Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bed-Stuy Mural

Two blocks away from where I live, this mural has become an integral part of my daily landscape.  Ol' Dirty Bastard's visage conjures wonderful memories of late night printmaking binges on a week-long workshop at Texas State University, San Marcos with Jeffrey Dell in 2005. As industrious students and Dell pulled screens into the night, the Wu-Tang Clan with ODB at the mike yodelled us on. I often stop and stare at the eyes in this mural, which brilliant blue unnaturally obliterates the pupils so the eyes float out a bit. The blue suggests a camera flash, offsetting the grim, overall illumination of  institutional photography suggested by the image.

The mural, originally painted by Victor Goldfeld in 2007, has been defaced and repainted twice. For more history and a UTube synopsis, check Goldfeld's site, linked above. For more background you can find an interview with Giacomo Fortunato and Vega on the blog TheCrypt; Fortunato wrote an essay for the online magazine Heeb, Ol' Dirty Lawsuit, in 2009.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rosanna Bruno's Studio

Today I visited painter Rosanna Bruno, whose work I have known, and followed, since she first arrived in New York in 1993.  She showed me ten or more new paintings since her 2009 John Davis Gallery exhibition, linked above (download the pdf from her name on the gallery menu). These paintings are supple and light. Gestures adorn raw linen surfaces, creating web-like structures to visually climb without the guarantee of gravity.

I'd been thinking about Wm. Powhida's passionate outburst regarding 'canned radicalism' on his blog post* Works of Art. It got me thinking on the possibilities of what is radical in art today, what could be, particularly in painting. Rosanna's painting proposed a redefinition of priorities, in that they do not appear radical in the way that statement-making approaches (ie. Warhol, Schnabel, Halley and Hirst) might. Her paintings inch forward, harnessing the usual suspects--gesture, texture, chroma, scale--to  wrest unsettled, fractured spaces.  They are forged in the crucible of history, acknowledging and trespassing it within those terms. Accordingly, the dance between translucent grounds, delicate swipes of the brush that hint at form, and gestures full of body and movement leads us to...

...such ambiguity between figure and ground that prolonged looking induces vertigo, akin to walking a tightrope. Ropy gestures offer illusions of security and we climb on out, before realizing it's all gesture...we see this with our eyes--we are caught in a labrynth of gestures with no certain place to go.  Forked-tongued gestures and washy grounds intermingle and don't define what's on top and beneath. They establish spatial relationships promptly jettisoned for flickering and staccato rhythms.


Is perception radical?

Agnes Martin, Writings, p. 71:
"It is so hard to slow down to the pace where it is possible to explore one's mind. And then of course one must go absolutely alone with not one thought about others intruding because then one would be off in relative thinking."

In this epoch of saturation, is such an endeavor possible? Or is the importance of individual perception historical?

Agnes Martin, Writings, p. 89:

"When interest in graphic art wanes I suppose it is possible to imagine its slipping out of sight but I do not believe in that possibility.

My interest is in experience that is wordless and silent, and in the fact that this experience can be expressed for me in art work which is also wordless and silent...

...We perceive - We see. We see with our eyes and we see with our minds...

...Perceiving is the same as receiving and it is the same as responding. Perception means all of them."

and for this reason, she proposes that, "If we can perceive ourselves within the work - not the work but ourselves when viewing the work then the work is important. If we can know our response, see in ourselves what we have received from a work, that is the way to the understanding of truth and all beauty." (italics hers).

Thinking with one's eyes can be radical, though not perhaps in ways we have come to expect radical to behave. The ability to become visually dislocated while contemplating an object is pure kinesthetic power, restoring bodily awareness through sight. What this changes is perhaps nothing, or everything.

On My Way to Rosanna's: WetSlipper

On my way to Rosanna Bruno's studio, I stopped at Recess, 41 Grand Street, to experience WetSlipper, a collaborative installation by Siebren Viersteeg and David Hardy under the moniker SpiritTours. (The above link provides hours and address.) It was unexpectedly wonderful to don trashbag pantaloons, climb up  a wooden ladder and whoosh out on Grand Street, where one could recover by viewing pithy sayings on tie dyed t-shirts and handmade signage. Though a large landing cushion had recently been removed by city employees due to encroaching on sidewalk space, sliding activities showed no sign of abating. A promising first day for the perfect pick-me-up in the dog days of summer...

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Way We See

Walking through my neighborhood, I fix on particular landmarks. The Franklin Medical Building, above, is one of my favorites for its mid-century design, compact scale, aqua panels and dated signage. Once likely a hub of activity, now slatted blinds hang loosely in the windows; the roll up remains locked.  I wonder what happened to the doctors who practiced there; who owns the building now, and its role in the neighborhood before closing. Often in my neighborhood, space assumes the linear shape of avenues lined by brownstones, undifferentiated in memory.

The article Culture Wires the Brain: A Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective, cited on Integral Options Cafe ( on 8/6/2010), proposes a singling of landmarks as cultural:

..."There is evidence that the collectivist nature of East Asian cultures versus individualistic Western cultures affects both brain and behavior. East Asians tend to process information in a global manner whereas Westerners tend to focus on individual objects. There are differences between East Asians and Westerners with respect to attention, categorization, and reasoning. For example, in one study, after viewing pictures of fish swimming, Japanese volunteers were more likely to remember contextual details of the image than were American volunteers. Experiments tracking participants' eye movements revealed that Westerners spend more time looking at focal objects while Chinese volunteers look more at the background.

...Park and Huang note that, "with age, both cultures would move towards a more balanced representation of self and others, leading Westerners to become less oriented to self and East Asians to conceivably become more self-focused."

The holistic perception in Chinese scrolls initially attracted me for the dissolution of binaries. In scrolls, space undulates with a "butterfly" perspective that shifts from length to depth. This leads me to reconsider drawing now, how parts fit into the whole by working from the whole at first. Same with my neighborhood, as it undergoes gradual but persistent gentrification.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Elisabeth Condon, Notes on a Landscape I, 2010, brush pen on vellum, 12 x 9 inches 

Mai Long of Slot Gallery (Sydney, Australia; linked above) offers the most gorgeous definition of space describing the exhibition Here and There:

"It was our desire to offer a space for these artists to explore the notion of ‘hyphenation’ that we all experience today, living and working between places, cultures and definitions; where ‘real space’ is a layered construction of memory, found object, acquired histories and an alert reading of physical space. Essentially, this project is an exercise in transmigration and translation."