Research point: introductory notes on some artists named in Dean § Millar’s book ‘Place’

This post is a bit frustrating because obviously there would be so much more to explore on each of the following artists. So just some brief notes to put away for future use.


Vitaly Komer (1943) and Alex Melamid  (1945)

A team of two Russian dissident artists, founders of the movement called Sots Art – a version of Soviet pop combined with Conceptual art. Settled in the USA since 1978, they signed their works together until 2004.

In Place they are named for their project The People’s Choice (1993) which investigates aesthetic tastes in a dozen countries around the world coming to the conclusion that the most wanted painting in many of them is a landscape in blue, with mountains, a tree and some people in the foreground. I remember that these popular ‘tastes’ were wittingly mentioned in Grayson Perry’s Ted

An example of work by them with text in it might be the Stalin Monument (2006): in the red light district of The Hague in the Netherlands a bust of Stalin was placed in a phone booth with a paraphernalia of objects arranged around him: a lamp, a red velvet cloth, a fish. It comes natural to think of prostitutes behind a glass wall. On top of the booth the words: Alarm Brand-Politie (eng.: fire police). It was later relocated to the museum area. The first impression is one of estrangement: what does Stalin have to do with this seedy place, why is he there? (Accessed 20/09/16)

Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006)

He was a Scottish poet, writer and artist. Little Sparta is a 2 ha Arcadian garden at Dunsyre near Edinburgh which was created since 1966 by the artist and his wife Sue. The garden stays at the core of this artist multi-faceted work and includes poems and aphorisms inscribed on stones, sculptures, objects, garden rooms and installations, reflecting his involvement with poetry, philosophy, history and landscaping. It’s a place for meditation and memory.

Originally a poet, in 1963 he published his first collection of concrete poems – in which words are arranged according to a pattern or shape – and began inscribing them on stone. These poetic objects are then set in the natural environment. All his work has to do with language and place, language becomes physically place on stones and in the landscape, it seems even that these poems need a place to exist.  (Accessed 20/09/16) (Accessed 20/09/16) (Accessed 20/09/16)


Douglas Heubler (1924-1997)

This American conceptual artist used to work in different media, painting, sculpture and especially photography through which he investigated social environments, places and the passage of time in a number of series significantly named Duration and Location. If Location Piece#2 is mainly involved with people’s arbitrary perception of places, in another ambitious series of his, Variable Piece #70 (1971) he started ‘to photographically document the existence of everyone alive’, collecting tens of thousands of people and including sometimes texts, declarations, lists to characterize them. Obviously this was an ongoing project that for its very nature could never be completed. There is a sense of disturbing detachment and perhaps of alienation in this type of desperate artistic enterprise. (Accessed 20/09/16) (Accessed 20/09/16) (Accessed 20/09/16)



Robert Smithson (1938-1973)

A somewhat similar sense of detachment is to be found in the work by the American artist Robert Smithson, A tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey (1967). He too worked in several media, landscape art, sculpture, photography. I feel particularly drawn to his rich series of drawings and collages which very often include texts, like Saint John in the Desert (1961) or A Heap of Language, a pencil drawing of 1966, where words are visually arranged in a heap – perhaps an example of concrete poetry? Definitely another artist I would like to have time to study. (Accessed 21/09/16) (Accessed 21/09/16)


Marine Hugonnier (1969)

With a background in anthropology and philosophy, this French artist now living in London investigates social conditions and perceptions through landscape using photographs, films, like Ariana mentioned in the essay, and sculptures. She is also interested in the relation between written text and images as shown in a collage series started in 2004, Art for Modern Architecture, in which she replaces original newspaper images with abstract blocks of colour based on Ellsworth Kelly’s geometric shapes. In these works on paper the attention seems to be shifted from place to time, and my feeling is that these attractive images, because of their abstract timeless shapes, have the power to make actuality in the newspaper timeless too. (Accessed 21/09/16) (Accessed 21/09/16) (Accessed 21/09/16)


Guy Moreton (1971)

Guy Moreton is a British artist and photographer with a strong interest in cultural history and representation of landscape in relation to philosophy and literature. His photo Wittgenstein’s Cottage (2002-4) included in Dean and Millar’s book Place is part of a collaborative project exhibiting works by him, Alec Finlay and Jeremy Millar and centred around Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophical thought on language.

In this project they presented their cooperative works both in text and photography about the site and the remains of the philosopher’s house overlooking Lake Eidsvatnet, a place that for Wittgenstein represented a ‘house for thought’. So even if Moreton’s photo does not directly include text, it is connected to it and is in an interrelated engagement with that place on different levels. (Accessed 21/09/16) (Accessed 21/09/16)




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