We had tickets to the MAG opening on Saturday night. We talked about going that afternoon and when the time came we completely spaced it out. So we tried backtracking and went over there yesterday. We started with Bill Viola’s video installation, a piece with four monitors, one at each quarter hour devoted to one of the four elements. Called “Martyrs,” Viola says: “The Greek word for martyr originally meant ‘witness.’” (where have I heard that word before?) In today’s world, the mass media turns us all into witnesses to the suffering of others. They also exemplify the human capacity to bear pain, hardship, and even death in order to remain faithful to their values, beliefs, and principles.” It is quite stunning if just a bit too precious.
The summer MAG show features three local artists, a substitution for the old Finger Lakes or Biennial shows. The Nancy Jurs exhibit is fun. The video was unnecessary but the dryer lint piece really drew us in. We took a break for lunch at the Brown Hound. I liked that place better when they had art from the MAG’s collection on the wall instead of all that dog stuff. I don’t find the cheap dog images all that appetizing but the Bistro Salad with Tofu was really nice. After lunch we spent some time with “The Surreal Visions of Josephine Tota.” Her work is small and it would have worked better if someone hadn’t put it in all those loud clunky frames. It was really hard to see the paintings. The white wall tags and signage didn’t help either. The woman has an interesting back story but let us see her work. Her paintings look better online. Larry Merrill’s “Wards of Time: Photographs of Antiquities” could never be as good as the real antiquities but they looked great mounted on the brown walls of the Lockhart Gallery. This poem on the wall in Merrill’s show really struck me. But how does a translator get something this old to rhyme in translation without just rewriting it?
Age is the heaviest burden man can bear,
Compound of disappointment, pain and care;
For when the mind’s experience comes at length,
It comes to mourn the body’s loss of strength.
Resign’d to ignorance all our better days,
Knowledge just ripens when the man decays;
One ray of light the closing eye receives,
And wisdom only takes what folly leaves.
– Pherecrates, about 430 BCE
Richard Cumberland, translation
I did my second live Facebook event of the week on Saturday afternoon at RoCo. Wednesday’s Margaret Explosion stream from Ken Colombo’s phone was primarily for Bob in Chicago but Peggi and I watched it when got home from the gig. The two songs he caught, our first two with Phil Marshall on guitar, sounded pretty good. My Artist’s Talk did not. My voice is to meek to reach to back of the room where the camera was positioned. Peggi video it as well and she was sitting in the front row so I posted it here. One of the audience members mentioned he read my blog every morning so this post post goes out to him although, as I’ve noted before, I do this primarily for myself.
Bleu, RoCo’s curator, made the talk a breeze by asking me questions. Funny how the best questions are the ones that have no answers. By the end of the video Gary Pudup can be heard trying to bail me out by saying, “like Freud said, ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.'” At which point I was fumbling for the Duchamp quote, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” but I could not come up with it until it was over.
After my talk we headed over to Visual Studies Workshop to see “Implement,” the sister Rochester Biennial show by ILLSA (Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts), an evolving publishing & public practice platform committed to investigating labor, time, and what we value. Co-founder, Emily Larned, gave her artist’s talk as we examined the show. The visuals take some explaining as they are intended to explore and expand the potential of the toolkit, inviting participants to consider and share what they deem to be essential tools for living.
At the end of the talk we participated by filling out a form where we answered three questions. “What is one of your essential tools for living? Why? Where do you find it? Peggi and I answered them all similarly. “Eyes, Ears.” “They enrich our life.” “In my head.”
It’s First Friday tonight and instead of gallery hopping I will be holding court in RoCo. I wish Leo could have been here for his opening but I know that was not meant to be. We drove by Rochester Contemporary yesterday and saw that their windows were all papered over. I came awake last night worried about one of my charcoal drawings. Am I obsessing or is that one not holding its own with the other twenty? I think the answer is “both.” I’d like to take it home, rework it and bring it back.
We stopped out at MCC for an opening last night. Monica Frisell was showing photos from her “Looking Forward: Portraits from an RV” series. If that name sounds familiar she is the daughter of a famous guitar player. And her mom, Carole d’Inverno, had a fabulous show at MCC’s Mercer Gallery a couple of years ago. This is a talented family.
We chatted with Monica and Carole at the show and then left for Ossia’s first performance of the year at Kilbourn Hall. On the way out we ran into Bill who was out walking Monica’s dog. Peggi asked if she could take a photo. We told him we were planning to send the photo to Bob Martin in Chicago and tell Bob that Phil didn’t work out and we had hired this guy.
I created a movie of my sources, some of them more than twenty years old. I used to hold the CrimeStopper page in hand, folded up to reveal just one of the mugshots, and work from that. I held the page with the thumb of my left hand, pressing it against my paint palette. At some point I started scanning the page and blowing up the small photos so I could print out the mugshots at a larger size. The photos didn’t get any better, just larger. For the past few years they have been putting the CrimeStopper page online so I download the pdf, crop the photos and print them out.
I don’t need all the CrimeStopper pages, I just paint and draw the same faces over and over, only refreshing the batch from time to time. I rounded up my collection of scans (blown up they have a golf ball sized dot pattern) and cropped photos from the pdf (no dot pattern but a rather limited resolution) and I put the jpegs into Keynote. I turned the images on their side and cropped them to the 16 by 9 wide format. RoCo will spin their wall mounted, large Sony monitor on its side and the movie I created from the slide show will go ’round and ’round in a dvd player mounted in the ceiling.
That monitor is mounted about four feet up, in the dark, on the inside of this round room (near the back of Rochester Contemporary). They painted the title wall near the entry and the round wall purple, the purple I got when I sampled my father’s Freddy Sue Bridge painting to do the postcard for Witness. Show opens this Friday 6-9pm.
I am not particularly interested in the why. I am more interested in the what.
But we have been developing a back story from fuzzy old negatives as to why I am interested in the mugshot. The better to serve the public.
I traced a certain fascination to 1970 when my brother was arrested in Ohio for pot. It was an incredibly minor infraction in my book but he was looking at ten years in maximum security. His arrest had huge impact on our family. My brother was in town a few weeks ago and shared a few of the letters my father wrote to him while he was in prison.
I was back home for the summer, staying with my parents in Webster, and I headed out somewhere in their black VW bug. I had my dog, Molly, in the back seat and I was only a few blocks from our home when I spotted Brad walking up to my house. He had probably hitchhiked over, we hitchhiked everywhere in those days. I swung the passenger door open for Brad to get in while trying to keep Molly from jumping out and then turned left right in front of a fancy red car. My dad illustrates all this in the enlargement of his drawing above.
But he left out one interesting detail. The red car that I hit, the guy I pulled directly in front of, was the infamous Salvatore “Sammy G” Gingello, a local mobster, and he wasn’t as pissed off as I would have expected anyone to be. He was just grumbling about how he was on his way somewhere and this was gonna set him back. I read a pretty interesting book about the Rochester mob written by Georgia Durante, Sammy’s girlfriend. Sammy was killed in 1978 when a bomb was detonated as he entered his car, which was parked outside of the Blue Gardenia restaurant in Irondeqouit.
We saved the big painting for last, the only full sheet watercolor in RoCo’s upcoming show of Leo Dodd paintings. The glass was spotless. We used a homemade concoction of 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol, 1/2 cup water and 1 tablespoon of of vinegar, a recipe we found online. The painting, of the old stadium on Norton Street, was sandwiched between an off white matt board and acid-free foam core but every time we nestled it into the frame we managed to suck in some tiny little pieces of our rug or some other disturbing micro fibers. We finally got a clean version but only by taking it into the bathroom under bright lights and assembling it on the edge of the bathtub.
I was thinking about the Red Wing games we saw in that old stadium. Havana, Montreal and Toronto all had teams in the International League back then. The time the guy sitting behind us burned a hole in my brother’s sweater with his cigar.
RoCo selected a great batch of paintings for this show. They focused on his Rochester paintings. My father was attracted to the scale of construction projects so there is a batch from the O’Rorke Bridge construction, the Bausch & Lomb headquarters downtown, the Freddy Sue Bridge and the biggest project of them all, the reworking of the Can of Worms, a project that coincidentally started in 1988, the year my father retired.
He’d sit off to the side and sketch the activity. The newspaper did a piece on Leo at the time and I like this quote. “It was a dream come true,” Dodd said last week, probably the only person in Monroe County who would say that with a straight face when it comes to the Can.”
“But most people haven’t spent the past two and a half years sketching the construction of the new $123 million interstate interchange. Dodd, a retired Kodak engineer who has taught courses at Rochester Institute of Technology, has made hundreds of sketches of the Can reconstruction since work began in March of 1988. Dodd, who started sketching large‐scale construction projects four years ago, said the Can project was a blessing because it was just minutes from his home on Corwin Road. So while tens of thousands of people were dreading three years of detours, Dodd was delighted.”
I think he would be delighted with this show. It opens Friday, October 6.