Thursday, September 28

Daniel Lefcourt part two

I saw the Daniel Lefcourt show again and noticed that some of the wall sculptures (such as Breach of Contract (Total Nonperformance) & Clarification, center) are enantiomorphic. That is, if split in half the two pieces are mirror images of each other, like the right and left hand. This would not happen in a censored document. A few other works do not represent paragraphs at all, though some could be newspaper columns with space for a photograph. The leaning boards, called Seperate Inquiry (seen here at left) debunk the reading of the forms as text; these are almost weaponlike. Lefcourt’s black forms are brutal, mute, and almost terrifying. Of these qualities muteness is the strongest. I don’t even know if I can call these works sculptures, since the medium here is acrylic on board, which is painting.


Anonymous said...

Dear Hanger-On,
Thank you for taking an interest in my work. I have read the comments in your blog and I thought I might try to share some of my own insights about the show… while hopefully avoiding a complete foreclosure of interpretation.

I find it most useful to think about what the work IS rather than what it is a picture of. I say this because, though the works certainly refer to text and page-layout, they are also resolutely abstract. In fact, I would say that the questions to ask of all abstract art since Pollack are; what actions produced the work? Or, what is the work evidence of? This, of course, is what Richard Serra meant when he said that drawing is a verb.

Every artwork in the show is the result of a crossing-out, removal, disassembling, cutting, or replacement. For instance, the work titled “Apparent Misconduct” has had the center literally cutout. Another instance is the way “Double-crossed collusion” crosses-out and covers-up the architecture of the gallery. Each of the works in the show enacts this same logic. In fact, in almost all of the works text is a substitute for image and vice versa. If there is meaning provided by these artworks it is only in that they are signs of an absence – they are evidence of that which has been displaced, negated, substituted or denied.

How then do these works relate to the world if they are not pictorial depictions of it? Perhaps it is in the way that these procedures have become so familiar to us – particularly when we examine the use of language by the current administration. Just look in today’s New York Times: the article about Bob Woodwards new book “State of Denial” (Week in Review. P.2. The Basics: “Did I Say That? No, Not Really, Maybe, Sort Of” By David E. Sanger).

Yours Obliquely,

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response, Daniel. Your comments are unexpected but very much appreciated. I hope I didn’t come across as making the folly of expecting to find something representational in abstraction (e.g., seeing a face or a figure). My curiosity is what the work is about, not considering what the work is. Maybe those two things are the same, maybe not. What the work IS is a formal question: what am I looking at. This can be described in rather pedestrian language (five horizontal bars of varying lengths...); why am I looking at it and why do I need to look at it is another question, which is what I’m grappling with.

I’m not so sure it’s necessary to go back to Pollock to discuss process in abstraction. To me Frank Stella’s black paintings (and Judd, LeWitt, and others who came shortly after) come to negate the importance of process. In LeWitt’s case, he uses process so methodically that process as meaning in itself is emptied completely; his work demonstrates the exhaustion of process. (The fact that he keeps doing this forty years later baffles me.) It’s been said that Stella’s black paintings initiated a crisis or rupture in abstract painting, since they willfully suppress expression—think of his famous quote “What you see is what you see”—as well as painterly techniques: the use of house paint, for instance. And Stella has said that he can’t really draw. The black paintings are also both painting and object. How do you see your work in relation to that?

A few other thoughts. I like that the image and text substitute each other, and perhaps cancel each other out. There’s another negation, too: the “words” not blackened cannot be seen either—all there is is the gallery wall. Double-Crossed Collusion (Further Misconduct), which fills the entire wall in the upstairs gallery, is the only site-specific work. The pieces in the back gallery office seem like leftovers of that work. Leaning against the wall there, they reminded me of Separate Inquiry downstairs.