NYC Weekend & Rhizome-trees

Spending the weekend in NY, family biz, plus some intensive ashtanga sessions with Manju Jois, plus some fun & friends. So, first stop coming into the city yesterday was the A.I.R. gallery for a look at the Susan Bee / Miriam Laufer show, which closed last night. For someone who has been demeaning tree-structures in favor of more nomadic rhizomes, Bee’s paintings in this show were wonderfully instructive: they all use a tree-structure, but one that I felt to be extremely morphic (& not only from painting to painting), suggesting every branched-shape imaginable from menora or chanukkia to family tree (the obvious referent, given that Miriam Laufer was Susan Bee’s mother, and thus this is a mother/daughter show) to world tree (though I don’t remember now if there was an upside down one), but all of them in fact turning into rhizomes because of the drawn, painted or collaged figures that sprout from them heterogeneously, breaking up (cracking up, in their humor) the seriousness of the old hierarchically loaded tree structures. Bee’s rich colors and whimsical humor make the paintings a pleasure to spend time with; the title of a Kundera novel came to mind: The Lightness of Being — as did, given some of the old Jewish figures she has collaged into the paintings, Jerome Rothenberg’s Poland 1931 sequence.

An association which may have been set off more directly by the presenc ein the gallery of a copy of The Burning Babe & Other Poems that superb book of collaboration by Rothenberg and Bee, published in 2005 by Steve Clay’s Granary Books. For when a paperback un-limited edition, us mere mortals can afford?

There’s an interesting essay on the show by Johanna Drucker up here. Drucker speaks well to the rimes between mother’s and daughter’s art, though I must admit that what struck me most was the difference, in that Miriam Laufer’s work showed a 60ies seriousness & psyche angst that is absent from Bee’s work — or else transmuted into a light, humorous & at time near-sarcastic touch.

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1 Response

  1. Paul Hotvedt says:

    Interesting take on trees. In the water-hungry and wind-fed grasslands, when trees appear they don’t mock nomadism so much as they mock excessive acquisitiveness and hierarchy by suggesting that nomadism is our natural state–we come and go as we please around them. Outside of the taller cottonwoods that favor streams, the scrubby elms and rough-leaved dogwoods are often not much more than tortured looking shrubs, taking what comes to them and using what soil where they happened to sprout.
    wish I could have seen those paintings, the reproduction is very inviting. —Paul (Lawrence, Kansas)

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