The apex of that summer of 1990 had been the making of Rüdiger Schöttle’s ‘Stadt Aus Glas’, the small houses for which were made by local glass craftsmen. They were covered in ultra-violet powder, the lights were left on, and we quit for the summer. It glowed from across the river Arno.
It was saddening to hear last month of the end of Walter de Maria. He was visiting his 100 year old mum in California, he being a mere strip of 77. He was the most quizzical of artists,arriving from the world of bands in which he was drummer, the New York of the mid sixties, the neo-fluxus world of happenings.
He has left us with at least four major enigmas, that remain utterly fresh to the imagination every time you consider them. Thanks to the Dia Art Foundation, they are maintained, where they need to be, and at varying degrees of inconvenience, can be visited at any time. The Broken Kilometer still glistens from the ground floor of an industrial building in West Broadway, New York, and the Earth Room is still warm and humid in Wooster Street. The Lightning Field is a little more tricky in the desert of New Mexico, but it can be done as a pilgrimage.
But the piece that fascinates me perhaps the most is the Vertical Earth Kilometer in Kassel, Germany made in 1979. You can go and see it, but all you get is
You are asked to believe that the plate, set in a square of sandstone, descends a whole kilometer into the earth. It is a structure of belief, as is the notion that the fronds of lightening will play in their designated field in New Mexico. Walter de Maria’s work indeed seems to resound with the idea of belief, as the proposition of conceptualism, and he is perhaps its main proponent. We have to believe in the detail of time and geography of a work, say by Richard Long, before we can move to the next step.
At last someone has managed to put on a Finlay show that might do the work some justice. There has been so much dithering around, so much lack of insight into a full exhibition, that you wonder if it will ever take place. In lieu there are a succession of smaller offerings of mostly printed work from private holdings. I saw one was held in some sort of taxi shed in Pimlico earlier this year : then there’s this, and I see another on the horizon in Portland Oregon, from the collection of Stephen Scobie, I presume. There is nothing amiss with a show based on publication, in fact it is a seminal cause, and Finlay’s work is a triumph of that. But not as an excuse for a more complete airing of all the work in all its facets. Nonetheless, this display at Arnolfini in Bristol which runs until early September, looks magnificent in its arrangement, fresh, light and aerated, the opposite of a mordant attempt at the end of last year in one of the bigger emporiums. I just wish they would give up on other artists’ responses to work being shown! What a bad idea, and how confusing. For instance, what is that little gridded thing in the middle of the floor that I spent ages trying to reconcile with Finlay, thinking it must be a maquette for a photograph for a postcard (maybe one to be called Swastika Compass! ) – then I thought it was the inlay for a table by Graeme Murray that he may have left with Ian Finlay. Eventually I realized it was some other persons work entirely!
But well done Axel Wieder for this show. I should have known, as pro qm in Berlin from whence you come is one of the great bookshops.
The dust jacket of the 1946 resetting of Eric Gill’s essay was printed on the inside of another discarded jacket from the Works of William J. Locke Autograph Edition Volume XXXIII, also from The Bodley Head. Times of utility and re-use. It is remarkable that on the sleeve note Gill says ‘This book is written for people in general and not specifically for those people called artists…It is about art in general and the things every man needs… My appeal is to common sense.’ Is that what ‘ The Most Precious Ornament’ of another volume of Gill’s writing is about too!
Book Description: Marlborough Gallery New York, 1970. Soft cover. Book Condition: Fine. No Jacket. 1st Edition. March 1970. New York: Marlborough Gallery.28pp 300 x 210mm Stiff pictorial wraps. A gorgeous copy of this scarce and profusely illustrated exhibition catalog published on the occasion of the exhibition “Ad Reinhard: Black Paintings 1951 to 1967” . A wonderful book, of working shots in the studio on Broadway facing W 4th St, together with remarkably fine reproductions of two paintings.Containing a Chronology by Ad Reinhardt.’The Quest for Art is Art’ by Harvard H Arnason, and the incisive essay ‘The Black Paintings’ by Barbara Rose. Not least wonderful in this exemplary catalogue are the matt black endpapers. A fine copy, with slight scuffing to the spine edge and back cover. Bookseller Inventory # LABL123