The Marfa Book Company will host an exhibition of new works by Marfa-based artist Daniel Chamberlin entitled “Ecstatic Camouflage” this weekend, March 9 – 11, with an opening for the artist on Friday, March 9th from 6 – 8 pm.
According to the artist, “Ecstatic Camouflage is an explicitly psychedelic post-landscape photography.” In deed, these photographs make a break with tradition and do not call to mind the work of Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, Robert Glenn Ketchum, or Richard Misrach, though, ostensibly, they share the same subject. The break may at first seem technical, a consequence of new technologies for manipulating images, but on further study, it becomes evident that it’s something else. For Chamberlin, that word is psychedelic or shamanistic.
“It is a post-landscape photography that explodes anthropocentric notions of perspective by way of repetition and rotation, an organic visual drone. It is an attempt at revealing my communion with the so-called “plant mind” of shamanistic lore.”
Several of the photographs in “Ecstatic Camouflage” were taken locally, in the Chisos Basin, and the Davis Mountains. Viewers may not immediately recognize these places however, and not just because the artist avoids iconic, monumental treatments for his subjects. In fact, the photographs resemble mandalas or yantras rather than icons or monuments. Curiously, his technique, involving minimal post-camera manipulation, does not hide the changes he makes. In stead, it displays them openly. In the kaleidoscopic image that results from his repetitions and rotations, horizon lines vanish; trees and flowers, divide or merge; water appears throughout the surface; and the sky turns inward.
For his exhibition at the Marfa Book Company, Chamberlin chose ten works, to which he applied his ecstatic treatment, from an archive of hundreds of raw photographs taken in the Southwestern and South Central United States. The ten pieces selected are ink jet prints on canvas and range in size from three by four, to four by five feet in dimension.
Daniel Chamberlin was born in Indiana, and lived for twelve years in Los Angeles before moving to Marfa. He was a contributing editor to Arthur Magazine whose archive he stored in the squalid basement of a small house on Plateau Street, here in Marfa, for several years. He is nationally registered EMT and currently works for Marfa EMS.
Are reading: Saturday, February 18th, at 6 PM
I am hereby giving each of these poets the Marfa Book Company Certificate of Excellence in the field of Poetic Endeavor. I am also giving this same certificate to Phil Cordelli who is travelling with them, but will not be reading.
This certificate is given out very rarely, and only when no one is looking.
Laura Gibson will be dropping by the Marfa Book Company on Saturday, February 11th, in support of her excellent new album La Grande (pronounced Luh Grand). This will be her second show with us and her third in Marfa. If you saw either of those shows, I bet you still remember them.
We host a lot of musicians, people who come from all over and who play various kinds of music. And I've got to say: when I ask people who their favorite artists are, Laura Gibson often makes the list.
Or, if you prefer Pitchfork, eh-hem, here's their review of La Grande: taste-makers. But seriously, what amount of reading will make you ready to listen?
Breathe Owl Breathe opens the show. I don't know these guys but they've toured with Little Wings (Kyle Field), Vetiver and the Fruit Bats. That's good company. And earlier, our good friend Trevor Reichmann, of Terlingua, and to whom we owe great thanks for helping us book this one, will perform as the pre-opener. Trevor and Laura played an encore of duets at the last show we hosted. Hope we'll be so lucky again.
We're happy to present a second show with Cass McCombs, at Padres, on Friday, January 13th, at 8 pm. His show at the Crowley Theater a few months back was fabulous, uncompromising, quiet, stunning. Other words. We're also waiting for the world to catch on to the range of this guy's work. Hear him perform his latest single, "Bradley Manning" on Democracy Now!
Check out his two most recent albums, "Wit's End" and "Humor Risk" at Domino Records.
Our exhibition for Fall 2011 is an installation by Texas and New York based Artist, Charles Mary Kubricht, entitled "The Figure is Always Ground". The work, which covers four walls, the ceiling and the floor, features a painted dazzle, a form of nautical camouflage used, primarily, during the First World War.
Here's an image, taken at an angle:
Here's another image, taken more or less directly, of the same wall:
This one really requires a visit to fully comprehend, as the spacial/optical effects can only be experienced while standing in the room, in which the corners have seemed somewhat to disappear. "The Figure is Always Ground" opens October 1st, between 6 and 8 Pm, and the exhibition will be on view through January 15th, 2011.
Here's an interview with Charles Mary Kubricht, published at BOMBLOG in early 2012.
We're exceptionally happy to announce the imminent arrival of Cecilia Thompson's The History of Marfa and Presidio County, Texas, 1535-1946 in a newly reprinted, slip-case format. This edition is limited to 250 copies and we expect them to sell quickly. Retail price is $50 + shipping. Order yours by calling 432-729-3906. Here's a look at the set. From the Forward to the Reprint Edition: Cecilia Thompson is a true daughter of the Texas Big Bend. She was raised on a family ranch near Ft. Davis and received her early education in the town. Her sojourn through secondary schools ultimately led her to the University of Iowa, where she remained through graduate school. Dr.Thompson completed her doctorate in theater arts there in 1954. Her long professional career has included university faculty positions in the theater arts, directing and acting in community and summer stock theaters, and scholarly writings on the history of the Texas Big Bend. Of the latter achievements, her magnum opus is unquestionably History of Marfa and Presidio County. Dr. Thompson’s research for and writing of the book spanned three years. A Presidio County Historical Commission press release dated November 25, 1985, announced the upcoming publication of History of Marfa and Presidio County, Texas, 1535-1946, to the Big Bend community. Dr Thompson’s chronicle received immediate praise from reviewers and high recognition by the Texas Historical Commission. The book was chosen as “best county history” and was extended the Fehrenbach Book Award for 1985. Mike Cox (More Texas Basic Books, 2001) observed, “This county history, really a regional history, is an impressive accomplishment and a fundamental work.”
We're proud to announce our new permanent installation, "Books Do Furnish A Room, For James Laughlin", which consists of The Promises of Glass by Michael Palmer, one shelf, two screws, and some glue. Here's an image:
Here's another, more recent:
Here's a brief backstory: when I first visited Marfa, ten years ago, I visited the Marfa Book Company. Upon entering, I did what I normally do in bookstores: I walked directly to the poetry section, curious to see, and probably also to judge, the selection. I don't remember most of what I saw, naturally, but I do remember seeing The Promises of Glass by Michael Palmer. How could such a book appear in a town of 2000 people? I was immediately and deeply impressed. And, at that moment, I thought, "What a great place," or something similar.
Ten years later, it's still a great book, a great bookstore, and thanks to my ability to check sales history, which is something I can do as the store's owner, I can also say, no one ever bought the book. Now no one ever will.
It's exciting to say that we'll be hosting Cass McCombs on July 8th, at the Crowley Theater, in a show co-presented with our friends at Ballroom Marfa. Cass McCombs is, in our estimation, one of the best songwriters we've got, one whose work we find very difficult to parse, and yet all the more compelling for this very reason. There always seems to be something lurking in McCombs' work, something unstable that haunts a first impression. It's got a lot of loveliness, also, those chilling "oohs" and "aahs", that draw you in, and draw comparisons with Ricky Nelson and Bobby Darin. And hey: you don't need to listen to me, just listen. $10, tickets. Austin artist, Pink Nasty opens the show. Don't miss this, either! Doors open at 8:30 pm.
I'm the laziest of all bloggers. Here's thanks to those who have visited us in recent weeks: White Fang, Kevin Young, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Pillars and Tongues, the whole CineMarfa crew, including Glenn O'Brien, Amos Poe, Larry Clark, Christopher Wool, Blank City people, and all those who are coming to visit soon: Lower Dens, Jesse Malmed, Cass McCombs, Ben Lerner, Allison Hedge Coke, A. J. Verdelle, Adrian Matejka, John DeMers, and who knows, maybe you?
We're excited to announce the opening for an exhibition of paintings by Ben Meisner on Saturday, April 23rd. Ben is an artist, curator, and co-founder of the project space Generator, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The show, our first with Ben, will feature eight works, developed during the past few years. Though few in number, and individually quite small, the largest work measures 14" x 14", the eight paintings in the show demonstrate a vitality that belies their size. Consisting of thickly textured areas of dark, though never quite “black”, paint and areas where the canvas support is visible through vibrant and carefully contrasting hues, each work holds a considerable amount of visual space. The contrasts, or “shifts” as Meisner likes to call them, of color and texture activate the surface and, in the artist’s words again, “maximize the potential color interaction.” Their physical bearing, also, is central to Meisner’s consideration and technique: “The works exist as paintings, as objects that appeal to vision, but they are equally objects existing in space and call attention to their own mass, surface, texture, weight, etc. The relationships between optical and physical surface qualities are often further complicated by the handling of the paint, making it difficult to determine how the paint has been applied and in what order the layers have progressed over the development of the work.” The work will be on display between April 23rd and June 5th, 2011. BIO: Ben Meisner was born in Taos, New Mexico. He is an artist, curator, and co-founder of GENERATOR, a project space in Albuquerque, NM. An alumnus of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he was also an E.B. Stoeckel Fellow in the Norfolk program at Yale University. He has worked for the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, most recently assisting in the conservation of Donald Judd’s outdoor concrete works. In 2010, he was a resident artist in Berlin where he began experimenting with sculpture and developed many of the ideas that have taken shape in his most recent work.
We're extremely excited to host Jeffrey Yang of New Directions Publishing for the launch of their new anthology, "Birds, Beasts and Seas: Nature Poems From New Directions". I'll try and write more about this later. For now, suffice it to say that when I learned of this, I stood like a wild deer in the woods, startled, staring out: The event will take place Friday, April 15th at 6 PM. A reception catered by that odd entry in the bestiary: FOOD SHARK: will follow the reading. Hope you'll come and visit us! - Tim Johnson
Marfa Book Co. is proud to host DUBLAB for a special presentation of their Monday Music Meeting on March 14th, from noon until 5 pm. We've got seven incomparables on the list, including Marfa's own David Hollander, Daniel Chamberlin, Little Danny, and Nicolas Miller. Plus Frosty, Matthewdavid, and Lavenders of Los Angeles. People are welcome to browse and just generally be around during the performance. Also, thanks to Dan Chamberlin for making this happen. Tim Johnson
Saturday, January 29th, 9 Pm, Free The Marfa Book Company and Marfa Public Radio will be presenting Look At What the Light Did Now, a documentary about Feist and her many collaborators at the Crowley Theater. Official Synopsis:
We're presenting British Sea Power at Padres on Monday, April 11th. They'll be touring to support their new record, "Valhalla Dance Hall" on Rough Trade. Tickets, which are $10, can be purchased by calling 432-729-3906. Here's what they look like: If you'd like to know what A Classic Education, the opening band, looks like, you'll have to turn out.
Tuesday, February 8th, at 9 PM. $10. "LIVE! ON STAGE JONATHAN RICHMAN featuring TOMMY LARKINS on the drums!" (Post script: Amazing. Thank you Jonathan and Tommy.)
We've been busy in 2010, so it feels right to close the year with a lot of activity. Check out the events page to learn about upcoming shows by Centromatic's Will Johnson and our own, Candles; readings by John D'Agata and Sigrid Nunez; and a gallery talk by Stephen Scobie. Also, we're scheduling events for 2011, and are in discussion with some wonderful authors, artists, filmmakers, and musicians, including a few of our heroes. *** Plans: we hope to debut our new website soon, the appearance of which will be determined by wherever you are when you log in and the position of the sun in sky in that place. Seriously. Also, please don't steal our idea. It takes us a long time to "realize" these things. (Primarily because we get busy.) News: we're developing a music series in collaboration with the Marfa Recording Company. Our first guest was Benoit Pioulard of Portland, OR, who played a few weeks back. (I'm forgetting the date, but the show was quite good.) We'd also like to review more books. I've read a lot of titles from Open Letter and Archipelago Books recently and would like to tell you about them. Also, of course, I've always got opinions about poetry, so I'll probably share a few of those, as well. In the coming months we'll also have the chance to present exhibits by our friends Ben Meisner, Nick Terry, and Charles Mary Kubricht. Plus, we'll try and situate a few Impossible Objects shows for those of you curious about the status of the artist's book, the problematics of display, art + language, etc. We'd also like to turn the gallery into a recording studio for the band, Pillars and Tongues. Also, we'll be promoting our book, "The Present Order: Writings on the Work of Ian Hamilton Finlay". I hope to write a proper post about this shortly. * Many thanks to our friends and colleagues Flint Jamison, Whitney Joiner, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Mark Trecka, Sasha Watson, Ross Cashiola, Jona Bechtolt, Ryann Bosetti, Claire Evans, Solan Jensen, Aurora Tang, Ralph McKay, David Branch, Gory Smelley, etc. etc. for all their help and their support and their contributions to the store in the past few months. We really appreciate all of these guys and so many others, too. Tim Johnson (& Caitlin Murray)
Marfa Book Company will be hosting one of several talks in the upcoming Dialogos en Marfa / Marfa Dialogues Symposium to be hosted by Ballroom Marfa in September 2010. We'll also be hosting all of the book signings that follow the talks. Participants include : Cecilia Balli, Charles Bowden, Mark Danner, Luis Carlos Davis, Hamilton Fish, Laura Flanders and Benjamin Alire Saenz (our guest), among others. The purpose of the symposium is to address the economic, political and cultural situation of the U.S. / Mexico border. All talks are free, but you need to register with Ballroom. You can do so by calling : 432-729-3600. (Co-sponsors of the Event include The Nation Institute, Marfa Public Radio, The Washington Spectator, The Big Bend Sentinel, Padre's, and the Marfa Book Company.)
Not an avid blogger, I'm primarily updating the events sections of this site. Lots of great events upcoming, though, including performances by Dark Dark Dark, Dungen, a Candles record release party, talks by Julie Ault, Sam Douglas and Jack Sanders (Citizen Architect : Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of Rural Studio), Michael Dickman, Jill Schoolman of Archipelago Books, A. Flint Jamison, and many others. Check it out!
(Introduction to the Marfa Book Company Film Series, Unfinished.) Margaret Tait was born in 1918 in Kirkwall, on Orkney, the largest of the Orkney Islands, which lie off the northern coast of Scotland. I mention this because, as we can see from her films, place and the specifics of place play a major role in her work. If you are wondering why I use a rather hackneyed figure of personification in the last sentence, "place plays a role", it is because one of the principle features of Tait's films is the uniform respect given to all the elements that enter the frame, each thing exerting its influence, each relating to what follows and precedes. For Tait, the films were poems, and in one of her longest statements on this subject, in which she is notably searching for the terms that would unify the projects of film and poetry, she delineates the work of a poet from the work, importantly, of a documentary film maker, someone with whom we might easily confuse Margaret Tait, by saying a poet works towards "an empathy with whatever it is that's dwelt upon, feeling for it - to the point of identification." It is just this effort of identification, of empathy, which we find in Tait's work, an eye which searches, sees corners, alleyways, fields, mirrors, fire, trees, and water with equivalence. In 1951, following her service as a doctor for the Royal Army Medical Corps, Tait traveled to Italy where she studied at the Centro Sperimentale di Photografia. She was, at this time, under the influence of Rossellini and the Italian Neo-realists. This interest is helpful, and gives us a sense of where Tait started. It should also be noted that Tait lived with a serious skepticism of documentary, of "documentary as reality". From the same quote mentioned earlier comes this, "The contradictory and paradoxical thing is that in a documentary the real things depicted are liable to lose their reality by being photographed and presented." So, how does Tait respond to this difficulty, how resolve the issues that arise with photography and presentation?
Whoever reads, What follows is old news. But we've finished with novelty, so I'll continue. Mel Nichols wrote a very funny and pointed response to a letter in Poetry last month which I read today. A poem by Nichols, "I Google Myself," appeared in the July / August edition of the journal as part of a section dedicated to Flarf and Conceptual writing. It seems at least one reader was disappointed to find striking similarities between Nichols' poem and the Divinyl's very terrible "I Touch Myself". Nichols had, in fact, simply lifted lines from the Divinyl's song and replaced the word "touch" with the word "google". In "I Google Myself," the conceptual implications of the word change, the virtual as bodiless realm, googling oneself as that realm's masturbation, seem obvious . The technique, though, simple as it is, bears what we might call the shock of the new, but which we might also call the shock of the slacker, judging from the reader's letter. It lacks craft, that is to say : effort. I am tempted to use the word "toil", enticing the subsequent associations. A writer bleeds ink. Which is partially why Nichols' response interests me so much. It is a decidedly craftier work. Nichols lifts a line from the disappointed reader's letter, "As a poet, to see this is discouraging," and makes a sonnet of it. Or, a visual pun on the sonnet's 14 lines. Then, in response to the reader's request for "solace," Nichols offers a reading list which boasts some great titles. (Two by Bernadette Mayer.) Then comes the coup. She closes with the following, "For another example of new poetries represented in Poetry, curious readers may want to take a look at the February 1931 issue - I believe Lorine Niedecker, for instance, found it to be a useful resource." Wow. Whereas the disappointed reader chose to close by accusing the journal of slapping them in the face, Nichols closes by slapping everyone in the face : and not just the reader, but every issue and editor since February 1931! Still I'm left thinking, maybe comparing a recent issue of Poetry to one of the most influential issues of the twentieth century is a good thing. Quite possibly, Nichols' slap is a compliment in disguise.