Opening Talk for Charlie Ramsburg and Thury Levente
On the one hand we have commercial, pop culture world and its art derivations like Warhol - a world of lines and dots, flat screens that say: "Don't touch - stay out! I will give you all the information you need."
A gigantic feedback look is in motion, devouring itself and spewing out more and more, newer and newer, imitations of imitations. It is impossible to grasp with any depth the material world represented in the electronic media. It is a long stretch from rock, clay, flesh and bone to a picture made up of electrons in a tube.
On the other hand is mud, clay, oozing, sand and pigment, light bouncing in billions of particles off matter, inviting us to understand, to touch imagine, identify the texture, the slipperiness or roughness, to feel the heft.
These are paintings and sculptures, objects that represent something vet are themselves made up of the original materials of the universe. Take the earth, give it a squeeze and in that act give it meaning.
Thury Levente and Charlie Ramsburg are artists who are marginal by choice to the high-tech consumer society that devours resources and stifles quiet, reflection, nuance, contemplation. Their work is minimal, not in the sense of devoid of embellishment, out in the sense that with simplicity you can convey more meaning.
With Thury Levente, boundaries are crossed between the inside of the scull and the outside. The outside world crushes in, the inside bursts out. Vulnerable human beings buffeted in forces more that flesh and bone can stand. How greatly we identify with this suffering. Earth figure is like a single frame of a disaster film, like the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination. Are those brains coming out of your head? Or is it your soul? Or are you asleep and travelling outside yourself in your dreams? Lev's sculptures are created in a gesture from the earth with no steps in between to distance us from them.
Charlie Ramsburg's paintings mediate between the worlds that we inhabit. A well has a history as peeled paint, affiches, graffiti, cracks, bricks exposed, bullet holes - just as we present masks to each other and only through time, in relaxed, unguarded moments or during good or difficult times, do we get close. The wall can hide the life within and glimpse through the window hint at what's behind it. New Mexico walls are ideal - a long history, small windows for insulation reveal warmth and light or darkness and turmoil. The text is a sacred language, exclusive for the initiate, or it is an unknown language waiting for its Rosetta Stone. There is a profound yearning to unlock the meaning held within. Some are protected by an iron grate, some be a seal, some, more sinister, are wrapped in stifling leather thongs, a choking repression of the text which contains our ideas and our knowledge.
These artists resist the tendency of our culture to remove the human being from first hand, direct contact with experience. Diametrically opposed to virtual reality, a surrogate for experience produced in our minds, their expression is elemental, produced by light reflected from the materials of the earth, from the pigments of the earth. Touch it, it is solid. See it, it is what it is, not just a façade.
Are the Luddities? They do not resist the new technology to reject what is new. They do it because the simple relation of the artist's hand and eye to the object and communication through matter, form annd color carry so much more information than the most advanced machine. Just as the human being can beat the computer at a game of chess, because there is that other level of awareness which is intuition. There is a relationship between ourselves and the work of art … energy that moves both ways. This art is not, as they in Harlem, "in your face." The choice is yours. How far in do you want to come, there is no limit.
Congratulations, Levente and Charlie
Budapest, November 16, 1995.