Tag Archives: Museum of Forgery

The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size

The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size, ca. 1993

page spread from "The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size", ca. 1993

I made the book that bears this title in an attempt to cope with the extreme disparity between works of interest by Salvador Dali and the sheer size of his oeuvre, which must run into the hundreds of thousands of pieces, if one counts all the print runs (even excluding fakes). I paid a good deal of attention to his work when I was learning to paint, and even then I found it exhausting to contemplate the muchness of it. Partly this is due to the way he packs enough into any single painting to sustain another painter through half a dozen works—compare him in this respect with his master Yves Tanguy, for instance.

The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size, ca. 1993

page spread from "The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size", ca. 1993

This piece started out as a mass-produced coffee table book of the kind people pick up on remainder tables for Christmas presents. I chose it because it wasn’t too large to imagine reinventing, it was hardback (for sturdiness), and it was in German, which meant that I wouldn’t be distracted by the text.  Through overpainting, overprinting, collage, and other alterations, I reconfigured most of the images.

The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size, ca. 1993

page spread from "The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size", ca. 1993

The process was largely automatic in direct homage to Surrealism, and I carried it out over a period of months, something like a painter’s daybook. If in the end the book shows less of Dali, it is perhaps not actually less Daliesque, given that a good deal was added for all that was taken away. (The idea that there might be a “reasonable size” to any artist’s oeuvre was a ludicrous idea on its face, but like many such ideas it provided the starting point for a certain kind of play.) I see the whole as a silent manifesto for appropriation, and the individual pages as a kind of involuntary collaboration, neither wholly Dali’s nor wholly mine. For this reason I consider the book a Museum of Forgery project (a few more images can be found here on the museum’s website).

The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size, ca. 1993

page spread from "The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size", ca. 1993

When the book was finished, I had bookbinder Zahre Partovi (whom I’ve mentioned in another post) rebind it in black cloth and stamp the title on the cover in silver ink, from a relief plate that I photo-etched.

The book has been included in several shows but I haven’t been able to bear to part with it. So far.

 

Posted in 2011, books, unique | Also tagged |

cubes and boxes

Joseph Cornell, "Homage to the Romantic Ballet" 1942

Joseph Cornell, "Homage to the Romantic Ballet" 1942

I recently traveled through Chicago and stopped in at the Art Institute for a few hours. While there I revisited their extensive collection of Joseph Cornell’s marvellous boxes, which I had some trouble locating. For some reason the museum has stashed the work of this lifelong New Yorker on the top floor among “European Modern Artists 1900-1950″— back up three steps and you bump into Max Ernst and Francis Picabia. I expected to find Cornell one floor down among the American modernists of the same period, but I must not have been paying attention the day New York seceded and joined the EU.

Joseph Cornell, "Homage to the Romantic Ballet" 1942

Joseph Cornell, "Homage to the Romantic Ballet" 1942

Each time I go back I notice something different; this time it was his “Homage to the Romantic Ballet”, with its dozen glass cubes. (The cubes are all visible in the earlier photo at left, from Dore Ashton’s 1974 Joseph Cornell Album, but most have been removed in the Art Institute’s own photo at right, though there are evident traces of the impressions left by the cubes in the velvet lid lining.) It’s not the only box Cornell made using glass cubes; there’s also the earlier and very similar “Taglioni’s Jewel Casket” in MOMA’s collection.

Joseph Cornell, "Taglioni's Jewel Casket", 1940

Joseph Cornell, "Taglioni's Jewel Casket", 1940

I was struck by this box because it reminded me of one I made in about 1991, when I was living in Germany for a couple of years. I took a strong liking to the rough granite cubes traditionally used for paving streets and walkways— they feel terrific in the hand, and you understand instantly why they have been the missile of choice in street confrontations all over Europe for hundreds of years.

European paving pattern

European paving pattern

I was especially fascinated by the way these stones are laid out to create interwoven  fan patterns— the ink drawing at right is one of several drawings I made as I tried to decipher exactly how the pattern emerges from the layout of large and small stones. My guess is that this interlacing is derived from the similar spiral patternings of sunflowers or pinecones, which themselves are material demonstrations of the Fibonacci sequence.

Box with 7 titles

"Box with 7 Titles" 1991

So one day, passing a heap of these paving stones by the side of the road, I appropriated a dozen cubes and set them up in a wooden box with a label. As I related in an earlier post, I gave my box seven titles, one for each day of the week. And then, somewhere along the line, I lost it. It wasn’t until I saw the Cornell boxes on this trip that I wondered whether my box was made as a deliberate or an unconscious homage to Cornell. It almost has to have been one or the other, but I have no recollection which.

As to where it is now— perhaps, like the Art Institute’s Cornell collection, it’s not so much lost as simply not where I would expect to find it. Mislaid somewhere in “European Nations —  Germany, 1991-1993”?

Posted in 2011, latest | Also tagged , |