I’m making a book today.
An art book.
One filled with poorly reproduced images of art that brings me comfort.
Or art that, when I think about it, brings me comfort.
Because even good digital images can’t come close to
recreating what a real life art encounter is like
in physical space where you can sense
its texture and dimensionality and changing appearance
感受到它的质地 维度 当你移动它时
as light shifts and you shift around it.
I miss real life.
But even when there’s not a global pandemic
we often settle for these not-artworks
to remind us of the real artworks
It’s why we have art books
museum, instagram accounts and this channel
We like to be reminded of artworks
even if we can’t experience them first hand
even if we’ve never seen them before, or never will.
Robyn O’Neil gave me this idea.
She who makes painstakingly detailed
often monumental drawings of imagined landscapes.
She also makes these little low-fi books of art that inspires her practice
images she wants to be thinking about, she goes about her work.
Robyn doesn’t copy the images
but use them as jumping off points, reminders of the inventiveness of others
and looks for ways their work might inform her own.
My book is going to serve a different purpose.
Over the past week, I’ve been thinking about the artwork
that I want to be reminded of right now
whose existence in the world gives me some sense of reassurance, of calm
reminding me that, yes, there are whole other worlds out there
objects, histories and other sensing, feeling beings.
The first work I’m going to put in my book is a photograph by Alec Soth
titled Cammy’s View, Salt Lake City, taken in 2018.
It’s from his series “I Know How Furiously Your Heart is Beating”
a fantastic series title if ever there was one
taken from a 1917 poem by Wallace Stevens titled The Gray Room.
Each picture in the series is an interior shot, or a portrait in an interior
the result of Soth’s interactions with individuals across the US and Europe
and his consideration of the limits of what a photograph can convey
about the inner life of its subject.
I liked this photo before, but it resonates even more strongly now.
There is an overwhelming quiet about the picture,
its gauzy light and selective focus obscuring what’s outside
and drawing my attention to the stack of holy books on the windowsill
and, of course, the bird.
It’s a pet bird, I think a cockatiel?
是一只宠物鸟 我猜 澳洲鹦鹉？
Anyway, it’s a domesticated animal, one that has counterparts in the wild
无论如何 它是家养的 它的同类们生活在野外
but that exists within the framework a human has constructed for it.
From the window, it can see out to the wider world of Salt Lake City
a climate it’s no doubt not suited to, but inside here it’s safe.
The bird’s not in a cage, but it’s still caged.
Granted some freedoms, but not in charge of its destiny.
We are the bird.
We are always the bird to some extent, but we are really the bird right now.
Soth’s stated goal while making these pictures was
“to simplely spend time in the presence of another beating heart.”
Here I’m not sure if that beating heart was Cammy’s
it’s her view, we’re told, her space, her books, her pet
这是凯米的视角 凯米的房间 书和宠物鸟
or if it’s the beating heart of the bird that we’re spending time with
Maybe it’s both, or neither.
A photograph grants us certain access to a space, a subject, a moment
一张照片可以让我们看到一个空间 一个物体 一段时光
but it does not and cannot recreate it fully.
I identify with the bird, but I also connect with
the conundrum of representation the image embodies
We have our spaces, our lives, other people have theirs
and there is only so much we can do to bridge that divide.
The next work is another window of sorts, this one a painting by Miyoko Ito
titled Oracle made in 1967 and 1968.
I learned about her work when I was in college in Chicago
where Ito was based for most of her career
and her canvases have always fascinated and mesmerized me
Like much or her work, this composition is grounded and solid
but the expert application of carefully calibrated color
makes it atmospheric and light
It’s abstract, but with playful references to lumpy organic and human forms
like these funny tongues right here, and this hair stuff over there.
It feels like we might be simultaneously inside and outside
this herringbone pattern reminding me of floorboards
and a framed view out to a gradient of blue
But then there are multiple horizon lines,
a desert-like landscape view here
a sea-meets sky view there.
Ito had a difficult life
which included narrowly escaping the 1923 Tokyo earthquake
and being pulled from college in the US during World War II
and sent to a internment camp for Japanese Americans,
and later living through breast cancer
She was much admired and influenced many,
but Ito was largely an outliner
carving her own path and practice despite and alongside the trends and movements.
She struggled with her mental health throughout her life,
but made her work seven days a week
viewing her painting as a kind of therapy.
“I have no place to take myself except painting,” she said in 1978.
The precision and singularity of Ito’s vision both excites me
and leaves me with a feeling of profound calm.
Her paintings are places I want to take myself to all the time,
and especially right now
One of Ito’s favorite painters was Giorgio Morandi,
who I am including in the book next
There is a lot written about this guy,
an Italian artist very well known for
his still life paintings of pretty basic objects arranged on plain surfaces.
He started making still lifes in the 1910s
and just kept on going, collecting bottles, boxes, jars, pots, pitchers, and the like,
收集瓶子 箱子 广口瓶 锅 罐等物件
and replaying them again and again in different configurations.
This work, and all of his works are just so careful.
He’d sometimes take hours to arrange his objects, and you can feel that.
These things weren’t casually set down in this strangely aligned and ordered manner,
and they weren’t painted in a casual manner either.
The forms aren’t crisp,
but you can tell that they’re exactly as the artist wanted them to be them to be.
The tones are precise, as is the light and shadow.
It’s abundantly clear that it was Morandi’s intensive looking that
brought this work, and all of his work, into the world.
I’m including it in my book
because I want to give my own surroundings
the kind of careful attention Morandi gave his own.
He rarely left Italy and painted the same bottles and cans over and over again,
but his visual world was immense, infinite.
Another acute observer
is Vija Celmins
and next I’m going to add an image from her work
beautifully titled To Fix the Image in Memory,
created from 1977 to 1982
What you’re seeing here is a rock, alongside Celmins’ recreation of that rock.
For the series, she found eleven rocks in nature, and then cast them in bronze
and painted them to resemble the original rocks as closely as possible.
They are displayed all together, so that it’s then left to you to work out
which are the real rocks, and which the recreations.
(And no, I’m not going to tell you which is which.)
What I love about this is that it forces close observation.
Not the kind of cursory looking we often do in a gallery or art book,
but the kind of intense, close-up, sustained scrutiny
而是通过认真 近距离 长时间的观察
that enables us to appreciate Celmin’s remarkable achievement in verisimilitude
as well as the intricacies and details of the specific rocks
she’s chosen for this exercise.
Something as common as a rock has become extraordinary
because of the artist’s act of looking and the extreme care she took in reproducing it.
After all that exactitude, we really need to loosen up a little.
And to do that we’re going to include this work
by Sam Giliam, titled 10/27/69
It’s one of Gilliam’s drape paintings,
an approach the artist landed upon around 1965
inspired in part by the laundry hanging on clotheslines
that he could see from the window of his DC studio.
He had been experimenting with his materials in the lead up,
pouring paint colors, folding wet canvas to imprint lines and forms,
working consciously in the language of the Washington Color School.
But Gilliam’s drape paintings were the first to get rid of the stretcher bars completely,
taking paint stained canvas and draping and hanging it in arrangements
on the wall or floor, or suspending it from ceilings.
They can be arranged and rearranged,
necessarily different every time they‘re installed
Painting had been a flat affair, and Gilliam made it sculpture.
The title, clearly a date, October 27, 1969,
roots it firmly in time
Much was happening in America and in particular DC–the civil rights movement,
the black power movement, anti-Vietnam war protests.
有民权运动 黑人运动 越南保卫战
Gilliam had made another painting that same year titled April 4,
which was the first anniversary of the assasination of Martin Luther King Jr.
For me, the drape paintings both reference that time and
are also their own world apart
Embodying rupture and freedom and change,
and also bringing me joy whenever I’ve encountered them in a gallery
and revelled in their tactility and resplendent color.
While we’re revelling in tactility and color,
let’s bring Sheila Hicks into the mix.
This is her monumental installation Escalade Beyond Chromatic Lands,
created in 2016 and 2017
which I lucked into seeing at the 2017 Venice Biennale.
This pathetic computer printout is about the opposite of an experience of this work,
immersive environment of color,
created through the placement of soft bales of fiber
and hanging tapestries.
You really want to lie down in this,
but aren’t allowed to for reasonable safety concerns.
so in some ways it’s better to just see the work here, like this,
without the overwhelming temptation to take a nap in it.
Sheila Hicks herself can lie in them, though,
and I’m happy to know at least someone can.
Hicks’ interest in the handmade is evident here and throughout her work,
and it’s the handmade that I find myself yearning for right now.
Not Zoom meetings and instagram stories,
but texture and warmth and three dimensions.
而是质地 温暖 立体的手工
Even the acoustics change when you enter a room with a work by Hicks in it.
I want to luxuriate in this environment as a fully sensing being,
but for the now I’m just going to transport myself there mentally,
and try to appreciate the domestic environment I find myself in right now.
This seems like a good place to stop,
but I feel like maybe we need a snack?
Let’s add a Wayne Thiebaud painting in here, Dessert Tray
from 1992 to 1994
It looks delicious.
I have a very uncomplicated relationship with this painting,
not unlike my relationship with dessert.
I love how the paint is applied thickly like frosting,
and I find it very satisfying and untroubling.
Well, that was easy.
I made a book, filled with art I want to think about right now.
I found this lovely little painting my daughter made
and doesn’t care if I cut up that I’m going to put on the cover, too.
What art do you want to think about right now, or wish you could see firsthand?
If you want, make your own art book in whatever way you like,
using the materials you have around,
and share it using the hashtag “you are an artist”
Or if you’re interested in making some real life art of your own,
check out this other book I made that took a heck of a lot longer.
It’s filled with art and ideas and 53 assignments based on
the practice of a wide range of brilliant artists working today.
Click the link in the description to find out more.
Thanks to all of our patrons for supporting the art assignment,
especially our grandmasters of the arts David Golden
and Divide By Zero Collection
Divide By Zero艺术收藏
I’m making a book today.