Assemblages

Cabinets of Wonder and Early Vitrines

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the Stars.
Walt Whitman

…[M]oment by moment, year by year, aeon by aeon, every atom of every molecule of both living and inorganic substance is being changed and replaced. Every one of us within the next five to seven years will have a completely new body, down to the very last atom. Amid this constancy of change, where can we find the basis for all that which appears to be consistent and stable?
Bertrand Russell, Sacred Geometry

I have of late (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory…
Hamlet

In wilderness is the preservation of the world.
Henry David Thoreau

Donald Kuspit writes, [w]hat is pursued…in most significant symbolic spiritual paintings: [is] the achievement of integration out of which a sense of identity or self emerges.(1) And, about boxed construction Kuspit states, inner reality will always find a way to act itself out through external reality.(2) This process is what the box sculpture epitomizes. Most everything was a wonder for me during my childhood. As long as I can remember, I have been preoccupied with understanding the relationship between spiritualism and the symbolism of things sacred since so much in the world demands attention and one must choose one way or thing over another. My first recollection of loving edification was during a High School English lesson in which the teacher introduced the concepts of a simile and a metaphor. That day, I adopted the language of how to suggest one as another, to change things to be like others, and even better, to say one thing is another by juxtaposition, comparison and statement. Since then, I have striven to understand our world and create reveries, which embrace my experience.

A kind of mental paradise emerges within me when peering upon the encapsulated worlds of museum materials. As a young boy, about the same time I became old enough to walk to the Museum of Natural History (New York, NY) after school, I became interested in creating little worlds like the ones I loved looking at, which, wonderfully combined parts of the world into hermetic representations of the cosmos. Naturally, I eventually gravitated toward model making. Likewise, the actual landscape was always a utopian experience for me growing up in Manhattan; because there was not much of it surrounding me there. A trip to the country was indeed a special occasion. We always had to travel hours to get to the natural wonders along the Hudson River valley, and I glued my eyes—amidst the carsickness—to the moving terrain. Since the Catskills were so far away—not really, but it always seemed the answer was, “no, we are not there yet”—Thomas Moore’s term was appropriately lived out; paradise was everywhere and yet nowhere, close. Today our landscape, our globe, our resources and our way of life are deeply threatened and so it is with great sadness my reverie fades to the reality of global dilemmas. It is of course, the balance between hope and despair that fuels my art: appropriated landscapes are mitigated by visual encumbrances of hope and yet are also cut off from tactile interaction in the boxed constructions, and, oasis-like land images litter the chaos of my drawings. As a collage artist, the world is best expressed through juxtaposition and unlikely parings that yield work about the subjects of precarious balance and transformation.

Todd Bartel, May 8, 2002 (Revised and edited for “Tag,” March 28, 2003)

__________

1. Kuspit, Donald, “Concerning the Spiritual in Contemporary Art,” The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting, Los Angeles County Museum of Art / Abbeville Press, NY, 1986, p.320.

2. Kuspit, “On Being Boxed In”, Sculpture, Vol.10 # 4 , November-December, 1991, p. 37.


_________________________________________________________________________


Trilogy of Unknown Martyrs: Autonomy

1989

Tempera, casein, Italian letter (c.1880), twigs, thorns, cloth, lead, ball bearings (number of bearings correspond to age of owner of the “Trilogy”), glass, sand and dirt (Kenya, New Mexico, Block Island) in wood box

13” X 9 3/4” X 3”

[photo credit: Alan Weller]

_________________________________________________________________________

Trilogy of Unknown Martyrs: Paradise

1989

Tempera, casein, Italian letter (c. 1880), map, pressed flowers, lead, glass slide mounts, wood molding (dentals), clay marbles in wood box

13” X 9 3/4” X 3”

 [photo credit: Alan Weller]


_________________________________________________________________________


Trilogy of Unknown Martyrs: Oxygen

1989

Tempera, casein, Italian letter (c. 1880), vines, human teeth, lead, horse tail hair, glass slide mounts, malachite, marble, toy wood blocks, in wood box

13” X 9 3/4” X 3”

 [photo credit: Alan Weller]


_________________________________________________________________________

Beauty Impaled

1988 

Wood box (oil saturated), gouache and sealing wax on paper, metal tags, escutcheon pins,  straight pins, sand and glue

13 x 9 3/4” x 31/2”

_________________________________________________________________________

Beauty Impaled (After M.D.)

1991

Wood box , gouache and sealing wax  on paper, metal tags, escutcheon pins,  straight pins, sand and glue 

6 5/16” x 4 3/8” x 1 11/16”

_________________________________________________________________________

Genesis: A Study of Potential

1991

Constructed wood pyramid, mustard seeds, snake skin, glass, lead, watercolor, gold leaf, wood, tempera, clay, casein, copper

10” x 11” x 11”

Genesis: A Study of Potential

1991

(detail, four sides)

_________________________________________________________________________

Hunger Fantasy

1991

Constructed wood box, twigs, wax, 21 cicada carcasses, rock, sinew, dentals

11 3/4” x 8 1/2” x 4 1/2”

 

_________________________________________________________________________

Medicine Mirage

1991

Tempera on constructed wood box, twigs, wax, wood, cast iron toy horse, antique toy jacks, velvet, plaka on linoleum, glass, copper tape

12” X 15” x 5 1/2”



_________________________________________________________________________

Healing Fantasy

1991

Constructed wood box, twigs, wax, rocks, shellac, string, casein, glass, ink, plaka on copper

3” x 17” x 5 1/2”



_________________________________________________________________________

Portrait of John F. Rosen MD: A Healer’s Voice

1994

(Door closed, window down)

Constructed wood box, tempera, lead, gold leaf, pressed flowers, plaka on glass, velvet, brass, oil on linen, ink

12” X 17” X 5 1/2”

_________________________________________________________________________

Portrait of John F. Rosen MD: A Healer’s Voice

1994

(Door closed, window up)


_________________________________________________________________________

Portrait of John F. Rosen MD: A Healer’s Voice

1994

(Door open, window up)

_________________________________________________________________________

Portrait of John F. Rosen MD: A Healer’s Voice

1994

(detail, Domenico Ghirlandaio’s landscape)


_________________________________________________________________________

Portrait of John F. Rosen MD: A Healer’s Voice

1994

(detail, window verso)


_________________________________________________________________________

Portrait of John F. Rosen MD: A Healer’s Voice

1994

(verso)

_________________________________________________________________________