New Mexico Mercury
If the universe didn’t have humor in it, if the comic and the unexpected weren’t the children of consciousness, if the language of puns and jokes and the clarity of happiness weren’t properties of atoms too, then one might actually have a reason to give up on space/time and the human species and settle into a stupor until the escape of death opened the way for some peace and quiet.
But a poet named Toadhouse, and a painter named Allan Graham, and my old friend of almost five decades Skip Graham – all of whom share the same DNA, and are identical, save for their avatars – turned 70 last week on the stage set of the David Richard Gallery in the Railyard Arts District of Santa Fe and that made me happy, and the work in that clean, handsome space took me serenely into itself which proved to be exactly where, at the moment, I wanted to be.
While description always refers only to itself, I’d have to describe Skip’s work as having, for me, a long history of opening doors and climbing steps into consciousness without self-importance. It’s hard for me to have much more to say than that because by breaking down the borders between lexical space and visual space – I’m beginning to sound like an art critic, and I’m surely not – crossing the boundaries of word things and image things, a freedom is let loose, at times even a giddiness. And of all the truths we experience, the truth of the unpremeditated smile is the most convincing and believable.
As Toadhouse has written:
And more to the point:
So one might actually see for themselves in a painting the title of which is:
“is forming in a was universe.”
Toadhouse paints this poem:
Next to it is a red painting which reads “now! the future at a reduced distance.” It is arranged on the canvas in a way that causes the mind to jumble around in its own synaptic distances.
And another Toadhouse poem reads “Any Position Limits the View (We Are Only Here For A Spell). “
My two favorite works in the Birthday Exhibition are, first, a large painting in which Toadhouse, with black and white surfaces laid down as if they had been polished by a glacier, writes: MANKIND?
And then in an upstairs space one finds a graphite colored painting/drawing which in entitled “Chance Forming on the Edge of Need” in which a comet of chance is rushing at a continent of need.
Also in the David Richard Gallery is Gloria and Allan Graham’s collaboration called Add Verse, in which 25 poets – including Bob Creeley, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Diane di Prima, Michael McClure, Anselm Hollo, Arthur Sze, and Anne Waldman– are photographed by Gloria Graham with spontaneity and candor, and the poets’ hands are videoed in intimate motion by Allan Graham as they read their poems. It’s one of those totally unexpected, off the wall, on the wall, out of the blue ideas that focuses a listener/viewer on the poet’s work in a way more intense than any of them might have hoped for.
I feel way too close to much of this work to have anything more to say than Happy Birthday Skip, and thank you for finding the key to the little door that, once opened, once in a while, gives us all a sighting of unself-conscious joy.(more...)
Decipher with Difficulty: Toadhouse (aka. Allan Graham) at David Richard Gallery
Allan Graham’s exhibit of recent work “Toadhouse aka. Allan Graham” at David Richard Gallery induces your mind to wander and your senses to inhale his multivalent sorceries. The first view of the show is from the outside, through the plate-glass gallery window. You notice a toilet plunger planted on a disk on the floor. Once you’re inside, standing next to it, you read “ENTERTAINING A THOUGHT” brushed on the rubber bulb. Participle as threshold.
Graham orients the show to its site while aiming the work of words at you, the viewer. The exhibit’s subtitle, “Any Position Limits the View (We Are Only Here for a Spell)” reinforces that the show is a kind of architecture. Read it up close, read it from across the street. The gallery densifies like a page through which the visitor strolls among Graham’s carbon spells.
Graham’s work states the epistemological power of art to turn words into objects. He takes a high-low romp through what those expressions might be, exactly. He materializes letters like “aliens” that you must imagine without having any idea of what they really are. Physicalized and random, the work’s energy is atomizing.
“Unidentified Flying Self” is a six-foot-diameter graphite-blackened discus of canvas that the artist hung high beneath the gallery’s skylight. Plunger handles spot the floor, punctuating the gallery like aids to navigation. Portraits of Lady Godiva and Anne Boleyn back up to a pair of custom tractor-trailer mud flaps bawdily announcing “CARNAL SPOKEN HERE.” The phrase addresses the beer side of the tracks.
The art-historical stable of puns and aslant syntaxes is activated in real time, from Marcel Duchamp’s Rotorelief to Robert Smithson’s A Heap of Language, through Adrian Piper’s “Dear Friend. I am black,” to the HOLLYWOOD sign. Once an artist objectifies letters, as Graham does, their material qualities, metonymy and meanings fall subject to his thaumaturgy.
Continually in the show, things are not what they seem. Graham explores opposites. He turns words into objects by making the carbon material, object-like. But he also explores formats where the words are fine filagree like molecules in a gas. They coalesce into object-like groups.
“I AM BORROWING YOUR WATCH,” spanning one wall of the gallery’s central atrium, keystones the show. It shapes letters as near-semaphoric geometries in two ways — as abstractions of their forms, and as abstractions of the space around and inside them.
Literally, the phrase is almost absurd. One seldom borrows another’s watch. It also points to the promise of the show’s subtitle: the artist has your viewing attention for a while, for a spell. He’s taking this interval to bewitch as he insists on your pausing to make the most of your time together. Prestidigitator, he picks your attention’s pocket , the while showing how it is done. Alluding to legerdemain, though, isn’t practicing it.
Up close, you can witness how densely the artist lays his graphite on the ground of the canvas. Its scumbles and scuffs blur the contrast between black letters and white ground. This can frustrate the conclusive impulse one seeks from reading. Occupying an adjacent trio of square canvases are disguised words that you must decode in order to come up with “KILL” “EYES” “MEAN”: Mean Eyes Kill. The next painting reads “CON TEXT”.
Of course, one reads the entire show as a context, taking cues from one work to understand another. But that painting also raises the case of text that cons. Ambiguouslanguage trips you up by non-sense or dissembles and demands your logos to finish it. Perhaps the picture paints the word the best in “Alien Hands (Enigma),” where the word “enigma,” forming two filagreed hands, renders concrete poetry in the primordial soup. Graham’s the space cowboy in an alphabet galaxy.
Art Matters Santa Fe with Kathrine Erickson and David Eichholtz interviewed by Kathryn Davis
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The in-gallery events of “Art Matters | Santa Fe”, hosted by individual galleries and museums and sponsored by the Santa Fe Gallery Association, will feature the diversity of artwork in Santa Fe as well as critical discussions and lectures regarding the specific artists and art historical time periods presented by the host galleries. These events, intended to focus on the galleries, their artists and curatorial programs, will appeal to collectors and art enthusiasts as well as academics and historians and showcase the depth and expertise of Santa Fe gallery collections and owners respectively. The artwork ranges from contemporary abstraction and figuration, modern masters and French Impressionists, film, installations and interactive presentations to historic and twentieth-century Native American art, Japanese Samurai warrior armor and Japanese painting.
Casting a spell – Artist, poet Allan Graham uses words, wordplay as a visual language
Words, says artist Allan Graham, are the way the mind works.
Strange sightings: Works by Allan & Gloria Graham
UFOs. You’ve seen them on the internet, and you’ve seen them on TV. Perhaps you’ve even seen them in person or thought you did. Think about the way they move, flicking in and out of sight at dizzying speed and stopping to hover just long enough to for you to notice. Then, whoosh, they’re gone again, the way a random thought or word is held pure and crystalline in the mind but vanishes — along, it seems, with your memory of it. Allan Graham, under the moniker Toadhouse, presents pieces from his UFO series at David Richard Gallery as part of the exhibition Any Position Limits the View (We Are Only Here for a Spell). But Toadhouse’s paintings are not about visitors from outer space — except insofar as that’s a metaphor for thoughts themselves.
At a distance, a painting from the series looks nearly monochromatic, and shapes emerge: clusters of marks that coalesce into disclike objects. The forms you see are composed of words. Some are sentences, and others are single words that rain down or encircle the more figurative imagery. As a title, From and Form in an If Shower — one of the paintings from the UFO series — sounds like the kind of tag that provokes a viewer to say “I just don’t get it.” But Toadhouse uses titles descriptively. The UFO shapes in the painting were made using the two words from and form. The marks falling all around them are repetitions of the word if.
“The only things I’m showing that have been shown before are the UFO paintings,” said Graham, who began signing his pieces as Toadhouse in the late 1980s. “I started out as a painter. Then I did three-dimensional pieces, taking stretcher bars, manipulating them and stretching canvas over them. When I went back to the flat surface again, I was doing all this writing, just notes to myself, that I shared with [Vincent] Barrett Price, the poet. We go back a good 30 years. I started writing these notes to myself in a subterranean room I built with my son. We called it Toadhouse because we kept finding toads in it. That’s where I started writing the notes, and I’d give them to Barrett.” Graham and his son built the kivalike structure at Graham’s former home in Albuquerque.
Price is one of 25 poets represented in a photographic and video project Graham collaborated on with his wife, Gloria Graham, called Add-Verse. David Richard shows Add-Verse, as well. “We did it together 10 years ago. Gloria took the photographs, which are all candid shots she did while I was talking to them, and I shot video. It’s a historic piece because seven of the poets died since then. The oldest was 100 to begin with — that was Carl Rakosi. There are some that are local, like Arthur Sze and Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, but the others, like Michael McClure, Diane di Prima, Robert Creeley — they’re historic names.” The Add-Verse photographs are portraits of the poets, while the video component of the project is a montage in a continuous loop. The poets recite examples of their work, and the camera focuses on their hands and the text they’re reading.
“We have enough poet friends to know that I’m not a poet,” Graham said. “They’re dedicated in an entirely different way. But I always saw a twist in language where it would go different ways depending on how you received it.”
The exhibition title refers to the multiple meanings of words but also to the ways in which we look at art. The view can be limited by one’s physical position and by the subjective associations one makes with words. “I tagged on We Are Only Here for a Spell to the title. The word spell has three meanings. Time, language, and illusion.”
David Richard also features Graham’s pre-Toadhouse sculptures — the oldest, As Real as Thinking, goes back about 30 years. These sculptures are shaped canvases plastered with pages of text. Language and wordplay have dominated Graham’s work since that time. “It’s an interest in the way the mind sees things through words. I was strongly visual prior to that, so I just brought the visual and language things together.”
Most of the work created since his show at SITE Santa Fe in 2000 has not been shown publicly and includes hard-edged minimalist paintings from a series mostly based on four-letter words, some of them swear words. These also appear at David Richard. The paintings read as abstractions, but their titles, such as Full and All, are, like the UFO titles, descriptive. The words can be detected in the paintings. Graham composed them as arrangements of geometric shapes, using just the negative spaces between the letters. He examines the relationship between language in its written form and art, erasing any perceived barrier between them. The medium he uses, common to artist and writer alike, is graphite. “Writing is a form of drawing. When I did the UFOs with all the little words, it kept taking off. But you have to build the painted surface of the canvas up to the point where it will take the writing with very little pressure, otherwise you’d be cracking the paint. It’s got to move fluidly. I knifed on thin layers of oil paint. It’s a long process to where it would close the weave off.” Graham applies the graphite to the paint before the paint has fully cured, so, when completely dry, the graphite doesn’t smudge.
More recent works such as Urinating Beneath a Star Swept Sky are intended to have a bit of humor. “Humor loosens the mind up to accept things,” Graham said. “I did an interview with John Yau of The Brooklyn Rail and quoted G.K. Chesterton. It goes something like, ‘Do you know why angels can fly? Because they take themselves lightly.’ It’s just fantastic, and I try to remind myself of that because the art world is way too serious. I grew up with a father who made really bad jokes at the dinner table. I realized much later that I inherited it. Now I realize that our son does that, too.”
The UFOs are the few works in the show in which the arrangement of words have a visual appearance similar to the objects in the series title. “There’s a tradition of what’s called concrete poetry, where you do drawings with words to look like what’s described in the poem, but that wasn’t what UFOs was about. It was never diagrammatic.” But imagery in the series does reflect the meaning of the words in an odd way. “I took the word kill, and when I wrote it using just the negative spaces to create the letters, one element was like this arrow pointing back. Automatically you make a reference in your mind, but it’s kind of like watching a flame and listening to music, and you’re convinced the flicker goes along with the music. It’s the mind that makes the connections.”
Toadhouse (a.k.a Allan Graham) interviewed by Kathryn Davis on Art Beat.
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Allan Graham has deconstructed the English language over the past thirty years of his career by literally envisaging words, phrases and concepts using the words themselves as the visual language. Canvas and oil paint, handmade paper, graphite, ink, toilet paper rolls and rubber plungers are his varied supports and media. His latest paintings are comprised of four letter words written with no spaces and the letters stacked in quadrants, two over two. Initially, the viewer sees a pattern in black and white, some purely geometric and others a bit more anthropomorphic depending upon the grouping of letters, but then the actual word emerges through the abstraction. Through his work the viewer realizes language is an abstraction, both in the way it is spoken and written. The meaning and power of language is not only in the content of the chosen word, but more in the context in which it is delivered and even then, subject to personal interpretation.
ALLAN GRAHAM (a.k.a. Toadhouse) – Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
ALLAN GRAHAM (a.k.a. TOADHOUSE)
Any Position Limits the View (We Are Only Here For A Spell)
September 12 – October 19, 2013
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 12, 5:00—7:00 PM
David Richard Gallery
Railyard Arts District
544 South Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501
p 505-983-9555 | f 505-983-1284
David Richard Gallery will present an exhibition surveying the range of text and language-based art by Allan Graham (a.k.a Toadhouse) in his first solo exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition, Any Position Limits the View (We Are Only Here For A Spell), will be presented September 12 – October 19, 2013 at the gallery located on 544 South Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501, phone 505-983-9555 in the Santa Fe Railyard Arts District.
The presentation will feature many different ways in which Allan Graham has attempted over the past thirty years of his career to deconstruct the English language by literally envisaging words, phrases and concepts using the words themselves as the visual language. Canvas and oil paint, handmade paper, graphite, ink, toilet paper rolls and rubber plungers are his varied supports and media. Sometimes the words are presented in standard fonts, other times cursive text streams across the page to create abstract images that become visualizations of phrases such as “Chance Forming On the Edge Of Need” and “Why Forming In An Is Universe.” His latest paintings are comprised of four letter words written with no spaces and the letters stacked in quadrants, two over two. Initially, the viewer sees a pattern in black and white, some purely geometric and others a bit more anthropomorphic depending upon the grouping of letters, but then the actual word emerges through the abstraction. Through his work the viewer realizes language is an abstraction, both in the way it is spoken and written. The meaning and power of language is not only in the content of the chosen word, but more in the context in which it is delivered and even then, subject to personal interpretation.
Also featured will be Add-Verse, a two part collaborative project between Gloria Graham, Allan Graham and twenty-five poets produced during 2003 to 2005. The video portion is comprised of a montage of 3 to 5 minute segments of each poet reading their own poetry in their natural setting with just their hands and the text from which they are reading captured on video. It is a seamless loop with no interruption or introduction between the poets to produce one continuous poem. Also presented are spontaneous photographs of each poet taken during their individual readings that measure 24 x 24 inches square in black and white. The featured poets who collaborated on the project include: Jimmy Santiago Baca, Mei mei Berssenbrugge, Maxine Chernoff, Wanda Coleman, Clark Coolidge, Robert Creeley, Diane Di Prima, Vincent Ferrini, Gene Frumkin, Barbara Guest, Lyn Hejinian, Jane Hirshfield, Anselm Hollo, Paul Hoover, Joanne Kyger, Nathaniel Mackey, Jackson Mac Low, Michael McClure, Harryette Mullen, V. B. Price, Carl Rakosi, Tom Raworth, Arthur Sze, Anne Waldman and John Yau.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue with an essay by the poet, art critic and historian John Yau.
Allan Graham’s studio practice includes painting, drawing and sculpture in a variety of media and his artwork has been exhibited and collected internationally. He has had numerous solo exhibitions and artwork work included in group exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Tucson, Dallas, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Rome and Varese, Italy, Lugano, Switzerland and Dusseldorf, Germany among other cities. His art is included in the permanent collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY), Villa Menafoglio Litta Panza (Varese, IT), The Panza Collection, Museo Cantonale d’ Arte (Lugano, Switzerland), High Museum of Art (Atlanta, GA), Museum of Fine Arts (Santa Fe, NM), University Of New Mexico Art Museum (Albuquerque), Albuquerque Museum (NM), Denver Art Museum (CO), Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery at U. Of Nebraska (Lincoln, NE), Roswell Museum and Art Center (NM), Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, NY), and Blanton Museum of Art at University of Texas (Austin, TX). Allan Graham was born in San Francisco, CA. He studied at the University of New Mexico, San Francisco Art Institute and San Jose State University and was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts in 1985 and a Pollock Krasner grant in 2012. He currently lives and works in New Mexico.
Gloria Graham’s art making practice explores interactions at the molecular, physical and metaphysical levels with a focus on ephemera and the ethereal captured through her camera lens and drawings. She has had many solo exhibitions and her artwork included in numerous group exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Houston, Marfa, Buffalo, Denver, Verona, IT, Lugano, Switzerland and Japan. Her artwork is included in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art (NY), The Lannan Foundation, The Broida Foundation, Albright Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY), Museum of Fine Arts (Houston, TX), The Panza Collection, Museo Cantonale d’ Arte (Lugano, Switzerland), Harwood Museum of Art (Taos, NM), Denver Art Museum (CO), Roswell Museum and Art Center (NM), North Dakota Museum of Art (Grand Forks, ND), Albuquerque Museum (NM) and Museum of Fine Arts (Santa Fe, NM). Graham studied at U. California, Berkeley and Baylor University with graduate studies at U. Wisconsin and U. New Mexico. She lives and works in New Mexico.
David Richard Gallery specializes in post-war abstract art including Abstract Expressionism, Color Field, geometric and hard-edge painting, Op Art, Pop Art, Minimalism, Feminism and conceptualism in a variety of media. Featuring both historic and contemporary artwork, the gallery represents many established artists who were part of important art historical movements and tendencies that occurred during the 1950s through the 1980s on both the east and west coasts. The gallery also represents artist estates, emerging artists and offers secondary market works.
For additional information please contact: David Eichholtz
TED LARSEN at David Richard Gallery – Review
God only knows—and maybe ARTnews, where you’d find a question like this as the lead-in for a not-so-nuanced look at Some Assembly Required, Ted Larsen’s recent exhibition of
At first glance the work is not imposing, and it’s certainly not intrusive. A typical piece is less than two feet in height, a linear wall-mounted assemblage of welded lengths of square-sided metal bars that run at right angles along x-y-z axes within some imaginary three-dimensional grid. For some pieces, the metal armature serves as support scaffold for a single slab or for stacks of contiguous laminate plywood
On the formal level, at least, you could make a persuasive case for the Constructivist aesthetic. Stripped of its utopian content, the Russian early modern theory espoused three principles in its art making: tektonika, whereby the constituent industrial materials invest the work with meaning; konstruktsiya, or “construction,” basically the assembling of the sculpture from various components (at the time, a revolutionary approach vis-àvis traditional sculpture’s carving and modeling), and faktura, or the choice and handling of the materials. It is unlikely that Larsen explicitly subscribes to these principles but, whatever the artist’s approach, his sculpture does reflect their virtue of ensuring both structural integrity in the work and visual discourse with the viewer. Larsen’s pervasive use of polychrome salvage steel
For several pieces in the show (Linear Curve, Past Prediction, Random Pattern, Real Fantasy, and Whole Half) Larsen uses the welded steel bars simply as support for a single wall tableau, in the sense here of a projecting abstract panel with strongly narrative overtones. The panel of Past Prediction floats out from the wall like a mounted flat tv screen, a plywood high-relief divided horizontally into two wraparound zones of patina green and white plating and, attached to its surface, a vertical wooden frame that optically bends forward as it extends to the upper, green zone. In the similar tableau of Linear Curve, this play of
This allusive quality is especially evident in those sculptures in which the support, or armature, function of the welded steel bars is elevated to visually embody the proffered conceit: (Loose Knot, Nearly Complete, One Choice, Personal Space, Soaring Down). It is equally apparent in the chiastic play between the virtually identical polychrome compositions of Orderly Confusion and Random Pattern, either one of whose
But apart from the visual wit and wordplay—or perhaps better, at the source of it—is Larsen’s formidable command of his medium. The wit and whimsy that pervade these sculptures are entirely a function of Larsen’s approach to facture—shapes and colors as visual grammar—and his underlying sense of design’s narrative force—as visual syntax. This openness to form and materials as visual language yields highly personal yet engaging work (whereas the Constructivist submission to an overriding utopian agenda often led to art as propaganda). His Never Again—a seemingly effortless amalgam of thin burgundy, ochre, and white plated rectangles stacked contiguously like accordions along a horizontal axis—is as enigmatic, random, and purposeful as a poem by William Carlos Williams: “so much depends/upon//a red wheel/ barrow//glazed with rain/water//beside the white/chickens.”
Judy Chicago greets Queen Sonja of Norway at her exhibition at Oslo Fine Art Society
Judy Chicago: Deflowered
May 25 – June 30, 2013
Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party
Two members of Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist punk-rock collective based in Moscow, were at the Brooklyn Museum to view Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party
David Richard Gallery, LLC | 544 South Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501 | p (855) 983-9555 | f (505) 983-1284
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10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday or by appointment