Stonescape

Breaking New Ground Underground

Works by: Vito Acconci, Ricci Albenda, Martin Barré, Jamie Isenstein, Gareth James, Daniel Lefcourt, Sam Lewitt, Scott Lyall, Lucy McKenzie, Jorge Pardo, Steven Parrino, Sean Paul, Eileen Quinlan , Jimmy Raskin, Blake Rayne, Sterling Ruby, Cheyney Thompson, Padraig Timoney, Alex Waterman.


Curation by Thea Westreich Art Advisory Services

Text by Ethan Wagner

The second exhibition in the Art Cave at STONESCAPE features artists who, in their conceptual approaches, use of materials, and extraordinary creativity, have broken important new ground — most during the present decade of radically changing economic and cultural values. All works on view are from the collection of Norman and Norah Stone.

GALLERY 1

The first work to be seen, in Gallery 1 just beyond the Art Cave’s entrance, is Jorge Pardo’s installation of hanging light sculptures (Untitled, 2004). This twenty-one-piece work was first seen at Pardo’s Mountain Bar in downtown Los Angeles, and was later featured in Pardo’s retrospective exhibitions at MOCA North Miami and MOCA Cleveland in 2007 and 2008, respectively. As installed by the artist, the richly colored, creature-like objects seem to inhabit their space more than simply hang from the ceiling. Nearby is another of Pardo’s light sculptures (Untitled, 2007), a crouching figure from a group of like-kind sculptures, each of which is patterned after one of the artist’s studio colleagues (Brian, in this particular piece).

Through the scrim of social interaction, Pardo’s work is at the interstices of architecture, design, decoration and sculpture. The artist first gained wide international recognition with his work, Pier, a functional wooden pier installed on a lake in Münster for the 1997 sculpture exhibition there. He is also well known for 4166 Sea View Lane, an innovative house that he built and inhabited in East Los Angeles that is now part of LA MOCA’s permanent collection.

Over recent years, in a studio full of lasers and other high-tech equipment, Pardo has fabricated an impressive array of functional objects (chests of drawers, beds, lamps, tables, chairs) that stretch the very definition of design, and an equally formidable range of art works (paintings, drawings and collages) that challenge the conventions of each genre.

GALLERY 2

On the wall to the left of Pardo’s crouching sculpture, in Gallery 2, is a word painting by Ricci Albenda (you’re greedy, and you’re selfish., 2009). The phrase had been in Albenda’s mind for several years before the Stones presciently commissioned the painting just as the U.S. economy began to collapse.

At first glance the letters in Albenda’s painting appear to all be black, but a closer look reveals the subtle shade of difference from one letter to the next — in effect, a rainbow of blacks all in a type face of the artist’s own graphic invention. Albenda is highly regarded for his word paintings, which key off pre-determined color schematics, and for his reductive sculptures, which offer up optical interpretations (as through a fisheye lens) of minimal architectural spaces.

A few years ago he completed a trompe l’oeil painting that covers an entire wall in the lobby of the Hyatt Center in Chicago. And just recently he installed a large number of works that are on public view in the Richard Meier-designed Dallas house of noted art collectors Howard and Cindy Rachofsky.

Albenda is fascinated by the potential he sees in language, color and space, and he pursues each of these areas with a high degree of refinement and originality, producing works that alter how we perceive the world around us.

On the freestanding wall that separates the Cave’s second gallery from the large third gallery, hangs a masterwork by Steven Parrino (3 Units Aluminum Death Shifter, 1992). Parrino died tragically in a motorcycle accident in 2005, just as his accomplishment as an artist was gaining long-deserved recognition. In 2006 he was given a solo exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain in Geneva, and was included in the Whitney Biennial in New York. The following year he had a solo exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

Parrino employed a limited palette, frequently black and silver. As exemplified by the work on view in the Art Cave, his paintings are often roughly folded, with cleft surfaces that address the ‘death of painting,’ a notion that had wide currency in the 1980s and 90s. As well, the paintings express the artist’s hostility toward an art world that mostly ignored him during his lifetime. As has been noted by several critics, in Parrino’s aggressive manipulations of canvas (and in his stunning drawings and collages) can be seen the influence of Kazimir Malevich, Lucio Fontana, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol, along with the films of Kenneth Anger, Punk music and underground culture.

To the right of Parrino’s large three-panel painting is a small but powerful work on canvas (67-A-Z, 1967) by the extraordinarily innovative and rigorous French painter, Martin Barré. It is one of Barré’s ‘bombe’ or spray can paintings, radically reductive works that took their inspiration — though manifested obliquely — from the political graffiti seen on the streets of Paris in the turbulent 1950s and 60s.

Barré worked in series throughout most of his career, using subtle paint colors of his own making, canvases formatted on the golden section, and a steadfast desire to rid his work of the two-dimensional ‘figure-ground,’ the ‘over-under’ problem that bedeviled abstract painters who preceded him.

While Barré’s paintings hang in the Pompidou and other museums in France and Europe, he is still not well known in the U.S. Nevertheless, his practice has been an inspiration to a number of young American artists, three of whom (Sean Paul, Blake Rayne and Cheyney Thompson) have their work on exhibition in Gallery 3.

Sitting squarely near the center of Gallery 2 is a monolithic sculpture by Sterling Ruby (Big Grid/DACSKKKK, 2008). On its sleek Formica surface can be seen faint marks of street graffiti, a recurring element or instigation in Ruby’s wide-ranging practice.

Ruby’s oeuvre, though less than ten years in the making, is as diverse as it is ambitious. He employs unconventional materials, such as plastic urethane, Formica, fired clay and nail polish, as well as spray paint and photographic equipment to produce sculptures, paintings, performance videos, photographs, drawings and collages. His individual pieces, no matter the medium, set off on their own, purposefully confronting a world overloaded with images and information. And through all is a sense or feeling of dereliction, aggressiveness, transience, Punk, Goth and a downright expressive messiness.

Holding a prominent place in Gallery 2, as it did in the Art Cave’s opening exhibition in 2007, is an important sculpture by Vito Acconci (Adjustable Wall Bra, 1990). This playful, brassiere-shaped work is tied to the Cave’s architecture, literally and figuratively: affixed to the walls by steel cables, it can be viewed as being worn by the Cave, a sensation heightened by its audio component — the sounds of breathing — which can be heard when standing directly in front of or behind the sculpture.

Acconci, of course, has an established place in Art History. He first became known in the 1970s for his radically confrontational live and video performances, and later for his deeply moving, gruff-voiced poetry readings. Acconci’s accomplishments in the field of interactive sculpture (of which Adjustable Wall Bra is a prime example) and in experimental architecture (which includes highly original parks, plazas and small buildings) have also made an historical mark.

Finishing out Gallery 2, and emblematic of the reductive means of expression that tie together the works here, is Daniel Lefcourt’s opaque sculpture/painting (Arbitration (Further Negotiation), 2007).

This is one of a widely exhibited and written about group of works that Lefcourt has been making since 2006. As with the others in this series, it is formatted along the lines of a newspaper page and, in fact, was inspired by photographs and text fragments about a political scandal the artist came across online.

If at first it appears somewhat visually similar to Frank Stella’s early black paintings, any likeness ends there. While Stella famously said about his paintings, ‘What you see is what you see,’ Lefcourt might say about these slyly evocative works, ‘What you see is what you don’t see.’ Lefcourt’s 2007 work conveys a message of redaction and censorship, and can be read as a commentary on the prevailing American politics of that time.

GALLERY 3

The works on view in the third gallery, the Art Cave’s largest space in its present configuration, are by a group of artists that share closely allied attitudes and approaches in their art-making practices. In fact, they are all friendly with one another; two went to art school together; three have adjoining studio spaces; one mentored another in art school; three are the principals in ‘Scorched Earth,’ a discussion and print project critiquing the practice of drawing; and several are represented by the same galleries. Moreover, these artists, in addition to others on view at STONESCAPE, are emerging as among the most important creative talents of their time. Of note, when Scott Lyall and Sean Paul installed the works in Gallery 3 of the Art Cave in April 2009, it marked the very first time these artists were shown together in a non-commercial exhibition space. (Another artist who is considered part of this group, Eileen Quinlan, has work on view in Gallery 4.)

Whether the viewer enters Gallery 3 from the left or from the right of the Parrino painting, one of the key works that comes into view is Scott Lyall’s large, architectonic floor sculpture (a dancer dances I, 2006), which simultaneously points to adjacent works, demarcates the gallery and leads the viewer through the space.

With its pink and white alternating stripes of Styrofoam and MDF board, Lyall’s piece references the brilliant French conceptual artist, Daniel Buren, whose iconographic minimal striped works now constitute an important chapter in art history. While Buren positioned his work in relation to architecture outside of the museum or gallery space, Lyall signals a different intentionality, one shared by the artists in Gallery 3 — to once again favor the object within the institutional setting.

The ephemera and junk elements in Lyall’s work, such as the gold sequins and flattened muffin cups, suggest literal meaning and relationships, but any such reading is soon undermined by the abstract scenographic or stage-like effect presented by the artist. The four compact bulbs, each strategically placed throughout the Art Cave, are an extension of this theatrical sensibility. As with his Gallery 3 compatriots, Lyall occludes easy interpretation in favor of a setting that calls for further contemplation from the viewer.

Linked to Lyall’s sculpture, both formally and conceptually, is his computer-derived drawing (a single man, asm 2063, 2007) (placed low on the reverse side of Parrino’s painting wall). In this work, inspired by a similarly titled Christopher Isherwood novel, the artist flattens three-dimensional space onto a single plane using mathematical formulas derived from the flow of a lava lamp.

On exhibition in Gallery 3 are a number of works by Sean Paul. Occupying the same wall as the Lyall drawing, above and to its left, are three black ‘paintings;’ above and to the right is one blue ‘painting’ (I Never Said Yes (one blue fabric painting), 2006) and a poster announcing a two-person gallery show Paul had with Michael Krebber in Paris in 2007. The suite of black ‘paintings’ (I Never Said Yes (six black fabric paintings), 2006) continues on the adjacent wall.

Though designated paintings, Paul’s black monochromatic works are in actuality made of fabric — silk (with a twill weave) stretched to various degrees of tautness on clear pine chassis. Indexicality is one of the main arcs of Paul’s art-making project (as it was with Martin Barré and is with Cheyney Thompson). But in these works Paul points beyond the subtle differences of the paintings themselves to the use of the fabric in the context of fashion, as a designer dress, perhaps. In this way the artist indicates the human figure in completely abstract works.

Deeper in this reference to fashion, it can be said that Paul is raising questions about systems of value — illusory values if you will — in the art world and in our culture. Likewise, in his playful balloon sculpture (I Never Said Yes (Paris Match #2973), 2006) there is the suggestion that popular trends are fleeting and disposable and can simply float away.

In his other sculptural work on view in Gallery 3 (I Never Said Yes (Cameras), 2006), Paul placed three 35 mm Minoltas (the artist’s first camera was this same X-700 model) on an elegant glass table, one exposed and the other two somewhat hidden in opaque Plexiglas boxes. Paul once said about the cameras in this piece that they are ‘a snare for intentions and images and memories,’ a comment that is equally revealing about his work in general.

At first glance, Blake Rayne’s large vertical painting (Untitled Painting Number 4, 2008), which hangs on the same wall as Paul’s three black ‘paintings,’ dissuades impression. His work, too, demands greater contemplation, possessed as it is of deep meanings and associations, and devoid of bluster.

One way into the paintings is through the making. Rayne sprays muted colors onto the exposed surface of folded strips of primed linen, and then sews the unfolded horizontal panels together to create the vertical whole. In this and other recent work, he has incorporated shipping crates as a nod to notions of display, transport, commercial transaction and storage.

In his full gallery installations Rayne has used these stained and varnished shipping crates, along with other devices (film projectors, photographs, colored frames and even the gallery’s operating hours) to demarcate space, set up correspondences, and reference the work’s broader socioeconomic context.

As with other artists in Gallery 3, Rayne has looked to writers and painters from France, in Rayne’s case Simon Hantai and Martin Barré among the painters, to help find a way forward for painterly abstraction, not by answering questions, but rather by unfolding possibilities.

On Gallery 3’s north wall, almost diagonally across from the Rayne, are two paintings by Cheyney Thompson, (Linen (CY/Y), 2006) and (Chromachrome 14 (5B/5YR) column, 2009). The titles reference aspects of these works, such as the linen used as the subject of one, and the column shape used to format the other.

Color is also referenced in the titles. For the dark painting Thompson imposed the chromatic scale of digital printing (where C=cyan, M=magenta, Y=yellow and K=black) as a kind of algorithm for color determination. In the more recent painting the artist employed A.H. Munsell’s color system, developed in the early 1900s, as the set code through which the scintillating, yet unexpected, combination of contrasting colors was derived.

In these two different but similar works, Thompson has turned the painting’s surface into its subject. In other words, he has fused image (linen, the weave of which is greatly enlarged) and support (linen), thus offering a radical conceptual rejoinder to painting’s age-old issue of spatial depth, or ‘figure-ground.’ Interestingly, Martin Barré explored the same gap in 1969 when he photographed specific spaces inside an art gallery and then hung his photos in those very places.

The artists in Gallery 3 mostly developed their individual art-making practices during this decade, a time when years of over-the-top profligacy resulted in devastating economic collapse. As with his colleagues, Thompson takes dead aim at this ‘fine kettle of fish.’ In his paintings, sculptures, lithographs, drawings and installations, he has critiqued notions of how capitalistic values are legitimized through display, and how warped economic and political conditions have a way of insidiously infiltrating neighborhoods and, for that matter, art galleries.

On the floor near Thompson’s paintings is a sculpture by the writer/educator/conversationalist/artist Gareth James (Untitled, 2008), and there is a bit of a story there. Over a period of a year or so James regularly walked by the wrecked bike in the sculpture, which during that time was chained to a light stanchion on a New York City street. Finally deciding to steal the bike — an irresistible object for an artist with an anthropological bent — he sought the help of a nearby locksmith, and the bike was his. The photo in his sculpture is a stand-in for the light stanchion.

In this and other works, James draws the viewer’s attention to the exchange value of art and invests new meaning in objects exhausted of value, all the while lacing his work with doses of dark humor.

In 2005, James presented a group of sculptures in New York that he made by cutting and folding sheets of blue drafting paper, origami-like, into recognizable objects — a violin, and architectural structures among them. Each of the objects sat on sheets of reflective Plexiglas atop plinths of bubble wrap. The sculptures were based upon published photographs that documented arcane but resonant historical sociopolitical situations.

No aspect of James’s art is without meaning, a result of the considered conceptual approach he takes in its making. The blue of the paper used by James in the 2005 sculptures, for instance, is like the blue of bluescreen employed by Hollywood to composite actors over another background. James used color in these works not as decoration but as content, setting up the fictions of Hollywood as a referent to deeper concerns about today’s ‘realities.’

Sam Lewitt’s artwork (Art should be . . . etc., 2008) occupies the far wall of Gallery 3. Mounted on aluminum in a Plexiglas vitrine is a chromogenic print of the MGM logo, absent the film company’s famous lion. Inscribed in Latin on the digitally manipulated photograph of painted film stock is ‘Ars Gratia Artis’ or ‘Art for art’s sake.’ On a shelf to the left are two coins of ‘antique gold.’ Imprinted on each is that missing MGM lion, encircled by the Latin terms ‘Tertium Comparationis’ — ‘Equivalence itself of two terms in a third,’ and ‘Res Ipsa Loquitus’ — ‘The thing speaks for itself.’

Linguistically and materially these objects signify legitimacy and value, but only if taken on faith. The MGM logo was developed in the 1920s — an economic time that reverberates today — and since then its promise of a ‘pure art’ has hardly been sustained if, indeed, it ever had any credence at all. As well, the coins of ‘antique gold,’ the classic hedge in times of crisis, are actually made of a cheap, almost valueless brass alloy.

It is difficult not to be held in thrall by the sheer beauty, elegance and precision of Lewitt’s installations. But, as the clues and associations embedded in his work reveal themselves, the viewer is confronted by the grim reality of today’s value systems.

Though Lewitt has been exhibiting for only a few years, he has facilely managed to integrate a remarkable number of media of representation in his work, including drawing, calligraphy, books, newspaper ads, graphic design and film. Moreover, by shifting and rescaling these media and by establishing a rapport between the image and its support he, like other artists exhibiting this year at STONESCAPE, is breaking new ground and breathing new life into contemporary art.

GALLERY 4

The four-wall room installation in Gallery 4 is a major work by Lucy McKenzie (Untitled (Walls 1-4), 2008), the Scottish-born, Brussels-based artist who is widely recognized for her highly innovative approach to art making. The work was first exhibited in the fall of 2008 at MoMA, New York. In its first incarnation it contained individual works by McKenzie and decorative elements, such as textiles, a stenciled rug, and a faux-suede curtain made by McKenzie colleagues Beca Lipscombe and Bernie Reid. (The photographs by Eileen Quinlan on the interior walls in this incarnation of the work were placed there at McKenzie’s suggestion, and are described below.)

McKenzie’s installation conveys the presence of turn-of-the-century décor. The marble and Art Nouveau-inspired wood paneling are painted in trompe l’oeil, a skill McKenzie developed with great acumen in an intensive study program she undertook earlier last year at the Van Der Kelen Institute (founded in 1882) for decorative painting in Brussels. Entering McKenzie’s space is like walking into a scene where the boundaries between art and design, past and present, and artist and artisan have been collapsed.

In confident conceptual strokes, often with explicit references to architecture and decoration, McKenzie challenges the politics of representation — especially History’s portrayal of women — and the way in which skills are valued in today’s art world. She incorporates painting, printmaking, drawing and public performance into her practice, and has an open-armed attitude towards working collaboratively. Indeed, there is an abiding social aspect to her thinking, at times revealed by the appearance of her friends in her artwork. (One of McKenzie’s early collaborators, Paulina Olowska, has works on view in the Stones’ farmhouse, and two friends once pictured in a painting, Eileen Quinlan and Cheyney Thompson, each have works presently on exhibition in the Art Cave.)

The suite of photographs hanging on Lucy McKenzie’s trompe l’oeil walls, as noted above, is by Eileen Quinlan (Smoke and Mirrors #22C, 2007). Quinlan has been exhibited internationally in one-person and group shows, has work in important museum collections (including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art), and was recently given a one-person exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston — all during the scant four years she has been exhibiting since receiving her MFA in 2005.

In her Smoke and Mirrors photographs, with paucity of means and no digital intervention, Quinlan has created illusion without hiding the facts of each work. Put another way, in these fractured, abstract images, she has cleaved a place for thought somewhere between obfuscation and clarity.

In more recent bodies of work, Quinlan has gradually employed other elements (gels, strobe lights, wrinkled leather, and the grooved boards widely used in the display of retail merchandise) to educe a seemingly endless range of possibilities and ravishing atmospheres. She is counted today among a handful of young studio practitioners who, by continuing to amplify photography’s power to form impressions, are forestalling any thought that the medium has run its course.

GALLERY 5

The full room installation in Gallery 5 is by Jimmy Raskin (The Confession #1 (with Pinn, Documentarian, The Performer, The Pro-logue), 2007). The work is comprised of many elements: the first that comes into view, mounted on a free standing wall, is a black, cartoon-like head with a large cone nose; on the other side of this wall is a video projection of Raskin, speaking to his audience; across from the video are drawings, diagrams and collages; on the side walls white curtains help set the stage for the artist as the documentarian.

Central to Raskin’s work are existential questions of possibility: can one’s journey through life be made meaningful, and is there room in this world for the poet/artist? For more than a decade now, Raskin has pondered such questions, all the while fixated on the prologue to Friedrich Nietzsche’s parable, ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra.’ A familiarity with Nietzsche’s story and characters makes the elements in Raskin’s installation that much more comprehensible. For instance, several of his small-scale works on the back wall relate to the character of the tightrope walker (the human on the road to enlightenment) who, after being upset during a performance by a jester, falls to his death and is carried off into the forest and placed in a hollow tree by Zarathustra. Raskin resuscitates him in the form of ‘Pinn’ (the artist’s nickname for the cartoon-like head), the tightrope walker’s alter ego. For Raskin, the fall of the tightrope walker makes creation and meaning possible.

Raskin’s video, though layered with metaphor, can be taken on its own. In poetic form, it is a confession of vulnerability and a commentary on creative expression. Raskin might exclaim, as Zarathustra did, ‘I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.’

Approaching the Art Cave’s exit is the final work on view in this year’s installation, Sean Paul’s digitally printed images (Untitled, 2007) that bend to the architectural curve of the Cave’s wall. The primary image pictured here is chocolate bars, but it is an ambivalent image that could just as easily be read as gold bars — amusingly different value systems. The other image is a partial floor plan of the Armory Show, another contrivance of allocated value.

Even through its mode of presentation Paul’s piece questions signifiers of value — can a jpeg burned onto a CD, as this is, have efficacy as an exhibition print? And, further, how is an artwork made material at a time when a global audience, no longer the small group of elites of times past, sees images more often in cyberspace than in situ? In Scott Lyall’s view, one shared by Paul and other artists on exhibition in Gallery 3, present-day circumstances call for work that is ‘symbologenic,’ or work in which the very method of its making, its conceptual underpinning, can itself be externalized into the broader world.

COTTAGE

For the present and future installations at STONESCAPE, the Cottage (just down the road from the Cady Noland Log Cabin) has been turned into a one-room exhibition space, inaugurated this year with an installation by Jamie Isenstein (Acéphal Magical and Saw the Lady, 2007).

Acéphal Magical is a two-channel video: on one screen, a magician dressed in a tuxedo with a top hat (seemingly in place of his head) plays a melody on a saw; on the other screen, musical notes come from water-filled bottles, the result of air blown across their openings by an oscillating fan. The installation’s other work, a performance piece/sculpture titled Saw the Lady, is the classical magician’s box used to create the illusion of a body (Isenstein’s) sawed in half, except that in this box the cut point separates the head (reason?) from the body (intuition?). Acéphal, from the ancient Greek word meaning ‘headless,’ happens to have been the name of Georges Bataille’s secret society, whose symbol was a decapitated man. Legend has it that the society went defunct, not because it could not find a member to sacrifice his head — all were said to volunteer — but because it could not get a member to be the executioner.

In Isenstein’s performance pieces, which are central to her practice and already in her young career well-known, the artist spares no amount of physical effort and personal discomfort to captivate the viewer. In a work exhibited at MoMA’s P.S.1 in 2005, Isenstein wedged herself within a narrow wall space so that the viewer could only see her hand sticking up into an oval frame, moving ever so slightly hour after hour. In a work from 2006, she transformed herself each day all day long into a winged chair, with her legs serving as the chair’s two front legs and her arms as its arms — the rest of her body was tucked into the upholstery. In a show at the Hammer Museum in 2007, Isenstein played the part of an ‘Egress,’ an exotic bird of her own imagination. When not performing, Isenstein typically hangs a ‘Will Return’ sign on these kinds of works.

Isenstein’s mode of conflating animate with inanimate has a fresh look, lively humor and a bit of the absurd. But, deeper within is a deadly serious commentary on our own physicality, absence and presence, and the human impulse to persist . . . to live.

WATERMAN PATH

In the early 1990s Cady Noland’s Log Cabin Blank with Screw Eyes and Café Door (Memorial to John Caldwell), a politically charged outdoor sculpture, was permanently installed at STONESCAPE. (Drawings by Noland that relate to this work are on view in the Art Cave, in the vestibule across from the washrooms.) In 2007 James Turrell’s pool and pavilion were completed, adding to the property two beautifully reductive spaces for contemplation. This year another permanent work has been installed at STONESCAPE, a musical/sound piece by Alex Waterman. (Norman and Norah Stone have named the walk along which the sound piece is installed ‘Waterman Path,’ to honor this remarkable young experimental musician and improviser.)

Waterman studied at the New England Conservatory and Oberlin College of Music, took his Masters at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, and is pursuing his PhD at New York University. A brilliant cellist, Waterman has worked with numerous musicians internationally, and has made music for ballet and modern dance companies throughout Europe. He has curated exhibitions on experimental music and poetics and on graphic notation, and with designer Will Holder is currently writing a book about the composer Robert Ashley. He is a founding member of the Plus Minus Ensemble, an avant-garde experimental music group based in Brussels and London, and performs with the Either/Or Ensemble in New York.

Waterman’s composition for STONESCAPE, The Ballad of Accounting, is an instrumentalization, with cello added, of sounds emanating from New York’s Brooklyn-Queens Expressway that were recorded by the artist. The piece can be heard from speakers that have been placed alongside the walking path that connects the Art Cave to the farmhouse. Waterman says the composition ‘takes the monstrosity of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and attempts to tune it, cancel it out, filter it and finally listen to it as quasi-natural white noise’ — at which point, on the path just beyond the farmhouse, the sounds of STONESCAPE (birds, people, machinery) and of Highway 29 below join in to complete the musical experience.

Waterman’s composition takes its inspiration, and its title, from a song written by Ewan MacColl in 1964. Both are works of consciousness-raising and protest. Indeed, the BQE, near which Waterman and several of his artist-friends from Gallery 3 live and work, has a contemptible history of uprooting residents, tearing apart neighborhoods, and affecting all who live along its course with noise pollution and punishingly unhealthy air.

The lyrics written by Ewan MacColl forty-five years ago — words that inspired Alex Waterman’s creation — somehow resonate in much of the work seen in this year’s installation at STONESCAPE:

We wandered through our days as if they would never end:

All of us imagined we had endless time to spend; We hardly saw the crossroads and small attention gave To landmarks on the journey from the cradle to the grave. Cradle to the grave, cradle to the grave.

Back to the top