviary flying above the ruins of" The Library". The aquarium has pools of recent fishes on the floor.The museum of natural history is in ruins but its dioramas are intact.Here is an interior of a clocktower, obviously defunct.It looks exactly like where I would liked to have lived as a boy.There is a vacuum cleaner show-room, the view outside its window overgrown with bramble.These are painterly photographs of exquisitely fabricated images of destruction. Their colors are saturated, autumnal,sunset, with the streaked skies of storms only recently receding, of broken columns--a repertoire of romantic cliches revived by a hint of parody:they are toy tableaux after all,which evoke concrete disaster.

Anne and Patrick Poirier show at Sonnabend
Cheryl Goldsleger at Kidder Smith in Boston(but I saw her work at Hodges and Taylor Gallery in Charlotte, N.C.)
Jean Michel Fauquet at Chaim Hanin
Lori Nix at Clampart in New York and MillerBloc in Boston


Among the lesser known works of Poe is The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym, a saga of a stowaway aboard a vessel undergoing mutiny, of cannibalism and of lots being drawn to see who would be eaten, and finally of an expedition into the hollows of the earth where an in-world exists which may be entered via antarctica. It was sold and published as a factual account, Jules Verne wrote a sequel, and hollow-earthers still cite it with fixed conviction . It is one of the great landscapes of a peculiar time and climate, at the end of the age of a world map with tracts marked terra incognito and the industrial revolution.It is strange that two very different painters, working on a modest scale, should evoke its tonality a century and a half later, the tonality of nascent science fiction and the romantic sublime.

Hilary Brace is one of several artists of whom I am aware who works with charcoal on mylar. Her draftsmanship seems nearly photographic but her content-- of spaces which could be macrocosmic, like the Magellanic clouds, or microscopic, like an xray of the aveole--conveys neither locale or scale despite its graphic clarity. Looking at them over intervals, I find some principle of compression, of shrinking a big vision into a narrow compass, keeps them from being facile; they cross a territory of an ominous brightness,dawning in a place which is vast and very cold.Something not quite remembered at the tip promontory of collective memory.

Roland Flexner's sumi ink and soap bubble drawings have a similiar effect. His work is as dark as Brace's is luminous, but a similiar skill, the skill of sheering off into metaphor- thwarting ,is one he shares with her. I thought when first viewing them that these are landscapes, of course--but the "of course" is due to the desire to interpret a bisecting line as a horizon, a swirl as a vortex. Actually it is heuristic device by someone expert at brinksmanship. The blackness of the ink instantly brought to mind Milton(I'd been rereading Paradise Lost):

"a dungeon horrible on all sides round as one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames no light; but rather darkness visible.'

but what is being depicted might also be as unapocalyptic as a forest at night viewed through a rain-streaked windshield.Not every abstract work has this image-permutability, or this memorability.Flexner has the ability to convey grandeur in a the span of few inches -like Blake, or Samuel Palmer.
According to the press release, Flexner's last show at D'Amelio Terras was shown with Japanese "looking stones", which I have not seen but which I suspect I own something like. One of these is a chrysaloccoca given me by the late Bill Martin as we viewed a butte between Santa Fe and Taos New Mexico. The stone I held in my hand resembled in extreme reduction the monument before us. These painters evoke similiar sensations of the reversal and re-reversal of scale.
Brace is represented by Edward Thorp. Flexner is shown at D'Amelio/Terras in New York and Hosfelt in San Francisco.


"...the black fugatos are strumming the black of the black...Thick strings stutter the finial gutturals.He does not lie there remembering the blue jay, say the jay.His grief is that he mother should feed on him, himself and what he saw,In that distant chamber, a bearded queen..."(Wallace Stevens:Madame La Fleurie)

Space in our time has grown steadily more eccentric, more nest-like than building-like. It is as irrational as Mies or Mondrian was rational. Architecture seems to be attempting its own dis-embodiment, and sculpture a space which makes earlier installation artseem almost classical.If there is some familial resemblance to Conceptual Altar Space or Immersive Assemblage Space, it is a Gothick decade later, with its mutant concerns.

A sculpture of braided horse-hair ensnaring a tide of silk roses punctuated with hyper-alert taxidermied pheasants and plovers, as do the sculptures of Petah Coyne, turns the whitest cubicle into...what? The names which one comes up for it---gesticulative spatial expressionism or Carnival of Souls Rococco--are absurd, but the work is a marvel.

Coyne's work first reminded me (A)of a Victorian relict seen in a great home, a floral arrangement made of the rosettes of braided hair of the female family members and kept under a bell-jar (B) the women's-training- hospital ghost in Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior, which abided by day in a pencil eraser but which by night rolled around on tenacled eye-balls to crush the breath from the sleeping(C) Poe's mystical yearning for Annabel Lee and/or Ligeia(D) Hearses from a horse-drawn time (E) Bernini. It is the sense that the sculpture turns the room on a centrifugal force of its--the sculpture's-- making which brings up Bernini. Coyne's work seems to tilt the room off its armature.

In a Bomb interview with Lynn Tillmann, Coyne spoke admiringly of Miss Havisham in GREAT EXPECTATIONS, the Miss Havisham of the sealed off wedding-banquet chamber,whose wedding cake was colonized with rats and festooned by spiders, who had not changed from her wedding gown in thirty years after being jilted at the altar. This accounts, indirectly, for the sense of her earlier pieces being like brides and their own cast-off bouquets, a synthesis of the wedding and the funeral. Miss Havisham alarms us because in some sense she is buried alive,like Madeline Usher or Persephone. She becomes the death-bride ; the Russian surrealist Tchelitchev referred to her as the White Lady.

The myth of the rape of the bride by the underworld is more central to modernism than is commonly observed. It appears not only in Poe, among the pre-Raphaelites, in poets as different as William Carlos Williams and Rilke, but was critical to the early days of feminism, which attempted many revisions of the myth of Persephone. Obviously, it marked the strong sense among women that they had been seized, captured, and confined--entombed-- in unwanted identities.This is a political truth with an historical dimension, as events in the world testify. It is also a metaphor for the imaginative faculties of the human Psyche under warrant, hence its appearance in Dickens and Poe. This is the Self kidnapped from Ceres, or Mother Nature,by Pluto ("RICHES"), into the airless and artificial mirror realm of cunningly be-jeweled counterfeits. According to Guy Davenport, it is the diagnostic myth of the mental illness of western culture from the nineteenth century on.

This is the vein that Coyne taps. The artists she cites as influences--Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Anne Hamilton--don't form a school or even resemble each other much, but they do outline a geneology.The keen awareness of the abjection of the flesh, the tumnescent neediness and the decay of the body, are Bourgeois' contribution; the de-regulation of minimalism in favor of a willed awkwardness,lopsided eccentricity,is Hesse'--along with her tangled skeins. Ann Hamilton provided both hair-as-metaphor and hair quite literally, as she gave Coyne the horsehair used for her 1993 DIA installation-- those famous stairways covered with hair. What these artists have in common is the will to revise further and further into the intuitional unknown. There is nothing neatly rounded off or pat about any of them.

This is why I don't think Coyne's work is kitsch, as it has been accused of being.Those undulating beds of roses, each with their own separate sigh, animating each otherby implication, over which some fatal candle has dripped, and which are interwoven withthose aforementioned birds and leaping taxidermied squirrels, remind me of a constellation of things without being quite like anything else I've seen. That's a complex response. And formally what keeps it far from cliche is Coyne's feeling for orphaned forms, for fungal shapes and weed shapes,the way twigs are plaited together by the flood which casts them ashore as detritus, by algae, and stumps, and curly willow, by the revival and transmutation of life through the process of decay.Those upsidedown bouquets which are also chandeliers or those biers which appear to rustle are also nests in which souls seem to gather. She calls them her "girls".

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Things I noticed as I viewed the holdings of gallery after gallery:
there are big pieces with small ideas and vice versa
there are schools but not trends
what was once a trend is now a historical option
an historical option is not perceived as in being any chronological order but as an item on a menu equidistant to all others
there were virtuoso scissorers who I thought of, absurdly, as string players and artists who were literally string players
black on black which always has a matte vs shiny mystique was undergoing a revival
there were any number of permutations on the theme of the scary clown or the innocently- but- fatally- demon born
that our Gothick is more Teutonic than the Gothicizing modes of previous decades; it has a Hoffmannesque quality to it. One of his heroines turned into a carrot.And if a certain morbidezza is the mood it is the mood of more than a moment.
Graphite artists of utmost nuancedness, photographers of urban prairies of desuetude or other alienation effects--always alienation effects--under enlargement.the morganatic marriage of art to costume legitimized ,the triumph of the C print.the happy sense that an artisanal technique did not,after all, require the aegis of irony to assist in its revival.
in every major american city a major painter of celestial blues, blues out of medieval books of hours transposed to the twenty-first century;why now?


I am falling down the corridors of cyber-information with delight. Several months ago I "discovered" the number of classical performances on You-tube, last night all sorts of sources for music ranging from Fado to Sean-nos. This almost makes up for a huge record collection jettisoned during a divorce. The You-tube phenomena is interesting for the great music available, as well as the sometimes imbecilic commentary which accompanies it. Thanks to a site called Tru-crypt I have been able to acquaint myself with Soviet-period pianists of the Russian school about whom I had only heard before. Pianists have their geneology--what Lincoln Kirstein used to call in ballet the "apostolic succession". Some of these studied with Tchaikovsky's friend, the great Anton Rubinstein. And one, Vladimir Sofrinitsky, was the son in law of Scriabin. Scriabin wanted his later works to be accompanied by light shows and the burning of incense-- psychedelia avant la lettre--and hoped that he could hang bells from the sky. Such were the aspirations of the pre-Bolshevic theosophists. His perverse, beautiful sonatas, with their air of opium-smoking in the orchid pavilion, have had many distinguished advocates, including Horowitz, Richter, John Ogdon, Askenazi, but the Scriabinisti accord
special status to Sofrinitsky, and in hearing them, I can hear why. He manages to give a human amplitude to what can sometimes seem pathological, special case, like a madhouse made of venetian glass. But it was Sofrinitsky's recording of a very great piece of music, the Chopin op. 60 Barcarolle, which really floored me. This is a work to which Friedrich Nietzchte ascribed transcendent powers. Sofrinitsky's is among the best I have heard. Here,however, is where the fly is found in the ointment, in the comments made. Someone says that the Sofrinitsky blows away Dinu Lipatti's classic account , and someone else says that of the performance of Alfred
Cortot. I listened to both again, and to a performance of Artur Rubinstein's from 1958, and each seemed definitive as I listened, as did an admirable account by Krystian Zimmerman. And each, of course, was subtly different, the Sofrinitsky performance being almost two minutes longer than Dinu Lipatti's account, a minute longer than Rubinsteins, and three quarters of a minute longer than Cortot, as I dazzedly recall. The sound world of each pianist was also quite different--for tonal beauty it would be difficult to match Cortot, the earliest recording, but this impression soon evaporated at different times which each of the others. Completely unnecessary and ungenerous to demote any of these superb performances at the expense of the others, as the Chopin Barcarolle itself is the raison d'etre. In heaven there are many mansions. Which brings me to the imbecilic aspect of comparison here: if a great work has been played for over a century and a half by an array of pianists of the first rank there is room. Time has made room and we can choose different interpretations in different seasons. There is no need to beat excellence down. I have given up on "definitive" performances myself, though like anyone else I have my druthers. Strange but enlightening to hear a Beethoven sonata on a forte-piano. Years ago I would only listen to Bach or Handel if played on a harpsichord. To continue with this dogma, useful in its way, would have deprived me of the Bach and Handel of Andras Schiff, Richter, and Glenn Gould. Each has given me joy, and joy is always in short quantity. Apropos which, one You-tuber said of Gould's Bach that it exploded Sviatslav Richter's. By wicked coincidence, I had just listened to an interview with Glenn Gould in which he described Richter as the greatest musical communicator he had ever heard.

Friday, October 23, 2009


During the months of July and August last year, I viewed the web-sites and
the entire rosters of 700 art dealers nationwide, 250 in Chelsea alone.
I suspect that the approximate figure of 14,000 artists whose work I viewed is too little.
It certainly was a quasi-mystical experience. I tried, without success,
to come up with some grand-scale oracular pronunciamento until I realized that I,too, was
succumbing to an afflatus of the election year. Thank Heaven, I was spared and so were you.
Also : I have always wondered what eyrie the large-scale surveyors of history--it could be Spengler,it could be Foucault--perch on.
While a general thesis eluded me, I did have the pleasure of discovering for myself
a number of artists of whom I had been unaware; some have influenced
my thinking, and I will write about them eventually.But for a time, here is the list of those I found compelling, starting in Chelsea, but proceeding to Brooklyn,Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Austen, Los Angeles, Scottsdale, San Francisco, Seattle,
Portland, Montreal, and Toronto.
(footnote: as this list was put together before the economic crisis,it inevitably
mentions dealers no longer in existence; it is important to remember that their artists
still are.To those dealers who remain: permissions to reproduce work will speed
any comment I might make, and the prompt response to correspondence
will provoke astonishment as well as gratitude. The asterisk means: I adore you from afar; the + means seriously elegant work;the marginilia preserves my notes, but inclusion is proof of my admiration.)

DL. AlvarezDerek Eller
roger andersonSarah Meltzer
esao AndrewsJ Le Vine
paolo AraoJeff Bailey Gallery
assume vivid astral focus*
John Connolly Presents after the wake, an orgy
ali BanisadrLeslie Tonkonow
gary BasemanThe big stories are all fairytales
gary BattyFeature
james Barsness*George AdamsHe draws like Rackham; he thinks like Tex Avery
tony BechakaAndre Zarre
Berkowitz and BruaDerek Ellertables climb walls decked with the soul's laundry
Tim BishopJ Le Vine
suzzane BocenagraLucas Schoormans
Hilary Brace*Edward ThorpeApparitional Whiteness from the Hollow Earth
alex BrownFeature
jason BrownRare
jeff BurtonCasey Kaplan
dean Byington*Leslie Tonkonowan Heir of Richard Dadd
olaf BreuningMetro Pictures
ingrid calameJames Cohan
james casabere +Paul Kasmin the de Chirico sublet
jonathan CallanNicole Klagsburn
Beth CampbellNicole Klagsburn
martines CanasJulie Saul
gillian CarnegieAndrea Rosen
nathan carterCasey Kaplan
St Clair Cemin*Sikkemma Jenkins
peter Coffin*Andrew Krepsthe wreck of the Hegel in the form of crunched stairs
matthew Collishaw Bonakdar
lia Cook Nancy Margolis
george condo Luhring AugustineDe Kooning and Saul Steinberg fight over a broad
petah coyne* Gallerie LelongMiss Havisham and Madeleine Usher discuss Nerval
andy cvijanovic Bellwether
Inka Essenhigh 303
tim dalyDFN
james DavisRare
edith derdyuk+Haim Chanin String theory meets Atropos
leonardo Drew*Sikkemma Jenkins
jeff Elrod+Fredericks Freiser
jean-michel fauquetHaim ChaninPhysical stairways to metaphysical oubliettes
angelo filomeno*Galerie LeLongas true (and as artificial) as Chopin or Baudelaire
roland fisherVon Lintel
roland Flexner*D'Amelio Terras Taoist of the profound soap bubble
Mark Fox*Larisa GoldstonThe Paganini of Scissors shapes a Tornado
adam FowlerMargaret Thatcher Projects
yuichi higashionaBoesky
Francesca GabrianiSarah Meltzer
stan GregorySunduram Tagore
orly GengerLarisa Goldston
sam GibbonsClaire Oliver
Tomoo GokitaATM
Anthony Gormley
richard Greaves*Andrew Edlin The bigfoot of the Canadian Rockies
jonah GreensbergerBellwether
stan GregorySunduram Tagore
Andreas GurskyMatthew Marks
diana al hadiPerry Rubinstein
Liz HalloranDCKTstreaks of speed in progress
trenton doyle Hancock James Cohan
Jutta HaeckelHosfelt
Jacob el HananiHosfelt
Ann HardyBellwether
lyle ashton harrisCRG Gallery
jeppe Hein303
julie heffernanPPOW
kent hendricksenJohn ConnallyPresents Part of the problem is that my boyfriend dabbles in dark arts
oliver Herring*Max Protech Victor Frankenstein's career in high fashion
eva HildNancy Margolis
julie HirstPavel Zoubok
Karsten HollierCasey Kaplan
timothy Horn*Hosfelt the debate of the baroque with the rococo conducted in spun sugar
jacqueline humphries Greene Naftali
aaron johnsonStux
butt johnsonCRG GalleryI was in the outhouse when Daddy got raptured
cassandra c jonesVanina Holasek Gallery
brian JungenCasey Kaplan
jen kimSteinberg
Ron KleinHoward Scott
jolyn kystosekLucas Schoormans
Jeff LadouceurZieher Smith
rezi van lankveldPetzel
sarah LeahyKim Foster
Catherine LeeGalleries Lelongthe disaffection of the great horizon
wonju lim Boesky
graham little CRG Gallery
donald lipski*Gallerie Lelongthe charioteer of found objects
nicola lopez Caren Golden
john maeda+Christenrose So slick it becomes another substance
Marco Maggi* Hosfeltdepict the cryptogram and decrypt the pictogram
frank magnottaCohan + Leslie
didier MassardJulie Saul
tatsuya MatsushitaMehr Gallery
josiah mc elhenyAndrea Rosen
maureen mc quillanMc Kenzie
jason meadowsBonakdar
sarah MorrisPetzel
ron mueck()
james nakesPaul Kasmin
ernesto neto*Bonakdarangelic snot sacks
aaron NoblePavel Zoubok
ludwika orgozelecNancy Margolis Gallery
jean michel Othoniel+Sikkemma Jenkins
gary panterClementina
james patersonBitforms
jorge Pardo*Petzel
roxy payneJames Cohan
emilio perezGalerie Lelong
diego peroneCasey Kaplan
ara Peterson*James Connally presents
jack Pierson+Danziger
jaume Plensa*Galerie Lelong Alphabody Fountainface
ken priceMatthew Marks
matthew ritchieAndrea Rosen
john rappeleyejeff baileySnakes writhe through skulls in desert blanched colors
mary reillyDFN Gallery
anil reuriSundurum tagore
matthew ritchieAndrea Rosen
michel angelo rocaATM
jimmy joe rocheRare
betsabee romeroGalerie Ramis Barquet
alexander Ross Boesky
victoria RyanJohn Stevenson
ursula von rydinguardGalerie LelongTreetrunk Tankards for Fafner and Fasolt
dennis rudolphPerry Rubinstein
alain saret+James Cohan
tojkijito SatoLeslie Tonkonow
robert SagarmanMarguerite Thatcher Projects
peter sarkissian
aaron spanglerRare
peter schuyffNicole Klagsbrun
michelle segreDerek Ellerthe cracquelature of the biomorphic forms found near Oz
hiroshi senjoSunduram Tagore
gary simmonsMetro Pictures
john stashkevitchVon Lintel
james everett stanleyFreight+Volume
simon starlingCasey Kaplan
max streicherRicco Maresca
mark Swanson+Bellwether
francesca sundstenJenkins Johnson Gallery
james SurlsCharles CowlesOld Wild Cowboy Ropes Trickster Tree
barbara takenagaMc Kenzie
maki TamuraLucas Schoormans
whiting tennisDerek Eller
gordon TerryJeff Bailey
fred tomaselli*James Cohan vast worlds from small aspirins
tam van tranCohan + Leslie
scott trealeaven+James Connally presents The Commedia del Arte meets the Neopolitan Inquisition on toile
james Valerio +George Adams
mark dean vecaJ le Vine
michael velliquetteDCKT Gallery
mark wagnerPavel Zoubok
hugh waltonClementina
wayne whiteClementina
adam wallacavage
kit whiteAndre Zarre
wayne whiteClementina
terry wintersMatthew Marks
mike womackZieher Smith
c yassGallerie Lelong
amy yoesSteinberg
jason youngChristenrose
Michelle ZaponyEssoSpook girl sends large postcards
Rhonda Zwillinger Pavel Zoubok

(no James Turrell or Christian Boltanski or Mona Hatoum or Olafur Eliasson or Yayoi Kusama?
no one from certain galleries I greatly respect? No, merely a certain mental footweariness
and the understanding that a jeux d'esprit does not have to be ecumenical-- so many a blue chip's
been left out, not that I'd mind owning one) Oct.9th, 2009