brion gysin, ivy 1959
everything you need to make your own dream machine. that and a turntable and light bulb.
i had a chance once to visit the burrows/gysin bunker for living on the bowery when a friend md (sublet arranged by his gallerist tony shafrazi and the building manager john giorno) set up temporary studio. it was the 80's and both jg and bb were still alive but away. their personal effects were still intact. a burroughs manual type writer on a stand. a hokey cast off conference table serving as a dining table with office chairs to boot. cook books in the kitchen that included hashish recipes, the Tibetan book of the dead was on the bookshelf. the bathroom had three full length urinals as the building was once a wmca. and lots of gysin paintings. they occupied a painterly area between calligraphy and generic (all over cubism) 10th street school. sadly stuck in the dilemma of where to go with late abstract expressionism. the painting posted at the top of this post is among the most attractive ive seen. its called ivy and appears to be a gestural abstraction based on a wall of english ivy. although the the brushstrokes evoke calligraphy, i dont believe it can be read as such. note that gysins all over approach is undermined by the small scale and vertical orientation. tom moody linked to the following post. gysin will be remembered for many artistic contributions, the least of which should be what he added to 20th c. painting.
It’s harder to dismiss Gysin’s paintings. There the main concern is language itself. The paintings represent many different attempts to become the ‘other’ and to isolate the essence of language. Robert Palmer in his introduction to ‘The Process’ talks about Gysin’s paintings being written in Japanese from top to bottom with Arabic across it from right to left. John Geiger describes him as a mythomaniac.also of note (from wikipedia) was his rejection by breton from the surrealists group:
In 1934, he moved to Paris to study La Civilisation Française, an open course given at the Sorbonne where he made literary and artistic contacts through Marie Berthe Aurenche, Max Ernst's second wife. He joined the Surrealist Group and began frequenting Valentine Hugo, Leonor Fini, Salvador Dalí, Picasso and Dora Maar. A year later, he had his first exhibition at the Galerie Quatre Chemins in Paris with Ernst, Picasso, Hans Arp, Hans Bellmer, Victor Brauner, Giorgio de Chirico, Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, René Magritte, Man Ray and Yves Tanguy. On the day of the preview, however, he was expelled from the Surrealist Group by André Breton who ordered the poet Paul Éluard to take down his pictures. Gysin was 19 years old. His biographer, John Geiger, suggests the arbitrary expulsion "had the effect of a curse. Years later, he blamed other failures on the Breton incident. It gave rise to conspiracy theories about the powerful interests who seek control of the art world. He gave various explanations for the expulsion, the more elaborate involving 'insubordination' or lèse majesté towards Breton". the above passage clearly shows how GDI (god damn independents) are formed!
i also found this wiki factoid fascinating: "After serving in the U.S. army during World War II, Gysin published a biography of Josiah "Uncle Tom" Henson titled, To Master a Long Goodnight: The History of Slavery in Canada (1946). "
I haven't made it to the NewMu yet. I don't have high hopes for the paintings but am curious to see them in their best light. In that YouTube in the Dick Headley post the paintings start off looking great, at the roller stage, and then get overworked. I think the cutup technique and Burroughs collaborations should have earned him more respect than he was given by the