Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Reflections on Abstract Art and its Relevance in Contemporary Society

(Delivered as a short talk at the Cozmic Café, 12/8/09)

It’s impossible for me not to imagine art comes from and relates directly to consciousness. Ideas flow through the mind. The conscious and unconscious compose the mind. But what is mind, exactly?

We know, courtesy of subatomic physics, that all matter is comprised of little strings: that is to say, little bits of vibrating energy. So if everything is energy and we know this to be true, how then do we all get so emotionally entrenched and distressed by life’s demands? What tools do we have to cultivate this perspective to dissolve our anxieties / preoccupation / self-importance? It isn’t easy.

One has to meet appointments, shower, check email, drive through traffic, engage in conversations with disagreeable people, endure insults, shave, get burned by the sun, show up to work, remember birthdays and pay taxes. The list goes on. Contemporary life demands so much from us and eventually we all get stressed out. It becomes clear that we need to evolve countermeasures to sustain our sense of sanity and humanity. We need a reprieve from the monotony and hard work that daily life requires.

As such, yoga classes have ballooned into a billion dollar industry. Millions of Americans take anti-depressants—to be point of “hidden epidemic.” Beer and wine companies aren’t folding anytime soon. Medical marijuana cards will soon be roughly as novel as having a tattoo. Churches maintain their patronage and new-age bookstores enjoy brisk sales. We seem to be collectively seeking answers to questions that can only be answered in the terms and articulation of our own searching.

It is this last territory where art comes into relevance and the territory where I feel my art may be of service. The power of abstraction reminds us that half-dome’s gigantic mass of rock in Yosemite is actually just a pysically manifest dream, made solely of little strings, dancing in their rather rigorously defined matixes. Seemingly monstrous in its density, half-dome is simply matter that is largely empty (as everything is). . .lots of little strings, all of them humming along, without violins or conductor.

When Nietzsche declared God was dead, he must have been acceding to the monstrous emptiness of the universe that astronomers had come to understand. As the universe grew unutterably large, the central place of humankind was dwarfed by the scale of nature; a universe we had only the tools to barely glimpse and much of which was simply undeciphered, as it remains today. As we were displaced from the center, our lonely position crystallized more precisely and undeniably. As Carl Sagan pointed out in the late 20th century, “We stand equidistant from the atoms and the stars.”

Is it any wonder, then, that we have embraced Tai Qi and Zen? Is it surprising that physics and Daoism have become such close neighbors? As we embrace our own emptiness we find, rather ironically, that this act often leads to a wondrous and strange fulfillment. A single breath may be seen as the definition of richness and vitality. And so we breathe more consciously these days.

My paintings explore these questions; expanding a small window through which we may embrace our loneliness more readily and breathe deeply in the zen of the moment.

I lived in Taiwan for a long time, where people are not exactly Daoist in any self-consciously philosophical sense. Instead, many Taiwanese live in a Daoist way much as non-Christian Americans like me still behave according to deep-seated Christian values that pervade our culture without active questioning into origins. Moreover, these values are continuously reinforced, such that one doesn’t have to read the Bible to behave in a quasi-Christian manner. So I absorbed some of those Daoist ideas in my 12 plus years in Asia, swimming around in the suchness of that place, and I think this has influenced my attitutudes, including my esthetic.

Abstract painting, writing, music, and living abroad, have served as lenses through which it becomes possible to see my own cultural biases / better to identify my own half-acknowleged (but well-ingrained) predispositions, personal or cultural. These tools help me to guide my life's shape. I think it is true that art, music and poetry can change one's mind and perception; can awaken the self to aspects of experience and consciousness for which the blur of quotidien life has no time. The things to be learned in this context take time and energy but are worth this effort, for me. More simply put: paintings are tools of meditation.

This is why I have been drawn to paintings such as Mark Rothko’s work. There is a discovery there that seems to be hard to find elsewhere. The terms of the visual work translate into my ability to ask open-ended questions. These are the bigger questions to ask, ones I have outlined in a poem from Taiwan, as follows:
Recipe for Material Self-Doubt in an Existential Age

1. What do I want?

2. Who is the "I" that wants?

3. Why do I keep filling this hole?

4. For whom and for what am I working?

5. What do I own?

6. What owns me?

7. Why am I so jealous of the clean remove of the moon?

8. If all is moving energy, is the stillness of death an illusion?

9. Why does resistance of one's hungers feel just as much of a mind trap as their satisfaction?

10. Why bother fussing over origins when the present moment already encompasses such oceanic being?

11. Is it myopic or strained to assume such a central axis for love?

12. Who paints Neruda into my imagination?

13. Why do I feel so whole and full when emptying myself?

14. Can we all forgive one another and start over?

15. Shall I grow old and lonely and read my poems into the wind?

16. Why are sky and ocean such generous patrons of the arts?

17. Will parents come to recognize how their babies do their weeping?

18. Why do I feel so wealthy when I have so little money?

19. Does my guitar move my hands?

20. Does God feast on the names of the dead?

These larger questions sometimes come to me when hiking in the mountains; through deep conversations with the people I love; through reading poetry or listening to music; and through creative projects like, well, writing songs. I also just look at the sky, take in the moon through clouds or even watch a bird carve a line into the sky. These moments of esthetic arrest can be expansive—even as they are, ostensibly, empty. How can this be true? How is it possible to feel so alive when doing something so simple? In this mental state I am not focused on myself or what I have to do; I am removed from myself but not in a reactionary or escapist way. Rather I have opened my soul to nature; and not just to nature beyond the self, but toward the nature that is within myself and has been patiently waiting to be acknowledged; to be recognized as a natural fact. I have released myself from my ambitions; from my obligations and material needs. Even if only for a brief moment, it is in this state that I may drink in the waters of this larger, freeing perspective.

Abstract paintings can create this headspace, and can achieve this without destroying brain cells or delivering a headache the next morning. Abstract art can render poetic connections between the very small and the very large; invoke the cosmos; free the mind to consider itself on terms not ideologically charged or predetermined by a prefabricated cookie-cutter or commercial agenda. Representative art mirrors our recognizable world in a way that explores it directly, but perhaps without the latitute to invite a greater freedom for consciousness. Abstract art leaves this world behind, issuing an open-ended contract; a catalyst that can recharge the psyche; a tender endorsement of human curiosity. . .a calling forward of the ways we connect our thoughts into the whole of our consciousness and further, to our sense of self.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Review: “Soaring Voices: Contemporary Japanese Women Ceramic Artists” at The Crocker Art Museum

So it turns out I am a feminist. It’s an assertion that, coming from a man, can confuse those not versed in the movement. The central tenet of feminism assumes that traditional society has been dominated by gender power dynamics, marked by the overarching male influence. As a result, the feminist perspective suggests that we all should address this imbalance, wherever we might find it, with our eyes open to the problem. Since male-dominated society has evolved various mythologies that consciously or unconsciously exclude female participation, it is up to all of us to admit the bias and seek redress.

As important as this perspective is, sometimes the larger universality of artwork, an artwork for all, can become rather eclipsed by these issues. It calls to mind the relevance of culture to the human experience. Culture is important, and should be respected—albeit within the larger frame of the human experience in which regional logic and tribal variation no longer reveal insights. To put it crudely, even if I do not speak the same language as a native of Borneo, we may share enough genetic heritage to transplant organs without rejection. Culture warps our sense of commonality by overemphasizing these aspects of difference. Sometimes we collectively look to correct a historical balance to the detriment of intensely impressive art (by whomever has realized it, in whatever conditions).

And while I am lodging opinions about the lenses through which our attentions are too often overly-filtered, I would like to interject a discussion of museum wall-text; a well-intended pre-emptive strike on the sacred contract between the viewer and the work of art itself.

To assert my bias, I look to art for inspiration; for the rare moment in which I see something I had never anticipated seeing. This awakens me to impressions and ideas that I hadn’t sufficiently connected (assembled?) before that precise moment. In this gray area of the mind, colors emerge; a holistic perception that is cousin to acupuncture or meditation. Other questions, such as who realized the work, where it comes from, under what conditions and national flag do matter to me—but only after my initial and personal take: the raw, unmitigated experience I expect to enjoy without being bullied by others’ opinions, however valid those opinions may be. I was kvetching on this subject with one of the owners of Art Ellis recently, who noted that he didn’t like artwork to be titled. While I consider that the prerogative of the artist, I know what he means. The introductory physical location of wall-text (and its READ ME NOW authority) displaces the experience (willful ignorance) of encountering art without introduction or hand-holding, and I think of it as a pre-emptive strike on my consciousness.

At the same time, here I am, applying words to art. I do this in a supportive role that can accompany the art—not as something that would supplanting or diminish the power of its independent message. Communication on the subject for those who love art, after all, is not only reasonable but also nearly irresistible, and I am no exception.

The ceramics on display at the Crocker in “Soaring Voices” represent an eclectic set of works by women who came into the field despite the male-dominated tradition of ceramic making in Japan. These pieces bridge a divide whereby:

“. . .during the 1950s when the concept of the studio potter as a creative individual working alone, apart from tradition, was introduced. Including more than 80 objects from vessels to sculpture, this exhibition surveys the accomplishments of 25 leading female figures in contemporary Japanese ceramics.”

The show was breathtaking, and awakened my senses to the range of possibilities available in the medium. Since many artists have contributed work to this show, the exhibit can often feel like a survey of contemporary approaches to ceramics and sculpture in general, from the hyper-poetic abstractions of Ikuko Ando to the pop-art echo of “Hips Parade” by Yuriko Matsuda. Ando’s work lifts the medium out of its utilitarian application the elliptical territory of abstract poetry. Matsuda’s work represents a direct challenge to the male establishment and does so in a pop-art way that also asserts her credentials as a relevant voice in any context. Kimiyo Nishima’s ceramic realizations of newspapers and cardboard boxes are a tour-de-force installation that demonstrates the plasticity of the ceramic medium when combined with skillful silk-screening work. Sachiko Fujino’s “White Time” presents a bulbous white abstraction that renders the fragility and hardiness of the egg into a large form. Its achievement is manifold, and must be taken in by a viewer, ideally, in its presence. The most baroque assertion in the show comes from Kyoko Tokumaru, whose “Hanazakari-Bloom” and “Hatsuga-Germination” painstakingly re-invent the opulence of corals in ceramic form. This piece looks like a shipping nightmare and resulted in awe to all I watched observing it, including myself.

So I return to the Feminist theme: how glorious to have this collection of works by women from Japan; women who broke through the clay ceiling and made their lives in the arts. The Crocker deserves kudos for assembling such a show, and further praise for the curatorial vision that allows these astonishing pieces the breathing room they so thoroughly deserve. “Soaring Voices” proved that one need not be part of the men’s club to produce quality ceramics. The overall quality of the work, in fact, suggests that perhaps fighting against an uncompromising tradition led to innovations have redeemed the otherwise bitter terms of that struggle. The point that this work is by women is noteworthy. It was equally realized by artists: people working at the height of their creative powers.

Photos of artwork, in order:
Ikuko Ando, Factory Chimney, 1996. Stoneware, 10 1/4 x 7 7/8 x 3 1/8 in. Courtesy of International Arts and Artists and the Kanazawa Utatsuyama Crafts Workshop.
Kimiyo Mishima, Installation with Newspaper (1978), CaliFame Lemon with Newspapers (1978), Coca Cola with Bottles (1978), Coca Cola with Newspapers (1978), Citrus and Bottles for Citrus Box (1978), Copy '78-'80 (1978-80), Comic Book ’80 (1980). Stoneware with additional paper posters, dimensions variable. Courtesy of International Arts and Artists. Collection of The Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, The Museum of Contemporary Ceramic Art. Photo by Greg Flagg.
Kyoko Tokumaru, Germination, 2007. Porcelain, 23 5/8 x 17 11/16 x 11 13/16 in. Courtesy of International Arts and Artists and the Artist.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Interview with Anne Miller, Photographer

"I try to subtract everything that doesn't contribute to the essence of the image."

"Glass #8"

DN: Is there something extremely formal in your work?

"Rust #110"

AM: Yes. But it comes from an intuitive and instinctual place rather than from my process. It is evident to me when I look at my images. I am aware of the interplay of formal elements both when I take a picture and when I am working in the darkroom, but I don't do much formal analysis while I am creating my images. I do my best work when I am free from judgment or constraints… just playing. Then I look at the images with my "formal" eye and may refine my work.

"I was initially attracted to the warm rust tones in a bolt in a piece of wood. When I looked at it more closely I liked the pattern of wood grain vertical lines that get wavy, and the contrast of the geometric shapes and the wood grain texture. I like making the bolt really important. It becomes something else, a shape, warmth and emergence from cool textured lines."

DN: How do you select your subject matter? Or is there a process by which it selects you?
AM: I try to pay attention to what is around me. Beauty attracts me, but my sense of beauty is personal. I am drawn to intense color and subtle color, the quality of light on a surface, patterns, disruption of patterns, translucency, and texture. Small objects that are a universe when viewed up close call to me. They remind me that everything has a specialness to it. I seek to explore the details and discover the beauty of some object that is small or seemingly mundane.
I am also interested in Really Big things. Their enormity reminds me that the universe is so much bigger than I am. They remind me that I am small and God is big. Like a hummingbird, I am irresistibly drawn to the nectar of the divine all around me, whether I am conscious of it at the time or not.

DN: Do you take many pictures of the same object until you find the right one? If so, by what means do you determine when a shot "works?"

AM: Sometimes I take several shots in the attempt to capture what attracts me to my subject in an image. I think when I am reviewing several pictures of the same thing, I use my formal art training to judge which shot is most successful. I like to see the set of photos very tiny on my computer screen to look for the ones with the best graphic impact. I rarely proceed with an image that doesn't catch my attention as a small thumbnail. Then I look at them greatly enlarged to see which picture has the most detail that I care about, or which of them best captures the original idea or feeling that inspired me.

I also like printing an image and putting it up on the wall for awhile to see if I get tired of it. Some photographs grab my attention at first and then I tire of them, others really surprise me with the lasting way that they hold my attention. Those are the ones that I consider keepers.

DN: Many of your photographs look painterly to me. Is your photography influenced by other art forms? If so, how?

AM: Yes, I am influenced by other art forms and artists. I like going to art galleries. I love seeing how people imagine and create in any medium. I am also a musician. Like visual artists, musicians think holistically, identify patterns, structures and tonal qualities and evoke an emotional response with their compositions, arrangements and performances. I am not sure about specific influences of music on my images, but there are so many similarities in the processes of making music to those used in making art.

A photograph represents only a small slice of the information that was available at the moment of capture. It is not reality. Just like a painter or printmaker, I decide what information to put into the picture. I make a series of creative decisions in the darkroom and in printing. In a sense, it is like I am using a camera to paint with light. Or maybe it is more like two dimensional sculpting with light because I am removing distracting elements from the subject at the time of capture, and trying to hone the final print down to the essence of what I see.

DN: What draws you to photography in general?

AM: I don't know... I guess I like the magic of it. When I was really young, I got a Polaroid "swinger" camera, and I loved waiting for the picture to appear on the print ejected from the camera.

Then when I was first married, my husband bought me a nice camera and we turned our only bathroom into a darkroom and I was introduced to more magic. Again, it was watching the print appear on previously blank paper.

I was always fascinated with seeing the world through different eyes. I think I'm sort of a kid. I just love pretending, and back then I used to wonder what the world looked like to an insect, or to a dog. Or a few years later, to my children.

When I was in college I studied art and music, and it was always really interesting to me how artists influenced musicians, and musicians influenced artists. I was fascinated with the effect of the Paris Exposition of 1889 on Debussy, Ravel, and the impressionist painters of the day. What we do in the world affects so much beyond us. I loved studying how African art is an extension of the daily life of Africans. It is practical, beautiful and soulful all at the same time. I think there is some of that in my images.

As time went by, I was forced to deal with the business of life and not spend much time on my photography. I had changed careers by then and was earning my living through my computer science skills. I watched as the digital age of photography approached. When I felt the quality of digital images was high enough, I leapt back into photography.

I am filled with wonder at how deeply interconnected things in nature are. I am still the little kid when I see some of the amazing works of man, and observe how man-made things interact with nature. How can we ever feel apart from each other, the things we make and the natural world? It is part of us. I feel that connection when I look at things up close. I am trying to "know" the object of my photograph.

I am so into color, glorious color. Color that draws me in and makes me lose my sense of time and place. I love mystery. I am a huge fan of Mark Rothko and Wassily Kandinsky. I see patterns everywhere, some obvious and some very subtle. Patterns and the color and texture of the objects that form the patterns are of central interest to me.

So why photography? I think of my camera as secondary to what I am trying to express. The camera is the tool. But I like the limits it puts on me. When I was a kid I used to sculpt things. And I really liked subtracting the medium and liberating my subject from the block of plaster (or bar of soap!). Photography works like that… you take a picture that captures the light on your subject. Then you reduce it to the most relevant depiction of your vision. It is never reality, but it hopefully represents real experiences, feelings, and relationships.

And I like being outside and mobile, too. I am part of the world and I want to see it. I want to really stop to see and experience it.

But the fun doesn't stop there. I can't wait to get to my computer and upload my pictures. I really like the digital darkroom. I use software that allows me to make many more creative decisions in transforming a digital negative into a print. I love that freedom. Sometimes those decisions are obvious and routine. Crop this, sharpen that. But other times an image just grabs me and I know that I can play with it and create perhaps several final prints, each unique in its own way. It is such a powerful urge. Working on an image on the computer is at least half of my process. When I play in the digital darkroom, I lose track of everything else sometimes for hours. I try to subtract everything that doesn't contribute to the essence of the image. And sometimes the creative process itself generates a new vision that leads to unexpected places. An Adventure! I'm smiling inside at the memory. And when I finally push away from my computer, I feel like I did when I was a kid and came into the house after an afternoon of hard play. . . exhausted, and exuberant.

DN: Where can people see your work now?

AM: They can see an online selection of my images on my website at, or they can see them in person at the Viewpoint Photographic Art Center where I have a portfolio available for viewing.

Viewpoint Photographic Art Center
2015 J. Street, Suite 101
Sacramento, CA 95811-3124
(916) 441-2341

Friday, September 25, 2009

Equipoise and Intention in Painting

Years ago a friend introduced me to the rudiments of Taichi in Taiwan. "Stand with your feet under you, toes pointed forward, and imagine that a vertical line passes through your body, connecting you to the sky and the ground.

I had never felt more relaxed and centered on the moment, and those exercises have accompanied me since that day, roughly twelve years ago.

"Searching for China" (ink on paper 18" x 24")

These days I seek to approach painting with the equipoise I felt that day on the beach in Taiwan. Breathing is important. I feel a sense of emptiness accompanied by calm as I lay out the blank paper, remembering that all that white space is as essential as the marks I will leave with the tools at my disposal. As with musical improvisation, I sense that I have no idea what exactly I will be creating so much as the urgency to do it, come what may. I have an idea, (or rather the idea has me) and I begin, likely loading a roller with the "right" amount of ink , thickened or thinned as I like, until I know (more or less) what will emerge from the gesture.

Or, rather, I do not know.

At that moment the idea grows tangible on the paper, fills in the blank space, becomes an event of form-making. And then that form suggests the next, and I move according to the way the mind's eye corresponds to the actual composition, revealing itself by the moment as the moon takes its form after clouds pass. The brush work is intentional, methodical, chosen.

This is what I think, until I'm not sure at all what leads what.

I change directions, mid stroke, across the length of the paper, by way of a subtle suggestion, without lifting my hand. This freedom within the emerging form's own requirements awakens my senses to the whole; inspires a more focused forward motion, accompanied by proper breathing. I have been tempted to call these strokes "breathing strokes" because they seem tied to and enacted with the breath. The long-line brushstrokes intersect the block-like forms and enliven what would otherwise risk becoming a stolid, static composition. This abstract pattern emerges organically and afterward seems to have been delivered, in turns, via a mix of
painstaking internal logic combined with the enriching moments of happenstance. At one moment I am as preconceived as Mozart and then, without warning, I am rolling John Cage's dice.

Two nights ago I was painting and couldn't really answer a simple question rattling through my consciousness: is the brush following my hand or is my hand following the brush?

Both are true, of course, and perhaps the mind toggles between leading and following as the ink flows out from under the bristles.

These are matters of process and progress as a work unfolds. It leads to another question. How much of the spirit and intention by which an artwork is made translates into the experience of the receiver, taking in the aesthetic terms of the final piece?

I don't know, and feel certain that I will never know. Parents pour love into their children and such children are more likely to have a happy childhood. But something as simple as moonlight affects the hearts of those who take it in differently. Equally, the ocean can be appealing or terrifying, depending on the terms of what a person brings into that environment.

So I do not expect everyone will relate to my paintings the way I do and I do not even know if that is to be desired. Intention is not a be-all end-all, and the terms of a painting connect according to one's own internal landscape. Abstract art does not represent the world directly, and we experience a freedom from recognized objects in its crafted ambiguity. Swimming around in that open space reveals to me a more oceanic way of being, and I feel grateful to Mark Rothko, Louise Frankenthaler, Jeff Hengst and many other abstract painters for providing this service to the mind. I like to think my abstract art has a job to do that entails recharging the psyche; providing an arena for introspection not easily found elsewhere.

Do you get this, dear reader, from my work?

Doug Newton

See more of my paintings here:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Launch of "Big Tomato Arts"

Art speaks. I will write about how local art speaks to me.

I am pleased to announce the debut of Big Tomato Arts, a blog dedicated to the arts scene in and around Sacramento, (the Big Tomato itself).

A little over ten years ago, I wrote about the arts where I lived, in Seattle, Washington. In the late 90s there was a fine internet startup called I wrote for ArtCurrent for two years, exploring the scene in Seattle and interviewing local artists there. To introduce how I intend to write about art in Sacramento, I am going to re-post a piece I wrote in Seattle. I do this to demonstrate my pragmattic, exploratory approach to art. That is to say, I will approach writing on art neither as an arbiter of taste nor as a detatched critic. Instead, I will seek to understand how the art speaks to me as a viewer and as an artist myself.

The following article concerns the work of Felix Gonzales-Torres.

"Untitled (America)
Originally published on, 1998

by Douglas Newton

Felix Gonzales-Torres began creating works from lightbulbs in response to the death of his lover in 1991. Gonzales-Torres himself died five years later, according to the Henry Art Gallery's wall text, a history which infuses this work with a poignancy it would otherwise almost certainly lack. Having said that, twelve strands of lightbulbs outlining a hallway does manage to powerfully evoke the emotional and psychological terms of its origin. Furthermore, the installation's nontitle (or title): Untitled (America) does much to escalate the referential value of the work in this viewer's mind. And given the looks people gave the piece as I sat writing notes for this article, these resonating suggestions work a certain magic with the museum-going crowd. The cryptic title and the subtlety of the work draws the viewer in with the easy grace, similar to how the eye feels generally compelled to watch birds in flight. This natural, seeming lack of grandiose pretense undermines the formality of it, letting the symbolic and metaphoric qualities of the piece rise to the surface.

Somehow these lights suggest a canopy of hope within the process of grieving: a means of investing heat and energy into the isolation of grief: a process in which heat and energy may seem unattainable--even ghostly. An undeniably human quality permeates the hallway, along with the heat from these light bulbs, all of which transcends what might look like Christmas lights at first glance. Twelve strands of lights adorn the hallway in all. The strands mostly follow the contours of the walls and ceiling, only to end up on the floor in tangles near the outlets. The floor accommodates many lights that violate the more orderly look of those hanging in evenly measured increments above. As you look at such a work, the name Untitled (America) flashes back into the mind. America? How does a rather unremarkable set of bulbs represent America? But then, perhaps the word Untitled modifies the word America? Are the lights flat allegorical symbols, or are they just meant to encapsulate the uniformity of a mythical America? Are these dully lit bulbs meant to tell us something about social organization?

Whatever the inspiration, clearly these bulbs resonate with Gonzalez-Torres' understanding of America.

He writes that America is, ". . .a place of light, a place of opportunities, of risks, of justice, of racism, of injustice, of hunger and excess, of pleasure and growth." The wall text states that this work hung originally over a street, something which brings the work into direct contact with its purported subject, at least superficially. The arrangement of lights in Untitled (America) does seem to suggest demographic metaphors and insinuations about the socialstructure of America. The longer the mind considers the terms involved, the more the open-ended metaphors crawl out from the work. Are Gonzalez-Torres' social concerns embedded in how strands of light become jumbled at the bottom, even as lights at the apex gain greater space and more attention? Strands of lights easily translate into thoughts of how we are connected or independent of one another. After all, lights are connected to each other and any interruption in the flow of current affects the totality. Does this emphasize how interdependent cross-cultural patterns really are? On this level Untitled (America) seems to be an allegory fleshing out the structural terms of what creates or alters a community.

It is noteworthy that none of the light bulbs in this piece is burned out or broken. I imagine the piece must have looked more fragile and exposed when it hung outdoors. Certainly the tangled wires suggest a kind of defeat, even as bulbs collected on the floor put out a brighter light when closer together. Does this tell us something about the separating nature of affluence or of the cohesion known to communities under duress? We are left to draw our own conclusions from this cryptic work--left only the clues from the wall text and the ambiguous title. In the end however, Untitled (America) does revitalize an awareness of just how meaningful art can be. In becomes difficult to avoid the feeling that art can be an effective tool, useful in making sense out of quandaries that resist the utility of twelve step programs. Art's strength lies in what form suggests to an open mind, and Untitled (America) quietly fulfills this outlet. The heat and arrangement of Gonzales-Torres' bulbs addresses an egalitarian impulse in form that most Americans have yearned for, despite whether justice or meaning proves ultimately effective in a democracy."


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