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Robert Gober at Glenstone Museum

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Rive Gauche, Rive Droite

Let's begin at the beginning. My parents are currently enjoying their "the last kid left the nest" second honeymoon in Paris, and while my mother traipses around the city taking ballet classes and tasting brie, chatting fluently all the while with the locals, my dad happily stays behind the lens of a digital SLR, following signs and getting by with 'Bonjour' and 'Merci.' Let's just say I take after my father.

So, when I came across JRP’s most recent addition to their pocket sized HAPAX series, Rive Gauche Rive Droite, I took pause. In addition to the strange Dorota Jurczak painting on the cover, the French title momentarily threw me for a loop. Thankfully, that year of French came rushing back to me, and it’s simple actually; "Rive Gauche" means "Left Bank", and "Rive Droite" means "Right Bank."

But to what do these locations refer? And why is Marc Jancou, curator of the eponymous exhibition, invoking them? These banks refer to Paris’ banks of the Seine. The Rive Gauche, the southern bank of the river, evokes an artistic, bohemian Paris, whose cafes, once inhabited by the likes of Matisse, Hemingway, Picasso, Apollinaire, and Rousseau, are still patronized by artists and writers today. The Rive Droite, however, is associated with central Paris, and a more affluent, modern culture, with the boutiques and sushi restaurants on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and the jewelers and hotels of the Rue de la Paix.

In his afterword to the book, Jancou explains, "It is only July, and yet my mind has leapt forward to September, to Paris, where I will present 27 artists are six exhibition sites on both banks of the Seine. In my mind, I play with the six sites like a game of Monopoly; I fit them together like Lego bricks, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Counted altogether, I have the largest exhibition space in the city to play with."

This book holds a treasure trove of images from the exhibition, which was held in 6 venues around these two riverbanks, and which included nearly 150 works by German, British, and American contemporary artists. The bulk of this little book takes the form of a "Questionnaire" by Marc Jancou and Loniel Bovier; each one of the 12 questions is answered by multiple artists. The following excerpt includes a selection of answers to the first set of questions posed by Jancou and Bovier in the book: "What are the cultural and artistic references in your work? What are you currently reading, looking at, and listening to?" Their answers follow.

Rive Gauche, Rive Droite Excerpts
Sterling Ruby, ACTS/KKDETHZ, 2009

Sterling Ruby: My references vary quite a bit. It’s possible that I am an autobiographical artist, one that only accepts cultural and artistic influences that have some relationship to my own demeanor or attitudes; perhaps that is everyone though. This confused list includes: marginalized societies, maximum security prisons, modernist architecture, artifacts and antiquities, graffiti, the mechanisms of warfare, urban gangs, pre-op versus post-op transexuals,, the Lockheed Stealth F–22 Raptor, America’s Juvenile Correction system (or the absolute lack thereof). Also, Tony Smith, Ronald Bladen, Richard Misrach’s Violent Legacies, Cai Guo-Qiang, Los Angeles County Museum’s The Spritual In Art: Abstract Painting from1890–1985, Anselm Kiefer, Josh Smith, Rebecca Warren, Judy Chicago, Squeaky Fromme’s embroidery, the Rodarte sisters …

I am still listening to Lil Boosie’s Superbad album that was released last year, still waiting for Young Buck’s The Rehab to be released.

Still re-reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest … post-suicide, Dennis Cooper’s “God Jr,” Louis Kahn’s Essential Texts, Robert Jay Lifton’s Super Power Syndrome, Jerold Kreiman’s I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me, Robert S. Nelson and Margaret Olin’s Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade, and Mike Davis’ Planet of Slums: Urban Involution and the Informal Working Class

Rive Gauche, Rive Droite Excerpts
Ross Chisholm, Urn, 2010

Ross Chisholm: Over the last few years I’ve been looking at and using 18th-century painting, more specifically, the British society portraiture of people such as Gainsborough, Romney, and Reynolds. Although, recently, perhaps in a timely fashion, I’ve also been looking more at Fragonard and other old masters. Also, found cultural artifacts such as slides and old familial Super-8footage fascinate me, mostly gathered from car boot sales and flea markets.

I’m reading Painting for Money: The Visual Arts and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century England by David Solkin, as well as attempting Lefebvre and Canguilhelm. Borges’ Fictions holds a special interest for me, especially “Pierre Ménard, Author of the Quixote.” W.G. Sebald and Alan Moore are writers I admire. I’m listening to Alva Noto, Acid Mothers Temple, Gallon Drunk, while looking at the Sloane Museum in London, Russian Art, Kippenberger, as well as Blake’s prints for Songs and Book of Job.

Rive Gauche, Rive Droite Excerpts
Carter, The Past 100 Years, 2009

Carter: Truman Capote: Conversations; The Six Schizophrenias. A Clinical Study, published in 1954 (I like reading outdated material); The Perfect Medium, Photography and the Occult; House and Gardens Complete Guide to Interior Decorating, 1958; Flowers: Their Arrangement, 1940 (flowers arranged in 1940 are much different than contemporary flower arrangements). These are homosexual readings, which are much different than heterosexual readings.

Rive Gauche, Rive Droite Excerpts
Michael Bauer, MAARG VS. BOB, 2010

Michael Bauer: Mavi Isiklar: Ain´t that so // The Wickerman: OST // The Fall: Afro Ibis Man // Parasites of the Western World: Mo // Bobby Soxx: Hate in the 80s // Braque: Jeanette // Ghedalia: Tazartes // Mike Wilhel: Junko Partner // Gandalf: Can You Travel In the Dark Alone // Toncho Pilatos: Dejenla en paz // Tom Russel Band: Downtown Train // Bachdenkel: An Appointment with the Master // State Children: Control Mama // Willie Nelson: How Long Is Forever // Iron Knowledge: Showstopper // Boyd Rice + Frank Tovey: Extraction 2 // Master Musicians of Bukakke: People of Drifting Houses // Wendy Rene: Bar-B-Q // Jungle Jim: Big Fat Oranguman // Ballistic Kisses: Whose Mama Is This // Clipse: Dirty Money // Blair Petrie: Restaurant // Sheena Easton: For Your Eyes Only // Omar Soueyman: Shift Al Mani // Craig Leon: Donkeys Bearing Cups // Keith Cross and Peter Ross: The Dead Salute // Empirial Sleeping Consort: Dream Side I // Deep Jew: Master // Bacteria: Facce grigie // Mavi Isiklar: Kanamam // Stark Reality: Junkmans Song // Ike Reiko: Kokotsu no seka (LP) // AMM + Merzbow: For Ute // Chuck and Mac: Powerful Love

Rive Gauche, Rive Droite Excerpts
Justin Lieberman, The Corrector’s Custom Prefab House, 2009

Justin Lieberman: I guess references take a few forms in my work. The work is full of images, and these are mostly really accessible. My friend told me recently that she thought my work dealt with the popular. I agree. There is an aspect of my work though in which, to me, the references seem interchangeable sometimes. As though it doesn’t make much difference what the images are of. That is not the work’s content. You have to look a bit deeper for that than references. But there are a lot of other things I use constantly that inform the work’s structures, and those may be influences. The linguistic games of Raymond Roussel, the reactionary theatrics of Picabia, and the expanding frames of Marcel Broodthaers.

I like the band Killdozer. I like Les Rallizes De Nudes. My friends send me videos. I recently read a book called The Parallax View by Slavoj Žižek. Now I am reading a book of essays by the artist Jimmie Durham. These contain useful ideas. I read a lot of comic books. I watch Stephen King’s made-for-TV movies over and over. I have them all on video. My favorite one is Desperation. I have seen it 20 times or more, but I wouldn’t recommend it. An interesting thing about these movies, and his fiction as well, is how poorly he writes human interaction. It is utterly banal. Syrup. And for me personally, this brings a kind of existentialism to the violence and terror. It makes it seem more real. I doubt it has much to do with his intention, and this adds to it as well. Sometimes, advertisements make me cry, or enrage me, or depress me. Diesel Ads. Fuck those. I have been very influenced by certain attitudes and ideas of Jacques Vidal and Meredith James lately through conversation and looking at their work. Colleen Asper and C. Spencer Yeh are both incredibly perceptive and inventive artists.

Rive Gauche, Rive Droite Excerpts
Alexandra Bircken, Icarus Survivor, 2009

Alexandra Bircken: Cacti and Succulents: Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Success.

Rive Gauche, Rive Droite Excerpts
Ry Rocklen, On the Fourth Day, 2009

Ry Rocklen: I’m a big fan of the radio for its news and for science programs like Radiolab and Quirks and Quarks. I like learning about stuff while mindlessly assembling my sculptures. Currently I am reading Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet. The book is an autobiography and details the life of a man who is a high functioning autistic savant who sees numbers as shapes and can make very large calculations by envisioning the different shapes the numbers generate when they are combined.

Rive Gauche, Rive Droite Excerpts
Lucy Stein, Everything Rhymes with Your Condition, 2010

Lucy Stein: Having been an expat for over five years, I have become quite obsessed with British comedies like The Thick of it, Funland, Benidorm, Have I Got News for You, and so on. I like Ivor Cutler. I like fiddling around with word play and I’m always keen on artists who do the same, Hannah Wilke and Carolee Schneeman and Marlene Dumas being prime examples. They could all have been comedy writers in another life. I like things that could be trite but manage not to be. I love alapropisms and have recently been researching for a thesis on malapropism in painting as a way of breaking through the apparently hard to break seal of postmodern self-awareness. My love of humor, however, does not stop me from being critical of how much contemporary artists rest on it to deal with the push and pull of hubris and irrelevancy. It’s fun but it’s not enough.

Since last Christmas I’ve been reading only women authors as it hit me around then that I’d read only men for a long time. Joan Didion I read and re read, the sparseness and horror of it all is very appealing to me. She is the bravest female writer I know, spare and tough as Hemingway but she never relinquishes her femaleness, her witchiness. “I know something about despair.” (I’m talking pre The Year of Magical Thinking, when she was my age or thereabouts.) Slouching towards Bethlehem and Play it as it Lays … Susan Sontag’s The Volcano Lover struck a big chord recently with its sensitivity and warm heartedness toward its main characters, particularly the playful and charismatic singing for her supper but morally flawed Lady Hamilton of “attitudes” fame. She is the kind of female historical figure who fascinates me with her childlike beauty, shrewd and conquering intelligence and drink problem. The muse. My entire juvenilia was made up of a non-objective exploration of this stereotype in a way. Fear of Flying by Erica Jong is a wonderful book that gets a bad press and has taught me a lot about the danger of sloganeering. A work so literary should not only go down in the annals of history as the book that introduced the concept of the “zipless fuck.” I’ve been reading Nancy Mitford. Her barbed English tongue has touched a nerve lately. Mary Gaitskill is a brilliant writer but I’m not so keen on people who understand everything deeply but don’t have the will (or ego?) to try and make or change things and most of her characters are these kind of people so I find it all hard to love, plus it depresses me a lot, I think for sex reasons. Peggy Guggenheim’s autobiography is interesting as one starts off liking her and begins to dislike her exactly when one imagines her own self-loathing kicked in, it’s cleverly worked out by her. Before the watershed Christmas I was in a big love affair with D.H. Lawrence for a long time but I’ve had to reject him for a bit, he can be so mean. I listen to Yanka the Russian on repeat for fuzzed out flights over the freakish Atlantic. Dragostea din Tei for take off. I like to watch Gossip Girl with a nip or two of green chartreuse when I’m really stressed. I read Mira Schor when I need a bolster. When I’m at the gym I listen to Professor Robert Solomon on Nietzsche or existentialism, or Professor Kenneth Bartlett on the Renaissance. Or I listen to Hole! I look a lot at Soutine, Wyndham Lewis, Francis Bacon, Paul Nash, Alice Neel, Carroll Dunham, Nicole Eisenman, Amy Sillman, and Jakob Julian Ziowlkowski, who I think is what Deleuze was talking about when he envisaged “the future of painting” through Bacon.

Text excerpts and images are from Rive Gauche, Rive Droite. The blog's icon image is Charlie Hammond's Portrait as a Bunch of Rusty Keys, 2008.
Rive Gauche, Rive Droite

Rive Gauche, Rive Droite

Pbk, 4.25 x 6.5 in. / 160 pgs / 54 color.

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