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

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