Moments of Seeing the Signs at the Harwood, Magpie, Studio 107-B, and 203!

By: Bill Whaley
9 July, 2018

In our moment of frustration at the death of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” (see the extant fresco odes to justice upstairs in the old courthouse), due to the seemingly Trumpian triumph, borne of the tweet and supported by “resentment” (call it envidia), the slippery slope of despair and rise of hopelessness seems overwhelming. Yet at the moment when angered I remember this child’s parable, told by Stephen Vincent Benét in The Devil and Daniel Webster:

“Till, finally, it was time for him [Daniel Webster] to get up on his feet, and he did so, all ready to bust out with lightnings and denunciations. But before he started he looked over the judge and jury for a moment, such being his custom. And he noticed the glitter in their eyes was twice as strong as before, and they all leaned forward. Like hounds just before they get the fox, they looked, and the blue mist of evil in the room thickened as he watched them. Then he just as simple and easy as a man could talk. But he didn’t start out by condemning or reviling. He was talking about the things that make a country a country, and a man a man. And he began with the simple things that everybody’s known and felt— the freshness of a fine morning when you’re young, and the taste of food when you’re hungry, and the new day that’s every day when you’re a child.” (“Get thee behind me!”)

Further, as Walter Benjamin remarks in “One-Way street,” that “The moment is the Caudine Yoke [symbolic of surrender to wisdom to live and fight another day] beneath which fate must bow to the body…To turn the threatening future into a fulfilled now, the only desirable telepathic miracle, is a work of bodily presence in the mind…the naked body, with the most reliable instrument of divination…Each morning the day lies like a fresh shirt on our bed; incomparably fine, incomparably tightly woven tissue of pure prediction fits us perfectly.”

The hope for redemption from the madness and the dehumanization “springs” as Shakespeare said, “eternal.” And the Antidote, the cure for the curse…lies embodied in Bunel’s not so obscure objects of desire…

The master of “light and surface” at the Harwood, Larry Bell’s deep deciphering of color and shape in image and object hovers over the community as exemplary commitment to a lifetime of studio “investigations” ; all this spills over, like stereoscopic analogies onto Maye’s representative gallery at Studio 107-B on the Plaza, where objects of imagination and expression represent so many friends, and new art friendlies, while Georgia Gersh’s lively retrospective of Bill’s blasts from the past, so timeless in the abstract chaotic present currently show at Magpie, off the beaten track, where several shows running include also Peter Parks’ recent confrontational oils and water colors, expressions of paint and passion, the presence of Nora Anthony’s painterly Cow with attitude, “She can paint,” said Wagner; now Gersh, the buoyant vitalism unchained.

Magpie openings seem like homecoming as each presents “moments” of memory and focus among long-time friends that require the observer to see, really see through the chaff and detritus of a world (art and politics) gone mad. For Gersh, the mash artist opens up the raw human spirit, today seemingly reasonable and modest in pursuit of living well and wisely. And at Eric and Shawn’s 203 on Gusdorf the other day, Ron Lopez’s inventive and tangled recycled auto body parts reminded me of potential death at the hands of the infernal combustion machine from which I walked away.

Your observer bears his bias on the sleeve of memory: Maye’s grandfather, gave Whitey and Whaley their downtown Plaza start in the Living Room, circa 1969, (today’s Studio 107-B) back of Tano’s Fernandez de Taos, where Wagner, Nesbitt, and the unemployed working class drank up front each morning in ironic benediction. And Richard Trujillo, the poet of the street, eye-balled the passersby from the vantage point of the “Indian,” “Spanish” and the “Artist of Renown” in his poem “Gallery Town: Tano’s Bar.” The Vato Loco wrote, “But now there’s a sinister aroma/The stern features of a clown/That’s sneering at the foolishness/of an unhealthy joke/called Gallery Town.”

Yet one morning at the blue mail box on the Plaza, Saki, in his pink bathrobe, said, “I spent the night in conversation with that actor, who played the boxer…” Robert DeNiro? I asked. “Yes.” And the Taxi Driver on national television said: “Fuck Trump.” Richard might say, aqui en Taos, “Trump’s a puke.” And didn’t 203 inherit the mantle of Tally’s Contemporary Gallery of Art, aka  Saki’s “light ‘o love”?

At Georgia’s the spread of hors d’oeuvres seems remarkable because the venerable tradition misses only the sampler-attendee Lew (RIP), who haunted gallery openings’ table d’hôte. And one heard at Maye’s and Georgia’s the inevitable refrain, “Larry (or John Nichols) bought one…”

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