1. A series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result
2. Progress; passage
3. An outgrowth of tissue; a projecting part
4. To gain an understanding or acceptance of; come to terms with.
5. a series of actions that produce a change or development
6. a forward movement
7. the course of time
8. to treat or prepare by a special method, esp to treat in order to preserve it
1. a love affair, esp an intense and happy affair
2. romantic love idealized for its purity or beauty
3. a spirit of or inclination for adventure, excitement, or mystery
4. a mysterious, exciting, sentimental, or nostalgic quality, esp one associated with a place
5. an extravagant, absurd, or fantastic account or explanation
6. to tell, invent, or write extravagant fictions
7. to tell extravagant or improbable lies
8. to indulge
As I sit in the glow of Alexis Nutini’s brightly colored, enormous monoprints, I can’t help but think about process. To be exact, these monoprints are made through a process of reduction relief – meaning that with each new color introduced to the print’s surface, a new layer of carving is made into his plate. The work is intuitive and risky, once the gouge is made into the plate’s surface, Nutini has moved forward and can never move back; but beyond intuition and risk, the work is phenomenally labor intensive. The tools used are hand tools, the carving surface as large as the prints themselves, roughly 5 ½’x7’ (the wingspan of an American bald eagle or perhaps the less iconically charged Great Blue Heron).
The combination of these, the risk, the grandeur, and the labor make the act nothing less than a love story to me, a romance between man and materials.
I like to look up words in the dictionary. Even plain words, daily words, when researched can hold surprising reach and insight when analyzed in this simple way. When looking up these words, process and romance, I find the labor and monotony of process replaced with ideas of time and understanding; the bubble gum and lipstick taken out of romance and replaced with indulgence and extravagance, mystery and adventure.
And isn’t it an extravagant adventure that the artist pursues in their time-consuming manipulation of materials and ideas to unravel a mystery for greater understanding?
I believe it is, and that is why process will always lead me to internal stirrings.
And as I sit here, my mind arcs to the work of another artist that I admire, the inspiring work of Alexander Rosenberg (similarity in first names a mere coincidence – or is it?).
To set the stage for Rosenberg’s introduction, let me further explain, I find process romantic, but it is in it’s futility that I find my true appetite, my craving for the artistic process. I believe in art’s real world application for creative problem solving and spiritual and intellectual enlightenment, but delight in it’s insanity when put under scrutiny.
It is a fair question, often asked by the parental-types, but why would one spend so many hours and put so many resources into a giant monoprint? Why would one forgo a brimming bank account and physical comfort to stand hours, daily, facing a canvas or printing press? And in Alexander Rosenberg’s case, why would one catch house flies and build them fly-sized carriages to pull along fly-sized maps of the city streets of Philadelphia?
Exactly! Why? And in that disbelief is precisely part of the power and excitement of art! It is the pursuit of and labor for wonder. It is thinking larger than oneself, beyond the reality of space and time.
I will apologize here for the over-eager gushing. It is a new year, and I find myself swept up along with it; filled with feelings of anticipation, optimism, and appreciation for all of the beautiful, the queer, the awe-inspiring things around me.
Alexander Rosenberg’s work feels simple to me, though it is quite complex in process. It is simple in that, it simply makes me smile. It feels to me a genuine pursuit, a nostalgic throw back to time spent as a child full up with sincere wonder and not afraid to ask the what-ifs.
Two of my favorite of his works on his website are “On Exactitude in Tourism”, and “To Fly”.
“On Exactitude in Tourism”
“On Exactitude in Tourism” (2011) I made a very small-scale 3D computer model of one of the horse-drawn carriages that carry tourists around Philadelphia, with a few modifications, and 3D-printed it in white plastic. Then I collected an insect from the gardens where the carriages typically wait for tourists. I named it Trump, after the oldest horse employed by the 76 Carriage Company. Trump was placed on a hand-drawn map of Philadelphia, tethered to the small carriage with a single hair from the tail of a horse and left to move about as he pleased. The tiny white carriage also held a .5mm pencil-lead to the paper and left a faint line behind it on the map as it moved.
“On Exactitude in Tourism” (2011) The map sat on a special table, built to capture the nearly inaudible sound of the insect pulling the carriage and amplify it through the horn of an old radio. These sounds were recorded with a microphone and stored on small digital sound modules. The sound modules were each combined with an eXitrip module and a series of small solar panels, and encapsulated in a glass container so that in daylight, the recorded sound would be broadcast over a specific FM frequency.
“On Exactitude in Tourism” (2011) The transmitting modules will be placed throughout the city, along the route that Trump plotted on the map allowing anyone to tune in to the frequency and navigate the route by sound. This experience will be sonically similar to either being very small following an insect on the map, or walking behind a giant insect through the actual city.
“To Fly” 2009 (detail). The second phase of the project from 2007 about attempting to fly by tethering thousands of insects to a human. This piece was installed in a rough closet. Viewers would first encounter a closed door with a sketch of a person hanging on to a network of strings. The door vibrated with tactile transducers playing the sound of a swarm of thousands of flies.
“To Fly” 2009. When a viewer opened the closet door, hundreds of fly catchers were revealed, illuminated by a single flickering lightbulb.
On a long ago road trip to Key West, I picked up this free bumper sticker, which I will share with you now. In my attempt to shoot the moon with sentimentality, I will leave you with this, we are all “One Human Family”.
Happy New Year everybody!
Alexis Nutini’s work will be on view at NAPOLEON now until January 25th, with gallery hours Saturdays & Sundays 2-6pm, and on Nutini’s website at www.alexisnutini.com .
Alexander Rosenberg’s work can be viewed in more detail at his website, www.alexanderrosenberg.net .