Choosing Vegetables: A Faux Exercise of Taste

wrong-1967 Baldessari

In his work, John Baldessari continually challenges notions of beauty and disregards conventional rules of what is “right” and “wrong” when it comes to art –his piece Wrong comes to mind, a photograph in which he purposefully defies the rules of photography and composition. His artwork urges the viewer to question these rules, for example in his series Choosing (A Game for Two Players), where he plays with personal perceptions of beauty (David Salle calls it a “faux exercise of taste”)

The game is simple: one player arranges three samples of the same vegetable in a line  (eg. three green beans), the second player is asked to choose the “best” of the three, based on his/her own aesthetic criteria. That lucky bean moves on to the next round where it is placed next to two new beans, and again player two is asked to pick a favourite, and so on. Meanwhile, the exercise is recorded in a series of photographs where we can see the player’s fingertip pointing at the chosen vegetable. The absurd game just goes to show that taste is subjective and there are no universal rules for beauty, be it a turnip, a person, or a work of art, we should not conform to conventional standards.

Baldessari Choosing Green Beans 1972

Choosing (A Game for Two Players): Green Beans. 1971

John Baldessary Choosing: Carrots 1972

Choosing (A Game for Two Players): Carrots. 1972

Choosing: Turnips

Choosing (A Game for Two Players): Turnips, 1971-72

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Paradise Regained

Duane Michals, Paradise regained, 1968 2

Paradise Regained. Duane Michals. 1968


The Impressionist

By Adelia Prado

On one occasion,
my father painted the whole house
a brilliant orange.
We lived for a long time in a house,
as he said himself,
eternally dawning.

Sun on the Easel, 1968 Giorgio de chirico

Sun on the Easel. Giorgio de Chirico. 1968.

 


The Salty Tears of a Roach

The Passion According to G.H. (1964) is a disturbing and shocking novel by Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector. Set in Rio de Janeiro, it tells the story of a wealthy woman, G.H, who encounters a cockroach in the service quarters of her apartment. The occurrence leads to a nervous breakdown and an existential crisis and ends in our heroine eating a part of the roach…

“The roach is an ugly and sparkling being. The roach is the other way around. No, no, it doesn’t have a way around: it is that. Whatever is exposed in it is what I hide in me: from my outside being exposed I made my unheeded inside. It was looking at me. And it wasn’t a face. It was a mask. A diver’s mask. That precious gem of rusted iron. Its two eyes were alive like two ovaries. It was looking at me with the blind fertility of its gaze. It was fertilizing my dead fertility. Would its eyes be salty? If I touched them — since I was gradually getting more and more unclean — if I touched them with my mouth, would they taste salty?
I’d already tasted in my mouth a man’s eyes and, from the salt in my mouth, realized he was crying.
But, thinking about the salt in the roach’s black eyes, suddenly I recoiled again, and my dry lips pulled back to my teeth: the reptiles that move across the earth! In the halted reverberation of the light of the room, the roach was a small slow crocodile. The dry and vibrating room. The roach and I posed in that dryness as on the dry crust of an extinct volcano. That desert I had entered, and also inside it I was discovering life and its salt.”

Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas by Graciela Iturbide

Our Lady of the Iguanas. Juchitán, México. Graciela Iturbide. 1979.

Eating a Banana. Sarah Lucas. 1990.

Eating a Banana. Sarah Lucas. 1990.


Inside the Artist’s Studio: Helen Frankenthaler

I love these stunning photographs of Helen Frankenthaler amongst her paintings in her New York City studio. Photographed by Gordon Parks for LIFE magazine ca. 1956:

Helen Frankenthaler sitting amidst her art in her New York City studio. Photographed by Gordon Parks for LIFE magazine ca. 1956 2Helen Frankenthaler sitting amidst her art in her New York City studio. Photographed by Gordon Parks for LIFE magazine ca. 1956for G - 28frankenthaler - UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1956: Painter Helen Frankenthaler sitting amidst her art. (Gordon Parks/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

And here she is at work, photographed by Ernst Haas in her studio in 1969

frankenthaler18

Helen Frankenthaler, New York, 1969 by Ernst Haas4


The Story of Suzanne

Suzanne, the famous song by Leonard Cohen, was written for Suzanne Verdal McCallister, a dancer with whom he shared a platonic relationship and a very deep connection. However, she was the wife of his friend, the sculptor Armand Vaillancourt, and therefore it was a forbidden and impossible love. The song was first published as a poem in 1966 and then released as a song the following year in his album Songs of Leonard Cohen, in fact it was the song that launched him as a songwriter. In 1988 Kate Sanders interviewed Suzanne on BBC Radio 4, providing a fascinating insight into their relationship.

“He was ‘drinking me in’ more than I even recognized, if you know what I mean. I took all that moment for granted. I just would speak and I would move and I would encourage and he would just kind of like sit back and grin while soaking it all up and I wouldn’t always get feedback, but I felt his presence really being with me. We’d walk down the street for instance, and the click of our shoes, his boots and my shoes, would be like in synchronicity. It’s hard to describe. We’d almost hear each other thinking. It was very unique, very, very unique.”

 Click to read the whole interview.

Suzanne

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy
But that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you’ve always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.
And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said “All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you’ll trust him
For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind.


A Monkey and a Woman

Mieth_A_IC

Left: Hansel Mieth’s portrait of a Rhesus Monkey in Puerto Rico in 1938
Right: Portrait of Silvana Mangano on the cover of LIFE magazine in 1960