Installation view of Book as System: The Artists’ Books of Sol LeWitt at Printed Matter, New York (all images courtesy of Printed Matter)

Sol LeWitt was one of the founders of Printed Matter in 1976. By this time, the conceptual artist had already been producing works of art in book form for a decade. It seems inevitable that LeWitt, whose practice is founded on seriality and instruction, would be drawn to the book format. Book as System: The Artists’ Books of Sol LeWitt, an exhibition curated by publisher Emanuele De Donno at Printed Matter, surveys LeWitt’s bookmaking practice. Vitrines, alongside ephemera such as magazine spreads, announcement cards, and posters, house more than 75 of LeWitt’s often floppy, fragile, and soft-cover books. The show is organized into 11 connected themes: pages, cubes, forms, colors, photogrids, structures and figures, wall drawings, serial drawings, lines and circles and grids, lines and locations, and lines and structures. It approaches his practice formally rather than chronologically, highlighting the different structures LeWitt explored as a book artist.

However, a useful timeline for LeWitt’s bookmaking to keep in mind while viewing the show includes his contribution to the famed 1968 Xerox Book, published by Seth Siegelaub; his co-founding of Printed Matter in 1976; his 1978 MoMA retrospective that contained a number of his books; and a 2009 posthumous book exhibition in Italy co-curated by De Donno and Giorgio Maffei, from whose catalogue the Printed Matter show draws heavily. LeWitt was both a maker and theorist of book arts.

Installation view of Book as System: The Artists’ Books of Sol LeWitt at Printed Matter, New York

“Art shows come and go but books stay around for years. They are works themselves, not reproductions of works,” he wrote in Art-Rite in 1976. This issue of Art-Rite, dedicated to artists’ commentary on bookmaking, is included in the first vitrine, with the text partially excerpted on the wall. This tactic is used throughout, allowing his words to jump out of the books and making a text-heavy show slightly more digestible. Viewers overwhelmed by all the printed materials can look at spreads and drafts hung on the walls and absorb some of LeWitt’s writing quoted in brief above the vitrines.

This first case also includes the Xerox Book and LeWitt’s first book, Serial Project #1 (1966), published by Aspen Magazine, which took the form of a custom box housing each contribution as a separate booklet, in 1967. It ushers in one of LeWitt’s most recognizable forms: the square. In his essay for the 2009 show, Maffei writes more specifically about LeWitt’s formal use of the square, calling the square, as LeWitt uses it, “the basic shape from which everything can be developed.”

Installation view of Book as System: The Artists’ Books of Sol LeWitt at Printed Matter, New York

LeWitt’s work with the square extended to his contribution to serial publications like Flash Art, Art & Project Bulletin, and the famously square Artforum. In his 1981 project for Artforum, bold black lines delineate diagonal, horizontal, and vertical lines within four distinct squares that make up one larger square centered on the cover of the magazine. Inside, the spread further breaks down these four iterations by printing the inner lines in color within the larger black outline.

This nuanced breakdown is characteristic of LeWitt’s drawings: one square becomes four distinct visual spaces for other explorations of line and color. His spreads for Art & Project Bulletin, mounted on the wall, show various diagrams and instructions for creating cubes, arched lines within squares, or packs of dense scribbles. As Clive Phillpot notes, “One of the pleasures of his books is due to his presentation, not just of an idea, but images that coexist in an obvious relationship with each other and which rest harmoniously on their platform, the book.”

Installation view of Book as System: The Artists’ Books of Sol LeWitt at Printed Matter, New York

To coincide with the exhibition, Printed Matter and Primary Information republished Four Basic Kinds of Lines & Colour (1977), which combines two distinct publications: the black-and-white Four Basic Kinds of Straight Lines (1969, Studio International) and Four Basic Colours and their Combinations (1971, Lisson Gallery); the latter reproduces the same patterns as the former, but in a range of colors. LeWitt’s works often include lengthy instructions requiring attention to detail and concentration, in addition to his conceptual texts. Four Basic Kinds of Lines & Colour starts with the 1969 outline of four types of lines: vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines “l. to r.” and “r. to l.” Each row that follows shows the combinations of these four lines. On the facing page is the 1971 explanation of the color breakdown — yellow vertical lines, black horizontal, red left to right, and blue right to left — followed by grids of color combinations. Each square page is an examples of these.

Printed on the wall near the photogrid section is a LeWitt quote from his 1978 MoMA catalogue: “No matter where one looks in an urban setting there are grids to be seen. Whether decorative or functional, grids provide a kind of order.” His later bookmaking practice differs significantly from his earlier ordered grids. Turning to photography, these books likely look strikingly contemporary to today’s viewers, who are well-versed in reading and finding connections between randomly sourced images. This is certainly the case with PhotoGrids, published in 1977, the same year as the combined lines and colors book. This 52-page book collects square street photographs that show grids in rows of three by three, making more grids on the square book pages. While some photographs are obvious, as in gridded manhole covers or glass-panned doors, others are more subtle and only make sense when seen in a group (for example, a person’s torso wearing a checkered shirt or pies with latticed tops). While Phillpot’s 2010 essay on LeWitt’s books characterizes the content of his “open series” photobooks as seemingly “arbitrary,” I suspect these titles look very different to 2019 readers, driven by LeWitt’s same search for systematic order and patterns that internet readers are attuned to find.

Installation view of Book as System: The Artists’ Books of Sol LeWitt at Printed Matter, New York

LeWitt’s voice — at times authoritarian, exposing his deeply conceptual thinking — echoes throughout the exhibition, in his books and ephemera and quotations printed on the walls. The word that comes to mind in this packed show is gesamtkunstwerk. LeWitt’s bookmaking fits squarely within his commitment to order and seriality, revealing his overall practice as a total work of art. LeWitt’s interest was not in the material but in the concept, and these books and writings show that much can still be learned from his multitudes of ideas.

Book as System: The Artists’ Books of Sol LeWitt continues at Printed Matter (231 11th Avenue, Chelsea, Manhattan) through September 29.

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“Speak, memory,” an incantation-command that became the title of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1951 memoir, might be one of the best names ever assigned to an autobiography, evoking both the conjuring tricks and the struggles necessary to summon accurate details of past actions, feelings, and events that the effort to look back at the unfolding of a life entails.

Judy Ann MacMillan, an artist who was born and brought up in Jamaica, where she has lived almost all of her life, is now in her early 70s. With her recently published autobiography, Born Ya: The Life and Loves of a Jamaican Painter (Beattie Books, 2019), she allows her memory not only to speak but also, sometimes, to roar.

MacMillan’s book offers a rich recounting of a period of dramatic change, both in the world around her and in the recesses of her sensitive, self-aware spirit. (The phrase “born ya” in its title is Jamaican patois meaning “born here”; MacMillan uses it to express her indelible connection to Jamaica’s “multi-coloured, disparate, and delightfully dysfunctional” national family.)

Several weeks ago, at her home in Kingston, Jamaica’s traffic-choked, funky capital, MacMillan told me, “Like all autobiographies, this book has been a lifetime in the making, but I wasn’t intending to write my own story. I was encouraged to do so by Nick Gillard, the founder of Beattie Books, a new imprint in London, who became my publisher, and by various friends.” She added that her memoir also grew out of her experience writing explanatory captions for the images that appeared in My Jamaica: The Paintings of Judy Ann MacMillan, a 2004 book that brought together reproductions of a career-spanning group of works and a text by the British art critic and curator Edward Lucie-Smith.

Judy Ann MacMillan, “Village Adonis” (2018), oil on hardboard, 48 x 24 inches; now on view in the “Summer Exhibition,” National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

Even in the brief descriptions MacMillan provided for the portraits, landscapes, and still lifes that filled that volume, the candor, sass, and born storyteller’s sense of timing that anyone who has had the pleasure of savoring her anecdotes and zingers while sipping tea — or some stronger libation — with the artist shone through. (Describing a beach scene, she observed, “The heat from the sand, the breezes, the sound of the water were what I was trying to share in paint.”)

Born Ya begins with MacMillan’s birth into a well-to-do family in Kingston, in 1945, and her childhood during the waning years of colonial-era Jamaica. As she grows up and chooses to become an artist, she examines changes in her understanding of herself, the world, and painting — her beloved taskmaster of a métier — against the backdrop of Jamaica’s challenging emergence as a modern, independent nation. (For more than three centuries, until 1962, it was a British colony.)

From the shape and shade of a Bombay mango tree in her backyard (“that magnificent umbrella of leaves against the blue sky”) to the feel of her Art Deco house’s cool, Cuban-tiled floor beneath her bare feet, MacMillan’s recollections seize upon colorful, atmospheric details.

Her paternal grandfather had worked on the Panama Canal and abandoned his family, prompting his wife to flee with her two sons to Jamaica around 1909. One of them, Judy Ann’s father, Dudley, grew up poor but became a successful businessman whose motto, “I’m born brand new every morning,” reflected “charismatic charm [that] came from a complete lack of bitterness.” Dudley went on to establish the country’s first advertising agency and to run a nightclub and, later, a movie theater. On Sundays, he quipped, “I don’t need to go to church. I’m on a hot line to God.”

The Art Deco-style house on West Avenue in Kingston, Jamaica, in which Judy Ann MacMillan grew up (date and photographer unknown; courtesy of the artist)

Although Judy Ann adored her mother, Vida Juanita Rose Fullerton MacMillan (“the movie star of my childhood”), she recalls, “I was terrified of her anger and that fear of displeasing her was constant.” Born in rural St. Ann, a parish in north-central Jamaica, her mother, whose family faced its own hardships, once declared, “Vida Juanita Rose Fullerton doesn’t suffer fools gladly.”

Once, following a mix-up concerning a portrait of a former Jamaican prime minister that MacMillan had been commissioned to paint by a government office, which resulted in a long delay in her payment, Vida stormed into the office of the finance minister, a young Edward Seaga (who would become the country’s prime minister in the 1980s) and successfully obtained her daughter’s overdue fee. However, a subsequent exchange of letters regarding another, related matter came to a decisive end when Vida wrote, “Dear Mr. Seaga: Please don’t communicate with me anymore, because you bore me utterly.”

That kind of chutzpah, mixed with determination and common sense, is what Judy Ann — daughter, student, budding artist, romantic partner, mother, professional painter —ended up cultivating for herself over many years. These valuable assets helped her cope with the culture-shock experience of going to art school in Scotland (“I learned that it was the worst possible form to complain. […] At home [in Jamaica], complaining and conversation were one and the same.”) and then marrying an American businessman-engineer and moving to Ohio. Moving on following an amicable, inevitable divorce, she eagerly returned to Jamaica to resume her art career.

The great reward of her marriage to her American, Dave — they remained friendly until his death in Florida, many years later — was their son. He was the only person, MacMillan once noted, for whom she would have given up painting, had she ever been required to do so.

Judy Ann MacMillan working outdoors on the painting “My Land” (circa 1989), at Rockfield, her house in St. Ann, in northern Jamaica (photographer unknown; courtesy of the artist)

When she was a young artist, the painter Albert Huie (1920-2010), an acquaintance of her father’s whom she first met when she was a little girl, became someone she could turn to as a mentor and friend. Later regarded as one of the giants of Jamaican modern art, Huie had studied in England and Canada, and had assimilated certain Postimpressionist touches into his renderings of his homeland’s lush natural environment, which he painted with gusto.

MacMillan also depicted the landscape. However, throughout the 1970s and later, too, as a number of local artists belatedly experimented with various modernist styles and techniques or explored more contemporary trends, landscape painting was mostly shunned by Jamaica’s small but influential community of taste-makers — an ironic twist in a place whose history and popular consciousness have been shaped by nature’s forces — the mountains, sun, sea, and storms.

As a result, MacMillan began to feel like an outsider in her own country’s arts community, although today she has become one of its respected, if still not best-known elders. (Two of her recent portraits are on view in the current Summer Exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Kingston.)

Two paintings by Judy Ann MacMillan in her studio in Kingston, Jamaica: left, Village Venus, 2015, oil on hardboard, 48 x 24 inches; right, Thief, 2018, oil on hardboard, 18 x 15 inches (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

In the early 2000s, she decided to honor Huie on his 80th birthday by putting together a book about his work and career. Having engaged the services of Lucie-Smith to write an essay, she boldly marched into the executive offices of Air Jamaica, the national airline, to request that it sponsor his proposed research trip to the island. (In fact, Lucie-Smith had been born in Kingston; he moved to England in the 1940s.)

Still, as negotiations with a Jamaica-based publisher were entering a decisive stage, MacMillan felt the need to enlist the aid of a businessman friend of Huie’s whom she also knew. Fearing that the publisher would not answer her phone calls, and that her Huie-tribute project would die, she writes: “I knew that was the system. At the top level, it was ‘penis to penis.’ The Huie book would be no different; I knew that it would stall, because I did not have a penis.”

“Why do you need me?” her businessman friend asked. MacMillan replied, “Because you have a penis, and I don’t. You have to be my penis when the project stalls, and I need you in place from now for that moment.”

“Why can’t it succeed without a penis?” the businessman inquired, and, knowing her homeland’s society and culture all too well, MacMillan replied, “Because then a woman would have to get the credit, and that cannot be allowed.”

Judy Ann MacMillan, “First Morning, Rockfield” (1979), oil on canvas, 23.4 x 48.23 inches (photo courtesy of the artist and Beattie Books)

The Huie book was published. Her work on that project, which allowed her to get to know Lucie-Smith, led to his later contribution to MacMillian’s My Jamaica. She writes that the rotund, often silent Lucie-Smith won her over at their first meeting, when they began speaking about art in Jamaica and the writer remarked, “When you spend your life in the international art world, you can get the idea sometimes that a sense of beauty has been lost, and that is a rather depressing thought. How good it is to return to Jamaica and find that beauty is alive in the work of Albert Huie.”

For MacMillan, such comments validated the path she had long pursued. She bought and renovated a ramshackle, Victorian house in the hills of St. Ann, with a postcard-perfect sea view, and patched the place up following each brutal hurricane. There, working outdoors, she continued to savor the challenge of capturing the shimmer of light limning trees and bodies on sun-drenched afternoons, or the air of strength and unshakable human dignity of her portrait sitters — a Rasta shopkeeper, an old woman who lived on the streets, her own lovers.

Today, MacMillan writes, “I’m still painting, not because I’m in the trap of habit but simply for the love of it. I know that one day the paintbrush will drop out of my hand, but if I had never sold a painting, I would still have done it, because it helped me to appreciate the extraordinary gift of life and life’s beauty.”

In Born Ya, memory speaks, informed by some insightful lessons learned inside and outside the studio. Its voice is one whose tone of hard-won self-awareness is tempered by an irrepressible — and refreshing and inspiring — current of vulnerability and strength.

Born Ya: The Life and Loves of a Jamaican Painter (2019) by Judy Ann MacMillan is published by Beattie Books.

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Ronald Ventura, Bobro’s World Tour Jakarta, mixed media installation (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

JAKARTA — The art fairs of Asia aren’t for the faint of heart. These extravaganzas aim for maximum sensory impact and require a high tolerance for mingling with masses of people. Basically uncurated, they offer the visitor a comprehensive survey of the market and an opportunity to experience a wide variety of exceptional art. Art Jakarta promotes itself as the biggest art fair in Indonesia, which is the biggest country in Southeast Asia by far. The 11th edition, in the mammoth (at over 40,000 square feet) Jakarta Convention Center, was big indeed, and it attracted a big crowd.

Since bigness is one of the qualities that Art Jakarta aims for, the three-day event, which concluded on September 1, must be judged a success. Just as a car show needs a Batmobile to give visitors an exciting selfie-op, Art Jakarta had Eko Nugroho’s 16-foot-tall hanging textile “Moving Landscape,” a kaleidoscopic explosion of brilliant color with spooky hanging tentacles. (Executed entirely by hand embroidery, it must set the world record for stitching hours in a single work of art.) Wave of Tomorrow, by Isha Hening, is another crowd-pleasing work — a catwalk of glittering lights and pulsing music that evokes the entrance to a New York discothèque in the 1970s. According to the fair’s organizers, it celebrates “the advanced spirit of art and technology-based progress.” 

Eko Nugroho, “Moving Landscape,” manual embroidery, 192 x 123 in

Ronald Ventura went even bigger and bolder with his eye-popping environment, Bobro’s World Tour Jakarta, a “man-cave” complete with a karaoke room. Visitors entered through the mouth of a huge, gilded sculpture of a dog gnawing on a bone. The gallery attendant informed me that the piece was trending ahead of every other booth at Art Jakarta on Instagram; the piece appeared to have been conceived with that in mind.

Roughly half the work on display at Art Jakarta came from outside Indonesia. They range from the traditional, as in Phi Phi Oanh’s luminous lacquer panels depicting koi swimming in an aquarium, splashed with glinting gold leaf, to the austerely contemporary, such as Cheuk Wing Nam’s multimedia installation: Silence — Meditation in Blue is an interactive sound environment based upon the work of Yves Klein, steeped in Klein’s signature shade of blue.

Work from throughout Asia revealed that the fascination with Western celebrity culture has not diminished. I avoided booths with satirical or sentimental portrayals of dead icons — for example, Marilyn Monroe in a hijab, Picasso and Einstein drinking wine — although many of them had earned a red dot. The most prominent and successful galleries in Indonesia represented the same prominent, successful artists they featured in their booths at last year’s fair (in at least one case with the same gaudy, bedazzling painting).

Dede Eri Supria, “Lipstick for Mother” (1979), oil on canvas, 54 x 86 in.

One might conclude from Art Jakarta that contemporary Indonesian artists take little interest in traditional themes, but it would be more accurate to say that the works on display represent what dealers thought would pull in visitors at the fair. There were some fine exceptions, though. ArtSociates, in Bandung, presented The Renaissance of Panji, a series of drawings and paintings by the Javanese artist Eddy Susanto. The works are based on Susanto’s research into thematic connections between Western Renaissance art and the wayang, classical Javanese puppet theater, and in particular dramas from East Java that narrate the adventures of Panji, a knight errant with a complicated love life. Gallery director Ibu Andonowati ushered me into a dim room draped in black velvet hung with 16 large paintings (78 by 39 inches) that represent scenes from Western narrative painting with a cast of characters from the Panji cycle.

The artist draws his images on an ochre ground in elegant, minuscule calligraphy recalling Old Javanese script from texts of the Panji legends. The paintings are laid down over reproductions of their Western models, screened in phosphorescent ink, which glow a baleful green in the UV light. If it sounds just a bit cheesy, it is, but the surface paintings are interesting works, even without the psychedelic party lighting.

Phi Phi Oanh, “Vivarium 4,” lacquer with gold, silver and aluminum and stone pigments, on wood 10 x 16 in.

Just one booth exhibited classic Indonesian painting, but it was superb. Art Agenda S.E.A., founded by Wang Zineng, a former curator at Christie’s, presented a well-chosen, condensed history of landscape painting in Indonesia. It included a nice little Raden Saleh lion hunt as well as idyllic mountain and temple views of the Mooi Indië and some gorgeous paintings by Sudjojono and Affandi, the mid-20th-century pioneers in search of the New Indonesian Style. Two exquisite abstract canvases by Mochtar Apin (1923 – 1994) reminded me of Richard Diebenkorn, whose career was contemporaneous, but a friend based in Jakarta noted that it would be equally true to say that Diebenkorn is reminiscent of Apin. A Western eye in Asia never becomes fully acclimatized.

The ISA Art and Design booth had a little coup with the first public exhibition of Dede Eri Supria’s landmark painting “Lipstick for Mother” (1979) since it was initially exhibited at a gallery in Jakarta. Supria depicts Ibu Kartini (1879 – 1904), Java’s revered pioneer for women’s rights and education for girls, sitting under a modern hairdryer with a pistol in her hand, as a tear rolls down her cheek; a tube of bright red lipstick occupies the lower edge of the canvas. Supria (b. 1956) is a Socialist Realist painter best-known for gritty, unsentimental paintings of urban workers; “Lipstick for Mother” (often inaccurately titled “Mother Crying”) was an unusual foray into symbolism. Palpably under the influence of James Rosenquist, it was among the earliest Indonesian paintings in high Pop style, which many artists here still pursue.

Mochtar Apin, “Landscape,” acrylic on canvas, 51 x 55 inch

Jakartans are accustomed to chaos; they seem to enjoy jostling and being jostled as a friendly communal pastime, so the art fair was a whopping success with the public. The organizers created oases of calm by staging events such as charity auctions and public lectures and forums; Eko Nugroho created a workshop for children. The main objectives of any art fair were accomplished: work was sold, business cards exchanged; artists met dealers and dealers met collectors. The fair organizers must have had a lucrative weekend; every inch of space was put to use. The future of art fairs in Southeast Asia looked uncertain after the abrupt cancellation of Art Stage Singapore earlier this year, but judging from Art Jakarta 2019, the big boom is on again.

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Como Dueles Venezuela por Rodulfo Gonzalez
Como Dueles Venezuela por Rodulfo Gonzalez

Mi patria, Venezuela, está padeciendo desde 1999 una de sus peores crisis en lo económico, social, político y cultural, a pesar de que en las casi dos décadas del régimen castro-chavista primero, durante el mandato del teniente coronel Hugo Chávez, y castro-chavismo-madurismo-militarismo desde el 14 de abril de 2013 cuando accedió irregularmente a la Presidencia de la República su sucesor, Nicolás Maduro Moros, de dudosa nacionalidad, el país tuvo los mayores ingresos económicos de toda su historia republicana a partir de 1830, masa dineraria que no fue empleada para mejorar la calidad de vida de los venezolanos, dueños teóricamente de esa riqueza, sino que se dirigió a alimentar la corrupción de la élite política gobernante, convertida en boliburguesía, y regalar dinero a manos llenas en el extranjero con miras al establecimiento en diversos países del mal llamado Socialismo del Siglo XXI…

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Como Dueles Venezuela por Rodulfo Gonzalez
Como Dueles Venezuela por Rodulfo Gonzalez

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Why you must Play the Lottery by Juan Rodulfo
Why you must Play the Lottery by Juan Rodulfo
  1. Your money will almost always go further somewhere else.
  2. The odds are against you — way, way against you.
  3. Lotteries are more likely to pull money from low-income people.

When you dissect these three reasons from a Banker, you may find some making money interest behind them, for example: Your money will almost always go further somewhere else…, what does Bankers really do with our money once cross their doors into their accounts? Only they know! The odds are against you — way, way against you. Jajajaja, of course that the Bank will set the odds to benefit you! And Lotteries are more likely to pull money from low-income people. Yeah!, the Banks never, ever take advantage of we the “poor”, I rather prefer to use the term: people with low amounts of cash/money, there is not such a poor people.

Remember this: The Global Lottery Market was valued at US$ 1,788.1 Mn in 2018 and is projected to increase significantly at a CAGR of 4.6% from 2019 to 2028 Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is a business and investing specific term for the geometric progression ratio that provides a constant rate of return over the time period.

FIND MORE IN MY BOOK: WHY YOU MUST PLAY THE LOTTERY

Why you must Play the Lottery by Juan Rodulfo
Why you must Play the Lottery by Juan Rodulfo

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