On Watery Artworks and Writing-Retreat Novels

From The Paris Review:

“Empire of Water,” on view until May 30 at The Church in Sag Harbor, New York, is well worth a wander out east. The exhibition, cocurated by the Church cofounder and artist Eric Fischl and the chief curator, Sara Cochran, features watery works from forty-two artists including Warhol, Ofili, Lichtenstein, Longo, and Kiefer, and an Aitken that delights. But the cake stealer is hiding in the back corner of the first floor: Topographic Wave II, by Jim Campbell. Tucked behind a partial gallery wall are 2,400 custom-built LEDs of various lengths mounted on a roughly four-by-six-inch black panel and arranged neatly in a tight grid, like a Lite-Brite for grown-ups or a work of Pointillism by robots with OCD. From a small distance, images appear as shimmering figures swimming through Pixelvision water. Walk closer and the picture dissolves into fragmented dots blinking some unrecognizable pattern. For a short time I paced in front of it, goofily leaning in close then stepping back. Distantly, I recalled an instruction to squint when viewing Seurat, so I did that, too.

. . . .

This past week I’ve been reading Shola von Reinhold’s debut, Lote, a heady novel that explores, in multiple genres and forms—comedy of errors, writing-retreat novel, book within a book—the erasure of Black art from gallery walls, history books, and archives. The novel’s narrator, Mathilda Adamarola, is fascinated by the London-based artists and socialites of the twenties known as the Bright Young Things. She’s itinerant, in thrall to decadence, possessed of multiple names, a researcher dilettante. With a little deception and luck, she is admitted to a writing residency honoring the work of John Garreaux, a fictional theorist whose work emphasizes a kind of aesthetic rigidity and blankness our hero despises. She revolts against the residency’s conspicuous rules, but falls prey to some of its subtler machinations, and Von Reinhold’s sensual sentences unfurl like ethereal greenery as you read.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.