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The Infinite — horizontal and vertical


I’ve been meaning to tell you about two excellent bodies of work now on view at the excellent new Gallery 339.

Up til Oct. 23 and don’t miss it are photos by Los Angeles artist Robbert Flick in the downstairs galleries and by local artist Douglas Takeshi Wolfe in the upstairs gallery. This pairing works particularly well because both artists imagine the contemporary city as a kind of modernist black and white geometry where buildings, signs, wires and in the case of Wolfe, birds, suggest a waltz between the natural and the man-made worlds.


But the most serendipitous commonality between the two is the vertical infinite suggested by Wolf’s giveaway project, “Ephemera,” a stack of multiples showing a flock of birds in flight, and Flick’s horizontal infinite suggested by his strings of video stills collaged together as horizontal streams of imagery. Wolfe’s infinite bird flight and Flick’s infinite urban chaos make a wonderful point-counterpoint, the one full of uplift and optimism and beauty, the other imbued with a kind of anxiety that supposes infinite chaos held at bay by the slimmest of means.

(top image is Flick’s “LD SV9704031 Along Speedway,” 1997 Kodak Ultra Endura print, 46 x 30 inches)

339 Gallerist Martin McNamara told me that Flick mounts a video camera in his car and shoots film which he then distills into the horizontal arrays. The color works have a watery stagger like an ice cube tray half melting. There are some works in black and white that have a different kind of poetry going on, something more like drawing — or cartooning even — where each panel is separated by a white frame and the whole is read as a kind of paragraph or story. The color sequences have a more straight from the camera to the page feel — little cinematic outtakes without dialog or music.


I ran into Wolfe, age 31, when I was at the gallery. And the bouncy, energetic artist who teaches at Drexel told me this story about the pink posters and why, for example, they are folded and not flat, something I thought made for an interesting wrinkle in the stack but I couldn’t imagine why he wanted them wrinkled — the image is so pristine and elegant.

As with many things, the story involves serendipitous coincidence and some light bulb going off as a result. Wolfe was in Italy and noticed that everywhere he turned the Italian men were reading a pink newspaper. Pink? Italian macho men reading something pink? Turns out the paper was “La Gazetta dello Sport.” Who knows why it is pink…probably branding like the Financial Times which is also pink, although a pale pink in comparison to this.


Anyway, Wolf came back to Philadelphia and noticed that you could get the pink paper here at a newsstand at 18th and Walnut — in Italian — in what looked to be today’s edition! This piqued his interest and he decided to pursue the pink paper tracing its American printer to a place on Long Island. He approached the printer who was initially flumoxed at Wolfe’s request to print his image on the pink newsprint. But Wolfe persisted and the printer agreed to do a run of the artist’s image — as if it were 5,000 copies of the Gazetta, a 28-page paper. So what Wolf got was his image, printed and folded just like the Italian sports news. Wolf said he and his friend Isaac sat up all night and unfolded their pink newspapers and stacked them as you see them in the gallery.

(the two images of the “Ephemera” stacks are documentary photos by Wolfe. That’s why they’re so crisp and wonderful unlike my near-miss snapshots.)

More publishing news
Wolf self-produced a catalog of his show, and the book, “Thirty One,” is a beauty. It comes out under Wolfe’s new imprint title, “Daiyume Press” which means big dreams in Japanese the artist told me.
And run over this weekend to the gallery for Stuart Rome‘s book signing. Yes, his new book “Forest” is ready. And the artist will be signing books Saturday, Oct. 8, 1 pm-4 pm. This is another gorgeous book published by Nazraeli. See my post on Rome’s show at 339 this summer — that show included the forest works. And by the way, Rome’s got an upcoming exhibit in New York at Sepia International gallery (the tentative dates for the show are November 4, 2005 – January 28, 2006 according to the gallery).