Monday, March 21, 2011

the man on the table...



here are two recent finds (from different sources) a pair of RPPC photographs of lynne lewis white and his uke. while i was unable to find much information on him online, the two photos have extensive notes written in pencil on the back - (one also includes white's signature!).

from the backs, this is what i know:

these photos of lewis white are circa 1929, purchased originally at "the big show in vanadalia august 19-24, 1929". (i'm assuming white performed at the show).

white was born in kansas, and was 20 years old when one of these was purchased, and 21 years old when the other was purchased - meaning he was most likely 19 or 20 when the photos were taken.

based on the small #'s added onto the negative, these two images are from a series of at least 5.

white weighed 18 pounds and was 22 inches tall in both images, and he was known as the "midget troubadour" as well as "major white".

at the time of the photos he was living in bartlesville OK.

as much as i've stayed away from images that would fit comfortably withing the world of todd browning's freaks, something about the mood of these two photographs felt incredibly sublime. the atmosphere of white's poses with his instrument, standing on a table is so silently uncanny and yet even with the heavily professional look of the photograph, there is a matter of fact quality that gives it even more of an emotional punch. (not to mention thinking about the conversation between white and the photographer that led to white being photographed upon a table, rather than the floor).

i have no idea what white's music might have sounded like, nor the kinds of songs he regularly performed, but i sort of imagine him singing songs like nick lucas... a fellow troubadour... and you can hear a song of his here...

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

when stones are thrown...

a preview of my show, stone's throw, opening tonight from 6-8










in the fall of 2008, a month or so after my grandmother died, i visited her sculpture studio and brought home several stones she had started to work on but never finished. these stones resonated with me because they were in process and unresolved - existing somewhere between nature and sculpture. i also found in her studio a small piece of paper on which she had written a quote by henry moore. while i tentatively approached the use of these stones in a series of drawings in early 2009, it wasn’t until the spring of 2010, during a residence at chinati, that i began to find ways to work in deeper conversation with the stones, returning for the first time in nearly 20 years to the idea of making work based on observing things in the manner of making a still life. of course, i was not interested in making a still life, but i wanted to allow the stones to challenge my process.

as i began these works, a number of reference points participated in the conversation: the hermetic and intimately personal nature of jasper john's post-70's paintings (as well as the similarity of his hatch marks to my grandmother’s chiseling), chinese scholar rocks, a small display of crystals and stones i pondered on a desk in goethe's house in weimar 8 years ago, christian wolff's score "stones" which i have carried in my wallet for years, some early films of dennis oppenhiem of his hands, gary beidler's film “hand held day”, jackson pollock’s awkward 1953 painting “portrait and a dream” - and most importantly the way certain analog activities and materials - hands, stones, paper, pencils, paint, celluloid film, drawing, wrapping, rubbing, etc. - seemed to relate more to a history of ritual, than to contemporary art (i'm talking about the inside, not the outside).

in the process of working on paintings, drawings, sculpture, film and sound, the stones were not only referenced for visual decisions, but were, at times, combined with self-devised scores based on the vowel structure or musical note structure (a-g) of my grandmother’s henry moore quote...

i’ve titled the show “stone’s throw” not only because of its reference to stones, but also because i like how the phrase is used to describe a short, yet inconsistent, distance from a source. the works in the exhibition exist in their finished forms a “stone’s throw” away from the stones that fueled their making... obviously, some remain a lot closer to their sources than others...

steve roden, march, 2011


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

when henry moore and my grandmother collided...










some stills from the video installation: striations, which will be part of my show opening on thursday at susanne veilmetter la projects. it's the first time i have worked with a 16mm camera and the first time the bulk of the film is recognizable images. the film was inspired by a quote by henry moore that i found in my grandmother's sculpture studio - along with some of her unfinished stones. the pieces is silent, consisting of two projections of different lengths, placed side by side so that the "stereo" relationship is constantly shifting. there is also some hand drawn elements translating the moore quote into drawing actions for specified numbers of frames... the film gushingly gleans inspiration from dennis oppenheim's early films, gary beydler's hand held day, and an early film by jess that suggested a victorian magic lantern show. i'll eventually post a moving document...


Thursday, March 10, 2011

two from the ultimate painter's painter...

march 25, 1965
being fascinated by process, i have to acceed to and fight through all the processes involved in painting or drawing or whatever. in drawing the small pencil studies, for instance, i have a positive and very real - and lasting (it never flags) delight in overcoming the grain of the paper for my ends. this leads only too easily to some sort of "fix" on the process - and in times of confusion and weakness of purpose it can take over. but i cannot overcome this by simply saying to myself to myself that i must play down the process - overlook, for instance, areas where the paper is particularly recalcitrant, and go on to the "next" thing. once i've even become aware of something wrong - a weakness in the drawing where the process is not working wholly to my ends, that has to be changed, no matter how unnoticeable to anyone else, no matter what! not because hte drawing couldn't, possibly, be completed satisfactorily without doing it, but because i can't even see what else there is to be done until i have done it!

october 25, 1965
i believe that flatness (as of the canvas, for instance) is something we never see, but only know. the eyes are not constructed to see flatness, and we come nearer knowing it through the sense of touch. if this is true, the basis of our apprehension of a painting has a duality of see-touch, or maybe better - touch-see, which sets up what is probably the primary, vivifying tension on the basis of which the "living" - the "created" quality of a painting depends.

if this is so, is this why i must pay such endless and infinite attention to the topography of the paint on my canvas?

from the journals of myron stout

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

help support WFMU radio...

i was recently invited to contribute to a fundraising project for radio WFMU in ny. daniel blumin, who hosts a great program on saturday nights from 9-midnight, invited a number of experimental music makers to record a cover song to help raise money for the radio station...

the result is an extremely limited cd called "your song, my foot - an earrational selection of covers". that will only be available during the fundraiser...

most folks who know my work will be quite surprised with my cover song choice, but more so, i think anyone knows my work will be floored by the unexpected nature of the results...

here's the track listing (which is stellar):

Jowe Head "Lady Eleanor" (Alan Hull)
Michael Gendreau "What We Do Is Secret" (Germs)
él-g "C'est la Ouate" (Caroline Loeb, Pierre Grillet)
Double Nelson "Der Mussolini" (Gabi Delgado-Lopez, Robert Görl
If, Bwana "Directly From My Heart To You" (Little Richard)
Black to Comm "Tropique, 1985" (Axel de Kirianov)
DooDooettes "Come Out" (Steve Reich)
Astral Social Club "Sky" (The Dead C)
Giuseppe Ielasi "Beautiful Child" (Stevie Nicks)
Helen Rush/PG 6 "Take It As It Comes" (The Doors)
Squomb / Chromaa "Up, Up and Away" (Jimmy Webb)
Volcano The Bear "Vienna" (B.Currie/C.Cross/W.Cann/M.Ure)
Steve Roden "Bela Lugosi's Dead" (Bauhaus)
Simon Joyner "After the Gold Rush" (Neil Young)
Felix Kubin "Bandits One Five" (Nikki Sudden)
Ashtray Navigations "Ride A White Swan" (Marc Bolan)
The Rebel "The Savingest Man on Earth" (Uncle Eck Dunford)

all of the artists involved have 100% donated their songs to the project to support the station...

i believe that the disc is only going to be available as a premium during the pledge drive, and can be obtained for a $75 donation.

to support WFMU and specifically daniel's program, it would be ideal to pledge during his show - this coming saturday night from 9pm - midnight NY time - but you can support the station, and purchase the disc anytime between now and then.

donations can be made via the phone at 1-800-989-368 or via the web here

WFMU is a magnificent radio station that truly supports experimental and new music.

Monday, March 07, 2011


Between 1959-1962, Agam also experimented in the application of multiplicity to a particular kind of theater equipped with several stages upon which different scenes of the same play took place simultaneously.

In 1958, Agam even began experimenting with a new kind of "simultaneous writing," which dissociates speech from reading, and in which several verbal expressions are written one above the other so that they may be grasped at the same time. He demonstrated some of these ideas in a didactic illustrated book in Hebrew, published in Israel in 1989:
Agmilim ("Agamwords").

i would be very interested in hearing from anyone out there who knows more about agam's agmilim...

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

go west young pallet...


yesterday, while stopped at a red light in alhambra, i couldn't help but notice this scene from my car window. this somewhat incongruous image of a pallet leaning up against a tree, seemed as if the pallet - obviously a former tree itself - had returned to its mother tree... resting under her branches with the comfort of a return to the womb...

after its long bitter journey of trying to make it in the big city (with a forklift continually stuck into its bottom), the little pallet certainly seems exhausted and at peace in its return to its source. i think there's something tender about it... and as i drove away, i imagine the little pallet just sat there resting, taking in the comfort and shade of its own origins...