Monday, October 16, 2017


What else do I care about

          I saw Sun and Forest by Max Ernst at MOMA in a small show of his work and realized the pity of both time and war NOT doing their fine work in cutting down the number of works by so many of what one has to call modern artists... in particular in the 20th and 21st centuries the amount of art that has survived is unbearable to any thoughtful person.  

         In the world of books  the digital sledgehammer is ever at its destruction of the world of books so that now with books--- except for a few precious ones--- there is hardly any market for used books except through extremely large warehouses or the proliferation of individual sellers on Amazon and similar sites.

        In New York City. the Strand Bookstore  continues in a fashion but it survives by being a destination store for people wanting to buy souvenirs of their visit to New York City.  The second-hand book section is assiduously combed by clerks and books no longer sit on their shelves waiting.  

            Increasingly as I will be doing books are simply put out with the trash... it is not worth one's effort to take them to the shops to sell and the shops if they are possibly interested mostly will not send a truck to collect the books as those books then have to be sorted and most of them will end up on the one and two dollar shelves for a time...   

BUT for now books, books--- a few and I start with H.G. Adler's first book, THERESIENSTADT 1941-1945, The Face of a Coerced Community.

Adler began to save notes for this book when he with his family was sent to this "show-camp" by the Nazis.  Surviving unlike his famy the subsequent deportation to Auschwitz, Adler returned to Czechoslovakia and rescued his notes and after fleeing  that country for England began this massive and really first comprehensive description of A CAMP.  
857 pages.  A book that will endure but few will read as it is very expensive and printed in a small edition by Cambridge University Press.  A book destined for the library YET  the sort of book that should be on the bedside of every thinking person because it is both a reminder of the horror of this camp--- which I trust if you are reading this blog--- are well aware was established by the Germans as a show camp to show how well they were treating the Jews contrary to the common belief  and I will repeat that: a reminder of THIS camp.  Adler concentrates on the experience of being in a camp.  He refuses every opportunity to simplify the story he tells: showing the full range of individual human response to the situation people find themselves in.  Even to site in anyway the details of those described is to needlessly limit the experience...

People avoid and are proud of their avoidance of the great big long books and I always take that this avoidance---every excuse seems so tiny, so mean as not even worth repeating--- as a pathetic need to think of the world as a simple place...Ulysses, Remembrance of Things Past, War and Peace, The Man Without Qualities, Death of Virgil, Parallel Lives


 THE BOOK OF DISQUIET by Fernando Pessoa (New Directions) Translated by Margaret Jill Costa.   Some, a few, well know Pessoa... the writer who in some way has come to be listed with Proust, Joyce, Musil... Celine when such lists are made---  of course the most obscure and for me to list him thus might seem more eccentric than called for...yet...  there have been many versions of this book done into English in the last 20 plus years...  and everyone knows the story of Pessoa who never wrote in his own name but always wrote in the voices of a myriad of the invented and then there is vast prose book discovered in a large trunk and assembled by a series of editors... each one with a different approach...I had held to Richard Zenith's version published by Penguin but Zenith has complimented Costa for the quality of her translation... and this is physically a beautiful book with no dust jacket and a starling cover...a book of moods, a book to comfort on the sure way to the grave: the consolation is bracing as the English would say:    find people who are but a series of marginal notes in the book of life
       ...All pleasure is a vice because seeing pleasure is what everyone does in life, and the worst vice of all is to do what everyone else does
       ...every gesture is but a dead dream
       ...intelligence, a fiction composed solely of surface and error
       ...A Homer or Milton is not more than a comet colliding with the earth

           The house of the title is the large apartment complex in Moscow where the bureaucrats who ran the Soviet regime lived with their families during Stalin's time and after. And while it is a little wrong to compare it to War and Peace and The Gulag Archipelago--- as the blurb writers do--- there is a grandeur to it in the great length and in the detailing of the fates of true believers in Soviet Communism who with few qualms of conscience killed anyone who go in the way of the building of the communism in the Soviet Union and now in their own turn they are to be murdered by the very machinery they had created.  The genius of Slezkine is to individualize the murderers and the murdered... one is taken up by their lives and their inevitable terrible ends even for the few survivors who are  all  contaminated.


ErichMaria Remarque was the second writer I came to in Patchogue after Thomas Wolfe and over the years I read all of his books that were translated into English as a result of the great success of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN  FRONT.  ---  I am ssure there are others who  followed his career:  THE BLACK OBELISK, THE ROAD BACK, THREE COMRADES...  THE PROMISED LAND did not get published in the United States ...  


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

PAUSED (for reason?)

A  pause in writing about books has come over me as I am struck silent, nearly, by a number of books: PARALLEL LIVES by Peter Nadas, THE WALL by H. G. Adler, LARVA by Julian Rios, a new version of THE BOOK OF DISQUIET by Fernando Pessoa (New Directions) and a little aside,  a new edition of THE RUIN IS KASCH by Roberto Calasso coming from FSG in January.

Such is not unusual with a moment’s thought if we remember that in the 1920s those who really read were given THE WASTE LAND by T.S. Eliot, ULYSSES by James Joyce and the volumes by Marcel Proust that would become IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME and in the Thirties: JOURNEY TO THE END OF NIGHT by Louis Ferdinand Celine and THE MAN WITHOUT QUALITIES…

One is also well aware of the masses who can not live alone in such solitude with a select few so the constant weekly announcements continue to appear of this or that masterpiece which has its moment for a week, a month, a season, a year and then… notice how forlorn THE WHITE HOTEL by D.M.Thomas looks when you see it in the Salvation Army book section or possibly a … (fill in any name you want…)

THE NECESSARY SECOND THOUGHT could be supplied with three names:
 Michel Leiris and his two newly published books that are as if passing ghosts in the US: PHANTOM AFRICA and the third book,  FIBRILS, of his memoir RULES OF THE GAME
Fleur Jaeggy has two little books:  THESE POSSIBLE LIVES and I AM THE BROTHER OF XX

A passage from Jaeggy that concerns itself with a photograph of the mother’s audience with the Pope: 
Her daughter, who does not have the depth of the mother has always believed in the surface of things.  And so in beauty.   In appearance.  What does she care about what is inside.  Inside where?  And what is the inside? Anyway the daughter believes more in photographs than in the people portrayed.  A photograph might tell more than a person.  Perhaps.  Naturally perhaps.  No affirmation could lead her to grant total credence to the affirmation itself.

            I would be hard pressed to find any American author who one could imagine writing at this level of thinking and precision.

            To have an audience with the Pope… I imagine I was caught by this as I had been visiting in late August in London a friend  who as a young woman was sent by one of the elderly sisters of the martyred Patrick Pearse  to have a private audience with John XXIII.  The visit was arranged by the Irish ambassador to the Vatican on the orders of someone in Dublin and my friend said she did not know what to say to the Pope after being brought in alone and he could see this so he asked if I had brought anything I would like him to bless.  I had only my glass case in my hand and he  gave that his  blessing sending me on my way.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


       A year ago my book ST. PATRICK'S DAY Another Day in Dublin appeared.  It received notices in the following places:

                            What follows is a list BUT BUT if you scroll a little beyond it you will find the reason for it as I could not figure out how to arrange this post in another way

The Dublin Review of Books:

       There were also blurbs from Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Julian Rios and James McCourt.  


        But truth to tell:  there is a certain masochism in the publication of this listing so that while grateful for the attention, the book did not receive any newspaper reviews or reviews in magazines that often publish reviews of books.  Also, one is aware that most of these notices  are in publications of a very limited circulation, often not fully available in a digital format.  


         The Spanish writer  Julian Rios wrote in a letter: "Most of the bookshops now, everywhere, are display places for instant books. But literature needs time, lots of time. It's better for Saint Patrick's to be in The Hollins Critic, examined in detail, than stay a week at Waterstones like a fish out of water...

But the most important, solitaire is not only a card game, it is also the exact name for the real writer and its writing."


         So, one sits  as the calendar soon will click into September, October and on and on as  the book surely moves with diminished  yet real dignity into the near pre-historic time given how the world is constructed in this day... 

          I can cling to the thin thread that keeps me in the world but there seems to be a unraveling of possibility for the other books that await publication:  EMPTY AMERICAN LETTERS, NOTHING DOING, JUST LIKE THAT, FORGET THE FUTURE and HE IS ALMOST DEAD: John Wesley, painter.

        At one time editors and others of a certain literary inclination looked and even read for what had been over-looked to the purpose of seeing such into the public eye but that day is probably long gone yet it is one of the tiny strands of illusion one tries to keep in the composition of the thread tying an author to the world...

Thursday, June 15, 2017


            I went to The Met to see this painting by Valdes Leal because in THE VIA VENETO PAPERS by Ennio Flaiano (Marlboro Press)--- who was one of the script writers for LA DOLCE VITA--- is writing that he had seen rushes of the movie and the people depicted reminded him of the putrifying preachers depicted in Leal's paintings that are in a hospital in Seville...
         I had never looked at the picture as it is in the same gallery as the El Grecos...but upon inspection the depiction of the wounds and the very ordinariness of the mortal corpse of the Christ...

     Long ago Eugene Lambe who shows up in my ST PATRICK'S DAY another day in Dublin and who had a book and poem dedicated to him by Derek Mahon told me that when going to an art museum you should look at as few paintings as possible... I try to follow this suggestion...and taking advantage of the proximity of the Met as Eugene too advantage of the National Gallery in London as he lived in Long Acre...

          I have the habit of always looking at the Poussin's "Blind Orion Searching for the Rising Sun"--- a painting that is mostly passed by in favor of "The Abduction of the Sabine Women"--- 

           Today, I noticed the posture of the guy standing in the clouds... some time ago I was pleased to see that Claude Simon had also noticed this painting and it appears in one of his late novels...

             And in keeping with only a few I looked before leaving at the small display of Fairfield Porter painting, tucked away in the far modern country of The Met... Union Square once upon a time...

and this moment:    

        So, as in the serenity of the picture of these windows:  it was a successful visit... and allowed me to even remember Julian Green who also made very brief visits to the Louvre where he learned also by looking... the going to an art museum should be very easy and disciplined in what one looks at...

        Lastly, near the Leal painting was a very large complex painting...  

 suggesting the sort of novel I would hope to write but I will save it for another visit--- I am taken by the fellow who has his arm thrown out as if to say: look... but to return to another quiet moment provided by Fragonard...similar to the one provided by Porter:

           Of course none of this would be tolerated by students going to art school... as students are encouraged to avoid going to museums... and instead are supposed to be spending their time understanding the market, understanding their careers... 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


ONE OF THOSE DAYS--- as is often said--- and this is one of those days, and by the end of it the doctor never called  so it will go on..until


  I was at Betty Cuningham and having seen the Picabia show at MOMA  I was struck by how the shade of that painter--- from the time of the 1940s when he was in the south of France ignoring World War Two:  

had insinuated itself into the eye and talent of Philip Pearlstein, something I had suspected back in February and found confirmed in an article in Brooklyn Rail by Pearlstein himself...


  And nearby in the ANDREW EDLIN GALLERY---- a sort of successor of Phyllis Kind---  how one misses her gallery and the pleasure of writing about Martin Ramirez and  Howard Finster and Michael Madore, all of whom had shows at her gallery in New York..and I was pleased to realize that the one painter she could not talk with was Howard as he was totally unlike all her other artists in that he really did believe and lived in a world so remote from her own...though she respected his art as she did all the artists she showed.  I will leave for another time my delicious argument with her about my long piece about Martin Rameriz whch appeared in ARTS MAGAZINE and was one of the first in a major art magazine about his work...

Michael Madore sent me to look at the work of Dommenico Zindato...  echoing Ramirez in a way, but unique detailed repetitive obsessiveness...


the real world is ever present

 this is a very common obvious vulgar editorial aside


ALWAYS I STOP AT SPERONE WESTWATER, THE BEST ART GALLERY IN NEW YORK or possibly the most sophisticated both in its choice of painters and in the actual physical space...  it stands near the truly awful and useless NEW MUSEUM which is the perfect example of why Gertrude Stein once said that two words that should never be joined  together are : new and museum... but Sperone Westwater always  presents and even the current show of ALI BANISADR is of interest but is a rare show that is probably pre-mature since the Iranian painter is still too young and too obvious in being  taken over by the shades of Francis Bacon and Hieronymus and even the special pleading of the catalogue copy  telling the reader of Banisadr being a young boy had to live in a bunker during the Iran-Iraq war, which might be interesting in getting him into SVA... but reveals nothing and does note excuse his not outgrowing his influences...

But I did like very much this detail and think I would have preferred a wall of such details:


And at the corner of Second Avenue and First Street....  it can be said that art sometimes really lurches into memory and photographs alone:

Time does take away but for a moment we can yank something out of the past: one of those Picabia paintings from the 1940s-- a way to distract from the irritation of that present moment and this present moment:


from JOURNAL OF SMALL THINGS by Helen Mackay
Another Winter, Thursday, October 7th
IT is quite simple.
If it can be that the priest comes, it is very well. All that the priest does is beautiful.
The feet and hands, the eyes, the lips have
sinned, and the touch of forgiveness upon them
is exquisite. It is exquisite, that last entering
in of the Divine Body to the body that is dying.
But if for any reason no priest comes, if no one
cares or troubles to ask for him, or if there is no
time, God is most surely there and understands.
And one is comforted to find that there
is no need to fear for them, as they die. They die so quietly. I am glad to know how
quiet a thing it is to die. There was only one who was not quiet.
They bound ice about his head, and then he
did not shriek and fling himself about any more,
but lay quite quietly until he died.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


I have been thinking of the time when I knew these three writers.

Now, with some distance they continue to matter...

But in the present moment I made a list  of writers also from back then
Peter Rand
David Black
Craig Nova
Richard M. Elman
Frank MacShane
Hannah Green
David Huddle
Irini Spanidou
Karen Hubert
Steve Schrader
John Oliver Killens
Jakov Lind
William O'Rourke
Garth St. Omar
Chad Walsh
Meredith Sue Willis
Marcia Cebulska
Tom Milligan
Paul Spike
Thomas McGonigle
Gregory Orr
Bink Noll
Richard Perry
Edward Dahlberg
George Garrett
Al Levine
George Cain
David Ignatow
Sylvia Wilkinson
William Harrison
Tom Whalen

Do any of these writers or more importantly their books exist in some real way beyond the number of friends represented by the ten fingers of one's hands? 

How one tries to imagine there is still possibility but how faded that really seems...

Thursday, April 13, 2017


One way or another, the entire past, whether recognizable or unrecognizable, stands between   me and the present world.  
                   ---PAUL VALERY CAHIERS/NOTEBOOKS 3/ p.369


I saw only one work of art: a painting by LAMAR PETERSON  at Fredericks Freiser          of course it needs no words.

NOTHING ELSE REMAINS EXCEPT THESE words gathered from the handouts pretending or seriously explaining the stuff in the 12 galleries I walked through

--replicated, altered and spread

--luminous green surveillance images

--nothing on the scanner bed

--an ongoing series of sculptural objects

--image dispositions that are wrought

--an iconic Los Angeles-based artist

--activates the negative space and narrates the scene

--explores the boundary

--reverence and inscrutability

--with forebears as disparate

--Los Angeles based artist

--implied challege to the doctrine of painting

--houses, computers, spaceship interiors

--assimilating the ironies and contradictions

--address how digital technology is changing

--playful take on action painting

--computer-animated stars of the 1995 film

--faces appearing like ghostly

--Drawing on the range

--a sputter and an utterance

--frenetic visual culture--

--during the post-Reagan malaise of the early 1990s

--dancing expressionist rifts on classicist techniques

--Great White Male pantheon

--subconscious manipulations

--seemingly contradictory conceit

--careful attention to ancestry

--volcanic stone is a recurring

--long beloved by artists and architects

--explore the complexities of political anxiety

--dialogue around  the contentious state of global

--also engages and subverts the quotidian

--World-renowned  sculptor

--eye of

--on an ongoing basis

--explores and illuminates

--conformity and isolation 

--conflicts and complications

--twin roles of the observer

--knowing savaging

--for further information

Monday, March 27, 2017


                I walked out yesterday afternoon as it is always yesterday afternoon after a certain point and walked south from my slum apartment on East First Street.  This walking out is not possible in the suburbs---any suburb for that matter though of course I am thinking of the one where I now spend time.  In the suburbs it is always rare to meet other people walking, there are only other houses to look at and rarely does one see a person entering or leaving these dwellings.  I could not avoid thinking: feed lots, holding pens as one sees in the Arizona desert for cattle whose only destination is the knife.

             To walk out from my place one passes the variety of people, the traffic, the shops and again on this walk the art galleries south of Houston Street.  This walking midst people dissolves the isolation one is always heir to... one's moods are shifted about as one can't avoid all of the possible versions of human life... and again I met no one I knew yet I was...

             I saw in GALLERIE RICHARD  paintings by STEFAN HOENERICH which at first seem to be examples of photo-realism but then upon closer inspection they are of an invented realism and I had the impression of walking through streets near the Duomo in Milan--the narrowness of the streets and the profound gloom and feeling of being crushed by the stone faced buildings... and the absence of human figures in his paintings was as I felt, even though I was walking with Anna years ago in Milano--- to be sent right back into the isolated monad each person truly is...

             Though as in Milano when we came out on to the  square in front of Duomo and met our friend Marina, human sociability returned as it did for me crossing to the north west corner of Grand and Chrystie Streets and the Chinese market spilling out onto the sidewalks...

         And while I looked into other galleries: Elizabeth Houston, Arsenel, Betty Cuningham,, Artifact, Miguel Abreu... there remains ALDEN PROJECTS which was showing Eleanor Antin's 100 BOOTS: The Lost Picture Show.  

           Alden Projects had on display recently JENNY HOLZER'S Street Posters which reminded me of the time when SOHO was a place where art seemed to reside and when I lived at Prince and Thompson and worked at New Morning Bookstore on Spring Street ..but what it recalled more was the nature of so much of the art then:  its ephemeral nature, its discardability except for those who like myself save "stuff"...  and this show of Eleanor Antin's based in part on the mail art of that time also reminded this viewer of change, the constant change and the inevitable passing of buildings, "scenes", moments and one's own gradual disappearance--- but is that not one of the goals of great art to make the viewer understand this simple constant truth: you are going to die and this artist is also going to die YET with these objects, as frail  as they sometimes are have a real possibility of surviving  for a time.

           I long ago discovered the pleasure of reading and looking at books that documented all the art which was destroyed in the two World Wars and then even with the very greatest painters.... one is always heartened in some mysterious way when certain paintings remain only as titles-- of course these artists have achieved that recognition that allows for such catologues--- and then one thinks of all the artists, writers for whom not even their names are to be remembered...

Note: Go to  for 

Eleanor Antin
100 BOOTS: The Lost Picture Show 

February 24  April 9, 2017
Opening Friday, February 24: 6 - 8pm

Eleanor Antin. 100 Boots at the Checkpoint. 1972   Photo © Eleanor Antin

100 BOOTS: The Lost Picture Show opens on February 24th, 2017 (6 - 8 pm) and runs through April 9th at Alden Projects™. This exhibition presents recently discovered vintage photographs by Eleanor Antin from her personal collection, expanding our understanding of the peripatetic adventures of her most celebrated series, 100 BOOTS (1971-73).

100 BOOTS is a travelogue, along the lines of Huckleberry Finn or Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, featuring the cross-country adventures of 100 stage-photographed rubber boots—Army-Navy surplus boots. They are a unitary protagonist in an allegorical narrative that a then-contemporary audience easily connected with the Nixon era and Vietnam War. The work earned its initial underground reputation as a series of 51 components that were sent through the mail over a two-and-a-half year span, to between 600-1000 recipients, bypassing the conventions of reception and distribution. All of the postcards are accompanied by plot-driving titles, dates, and shooting locations, all printed verso. Bringing the war home in such a direct manner, 100 BOOTS was celebrated for its canny circumvention of the conventions of unique artworks well before the Museum of Modern Art invited Antin to exhibit there in 1973.

What is not widely recalled are the specifics of Antin’s multi-component MoMA installation of 100 BOOTS, which included three distinct sections. The largest in the North West Gallery was Crash Pad for 100 BOOTS (1973), an installation comprising a room-within-a-room, described in the museum’s exhibition materials as “a tenement apartment for the boots”…“complete with mattresses, sleeping bags, radio, and a front door equipped with a peep-hole and a chain lock.”[1] (Crash Pad for 100 Boots is presently in LACMA’s collection). Hanging in the Far West Gallery were the better-remembered 50 postcards (the final, 51st card captioned “100 Boots Go on Vacation,” was sent from California after the show closed). Also notably present were more than two dozen photographs of the “BOOTS adventures in New York” all of which are not otherwise pictured as postcards. The dimensions of the “photograph panels” are listed on the typewritten Checklist as “each approximately 20 x 16 in” (but also corrected by hand to read “each approximately 8 1/8 x 12 in”).

And so this exhibition sets out to clarify that the work we thought we knew so well—what the artist call’s “my fur tea cup”—extends beyond the four corners of the postcards. 100 BOOTS: The Lost Picture Show, curated by Alden Projects™ in collaboration with Eleanor Antin, brings to light “lost” and mostly unknown pictures of the boots in California and New York, most approximately the same range of scale as listed above. On view at Alden Projects™ are photo panels and vintage printed, gelatin silver prints, “showing the BOOTS adventures in New York”. (See below, 100 BOOTS Under the Brooklyn Bridge[1973].) Additionally, a number of arresting scenes of the  boots in California, also previously unknown, are also present. Notable among them is the cabinet-sized picture, 100 BOOTS at the Checkpoint, San Onofre (1972), depicting 100 BOOTS stage-photographed at an American immigration checkpoint near the Mexican border (and requiring considerable bureaucratic effort on the part of the artist to realize). In this picture, as elsewhere, Antin’s works are uncanny allegories of discomforting times, strangely familiar to our own. Standing together, we are reminded again that when sorrows come, they come not in single spies, but in battalions.

© Todd Alden 2017

Eleanor Antin. 100 BOOTS Under the Brooklyn Bridge. 1973. Photo © Eleanor Antin

Alden Projects™ is grateful to the artist for the opportunity to work collaboratively on this special exhibition as well as to Ronald Feldman, the artist’s legendary, long-time dealer.


Artist’s Statement for 100 BOOTS: The Lost Picture Show at Alden Projects™:

100 BOOTS is my fur cup. Think of the surrealist artist, Meret Oppenheim, and that strange, disorienting fur cup comes to mind. Many people react to 100 BOOTS like that. As Yvonne Rainer once said many years ago, oh, Eleanor Antin, she does boots. Happily, after half a century in the art world, most people are aware of my other works, many people even prefer some of my other works. Sometimes I do too. But I luv 100 BOOTS. He changed my life though it took me 2 1/2 years to realize fully who he was. He was becoming my female version of Kerouac's "On the Road". Two travel narratives, one bad boy literary, the other a leisurely visual odyssey from a respectable American town into a more dramatic, wilder, more dangerous place.

Somehow the images that didn't make it into the final piece were too dramatic, too overtly political, too suggestive of other meanings. So they remained photo prints, not postcards, and stored away in my studio where I forgot them for 50 years. Among them were images from their NY adventure when they moved into MOMA and which were shown at the museum in 1973 and never shown again. I vaguely remember some other MoMA prints but I never found them. Besides, after MoMA, I went on a hunger strike for my new piece "CARVING: A Traditional Sculpture". I was moving on. But when Todd Alden visited my studio in San Diego and told me how much he loved 100 BOOTS, my assistant Pam rummaged around into my deepest drawers and discovered those old photo prints sleeping way in the back. We were surprised. 50 years old and they look so contemporary and yet also suggestive of another time. Many of them have an angst that frankly looks uncomfortably like today.

—Eleanor Antin, February 24, 2017

[1] See 100 BOOTS Head East, The Museum of Modern Art Press Release No. 41, May 30, 1973 and Checklist for Projects: 100 BOOTS by Eleanor Antin (May 30 – July 8, 1973), The Museum of Modern Art Exhibition 1035 Master Checklist.