The return of our regular feature Collection Rotation, in which a guest organizes a mini “exhibition” from SFMOMA’s collection works online. This fall artists with Bay Area ties take over the series. In addition to their rotations, we asked each artist to answer poet Robert Duncan’s request to students in his 1958 Workshop in Basic Techniques and provide us with a set of influences for their work — a “constellation of their genius.” Today, please welcome Pablo Guardiola.
There’s always a system that points where to start.
A basic one is to start with a date (the same could be argued of a place). With that I’m not trying to suggest a progression, even less progress, just choosing a point of departure.
Somebody is always doing something (both in time and space).
On Kawara is always doing something in a specific time and space, and sometimes he lets us know about it.
So let’s start with On Kawara. Here is a date (and a piece):
There are multiple ways of approaching this. I don’t like to start with negations (redundancy not intended). But in this case I will need to point to at least one.
When approached to organize this selection, I was sure that I wanted to avoid an illustrative approach (I don’t have anything against it, but for this context I wasn’t interested in taking that approach). I wanted to address, through SFMOMA’s website, the collection itself (just a percentage of it, to be more accurate), not the reverb between an idea or ideas and works.
But, to be honest, I am not sure if it is possible to escape that reverb; concepts and ideas are always lurking. Let’s try at least to make some connections, to build a small constellation, sets of works that inevitably will be filtered through my scope and interests, with the help of the tags used in the collection database. I wanted this exercise to be a game, some sort of play.
On Kawara’s Today series always takes me to Robert Gober’s Newspaper works. Having them together made me think of Paul Sietsema. That’s a fascinating set, an obvious one, but great indeed. That could trigger many things, including great writing, but, like I mentioned before, I wanted to avoid the illustrative approach; I don’t want to produce a text that illustrates a group of works. So, instead, let’s follow the serendipity of some tags.
On Kawara’s MAR. 16, 1993 (by the way, the only Kawara work in SFMOMA’s collection!) has these tags:
John Caldwell, curators, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, death, obituaries, newspapers, men
Due to space constraints, I followed just some of them, making sets of works by artists that were linked through these tags.
These are some shared tags that determined the content of this Collection Rotation:
From On Kawara: newspaper, men
newspaper → Robert Gober: string → Paul Sietsema (since there is no image for Calendar Stick, I’ll go with Figure 3)
men → Robert Gober, Yto Barrada: hands → Kenneth Josephson: oceans
(Barrada’s video, although not connected through tags, was suggested on her page, and sometimes it’s good to have the artist’s voice)
oceans → Gerhard Richter: horizon, sky, ship
horizon → Giovanni Anselmo: rocks, pairs
rocks → David Ireland, James Welling: buildings → Constantin Boym and Laurene Leon Boym
pairs → David Ireland: grids → R. H. Quaytman, Sol LeWitt
Let’s go back to Richter again:
ship → Olivetti poster (there is the great Parts Per Trillion by Ruscha, but we’ve seen it too much, so I’ll go with the gorgeous Olivetti poster)
sky → Vija Celmins (this is a great work to end with)
Robert Duncan’s request to students in his 1958 Workshop in Basic Techniques. We asked our guests to replace “poet” with “artist”:
1. Macedonio Fernández (The museum of Eterna’s novel)
2. Dan Graham (Rock my religion)
3. David Hammons
4. Ed Ruscha
5. Frances Stark
6. Jorge Luis Borges
7. Luciano Fabro
8. On Kawara
10. Yoko Ono (Instruction Paintings)
11. César Aira
12. Jimmie Durham
13. Fernando Pessoa
Pablo Guardiola is an artist born in Puerto Rico. He holds an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. His work has been reviewed in Artforum, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian, among others. In 2009 he received an Individual Artist Commission from the Cultural Equity Office at the San Francisco Arts Commission. He cofounded and co-edits Set to Signal.