Pescina, and the Hills of Tuscany. In the fall of 1990, Shirley and I decided to take advantage of what amounted to a patronage of sorts in the remote Tuscan settlement of Pescina, just to the north of Firenze (Florence), Italy. David Kessler, a Dutch artist we had gotten to know during our first stay in Pescina back in 1986, friend and supporter of my work, offered me a 2-year contract which included studio space and a beautiful apartment to live in, in return for my assistance on a project to restore his 500-year-old stone farmhouse in that same valley. We were at the time, living in a tiny 4th floor walk-up on West 10th Street in Greenwich Village with windows that opened into a lightwell and a new baby (Hazel was born in 1989). Both of us were working full-time, forcing us to have Hazel in daycare, so we naturally jumped at the opportunity. I actually obtained the neccessary work papers through many trips to the Italian Consulate in New York. Not an easy task, let me tell you.
This page and the 1992 page, document some of the work done while living in Italy, September of 1990 - October of 1992.
Letters, Numbers, Symbols, 1991, 15" X 15-20" each, cement, terracotta.
Symbols, letters, numbers which were placed (in various configurations) in a small stream running near the house. This stream ran into the Sieve River which, after passing through Il Mugello, the birthplace of the Renaissance, flowed into the Arno River and then through Florence, allowing the objects to send messages of my making into the heart of the Renaissance.
One Big One, 1991, terracotta, cement, small stream - dimensions variable.
An example of one of the messages.
(This photo was taken soon after a rainstorm.)
Occasionally, while we were living in Italy, I would take slides of what I was doing and send them back to American Fine Arts, Co.. I sent back a standard clear plastic 35mm slide sheet (five rows of four) using slides I'd taken of the terracotta and cement letters:
This slide sheet amused the late great curator Jackie McAllister who was working at the gallery at the time. A year later he invited me to participate in an exhibition he was setting up in Vienna, Austria in early 1993. My first International showing! The same slide sheet also led to Jackie eventually writing a very nice portfolio of my work for the magazine, Grand Street in 1995, which included a different photo of the work One Big One. The images here are scanned from that magazine.
Il Mugello, 1991, sand and tinted sand, 4M x 5M. (Work in the studio).
The First Failures. With the establishment of Failure Institute, one of the vows was an end to the making of objects. No more painting on panels or canvas that had to be stored away. Only temporary works. But I did enjoy making these balls and decided that they were a sort of substitute for the paintings. Failed paintings that had collapsed into themselves, perfecting themselves in a small dense ball. None of these objects had names but they were numbered.
Golf Course, 1991-1992, cut grass - 4 hectares of lawn cut in varying patterns over a period of two years. One of the first of the earthworks was a decision to cut the grass of the fields surrounding in an interesting manner to create a sort of Golf Course. I had a set of clubs with me and while short, the 6-hole, Par 3 type course was quite playable.
The Spiral Stairs. While not actually a work of fine art, one of the more interesting and creative projects done during my time assisting with the house restoration, were these spiral stairs. David Kessler, an accomplished sculptor and welder, put together an armature of Corten steel and I cast and formed concrete over the top. The final surface was polished and waxed to resemble 500 year old pietra serena.
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