Nostalgia is a sly devil.
As the morning’s coffee rolled around my palate and started to sink beyond my gullet, I was hit with a sudden rush of nostalgia for fog. Of all the things Los Angeles has done to me in his short introduction — and there have been many, many things — his wont dessication of my upper passages is no queerer than in those moments when the heat and mist of an acidic, bitter brown slew crashes against my olfactory shores. Sensation and association strengthen the pang of nostalgia when it hits; it was coffee, that wonder drug, which I took back up living amongst streets of fog.
Wresting with nostalgia is hard.
Of all the memories in my codex, one chapter is just yellowed and dank from near-psychotic reciting, nights full of scorching sunlight and days of tears work against a conservation of the better sentences in its stories. Its poems of heartache echo in the strangest places: bus stops, waiting rooms, the checkout lines of grocery stores with linoleum floors reminiscent of your youth. The rhymes and reasons generally lead to cadenzas of silence, their author checked-out and beckoned away. The problem with sudden memories is that they throw themselves at you with no bell, you’re suddenly on the mat, the surrounding sounds crowd your perception like a violent audience, and it isn’t ’til moments later, having collected your thoughts and reorganized them into their usual modicum of cogency that you escape from the full-nelson and walk away, with your reusable fabric grocery bag, full of freshly roasted coffee beans and memories of the days of plastic bags and foggy aisles of freedom.
Still, my sinuses burn.
I rolled out of bed, popped the morning’s medicine into my gullet, and bussed myself into the kitchen to grind beans, boil water, and wake up, carefully, to save the last stretch of all my muscles for the moment the brown brew broke the silence of my taste buds. The water boiled and I hocked a loogie into the kitchen sink: bloodied. It was rare in San Francisco to wake up with an arid, yet bloodied spit. Windows ever so cracked, the effusive moisture of the city always snuck her way in each night like an old Barbary Coast whore to find the lonely corners where her service was needed. I inhaled her almost every night and she comforted me.
This morning I’m drinking my coffee and longing for the days of comfort. I’m longing for the days of fog. I’m longing for the days of baked bread down the street and brothers across the way. I’m longing for a time of hot creme readied near my cup, suitors anxious to pour themselves into my drink. I’m longing for the days of pleasant, youthful confusion. I’m longing for the dog-ears of pages whose lines used to make sense, whose words used to rhyme, with mine, and whose authors still sit, here, next to me, drinking the shitty coffee of youth and laughing the awful taste away, together, in the comforts of our fog.
Again, my mug, emptied.
Busy, frenzied, that is what that past month has been. So here-and-there, in fact, that though I had planned on writing some sort of nostalgic elegy to San Francisco before I left, I find myself now an Angeleno, having missed the window of opportunity to put such words to presence while wrapped in fog.
Nonetheless, my thoughts and sensations about The City remain palpable. I resided in the same apartment on Divisadero for just under seven years. I had a picture of Sutro Tower welcome me each morning through my living room window, occasionally toweled with wet atmosphere, often glaringly exposed stark naked. It was a good picture to live under.
Divisadero changed much and quick as my tenure persisted. Gentrification is a citywide trend, but the Alamo Square area perhaps embraced it at a cocaine pace. There were upsides and downsides to the change, but for me they were too much; the noise level of my corner screamed a particular uninhabitability of which my nerves were too aware.
On the contrary, Josey Baker Bread came to the stretch and will likely remain, in my mind, as the finest baked good I have ever placed past my lips.
San Francisco was a rather remarkable experience, of a magnitude which words can do no real explication. Reflecting on my time there only confirms this — it is the emotional growth I experienced as a result of being there that has created an indelible steep hill beside my presence that will last as a touchstone and echopoint to test all future travels against.
Alas, I am now an Angeleno. Happily. And though the magnitude of LA I wear at this point hangs thin, the adhesion I can taste of the surfaces I see is as powerful as the salinity of the sky that accented my days and quieted my nights in sweet, queer San Francisco.
After spending a few years working strictly in collage and strictly in achromatic or monochromatic texts, venturing into the world of color and paint is a natural shift. Frankly, most of the time I spent in the studio making collage work, if I wasn’t thinking about psychology, I was thinking about color. I have a bit of a color obsession: I constantly bring it up in conversation, it is the first thing I notice whenever I walk into any gallery, it is a crucial element to the way I process the world.
Recent descriptions of my new work seem to include the words “limited palette.” This is certainly true. Only in the past few weeks did I even introduce a different shade of the primary hue my studio is currently centered around. And while most of the work is screaming yellow, it is obvious my deference to achroma hasn’t gone anywhere, as I still hold a firm belief in the structural importance of grey, black, and white.
I have always been drawn to non-objective work because it always contained a language with which I was familiar. The challenge of creating complexity from simple sets of elements represented the subjective experience of my self; I’ve never been a person to make things easier, rather to derive more from less. Perhaps this was the result of my hardscrabble upbringing, the result of eating weeks of packaged ramen and sale-priced deli meats.
If I were to summarize my studio efforts in a succinct manner, I would say that I am interested in bringing tension into non-objective work. While I think the value of balance and harmony has always supported themes throughout hard edge and color field work, with many of those types of works standing out in the visual canon, it’s due time cacophony and aggression are prioritized in compositions. After all, work should reflect the epoch from which it originates, yes?
Next month at the Emery Community Arts Center, University of Maine, Farmington, Matthew Best and I will have a three-month long exhibition of recent paintings. I’m quite excited to be paired with Matthew as I am a big fan of his work. Tying his process directly to his senses, he says in his current artist statement, “I’ve always experienced the world as a tidal wave of sensory information: the five senses competing constantly for my attention.” This admission confirms the excitement one experiences within his compositions, a shifting of space through planes of color faceted by broad strokes. To me, his work has always felt like a bit of a rollercoaster, zips of motion looping me around the picture plane only to invert my perception again and again. His sense for color, too, is evident, especially in his courage to push limits with temperamental hues prone to bullying or antagonizing their viewers. And his ability to take geometry off a grid without falling into the flattened rainbow geodesia so common of painters nowadays is perhaps what impresses me most.
Along with our paintings, Joshua Haycraft will also be showing his work — what that is, I’m not entirely sure, as his website, while flashy, is more confusing and glitchy than satisfying and informative.
Matthew Best & Chris Rusak: New Paintings
Emery Community Arts Center
University of Maine, Farmington
July 25 to September 14, 2013
The idea of pleasure has been meandering through my mind quite a bit this year, both in terms of how we create meaningful enjoyment in our otherwise blank-state lives, as well as the experience of pleasure in art appreciation. I return to this question often whenever I come across the work of Brice Marden.
Before I knew anything about Marden, his work, or his processes, I simply enjoyed the experience of viewing his compositions, a simple sensing in space. As it usually does, color was the first thing to enrapture me, causing an atmospheric change as ambient light seemingly absorbed into his thick layers of beeswax, drawing me closer to explore texture. His flat, ironed encaustics were sensuous – auras, I imagined, wrapped around a naked body – clear, and with a sexual easiness that required only his pure color and my pure concentration to conceive of so many reactions. I enjoyed looking at all that footage of nothingness and it gave me pleasure. In his subsequent serpentine lines, webs of dizzied brush strokes thick and twiggy, I would get lost, I would escape from the politics and the passions of the outside world and just wrap myself into his canvases. I never really paid any attention to notions of whether it was critically good or academic or masterful; a judgment didn’t matter.
“One man wants to enjoy his own nature by means of art, another wants with its aid to get above and away from his nature for a time. In accordance with both needs there exists a twofold species of art and artist.” – “What we desire of art.”, Human, All Too Human, Friedrich Nietzsche
Now on San Francisco Arts Quarterly, my take on Greg Gossel’s work over the past few years, and why I dislike the fixations disrupting his potential.
“In an economy of shocking disparity, even, particularly, the cocaine-like art market of record-setting, multi-million auctions, megadealers’ parasitic encroachments, and art fair hoopla, the visual discourse incited by artists, especially when such incitement is aimed at the visual discourse, needs sharpened wit instead of adulation for luxury logos and hegemonically perfect female figures — do we really need more thin, white waifs gathered about? While Gossel once created canvases which begged to be touched, now we just see synthetic harlots realistically far out of our reach.”
The show, Head Over Heels at White Walls, is up until June 29, but you really don’t need to rush over and see it; digital images are no more or less thrilling than the real thing.
At Ratio 3, artist Mathew Hale brings together a cast of personalities and directs them in a psycho-historical nativity scene, acting as a dramaturgist for his never-ending subjective production. My review of his exhibition MA THE WHALE is up now on SFAQ. An excerpt discussing one female protagonist:
“On one hand she acts as objective narrator, a deviant chaperone escorting us through sensual adventures. She tells us stories of characters we vaguely see: friends in a park, the inhabitants of a cottage, strangers on a train, little known painters, blue chip artists, lesbian lovers and lost little boys. On the other hand, she is our mother, warning us that each mirror has two faces and lamenting with us the dichotomous, infinite nature of time in which we mortally participate. Lastly, she embodies Hale’s surrogate mother, a large symbolic figure with constant presence, a whale swirling in the swimming pool of his psyche.”
MA THE WHALE is on view until June 22. Bring popcorn and/or Kleenex, and watch the whole projection. It’s worth it.