Between 1989 and 1992 I made a number of room installations that were dark in color and in theme. I had discovered a new kind of iridescent paint that responded in interesting ways under artificial light, and combined this with various dark matte backgrounds to create somber spaces on which to hang paintings, and sometimes add sound.
Forrest of Signs
Forrest of Signs
Forrest of Signs was a comprehensive survey of the “Pictures” phenomenon, organized by MoCA LA for what was then called the Temporary Contemporary, in 1989. Each artist was given space to create a large installation. I painted the walls of my space a dark blue, and lit a selection of old and new work with theatrical spots. I think there was also a sound component, but can’t remember what.
This installation was done at a distance; I mailed instructions to the gallery staff regarding color (a pale blue I think) and placement of the two B&W photos (outtakes from the Portrait of New York project).
For Derry Installation
Also in 1989, Declan McGonagle, the director of the Orchard Gallery in Derry, Northern Ireland, invited me to devise an installation that would address the fraught situation there. During the site visit I found a city sharply divided, with areas marked, through murals and painted curbs, as “no go” to the opposing populations. A tense peace was imposed by the constant patrols of the British army through the center and the neighborhoods. In the center, an old market town surrounded by a thick stone wall, I found a massive memorial to the dead of the First World War – a column topped by an angel, and surrounded by soldiers lunging forward with bayonets. A shockingly brutal reminder of British rule (parallel to the imposed British name for the city, Londonderry). I used images from this memorial, along with some illicitly taken photographs of current British army patrols, and included some words from both Yeats and Joyce.
El sueno Imperativo
In 1991 the Spanish curator Mar Villaspesa invited me to participate in a group show at the Circulo de Bellas Artes in central Madrid. Dating from the late 19th century, the Circulo had a complex history as both an important venue for contemporary art and film, but as a one-time hang out for supporters of the Francoist regime. After a site visit I sought to address that history, working with a craftsman at the San Fernando Real Academia de Bellas Artes to create a human-sized replica of the wing of a “fallen angel” in the nearby Parque de el Retiro. This wing, surrounded by a ring of red neon, was then placed at the foot of the grand staircase of the Circulo, to be viewed from the upper floors.
On moving to Los Angeles I began a series based on photographs on houses on fire. I used the primitive computer lab at CalArts to manipulate the images and then had then printed on canvas. After the riots in April 1992, I decided to drop the project out of concern that it might carry more meaning than intended. Foundation Arts Resources (FAR) had negotiated a short lease of a disused bank building in downtown LA, and made a huge open show later in the year. I commandeered a room, painted it red, with a text culled from Goethe’s Faust running around the ceiling molding, and installed one of the paintings. There was a soundtrack, a female voice reading a longer passage from Goethe’s epic poem, a passage about the burning of a house in the woods.
I conducted a workshop on public art at the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna during the summer of 1992. As part of the project I worked with a couple of students on this temporary mural sketch.