MANKIND?, 2007, Oil and graphite on canvas, 84" x 108 "
If the universe didn’t have humor in it, if the comic and the unexpected weren’t the children of consciousness, if the language of puns and jokes and the clarity of happiness weren’t properties of atoms too, then one might actually have a reason to give up on space/time and the human species and settle into a stupor until the escape of death opened the way for some peace and quiet.
But a poet named Toadhouse, and a painter named Allan Graham, and my old friend of almost five decades Skip Graham – all of whom share the same DNA, and are identical, save for their avatars – turned 70 last week on the stage set of the David Richard Gallery in the Railyard Arts District of Santa Fe and that made me happy, and the work in that clean, handsome space took me serenely into itself which proved to be exactly where, at the moment, I wanted to be.
While description always refers only to itself, I’d have to describe Skip’s work as having, for me, a long history of opening doors and climbing steps into consciousness without self-importance. It’s hard for me to have much more to say than that because by breaking down the borders between lexical space and visual space – I’m beginning to sound like an art critic, and I’m surely not – crossing the boundaries of word things and image things, a freedom is let loose, at times even a giddiness. And of all the truths we experience, the truth of the unpremeditated smile is the most convincing and believable.
As Toadhouse has written:
mystery holds true
And more to the point:
So one might actually see for themselves in a painting the title of which is:
“is forming in a was universe.”
Toadhouse paints this poem:
Next to it is a red painting which reads “now! the future at a reduced distance.” It is arranged on the canvas in a way that causes the mind to jumble around in its own synaptic distances.
And another Toadhouse poem reads “Any Position Limits the View (We Are Only Here For A Spell). “
My two favorite works in the Birthday Exhibition are, first, a large painting in which Toadhouse, with black and white surfaces laid down as if they had been polished by a glacier, writes: MANKIND?
And then in an upstairs space one finds a graphite colored painting/drawing which in entitled “Chance Forming on the Edge of Need” in which a comet of chance is rushing at a continent of need.
Also in the David Richard Gallery is Gloria and Allan Graham’s collaboration called Add Verse, in which 25 poets – including Bob Creeley, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Diane di Prima, Michael McClure, Anselm Hollo, Arthur Sze, and Anne Waldman-- are photographed by Gloria Graham with spontaneity and candor, and the poets’ hands are videoed in intimate motion by Allan Graham as they read their poems. It’s one of those totally unexpected, off the wall, on the wall, out of the blue ideas that focuses a listener/viewer on the poet’s work in a way more intense than any of them might have hoped for.
I feel way too close to much of this work to have anything more to say than Happy Birthday Skip, and thank you for finding the key to the little door that, once opened, once in a while, gives us all a sighting of unself-conscious joy.