Monday, May 4, 2009

Let the snake wait under
his weed
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,

---through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No ideas
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
the rocks.              William Carlos Williams,  A Sort of A Song, 1921

Sarah E. Wood, 24 pears on 12 shelves  
[installation on mount royal avenue trees, november 17, 1995] 
1. "If it can be safely assumed that all things are equal, separate and unrelated, we are obliged to concede that they (things) can be named and described but never defined or explained. If, furthermore, we bracket-out all questions that, due to the nature of language, are undiscussible (such as why did this or that come to exist, or what does it mean) it will then be possible to say that the entire being of an object, in this case an art object, is in its appearance. Things being whatever it is they happen to be, all we know about them is derived directly from how they appear."  Mel Bochner, from his essay Serial Art, Systems, Solipsism, first published in Arts Magazine, 1967.

2.  “Let us, then, try to define the distinction between subject matter or meaning on the the one hand, and form on the other." / "When an acquaintance greets me on the street by removing his hat, what I see from a formal point of view is nothing but the change of certain details within a configuration that forms part of the general pattern of color, lines and volumes which constitutes my world of vision. When I identify, as I automatically do, this as an event (hat removing), I have already overstepped the limits of purely formal perception and entered a first sphere of subject matter or meaning … we shall call … the factual meaning.”   Erwin Panofsky, from Studies in Iconology,1939 (as quoted by Barbara Rose in her essay ABC Art, from Art in America, October-November, 1965) 

3.  Stephen pointed to a basket which a butcher's boy had slung inverted over his head. 
    -- Look at that basket, he said. 
    -- I see it, said Lynch
   -- In order to see the basket, said Stephen, your mind first of all separates the basket from the rest of the visible universe which is not the basket. The first phase of apprehension is bounding line drawn about the object to be apprehended. An esthetic image is presented to us either in space or time. What is audible is presented in time, what is visible is presented in space. But, temporal or spatial, the esthetic image is first luminously apprehended as selfbounded and selfcontained upon the immeasurable background of space and time which is not it. You apprehend it as one thing. You see it as one whole. You apprehend its wholeness. That is integratis.  James Joyce, from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, 1916. 

Sarah E. Wood, Logs, 2008 (Kate Werble Gallery, April 2009)         photos: Kain 2009

Sarah E. Wood, Untitled (floor) and Coat Rack, 2009                      photo: Kain 2009

Ludwig Wittgenstein, (scanned image/text) from Philosophical Investigations
What is the value of (re)cognizing these shifts of perception, these inversions of objects and images - pointed to by Stephen Dedalus (Joyce), Wittgenstein, Panofsky (Rose), Bochner and Wood?  As Joyce indicates through his pedestrian selection of the butcher's boy's basket, these inversions in language (through the inversion of a form's use) occur within the continuum of every day life. It then becomes apparent that a metaphor is not only a dialectic or poetic device, but also a state of being. It seems that all things are metaphorically becoming other things, "whatever it is they happen to be"(Bochner). Bochner, while speaking specifically about art (the separated-object-thing), is speaking of our situation within a dialectic/metaphoric life. We can only name and describe things because in actuality things are always within a metaphoric, provisional state of being. You can not explain a tree. If you attempted to, you could only do so by metaphorically breaking down the 'tree' into its parts. You would very quickly get to the parts we call the sun (light) and the earth (minerals), as those parts are not at all separated out from the whole of what it is we call a tree. It is only through a game of language and perception that we name that particular set of things, a tree.


Sarah E. Wood and David Kennedy-Cutler at Kate Werble Gallery

Sarah E. Wood and David Kennedy-Cutler, Wait and Reverberate,  Kate Werble Gallery
April-May 2009                                                                                    photo: Kain 2009

The pictorial image in Sarah Wood’s work is constructed by the specific properties and use of physical material(s), within the work itself.  As such, the images are concretely real. This sets up her intention for unanswered (dialectic) questions regarding our cognition of a picture-image-object. Dialectically, the pictorial image refers to aspects of making a picture, while the specific object (in its material form) serves as a marker (a sign), a point of reference set into our path of perception. In this way, the ‘story’ of the object and its image is continually present. In conceptual terms, Wood is presenting a gestalt for our physical perception and linguistic conception of things

Inside and outside of the gestalt, Wood plays a playful game. Her objects - their rigid/soft materiality, their image, and their installation - are held in a suspended state, which is mirrored by an object-is-an-image-as-an-object game. This wait and see game is severe, poetic and contagious. Her game insinuates the everyday  'language games' (Wittgenstein) we use to negotiate the construction of our daily life, consciously or not. 

The prevalence of black dyes, inks and pigmented materials in Wood’s work dialectically plays-up the graphic force of her specific objects, while voiding-out or dampening down symbolic meaning of the images. This intentionally reinforces the conscious act of seeing over an unconscious act of interpreting (while leaving open an additional play for ‘hidden’ interpretations). It also allows her to announce her intellectual and aesthetic affinity with several artists of the 1950’s and 60’s. This, I think, is not a coy or sentimental gesture from Wood, but rather an insistence on paying attention to things (objects and histories), in a rigorous and faithful manner.

David Kennedy-Cutler, installation view of Reverberate, 2009             photo: Kain 2009

David Kennedy-Cutler's approach to object-making relies on the significance and pre-existing conditions of preternatural and natural objects, which he selects and reuses (rewrites). Neighborhood tree limbs (from a ubiquitous supply) are, with reasonable care and sufficient precision, spilt open to reveal the 'hidden' grain (revealing a central system of information). The inside grain is hand-oiled with poppy oil to make the distinction and signification of the grain apparent. The bark of the limbs are redecorated (again by hand) with the use of an equally ubiquitous supply of CDs, which have been shredded (by hand) into a new raw material for the proper reuse and redistribution of their hidden data (a returning or rebroadcasting of the material). The primary materials, tree limbs and CDs, are brought together from the outside in and the inside out. It is through the equanimity of the materials' disparate systems that Kennedy-Cutler offers us an opportunity to reevaluate the origins, distributions and destinations of our ideas, our products of information and our aesthetic values, "whatever it is they happen to be"(Bochner). The titles of Kennedy-Cutler's works [Transmitter (Revealer), Transmitter (Ethereal Projecter)] suggests a preternatural desire for the reconfigurations of receptions, projections and transmissions. Is this not the case?   

... and he sets his mind to unknown arts and changes the laws of nature.  - Ovid, Metamorphoses, VII, 18

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

If your mem'ry serves you well,
We were goin' to meet again and wait,
So I'm goin' to unpack all my things
And sit before it gets to late.
No man alive will come to you
With another tale to tell,
But you know that we shall meet again
If your mem'ry serves you well.       B. Dylan  This Wheel's On Fire 

Brian Kain,  Tire/mirror (affinity)  Willis Gallery  1990                     

About two weeks ago Gary Zych [our gracious host and companion for the Central Park-Metropolitan Museum-MOMA romp, of the previous March 12 posting] helped me contact Richard Dennis, who is a superior maker and craftsman of all things needed (a denizen of the hard and fine arts). Richard, Gary and I are interconnected through various associations surrounding Cranbrook Academy of Art and Detroit/Hamtramck, circa 1985-93.  Most notably we each studied with Michael Hall, artist-in-residence for Sculpture at Cranbrook, 1970-90. I first met Richard while working with Gary on Robert Cobb's house out on Pine Lake (in the lake region just northwest of Detroit). Robert Cobb, a Detroit businessman and philanthropist, is best known among the Cranbrook-Wayne State University-Center for Creative Studies crowd for his 25 year support of the infamous / famous now defunct Willis Gallery (1971-96), in the Detroit Cass Corridor.

Marsha and Richard outside their Red Hook gate / Kain 2009

Through Richard I met Marsha Trattner, and together the two welcomed and introduced me to Red Hook Brooklyn and to Tini's Wine Bar on Van Brunt St, where they plied me with fine foods and spirits.

As it so happened, 
Tini's was preparing to move down the street, that very Sunday, to reopen as Home/Made at 293 Van Brunt. To expedite the move, Tini's proprietor Leisah Swenson and other principle folk organized a community parade - to move the whole kit and kaboodle down the road. Marsha, who is a metalsmith-blacksmith (teaches for School of Visual Arts) was slated to be part of the team to resize Tini's timber and steel plate bar for its new installation at Home/Made. Marsha, who is also a sweetheart of a person, encouraged me to come back for the event. So I did - and glad to have done so. What follows below are some pix prior to the parade. A fine cast of characters: with chefs, artisans, musicians, patrons and community organizer types.

Moving the bar [upper left: Gary (not Zych), Derek and Marsha break it loose] Kain 2009

Smitty with his 1934 Regal Dobro, outside Tini's on moving day (a super fine, natural law, peidmont blues / rag player - like honey for your soul). Smitty performs every Thursday night at the Red Hook Bait & Tackle / yeh! go see and hear

Ms. Red Hook (Beatrice), in tiara and tails, works for Atlantis Rehabilitation     Kain 2009  Carlina (adjusting sails) works for Portside New York    

Dave Sharp of the Waterfront Museum and Barge (over on Conover Street)      Kain 2009

Getting ready to float on down Van Brunt Street / St Lazarus      Kain 2009

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Anna Shteynsleyger has been awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for 2009. This entry was written for the occasion, with reflections on past and recent conversations.
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In 1995, as a first year student at Maryland Institute College of Art, Anna Shteynshleyger produced an onsite work within the school's Annex Building, in which she taped on the walls a simple set of typed instructions, at three locations in the building - for the viewer 'to observe'. On the floor, for each of the three locations, Shteynshleyger also outlined a corresponding 'viewer's platform', from which the viewer could orient their position. These 'platforms' were drawn out with the same 3/4" masking tape that held her haiku-compact instructions to the wall. The whole arrangement provided the viewer with an opportunity to monitor and witness a shifting time of day, from the locus solus of their position and perception, at three 'points-of-view' within the existential cosmology.  Without pretension or specified desire Shteynshleyger had turned the building into a clock inside a camera without the requisite rational mechanisms or chemistry to determine shape, image or form. The continued presence and absence of the unknown observer was the only constant form, and the most indeterminate thing.

Shteynsleyger's use of dialectic time and place from a determined/indeterminate location - where we, as the unknown observer, are just outside the frame - is central to the images and chemistry of her work. A picture is taken from a location, which is outside the frame. Arguably, this is the condition of all photography, as a picture always comes from outside and goes within (the Annex Building). But Shteynsleyger, with her spiritual sense for the indeterminate, consciously avoids overt machinations of photography for the sake of the real. She does not crop-out the picture from the whole. Her images are tangential and contingent to a wider scene - in concept and form.

From a recent email exchange she revealed this point, while describing (without cause or effect) the real specifics of shooting City of Destiny (Devon landscape), below:  

What's important for me is the utter mundaneness of it. While shooting I was standing 
almost under a bridge and at the edge of the parking lot to a small grocery store. 

City of Destiny (Devon Landscape)   Anna Shteynshleyger 2009

Her location and position - of being almost under, at the edge of something - exists in and outside each frame of Shteynsleyger's work. Along with the viewer, the small grocery store sits at the edge of the camera, within the frame of the parking lot, just below and beyond the bridge. This is a cinematographic state of being; to be among and within a set of determined indeterminate points - a wheel inside a wheel. A continuation of her description reads:

It's very unglamorous and ordinary, yet... Also something about how black 
that water is. Scary, somewhat frightening. Winter is important. Absence. 

The "ordinary, yet...", along with her poetic meter and lyric specificity reflects a circumscribed but fluid aesthetic (a determined indeterminate). Included with her descriptions above Shteynsleyger attached two visual references, specific to her Devon landscape.  From Breugel and Tarkovsky:

The Hunters in the Snow    Peiter Bruegel 1565

scene from Andrey Tarkovsky's Mirror  (1974)                                                                

Shteynshleyger points to, with great delight and empathy, Tarkovsky's complete and total reference to Breugel in this scene from Mirror. I will speculate, having not yet inquired, that Shteynshleyger did not seek to fulfill a specific reference to Breugel and Tarkovsky with her Devon landscape, but rather, as it was with Tarkovsky, she remains lyrically disposed to the episodic metaphors around her - and through the connectedness of the ordinary, references are mirrored. 

Shteynshleyger's series City of Destiny, of which (Devon landscape) is but one scene, is an episodic account of the people, places and things that make up the world in which Shteynshleyger lives. It is a regional account that is left unfixed by its own intersecting histories and Shteynshleyger's intentions. The histories are regional by their specific place in time, but are made universal by the common forces of migration, immigration and emigration. The people, the institutions and the world are in episodic motion.

City of Destiny (Boarded House)   Anna Shteynshleyger 2008

City of Destiny (Picnic)  Anna Shteynshleyger 2008

City of Destiny (Portrait with Mordechai)  Anna Shteynshleyger 2003

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Notes & selected links 

1.  The first three images above (b&w) come from my snapshot files of students' work. All three were shot on Nov. 17, 1995. The first image shows Anna Shteynshleyger with Brock Enright and Ed Illades on the second floor of the Annex Building. Ed Illades is in position to observe Part Three of Anna's onsite work. The second and third image show the unoccupied 'viewer's platform' and then Angelo in position to observe Part One of Anna's onsite work, on the first floor of the Annex Building. To Angelo's left, above the handrail, you can see the small white square of paper that held Anna's instructions:

Part One
to be observed 
in the morning hours
at any time between
nine and eleven

2.  link to Anna Shteynshleyger's website:     
3.  link to 8 min. section of Andrey Tarkovsky's 
4.  From Sculpting in Time:The Great Russian Filmmaker Discusses His Art by Andrey Tarkovsky; translated from the Russian and © 1987 by Kitty Hunter-Blair; Univ. of Texas Press, Austin     "...pick out and join together the bits of sequential facts, focusing on what lies between them, while revealing what kind of chain holds them togther." 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

From The Origin of the Species (1859)                  
"....Nothing is easier than to admit in words the truth of the universal struggle for life, or more difficult - at least I have found it so - than constantly to bear this conclusion in mind. Yet unless it be thoroughly engrained in the mind, the whole economy of nature, with every fact on distribution, rarity, abundance, extinction, and variation, will be dimly seen or quite misunderstood. We behold the face of nature bright with gladness, we often see superabundance of food; we do not see or we forget, that birds which are idly singing round us mostly live on insects or seeds, and are thus constantly destroying life; or we forget how largely these songsters, or their eggs, or their nestlings, are destroyed by birds and beast of prey; we do not always bear in mind, that, though food may be now superabundant, it is not so at all seasons of each recurring year."    Charles Darwin

The cat and what she drug in  (Emmitsburg,MD)  Kain 2009

Postcard sent March 8th, arrived March 21st from Jury Rubeling-Kain

Mom, Dad & Noah - Just got done the sea kayaking section of the semester. We spent 23 days [in?] Marlborough Sound, island hopping, getting trapped on beaches by hurricane force winds. The landscape in the sounds is something that I have never seen. Crystal blue and green waters, full of stingless jellyfish and lots of stings rays. The mountains that make up the coast are full of tall pine trees and small ferns and palm trees. Very tropical. We would paddle by seals and then penguins. I've had very little time to think because we are always "go,go,go" because of weather windows. But I've had some of my most relaxing moments drawing with the set Dad gave me. I've awaken an enjoyable talent I thought I never had. I saw that I got accepted by both schools. I'm going to try not to think about that. I will write again. Love Jury

And from the previous post - March 12 (as an intertwined appendix)

Brock Enright, Penguin Paradox 2009 (at Kate Werble Gallery)  photo:Kain 2009

Michelangelo BuoinarrotiThe Creation of Adam 1510  
Brock Enright, installation veiw with Penguin Paradox  photo:Kain 2009

David Summers, in his chapter on Scattered Beauty, from his text Michelangelo and the Language of Art, refers to Erwin Panofsky's writing on the subject (gathering scattered beauty in antiquity), who in his prior turn makes reference back to Aristotle's Posterior Analytics. I'm quoting at length from Summers' text:

"...As Panofsky has noted, the idea of gathering scattered beauty was already current in antiquity; it was attributed to Socrates, and repeated both by Plato and Aristotle, neither of whom developed it. Most important seems to have been the fact that the idea of scattered beauty and its specific instance, the tale of Zeuxis' Helen, was altogether consistent with Aristotelian psychology, which held as its first principle that knowledge arises from experience. (Posterior Analytics, 100a)

"... out of sense perception comes to be what we call memory, and out of frequently repeated memories of the same thing developes experience; for a number constitute a single experience. from experience again----i.e., from the universal now stabilized in its entirety within the soul, the one beside the many which is a single identity within them all---originate the skill of the craftsman and the knowledge of the man of science, skill in the sphere of coming to be and science in the sphere of being.

We conclude that these states of knowledge are neither innate in a determinate form, nor developed from the higher state of knowledge, but from sense perception ... for though the act of sense perception is of the particular, its content is universal ... the process does not cease until the invisible concepts, the true universals, are established: e.g., such and such a species of animal is a step toward the genus animal, which by the same process is a step toward a further generalization." "

To temper unreflective inclinations for universal truths, categorical generalities or stabilized experience (things do remain in flux), I will add, as a complement to Aristotle's thesis, these thoughts from Robert Smithson. From his brief essay Art and Dialectics (1971):

" ... nothing is isolated from the whole ... No particular meaning can remain absolute or ideal for very long. Dialetics is not only the ideational formula of thesis--antithesis--synthesis forever sealed in the mind, but an ungoing development. Natural forces, like human nature, never fit into our ideas, philosophies, religions, etc. In the Marxian sense of dialectics, all thought is subject to nature. Nature is not subject to our systems. The old notion of "man conquering nature" has in fact boomeranged. As it turns out the object or thing or word "man" could be swept away like an isolated sea shell on a beach, then the ocean would make itself known. Dialectics could be viewed as the relationship between the shell and the ocean. Art critics and artists have for a long time considered the shell without the context of the ocean"

For Smithson, an oceanic 'scattered beauty' is the operative condition of life - associated with, but independent of human perception. For Aristotle, the operative condition is bound up in human perception - driven and caused by the mechanisms of the body and mind within an implied phenomenal world. Repeated patterns (memories of perceptions) give form to a reality, which is impressed within the soulknowledge arises from [this] experience. Aristotle’s thesis is confirmed by Darwin and Jury Rubeling-Kain, in their deliberate and un-prescribed reports on their perceptions. Their concrete and fecund attentiveness to the source of their perceptions (the material world) supports Smithson's polemic.

Brock Enright, with his repeated memories of the same thing, creates a temporal analogy – a metaphor of a potentially stabilizing universal. At the same time, his ‘gathering of scattered beauty’ leaves the condition open for other reformulations of material, within a destabilized entropic world [the cloak-of-god / Smithson’s Spiral Jetty]. The self-procreation of Enright's Penguin Paradox and Michelangelo's Creation of Adam, are monstrous beauties - analogous to Darwin's birds and beasts of prey.    

And earlier on, from The Origin of the Species:
"We see these beautiful co-adaptations most plainly in the woodpecker and the mistletoe; and only a little less plainly in the humblest parasite which clings to the hairs of a quadruped or feathers of a bird; in the structure of the beetle which dives through the water; in the plumed seed which is wafted by the gentlest breeze; in short, we see beautiful adaptations everwhere and in every part of the organic world." Charles Darwin 

You say you've seen seven wonders, and your bird is green  
(J.Lennon) And Your Bird Can Sing