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 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.
Friends of Gus,
The countdown has begun. Gus Blaisdell Collected is nearly upon us. Due out in September. The launch party details coalescing. I will keep you posted.
Art • Film • Literature • New Mexico/Southwest • Photography
Gus Blaisdell Collected
From the moment he arrived in New Mexico in 1964, Gus Blaisdell (1935–2003) was a legendary presence. Famous in Albuquerque as a writer, teacher, publisher, editor, and especially as the proprietor of the Living Batch bookstore, Blaisdell was also a brilliant critic whose essays influenced readers throughout the country and across the Atlantic. This long-awaited collection of Blaisdell’s critical writings includes essays on literature, art, and film, along with moving tributes by some of the distinguished writers who numbered Blaisdell among their friends. Introductory essays by philosopher Stanley Cavell and literary critic David Morris join colleague Ira Jaffe’s poignant memoir to provide perspectives on the man by friends who knew him well. Glimpses of Blaisdell’s vivid personality can be had from the many photographs included, and the diligently researched chronology compiled by Nicole Blaisdell Ivey tracks the course of her father’s complicated life.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Art critic William Peterson lives in Albuquerque, where he is an adjunct instructor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of New Mexico. Longtime editor of ARTSPACE magazine, he has also been a correspondent for ARTnews and an associate editor at the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Nicole Blaisdell Ivey is a photographer and writer. Her work has appeared in The Sun magazine, New Mexico Photographer, and others. She lives in Albuquerque.