Writing by me
Gabrielle Ferrer, Cones (#28), 2013, archival inkjet print mounted on plywood, 8 × 8”.
Gabrielle Ferrer’s solo debut, “Transparent Things,” combines three distinct bodies of work interleaved in snaky digressions around the upstairs gallery. Framed pages torn from an exhibition catalogue depicting Navajo weavings—from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s 1972 show “The Navajo Blanket”—are hung in grids on three of the gallery’s four walls and anchor the exhibition. The artist has applied watercolor over the black-and-white reproductions, partly following the schematic description for each weaving, and a chart listing colors along warp and weft, found in the catalogue. Positioned around these grids are fuzzy pictures of prop closets tinted into states of pastel remoteness and hot, medium-format photos of pyrometric cones (used to time firing in kilns) in which the creamy beige of the disposable measuring instruments sets off backdrops painted in crisp tones from slate to tangerine. The cones’ tips, which are designed to droop to indicate degrees of doneness, are arrested in mid-melt. Frozen in a kind of glass-dripping physicality, they revel at times in the illusion of softness, like an accidental Bernini.
A hovering indeterminacy runs through the works: The blankets’ original colors are abstracted into language and then reinstated; the props diffuse into a middle distance (a photo of pale jugs strongly recalls Morandi); and the cones inexplicably litter brightly lit, unearthly landscapes. The title of the show is taken from a novella by Vladimir Nabokov, in which a ghostly narrator meditates on “objects . . . inert in themselves but much used by careless life.” With its attention devoted to the fine permutations of textiles and primitive forms, the show might have been called “still lifes.” And much like opalescent fruits rendered in oils, the objects are not really still, but rather stirred by the implications of their past and are animated by the optical vibration of their present.
Luigi Ghirri, Versailles, 1977, vintage cibachrome, 11 × 8 3/8”.
Luigi Ghirri was fascinated by the implications of the photograph’s two-dimensionality—its capacity for narrowness and opacity. None of the twenty-five vintage photographs shown here (all part of Ghirri’s self-published Kodachrome, 1978) contain much that could be called reportage, or even a “decisive moment.” Flatness is the focus. In Ile Rousse, 1976, a coastline dotted with sailboats is bisected by a wooden column streaked with shadows captive from another color space. This formal arrangement causes perspective to seem ambiguous, creating two foreign senses of a place—mundane and faintly surreal—that float over each other. Ghirri had a special ability to collapse the hierarchal distinction between subjects: As spatial relation dissolves, so does its perceived importance. Objects, people, and figures of light coexist in a space that lacks foreground or background, gently unseating the viewer’s sense that the photographs depict some actual space. The frequent appearance of pictures within his pictures—cardboard figures, painted logos, bits of postcards—deflates the distance between real and fake.
The press release describes Ghirri’s photos as “deadpan,” and “reflecting a dry wit”—but this can be misleading. It’s true that they are often wry, such as Egmond Am Zee, 1977 (from the complete series, not on view here), which shows a blue sky upstaged by a flag bearing the logo of Coca-Cola. But more often than not, his works are coolly disorienting—in Riva di Tures, 1977, a jet streak forms the top border of a pyramid defined by the two mountain peaks below it, with the enclosed sky’s outline implying another peak. But the show does end with a self-aware one-liner: Chartres, 1977, is divided between a window with a half-unspooled bamboo shade and a wall on which there is painted a 35-mm canister partly pulled out, which reads FILM.
William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, Untitled (scrapbook A), 1964–70,
mixed media, 12 1/4 × 7 3/4”.
Art historian Alex Kitnick muses that scrapbooks, like sketchbooks, act as “research and development” for artists: Their pages show a variety of approaches to dealing with a framing device and each demonstrate a range of modes and energies. These thoughts are part of his essay in Paperwork, the catalogue accompanying this exhibition—cocurated by Kitnick and Andrew Roth—which features a breadth of journals and scrapbooks made by an impressive collection of artists, including Brigid Berlin, Richard Prince, and Monika Baer among twenty-some others. Here, twelve tidy vitrines house an unruly array of overlapping binders, notebooks, and otherwise ragtag accumulations of printed matter. Some works take on a diary role, creating an internal framework for self-examination and reconfiguration, like Isa Genzken’s I Love New York, Crazy City, 1996-97, which marries diary to ledger with photos, faxes, clippings, and correspondence. In the work of Ray Johnson and Brian Buczak, this internal life made physical becomes a currency between artists: Twenty pages of Johnson’ s Untitled, 1941, for example, are transformed by Buczak some thirty years later, creating a collection of campy in-jokes and ironic juxtapositions.
See also the untitled books compiled by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin from 1964 to 1977, which are chaotic and masterful, like a mixed media Ulysses: a cacophony of voices, references, and appropriations that huddle together in imperfect comfort. Others, such as Gerhard Richter’s open-ended “Atlas” project and Geoffrey Hendricks’s untitled book finished in 2012, record their graphic fascinations into iterations rather than seeking a synthesis defined by the boundaries of the page. In Richter’s case, samples of landscape or group portrait photography are gridded together as if prototyping their relative effects. And, if books intrinsically rebel at their display in a gallery, frozen under glass, a four hour video, Scarphagia, 2013, by Karin Schneider and Louise Ward defies this: Projected on a wall, a pair of hands anonymously toil through each and every volume on display, providing an alternative, if not liberating, viewing experience.
Page from Robert Weaver's artist's book published by Kettler Verlag
On February 21st, a group of artists and writers gathered at The New School to celebrate the book by the late Robert Weaver and to salute his achievement as an illustrator more generally. Cartoonist Ben Katchor and Alexander Roob of the Melton Prior Institut Dusseldorf outlined Weaver’s body of work and several friends and relatives reminisced about his life and career — including the photographer Saul Leiter, illustrator James McMullan, and Weaver’s brother Fritz (an actor perhaps best known for his turn as the sinister Chancellor in the Twilight Zone episode “The Obsolete Man,” opposite Burgess Meredith).
The new volume, A Pedestrian View/The Vogelman Diary, is the realization of Weaver’s 1982 experiment combining fifty-three gouaches (“The Pedestrian View”) with scrawly, gnomic captions (“The Vogelman Diary”) originally filed in a ring binder: one project in two parts. Roob’s accompanying essay compares Weaver with contemporary Pittsburgher Andy Warhol. While the latter managed to transform his practice in commercial art into fine art, Weaver was never drawn to away from illustration, though in 1982 his personal project “A Pedestrian View/The Vogelman Diary” represents a totally new direction from magazine assignments, which Roob calls “a self-portrait in the form of a kaleidoscope.”
The event is free and open to the public. Those attending can choose to be listed as contributors in the final On Display publication, and the public will also be able to participate in the conversation remotely via Twitter: @superscriptco #
2 Columbus Circle
Chronologically documenting books, exhibitions, and individual works, the original Six Years was methodological in its format — with citations of exhibitions, publications and events in bold type, excerpts from texts in roman, and the author’s commentary in italic — and idiosyncratic in manner, with a knowingly arbitrary selection of works and events and ruminative annotations. Lippard’s approach to the commentary was both unusually generous and playfully argumentative, so despite the appearance of the apparently rigorous structure of the chronological bibliography, the book reads much more loosely: of the recondite theoretical publications of the conceptual art group Art-Language, she wrote “I don’t understand a good deal of what is said… but I admire the investigatory energies. In the land of Quine and Rroses inhabited by A-L, ‘direct experience’ doesn’t exist until it has been made indirect”. […]
It’s perhaps unsurprising, given the reputations of the respective cities, that to today’s ears many of the conceptualists based in New York or London (Joseph Kosuth, Art–Language) can sound gratingly self-serious, whereas the obstreperous contributions from Amsterdam or Los Angeles (Jan Dibbets, Ed Ruscha), seem less eager to be grouped together, much less take up arms for aesthetic theory. Their “dematerialization” often seemed like a political act only in as much as it was so much unruly effervescence.
The premise of Materializing “Six Years” — to assemble the works that were arrayed in Lippard’s book — might seem odd. After all, given that the specific focus of this documentary project was that its various subjects were united by the state of their “dematerialization” — isn’t it slightly perverse to, forty years after the fact, arrange for the works (or their representative documentation) to neatly — even preciously — materialize?
Still from Anri Sala’s Dammi I Colori.
In this ambitious show at the Hamburger Bahnhof, works displayed intersect and conflict, making apparent how the many ways of thinking about space cannot be easily compared. An architecture report from Berlin by Zachary Sachs
… Especially in the most frequently-used networked interfaces, the pattern-matching of machines in bits of software appears to intimately interpenetrate with our own forms of recognition. The slippage between the two can be powerfully disorienting as well: in Bridle’s project Where The Fuck Was I? he unlocked his iPhone’s logged GPS data, which had traced his location in a kind of geographical diary for the previous year. But, as he explained in the discussion, he noticed later that there were places logged that he couldn’t have been — hovering above the Thames, perhaps — that were rather the product of phone’s heuristic means of locating itself:
It’s finding itself according to a whole network that we can’t really perceive. This is an atlas made by robots that is not just about physical space, but is about frequencies in the air and the vagaries of the GPS system. It’s an entirely different way of seeing space.
Joanne McNeil approached the mysteries of robot vision from the opposite direction: she observed that Google Maps’ anonymized faces are animated by their ambiguity, their strangeness heightened by their appearance in frozen, starkly exposed physical spaces. A similar kind of imposed narrative arose from Apple’s recent map update, in which its warped topology gave birth to structures and locations that seem to melt into puddles or crawl in jagged zig-zags across a plane. While these errors can be looked at solely as hazards for navigation, McNeil argued they can also be seen as seams through which the narrative of the human “way of seeing” compares to a machine’s.
… Under the dustjacket, the cover is printed black and white, and this detail, along with the newsprint paper stock of the volume, gives the book an appealing air of pragmatism. Emmet Byrne, the catalogue design director, requested that the French Paper Company cut the paper along the short edge of the grain (opposite the usual), giving the book what he calls “the desired flop effect.” The folio appears extra-large, aping the Whole Earth Catalog but replacing its Clarendon with — not Helvetica, as I first thought — but a typeface called Union, by Radim Pesko, which splits the difference with Arial. In the words of the designer, it “is intended for situations where Helvetica seems too sophisticated and Arial too vulgar, and vice versa.” This combination of subtle, unpretentious printing and dynamic, fluid design start to set the volume apart from the more conventional glossy slab of a coffee table catalogue …
In the long warehouselike Rieckhallen extension at the Hamburger Bahnhof, curator Gabriele Knapstein’s current group show explores how architecture both structures and delimits urban life. A series of bright, high-ceilinged rooms showcase spatial experiments (such as Sol LeWitt’s Modular Cube, 1970) flanked by photographs and architectural drawings. Dan Graham’s “Homes for America” series, 1972, like LeWitt’s cube, interrogates regularity and, in a different way, whiteness. More fervent dissections of homes are undertaken by Gordon Matta-Clark, and, a little surprisingly, they hit a common chord with Thomas Struth’s large-scale ruminations on Tokyo and Paris in the turbulent 1980s, which anatomize not a facet of architectural space but its physical experience.
Along the way there are several dimmer compartments containing hopeful architectural plans. Walter Jonas’s model for funnel-shaped Intrapolis, 1960, recalls an inverted version of Bruegel’s Babel. Peter Cook, of English design group Archigram, hits upon a similar design for his drawings for Plug-In City, 1964, a complex superstructure intended to accommodate itself to any terrain. The morphological paradox of architecture—concrete, often rectilinear structures for fickle, often round inhabitants—is most spectacularly reconciled in the rangy, ongoing Gartenskulptur (Garden Sculpture), 1968–, Dieter Roth’s meditation on the conditions of life and decay—a living, breathing Gesamtkunstwerk of bric-a-brac.
The least utopian but perhaps most convincing of these visions can be found in a screening room downstairs. Anri Sala’s video Dammi i colori (Give Me the Colors), 2003, scrolls through oneiric images of spectacularly painted, primitive buildings as the voice of Edi Rama, former mayor of Tirana, floats over the darkness. The capital’s crude, brutal architecture, he explains, is balanced by a wandering, riotous palette.
Indeed, the citizens have painted Tirana’s buildings without regard to property boundaries—or neighbors. This anarchic yet clearly delineated attitude—like the well-sorted chaos of Roth’s interactive garden—is most comfortable with an understanding of the built environment not as a solution to a problem, but as an ongoing process of evolution.