Bill did a great job installing "Words and Pictures by Eric Deller, Dale Jackson and Michael Weber" at semantics gallery in Brighton on Wednesday. The concept for the show came from talking about how Dale and Michael make pictures from the opposite ends of the spectrum of picture-making. Then Eric came into the gallery one day with his pictures culled from storybook tropes. We got to talking: Dale uses words, Michael uses no words, just paint and patience, and Eric merges words and pictures into iconography. All three make visual art that kind of delves into a place where memory coalesces into dream, Dale's words and phrases dissolving into moments that don't make sense at least unilaterally, Mike's colors and shapes blending into gorgeous gobs of nothing, and Eric riffing on what you see right after the story ends and you're about to go to sleep.
Then we came across what Krista Gregory (who oversees exhibitions at Visionaries and Voices) did with Dale's work back in March at the Contemporary Arts Center: she stacks Dale's non-sequitur posters into volumes of information that reveal and conceal simultaneously as you unveil them, or as Krista writes about the project, "A rectangular volume of layered colored paper, like candy, exposing only the top layer of writing."
The candy thing stuck in my head, until I finally had a tiny epiphany. It goes something like this:
Necco, the original candy wafer, is a direct touchstone for me for what Krista and Dale did in the stacked poster piece. Wafers melt on your tongue in a religious sort of way of course, and Neccos are concealed in beautiful see-though wax-paper. And my dad used to bring them home sometimes from work because they had them in the vending machine at the Indiana Gas Company. I remember loving them very much until I tasted them, and all you could taste was a sort of slate-like nothingness concealed in sugary dust. Dale's writings conceal a lot of desire and thought and feeling, using mundane nomenclature and non-sequitur to get at a brilliance beyond thought. He wants to write a diary that exposes every single second of his life. When his musings are written on colorful poster-board and stacked the whole thing becomes a repository of thought, innocent and clever at the same time, and all of Dale's poetry ascends to a place you can't name: it's a metaphysical candy-store. Everyone welcome.
And when I wrote about Michael's work for the show, I wrote about "jelly beans melting into a sky." Which is pretty close to what Michael seems to want to happen. He wants something solid to blend into something spiritual. He's tasting things with paint somehow, like all really good abstract-expressionists seem to want to do, but he doesn't let style get in the way. His pictures transcend that neat little need to be "good," and go off somewhere to have fun. You could stare at the incidental images for days, and find an assortment of messy, wonderful associations. Like staring into a bowl of jell beans or finding shapes and meaning in clouds.
The background in Eric's pictures of storybook tropes resonate in that same way: smeared color swirling into nostalgia, with stark shadows of the memory superimposed. It's like stained-glass made out of tissue-paper, delicate and translucent, but then a sort of Germanic side-swipe, an iron-clad illustration of a whispered bedtime story, little words that form big images. A wolf dressed like a grandma and a little girl with an ax making sure all is well, and so on...
Let's end this with Proust, the master of aestheticizing memory: "We are able to find everything in our memory, which is like a dispensary or chemical laboratory in which chance steers our hand sometimes to a soothing drug and sometimes to a dangerous poison."