Friday, July 27, 2007

The Presence of Absence

25 July 2007

Before I talk about the Renée Petropoulos show at Rosamund Felsen – which was more or less, the event of the following week-end (July 7) – let me just say that I haven’t been oblivious to the Jeremy Blake disappearance/apparent suicide. I noticed the Los Angeles Times finally got around to covering it (though who am I to criticize in that department?); I haven’t checked the L.A. Times obits for items on either Blake or Theresa Duncan, his video-game designer/blogger/film-maker companion of the last decade; but I don’t read the L.A. Times on a daily basis since it shifted into auto-destruct a couple of years ago, and that kind of news usually makes it to me first from either forwarded on-line sources or The New York Times. I’m not sure if I ever even met Blake and Duncan (although it’s certainly not improbable – I meet a lot of people every single week); and I only vaguely knew who Duncan was (a couple forwarded blog notes from her blog, The Wit of the Staircase – and an intro? – being the extent of my acquaintance). Nor for that matter was I all that well acquainted with Blake’s work. I couldn’t help but be aware of him as I would be of any Whiteny Biennial alum – he was in two or three consecutive Biennials. I was also aware of Winchester – a fascinating work, although I had only seen a segment of it. I knew he was working on something involving the English designer (and Hockney pal), Ossie Davis – a subject which obviously would have fascinated me – but had lost track as to what he did with it until well after the fact – in other words, only over the last week, as his life has been played in retrospect. I had absolutely no clue about his involvement with Paul Thomas Anderson (I’m not a huge fan) or Adam Sandler (ditto) in Punch-Drunk Love (all in all, a good thing – wild horses would not have dragged me to such an event).

Ironically, I think it was none other than Fearless Leader herself who first brought Blake to my attention. I can’t remember if it was Winchester – though, having attended university at Santa Cruz, I was well aware of the Winchester Mystery House (as anyone who attended U.C., Santa Cruz can attest, there are a whole lot of “mystery” spots between San Jose and Berkeley/San Francisco) – or possibly the 2004 Artforum dialogue between Blake and John Baldessari. (Before keeping up with the art press became my nightly ‘homework’, I read Artforum only sporadically. F.L. frequently pushed her own copies of AF and AiA on me with her various notes and recommendations. Baldessari, a new important digital artist – she knows my points of least resistance only too well; that and her well-known penchant for the ‘artist lecture’ – it would have been required reading.

I dredged up that dialogue a couple of days ago; and it was interesting to look at in light of everything that’s happened over the last three years – an ‘intersection’ on several levels. I had completely forgotten that the Ossie Clark material was inspired by Clark’s trip books. (Are you old enough to remember trip books? Yikes.) It’s not clear whether Blake was really finished with the Clark project; it seems, looking over the available coverage, as if it was still a work in progress. Baldessari moved on from his own “Intersections” to further ‘intersections’ and ‘interventions,’ disruptions and reconfigurations – breaking the seams, as it were, in the seamless unconsciousness of everyday life. Blake moved on to projects involving, among others, Beck (whose most recent recordings have disappointed me). Baldessari’s comments seem presciently on-point. What both artists were dealing with was what Baldessari calls in this dialogue “the presence of absence” and what, with respect to Blake, seems to bear very specifically on his Winchester piece, “the return of the repressed.” “The more you try to blot it out, the more it’s going to be there.”

I resist a psychological reading of any of this, but I’m haunted by the Winchester legacy – the doors you open, the doors you close. Duncan’s blog (now that I’m looking at it) also seems to throw out odd clues, portents – or perhaps just vapors; she was fascinated by perfumes, and perhaps the idea of perfume. She was definitely one of the happening people about town – but, as I always remind myself, what do we know about anyone? She had a two-picture deal with Fox Searchlight and was in New York, as I understand it, to prepare/shoot the first of these films. What the hell happened? There are a lot of unanswered questions. (Fortunately, Ron Rosenbaum, among others is asking them.) All we can say right now is that the art world has lost a promising artist – clearly a digital art pioneer -- and so much more.

Okay – before I talk about Renée Petropoulos – would you mind if I digress yet another moment before I track back. (Hey – it’s all tracking back.) Since television all but disappeared from my household (to the great chagrin of my two feline daughters), I have been dependent on the kindness of, uh, friendly television critics, to check out the latest offerings; and I couldn’t resist shlepping my law/finance-damaged ass up to my (law/finance-damaged) pal’s – I’ll call him Dr. Deviancy – digs for an evening of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and – Damages, the new legal-eagle-serial starring Glenn Close on FX. You may have seen Alessandra Stanley’s review yesterday morning. “Lon Chaney was alarming . . . . Nobody was creepier than Donald Pleasance . . . But there is no actor dead or alive as scary as a smiling Glenn Close.” It was irresistible.

But I’m going to have to resist for a few more minutes. Back in a few . . . .

1 comment:

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