Earthy Anecdote
May 31 - July 7, 2019
Opening May 31, 6 - 8 PM

Joe Brainard, Fred & Marilyn Buss, Dante Carfagna, Ben Estes, Anna & Lawrence Halprin, Justine Kurland, Matt Smoak, Paolo Soleri, and Annie Stone; Curated with Ben Estes

Installation view: Earthy Anecdote, 2019, SITUATIONS


SITUATIONS is pleased to present Earthy Anecdote, a group exhibition with artists Joe Brainard, Fred & Marilyn Buss, Dante Carfagna, Ben Estes, Anna & Lawrence Halprin, Justine Kurland, Matt Smoak, Paolo Soleri, and Annie Stone, curated with Ben Estes.

Named for Wallace Steven's 1923 poem, Earthy Anecdote, the exhibition is inspired by the mind-expansive state found while working in nature. Reflection in nature, and the mentality of the "pastoral" is found in chosen works, such as Joe Brainard's pansy painting and mushroom collage, or in Fred & Marilyn Buss' carved wooden boxes. Their interest in and appreciation for wood led them to become involved in harvesting, milling and seasoning hardwoods and burls for their projects, taking specific satisfaction in salvaging and using trees that had been damaged by storms, fire or "progress."

Matt Smoak's painted assemblage in the shape of a large spiral, or sea shell, is liminal and shamanistic. The surface is built up with mixed elements from his studios in both North Carolina and the Bronx (Stones, leaves, seeds, shells, flower pots, clothes, etc) and conjure an accumulative notion of rural-psychedelia. Similarly, Annie Stone's videos and Paolo Soleri's bells utilize their maker's sensibilities in a way that investigates a personal and intimate location, and then shares the output with the world at large, either via Instagram or through the ringing of Soleri's desert-born, cast in sand, bells.

Known for her multi-year-long, cross-country road trips, Justine Kurland's photograph of a mechanic at work inside of an enormous engine captures a mental state set in detail and patience, focus and silence, illustrating an alternative idea of life on the road, self-sufficiency and the American landscape. Likewise, Ben Estes' colorful paintings draw inspiration from uniquely American elements such as Amish quilts and Quakerism, as well as concrete poetry, in order to test various ideas about the essence and adequacy of poetic language, both written and visual. Dante Carfagna's intricate paintings, made in private and almost never exhibited, seem intrinsically musical - yet what feels at times like an intimate knowledge of silence, reflection and loneliness lie within the work as well.

Within the definition of the word “pastoral,” a division is marked by the simply-conceived contrast set up between the serenity of a simple rural life and the misery or corruption of city life. However, the pastoral can be used metaphorically, as in the case of dancer and choreographer Anna Halprin's collaborative work with her landscape architect husband Lawrence. Together they explored how different spatial arrangements stirred a kinesthetic response, and then how they could use that response in their seaside-based workshops in sensory exploration. In their move from the East coast to California, they were inspired by the freedom offered by the open and rural landscapes, and developed new modes of inquisition and action that radically redefined both modern dance and contemporary architecture.

Ultimately all of the works in this show hold an intimate knowledge of nature, space, and patience, or surpass current fashion in favor of timelessness. The works possess human traits and sensibilities, marked with an admirably strong sense of self and reflection.

JOE BRAINARD (1942-1994, New York City, NY) was an American artist and writer associated with the New York School. His prodigious and innovative body of work includes assemblages, collages, drawing, and painting, as well as designs for book and album covers, theatrical sets and costumes. He is best known for his memoir I Remember, of which Paul Auster said: "It is ... one of the few totally original books I have ever read." By 1964, Brainard had already had his first solo exhibition and was ensconced in a circle of friends that included Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, Alex Katz, Fairfield Porter, James Schuyler, Jane Freilicher, John Ashbery, among many others. His work is found in the collections of the Berkeley Art Museum, Fogg Museum, Harvard; Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Rhode Island School of Design Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, among others. The Mandeville Special Collections Library at UCSD also has a large archive of works by and about Brainard collected by Robert Butts from 1960 to 1992.

FRED & MARILYN BUSS (Cazadero, CA) have been involved in handcrafts since they graduated from college. In 1971 they became interested in a simple band-sawn box form and developed the concept into a unique organic style. Their sculptural boxes are shaped and smoothed by a series of techniques Fred and Marilyn have developed in their 20 years of box-making experience. Known for their fine selection of woods and beautifully finished pieces, currently Fred and Marilyn are developing a solar wood drying kiln.

DANTE CARFAGNA (b.1974 Chicago, Illinois) For the past thirty years, Dante Carfagna’s main job has been collecting records and the information surrounding them, becoming one of the world’s leading forgotten music archivists. He is considered an authority on hard-to-find and obscure recordings of all eras, makes, and mediums. Producing reissue projects for labels such as the Grammy-nominated Numero Group, his work has helped preserve sounds that have been previously overlooked or neglected. A musician as well, Dante has released four highly revered albums under the name Express Rising, and most recently an ambient work under the name Oak House. Having been a painter for nearly his entire life, Carfagna rarely shows his work. Earthy Anecdote marks the first time in over twenty years that Carfagna has exhibited his paintings.

BEN ESTES (b.1977 Kingston, New York) is a poet, editor, and painter. He is the Founding Editor and co-publisher of the publishing company, The Song Cave. With Alan Felsenthal he edited A Dark Dreambox of Another Kind: The Poems of Alfred Starr Hamilton. Ben also recently worked as the editor of Professionals of Hope: The Selected Writings of Subcomandante Marcos, and the recent re-publication of CHARAS, The Improbable Dome Builders, by Syeus Mottel. Publications of his own writing include Illustrated Games of Patience (The Song Cave, 2016), Eight Poems (Engineered Garments, 2013), The Strings of Walnetto Arrangements (Flowers and Cream, 2013), and Announcement for a Poem, a collaborative book and exhibition, with Kim Gordon and Rick Myers (Flying Object, 2012). Estes has most recently exhibited his work at Paula Cooper Gallery, Reena Spaulings Gallery, and Whitespace Gallery, in Atlanta, GA.

ANNA HALPRIN (b. 1920 Marin County, California) helped pioneer the experimental art form known as postmodern dance and referred to herself as a breaker of the rules of modern dance. Halprin, along with her contemporaries such as Merce Cunningham and John Cage, and her students Trisha Brown, Simone Forti, and Yvonne Rainer, redefined dance in postwar America. In the 1950s, she established the San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop, and its infamous tree-top “Dance Deck,” to give artists a place to practice their art, and in the 1960s becoming involved with the Judson Dance Theater. Being able to freely explore the capabilities of her own body, she created a systematic way of moving using kinesthetic awareness.

LAWRENCE HALPRIN (1916 - 2009, Marin County, California) was an American landscape architect, designer and teacher. Halprin's range of projects demonstrate his vision of the garden or open space as a stage. In 1966, together with Anna, the Halprins organized the first of a series of “Experiments in Environment.” These multi-day collaborative workshops involving designers, dancers, musicians, visual artists, writers, teachers, and psychologists and poets were intended to investigate “theories and approaches leading to integrated, cross-professional creativity” and heightened environmental awareness. The Halprins conducted the 1968 “Experiments in Environment” as a twenty-four-day event located in downtown San Francisco, in wooded Kentfield in Marin County, and at the dramatic coastal Sea Ranch. The three environments were evaluated through “intuitive modes of perception,” including kinesthetics and other body-environment awareness techniques. The two photographs in this show were taken during the “Experiments in Environment” events.

JUSTINE KURLAND (b.1969, New York, NY) is known for her utopian photographs of American landscapes and the fringe communities, both real and imagined, that inhabit them. Kurland received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York in 1996, and her MFA from Yale University in 1998. Her work has been exhibited extensively at museums and galleries in the United States and abroad. Her recent gallery exhibitions include Girl Pictures, at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York (2018) and Airless Spaces at Higher Pictures, New York (2018). Museum exhibitions have included The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit (2016), Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2009) and Role Models: Feminine Identity in Contemporary American Photography at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. (2009). Kurland was also the focus of a solo exhibition at CEPA in Buffalo, NY (2009). Her work is in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art, New York; the International Center of Photography, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and, the Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, among others.

MATT SMOAK (b.1986. New York, NY) is a bricolage artist based between The Bronx and North Carolina. He exhibits nationally and internationally, his most recent solo show being “The Sun, The Egg, The Finger” at Galeria Alegria, Madrid. He was raised in Tokyo and Washington, DC and received his BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

PAOLO SOLERI (1919-2003, Paradise Valley, Arizona) was an Italian-born American architect and designer who was one of the best known utopian city planners of the 20th century. Soleri worked under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Arizona. He established the Cosanti Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona and in 1959 designed Mesa City (a desert city intended to house two million people). Soleri’s book Arcology: The City in the Image of Man (1969) provides a good overview of his ideas and designs. In 1970 Soleri began the construction of a single structure called Arcosanti, a smaller version of Mesa City. The work, conducted by unpaid students, proceeded slowly and was partially financed by the sale of the ceramic and bronze wind bells Soleri produced. The Arcosanti “urban laboratory” was designed to have a population of 5,000, but, at the time of Soleri’s death in 2013, only about 75 people were in residence. In 2006 Soleri received the National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City.

ANNIE STONE (Chicago, IL) is a Montessori educator who has been working with children in Chicago for 19 years. Annie has been making drawings and taking pictures since her adolescence, keeping a running record of experiences. The smartphone video camera has become a valuable tool for documenting her work  and to make notes about the shape, sound and speed of life.


Earthy Anecdote

Every time the bucks went clattering 

Over Oklahoma
A firecat bristled in the way.

Wherever they went, 

They went clattering, 

Until they swerved
In a swift, circular line 

To the right,
Because of the firecat.

Or until they swerved 

In a swift, circular line 

To the left,
Because of the firecat.

The bucks clattered. 

The firecat went leaping, 

To the right, to the left, 

Bristled in the way.

Later, the firecat closed his bright eyes 

And slept.

Wallace Stevens, 1923