Friday, October 20, 2006

Columbus day parade in NYC

I went to New York last week and happened to be right by Rockefeller Center on Columbus Day. There was a huge parade going on of all types of New Yorkers, and I had the opportunity to look into Anish Kapoor's new monumental sculpture, Sky Mirror, while I watched the crowd and the floats.

I say look into because it wasn't at all an experience of looking at. The image you see here was taken from the other side of the mirror from where I was standing while watching the parade down 5th Avenue. (If you were standing where this photographer were standing at the time, I would have been where these tiny people whose heads are in the sun are standing.)

The text in the pamphlet that's distributed by Rockefeller Center reads: "This optical object changes through the day and night and is an example of what Kapoor describes as a 'non-object,' a sculpture that, despite its monumentality, suggests a window or void and often seems to vanish into its surroundings." It says s sculptures "recede into the distance, disappear into walls or floors, or otherwise destabilise our assumptions about the physical world." (text and photo courtesy of the New York Public Art Fund)

Here is an image of an etching Kapoor did at Crown Point Press in 1988. I like it in relation to the Sky Mirror because to me it cconveys the same idea of the strange in-between that happens when a reflection presents a new space to the space that it's in. These little bean figures are the same shape as the giant Cloud Gate sculpture he did in Chicago's Millenium Park in 2004. In quality, though, it makes me think of Sky Mirror, because of the way it depicts two voids that somehow fill the space between them.

Anish Kapoor,
Untitled (4), 1988. Color spit bite aquatint. Paper 23 x 18-1/4", image18 x 14", Edition 20. Printed by Crown Point Press.

- Rachel Lyon

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Big Truth

Sylvia Plimack Mangold, The Nut Trees, 1985. Color woodcut, 16 1/2 x 24", edition 100.

I am helping to put together a series of biographies of artists who’ve done projects at Crown Point Press, and most recently I’ve been working on one for Sylvia Plimack Mangold. Lucky for me, Kathan Brown wrote about Plimack Mangold in her 1999 book, Why Draw A Landscape. In the first couple of pages, she says,

Sixty or seventy years ago, before the Great Depression and World War II, people in our grandparents’ generation were pretty confident that truth existed. They believed it was possible to understand the world as it is, always and forever. . . . Now, I think we have a different idea about the world and about the nature of creative work. This idea is not entirely a new one. Shakespeare phrased it poetically: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in your philosophy.” What’s new about the idea is that it has become pervasive.

A few days later, I read an article in the New Yorker about the current state of string theory. In it, critic Jim Holt describes a change in attitude among physicists. The great dream of science has always been of breaking through to one, unifying Theory of Everything. Evidently, though, there are some recent problems with this, one being that since the 1990’s versions of string theory have just been proliferating. Many recent developments in the field are more reconciliatory than groundbreaking—instead of proving each other wrong, theorists have been expanding their versions of string theory to allow for other physicists’ versions, and the universes those versions imply, to exist side by side. (“Physicists who believe in such a ‘multiverse’ sometimes picture it as a cosmic champagne glass frothing with universe-bubbles.” Holt explains.) He writes, “the theory formerly known as strings remains a seductive conjecture rather than an actual set of equations, and the non-uniqueness problem [i.e. allowing for other universes] has grown to ridiculous proportions. At the latest count, the number of string theories is estimated to be something like one followed by five hundred zeroes.” If ideal scientific progress can be pictured as a clean and steady stream toward Truth, string theory is more of a heavy downpour.

Einstein discovered physical relativity, the idea that objects behave the same whether or not they are moving, and regardless of how fast, seemed to put us on a steady track. String theory, though, uncovers a sort of perceptual relativity. The idea that we could all be right, that there would be no one key to understanding the universe, reminds me of the parable of the blind men describing the elephant. Since they can only feel, and not see it, the men who touch the elephant’s head describe the animal as being like a pot. Those who feel its ear says it’s like a basket; the foot, a pillar; the tuft of the tail, a brush, and so on. Like these blind men, physicists are feeling around for the truth, and without proving each other wrong they are describing different aspects of it. What’s more, each discovery (the universe is a glass of champagne! the universe is a bunch of vibrating threads!) leads to more, detailed discoveries (the champagne glass froths in more than one directions! the threads are one-dimensional! etc), instead of broader ones. (Holt mentions a theorist named Karl Popper who believed that there will prove to be no end to the succession of deeper and deeper theories.)

Like artists, by presenting their different perspectives on truth, the string theorists Holt writes of are making the world more, not less complicated. Like a work of art, each version of the theory is complete and functional, containing its own, personal yet universal approach for understanding the very world it describes. Reading this article made me wonder: if the role of scientists is changing from the noble pursuit of the same objective Truth our grandparents and great-grandparents sought, to the formulation of countless, more subjective truths, is the gulf between science and art gradually closing? “The idea that ‘beauty is truth, truth beauty’ may be a beautiful one,” Holt notes, “but is there any reason to think it is true? Truth, after all, is a relationship between a theory and the world, whereas beauty is a relationship between a theory and the mind.” When it becomes difficult to pin down the difference between the world and the mind, beyond beauty the big Truth falls apart.

- Rachel Lyon


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ed Ruscha at Crown Point Press

This is Javier, I am the webmaster and videographer at Crown Point Press. I made this video! I am here to announce that all of our videos can now be seen at google video! Just go to and type in Crown Point Press in the search box. Please feel free to comment on this video.

I had the pleasure of meeting Ed Ruscha a number of times at Crown Point Press, most recently and at the opening of his new show called "Signs+Streets+Streets+Signs" now on view in our gallery through Novemeber 4.

Here are some photos from the reception for the artist:

Visitor admiring L.A.S.F. #1, #2, #3

Director Valerie Wade with Artist Ed Ruscha

Crowd at the reception

New etchings by Ed Ruscha

This is a fantastic show! Please stop by the gallery Tuesday through Saturday from 10am - 6pm. If you would like to see new works by Ed Ruscha click here.