blinky on my mind...
during the last few weeks of blinky palermo's survey, i was invited by lacma to write a guest post on the show for their blog. i have loved palermo's work for a long while, but i had never really tried to write about it, particularly because it was always difficult to articulate my responses - always feeling that the work (especially the early pieces) approached an experience that felt stubbornly wordless. eventually, this inability to write with clarity about palermo's work suggested that i simply let the works speak for themselves, and so in a kind of ridiculous way, i ended up "documenting" a conversation between two works that were hung adjacent to each other: butterfly two and blue disc and staff (which you can read here).
as i exited the last gallery of lacma's palermo survey, i encountered a small vitrine featuring a 1969 edition that palermo did with gallerist rene block called "blaues dreieck" (blue triangle). the piece is deceptively simple: the box containing a stencil of a triangle shape, a blue tube of paint, a brush, and a print. more info on the print can be seen at greg.org (strangely posted on my birthday!), but the instructions in the box suggest one stencils a blue triangle above a door, and then "give away the original sheet"... suggesting the paper stencil can be used to place triangles over numerous doors and on numerous structures.
i was recently invited to participate in a group show at the sculpture center called "time again" curated by fionn meade. over our many conversations regarding the show and what i might include (we ended up with a new sound work for the courtyard, a painting, a recent film, and 16 drawings from a series of 50 that had never been shown). fionn had asked me if they could reprint my blinky text in the catalog, and i realized that more often than not, palermo's work has tended to make an appearance in most of our conversations... so it was no surprise that we were once again moving around with blinky as a kind of anchor point.
"time again" included a 1971 piece by palermo titled "projektion". the piece is basically a photographic document of a projection of a red and blue painting onto the front of what appears to be the facade of an apartment building. the final image (a still photograph) is quite uncanny, and like most of palermo's work as described above, the piece is rich in potential wanderings, yet unable to evoke within me anything that i could articulate in terms of how or why it managed to resonate so strongly. for the installation at the sculpture center, the palermo is hung on the right side of a T shaped wall and my painting hung on the left - with the "stem" wall separating them. basically, if you stood a foot or so from the bottom of the T's stem, you could see both works together, with the thin edge of the stem between them. thus, while a viewer could stand at a distance and see both together, the artworks themselves are always separated physically from each other.
obviously, i was ecstatic to be part of such a conversation (moving suddenly from an invented conversation between two of palermo's works, towards seeing a conversation occur in real time between a work of palermo's and my own.) on the surface, the painting is pretty close in scale, as well as even somewhat related in color, to palermo's photograph; but what is more interesting is their relationship to architecture and site.
palermo's "projektion" seems to shift certain conditions of an existing architecture through the addition of color and light, while my painting was the first that i have made that was directly influenced by the existing architectural conditions within which it was made (i.e. i could not have been made the painting anywhere else as its visual motif was built through my conversation with specific visual qualities of the space). in this way, palermo and i begin to talk about both painting and architecture in relation to ideas of site specificity, and in particular, i believe that as these works create a kind of conversational ouroboros around architecture and painting, where blinky imposes a painting upon an architecture, while in my own work an architecture is allowed to impose itself upon a painting.
as i started to think more and more about blinky's "projektion", i found myself coming back to "blue triangle" - and how both blue triangle and projektion change an architectural situation by adding color and skin. both are somewhat guerrilla actions - though not necessarily of desecration, but more a kind of "dress-up", with blue triangle becoming something of a fake moustache, and "projektion" a kind of evening gown.
while one can find many "folk" precedents for blue triangle - pennsylvania dutch hex symbols, hobo signs, etc.; "projektion" seems a precedent itself for the more public realm of recent projection, such as doug aitken's piece for moma, and the projections thrown onto the new museum which i could see from my hotel. the difference, of course, is that palermo's piece was static, and its "motion" could only occur through the user, through his or her movement around it (i.e. exploring the flat image as architecture, and proving once again that the term "interactive" does not always have to include various bells and whistles ).
in thinking about "projektion's" projection, i realize that blinky manages, once again, to approach a kind of intimacy through stillness and touch - as if the projected painting was gently laid over the facade like a blanket for a slightly cold night. it suggests that the work is not only about how the painting affects the building, but how the building affects the painting...
on the morning of my departure from ny, while walking to get some coffee, i passed a construction site contained by blue large painted walls with several small cut-out windows in the shape of triangles. of course, these openings felt like an inverted version of "blue triangle". as i looked through the openings towards the site (which felt like visiting a secret place), i felt as if i were holding palermo's stencil for blue triangle, and using his frame to see the world.
i then tried to stoop down as much as possible so as to look upwards and still be able to see through the triangle, hoping for a vantage point that would allow me to see the sky through a blue triangular frame - to potentially see blue within the blue, although knowing full well that these two blues would not blend into the full blown monochrome i was suddenly seeking...
perhaps in the end, it is this situation - where one finds a kind of inability to fit things together that gives palermo's work its richness... re-enforcing for me, that a condition of "resolve" or "stability" in an artwork is highly overrated.