Category: Ekphrasis


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 #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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Art of the Day — Relief / Painting: “Frosty Ground: The Beginning” (2009) by Marya Kazoun

June 22nd, 2012

 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

       Marya Kazoun (b. 1976 in Beirut, Lebanon)
          Frosty Grounds: The Beginning, 2009 Tissue, glue, glass, pencil, pen, acrylic on paper

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
      True to my word (for once), here’s the Kazoun piece I referenced in my last post (scroll down). This is a delight in person, where you really get to see how it breaks down the barrier between framed painting and sculpture & occupies this rich textural interzone between the two. The coy tissuey drip out of the canvas is perfectly symbolic of this.
      Just as the work straddles mediums, so does it branch across different themes & emotional tones. A quick glance at the bright palette & sunburst whimsy and on the one hand I get a little hungry, catching impressions of a brunch course being whipped together, some kind of weirdo, frothy deconstructed egg + shiitake + pesto plate. On the other hand, that same glance might also suggest something completely different: a gash on a frozen cadaver, flesh bloodless & rotgreen-dotted, the wound’s black stitches coming undone. These are the kinds of artworks — be they visual, musical, literary or otherwise — I tend to love best, those which can occupy several different modes & tones and gain power thereby.
 
 
 
 

For more by Kazoun, please go here.

 
 

[posted by: C Way at 9:57 AM]

[file under: ART OF THE DAY ||| Ekphrasis ||| paintings/drawings]
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Art of the Day — Sculpture: Keisuke Mizuno, “Forbidden Fruit with Leaf” (1998)

May 14th, 2012

 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

       Keisuke Mizuno (b. 1969 in Nagoya, Japan)
       Forbidden Fruit with Leaf, 1998, glazed porcelain

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
      I unfortunately associate porcelain with sentimental Hummel figurines and cheap holiday ware. To see the material in the service of something this decidedly un-Hummel is a real treat. Of note right away is the outstanding craftsmanship: check the detail of the fruit’s chewed pulpy fibers; the intricate texture of the fruit’s stem.
      But it’s the tone and theme of this piece that really hits me: the beautiful despoiling, the raw viscera of our eating eaten world, the neverending cycles of consumption-destruction in nature (and, by extension, in us). Perfect forms of beauty spoiled: by necessity, impartially, forever. Watch those glistening slugs feasting on fruit scales. And that alarming exposed kernel of child tucked away on the inside, skulled and dead (zoom in to see), either already killed from the devouring of its eggfruit, or maybe gone from the start and not the prize the slugs thought it would be (notice the slug nearest the child turned away, its eyepods facing the viewer).
      But the slugs are in for a surprise perhaps? — check out the the hint of reddish nubbed pulpy backside of the redveined leaf. Feels almost like the whole leaf is itself flesh, calling to mind certain varieties of carnivorous plant, and like it could fold up its meaty lobes at any moment and eat the eaters & eaten. Without malice, without triumph. Just automatic innate drive to absorb, draw life essence from, excrete.
 
 
 
 

More about Mizuno, and more examples of Mizuno’s work at Frank Lloyd Gallery.

 
 
 

[posted by: C Way at 11:38 PM]

[file under: ART OF THE DAY ||| Ekphrasis ||| sculpture]
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Art of the Day — Painting: Yang Hongwei, “Family of China No. 1″, 2007

October 15th, 2011

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

       Yang Hongwei (b. 1968 in Tianjin, China)
       Family of China No.1, 2007, Wood engraving

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
     Been awhile! Sorry for the absence folks, will try my best to be semi-regular about this from here on out.
    Today I’m offering up this stunner by Yang Hongwei, “Family of China No. 1″. Like most of the art I post for Art of the Day, this, and its artist, were new to me. This one bricked me when I saw it, just stunned me with its tone, texture, themes. What at first seems like a Fangoria zombie murder scene reveals itself to be more complex: a family in a bathtub, struggling, holding each other desperately. A kind of ghost figure leaning in on the right side. Flesh merging with flesh as the family members lose their autonomy, seeming to eat each other to survive, becoming one unit. A smoky industrial sky, as if these people live out in the sooty open, naked and tangled.
    All of this to me evokes first of all the bloody, raw grind and compress of poverty. The way it forces boundaries erased and puts people in conditions where privacy is impossible. Where there isn’t emotional energy left to waste on anything but extreme expressions of yearning, mourning, fear, hunger, anger. No time for nuance, subtlety.
    And it suggests the ways in which a family, in order to protect itself and survive, can turn inward, become insular and conglomerated, & thereby finding a strength in that insularity, but also a deepening of their confusion.
 
 
 
 

More of Hongwei’s work at Artnet.

 
 

[posted by: C Way at 2:37 PM]

[file under: ART OF THE DAY ||| Ekphrasis ||| paintings/drawings]
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