Posted inBooks

The Tip of the Iceberg: My Reading of Frank Kuenstler (1928–1996)

I want to begin with a few salient facts and personal observations about the poet and filmmaker Frank Kuenstler. He is part of the same generation as John Ashbery, Robert Bly, Robert Creeley, Philip Lamantia, Denise Levertov, Frank O’Hara, and Adrienne Rich, and, to my mind, belongs in their company. Between 1964 and 1996 he published nine books. If we take his word for it, and I see no reason why we shouldn’t, he began working on LENS in 1952 but waited more than a decade before he began publishing his work. Partly this had to do with the twelve years it took Kuenstler to complete LENS, but I imagine other factors were also involved.

Posted inArt

Nobuo Sekine and Charles Ray and Their Sculptures Filled with Liquid

Lee Ufan’s letter to Stella underscores his ongoing critique of Western aesthetics, which began with the specific objects we associate with Minimalism. Whereas Minimalism, at least as Stella codified it, emphasizes the material presence of an object isolated from the passage of time, the artists associated with Mono-ha were interested in what happened between things, in the dynamics of their relationship as well as in change. Thus, for all the visual affinities between a Western-made object and those made by the Mono-ha artists, these connections have to do with appearance — they are morphological and, at best, superficial.

Posted inArt

The Rediscovery of a Forgotten Pop Artist: Evelyne Axell (1935–1972)

The Great Journey into Space is the second exhibition of the Belgian Pop artist Evelyne Axell to be seen in New York. Her first New York exhibition, Axell’s Paradise: Last Works (1971–1972) before she vanished, which I reviewed for The Brooklyn Rail (Nov. 2009), was also at 1602 Broadway (October 1–November 21, 2009). (Note: The gallery’s name is different from the address, which is 1181 Broadway, third floor). Together, these exhibitions fill a gap in our knowledge of what was going on during the heyday of Pop Art as well as offer viewers a chance to assess the work of an artist who has largely been left out of art history. An exhibition devoted to the “Erotomobiles” that Axell did between 1964 and 66, at the outset of her rather short career, would fill out the picture.

Posted inArt

Single Point Perspective: Where Does Illusion End and Reality Begin?

There is the American flag, and there is the painting “Flag” (1954–55) by Jasper Johns, which is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Flying over federal courthouses, churches, schools, post offices, lawns, construction sites and, in the months after 9/11, nearly ever taxi in New York, the American flag signifies nationalism and a set of ideals over which there has been increasingly rancorous debate. Each generation must wrestle with three basic questions: who is American, what does it mean to be an American and what is an American entitled to?

Posted inArt

A Wanderer Among The Rubble (Part 2)

Gabriel Solomon Brodie grew up in a tenement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. That he became an artist who achieved what he did in a relatively short period — his career spans around twenty-five years — is a testament to his ferocious persistence. Wanting desperately to get himself out of his impoverished circumstances, he became a painter. He did so out of the purest motivation: he fell in love with painting.

Posted inArt

A Wanderer Among the Rubble (Part 1)

Jocelyn once described her husband, Gandy Brodie (1924–1975) as a “delinquent Hebrew student.” In the novel Life on Sandpaper (Dalkey Archive Press, 2011), the Israeli novelist and painter Yoram Kaniuk writes about the time he and Gandy hung out together in New York, befriending Lenny Tristano and Charlie Parker, as well as Willem de Kooning and Tennessee Williams.

Posted inArt

Portrait of an Artist with Three Lives

It is hard to resist the temptation to mythologize Albert Contreras’s adult life, to not see it take shape as a movie script or imagine who might get the starring role. But if you to stop to think about it, the only reason Contreras’ life story could be turned into a movie is because of his paintings. That’s what it boils down to. We shouldn’t want it any other way.

Posted inArt

The Soulful Insolence of Sven Lukin

I have been a Sven Lukin fan since 1970, when I first saw “Untitled” (1969) in one of the concourses running under the Empire State Plaza in Albany. Made for, and located in, a long recessed area — and playfully hovering between flatness and volume, the pictorial and the sculptural — Lukin’s “Untitled,” a three-dimensional, green, orange and blue squiggle, is over 11 feet high and nearly 120 feet long.

Like someone practicing penmanship, “Untitled” begins as a series of tightly compressed vertical folds — think u’s and n’s — that rise and fall, suddenly run along the floor, undulate once, and then extend straight along the floor again until it rises up again; it wants to stretch to its full length, which, as the recessed area makes clear, it can never do. Despite its physical imprisonment, “Untitled” is as irrepressible as a rubber snake.