Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sea Wind on the White Pillow

New From Axes Mundi Press

a poems collection by

as reviewed by Karen Schoemer:

From afar, poets can seem a rarified breed, locating transcendance in an overturned leaf and the secrets of humanity in a riverbed’s glistening pebble, where the rest of us see, well, a leaf and a pebble. But in Irene Mitchell’s work, the common world and its uncommon dimensions both come beautifully into focus. The poems in her first collection, Sea Wind on the White Pillow, spring from small details: a runner on her daily route stops beneath a blue bridge; a couple pushes off downstream in a canoe; a swimmer ignores a lifeguard’s whistle and plunges with a “mighty trudgen crawl” into open waters. But from these minor moments, magnificent meanings unspool. The runner’s past looms up, uninvited; the couple’s river journey spans marital decades, taking them from adventurousness to complacency; the swimmer finds herself overpowered by an undertow, reeled back toward shore by the tide’s invincible pull and forced to confront her own limitations. Mitchell’s language is eloquent and erudite, yet unexpectedly playful. “Don’t get colloquial with me, kiddo!” barks a passenger on a cruise ship when a member of the wait staff becomes overly friendly. Her cadences, though steeped in classicists from Homer to Donne to Eliot, maintain a conversational freshness. In “Gazing with Galileo,” the collection’s masterwork, Mitchell suggests that all of us, poets and nonpoets alike, have the capacity to be children of greatness, “daughters/so mindful/of the fluid kick that connects us to the divine.” We can all taste and touch the physical world; Mitchell’s revelation is that the spiritual and metaphysical worlds lurk just beyond it, and we can encounter them as well if we allow ourselves the opportunity.

Karen Schoemer

Thursday, April 9, 2009

America’s Masters Look Eastward, and Attention Must Be Paid

If you are big on boundaries and separation, then stay home and lock your door. But if you defy them and embrace discovery and fluidity in all forms, then repair immediately to the Guggenheim where, for the next week at least, you will see borders melt and continents merge in the amazing show called “The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia.” American masters from Whistler to Warhol and just about everyone in between, are represented in this show, with a sincerity that goes far beyond the assemblage of art. The show depicts not Asia itself, but the myriad reflections on Asia as manifest by the brush, the pen, the canvas, the camera, or the carving tools of America’s greats. A walk through this show makes viewers richer with each step, each glance, each ponderance that bathes us in Asian influence interpreted variously and vehemently. Each canvas bears attention and study. Those artists, let’s call them the usual suspects, are anything but usual here because they managed to escape from the grid into a rapturous free float of color and texture. And some places will beckon the audience longer, with larger-than-life schema like the James Lee Byars extravaganza entitled “The Death of James Lee Byars.” (He did actually die—in 1997—but this work has the effect of negating that fact…as surely Byars can be imagined floating over his masterwork with his colleagues in concert.

The interesting phenomenon is that this show is really as much an exhibition of philosophy as it is of art. The subtle and not-so-subtle nuance of Asia that imbues every work says something about the melting away of ethnocentrism that is the often the hallmark of an emerging artist. Once emerged, and fully formed, true artists move outside themselves and begin to explore their world and become undefinable as one ethnicity or race, but rather become spiritual in the deepest sense. Could there be a more apt description of a true artist? That exploration transforms into a psychic growth spurt that punctuates every artistic enunciation with something beyond the ordinary. To find out what that something is, get to the Guggenheim, set aside several hours, and at the end, you will have the equivalent of a university level course that might be entitled “Asia Imbues America 101.”

There are seven sections in the exhibit, that take viewers through modern abstract art, minimalism, conceptualism, and abstract expressionism. The pieces, viewed individually, may appear as non-sequiturs, but retrospectively they flow. Each corner brings delight as one familiar name after another is in evidence, and one color after another merges under the Asian influence. Every medium is used, including melting ice….The sound icebergs melting to be exact…that complements the rest of the show as much as the beautiful, whimsical site-installation by Ann Hamilton "Human Carriage," which informs the entire show with an insouciant gaiety and a musical accompaniment. Hamilton’s piece is one that really cannot be described; it must be seen…and even then, it can’t be described…it must be stored away in memory and taken out when days weigh too heavily.

More than just art, this show is an experience--an unprecedented experience in bringing art and artists together in a unified theme, and then highlighting what makes them splendidly similar, yet elegantly unique.

If you only see one show this year, make it this one.

Sophie Calle: Prenez Soin de Vois

Sophie Call's "Prenez Soin de Vois" (Take Care of Yourself) made its New York appearance at Paula Cooper, where the exhibition opened on April 9. The exhibition was shown in 2007 at the Venice Biennale.

A few photos from the opening...