All notes from Archives | Notes on Looking

Yann Novak “Doppler.Shift” at Commonwealth and Council

Foreward I walk as though entranced, when I walk in a familiar place. Chapter One In my mind, I hear laughter down the hall; I remember the last opening I attended, and the one before that and the one before that; I think of the afternoons when I’ve climbed the stairs and traversed this hall alone, and with David; I think of times I’ve spent here with Young, looking at art and sharing an experience with whoever was visiting. Here is where I prepare myself for what lies ahead; here is a space of cleansing and of conscious breaths and of quiet, zen-like pleasure. Here is a space of leaving. This darkened space, this truly liminal span of corridor is rich with history; it encompasses anticipation and intellectual pleasure and drunken promises and love. My body makes echoes here; as it moves it animates the space. The hallway returns this favor by animating my memory. A faint scent of cigarettes and dust and plaster, and the feel of air on my skin as it passes, completes the magic. Yann Novak has done us the service of honoring Commonwealth and Council’s nearly mythological hallway with two works of art. A quiet drone composition plays, and it alters as I move, tones growing more and less resonant. I hear, or I imagine I hear additional “instruments” entering the aural space of the pulse (bell-like, organ-like), changing it, and then dissipating into the new, jointly created pulse. Walking the length of the corridor again, I find two distinct compositions; the second sounds rounder, and hollow and like it is made from human voices in a polyphonous...

Mary Hill in “SomeTimeApart” at Commonwealth and Council

Mary Hill shows two bodies of work in SomeTimeApart, titled Figure Drawing I through III, and Power Bottom I through IV, along with a group of give-away Risograph prints. (Risograph is an ink-based duplication system using a master, or stencil.) The prints reproduce in 11 x 17 inch format side by side pages, possibly from a figure drawing book, of a male and a female figure. The woman is nude, the man wears a white jock. The models are posed on rectangular and cube-shaped bases. The effect of these photos is something like illustrations from Joy of Sex: anodyne, yet erotic with sweet charm; human rather than idealized; on the verso are printed quotes, such as “I know a power bottom when I fuck one.” and “And you can never touch a girl in the same way more than once.” Figure Drawing I, II, and III use these Risograph prints with added color Xeroxing. Here, a pair of hands is photographed while holding the initial prints, and the hands are emphasized through repetition. These images are layered in a way that makes me think each is done with a separate pass through the Risograph printer. The layers make a direct reference to time: each passage through the cylinder is indicated. The multiple presence of the hands refer to another sort of time, to the time in my head, where I imagine the artist holding and considering the pages again and again; I can also imagine myself, looking down and finding my hands doing the same thing. This is conceptually sweet in a way that mirrors the sweetness of the original images. Relative innocence as a strategy feels right for these post-jaded times. I can imagine...

Between thought and expression, lies a lifetime—John Pearson considers “James Welling: Monograph”

Between thought and expression, lies a lifetime. – Lou Reed (1) Monograph is a survey exhibition of the photographer James Welling’s work from the late 1970s to the present.  My interest here is to consider the artist’s photographs as well as the installation of the exhibition at the Hammer Museum through photographic associations, excerpts of published interviews with the artist, and various, sometimes contradictory, ideas about photography.  Writing about photographs I find myself preoccupied by the world – what the artist makes of it with the photograph, how the photograph informs that relationship.  And this connection built from the index, record, trace that is a photograph is where I find myself negotiating meaning. The photograph, inherently mechanical, inherently systematic, is unique in its alignment with a single unruly and impulsive sense: vision.  And vision’s association with one’s attention suggests that looking at a photograph is seeing the photographer’s attention. You look at what was looked at by the artist.  The photograph offers attention, consideration, and discovery of the artist’s surroundings.  It manifests perception and makes a sense of the world.  I’m thinking about a photography rooted in observation. “No.  I think that, in general–and this includes a lot of what I see in Chelsea even more than what I see from students at Yale–there’s a failure to understand how much richer in surprise and creative possibility the world is for photographers in comparison to their imagination.  This is an understanding that an earlier generation of students, and photographers, accepted as a first principle.  Now ideas are paramount, and the computer and Photoshop are seen as the engines to stage...