David Richardson, Six Views of the Hozu River, detail
As the Furniture Society conference in Boone, NC gets underway, I want to wish all my friends well, although I must send my regrets. I hope to see you all next year in Boston. The rest of this post has little to do with furniture, but is really just about the water, as in the stuff we are all swimming in. Water is my favorite subject and metaphor. John Maeda, RISD’s new president, recently said in an interview, “people don’t want technology now. They want humanity.” Here are some links and comments culled from hunting and gathering on the web.
This Is Water
“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?” -David Foster Wallace, commencement address, Kenyon College, 2005
Evidently this commencement address by David Foster Wallace has been around the internet for a while, but I just discovered it via Design Observer, through a link to a post by Marie Mundaca who designed several of Wallace’s books, including an elegant version of this address. It’s kind of a plea for compassion, a call for “changing your default setting.” “It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:
This is water.
This is water.”
My friend Donald just sent me photos of new work. Here’s a beauty:
Because I’m a furniture restorer, I can’t resist sharing this New Yorker article on a conservator of contemporary art. He describes carving dung and installing a Gordon Matta-Clark, throwing left over bits from the bottom of the packing crates artfully here and there. Registration required to view articles.
Creating a New Craft Culture
The American Craft Council has a blog for the upcoming conference “Creating a New Craft Culture.”
Posts by Bruce Metcalf and Glenn Adamson are featured. Bruce’s post is a repost from his own blog, Craft Gadfly – a review of the book Handmade Nation. This was my comment in response:
Thinking about today’s DIY craft, I’m reminded of an earlier thought. The great arts writer and critic John Russell once wrote about Alberto Giacometti’s work and Paris in the post WW2 years and described it as a time when life had a hand made quality. I’ve always remembered that comment. I believe he was referring to a time when scarcity and deprivation forced people to live carefully and purposefully. He wrote this against the background of a heated up art world and the general corporatism of the 80’s. But the rise of the DIY impulse shows that people are still looking for those qualities that Russell observed in Giacometti’s Paris. The phrase “a hand made life” also makes me think of the culture of workrooms and studios that I’ve been around all my life. The brothers Giacometti – Alberto and Diego – were both trained as sculptors, but they worked on commissions for the top French decorators like Jean Michel Frank, for high end Parisian clients. I’m thinking of a culture where the fine arts and decorative arts (as they were once called) brushed up against each other. Politically, DIY and high end art/craft/design are at opposite poles, but it seems inevitable that they should meet somewhere. William Morris somewhat bitterly complained that he had made “bibelots for the rich”, but there must be a better way to think about good work. David McFadden has said of work being done today that mixes between craft, art and design “we don’t know what to call it yet.” I like that statement. It makes me feel like there is something to be discovered.
photo by Denis Piel, used with permission
When we were young, fashion and art were part of the same package. One of my favorite expressions comes from those days, and forgive me if you’ve heard me say this before: A successful fashion photograph makes a promise it can never keep. Denis Piel epitomized this and pushed it to the limit in his fashion work of the 80′s. Leafing through Vogue, I would always go to the editorial pages to see if Denis had a spread. His best photo shoots were little dramas, full of sex and innuendo. Denis is still working and exhibiting, based in Padies, France. He is also developing properties and arts and film festivals. Check out his links.
Dissertation with Comics
Mark Staff Brandl, Panels, Covers and Viewers
Mark Staff Brandl is an interesting artist and teacher who has renewed my interest in the comic book form and abstract serial art. He says his first artistic impulse and his roots were in drawing comics and he describes his work as a creole combination of installation, painting and comics. He says that “most species of the arts since Greenbergian formalism are too formalist – there is too much inbreeding. I want a creole culture in art. Leslie Fiedler said that ‘…a closing of the gap between elite and mass culture is precisely the function of the novel now’. I say that is true of visual art now. Cross the border. Close the gap: post-modernism as something more than quasi-mannerist late modernism. For me, the key to this lies in the discoveries of comic artists.” Mark is working on a PHD dissertation and is posting it in sections on Sharkforum. His dissertation is on his own Lakoffian theory of central trope in the creative process of both visual artists and authors, which he calls metaphor/m. He is also producing comic style covers and installations as part of his project. For those who may be interested in Art Theory, this is a wonderful, readable, personal search for a theory of art. Keep your bookmark for Wikipedia handy and you’ll be fine. The idea of a creole art that mixes high and low echoes some of the current discussions going on about craft and fine art, DIY and more mainstream contemporary craft, craft and design, and aligns with my own interests in mixing art forms to new expressive ends.
And thinking of serial art, my friend Franklin Einspruch is doing some wonderful things too. Check out The Moon Fell on Me.