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Posted inArt

Up from the Mud: “The Parade” by Nathalie Djurberg

Claymation has always had that special something — a lilt of life that its too-perfect digital counterparts can’t touch. Its magic resides partly in its imperfection, namely its inability to disguise its own processes. The herky-jerky motions and the impressions of the animator’s fingers reinforce its material condition as inert matter relying on manipulation, stop-motion photography and the persistence of vision to appear as if it is moving of its own volition. It’s an illusion that, not to put too fine a point on it, resonates with the creation myth.

Posted inBooks

Words in Worlds of Light: Joseph Donahue’s Dissolves

Not only fragments and filaments, but also liturgies and litanies embed themselves in Joseph Donahue’s Terra Lucida, a chain of poetic assemblage that both embodies and breaks free of given notions of the long poem. While the formal designs of that thematic behemoth can be ascribed to his project, Donahue’s abrupt transitions, radical breaks, and vertiginous frames disrupt the cohesion and narrative continuity on which the genre depends. Rarely in contemporary poetry has the couplet served so astonishingly as a centrifugal mechanism, as bonding agent to the lines, serving to contain and unite its pressurized contents — “all those/tatters of the creation” mediated “in this aberrant rendition” — which seem at any moment threaten to break apart.

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

Watcher from the Skies: Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park Series

Beginning in 1968, in an act of governmental largesse unlikely to be repeated any time soon, the Bureau of Reclamation of the U.S. Department of the Interior invited forty artists, all expenses paid, to create works documenting its water reclamation efforts in the West. Among those asked to participate was Richard Diebenkorn, who traveled in 1970 to the Columbia River valley and Salt River in Arizona for five days of expansive looking, taking in landscape views from a promontory and making several overhead passes in a helicopter. Long fascinated by aerial perspective, he found himself “boggled” by what he saw. “Whenever there was agriculture going on,” he later recalled, “you could see process — ghosts of former tilled fields, patches of land being eroded.”

Posted inArt

Boyz 2 Men: A Detroit Artist’s Sonic Youth

So much iconic American literature portrays, often humorously, neglected or badly treated boys doggedly tracking down adventure (Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Nick Adams). For these protagonists, play is not a luxury but a lifeline. Matt Zacharias’ episodic, mixed-media exhibition Childhood, Boyhood, Sonic Youth is just such a journey. The show starts off with a search for dad, or at least for things solid and male, but winds up somewhere else.