Lewis Baltz portrait of Gus Blaisdell

Gus Blaisdell by Lewis Baltz

Below find an excerpt of Bldgs by Gus Blaisdell, his first essay on Lewis Baltz.     Originally published in Three Photographic Visions, 1977.                                                   Republished in Gus Blaisdell Collected, UNM Press 2012.

Bldgs

I regret that I must begin in a quandary. But since I am in it and have been in it ever since I first began trying to think and write about Lewis Baltz’s photography over two years ago, this quandary is not only the place from which I must begin but it may also be the place in which, entangled, embroiled, and exasperated once again, I am forced to conclude.

Allow me to elaborate in a figure so that I may come to the various questions which will clearly indicate the ranges of my confusing (but not inchoate) concerns.

In the room in which I am presently writing this essay everything is concrete. That simple italicized phrase struck me the other morning with all the philosophical force of a secular revelation. And it persisted throughout the whole day, nagged during the conscious moments of a fitful night, and was still hauntingly present this morning when, in a mood of exasperation bordering on despondency, I once again sat down to yet another revision of my seemingly endless, as yet unfinished essay on the work of Lewis Baltz–my project a pile of notebooks, pages, file cards, jots and scribblings that has been with me nearly every day since that day in 1975 when I unexpectedly received in the mail a complimentary copy of The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, California. As I leafed through the book it steadily dawned on me that Baltz was doing something in photography specifically and in art generally that had not been done before in either domain. His work stood forth as a summary limit and an extension, a point at which the promise in the work of others was engendered and fulfilled, and a point beyond which nobody else had gone. So strong was this conviction that it expressed itself paradoxically, that Lewis Baltz was a painter who had chosen photography instead of paint in which to make significant objects. The paradox here is not in the apparent restrictions consequent upon such a choice but in the media Baltz would be crossing and in the successful trans­lations he would have to achieve. A painter who used photography–­there was something of Japanese aesthetics in that, and in the restriction of means and the accepting of the automatisms that constitute photography, further limiting this medium to work in black and white fixed images.

Again, the above also had the philosophical force of worldly revelation and it has persisted, often annoyingly, throughout the years that have lead to the present writing in this room in which everything is concrete. Nothing here is abstract unless it is my mind or the meanings my written words may carry as my sentences achieve equilibrium. Everything in this room except mind and meaning is photographable, will yield an individuated aspect that can be fixed upon film. (The difficult “things in this room” that are not obviously individual and thus fixable are light, dark, and the shadows cast by the interruption of light by objects. None of these seem either trivially concrete or plainly abstract. Penumbral seems to be the accurate term here. And the penumbral is difficult for photography not only as object matter–what the camera points at out there–but also as subject matter, what gets fixed in the frame and shown in the print; and what takes its further meanings, beyond the frame and outside the print, from whatever network of knowledge happens to contain the print centrally and essentially like an idiom or a poem.)

The only conceivable thing in this room which might be wholly abstract in relation to every other photographable thing is a photograph by Lewis Baltz,  Maryland 24, a photograph which is endlessly a reminder of this quandary in which I daily encounter my thought…

Ernest Gaines awarded National Medal of Arts

Photo by Jim Santana from the archives of Gus Blaisdell

Photo by Jim Santana from the archives of Gus Blaisdell

Photo of Ernest Gaines by Edward "Ned" Springs

Photo of Ernest Gaines by Edward “Ned” Springs

 The guy in the picture with me is Edward "Ned" Spring.  He was a very good friend of both Gus Blaisdell and me.  We were at Stanford together back in the late 50s.  We used to listen to a lot of Jazz together, drink wine and discuss literature.  Ned use to write liner notes for 33 rpm dust jackets.  He could be extremely funny...He died young.  I think Gus was at his bed side when he died,  Gus called to tell me he had gone to the big PAD in the sky.  He left a wife and two children.  Gus and I were at the memorial. It was very quiet.  Betty, Ned's wife,  wanted it that way.  Just a few close friends.  I think that was the only time I was ever seen to cry.  Ned was quite thin, and Gus always called him The Snake.  He called me Prez, because I wore a hat like the one Lester Young, the great jazz musician, wore.  Gus was good at giving people different names.  "Hey, Prez, the snake has left us "  We had been out drinking at the No Name Bar in Sausalita only a couple of weeks before he died--Me, Gus and Ned.....Ernie>

The guy in the picture with me is Edward “Ned” Spring. He was a very good friend of both Gus Blaisdell and me. We were at Stanford together back in the late 50s. We used to listen to a lot of Jazz together, drink wine and discuss literature. Ned use to write liner notes for 33 rpm dust jackets. He could be extremely funny…He died young. I think Gus was at his bed side when he died, Gus called to tell me he had gone to the big PAD in the sky. He left a wife and two children. Gus and I were at the memorial. It was very quiet. Betty, Ned’s wife, wanted it that way. Just a few close friends. I think that was the only time I was ever seen to cry. Ned was quite thin, and Gus always called him The Snake. He called me Prez, because I wore a hat like the one Lester Young, the great jazz musician, wore. Gus was good at giving people different names. “Hey, Prez, the snake has left us ” We had been out drinking at the No Name Bar in Sausalita only a couple of weeks before he died–Me, Gus and Ned…..Ernie>

HepCats

Gus published Clark's book NOW ITS JAZZ

Gus Blasidell and Clark Coolidge    Albuquerque, New Mexico    © Nicole Bliasdell Ivey

Gus published Clark Coolidge’s     NOW ITS JAZZ       Writings on Kerouac & The Sounds

*Excerpt from SPD website–  “Music. Cultural Writing. Perhaps no living American poet has taken Kerouac, jazz and bop prosody into as many original directions as Clark Coolidge. In his inimitable prose, Coolidge recalls and explores the role Kerouac (Part 1) and jazz (Part 2) have played in his artistic development. A book of tremendous energy from the very first sentence: ON THE ROAD was first handed to me by somebody in a dorm at Brown, my sophomore year, 1957-58. ‘Here, read this.”

Art on the Edge

Gus and Group

Claremont 1971 (standing left to right Hap Tivey, James Turrell, Gus Blaisdell, Lewis Baltz, seated Mowry Baden, Guy Williams)

“It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973 — Part 3: At Pomona”

By Sneha Abraham 2:30 pm February 24, 2012 Campus EventsThe Arts

Chris Burden, Untitled, 1966.Chris Burden, Untitled, 1966. Bronze. 6 1/2 x 5 in. (16.5 x 12.7 cm). Collection of the artist. © Chris Burden. Photograph courtesy of the artist.
Hap Tivey, Sunpainting, 1971Hap Tivey, Sunpainting, 1971. Window frame, paint, paper, tape, and incandescent light. 24 x 24 x 3 in. (61 x 61 x 7.6 cm). © Hap Tivey. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

“Part 3: At Pomona” demonstrates how Pomona College’s extraordinary community, inspired by the atmosphere created by curators Hal Glicksman and Helene Winer, developed some of the most important aesthetic currents of the late 20th century. These artists, both faculty and students, engaged the developing legacies of Conceptualism and Minimalism and forged transformations of these ideas that became prototypes for future generations. This exhibition chronicles the experimental art that emerged in the late 1960s and the role played by Pomona College in advancing these practices.

The period covered by “Part 3” roughly equates with a renaissance in Pomona’s arts community that can be traced to Mowry Baden’s ’58 arrival as chairman of the art department in 1968 (he served as professor until 1971), and which ended, in 1973, with the mass departure of the arts faculty in protest over, among other causes, Helene Winer’s dismissal due to the notorious Wolfgang Stoerchle performance seen in “Part 2.” During this period, Pomona faculty and alumnus James Turrell was performing his first ganzfeld experiments and conducting flare performances; Lewis Baltz was at work on his legendary Tract Houses series; and Mowry Baden was creating interactive sculptures that would have a profound effect on his students, among them Chris Burden ’69, Michael Brewster ’68 and Peter Shelton ’73.  Burden was transitioning from architecture to sculpture to performance. Brewster was exploring the potential of light and sound as an artistic medium, while Shelton was experimenting with corrosion as a painterly medium, which would have a lasting effect on his eventual career as a sculptor.

Central to this group is the under-recognized work of Mowry Baden. His interest in movement and its impact on perception clearly echoes many of the aesthetic concerns that informed works produced through Hal Glicksman’s Artist’s Gallery exhibition program. Baden’s particular articulation of these concerns in works that require viewers to interact and physically operate the sculptures demonstrate a more performative and collaborative approach to audiences that prefigures much contemporary work today. 

Telling it like it is / Review of GBC

5.0 out of 5 stars the writer as cultural Hero, November 7, 2012
By
dan noyes (New Mexico) – See all my reviews
This review is from: Gus Blaisdell Collected (Hardcover)

This book is a look at the writing,the life, and the letters of an exceptional writer who lived the zeitgeist of his time by writing, editing and selling books. He also helped other
writers get published and noticed. He also taught. And he also loved loquats.And women. And he writes about all of these-and more- in this wonderful book.The intellectual life he engaged was from The Beats to Postmodernism. Blaisdell was a writer and thinker who had interests in the Classics, Asian poetry, art, culture, psychology and philosophy. He created a rich world in his writing and that is here in a collection of essays, poems and letters that explore art, photography, philosophy, and film.

Blaisdell’s talent as a writer and thinker in these engaging essays is evident in how he uses words, structure, metaphor and image in writing about culture and meaning.
The essays about his life and his letters-along with an excellent timeline of his life-round out the book. The photographs in the book are an excellent counterpoint that capture the hero as he ages, travels and investigates art and culture. A photograph in the book of Gus Blaisdell encountering a Matisse exhibit taken by Nicole Blaisdell Ivey is a truly great photograph that shows a man encountering art and caught in the experience of art. In fact-the whole book is related to how Blaisdell wrote about that encounter.gus-studio-shelf-nicole1.jpg

Gus and Evan Connell R.I.P.

DSC_3197

Farewell, Evan Connell

Evan-ConnellFrom Counterpoint Press

January 10, 2013

Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press is sad to announce the death of author Evan S. Connell. Mr. Connell died Wednesday night after several years of declining health. He was 88.

Evan Connell has long been recognized as one of the most important American voices of contemporary letters. A novelist, short story writer, and poet, Connell is the author of seventeen books, including Deus lo Volt!The Aztec Treasure House,Points for a Compass RoseLost in Uttar Pradesh, and the bestselling Son of the Morning Star, which was made into a 1991 miniseries.

His novels Mrs. Bridge (1959) and Mr. Bridge (1969) were adapted into the critically acclaimed 1990 Merchant-Ivory film Mr. and Mrs. Bridge starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Wallace Stegner said of Mrs. Bridge that “[It] is a hell of a portrait…She’s as real and as pathetic and as sad as any character I have read in a long time.”

Connell was awarded the Robert Kirsch Award (a Los Angeles Times Book Prize) for “a living author with a substantial connection to the American West, whose contribution to American letters deserves special recognition.” Counterpoint Press will publishing a new edition of his book of prose poems, Notes From a Bottle Found on the Beach in Carmel, in February 2013.

In 2009 Evan Connell was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize, for lifetime achievement. He was born on 17 August, 1924, in Kansas City, Missouri and attended Dartmouth College and the University of Kansas. Connell is also an alumni of Stanford and Columbia universities.

Evan Connell lived and worked in Sante Fe, NM.

Gus wrote an extended essay called “After Ground Zero: The Writings of Evan Connell, Jr.” New Mexico Quarterly (Summer 1966). An excerpt is published in Gus Blaisdell Collected titled VATIC WRITING Evan S. Connell Notes from a Bottle… p.185

Message from Momaday

A note from Pulitzer prize-winning author,N. Scott Momaday, discussing                       GUS BLAISDELL COLLECTED (Gus was editor on Momaday’s second book,                     The Way to Rainy Mountain, published by UNM press).

Dear Nicole,The book is a clear mirror of the man. It is beautiful and moving. Gus and I made a legendary journey to Rainy Mountain in the hard weather that shapes mind and memory. It was a quest, a journey eminently worth making.With deepest thanks.Scott

DISCUSSING GUS at UNM bookstore Wednesday December 5th at 4pm

A chance meeting in a bookstore

From Vincent Borrelli, Bookseller

I met Gus Blaisdell about thirty years ago – a chance meeting in a bookstore. I was photographing on my first cross-country road trip and I landed in Albuquerque at The Living Batch. Gus showed me Park City by Lewis Baltz. What he didn’t mention is that he wrote the essay for the book – one of the most brilliant essays I’ve ever read about photography and art.

Park City (and a few other influential books) heralded a seismic shift in photography. This astonishing work, which came to be known as the New Topographics, allowed us view the landscape with a new sense of passion, longing, and dread. The style continues to be widely emulated, letting some of us forget the vitality and authority of the original images.

For Jacket Copy / by JB Bryan

For a jacket-copy intro to the author it would be hard to improve on the capsule snapshot by artist, poet, and publisher (and one-time Living Batch employee), J. B. Bryan, in the little Festschrift chapbook he prepared for the memorial “Celebration of Gus Blaisdell” in 2005:

Gus lived as a man of discerning mind & precise locution, as well as blurted expletive. The oppositional was his blessing & curse. Sharp, jagged, uncannily quick-witted, he sought how to see, how to know, how to lay it down. Outrageous, often enraged, he liked the scat in scatological, he could insult, he could adore, a mimic ribald & hilarious, elegant steel trap crankiness, photographic memory backed by a deep catalogue of reference wielded with fierce conviction. Within this shone profound appreciation for beauty (film, Monk, Matisse, Utamaro, photography, poetry, prose, mathematics, found objects, etc., etc.) & its precise articulation. His writings have hard-fought style with a content that requires slow, deliberate reading. Language & lingo, philosophy & logic argued toward revelation inside his own difficult critique.