The Dream


All these strange black crystals lost in the night

the fallen fragments of worlds far, of worlds massive, of worlds far, far away.

There are monstrous ones like corpses of the drowned.

Some go under the moon, along the tides.

There are soft and fine ones like diseases.

There are some velvety and poisonous.

The still dreams. Deserted, immense, lunar.

To the nostalgic grasslands that cradle

and the supple lilac dreams that cling, the ecstasy.

The warm virgins go to the terraces

and the people of the great spheres, tall towards the golden domes,

(always that great dark weight in the sky)

love the ultramarine vegetation love the ultramarine vegetation.

Râaaaaaaaaaaaaga blancâ

The dusty velvet orchestras

watch the strange parade of pierrot’s of camellia below the closed balcony.

Silent fireworks shoot and big diaphanous fish

love the strange black crystals lost in the night,

the complex and decadent flowers loaded with the East,

and the black bouquets in the passionate souls.

Nostalgia of white of white – Algiers at midday – of white of white.

The fresh wood of lilac sins and the spirals the spirals.

There are monstrous and mushy ones, corpses of the drowned.

The hot vines and the warm herbs to the arid nomad.

Others to groups – masses of ivory sheep on the purple hills.

Nostalgia of white of white             nostalgia of white

The golden cities far from the minarets                                  the golden sky

travels towards the great still machines on the day of celebration.

(always that great dark weight in the sky)


George Condo – “Lamentation of the Drinker”


The plastic narration found in this work from 1994 by George Condo represents a reassertion of a type of compositional structure not found since the late works of Cézanne. Like the French master, and his concern with the structuring of advances made by the more formal impressionists, for example, the de-materialization of subject matter and broken surface tension, Condo reformulates and codifies similar concerns, a type of metaphysical space that one is allowed to access, a place of possible dramatic interpretation similarly found in the work of De’Chirico, Magritte and more recently Guston.


Just as Cézanne’s bathers push space around in tightly knit compositional formats, Condo, in the painting “Lamentation of the Drinker,” allows a grouping of faceless humanoid’s to control and manipulate the residual of geometric and architectural space, while acting out odd histrionic episodes.

Approximately thirty figures occupy this canvas where great tragedy has just taken place, or is about to. The size of the canvas (65 x 81 inches) and the overall composition used represents the format of an eyeball shaped oval. This cycloptic orifice stares out toward the viewer. Dead center, figuratively and literally is the main group of figures witnessing the last (?) moments of “The Drinker.”

Imaginatively thought out, these groups of figures, three “beings”: hovering in space, seven others in severe panic and dressed in black observe or are reacting to the unfolding drama. Unlike Christian exegesis, where Christ, descending from the cross, his mother weeping uncontrollably or even losing consciousness is the main focus of meditation, Condo’s lamentation is a situation suspended between certainty and doubt, where many possibly scenarios could happen. Unless Condo’s main protagonist is experiencing rigor mortis (his arm being outstretched), or dead drunk, he could be alive. A strange group of robed figures look on in wonder and disbelief, others gesture in misunderstanding. If this work is not seen as an elaborately concealed study of certainty and doubt, or the ambiguous nature of perception and belief itself, how else can we decipher the gestures, groupings and interaction between these faceless figures?

Kenneth Rexroth, in a short essay about the artist Morris Graves mentions “deliberate formal mysteriousness…analogous to that found in primitive cult objects,” there is much of that found in this painting, a visually complex riddle. It could be seen as a strange cinematic reflection projected on our memory, always needing to be re-deciphered, its meaning re-established. Therefore, it should not be so strange that the figures that occupy Condo’s “Lamination of the Drinker” have no distinguishing facial features.

Like Cézanne’s bathers they exist within themselves, purely in the space of painting.

Mark Dagley

Nothing Says Something: Mark Dagley’s Radical Structures – by Mike Zahn

Mark Dagley Installation at Spencer Brownstone 2018

The Black Stack

When Mark Dagley arrived in New York City on the cusp of the Eighties, a social transformation was underway. Economic change in the United States had been foreseen by Daniel Bell as bringing passage to a ‘postindustrial’ era, where the remote management of electronic information and creative agency would come to supplant the production of actual things.

In the artworld, painting was assumed dead, its relevance having faced challenges wrought by dubious critical fortunes and promising new media. Yet the improbable figures Dagley began fabricating soon after his start downtown were prescient, and of a time later recounted as when everything cracked open, with much happening since an elaboration of that freed by the breach.

By the end of the decade, following Bell’s assertion, the realm of analytical finance had become a massive space. It was built out of scratch, designed to facilitate ease of relegation and speed of transfer. Exchange-traded derivatives, collateralized loan obligations, credit default swaps, options on indices, mortgage-backed securities, and other concocted instruments were devised to orchestrate flows which mere convention couldn’t conduct. As risk increased, debt expunged the past and precluded the imagination of a future. Its tally constituted a foundational claim on which enterprise rested. Hypothetical imperatives were disregarded in pursuit of leveraged prerogatives.

With infinite growth an intrinsic paradox, this was, and still is, an untenable long-term gambit. It’s also something to keep in mind when facing the purported end of history, a vexed condition of fractured deferral noted as ‘hauntological’. Mark Dagley’s work mirrors this spirit in its restless manufacture and tactful movement, but more precisely it does so as an analogue of memory, uniquely struck in real time.

Mark Dagley Installation Spencer Brownstone 2018

And / Or “ – – ”

It would be a mistake to call the devices Mark Dagley has fashioned something they aren’t. How they appear may not be what they are. Each stratagem, intended to disclose a particular mood, warrants recognition of the purpose and ideation gone into it, the attitude and care the effort of its construction entails. Similarities to estimable precedents may cease there. Nonetheless, what Dagley does is interesting. Using the most matter-of-fact means, he drafts a layered diagram of symbol, icon, and index brought forth all as one, one as all, and all at once. This is a radical activity, fixing structure as its cynosure.

When abstraction is considered less as a term of positive value, more as one signifier among many, and prone to scrutiny as a contradiction which models economic goals, differential pressure is brought to bear upon how art is shaped. For instance, is it possible to address the proposition of Google as an object, or as a picture, with meaning communicated through the coupling of medium and form? Conversely, is Google but an idea? How would questions like these be answered? How would the answers look? Digitalization makes representation dispensable above the support of its logic and below the stretch of its surface. In this respect, what you see isn’t what you see. Mark Dagley’s work alludes to this binary order, without being of it as such.

Mark Dagley Vanishing Point 1994

Query By Example

Technical processes never actually banish gesture or intuition. Instead, computation imbues tactile characters with fresh clarity. In its most profound exposition, Mark Dagley’s work resists programmed limits, where output is nominally grasped as metaphoric rendering. In turn, the metonymic displacement initiated by software, which is usually bundled as a written service enabling visualization, access, and delivery, produces a subject in excess of itself. In refuting the status of common resource, this new subject migrates to the trans- disciplinary field of cybernetics, which is likely the true refuge of the avant-garde. Perspective and resolution become factors of quality, if not ethics.

Accordingly, an object that’s not an object isn’t nothing. As Jean Baudrillard noted, it’s the pure object, the object that is none, which doesn’t cease to beset us with its immanence. The apprehension of wood, cotton, brass, copper, enamel, cardboard, and resin, which are materials of commerce and also Dagley’s own, hazards the predicament of viewer and viewed bound in myopic obsession with one another. The subject mistakes the profile of the object for the object itself. In turn, the profile registers the trace of a fallacy, the image of a subject self-satisfied with its own reflection.

Artworks per se aren’t abstract. Mark Dagley’s certainly aren’t. If there’s something to be said here, it’s that.

Mike Zahn
February 12, 2018 Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

Originally posted at


A Sapphic Ode

A Sapphic Ode

Why should vain mortals tremble at the sight
Of death and destruction in the field of battle,
Where blood and carnage clothe the ground in crimson,
Sounding with death-groans?

Death will invade us by the means appointed,
And we must all bow to the king of terrors;
Nor am I anxious, if I am prepared,
What shape he comes in.

Infinite Goodness teaches us submission,
Bids us be quiet under all his dealings;
Never repining, but forever praising
God, our Creator.

Well may we praise him: all his ways are perfect:
Though a resplendence, infinitely glowing,
Dazzles in glory on the sight of mortals,
Struck blind by lustre.

Good is Jehovah in bestowing sunshine,
Nor less his goodness in the storm and thunder.
Mercies and judgment both proceed from kindness,
Infinite kindness.

O, then, exult that God forever reigneth;
Clouds which, around him, hinder our perception,
Bind us the stronger to exalt his name, and
Shout louder praises.

Then to the wisdom of my Lord and Master
I will commit all that I have or wish for,
Sweetly as babes’ sleep will I give my life up,
When call’d to yield it.

Now, Mars, I dare thee, clad in smoky pillars,
Bursting from bomb-shells, roaring from the cannon,
Rattling in grape-shot like a storm of hailstones,
Torturing ether.

Up the bleak heavens let the spreading flames rise,
Breaking, like Ætna, through the smoky columns,
Lowering, like Egypt, o’er the falling city,
Wantonly burn’d down.

Let oceans waft on all your fleeting castles,
Fraught with destruction, horrible to nature;
Then, with your sails fill’d by a storm of vengeance,
Bear down to battle.

From the dire caverns, made by ghostly miners,
Let the explosion, dreadful as volcanoes,
Heave the broad town, with all its wealth and people,
Quick to destruction.

Still shall the banner of the King of Heaven
Never advance where I am afraid to follow:
While that precedes me, with an open bosom,
War, I defy thee.

Fame and dear freedom lure me on to battle,
While a fell despot, grimmer than a death-head,
Stings me with serpents, fiercer than Medusa’s,
To the encounter.

Life, for my country and the cause of freedom,
Is but a trifle for a worm to part with;
And, if preserved in so great a contest,
Life is redoubled.

The American Hero
By Nathaniel Niles (1741–1828)