Sunday, June 04, 2017

Book not written

Eastside Road, June 4, 2017—
IN MARCH, 1970, I thought about writing a book, whose chapters would be
1: 31 for Henry Flynt
2: Bottles at the Mud Flats
3: Repair art. Wiley. The (triumphant) return of Abstract Expressionism.
4: “Making charts to help you know how you know where you are when you get somewhere” (Word Rain, p. 4)
5: Your typical bicycle ride
the 4.9 mile drive
6: The Richmond Sculpture Annual, Ecology, and Respect for the Object
     to be followed by
7: Hand Tools and Man’s Proper Place
8: Lawyers & Priests: footnote on our culture
9: Landscapes. gardens. Mahler’s 7th.

Chapter 1 would have been on a performance I gave of LaMonte Young's Any Integer for Henry Flynt, a piece of conceptual minimalism which consists, as I believe — I don't remember actually seeing a score — of the instruction to strike something with something else any number of times. I used a gong borrowed from the Oakland Symphony. The performance was on the deck of a café or restaurant near Nepenthe, in the Big Sur, on the west side of Highway 1.

Chapter 2 would have been about the day Lindsey and I and our three kids, then about ten, seven, and four, spent on the Emeryville mud flats which at the time had for a number of months been the site of impromptu sculpture. Many of these were pretty ramshackle, but a number were quite striking, beautiful even. All were made, for the most part, of material found on the site, stuff that had either been jettisoned or had washed up.
What we did, under my direction but with willing enthusiasm and, I think, quasi-intuitive understanding, was pick up every bottle we could find — and there were a good many — and arrange them using plans I no longer remember. Lines, certainly; perhaps masses as well.

Chapter 3 would have been about an exhibition I had seen at the old Berkeley Gallery, then on Brannan Street — a group show of marvelous Bay Area artists of the time, artists whose work the press liked to call Bay Area Dada. These were paintings and sculpture which had been repaired, or had been made to be repaired subsequently. Especially memorable, even now, was William Allen's magnificent Shadow Repair for the Western Man, which depicts an unoccupied pair of Levis standing airborne over the Sierra Nevada.
William Wiley was at the time producing his first marvelous assemblages responding to Duchamp with sculpture, painting, written material, and the occupation (or, better, articulation) of the space in which it existed. Much of this work of the late 1960s seemed to me to be a logical response to — and continuation of — Abstract Expressionism, in a manner it would have taken that entire chapter to explain: this is no place to attempt it.

Chapter 4 is self-explanatory, I think, except to note that Word Rain was a book by Madeline Gins that had made a big impression on me.

Chapter 5: I was taking long bicycle rides in those days, and frequently traced (literally) their routes, usually after the fact, on paper laid over USCG topographical maps. I thought of those rides as drawings in time and space. The "4.9 Mile Drive" was a conceptual art work by I forget who, a guided tour of part of the San Francisco industrial area south of Potrero Hill, a spoof of tourguides but also a serious entry to the disclosure of visual beauty and meaning in neglected or unsuspected places. Land Art.

Chapter 6: I don't remember what the Sculpture Annual at the Richmond Art Center had involved. Tom Marioni was the curator, and I particularly recall an exhibition there of work by Paul Kos, Tom himself (under a pseudonym), and Terrey Fox: all went on to remarkable careers. In all three cases it seemed to me the meaning of the work lay in the transaction between the artist and his material. Not the technique, the transaction, which respected qualities inherent in the material, either substantially or stemming from its sociological meaning. Here again I would have needed many pages.

Chapter 7 would have considered one's state of mind when using and maintaining hand tools while, for example, repairing plumbing, or maintaining the car or the bicycle, or building a bookcase — all things that had frequently to be done. My reading in Zen had led me to believe things went better if one regarded the tool as an equal, not a thing to be exploited. This led, by extension, to the hope that Nature would adopt a similar attitude toward Man.

Chapter 8: Ancient Egypt had a surfeit of priests; Babylon a surfeit of accountants; the 20th century a surfeit of lawyers. What doe these conditions lead to?

Finally, Chapter 9: Landscape is the ultimate transcending arena in which Nature accommodates whatever it is we inflict on her. Gardens are an attempt to create little landscapes, whether for productive or ornamental purposes. (What's the difference?) The inner movements of Mahler's Seventh Symphony amount to a musical statement of Landscape.

That's what I was thinking about in those days, and I see now, reading the journal from that year, that's what I continue to think about. And, I guess, write about.      

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