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In December 2005, The Smith College Museum of Art has launched a web site to coincide with the exhibition "Too Much Bliss: Twenty Years of Granary Books," on view until February 19, 2006. The web site features essays about a number of Granary books as well as a new digital format that allows viewers to turn virtual pages of the reproduced books.
My collaboration with Mimi Gross, Some of These Daze is included in the show. I wrote this statement for the website:
“I really believe one must learn to draw as easily as if it were writing.” – van Gogh
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was on my way to LaGuardia airport to catch a flight to Buffalo. Mimi Gross was at home on White Street, in lower Manhattan. Throughout the next days, Gross wandered through the area around the World Trade Center, drawing both incessantly and incisively. I returned home to the Upper West Side and wrote a series of reflections on the unfolding events. In Some of These Daze, we have merged Gross’s drawing and my writing, our respective inscriptions, as if they were two sides of the same page. The result is a double parallax view of 9/11: verbal / visual; on the spot / on the periphery.
Both Gross’s drawings and my writings rely on a serial aesthetic: one perception immediately follows the next, without an attempt to create an overall hierarchy or controlling narrative. The truth is in the array of particular details. Immediacy is valued more than commentary; local observation over symbolic resolution. While we created the writing and drawing separately, we worked together to find text to go with image and then to order these units. Similar to film editing, there was a high ratio of images and text “shot” to what we used. One memorable evening in Gross’s house in Provincetown we lay the pictures out of the floor and mapped a path, one to next to next. Just as with finding the words to go with the images, there was a shared sense of judgment that required little discussion.
Like my writing, Gross’s drawing consists of black lines on white paper. Because drawing and writing share an origin and function as notation, I wanted the artist’s hand to be present in creating both the letters and figures, as if to better meld the two, often sovereign, realms. The relation of words to pictures, especially in artist’s books, is an active concern; not to have the words provide captions for the picture, or for the pictures to illustrate the words, but for the words to provide n-dimensionality to the visual experience, coloring the mood or ambiance more than conveying information. In this work, the words are a kind of drawing and the drawing is a form of writing. This is not only because of the words embedded into some of the picture, or the way that cross-hatching often evokes letters, but also because the combined effect of the words and pictures enlist the lines into a pictogrammatic space
Our integrated approach to the verbal-visual field is further enhanced by the movement from 2- to 2½- to 3-D in Gross’s drawings. Gross’s technique is to create both concave and convex contours in her drawings, with the oscillation between them being the “2½”-D factor. Early on, we decided to make significant use of black-white reversals. The white lines on black ground suggest an enduring night but also push the drawings to a more insistent three-dimensionality: the black background pops the white lines out, transforming the image into something close to haunted maquettes for stage sets. The viewer is ushered into the underworld. The white lines are cracks through which light breaks out of the dark.
I can’t help but wonder: What is the equivalent, in writing, of white lines on a black ground?
The final, crucial, visual element on which I want to touch is the active use of color. Color moves the book out of the realm of documentary, or the real, and into the realm of the Imaginary. Gross’s precise color highlighting transforms the visual space in a way analogous to how the words transform the works to n-dimensionality. It’s as if we have created a 3-D movie where the viewer puts on imaginary spectacles with separate text and picture lenses; these spectacles superimpose the double parallax view onto a single virtual (or emerging) field.
There’s no gaze like the present.