Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth
seeking the successive autumns.
In my recent visit to the artist Chris Martin’s studio to select a few paintings for the third Rail Curatorial Project, Spaced Out: Migration to the Interior, which I am curating at Red Bull Studios (October 10 – December 14, 2014), I was reminded how Chris and I in the ’90s and early 2000s used to talk about theosophy, alchemy, all sorts of eastern religions, philosophy, art from all ages and cultures, as well as social commitment, and selflessness in such a manner of introspection; and psychedelics, blues, soul, funk, rock ’n roll, self-taught art, as well as at times our excessive amplifications of the self and the ego. We both identified with our mutual and horrendous energy, which, without our love of art and culture could be intensely self-destructive. We agreed that everything about an individual is to some extent the creation of others with whom he or she forms an organic unity, and these connections support one’s newly discovered self that had hitherto remained unrealized.
At some point during this period I reread Isaiah Berlin’s landmark essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” which was based on a line of the Greek poet Archilochus that says, “the fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The hedgehog represents a person who can relate many experiences to one singular central vision, whereas the fox has a scattered and diffused mind, to whom the world can’t be boiled down into one single reading. Berlin went on to give two examples of both types of artistic and intellectual personalities. For example, Plato, Lucretius, Dante, Pascal, Hegel, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Ibsen, and Proust are, in varying degrees, hedgehogs while Herodotus, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Erasmus, Molière, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac, and Joyce are foxes.
Also at this time I came across a beautiful quote from one of the first writers of detective fiction from the late 19th century, Anna Katharine Green, which says, “There are two kinds of artists in the world; those that work because the spirit is in them and they cannot be silent if they would, and those that speak from a conscientious desire to make apparent to others the beauty that has awakened their own admiration.” It’s the latter that I have come to slowly identify with. So it doesn’t matter whether I am writing, editing, teaching, curating, having a meal with an artist or writer, or drawing portraits for the featured interviews in the Rail, they are equally treated as integral parts of the much larger overall social sculpture/environment, which is on its way to becoming the next consequential permutation, Occupy Rail. How can we encourage individuals to rise above their own limitations and old habits that were dictated by their various upbringings, while working to transform the Rail into a post-Beuysian social sculpture, an artwork (as Chris, who used to write and conduct conversations with our fellow artists quite frequently until 2006, had pointed out from the very beginning)? It’s a challenge undeniably too desirable to ignore. I should emphasize that I have no full grasp what Occupy Rail really means, and I recognize I am only a part of it, but we are compelled by its mystery and romance.
I’d like to dedicate this issue to the memory of Joy Johnson, the deceased and beloved mother of Nina Johnson-Milewski, the publisher of the Miami Rail; Marilena Bonomo, founder of the Galleria Bonomo in Bari, Italy and friend to countless artists and writers; and to Walter Robinson on the occasion of his first museum survey Walter Robinson: Paintings and Other Indulgences: October 17 – December 22, 2014 at Illinois State University Gallery (a featured conversation with the painter about his fox-like activities, being the co-founder/publisher/editor of Art-Rite magazine, art editor of the East Village Eye, member of the influential artist collective Collaborative Projects (Colab), editor of the first online journal Artnet magazine, among other things, will be published in the November issue).