Directly after Zicmuse fled the premises, we met Joseph Del Pesco, who gave us a tour of his posters.
Joe Del Pesco
Joseph lives in San Francisco where he works at a press. Over the years he has accumulated a collection through trading and by printing posters designed by artists. Del Pesco sees poster collection as an alternative to fine art collection that is less materialistic as well as more portable. One of the most notable in his collection is a poster John Baldassari created as a campaign idea for California Public Libraries. It shows a beautiful young woman taking a break from a weighty biography of James Joyce in order to look up and smile seductively. Its caption: Learn to Read. It has the hallmark of the best of Baldassari. It is subtly disjointed, you can almost accept it as a real literacy campaign, but there is something not quite right. It is more complex than it should be, and relating the caption to the image becomes a surprisingly difficult task.
The other gem in Del Pesco's collection is an intricate and beautiful poster by Chris Ware, a legendary alternative comics artist. His book Jimmy Corgan, the Smartest Kid on Earth is a master study in dream and despair, and exists today as the Ulysses of comics. So learn to read, kids!
Later in the morning, towards 3 am, after we felt that we had exhausted the possibilities of the event, and that we had seen everything we could find, we saw Joseph Del Pesco again, running towards us through the mist and darkness and early morning bustle of produce trucks on 3rd street. He was running hard and out of breath.
"You'll never believe what just happened! That produce truck started driving away with my posters! He didn't even realize I was back there! I had to take them all down and roll them up fast and then jump out of the back of the truck while it was moving. I'm glad they weren't paintings!"
We only saw one more piece, and although we tried for the others, we missed them all, or saw them and didn't know we were seeing them. These are the ones we missed:
Harrell Fletcher - Project Located in a Tree
0009 - DIY Wikiboxing
Jessica Hutchins - look out onto the grassy strip of land near I-5
Theo Angell - Video piece located in a parking lot
The final piece we were able to find was by Anthony Marcellini.
Following the directions, we arrived at the NW Corner of Morrison and Grand Ave., and found a couple of thermoses full of hot coffee, a stack of cups and a sign attached to the overpass which said Free Coffee! As it was cold and close to 2 am, we decided to have some. It was fairly bitter and we decided it was probably just Folgers. We were glad to have coffee, but perplexed by this piece, although in retrospect it did follow the precedent set by the hotdogs and ice cream.
It wasn't until we stopped into the gas station on Grand to get some of those individual creamer servings (which we offered to pay for but the nice cashier refused) that we noticed the coffee cups had labels on them. They said "The Fact That You Are Reading This is a Sign That You Are a Seeker" and detailed a short meditation for generating personal warmth and positive energy.
In the discussion that followed, I came to realize that Marcellini's piece was emblematic of the entire project. Most of what we experienced had little to do with the idea of art as constructed, meaningful, aesthetic objects. This event was instead asking us to consider our own experience as if it were an externalized aesthetic object. The art took place within the minds of those who attended, and whatever incidental objects involved only served to focus our attention introspectively. Can compelling people to be attentive to their own experiences be called art? I don't see why not. And drinking a bad cup of coffee under an overpass at 2 am seems like a low price to pay for the knowledge that I am a seeker!
I actually don't work at a press. I work at the Nelson Gallery at the University of California, Davis. I don't know that the Baldessari poster was made for CA Public Libraries, but it is using the format of a poster you might see in a library. It was actually given out for free as part of a series of public projects called 17 Reasons in San Francisco. (curated by Jack Hanley and Kate Fowle). I didn't mean to imply that collecting contemporary art is overly materialistic or that a poster collection is somehow superior - or less materialistic. My collection was accidental (a byproduct of living in an interesting city) and most of the posters were gifts or take-aways from galleries, which means I can give them away without feeling like I'm at a loss. Maybe it's a less precious kind of collection, but I've grown quite attached since its unremarkable beginnings underneath the bed I share with my wife Helena.