steve roden will crop up a few times across this series. If I had to pick a favourite all round artist it would be him. I find his music sublime, but also appreciate his work in the broadly defined plastic arts. These are three catalogues I have which to some degree cover both. (I have restricted myeself to catalogues of exhibitions rather than CDs of installations which often include a booklet)
First, translations & articulations, a small brochure (1997 - griffin contemporary exhibitions, Venice Ca) bought, as you might guess, from Peril. There are a couple of essays and reproductions of some of the works in the exhibition. And there is also a cd to accompany it, which is what attracted me at this early stage, when steve was primarily music to my mind. The images show at this stage the range of steve's art - thre are sculptures, drawings donme withNot Wheels stencils, spidery additions and text to alphabet cards and colourful paintings. And an essay on his video work. The music included is of space enclosed by planes or surface, and my review from years ago:Fast forward to 2010 and two exhibitions, a retrospective and new work. when words becomes forms was at the Pomona College at the end of the year and features new work - in two parts. First, an installation called bowrain - a construction where steve 'translated' a small drawing of Buckminster Fuller's into a large structure like giant pick-up sticks based on a code he 'saw' in the original drawing, built using random processes and incorporating coloured twine, video and a soundwork in the final piece. There are pcitures here and avideo on the web. The other translation isn a series of paintings inspired by postcards accompanied by texts from Michael Ned Holte which are impressionist poems. This reminded me of Tom Phillips who has done a variety of things around repainting postcards (and also reminded me of his Works/Texts to 1974 which has paintings created in the size of the book). Steve, however, rather than reproducing them takes their essence and implies them in his work. One beauty of this catalogue is that the paintings are small and reproduced in actual size. The colours, lines, brushstrokes are all there to see - and the catalogue includes a wrap around which reproduces small versions of the originals.
When I first heard Of Space... at Peril it sounded like someone moving furniture about upstairs, but there is probably a more subtle source! Anyway, a slow echoing drag-noise, bumping like a microrecording of a match strike, forms the ground loop for this piece. After some 5 minutes it is joined by a repeating synth line and hollow bass, and these elements, together with some minimal percussive components, weave their way around each other for the remainder of this 22 minute disc, ending in a long slow fade as the music disappears from our aural environment.'
And there was also an extensive retrospective in between (a 20 year survey) at the Armory Centre for the Arts in Pasadena that stretched into 2011, and which had another lovely catalogue. Here there is a sample of art from across various periods of roden's career from 1990 to 2010 to be sampled and savoured - not life size but the flavour of the range of his works is apparent from drawings through to paintings and sculptures, textual pieces to video stills. It also has a CD accompanying it which has 3 excerpts from installations in 1999, 2004 and 5 and a piece from 2010. These are, as usual, excellent pieces which are disappointing only in their length. blinking lights at night developed from a recording of the rhythms of lights on a bay and recorded on a 7" which can be heard is only 4 minutes, there is 10 minutes of translation which is lines and spaces (to be covered later). duet, which was at the show is the longest at 11 minutes. And observatory, which was also at the show, is 7:28 that makes you want more, as a soundwork based on recordings including natural ones that makes you want it to just keep going.
One of the many regrets in my life is that I haven't seen a steve roden installation or exhibition, nor beento a concert. Books, images from the web, CDs and MP3s (the 4hrs 45minutes of the Soundwalk show is mesmeric) will have to be it unless he gets here or I get to one of the many places in the world (which are not Australia) that he gets to.
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