Sunday, December 31, 2023

Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan died in his sleep on this day in 1980, in Toronto, after suffering a stroke the year prior. He was 69 years old. 

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Kristján Gudmundsson | Punktar

Kristján Gudmundsson
Reykjavik, Iceland/Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Silver Press, 1972
12 pp., 18 x 15 cm., softcover
Edition of 300 signed and numbered copies

At an Instant Coffee event years and years ago, curator Christina Ritchie told a story about a Canadian visiting Iceland for the first time. Upon learning where he was from, the cab driver who picked him up from the airport wanted to discuss the merits of Margaret Atwood. The cabbie then asked him what brought him to Iceland, and he sheepishly replied that he had come because of the writings of Halldor Laxness. 

Despite winning the Nobel Peace prize for literature in 1955, the author was pretty obscure at this point (The New Yorker published a story last year titled The Rediscovery of Halldor Laxness). He had become a socialist in America from "watching the starving unemployed in the parks”, alienating many readers and journalists. 

The tourist thought it unlikely that even his seemingly literate cab driver would be aware of him. “I’ll take you to his house,” the driver said. 

This story struck a chord with me as I had just finished reading his epic novel Independent People. It’s a miserable tale of a sheep farmer and his put-upon wife’s battle for survival, and it’s a difficult read. It’s also brilliant. 

For his self-published 1972 artist book, Kristján Gudmundsson photographed and enlarged punctuation from poems by Laxness - three periods. He considered them “enlarged silences”. 

The work reminds me Fiona Banner’s Full Stop drawings: large lead drawings of round and oval shapes, which were later made three dimensional as public art works and this boxed multiple

Lucy Lippard | Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object

Lucy Lippard
Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object
London, UK: Studio Vista, 1973. 
272 pp., 22 x 18.5 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown

It’s difficult to measure the impact of Lucy R. Lippard’s groundbreaking 1973 book, whose full title is eighty-eight words long: 

Six Years: The dematerialization of the art object from 1966 to 1972: a cross-reference book of information on some esthetic boundaries: consisting of a bibliography into which are inserted a fragmented text, art works, documents, interviews, and symposia, arranged chronologically and focused on so-called conceptual or information or idea art with mentions of such vaguely designated areas as minimal, antiform, systems, earth, or process art, occurring now in the Americas, Europe, England, Australia, and Asia (with occasional political overtones), edited and annotated by Lucy R. Lippard.

Now over fifty years old, the volume helped cement the legacy of conceptual art, which Lippard defines as "work in which the idea is paramount and the material form is secondary, lightweight, ephemeral, cheap, unpretentious and/or ‘dematerialized.’"

Artists featured in the book include Vito Acconci, Bas Jan Ader, Eleanor Antin, Joseph Beuys, Mel Bochner (who wrote a negative review of it in Art Forum: "To document the history of six years of extremely active and possibly radical art requires a sense of responsibility to the spirit of the art itself. The bibliographic processes must be systematic, clear, informed, and consistent within the chosen theoretical framework. Lippard’s book does not satisfy these criteria.”), Daniel Buren, Hannah Darboven, Marcel Duchamp, Dan Graham, Hans Haacke, On Kawara, Les Levine, Sol Lewitt, Lee Lozano, Ursula Meyer, Bruce Nauman, The N.E. Thing Co., Yoko Ono, Adrian Piper, Robert Ryman (who Lippard was married to for six years), Michael Snow, Jeff Wall, Lawrence Weiner and many others. 

As the title Six Years suggests, the book is presented as a timeline, with key moments in the development of the genre appearing as titles, with supporting documents such as contemporaneous letters, interviews, and reviews. Lippard quotes herself liberally, mistrusting memory and privileging her own first-hand accounts over hindsight. For example, the timeline includes the publication date of her essay The Dematerialization of the Art Object (written with John Chandler in the Fall of 1967, and published in February of 1968):

"During the 1960s, the anti-intellectual, emotional/intuitive processes of art-making characteristic of the last two decades have begun to give way to an ultra-conceptual art that emphasizes the thinking process almost exclusively... The studio is again becoming a study. Such a trend appears to be provoking a profound dematerialisation of art, especially of art as object, and if it continues to prevail, it may result in the object's becoming wholly obsolete."

The essay, and the book it inspired has become an essential historical survey and reference book for sixties art and conceptualism in particular. 

"At age eighteen I discovered a book called Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object by Lucy Lippard. To me this book reconfirmed that a concept can be equally as beautiful as its aesthetics. I was so excited that I read it too quickly, not fully appreciating its content, and had to read it again. Following a Christmas tradition, my grandmother would ask my mother to buy a present for her to give to me on Christmas morning. My Mum later passed the task to me, so I bought a reissue of Six Years, which my grandmother then gave back to me on Christmas morning. I acted surprised, as promised, when unwrapping it. “Thank you, Grandma. A book on the dematerialization of the art object, just what I always wanted.” She wrote a note on the inside front cover, and I treasure it over all other books [see below]. Six Years made me realize that art and design were no longer disciplines that were motivated purely by aesthetics. I wanted to relate Lippard’s ideas of dematerialization to graphic design, exploring objectivity, systems, and concepts, and remove as many aesthetic decisions from the design process as possible. I asked myself whether graphic design can be dematerialized, or whether the graphic can be informed by a concept.”

Friday, December 29, 2023

POPE .L | What I Do All Day When You’re @ Work

What I Do All Day When You’re @ Work
New York City, USA: Artspace, 2019
20.3 x 27.9 x 15.6 cm
Edition of 25 signed and numbered copies

A burnt-out light bulb housed in a box made of binder board and book cloth. 

"Pope.L addresses the most significant issues of our time, but that does not mean his work is without humor. This edition consists of a light bulb signed by the artist and nestled in a beautiful handmade box that would typically house an object of great worth. A light bulb is the symbol of a brilliant idea, and here Pope.L is poking fun at the cliché of the artistic genius. The light bulb is exhausted, and thus no longer has any practical value, but the idea itself, endorsed by a renowned artist through his signature and enshrined in a sumptuous container, is nevertheless fetishized. The work seems to imply that in American consumer culture, anything can be packaged and sold."
- Jeanne Gerrity

"Exhaustion is just another word for being tired...

There is a John Prine song called "Angel from Montgomery‎" (1971). In many ways, the song is about just being tired… I wish I'd channeled it to make this edition but...

However, if I had, if I had, I would have been thinking: time, time passing, time wasting—a woman, maybe a man, you know a woman-man, you know what I'm saying—anyway she's standing at the window like it’s a parapet, a light bulb dangles from the ceiling, she's leaning out the window and it feels like she'll lean that way forever*—that's the sort of situation I'd have been channeling...

Instead I thought: there, there is, there is an inside not accessible to an outside therefore not intimate yet visible yet infinitely a part a a across an entire universe on either side of a a a glass a mere lighting fixture filled with vacuum—something old, something blue, something borrowed, something new, something totally, totally, totally you—yes, yes, yes, you—totally you—I'm talking to you, I've always been talking to you.”
- Pope.L 

* a reference to Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne ("They are leaning out for love/And they will lean that way forever/While Suzanne holds the mirror”)?

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Micah Lexier | A Minute of My Time

Micah Lexier
A Minute of My Time
Toronto, Canada: Paul+Wendy Projects, 2023
4 x 4"
Edition of 24 signed copies. 

The 74th edition by Paul+Wendy Projects is their second rubber stamp by Micah Lexier, and their 8th project with Lexier overall. Launched last week at the Multiples Pop-Up Shop held at MKG127 in Toronto, the boxed work consists of a wooden handled rubber stamp housed in a plexiglass box signed by the artist. 

There are two variations, each produced in an edition of twelve:

December 11, 1995, 01:51 - 01.52
September 22, 2007, 01:28 - 01.29

The graphics are from Lexier’s A Minute of My Time project. See other examples here and here

The work is available for $100 CDN, from the publisher, here

"A major body of work started in 1995 is made up of the pieces titled A Minute of My Time. Each "minute" is tagged with a date and time of execution and each is based on a scribble or doodle that took the artist one minute to complete. These little drawings convey a certain sense of anonymity while remaining as personal as a fingerprint. Once made and the title noted, the drawings may be rendered as stainless steel cut-outs, printed as editions, boxed, made into reverse stencils that are spray-painted on walls and so on - renditions and contextualizations that give continuance to each of the minutes represented.”
- The Canadian Encyclopedia 

“... two new rubber stamp multiples published by Paul + Wendy Projects that were made during my trip to Korea last month. Produced in an edition of 12, each rubber stamp comes packaged in a Fluxus-inspired clear plexiglass box, with a printed and signed label. 

Although we did not plan this when choosing the particular minutes, it turns out that one of the minutes came from the very first drawing session, December 11, 1995 (exactly 28 years ago today) and the other minute came from the very last drawing session, September 22, 2007.”
- Micah Lexier

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Pope.L | My Kingdom for a Title

My Kingdom for a Title
Los Angeles, USA: New Documents, 2021
274 pp., 21.75 × 30 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown

"My Kingdom for a Title is a collection of writing by Chicago–based artist Pope.L documenting his use of language as a mode of visual, narrative, and performative story telling.

The act of writing has been integral to how Pope.L works and is arguably the most consistent element in his practice. These works take various forms: scripts, short stories, scribbled notes, large scale installation, and painting—many never before released. Assembled here for the first time, My Kingdom for a Title allows the breadth of the artist’s engagement with language to be fully assessed. Within the book, Pope.L’s work is supplemented with extensive endnotes sourced by artist Kandis Williams.

Pope.L is a visual artist and edu­cator whose multidisciplinary practice uses binaries, contraries, and preconceived notions embedded within contemporary culture to create artworks in various formats including writing, painting, performance, installation, video, and sculpture. Building upon his long history of enacting arduous, provocative, absurdist performances and interventions in public spaces, Pope.L applies some of the same social, formal, and performative strategies to his interests in language, system, gender, race, and community. The goals for his work are several: joy, money, and uncertainty—not necessarily in that order.”
- publisher’s blurb

Pope.L died unexpected at his home on December 23rd, at the at 68. 

Ian Hamilton Finlay | The Boy's Alphabet Book

Ian Hamilton Finlay
The Boy's Alphabet Book
Toronto, Canada: Coach House Press, 1976
60 pp., 19.7 x 20.3 cm,, softcover
Edition of 1000 copies

According to materials in the archives at the University of Iowa, this title took over five years to produce. Ian Hamilton Finlay sent three letters in 1971, seeking help in publishing the book. He wrote to Michael Harvey, Udo Breger, and bp Nichol. 

Nichol replies in June 1973 that Coach House Press may be interested in publishing the book, and follows up a month later indicating that things are moving forward. He acknowledges receipt of the manuscript and photographs (Dave Paterson) in November 1974. It would be another two years before the slim volume was produced. 

The title was advertised as "one of the lengthiest works to date by the internationally renowned poet Ian Hamilton Finlay. The extended form of the traditional primer allows full range for the demonstration of Finlay's abilities as craftsman, toymaker and word-shaper.”

The work consists of an A-Z of pictures of Finlay's model boats, airplanes, weapons and kites, accompanied by texts by the legendary artist and poet. The texts range from the poetic to the merely descriptive. 

The book features photographs from Dave Paterson and was edited for the press by bp Nichol. This copy was initially owned by artist Greg Curnoe and is now in the collection of Bill Clarke. 

Monday, December 25, 2023


Norton Family Christmas Greetings

Peter Norton is a programmer, software publisher, author, and philanthropist, best known for creating Norton AntiVirus, the once-ubiquitous anti-virus and anti-malware software. 

In 1989, Norton and his wife Eileen founded the Peter Norton Family Foundation, which provides financial support to visual and contemporary non-profit arts organizations, as well as human social services organizations. He serves on the board of MoMA, the Guggenheim and the Whitney. 

The Nortons accumulated one of the largest modern contemporary art collections in the United States. ARTnews magazine regularly lists Norton among the world's top two-hundred collectors.

Twenty-five years ago, the Norton Family Christmas Project began commissioning artists to create original, multiple-edition works that were mailed as holiday greetings to friends, colleagues, and selected institutions.  

"My wife and I are active in the world of contemporary art, and some time ago we became embarrassed at the idea of sending out traditional commercial cards at Christmastime when we had so many artists as friends,” he told Gregory Taylor. "So we began commissioning original Christmas greetings, which we send out to our closest friends and colleagues.”

The multiples and artists’ books in the series vary wildly: a porcelain ashtray, a lapel pin, a printed fan, a music box, a CD, a woven blanket, a lifesaver, a dollhouse, trophies, cards, a cup & saucer, a slide viewer, salt & pepper shakers as snow globes,  pop up books by Peter Coffin and Kara Walker, etc., etc.  

Participating artists include Robert Lazzarini, Do Ho Suh, Ry Rocklen, Takashi Murakami, Anna Gaskell, Yinka Shonibare, Sanford Biggers, Yasumasa Morimura, Christian Marclay, Vik Muniz, Sanford Biggers, Nina Katchadourian, Marc Swanson, Jim Hodges, Kevin Sommers, Brian Eno & Peter Schmidt, Benjamin Lord, Richard Kostelanetz, Lorna Simpson, Lawrence Weiner, and many others.