MoMA’s Dada exhibition (closing Sept. 11), provides the foundational pedestal for a work I’ve long sought to feature. In the great and auspicious tradition of Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953), Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. (1919) and, of course, the generator of it all, Leonardo and his Mona Lisa (1503-1507)...I humbly request that the viewer consider today’s post an unmade readymade.
Update: Generous elucidation on this piece at HotLink. Thanks!
On the heels of Neil Young’s “Living With War” - and in an increasingly crowded field - Kris Kristofferson contributes what may well be the most powerful song yet to address "the predicament.” I say “yet” because soon we’ll have Bob Dylan’s new work, “Modern Times” to consider.
A young stalk of corn has taken root in a sewer grate at East 4th and 1st Ave. Perhaps it is a heroic case of volunteer corn - an ancient residue from the pastoral past of Manhattan.
While it’s too late to be “knee high by the 4th of July,” denizens of our village are doing what they can to help this welcome misfit survive: On occasion, a newspaper rack is strategically placed to redirect unwitting pedestrians around the nascent crop.
This defiant grass, the loving reception it has received and its odd yet natural rooting in the urban environment puts me in mind of Agnes Denes and the two acre wheatfield she planted on the landfill that was to become Battery Park City. That particular field was harvested 24 years ago this month - but its compelling possibility springs forth everywhere - even from trash clogged gutters in the East Village.
This post struck upon a universal aspect of process in the life of every artist. It reveals the development of a thing painters, dancers, writers, photographers, all come to recognize - or have pointed out to them by others - as the artist’s “vocabulary.”
The ambition is to stretch it, inhabit it, move beyond it, eradicate it and start again. In the life of any great - Dylan, De Kooning, Streep, Barysnikov, Joyce - you see it embraced and cast off over and over.
This process, however, is hardly the sole province of acknowledged greats. It’s abundantly evident in the refinement and practice of eponymous yet anonymous local graffiti writers, worldwide.
The iconic aspect of this particular new vocabulary struck a deep chord.
Freed from reliance on any roadmap, I set myself the charge of attaining an image and a way of working that might enable me to experience a landscape I could imagine walking into.
Several latenights into the trek, the works mounting on the wall suddenly looked like tags - shorthand symbols unlocking imagination and evoking a universal adventure through one-off expression.
These peaks seemed to rise beyond caricature in the same way great tags snake through graphic and font, infusing both with art and dusting culture across urban grit.
Among other things, a writer tags a wall or train to record his or her presence in the world and that particular corner of it. With these “Mountain Tags” I realized I was doing something similar but with a twist: recording my presence in or experience of a landscape of my imagining. Both modes of expression recognize valuing a disciplined refinement of one’s vocabulary and the humanizing worth of including that process in the public square.
So this post reveals an evolution of new vocabulary designed to read as a sign, a signifier, a refined, Romantic tag: “Mountain.”
The above images are an unedited sequence of this endeavor to date. The 32nd attempt - which I published previously as “premise en scène” - was the initial mountain painting that in some ineffable way satisfied my desire. But that’s just me, you, of course, are free to determine your own peak experience.