Friday, November 27, 2009

celestial alphabet event...


"an extreme example of a language process event based on natural phenomena, this derives from hebrew alphabetic practice projected on the night sky. the key is calligraphic: a form of the alphabet ("magic letters") going back to the hellenistic period, in which the lines of the letters culminate in rounded points, permitting a later application to the night sky, where patterns of stars (points joined by "lines") can then be read as letters, groups of letters read as words, etc. in the process the sky becomes a massive concrete poem, whose words or "messages" are constantly transforming. the instance, above, is from jacques gaffarel, a christian kabbalist of the 17th century, but the viability of the process is dependent upon the hebrew alphabet, where the absence of explicit vowels allows a wide range of meaningful readings"

jerome rothenberg, "after the shamans" a mini-anthology of jewish oral and process poetry in an age of writing, from alcheringa magazine 1975.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

two late 70's works by tom fender...



i recently discovered the work of tom fender who had a studio in los angeles in the 1970's. fender was a fiber artist, or at least an artist who seems to have showed mostly in fiber and craft related exhibitions throughout the 1970's. he received an mfa from ucla in 1975.

i've been looking at a lot of los angeles area artists like fender, who were creating works that existed within this fertile time for craft. fender was part of this scene, as he participated in at least one of the big pasadena museum's "california design" shows, and was part of a fiber exhibition in 1979 at ucla's wight gallery.

i have only ever seen the two works pictured above, but certainly both seem to converse more with contemporary sculpture than quilting or tapestry.

the color images of the untitled piece from 1977, remind me a bit of the visual language of eva hesse, the material presence of lucas samaras, and for some ridiculous reason i keep thinking of robert morris. it's tiny scale also reminds me a bit of tuttle, in how perfect it feels in its awkward presence.

the black and white image is of a piece from 1978-79, called "city packages series", and seems to speak more in relation to sculpture in terms of the materials moving to cement, steel and copper. it reminds me a bit of early smithson work, and in some ways a relationship towards minimalism with the individual units, less so of course in their arrangement, and a support that looks like a bit like a sculpture on its own, by gego.

samaras's sculptural work has been on my mind a lot lately, and when i visited the palm springs museum on sunday, the highlight of my visit (other than seeing one of my own paintings facing a stunning karl benjamin!), was a wonderful "chair" piece by samaras, that was made of various wires and colored thread, paper, etc. the more of this work by samaras i see, the more i love how absolutely personal his aesthetic is, and how completely uncanny the objects feel when you are standing in front of them. they are a bit confrontational in how they feel absolutely purposeful and purposeless at the same time, and their quiet is tempered by a strange feeling that he has hidden a razor blade in every apple. they also feel on the verge of collapse.

fender's works don't have as much darkness or provocation, but within the two works above, i find an aesthetic that seems wonderfully hovering in a land of "between", and totally exploratory. even though i came up with a loose string of references in relation to both works, fender seems to be working within his own territory; particularly when making decisions in these works, such as the elaborate sculptural hanging system and the materials used in the "city packages series", and the visibility of the japanese grapefruit dividers that act as an armature for the woven fiber. one decision feels formal and constructivist, the other bordering on surrealist tendencies. the private collision of such things seems fertile, particularly towards a formal resolve, and allowing the underlying emotional quality to remain marvelously quivering, so that one can go inside the works, and continually find new ways through them, leaving intellectual or conceptual resolve in a state of flux, and perhaps just out of reach.

i'm hoping at some point, to uncover more of fender's work. if anyone has any more info, comments are welcome.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

cage on books...

"books one picked up and put down over a period, say, of ten years, picking them up on the eleventh to discover the impossibility of putting them down. what's the arithmetic of this?"

john cage, in "numerals", exhibition catalog, 1978, yale university gallery.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

tonight... bookmeat...!

for those of you in los angeles, tonight is the night of a wonderful silent auction to benefit side street projects. while i don't tend to publicize events on the blog too much, i thought the idea of the auction was a great one. instead of asking artists to donate artwork, the organizers invited artists to donate a book that was somehow meaningful to them, to inscribe the book, and to include a letter or some "surprise", adding some secret insight to the buyer. they encouraged artists to donate their own copy of the book, perhaps dog eared and notated... tickets are very reasonable!

i had a pretty difficult time selecting a single book, but there is one that i have used numerous times towards my own work, and since i had 3 copies between home and the studio, it seemed a good fit. (i believe the books will be auctioned without the artist being known, so i won't reveal the title of mine!).

as i was holding the book in my hand to inscribe, i decided to add one extra path for the next owner, underlining a word or phrase on each page, suggesting a poem of stepping stones through the text... here's a short bit of it...

... and my eye sadly leaves the roof,
i am going to carry it with me over the mountains.

wind drifts across me, beyond me blue.
listen, from the hives and blossoms
rocks gently as a dream in the night
together in the moist flight of clouds.

blue lakes, and listening
with hundreds of nuances. my yearning
softly once again.

wandering without any special direction,
we lightly scatter:
the pasture, birds, and butterflies.

around me, a magic circle glows.

the land, it had trumpets.
the bridge sang in me, and echoed
what the sky said
in the moonlight curving gently away.

tenderly with inward, beloved things
ringing the bell
in my tongue, on the souls of my feet.

info here

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

gomringer's constellations...



of all poetic structures based upon the word, the constellation is the simplest. it disposes its groups of words as if they were clusters of stars.

the constellation is a system, it is also a playground with definite boundaries. the poet sets it all up. he designs the play-ground as a field-of-force & suggests its possible workings. the reader, the new reader, accepts it in the spirit of play, then plays with it.

with each constellation something new comes into the world. each constellation is a reality in itself & not a poem about some other thing.

the constellation is a challenge, it is also an invitation.

eugene gomringer, constellations, 1963 (translation by jerome rothenberg, 1967, something else press.)

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Monday, November 16, 2009

when mathews mentions the written word and the unwritten world...

if, as IC (calvino) said the other night, description is an activity in which the writer can begin to resolve the irreconcilability of the written word and the unwritten world, is there a hierarchy of preferences of things to be described? should one pursue the description of objects that are more and more devoid of salient characteristics, for instance the cigar box given me by the j and r tobacco company, a parallelepiped of the barest sort? or should one aim at portraying objects that are perpetually in flux or, better, that are transformed by our very description of them, like this page? what else could be so transformed? a beautiful woman tattooed with an account of her diminishing beauty - but she wouldn't then be truly something else: simply a woman being treated like a page. experience itself, past or present: as we represent it in words, it is assuredly modified, it's reduced, it's stripped of what is virtually an infinite ambiguity of interpretation and given only one version of itself - it becomes that other object which is the set of words of our description. ponge's genius - or part of it - is that he so immediately quits the oyster or cigarette he's describing for other objects to which he metaphorically compares it that the original object and our access to it are left unencumbered by what he has made of it. all his descriptions should carry april fool's day as the date of their inspiration.

harry mathews, 20 lines a day, 1988

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

when saroyan asked if writers are worth listening to...



the january 1955 issue of high fidelity magazine featured a beautiful photograph of william saroyan, recording himself reading one of his own works (jim dandy), in his malibu home, with a view of the ocean. the photograph is connected to a story in the magazine where saroyan discusses the "value" of being able to listen to writers read their own works through recordings, and specifically LP recordings.

the bulk of the article is not super interesting, but there a few gems, including saroyan's affirmation of one of my own stronger beliefs towards making recordings with humble gear...

"my recording for columbia was done on my own machine in my own home in malibu. the machine isn't much, but there are good machines, and i am in favor of this procedure for writers, rather than the procedure which involves recording studios, technicians, signals, signals off, and the rest of it. technical deficiencies are balanced by naturalness. i tend to believe that the ideal record will be more than just a straight reading of a given piece of writing. it will be something of the writer himself. if this were not so, if the reading were the important thing, then it would be in order for a professional reader, or actor to attend to the matter."

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Monday, November 09, 2009

when chairs appear in different cities...



yesterday at the flea market, i picked up these two cabinet cards, because of the chair. as you can see it appears in both photographs. even though it's kind of an interesting chair, it wouldn't have been necessary to procure the photographs until i noticed that one image was taken in chicago, and the other in st. louis.

as difficult as travel must've been around 1870, i would imagine it being even tougher for a chair. i'm not sure if there's more to the story, other than the fact that face of the boy in the solo image, and the girl on the left in the other image have incredibly similar facial features.

like the photograph of the woman and the victrola i posted last week, the chair here does begin to feel like a surrogate for a missing person; and perhaps, because no one is actually sitting on it in either picture, there is a family spirit taking up the chair-sitting-space invisibly.

perhaps this invisible presence was felt by the others in the photographs; and that the subjects, along with the photographer, attempted to photographically capture this ghost, by travelling to different cities, and posing with different family members. it would seem that every time they, and the chair, had their photograph taken, they would be filled with hope that the phantom would somehow appear, sitting on the chair comfortably, within the photographic image that eventually appeared upon the paper...

if that was the case, then what we see here, is simply a failed attempt to make the invisible, visible.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

when the camera is facing a mirror and covered in paper...



i recently picked up this cyanotype of herbert s. smith. it is a self portrait, taken on july 4, 1890, created by pointing the camera into a mirror. smith owned the "smith wheel chair concern"(not sure what that was, but it would definitely make a great band name), which, at the time, was at 120 william st. in new york.

as you can see from the detail, the camera is covered in white paper. i'm not sure of the reason for this "modification" but it makes the visible parts of the camera look a bit like a small constellation. the photograph came out of a scrapbook, with a ton of notation on each shot, (which is how we know this is a self portrait and shot into a mirror), but he did not mention the white paper covering. (if anyone out there has an idea about this, i'd love to hear from you.)

while my photograph collection mainly dances around the idea of music and listening, i've found myself lately also buying certain photographs, like this one, that have nothing to do with music. as i look at this more recent obsession with images that seem to have nothing in common (other than their non-music-ness), i try, as always, to figure out how they might be connected, so that i can somehow begin to understand, as well as to articulate, at least to myself, what i might be looking for, and to have a sense of what i'm "building" through this secondary arm of the collection, as i'm convinced there is a thread, or two, or twenty...

as for smith's self portrait, the thing that makes it extraordinary for me, is that we are seeing the photographer/camera's view and the subject's view at the same time. smiths eyes seem to be keyed on the spot on the mirror that the lens would also be "seeing". in looking directly at smith's eyes and the camera's lens, you can really feel that "V" shaped line bouncing from eyes to mirror to lens; and of course, this image is as it would've been seen if there was a lens, or an eye, in that exact point in the mirror where smith's eyes and lens' gaze met...

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

when poets were like baseball players too...


a few weeks ago, i posted the artwork for a frank lloyd wright bubble gum card that was part of a set of famous americans from the early 1960's. a few days ago i remembered another bubble gum card anomaly... this 1934 "sky birds" bubble gum card of gabriel d'annunzio, pictured as a famous aviator, but on the back also referred to as the "poet flyer".

to the best of my knowledge, like wright the architect, d'annunzio was the only poet to appear on a bubble gum card.

when i discovered the card, years ago, i thought the poet simply shared a name with a famous WWI italian fighter, but d'annunzio seems to have led quite a complex life. the back of his short story collection "nocturne and five tales of love and death", tells the reader he was "flamboyant, unquestionably brave, eloquent, seductive - an inspirer and leader of men, astonishingly successful with women" (not exactly the usual bio of a poet born in 1863 and published by academic and university presses...).

i first came upon his work in the mid-1980's through the marlboro press, who published the short story collection mentioned above, as well as many great works in translation. it was through marlboro that i discovered writers like hermann broch and hans fallada. d'annunzio's short stories were great, but i remember having a deeper relationship with his dark novel of failed love, "the triumph of death".

according to the backs of both books, d'annunzio's work was championed by a number of great writers, including james joyce, eugenio montale, andre malraux, and paul valery, which probably means one could also add the phrase "writer's writer" to his already swollen biography.

here's a large fragment of a one of d'annunzio's longer poems, that i particularly like because of its relationship to listening and nature sounds...:

hush. on the edges
of the woods i can't
hear words
you say, human words;
but i hear newer words,
that drops of water and leaves speak
far away.
listen. it's raining
from the scattering clouds.
it's raining on the
brackish, burnt-up tamarisks,
it's raining on the
scaly, bristling pines,
it's raining on the divine
on the broom trees gleaming
with their clumps of flowers,
on the matty junipers
and their sweet-smelling pips,
it's raining on our sylvan
it's raining on our bare
on our thin
on the fresh thoughts
which the mind uncovers
in her new freshness,
on the lovely fable
that yesterday
enchanted you, and today enchants me,

can you hear? the rain is falling
on the solitary
with a crackling that hangs
and varies in the air
with the thickness and the sparseness
of the greening.
listen. in reply
to the crying, the song of
which the south-wind crying
cannot frighten;
nor can the ashy sky.
and the pine tree
has its sound, and the myrtle
has its sound, the juniper has
still another, diverse
under fingers without number.
and we
are immersed in forest
living of wood livingness;
and your longing face
is wet with rain
like a leaf,
and your hair
smells like
shining broom flowers,
o earthly creature

listen, listen. the chord
of airy cicadas
little by little
under the growing cry;
but now a song mixes in,
more raucous
than what rises from below,
from wet, distant shade.
hollower and hoarser
it grows weak, it dies.
alone one note
still trembles, dies,
rises, trembles, dies.
the voice of the sea cannot be heard.
and now on all the leafy branches
is heard to stream in torrents
the silver rain
that cleans,
the vast outpouring that varies
the thickness
and the sparseness
of the greening.
air's daughter
is silent; but the distant daughter
of the mud,
the frog,
is singing from the deepest shadows,
who knows where, who knows where!
and it's raining on your lashes,

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