A consideration of work by Thomas Winkler and Daniel Mendel-Black in the group exhibition “Sand in my Shoes” at Tif Sigfrids
Sand in my shoes
I am cruising through the desert
The wind is banging on my ear
10 000 miles away from home
objects in mirror are closer than they appear
There are blue flowers on the sidewalk
I´m too fast to watch them grow
Buy some frosted flakes and hot dogs
while the sun is trying to go
How am I driving? How do you do?
How can I leave the past behind?
Unfinished future, sad and true
a bunch of questions on my mind
I´m so lucky, I´ve got air conditioner, that´s great!
The heat is just illusion
Right in the middle of this state
the system´s the solution
I stop at nine at motel six
The only place where i can go
Take a shower, swing my hips
in a room with HBO
Here I am, all dreams fullfilled
I am your governor´s lost son
There are so many words, I can build
using the letters in „Fun in the Sun“.
It´s an empty time in an empty town
With Ice-cream, orange-juice and white bread
I met twentyeight girls in twentynine palms
„Hi! My name is Manfred!“
Thomas Winkler, Twentynine Palms, Oktober 2003
© Verlag Heckler und Koch, Berlin
Sand in meinen Schuhen
Ich fahre in der Wüste umher
Der Wind klopft gegen meine Ohren
5 674 Kilometer weg von Daheim
sind die Dinge näher als sie im Spiegel erscheinen
Es gibt hier blaue Blumen auf dem Gehweg
Ich bin zu schnell, sie wachsen zu sehen
Kaufe mir ein paar geröstete Flocken und heiße Hunde
während die Sonne versucht, zu gehen
Wie finden Sie meinen Fahrstil? Wie geht es Ihnen?
Wie kann ich die Vergangenheit hinter mir lassen?
Unvollendete Zukunft, traurig und wahr
Ein Haufen Fragen gehen mir durch den Kopf
Ich habe Glück, ich habe Klimaanlage, wie schön!
Die Hitze ist nur Illusion
Hier, in der Mitte dieses Staates
ist das System die Lösung
Ich halte um Neun am Hotel Sechs
Der einzige Ort, an den ich gehen kann
Nehme eine Dusche, schwinge meine Hüften
in einem Zimmer mit Spielfilmprogramm
Da bin ich nun! Alle Träume erfüllt
Ich bin der verlorene Sohn Eures Gouverneurs
So viele Worte, die ich schon bilden kann
aus den Buchstaben in »Spaß in der Sonne«
Es ist eine leere Zeit in einer leeren Stadt
Mit Eis, Orangensaft und Weißbrot
Ich habe 28 Mädchen in 29 Palmen getroffen
»Hallo! Mein Name ist Manfred!«
Thomas Winkler, Budapest, März 2004
The exhibition Sand in my Shoes begins with a 2003 visit by a group of friends and artists to Twentynine Palms. A poem by Thomas Winkler that loosely documents the event, also provides the show’s title. Looking at the art on the walls of the gallery, I think that the structure of the show, its installation, might mirror the composition of the desert trip: I imagine people sitting around a campfire at night, or in a pool during the day; I imagine conversations starting up, changing course and then drifting into the clear desert air. I imagine a rush of enthusiasm when someone proposes a hike, or a drive to a distant rock shop. I imagine languid dissipation, and I imagine music being played on tinny speakers.
There are five artists in the show, four who may have been on the trip and one who certainly wasn’t, but who somehow was – through his music.
For Thomas Winkler’s (#69), eight photos are mailed to the exhibition space, along with eight captions. The photos are to be mounted (by the dealer or curator or a representative) on presentation paper and instructions are given connecting each caption to a photo. The order of the photos is determined by the person performing the installation. In the case of (#69) two of the photos have been switched, so the captions no longer apply. “But it’s okay because those captions could apply to either photo,” I am told.
In Winkler’s captions I am not given any information that orients me. The text associated with the top left photo, which was taken looking outward through the windshield of a bus, tells me “My first trip to Asia. This guy took me from Abu Dhabi to Dubai.” A photo of a huge construction site goes with “Dubai looks the same everywhere. Here for example.” Another caption: “This shot was taken in the Mall of the Emirates. There is a ski slope.” Like the captions which have been misplaced, I the viewer who is looking and telling himself a story about what he sees could be anywhere. The conceptual me is not in Dubai (where the photos were taken), I am not on Wilcox Avenue in Hollywood (where I am standing), I am somewhere in the artist’s mind.
One of Winkler’s captions does commit itself to a definite place, and (true to form) the place mentioned is not what is in the picture (a large urban site which has been cleared for construction; the photo taken from the artist’s hotel room), instead I am told that “this photo reminds me of my poem Sand in my Shoes,” and so I am directed to think about Winkler’s poem, and about the trip to the desert, and, inevitably I am directed to the exhibition itself. (And I guess this is how Winkler returns me to me.)
I understand that Thomas Winkler thinks of these photo reports as self portraits, and that each of the self portraits is paired with a painting in which the artist uses different colors of paint to render the rectangular space of each photo on a stretched canvas.
Winkler’s doubled self portraits have been bouncing around in my head for weeks. My internal monologue has been like, “Yay! What an awesome way to make an abstract painting: call it a self portrait; back your claim up with photos that present your gaze; continue the project for years and years; encourage the viewer to ponder the ways in which paint can become the thing represented.”
I think of Stephen Prina with his Manet project, and how much I want Prina’s work to become Manet’s ouevre. I think of On Kawara, and his record of his life, and then I don’t—because Winkler’s sense of time is fuzzy and uncertain and his representation of place is deceptive. (And then I think of Kawara again, because the work of both artists refers everywhere to the labor of its making—Winkler’s occasional deferral of labor and choice to others rhymes with and refutes On Kawara’s laborious sanding and painting and resanding and repainting of panels.)
It also helps that Winkler undertakes his time-based performance in the role of several characters, and that he writes his poem as a gregarious dude called Manfred. (Is Manfred a sexy name in Germany? Did the twenty-eight girls at Twentynine Palms respond positively to Manfred’s advances?)
Thank you Herr Prof. Winkler, for making fun art.
Daniel Mendel-Black’s (#246) Radical Green has a feeling of weight that exceeds its material facts; like looking at a photo of Machu Picchu and sensing great mass with your mind’s eye, the thing one “sees” in this painting borrows weight from the thing one imagines. Mendel-Black’s cuts are imprecise, but only just, and this brings a fractured look to the painting that compresses the weight one imputes. It is true that throughout my experience of Daniel Mendel-Black’s career I have sensed in his work an ideological fundament: the resistance of an imagined perfection in favor of something humanly possible.
The surface of each canvas-wrapped panel is painted. The majority of the pieces comprise a field of green, and the remaining four are painted monochromatically; there is one each in yellow, red, orange and blue. The colors all refer to each other, and the secondary orange and green seem to be mixes of the primaries. The paint stops at the surface, leaving the edge white. The weight also stops at the surface; and from the side the panel pieces become spatial, where before, any dimensionality was in my visualization.
Daniel Mendel-Black makes rigorous abstractions that don’t flatter their audience for attention, nor do they flatter the artist in any romanticizing way. His paintings avoid quoting the past—ironically, sincerely or out of ignorance—instead, he deals with the material of the present world, employing insights from the past. If his work can be interpreted politically, and I think it can, Mendel-Black makes this happen by using the qualities of his materials (conceptual and physical) to explore their possibilities, rather than building metaphors or illusions.
Sand in my Shoes with André Butzer, Cris Kirkwood, Maja Körner, Daniel Mendel-Black, and Thomas Winkler closes on July 5, 2014. I hope you’ll see it before it’s gone.