Category: ABANDONED STORAGE UNITS


Abandoned Storage Unit: “The roots of trees curled up”

May 25th, 2017

 
 
 
     Open up.

     It’s May 24th. Some people are dying. Some people are smiling. Some people are sitting in uncomfortable chairs in sparse rooms and unsure if they are smiling or dying. Lift up. Open up. Whirl up. Cough it up. Size it up. Crumple it up. Twist it up. Throw it up. Open up. Open up. Open up.
 
 
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     Let’s start this party proper. I present the Minutemen, 1985, Public Access TV:
 
 

 
       Minutemen, 1985, Public Access TV

 
 
     Feel the hiss and twang and earthy goodness. George Hurley’s bongos, the twin acoustic attack of Boon and Watt’s strumming. D.Boon’s singing voice, unadorned and kind and honest and impassioned, like a sturdy, beat-up & well-used hammer, covered in nicks and its handle worn to comforting smoothness. It’s a voice others have sung through over time. It’s a voice others have used, like a strong coat passed down and patched up. Wherever there are people who want the good and are willing to call out injustice, this voice is there to sing through. God bless D. Boon and may he rest in peace. And God bless the Hurley and Watt and Boon together for uniting and making music of great energy, fun, poetry and righteousness.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
GENESIS
  by Mary Ruefle 
 
Oh, I said, this is going to be.
And it was.
Oh, I said, this will never happen.
But it did.
And a purple fog descended upon the land.
The roots of trees curled up.
The world was divided into two countries.
Every photograph taken in the first was of people.
Every photograph taken in the second showed none.
All of the girl children were named And.
All of the boy children named Then.
 
(2017)
 
 
 
     I love this poem. I am drawn to much of Ruefle’s work, which I find playful, coy, rooted in the real but simultaneously belonging to the streams that flow under reason & logic. At times there’s a questing, mystical quality to her verse as well that is all the more beguiling because it’s counterbalanced by cryptic wit. Sometimes the work is too clever for me, the twinkle in the eye of the verse is a bit too shiny-gaudy, and I find it distanced emotionally as a consequence. Even at these times, her work is noteworthy, even remarkable, despite its coldness (or perhaps because of it).    (Read More . . .)

[posted by: C Way at 5:28 PM]

[file under: ABANDONED STORAGE UNITS ||| LAUDS ||| Music ||| paintings/drawings ||| poetry ||| video/film]
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Abandoned Storage Unit: Whirling Around

April 9th, 2017

 
 
 
 
ALT 
 
      (Some serving plate I found online on Polish shopping site)

 
 
 
     Hello snailers & crowers. Time for another whirled-up blend of crap, such is thee fun of the Abandoned Storage Unit.

     It’s a beautiful Sunday and the sill-cactus flowers are beginning to push up their sweet buds of lemon & fuchsia. People are blowing themselves up in two beautiful Coptic churches in Egypt. I just cooked two beautiful sweet potatoes until the peels began to sweet sugar. The depraved Brian Williams is yoking badly-understood Leonard Cohen lyrics to the “beautiful” sight of Tomahawk missiles launched toward Syria. I just steamed two beautiful heads of broccoli until they turned that delicious rich green.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
        The Fat Old Couple Whirling Around
        BY ROBERT BLY 
 
 
 
 
 
 
     What a poem, written in 2005, by the great Robert Bly. It encompasses all of life, it is stuck in the mud around your feet and it is up on a mountaintop watching the world burn and cool, green and die, burn and cool, green and die. Become a soul and go. But before you do: whirl, dance, sigh, rise, reach.
 
 
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ALT 
 
      C.W.L.
       UNTITLED, 2017

 
 
 
 
     Here is something my daughter made to celebrate Spring. I love how she draws faces. Our red front door is festooned with her bright flowery paintings and drawings and it makes me happy whenever I see it.
 
 
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     Here’s “meditations after shock therapy” by worm girl; discovered this lil gemstone on SoundCloud. I like the eroded ghost-reverbed vocals, the synth pads, the recessed drum machine beat. And the lyrics are strong, & exactly what they should be given the song’s title. The piece feels rough-hewn and tossed-off, but the attention to detail, the melody, the understated vocal delivery and pacing are anything but. This is a combination that always works for me in art, that feeling of casual paired with the obvious fruits of discipline, talent and skill. 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
     “A great work of art is like a dream. For all its apparent obviousness it does not explain itself and is never unequivocal. A dream never says: ‘You ought,’ or ‘This is the truth.’ It presents an image in much the same way as nature allows a plant to grow, and we must draw our own conclusions.” This is from Jung in his Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933).

     This is not universal and simply reflects the Jung’s personal tastes. Any work of art can be mute and ambiguous; an art object’s ambiguity is no assurance of its worth. And there are great works of art that are unequivocal — say, “Guernica”, or Dylan’s “Masters of War” (war on the mind today folks, for good reason). They are blunt in their message and motive and that informs their power. Humans just can’t refrain from trying to sum up a phenomenon as complex and variable as art (across all its manifestations and media) in a pithy saying. We’re just addicted to trying to shortcut around the universe and tie it up quickly in language. We’re just wired to do it. We all do it. Geniuses down to fools, we all want to sum up our lives in a tidy bow. Why? It makes us feel we’re in control, we’ve mastered a Thing with an aphorism. We’ve learned it, known it, owned it. Can stuff it in a drawer and mothball it away; no further discussion needed. Such silliness, such transparent folly. But so fucking irresistible.
 
 
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     (click to zoom)
ALT 
 
      Pablo Picasso
       Le Crapaud, 1949
       Lithograph on Arches wove paper, 19.5 x 25.75 in.

 
 
 
 
     Be sure to zoom in on this friend, so many diablos deliciosos in the details. The frog’s little circly warts, its wee grumpy eyes, the Cubistic intersects of the hind legs and face, the flowing linework tying together its body and limbs, the effect of decorative little Christmas lights along its body, the impression of smudge and mud combined with modest, reluctant ornament. 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
    I just finished Cordelia Fine’s excellent book Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science and Society (2017, Norton). Before reading this book, I would have considered myself something of an essentialist when it comes to the sexes. I believed in sex differences in the brain and in the body, changes both prenatal and post-birth. And I believed these differences were permanent and inherent to humans and were directly responsible for different behavior in men and women everywhere, past present future.
    After Testosterone Rex, I still believe physiological sex differences exist. The science is clear. But I believe now they are just the starting point, and not an excuse for the gender gap. They are merely one factor among many in explaining why men and women do what they do, believe what they do, and think how they do. As Fine demonstrates, physiological differences between the sexes may or may not become amplified or nullified or nudged into being altogether depending on a whole galaxy of factors, not least of which are cultural, environmental, parental, marketing (especially marketing!) and institutional forces.
    In other words, there’s room for adjustment. There’s nothing hardwired in mens’ brains forcing them to forever be universally aggressive risk-tasking non-parenting and promiscuous. There’s nothing hardwired in women’s brains forcing them to forever be universally passive, cautious, caretaking and monogamy-seeking. There is astonishing variability in the animal and insect kingdom, as Fine exhaustively details, in how males and females of species behave sexually, and this can exist with humans too (and in many cases, as the research shows, already does). We’ve just grown accustomed, over the millenia, to a certain way for men and women to be, and we like it that way — that is to say, those in control, older white men, have always liked it that way (whether they realize it or not).
    The research seems to support the theses of Fine and so many other writers: it doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been. Men and womens’ physiological differences, says the research Fine exhaustively brings to bear, do not strongly correlate with massive differences in behavior and attitudes both sexual and non-sexual. In citation after citation, Fine shows compelling research that suggests the gender gap exists for far more complex reasons than the presence or absence of testosterone. This passage of Fine’s is crucial in understanding this point: “It’s true that we don’t, as a rule, tend to think that the scientific facts of nature dictate how things should be. Just because a scientist says that something is “natural” — like male aggression or rape — obviously doesn’t mean we have to condone, support or prescribe it. But that doesn’t mean that science has nothing to contribute to societal debates or aspirations. Although scientific claims don’t tell us how our society ought to be, that being the job of our values, they can give us strong hints as to how to fulfill those values, and what kind of arrangements are feasible. [...] rejecting the [view that gender gap problems are solely due to evolved sex differences, such as testosterone in men] doesn’t require denial of evolution, difference, or biology.”
    I also really like this passage by Dalhousie University philosopher Letitia Meynell, which Fine quotes in her book: “Biologically speaking, our actions and dispositions are developed and could have bee otherwise, given the right mix of developmental inputs at various points in our lives. If one wants to change the distribution of a given trait in a population, the task is not to overcome nature but to rearrange the developmental system.”
     If we want to address gender inequality, we have to abandon essentialism insofar as we lean on it to explain and justify and excuse perceived differences in how men and women think and act in and out of the bedroom. We have to accept malleability in terms of how the sexes develop. We have to stop framing issues in terms of “boys will be boys and girls will be girls.” We have to realize as a species we’re in control, not the hormones, the gametes, the glands, the gonads. Culture, society, developmental input from parents, media, religion, schooling, marketing those are the forces that take those inherent and verifiable biological differences that do exist between the sexes, and truly activate them and transform them into vast gaps and gulfs. Gulfs that become, over generations, seemingly impossible to cross. Seemingly. 
 
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MORE INFO:

For more information about Cordelia Fine’s Testosterone Rex, please check out The Guardian’s great review.

For more Robert Bly stuff, please check out his entry at the Poetry Foundation.

For more worm girl stuff, please check out Her Soundcloud page.

For more Picasso, please check out the Musée National Picasso (Paris).

[posted by: C Way at 1:04 PM]

[file under: ABANDONED STORAGE UNITS ||| Music ||| paintings/drawings ||| poetry]
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Abandoned Storage Unit No. 4: Coal Bin, Bou Saada, Charles Bradley, Mollusco-baby

June 23rd, 2014

 
 
 
     Hello readers. As usual with the Abandoned Storage Unit format, I present to you a fat clutch of subject matter – most of it arts-related, as usual. Don’t know what I’m talking about? For prior examples of this kind of post, see here and here.
 
     So, lots on the docket today. Let’s start with this friend from Etsy vendor BeatUpCreations:
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
     Naturally I am most drawn to this anthropo-molluscan mixed-up critter. If it had crow wings I’d probably custom order two dozen. I like its one bent antenna, it’s widow’s peak of gold candyshell, and its chipped up face. He is not happy, he is not upset. He is not for eating. He does not respond to salt. He is just a scuffed, dirty snailchild, let him wriggle and explore. He has the power to dissolve stone & most metals with his slime. He is telepathic. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                                            ***** 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Eric Sloane
 
 

       Eric Sloane (b.1905 in NYC, d. 1985)
          Corn Bin, date unknown, Oil on Masonite

 
 
 
 
 
      This is “Corn Bin” by American artist Eric Sloane. The glimpsed corn aglow & about to be revealed like a treasure chest slightly ajar. Like a beautiful grin just beginning. Beams cross posts cross slats cross floor cross the glorious portals of morning. A bin of pure reaped corn. The glorious morning firing it radiant. The earth’s bounty. The sweet ripe earth’s bounty washed in glorious light from the white portals of morning. Sweet ripe gold sparking out of the dark interior lit only by two white portals. This is a silent place. No human has to be present to witness and thereby validate. The universe alone can revel in the austere majesty of its own construction. 
 
 
 
 
 
                                                                                            ***** 
 
 
 
 
Rigolot
 
 

       Albert Gabriel Rigolot (1862 – 1932)
          Les Petites Filles de Bou Saada, date unknown, oil on canvas

 
 
 
 
 
      This is “Les petites filles de Bou Saada” (“The pretty girls of Bou Saada”) by French artist Albert Gabriel Rigolot. Bou Saada (which means “place of happiness”) is an Algerian oasis town that has historically been an important trading center & marketplace.
     I love this painting. The composition is mesmerizing, with its neat tetris interlock of L-shaped whitespace below and roughly tesselated L counterpart of dark above. The grate and glimpse of sky in the top right prevent the diagonal symmetry from being too neat. Rough jumbled stairs slope up to the watching girls. Hay or straw or something like it tufts over some gap in the wood-ceiling. What does the rough lumpy stone wall in the foreground conceal or contain? A fine rusty dust on the rockheap-stairs spills down & transfers the color from the girls’ faces and garments, finding echo in the orange straw/refuse in the top left. This painting transports you: to shuffling dust, cries from the marketplace, bustle of livestock, and the sudden sense of having trespassed in this peculiar slumping interzone. A masterwork of beguiling mystery and compositional harmony.
 
 
 
 
                                                                                            ***** 
 
 
 
 
Charles Bradley
 
 
 
 
 
     I saw Charles Bradley headline the House of Vans show in Brooklyn on a delicious cusp-of-summer nite in June. After strong instrumental opening numbers by the airtight Menahan street band, & after some expert crowdwork by the MC (doubling as organist), Mr. Bradley emerged, resplendent in his sequined, monogrammed hot cherry red on red on red ensemble. Colors of blood & passion, befitting his MC’s introduction of him as the Victim of Love. There he stood by turns coy & overcome with emotion, smiling graciously to the waves of applause from his hometown crowd, wide eyed, arms wide, then hamming it up for the crowd with a salacious finger-lick. The band took it from there, snapping into place & Mr. Bradley proceeded to sing the night to flaming shreds. From the first few bars you could tell that the man had the pain of a lifetime stored up in him, and a scorching, raspy scream to match it.
 
 
 

 
       Charles Bradley, Brooklyn, House of Vans show
         from unARTigNYC, June 12, 2014

 
 
      Goddamn. I hadn’t heard a note of the man until that night, & I just stood there in beery disbelief, jammed up about one row from the front. Only a couple of teenagers and the photog’s row were closer. I didn’t have my earplugs in and I both regretted it and thanked myself for my good subconscious planning every time he pulled back to annihilate the microphone. Lord how he worked it; everything was white-hot commitment. He fell to his knees, mic stand over his back like Jesus & his cross. He pulled James Brown moves on his mic stand, flinging it forward and yanking it back, startling one of the photographers. He hip-gyrated and tried splits. He worked odd tai chi maneuvers & fluttery-armed backpedals. He mugged and finger-licked and lewdly grinned. He let it all out for us in a way I haven’t seen a performer do in years. His face streamed sweat as he grimaced in the grip of those impassioned songs as if he had just instants ago discovered their melody and message.
      Bradley ended his set by coming down to the front row, with some assistance from security, where he was rapidly mobbed, held, embraced by those of us lucky enough to be close by. I patted him & held his damp head & felt vast thanks. Greil Marcus once said of the music of Chester Burnett, aka Howlin Wolf: “This is where the soul of man never dies.” On June 12 2014, in a packed warehoused crowd full of twenty somethings cheering for music of a bygone generation, I saw another spark from that great universal soul Marcus saw in the Wolf. & my my my how bright it shone.
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

MORE INFO:

For more information about Eric Sloane, please check out his site here.

For more about Albert Gabriel Rigolot, please check out this online gallery at Rehs Galleries, Inc..

For more information about Charles Bradely, please check out this indispensable 6-part interview series sensitively conducted by FaceCulture.

[posted by: C Way at 7:20 PM]

[file under: ABANDONED STORAGE UNITS ||| Ekphrasis ||| Music ||| paintings/drawings ||| sculpture ||| Visual Arts]
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Abandoned Storage Unit #3: Billy Childish art, The Nutmeg, and Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits

September 19th, 2012

 
 
 
 
      Hey y’all. I present thee with Abandoned Storage Unit #3. As usual, a motley throng of wiring, styrofoam bits, plaster chunks, cinder blocks, corrugated tin sheets, old mattresses, broken lamps. And in and among all that stuff, some choice goodies.
      First up’s a painting by Billy Childish (click to zoom in):
 
 
 
 
 
 
Childish Russian Shepherd Boy 
 

       Billy Childish (b. 1959, Chatham, Kent, England)
          Russian Shepherd Boy, 2011, oil and charcoal on linen

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
      I knew of Childish as a prolific songwriter and recording artist, but I had no idea he worked visually as well. What a lovely surprise. Well deployed pastel blue and pink highlights here, lending bright contrast to the swamp thing murk & tangle of the canvas; sending veins of weird, slightly radioactive cheer through the boggy boughs. And it wouldn’t even be bog without the seated boy, whose detailed luminous red and white presence anchors the work in the natural world (as does the title as well of course). That ghost-boy’s coy and mysterious expression is so well executed. What’s he up to — is he shirking his duties? What’s he holding, a staff? Banjo? We wonder about him, want to know what he was up to before the canvas moment, what he’ll do after. He’s the offset nucleus & anchor of this expressive painting’s power, helping balance its marshy flora against its sinewy, psychographic phantasms.
 
 
 
 

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     Next up is an image I found some time ago and return to every so often when I want a hard jolt of how beautifully alien the natural world is:
 
 
 
Nutmeg Aril
 
 

          (Nutmeg seed with aril)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
     The nutmeg. That gorgeous, lustrous red webbing is called the aril of the nutmeg seed, which, when dried, becomes the spice known as mace. Watching the aril’s semi-menacing membrane, & how its gothy serpentine lacing beguiles as much as it warns, I’m not surprised to learn that freshly ground nutmeg contains myristicin, a psychoactive substance which, in sufficient dosage, can produce convulsions, palpitations, hallucinations, paranoia, and delirium, among other symptoms. Nutmeg was notably used as an intoxicant in the states after WWII, among young folks, bohemians, druggies & prisoners. I get buzzy just staring at the aril, thinking about how varied and wonderfully alien are the forms found in nature.
 
 
 
 
 

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      Finally I wanted to talk a little about Juliet of the Spirits, one of my favorite Fellini films. A movie full of, as usual with Fellini, magic, spirits, beautiful clothing, weird colors, great Nino Rota music, baffling & exotic mystico-spiritual passages, leer-heavy cross-talking carnaval-esque parties & gatherings, and heaps of psychodrama & flashbacks. Not to mention a masterful performance by the titular protagonist and one of the main reasons I continue to explore Fellini’s ouevre: the director’s wife herself, Giulietta Massina.
      There’s so, so much to say about this film, and a great deal of it’s already been typed and inked. The little niche of it I want particularly to explore is the relationship between Juliet and her mother, and how this relationship plays Juliet’s own recovery of her sense of self and agency.
      The film establishes early on Juliet’s well-hid dissatisfaction: she’s married to fashion P.R. romeo & man-about-town Giorgio, and she’s well aware of her husband’s frequent absences & rumored infidelities. She keeps up appearances admirably at the frequent parties and gatherings the two hold at their gorgeous enforested villa. Why can’t she leave Giorgio, despite growing mounting evidence of his cheating? Simple Italian partiarchal influence? Perhaps its her lifelong martyrism (something the film goes to pains to depict), her strong Catholic values, & maybe her simple fear of striking out on a new path to happiness and self-discovery.
      Despite her pain, she maintains perfect and constant social composure — with perhaps a few cracks beginning to appear — & being a gregarious goodwilling and healthy social being, delights in the constant, shifting cast of characters surrounding her: psychics, spiritualists, models, celebrities, her doctor, a sculptor, and various other hangers on and true friends ranging from absurd to freaky kinky to true confidantes. Just about all of them in some way start to open her up to her own discontent and to possible antidotes and solutions for her issues.
      Much of the film in fact has to do with this, with Juliet figuring out herself in relation to others’ ways of finding fulfillment sexually, spiritually, personally. Toward this end the film is strongly psychodramatic, with Juliet finding fulfillment/escape in her developing ability to access a rich dreamlike inner landscape of visions, memories, spirits, and an assortment of characters who symbolize conflicting hungers, pains & needs of her heart-mind. Soon this power, which at first strikes her as a kind of alarming but heady & increasingly attractive spirit-communing or magic art, becomes unchecked and a liability to her as she’s overwhelmed by so many voices all clamoring for within for her to act definitively — in some form or another — to regain her dignity, agency, sexuality, confidence. But Juliet cannot yet act, still shackled as she is to fear, to martyrdom, to holy suffering misery — a suffering that we learn has been fed and nurtured for decades by her mother (pictured below).
 
 
 
 
 
Still from Juliet of the Spirits
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
     It’s worth pausing to note that Juliet’s mother, a severe and imposing matriarch, has belittled her throughout the film for not being beautiful enough, for not wearing nice enough clothes (Juliet’s style is well composed & attractive and steers clear from the gaudy and over-made-up excesses of many of the women around her), and throughout the film is complicit in maintaining (&, clearly, having helped construct) Juliet’s neurosis of quiet, smiling suffering. And Juliet’s flashbacks make clear this has been the case since her early childhood. Juliet’s path to empowerment will have to go through her mother.
     Which brings us to the image above, which is from a waking-vision sequence near the end of the film, at which point we find Juliet overwhelmed and bewildered by her psychological voices, by her inner spirit parade’s clamoring for her to act. Giorgio has left for another “business trip”, mumbling pre-emptive denial of any ‘rumours’ going about just as he leaves, and Juliet has been in a state of profound anxiety and pre-nervous breakdown fear and pain for a good ten minutes. She resorts to begging her interiorized mother to help her. Juliet then discovers a small door in her bedroom (a vision-door that is) and is about to open it; her mother then materializes in a vision and loudly and angrily commands her not to. Juliet is able to deny her mother’s wishes and open the small door, in which she discovers a narrow corridor and her childhood girl self tied to a metal grill with fake flames around her. She’s able to free the small martyr version of herself and thereby unlock her own sense of agency. The film ends not long after in a beautiful sequence of self discovery and emancipation, as Juliet is able now to launch herself forth, walking out of her house and away from an emotionally abusive relationship, and hopefully toward a renewal of herself as a still-vital woman and human (see below; Juliet can be seen in the bottom-left):
 
 
 
 
 
End Scene Juliet of the Spirits
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
     Of course, we can also read this denouement as Juliet having been brought to full mental splintering breakdown through her interior journey and travails. In this light, her striding forth is less empowered shackle-break and more mad wayward broken-steering-wheeled careen; straitjacket nutso wandering out of the asylum. Or, to pull back a bit, at the very least she’s in equal measure broken and confounded by her inner saga as she is transformed into a healed whole being by it. But I’m keeping things optimistic today folks. Let’s just wish Juliet — all the Juliets in our lives — the best and send her good energy as she strolls on out into sun and fresh air, ready to meet the welcoming world.
 
 
 
 
 

Some stuff about nutmeggggggggs at botanical.com.

More of Billy Childish’s art at billychildish.com.

Ebert’s review of Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits at rogerebert.suntimes.com.

 
 
 
 

[posted by: C Way at 9:40 PM]

[file under: ABANDONED STORAGE UNITS ||| paintings/drawings ||| photography ||| video/film]
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Abandoned Storage Unit #2: Satish Gujral’s ‘Composition’, Carlos Alonso’s “La Muker Del Vestido Colorado”, and Yayoi Kusama at the Whitney

August 31st, 2012

 
 
 
     

 
 
 
 

       Carlon Alonso (b. 1929, Argentina)
          La mujer del vestido colorado, 1956, oil on canvas

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
      How are all you pups? Back with another Storage Unit. First up’s “La mujer del vestido colorado” by Argentinian Carlos Alonso. I just discovered the piece tonite, as well as the artist. I love the subject’s wan, moody sidelong glance, her large eyes, her pursed mouth, her androgynous features. The black-maroon jacket dress opened to reveal the swath of red heat beneath. Red, the color of anger, hunger. Herself revealed, like a patient worked over by a surgical team, viscera bared, skin pulled & pinned back. Her eyes, angles, and the smudge of red on her cheek reminds me a little of Schiele (always delicious for me). I like too how there’s some strange armor-like bulk to the fabric in the arm region; the subject could be some kind of dystopic mercenary with her future-polymer exoskeleton peeled away momentarily while she waits for her contact to arrive.
 
 
 
 

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       Satish Gujral (b. 1925)
          SATISH GUJRAL 1965 COMPOSITION, 1965, mixed media on canvas

 
 
 
 
 
      Gujral is a Punjabi-Indian artist. I just came across this piece on Artnet today. I love looking at this. Troubling and serene. I like the tine-like downward thrust of the object; how, left-offset, it anchors the work and gives it momentum. I like it’s strange conglomeration, like a trident after some kind of graphic-glitch youtube pixellation spasm. I like the barnacle-like encrustation of it. I also think of an underwater centurion, centuries dead, rusting away in his armor. Surrealist Yves Tanguy and his large scale underwater-alienscapes comes to mind — something in Gujral’s assemblage here has the same extra-terrestial presence for me as that artist’s works. Finally, I also think of Louis Nevelson sculptures, their stacked purposeful hodgepodges. Gujral’s is a rich work that rewards meditation.
 
 
 
 
 

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      Yayoi fucking Kusama. Look at that kohleyed dotter dot, look at her look right back at us. Yum. She’s such a good egg, and my recent trip to the Whitney to catch her retrospective there burnished the ecstatic obsessive glowy shrine for her I’ve set up in my mind even more than it already was. I don’t think I’ve posted about another artist as much on snailcrow as Kusama — see here, here, here and here — and I’m perfectly happy to add yet another passel o’ pics to the mix.
     So much wowed me at her Whitney exhibit. First, the strength of her early 50s work. Just look at this trio:
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

       Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929)
          The Germ, 1952, ink and pastel on paper
          Corpses, 1950, oil on canvas
          A Flower, 1952, ink on paper

 
 
 
 
 
 
      I first fell in love with Kusama by way of her vibrant polkadotted pumpkins, boxes and installations; and her ruminations on infinity in the form of mirrored chambers, pools of floating mirror-orbs. And I feel that stuff’s among her greatest work. But discovering these early-50s works with their expressive coils and streaks, busy cilia and numinous shimmers, and firmly-established visual character and impact was a revelation for me. It deepened even further my admiration for her capabilities, her power, her instincts from the get-go. She was already capitalizing at an early age on the themes and traits that obsess her now, & that would characterize much of her later output: dot-work, obsessive attention to small details (these early canvases were a wonder to stand near and scrutinize), fleshiness and biomorphic repetitions, hieroglyphic-like impact. I just can’t explain enough how rewarding this was to see in person.
      Another thing I love about Kusama’s early 50s work is how some of these pieces conflate the micro and the macro — I can recall a piece at the Whitney that was sort of this globe-like dotted presence against a black background that felt either cosmic in scale, some kind of breathing judging mega-planet pulsing in deep space, or micro — maybe a nucleus, or a unicellular critter glowing in the guts of a spider. It was Kusama’s way of investing the object with force, with a weird sentience, and her use of lighting, glow and color gradation that gave it this dual citizenship as an entity vast and atomic all at once.
      I think what got to me most was the fact that her early works are imbued with such vitality and personality, such confidence, just like her later, more celebrated works, and, as I’ll touch on, especially like her most recent pictographic canvases. Take “Germ” — in its halo of Klee-like colorwork, this great floating animalcule serenely pulses, either nebulon-vast or scraped off the tip of an eyelid and spied on under-lens, secreting benevolence and blood into the universe. And look at “A Flower” — that barbed wire whipping, that bulging eye, that tree trunk stalk. Not a flower but the spirit of a flower perhaps, staring out in alarm, flailing psychic feelers, or maybe whipping its field of attraction into inward-pulling net for passing bees. Made me think right away of P.J.’s hairwhip from the cover of “Rid of Me”:

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
      And “Corpses”? This is such a great, creepy piece. I’m reminded of Kay Sage’s surrealistic work, with big metal eggs and geometric solids hanging out on platforms against vast featureless terrains. Here Kusama masses coiled viscera, like a close up of ropework on a shipdeck, against a featureless sky and the barest hint of sea or land. A bold statement of repetition, of vaguely uncomfortable and half-alien flesh that you find later in, for example, her phallic protuberances and tentacle-work. For me her “Corpses”-esque works remind me as well of certain late 60s/early 70s progressive rock album covers, take for example this back cover of a Comus record which in spirit and in execution (anatomically-vague mass against a flat background) came immediately to mind:
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
      Now keep all this stuff in mind as you fast forward to her work from the last few years:
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

       Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929)
          Joy I Feel When Love Has Blossomed, 2009, acrylic on canvas —
          Late Night Chat is Filled with Dreams, 2009, acrylic on canvas —
          Eyes of Mine, 2010, acrylic on canvas

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
      New visual language, and yet not so new at all. Note the familiar motifs and traits and tics: life-under-the-microscope biologic teem; the vacuoles, the lipid sacs, the paramecia, the cilia, the little wriggling virii and organelles, the ribosomal dots. The large tentacle-like shapes looming in from out-of-frame in “Late Night Chat is Full of Dreams”; the eyes in “Eye of Mine” echoing that in “A Flower”; the pictographic shapes and symbols in all three paintings. The stark, simplified heavy outlining and bold color against flat backgrounds. And of course dots, dots, O them dots. Some of what energizes and sustains these late works was prefigured in her 50s work, some of it draws from her obsessive gray-wavelet minimalist canvases, some of it suggests her polkadot pumpkins, some of it her giant dot-tentacle canvases. Such a rich drawing from herself here, such a diligent revisiting and refueling from her own abundance of expression.
      I celebrate these late works too for their sheer color impact — they really need to be seen live (isn’t that always the case?) to have this aspect appreciated. In person, all those hot colors and contrasts stacked up close (three or four high and wide per wall if I remember right) present a joyous color- and meaning-kaleidoscope. At the same time, seeing all these at once can be a bit lysergic, can lead to an almost headachy troubling ecstasy. Dissonances arise, and the eye just gets bludgeoned with all those sharp densities of dot, dash, eye, wriggle and spike and recurring but context-less and seemingly meaningless symbol: starfish, woman in profile, coffee cup, spermatazoa, jellyfish, crustacean, you name it. It’s all like a bunch of Haring dudes fed Giza dust and Gary Panter blood and biology book plant cell insets and then turned inside out and their guts microscoped in on a day later.
      What helped me vastly in absorbing and learning from all these canvases — and not just tolerating but embracing and integrating their visual heat — more than I would have at any rate — was Kusama’s titleing. Compare her 50s titles (“A Flower”) with these — “Joy I Feel When Love has Blossomed”, “Once the Abominable War is Over, Happiness Fills our Hearts” and “Shining Stars in Pursuit of the Truth are Off in the Distance Beyond Universe, the More I Sought the Truth, Brighter they Shone”. Sounds like Fiona Apple album titles (I mean that with all due affection, being a huge Apple fan). Having language like this in mind when trying to not just fleetingly glance at but study four, five, six of these in a row right in front of you helps enormously. Once I really took in the titles I was able to sit with these pieces, feel them, gain from them. Otherwise their volume — color-wise, but also as shotgunning of glyphs — can overwhelm, especially in aggregate in one big room.
      For instance, when I was able to take “Late Night Chat is Full of Dreams”, meditate on those nouns and pair up what that language meant to me with the actual image, it opened me up to be able to accept and work with the visual language. This is the kind of stuff Pettibon has made a career of, and it’s fascinating to see Kusama open up her titleing and explore the possibilities in the space between text and visual. Sometimes that game can be superfluous for a given work, but in this case, with this artist, with these works, her rich — if at times a bit belabored — titleing really helps the viewer hold on to a kind of highly personal backstory/narrative when viewing/reading these late canvases. A narrative open to interpretation of course but which, to this reader and viewer, seems to be one of rapturous tribute to the gift of surprise love, and the optimism, wonder, mania and even paranoia that gift can bring.
      I leave you with one last little Kusama bit — another one of her pumpkins, this one a squat adorable greeny:
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

       Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929)
          Pumpkin (Green) – from 5 Porcelain Pumpkins, 2002, porcelain


 
 
 
 
 

KUUUSAAAAAAAMAAAAAA at the Whitney here.

Check out Kusama’s page at Artsy.net here.

More Gujral works at Artnet are over here.

Finally, find Carlos Alonso at Wikipedia over here.

 
 
 
 

[posted by: C Way at 11:50 PM]

[file under: ABANDONED STORAGE UNITS ||| Ekphrasis ||| paintings/drawings]
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