Jimmy Raskin

Petals, Ears & Tears

January 11 — February 24, 2013
36 Orchard Street



In his third one-person exhibition at the gallery, Raskin returns to one of his beautiful obsessions: Arthur Rimbaud’s Vowels (circa 1870), the inspiration of his previous show, Inseparability vs. Simultaneity. In the opening verse of the poem, Rimbaud assigns a color to each of the vowels in the alphabet, “A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels”. Raskin considers this simple linguistic gesture to be a pivotal point in the history of poetry, the very moment the author acknowledges the arbitrary nature of language. There is a before, and there is an after this event that changes everything… One exits the place where the poem ‘of necessity’ was a possibility and enters a new world where ‘simultaneity’ and ‘infinite juxtaposition’ become the norm, the new paradigm of expression, if you will.

For this puzzle of an exhibition, Raskin produced five monochrome, circular panel paintings following the poet’s suggested bright colors. At the initial graphic stage, he overlapped the circles to generate not only the shapes of a ‘petal,’ an ‘ear,’ or a ‘tear,’ but also a muted mix of five intermediary hues, thus giving himself a palette of brown, turquoise, navy blue, gray, and pink, along with a decisive form to work with. The second major motif structuring the show, the cone, has a long history in Raskin’s visual vocabulary. It first emerged as Pinocchio’s nose in his attempt to resuscitate the dead tightrope walker from the prologue of Friedrich Nietszche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The tightrope walker was the emblematic figure of the poet, the one focused on the line he performs, devoid of the capacity for critical distance. He was also the subject of the philosopher’s first metaphor as a poet, but had fallen and died. He needed to be brought back to life; the stakes were high in this theater dedicated to the diagnosis of the life of expression. Raskin merged the fallen metaphor with Pinocchio to aid his escape. He went on to name his hybrid character ‘Pinn,’ distilled to a large round head with a big cone for a nose. The cone later became the focus – the form of memory, instinct and the streamlined shape of intensification itself. The cone’s function now is that of a precarious pedestal, a prop-like sculptural formation made to receive and display what the child might need to make and show. The apparently irresolvable tension between the conceptual dimension of cool design and the glitter of play remains decidedly active. The resulting risk is that one kills the other, but it seems increasingly clear that these opposing forces might simply need one another. If this is indeed the case, the question then becomes one of apprehension, of looking for and finding the proper line of demarcation between the two.