Monday, February 8, 2016

This week on Tumblr: Giorno Poetry Systems

After befriending artists such as Andy Warhol (who cast him in Sleep and the unreleased Handjob), Roy Lichtenstein, John Cage and Merce Cunningham, John Giorno came to believe that poetry was lagging far behind the advancements being made in visual art, music and dance.

Determined to reach a broader audience, Giorno founded the free Dial-a-Poem series, and founded Giorno Poetry Systems. The non-profit record label released a series of recordings from 1972 to 1989.

Artists often designed the packaging: many of the performer portraits were taken by Les Levine and both Keith Haring and Robert Williams contributed cover illustrations. The discs included spoken word, audio art and the occasional pop performer (Nick Cave, New Order, Patti Smith, Frank Zappa, etc.). Artists/authors/composers included Laurie Anderson, William S Burroughs, Philip Glass, Diamanda Galás, Allen Ginsberg, Jim Carroll, Lydia Lunch, John Cage, Anne Waldman, and Brion Gysin.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mike Kelley | Reconstructed History

Mike Kelley
Reconstructed History
Cologne, Germany:  Galerie Gisela Capitain, 1990
136 pp., 32 x 24 cm., hardcover
Edition of 250 signed and numbered copies

Designed to resemble an embossed high school yearbook (with a removable mylar dust jacket containing adolescent doodles), Reconstructed History presents a series of iconic American photographs, defaced with crude drawings and marginalia.

The collection of heroic idealized images of a shared American heritage are culled from scholastic textbooks, all altered with puerile scrawlings, mostly sexual and scatological.

"Here we have a collection of grotesqueries, defacements of some of the most cherished images of our American past," Kelley writes in the introduction, on faux parchment paper, emulating a colonial design. "Who could be responsible for such defilements? What could be the purpose of tarnishing the heroic figures and events we hold so dear?"

Historical figures are seen sporting elongated noses and erections. The Statue of Liberty appears twice: first with added breasts, pubic hair and 'stink lines' emanating from the armpit of her raised torch arm, and later as a phallus with the addition of crudely drawn testicles and ejaculate. The Washington Monument and Empire State Building suffer similar fates.

A gold rush prospector defecates in a stream while panning for gold. The Declaration of Independence is covered in vomit. Speech bubbles convey sentiments such as "Your horse is hung heavier", "Sniff my finger" and "Eat Shit Dad".

 Kelley notes that this is not the work of "candidates for a revolutionary youth army or satanic murder cult", but rather grade school students. But - in addition to some recurring motifs - the handwriting appears remarkably consistent throughout. 

Unlike the bawdy cartoons, Kelley’s essay employs the jargon and tone of psychoanalysis. He asserts that the lewd doodles go beyond schoolyard mischief:

“Childish resentment is the cause of the defacements presented here. The inability to accept their lower position in the order of things provokes these ‘artists’ to drag back to the surface garbage long buried–to sully, vandalize, and render inoperable our pictures of health. Not that such a tactic is always bad.” 

The rare title (with an estimated value of between five and six thousand dollars) is available in the Joan Flasch Artists' Books collection, here. A video documenting the book can be seen on Vimeo, here.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bill Burns | Hans Ulrich Obrist Hear Us

Bill Burns
Hans Ulrich Obrist Hear Us
London, UK/Toronto, Canada: Blackdog Publishing/YYZ Books, 2015
224 pp., 23.4 x 16 x 3 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown

Hans-Ulrich Obrist Hear Us features an episodic and humorous autobiography,  illustrations of the artist's work, and texts by Dannys Montes de Oca Moreda, Dan Adler and Jennifer Allen.

On Friday February 12th, from 3 to 4pm, Burns will read from the book at the L.A. Art Book Fair, followed by a conversation with curator and writer Tyler Stallings. Burns and Stallings will speculate on "toadyism and hagiography with particular reference to the artist, the curator, the collector, and the art museum."

For more information on Burns, visit here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Sol Lewitt | Table

Sol Lewitt
Chicago, USA: The Renaissance Society, 1998
113.75" x 46.25" x 29.75"
Edition of 10

A steel dining table with a glass top, available from the publisher, here, for $40,000.00.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Kelly Mark | Exist

Kelly Mark
Toronto, Canada: Self-published, 2009
7.5" x 12" x 2"
Edition of 25 + 2 AP

Altered exit sign, water-jet cut powder coated aluminum w/ LED lights

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fiona Banner | Heart of Darkness

Fiona Banner
Heart of Darkness
London, UK: Four Corner Books/Vanity Press, 2015
320 pp., 24.5 x 32.5 cm., glossy magazine
Edition size unknown

Fiona Banner's first artist's book, THE NAM (below), is a 1000-page epic that recounts (simultaneously) the action in several Vietnam films: Full Metal Jacket, The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now!, Born on the Fourth of July, Hamburger Hill and Platoon. Famously described as "unreadable", the title can be thought of as a novelization of an 11-hour supercut.

Banner returns to similar subject matter with a retelling of Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad's 1899 novella about a voyage up the Congo River. The book was the source material for Francis Ford Coppola's epic film Apocalypse Now! (1979). Coppola transposed the horror's of King Leopold's colonialism to the Vietnam War (or 'Resistance War Against America', as it's known in Vietnam).

Heart of Darkness was originally published as a three-part serial story in Blackwood's Magazine. For this new version, Banner returns the content to the format, but reimagines it as a luxury glossy magazine.

The project began in 2012, when Banner was invited to select an exhibition of works drawn from the Archive of Modern Conflict, a London-based collection of war photographs and ephemera. The artist commissioned Paolo Pellegrin, a conflict photographer who has worked extensively in the Congo, to observe the City of London through the lens of Conrad’s book. These photographs were first exhibited in London under the title Mistah Kurtz – He Not Dead, also the title of 2014 film by Banner.

They also form the illustrations for this new publication of Conrad’s novella, co-published by Four Corner Books and Banner's own imprint Vanity Press.

Banner will be signing copies next week at the LA Art Book Fair, at the Printed Matter booth (C01). The event takes place at 8pm on February 11th, 2016. Preceding the signing, Fiona Banner will hold a Classroom event during which she will screen Mistah Kurtz – He Not Dead, and another short film called Phantom (2015).

Monday, February 1, 2016

This Week on Tumblr: Installation views

This week on Tumblr: artists' books and multiples in exhibition - on shelves, tables, hanging from the wall and (mostly) under glass in vitrines.

Next week: John Giorno's Poetry Systems LPs.