PRINT January 2023


Claes Oldenburg, New Jersey, ca. 1960s. Photo: Ken Heyman.

Woke up and ate a Ray Gun. Dreamt COMING TO AMERICA was on my T-shirt, actually a wife-beater, people stopped to ask me why. I could stand in the middle of the street with this T-shirt, I say over and over again. Downtown a snow-covered pawnshop, curves and grooves in the artificial light beaming soft pillow icicles carved with a lasso. Landed at Dan’s to eat vegan meatballs with Sousee, Brod, and Nony. We all had more than some wine. Still hungry walking home stopped for french fries.

Rodin exhibition: dull premise, loved the drawings. Giant walking legs Combine—separate casts, legs from one guy stuck to the damaged torso of another. Partial body parts put back together, real scale, wrong size. But The Walking Man can’t walk, his feet fused in a frozen lumpy molded stand. The base isn’t flat, round, or square, it’s up and down unsure what it is, a wave machine? Boogie board simulator? Immobile sculpture about mobility. Or about its inability for mobility.

Caught a direct train from Rodin to Oldenburg, surprised to find that line running. As we pulled out of the depot, train smashing 7 Ups flat on the track, started to think that the latter didn’t make body parts. Things for people, not people. Oldenburg’s work projected the body onto the object. And the former, was he pop. Balzac’s a monster, rock monster. Pre-pop Monopop Blow up.

Barbara Rose: “Oldenburg began to recreate the human anatomy in his own terms in the late fifties with crude pieces like the papier-mâché leg.”

“Objects previously still begin to move. The Pizza becomes Fan. The Fan chops. Fragments fly,” writes Oldenburg.

Words like crude, rough, blemished, raw, sketchy, sloppy, sensual, expressive, innovative, tactile, misshapen, actual, absurd, unfinished, unwanted, imagistic, exaggerated, ravaged, and original describe both Rodin and (pre-monumental) Oldenburg. Fragments, imitations, simplifications, dramatizations, magnifications. Pathos and vulnerability, slugs, lumps, and bumps. Modeling. Maquette. Enlargements. Environmental commissions, architectural compendiums. Gravity. Thinking in public, thinking up a public monument the public hadn’t seen.

Dreamt a long U-shaped table, hungry artists seated, ready for dinner. An oversize matte gray board edged like a baking pan softly lands from above with 3D-printed cubes in deep rich browns glistening in butter. A pile of papers is encircled by oversize mauve pink jelly donuts, none of it edible. What is real, a world on a wire where ice cream never melts.

Slept wrong on my funny bone, crushing new sheets. Wonder about the title of Rodin’s Mask of the Man with the Broken Nose. Isn’t all sculpture funny by nature, inescapably wrong. Same frame as a human but couldn’t care less if they were there too, broken or whole. Is it that, maybe the viewer’s a laugh.

They say Rodin met a bigly built male near a town where Balzac was from. Insisting they looked the same (although they’d never met), Rodin enlisted the writer’s former tailor to cut a cloak for this man, similar to one Balzac might have worn. Or perhaps a robe worn by a Dominican monk. Like an enormous shuttlecock, it’s hard to tell where funny lands.

Oldenburg wrote, “The Reality of Art will replace reality.” By now I can’t find where but I know its truth.

Today’s email flashes Glocks on Glocks on Glocks and features a woman’s hand with tasteful crème brûlée nail polish on the trigger. Do they know I’ve been stockpiling red plastic ketchup dispensers shaped like toy guns or just writing about them.

Drainpipe-Crucifixion, the Ray Gun Wing. Ray Gun is the most American, it is America.

Rachel Harrison is a New York–based artist.