Sam Falls at M+B
Ante Script, written 45 minutes after posting the below.
What follows the yellow picture below is a confused piece of writing. It is not a mess, and possibly it demonstrates my confusions with the exhibition, but I am dissatisfied by my work here. At first I was skeptical of this show, “Wow,” I thought, “there is a lot of work here and it is all very pretty, facile even.” Then I got into it, I dismissed as shallow that initial response, as I describe below, and found things to appreciate. When I read the press release, I felt like I had to be suspicious of my own experience with the show because the expert, the author was telling me that there were other things that I should think. Probably better things I supposed, given the authority of the artist in this space.
Damn. The arcana of process aren’t interesting to me. I recognize the importance of process to the artist, I also recognize that process becomes history becomes present, but just as the artist’s experience is paramount to her or to him and the artist’s experience plus labor results in an artwork – in my looking, my own experience is all that I have to go on. Yes, thank you – I can read the facts of a practice and incorporate the knowledge into my thinking and ultimately my intuition. I can hear stories from the artist and from scholars of the hows and the wherefores and these will inform my judgment, but an emphasis on the telling threatens to displace my body and my mind and my intuition – my soul, if you will – from primacy in my own experience of the work.
I don’t reject knowledge, I simply ask to be allowed to receive it, rather than have it delivered.
It is clear to me that during my time with the show I got over my revolt, and although it is early days yet, I suspect that I was able to do so with the help of Sam Falls. Time, as Mr. Falls might say, will tell.
And now I return you to my prior and even earlier maunderings.
“As much as anything, this project is self referential.” Thus I thought half an hour into my visit, a bit resentful after reading the press release that Sam Falls crafted to accompany his photographs, sculptures and loose-hanging linen prints at M+B. My experience began more happily prior to this reading, and my mind and body had already worked together developing into ideas my sensations of the work – I shall come to that earlier moment in good time, but first, I continue: “Sam Falls is represented everywhere in the show. In each act of dislocation (from site to studio to software to show) the artist, through his words, appears as the fulcrum for the lever of his decision making; and in each occasion of delay, e.g. between perception and apprehension, I find the artist present in the interval.”
I take a breath and continue looking, recalling my earlier ideas when I had only my own presence in the gallery and did not know of any words.
“The photos and the sculptures (these I saw first) engage and even fascinate me. Falls’ use of color shifts my perceptions of space, and simultaneously I strive to determine which hues are applied and which might be integral to the medium as I see it. I wonder what I understand as integrity here? What can be integral? Color? If so, then what of sequence?”
Clearly, the colors I see existed already in the windows of desert shacks that Falls photographed. (I find later that he hung colored fabric to photograph in these sun drenched openings.) The resulting images have been altered in Photoshop, and dynamic shapes of differing hues are color matched into the images. Another possible “real” is made manifest by additional blocky shapes having been painted on the prints. Because of his light touch and wonderfully jumpy visual sensibility, my initial reading of all the colored shapes/objects in Falls’ landscapes wasn’t a ‘reading’ at all, it was a feeling – a physical sensation of movement – as of a dance that was frozen at the moment of my looking.
As I noted, the delight that I experienced in those initial thirty minutes was muted when I read the press release: although I appreciated Falls’ direct voice and I was almost not suspicious of the charming character I found on the page, I was bored by his clearly articulated narrative of the making of the work and unsettled by his insistent use of the first person singular voice: “I did (this) then I did (that) then…”
Thinking again of my beginning, I worried at the ideas I was having and I took another breath and told myself somewhat sternly, “Wait a sec. Remember to think that the artist is taking his work seriously, and taking his viewer seriously as well.” (I should really carry around a Cliff’s Notes of suggestions for looking, to remind myself how to behave.) “The artist’s statement has given me a stumbling block that I must get over. This might be fortuitous.” My experience of the work was altered substantially by the words I read, and that disjuncture stopped me and first encouraged me to rush forward (in judgment) and then to retrace my steps and reconsider. If Falls’ concern is the perception and the effects of time – as his press release states – then what I am now engaged in is very much in keeping with his concerns. Not only am I rethinking my own experience of time, but with the help of the statement I can triangulate my time with the artist’s own experience and manipulation of that slippery fourth dimension.
Now I think again of the large bent metal sculptures (for which Falls has in his statement enumerated intricate time-based plans) and I remember what I noticed and enjoyed about them in my previous existence (and now am able to relive again), the sculptures are shiny, sparkling, brightly monochromatic zeds and angles and rips, and being so angled their surfaces reflect off themselves and they double and mirror and the colors alter dramatically within a terrifyingly narrow range. The effect is one of Minimalism dosed with So Cal sun, or MDMA. Parts of the sculptures disappear in the sunlight coming through the door and everything in the space is also reflected in them.
So, in answer to the kind question with which you ended your statement Sam, yes I enjoyed your show. I struggled a bit, as I sometimes do – entering new ideas is for me like being bound – until discovered knowledge sets me free.