New York

Michael Vessa

Rosa Esman Gallery

In describing the process of perception, reading is frequently used as a metaphor for seeing. Expanding this analogy, Michael Vessa makes books the subject of his drawings and sculpture. Several pieces are actual notebooks opened up and attached to the wall. That the pages are lined, numbered and often captioned “Read and Understood” at the bottom stresses how in reading one proceeds with the knowledge gained from the first page to the next. Vessa relates this memory process to seeing by suggesting that visually one connects the marks on separate pages in a sequential absorption of information.

Similarly in his three projects for corner floor sculptures, Vessa sets up situations where one would read the room as a book, progressing from one corner piece to the next, which would then be seen as a variation of the first due to one’s prior conditioning. I use “would” as conjecture here for in actuality Vessa only displays studies for these pieces. Since these drawings and models are hung on the wall, one has the additional problem of imagining the shift in perspective if the pieces were seen on the floor. Vessa’s use of real books in the corners represents a “literal” means of conveying his idea. However, the other games going on—for example, the play with the marks of masking tape which cover and at the same time become the text—tend to confuse the idea. At times, surface gets in the way of content, and one finds oneself involved with appearance instead of reading and understanding.

––Susan Heinemann