FROMTHE
CO-FOUNDER&ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

What a beautiful day! Just yesterday afternoon (Sunday, June 1st) a good friend and fellow artist Will Ryman invited me to join him on an art pilgrimage to North Brooklyn. We began with David Brody’s compelling multi-media installation “8 Ecstasies” at Pierogi/The Boiler, then we paid a visit to Will’s studio assistant Mariel Harari’s studio in Bed-Stuy, before switching back to the heart of Bushwick for the dual pleasures of Joyce Robins’s ecstatic works at THEODORE: Art, and Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen’s evocative installation at Momenta Art, both on Bogart Street—which required our focused navigation through the massive crowds promenading the streets of Bushwick Open Studios.

Brody’s “8 Ecstasies,” an 11-minute, high definition, computer-animated film with a dramatic sound score by Zig Gron, was shown in the cavernous darkened space of the Boiler along with isometric glow-in-the-dark tape drawings on bubble wrap, a large sculpture hanging high from the ceiling, and an elaborate poem by poet Nick Flynn. The exhibition displays the artist’s most liberated work to date, an endless exploration of the entangled grid. It recalls Daedelus’s labyrinth on Crete, as much as Piranesi’s etchings of famous prison interiors (that inspired M.C. Escher’s Relativity series), as well as Mondrian’s Pier and Ocean series, and Borges’s “The House of Asterion,” or even countless video games depicting similar concepts of maze-like spaces.

Harari’s studio reminded me of my own experience when I was her age; how delightful it was to see a young artist in search of her potential through experiments with materials and visual ideas.

Robins’s aspiring, Thoureauian meditation on life and nature in abstract low reliefs and paintings brought to mind the concept of “plain living and high thinking.”

Nguyen’s short film 1967: A People Kind of Place (an archive of various documents and artifacts related to immigration policy reform and optimism in Canada, including the world’s first “UFO Landing Pad,” built by the minister of National Defense Paul Hellyer as a “symbol of Western hospitality”) evoked the fragility of our sense of belonging and co-existence.

It was difficult to absorb all we had seen while mediating the push and pull sensation of an amorphous crowd. Only at this very instant of writing my last-minute editorial, before putting the June issue to bed, am I able to digest and appreciate how through the experience of art we are transported to those historical movements recorded by artists, making time timeless. How liberating to have such privilege to relate and envision, as a segment in Momenta’s press release of Nguyen’s show perfectly describes, “the will to imagine a different geography of encounters.” One encounter, the coincidence of Brody’s animation—which begins with a quotation from Teresa of Avila, inspired by Bernini’s high baroque masterpiece the “Ecstasy of Saint Teresa”—and Nguyen’s film 1967: A People Kind of Place, evokes Jonas Mekas’s prodigious three minute, two second short entitled The Song of Avila (made in 1967). In another encounter, looking at Robins’s orchestration of light through color, compressed in the paintings and expansive in the low reliefs, while standing in the nearly sardine-packed gallery space, was a precious affair: the physical energy of the room generated by many live beings was barely comparable to the energy the work permeated, which made me realize how vital the work is.

Lastly, I emphatically suspect that the more our lives depend on technology the greater our appreciation of art will amplify. And I think of how life has been difficult for artists, especially in the present time, in regard to the issue of perpetual rent increases due to the massive influx of a new, younger generation who refuse to relive suburban life as their parents have. I leave you with Jorge Luis Borges’s ever-timeless poem “Ars Poetica,” which through the image of Heraclius’s river—“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”—reflects the continued poignancy of art.

To look at the river made of time and water
And remember that time is another river,
To know that we are lost like the river
And that faces dissolve like water.

To be aware that waking dreams it is not asleep
While it is another dream, and that the death
That our flesh goes in fear of is that death
Which comes every night and is called sleep.

To see in the day or in the year a symbol
Of the days of man and of his years,
To transmute the outrage of the years
Into a music, a murmur of voices, and a symbol,

To see in death sleep, and in the sunset
A sad gold—such is poetry,
Which is immortal and poor. Poetry
Returns like the dawn and the sunset.

At times in the evenings a face
Looks at us out of the depths of a mirror;
Art should be like that mirror
Which reveals to us our own face.

They say that Ulysses, sated with marvels,
Wept tears of love at the sight of his Ithaca,
Green and humble. Art is that Ithaca
Of green eternity, not of marvels.

It is also like the river with no end
That flows and remains and is the mirror or one same
Inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
And is another, like the river with no end.

In solidarity,
Phong

Contributor

Phong Bui

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