Toward Snow - Artforum International
Michael Snow, Louise Dompierre The painting that the Vancouver Art Gallery has, Mixed Feelings, is one of the very best of these works in This was the beginning of my interest in sound/image relationships in cinema which culminated in. One afternoon last summer, Michael Snow stood on an upper floor of the . By all accounts, the same dynamic played out in their relationship: Snow was cold room-sized sculptures, conceptual paintings, mixed media collages. . was also producing experimental films, began to feel lost in his shadow. Abstract—Michael Snow has long been recognized for his work in a variety of . with the relationship that occurs when viewer engagement transforms into a come to the perpetually thwarted Wile E. Coyote, we nonetheless feel em- . Snow's earlier publications display a predisposition for the historical referent mixed.
And then along comes Liz. I wanted to write about a hot year-old woman. I get so tired of women in fiction — and everywhere — being done at That comes from having been around awhile. What tips would you give them? The only thing I have that even resembles advice for writers is: Malcolm Gladwell determined that 10, hours is what it takes to become a genius… Yeah!
The question of how can a sentence be more alive. Is that also down to the pursuit of perfectionism? Is that what Tyler has? Absolutely, and Barrett is the opposite.
Why did you choose to set The Snow Queen between and ?
You know, some of these choices are a little intuitive. A lot of us sat in front of our televisions and said: I had no faith in the American people any longer. George Bush was stupid. George Bush was invented. George Bush was a privileged blue-blood that we packaged as a Texas rancher. George Bush was not a smart man.
Americans prefer leaders who are stupider than they are because it makes us feel better about our own shitty little life. Do you see how much I am like Tyler? But then, not long afterward they elected an African-American president with real intelligence. And that restored the faith? Yeah — until the drones started blowing up wedding parties. It restored hope until it all started falling apart. Until he hired the people who destroyed the economy to fix the economy; until he changed his mind about closing down Guantanamo.
Under his administration there are more rather than fewer drones blowing up people who have the temerity to be on the street at any given time.
That has not been what we thought was going to happen. Lac Clair and The Drumbook, both ofexplore the modalities of a figure-ground relationship.
In Lac Clair oil on paper on canvasthe central area is a kind of bleu canard, painted in very free but light strokes, intercepted at each corner by a strip of paper superimposed on the canvas side. And The Drumbook is a series of rectangles, dark blue upon yellow ground, of slightly varying sizes, setting up discrete and contiguous framing areas which seem, nevertheless, to form a continuous ground. Concentrating on painting and on film making Snow had begun in to work in filmhe is obviously preoccupied with spatial variation.
Objects such as Shunt and Quits explore sculptural form, seek new ways of support, along corner of wall and floor, in leaning position.
Quits is rather like a collapsible and deformed ladder, wood painted black, and a trace of blue paint runs down the bottom side of the first four steps and probably on the last, which stands directly on the floor.
And when you approach it you see green paint on upper surface of steps, thereby deducing its reversibility. It is a work of somewhat more contemporary feeling for its period than, say, Window ofthe very charming mixed media piece, whose constellation of objects postbox, glass, bottle, etc. But the central, pivotal series of works, executed during the sixties, is the Walking Woman series, and I shall, in this introductory essay, largely concentrate upon it.
They are pursued during a critical time in his development. Accompanying his move from Canada to New York, they constitute one of the largest, most obsessively pursued themes and give rise to a countless series of variations, which are pursued parallel to his major film works.
They are also highly controversial, and, I believe, little understood. The basic image of the Walking Woman is a very simple, minimally articulated silhouette, a series of summary curves describing a figure truncated at wrists and ankles. The curves of hair, breast and thighs describe a mesomorph in striding position, tilted slightly, one arm extended forward a bit and the other somewhat further to the rear.
The series consists in a vast number of encyclopedic variations upon a given silhouette of simple, almost caricatural contours. Conceived and executed largely during the years of Pop, these works neither offer the polish nor the sensuousness of the work of the major American Pop artists. The irony and sensuousness of media images and plastic materials to be found in Lichtenstein and Warhol are absent from these works. Lushness of surface, intensity of color are also lacking, as are the kinds of irony available in the use of consecrated images—familiar labels, packages and such.
The series does, on the other hand, explore in a fashion that parallels the Americans, the possibilities of a single basic figure, of its serial organization or variationalplay effected by change of context.
The Amazing Adventures of Michael Snow: an uncensored history of Toronto’s most notorious art star
They explore much more radically and extensively, however, the contrast between pictorial and sculptural space, modes and degree of representation and variety of materials. Walking Woman, then, came to exist as painting, as depiction of painting, as series of interrelated drawings, as focal point for mixed media pieces, for distributional pieces.
She was used as emblem, as decoration, as decalcomania, exhibited, carried about, deposited in subway corridors, streets. She was made of wood, twisted out of stiffened canvas, blotted into a double Rorschach-like image, painted, drawn, printed. The inquiry for which she served as point of departure was relentless.
I select, without regard for chronology, a few major pieces. In Goneone confronts, head-on, a length of painted and plasticized canvas projecting, on its left side from the wall, proceeding in diagonal to the right-hand frame, its left-hand side flaring stiffly and irregularly, like a banner in a wind.
Moving to the side, we see the irregularity as the contour of the posterior half of the silhouette. The painted canvas is stretched and twisted between them. This soft, stiffened sculpture is rather strange, resulting, as in a number of others, in the conversion of a flat figure into an abstract, sculptural form. Here is the single, obsessive, animating impulse behind this enormous series, which projects the figure into every conceivable material, spatial situation and degree of illusionism in an attempt to exhaust it, plot the limits of its transformational potential.
Hawaii is composed of three panels of varying size. The largest, central one is a picture executed with the somewhat unctuous simplicity of a cartoon. Its play of rectangular forms seen in three-quarter view composes an interior.
Upon a table is an open record player, its case and lid echoed by the rectangular shapes, both flat and implicitly solid, of the frames and subdivisions of window on the left—and even by the tiny rectangle framing the socket into which the record player is plugged.
And to the left of that panel stands another portrait, still smaller, the shape of the support reifying the optical effect of perspective depicted in the central composition.
We pass, thus, from an image to the depiction of an image to the literal rendering of a depiction.
With this work, Snow is involved in a complex reflection on the modes of illusionism. Walking Woman is ready to cross the threshold of illusion into film, and she does so. Snow projects her into the space of film, extending the notion of the cut-out as framing. In New York Eye and Ear Control, Walking Woman, traversing a landscape and its changing light, introduces, through her own fixity and flatness, an emphasis upon depth, volume and change, the illusionistic modes of their articulation.
In the series of monumental pieces referred to as her final exorcism, the experiments of Torso, Gone, Estrus, and others, are developed and intensified and the Walking Woman ends by absorbing, through the placing of its highly polished surfaces in an outside environment, the reflection of the volumes and changing light about her. The series completed, Snow has turned his attention to the articulation which stimulated and emerged from his immersion in the processes of filming and recording, turning back, as well, from time to time, upon past work as the past is visualized in the space and movement of Wavelengthupon its materials and processes.
For Snow everything is usable, including old work. Thus Atlantic, a structure which holds thirty-six photographs of the sea, placed in deep metal frames. The frames, sides projecting at a slight angle to the back surface constituted by the photograph, reproduce the conical visual field of film. These frames, moreover, reflect the image contained within them. One sees, then, a surface of water in photograph, continuous, contained within the larger frame of its reflection, a rendering of the penultimate superimpositions of Wavelength, with the images held flat as the zoom image within the depth of a conical field, described by that of the camera.
Snow taught himself the blues on an old upright piano and began playing in bands with his friend Bob Hackborn, a drummer and fellow OCA student. He sent the painting, a kind of Picasso-Chagall mash-up in greens and blues, back across the Atlantic, where it was snatched up by the eminent Toronto art dealers Sam and Ayala Zacks. A few months after he was hired, Snow started dating his co-worker, Joyce Wieland, a young artist with ferocious eyes and an elfin chin, whom Dunning had also recruited as an animator.
Where his art was austere and controlled, hers was sensual and uninhibited.
The Amazing Adventures of Michael Snow: an uncensored history of Toronto’s most notorious art star
By all accounts, the same dynamic played out in their relationship: Snow was cold and aloof, Wieland passionate and insecure. These days, Snow avoids discussing Wieland altogether. Wieland was devastated by his indifference. Still, she stayed with him, and they soon moved into an apartment on College Street. Graphic Associates folded that year, and Snow focused on his art. He began to produce work unlike anything that had been shown in Toronto—hulking room-sized sculptures, conceptual paintings, mixed media collages.
It was the moment that launched contemporary art in Toronto. Just as the art scene began to follow his lead, Snow turned his back on Toronto and moved to New York.
It was a lively district full of oddballs, like the zoo animal dealer who lived across the street—frequently Snow would hear mysterious roars coming from his storefront, and one morning he saw an elephant standing in the road. Eventually, developers razed the whole neighbourhood for the construction of the World Trade Center and the couple moved a few blocks north to another illegal loft in Tribeca.
- Mr Cunningham’s feelings for snow
It was a watershed period for Snow. He sketched out the figure of a woman on cardboard with a curvaceous Marilyn Monroe silhouette and chin-length bob, marching purposefully in mid-stride, her hands and feet amputated from the form. After he cut out the figure, he realized it could be used as a stencil, and quickly got to work cloning.
Snow looked at me like I was crazy. She hung on gallery walls nude and clothed, appeared on embroidered pillows, photobombed streetscapes and popped up all over Toronto like a travelling garden gnome. She also lived in the New York loft with Snow and Wieland—stencilled on the wall, on the wallpaper, and in a Walking Woman—shaped coffee table.
It was a cross-pollination of high culture, pop culture and consumer culture, and it made him a star. He started attending screenings, many organized by Jonas Mekas, a famously incendiary avant-garde filmmaker and Village Voice columnist.
Mekas is one of those people whose proximity to greatness has overshadowed his own success. Mekas used to rent small movie theatres, where filmmakers and students would gather for late-night underground viewings.
Historically, it turns out we were sort of a school. InSnow shot Wavelength in his studio at Canal and Broadway. The minute film consists of a single shot zooming progressively tighter on a framed photo of a stormy sea on the other side of an foot loft. Eventually, the shot is so tight that the photo fills the screen. The final frame echoes Lac Clair, a major monochromatic painting Snow sold in the Isaacs show.