Spraying You: Ari Marcopolous

I’m not reading any reviews of Directory (2011), the new book by Ari Marcopolous and Rizzoli. I can’t, actually: he’s spraying me in the eye. From what I can see, it’s a paperback book, cover finished with a thick kind of lacquer lamination; it’s several hundred or several thousand pages long; it consists of image after image printed on groundwood paper, and it’s $65.

This book is tweaking my ambiguity radar in ways that I usually welcome. That is: I like the idea of art spraying you in the eye, and having to realign yourself to get oriented. Like Johnny Rotten gleefully talking about confused listeners of punk: They don’t have any reference point! They don’t know what to do with it! I appreciate having to work.

Is there some kind of vowel missing in this visual language, these xeroxed photos of graffiti, clouds, stuff? An appreciation of the forms (photography, publishing), perhaps, a missing craftsmanship? Look at the art of Richard Diebenkorn: you can see how the surface has been thoughtfully worked; there was an attention to paint and canvas. I’m not requiring reverence, either: the spray paintings of Christopher Wool have that, too:

Christopher Wool, Untitled, 2007, Enamel on linen, 126 x 96 in. (320 x 243.8 cm)

Reference point? In an old copy of Frieze magazine there was an article by Neville Wakefield on the fashion photography of Steven Meisel. I remember being blistered by it for some reason. It was probably chic envy, along with his complex and searching style, and his research. I appreciated the bit on the Alex Katz editorial in Vogue Italia. If only Neville Wakefield could describe some of Marcopolous’ images, he could throw me a rope.

Wait a minute: Neville Wakefield wrote the text! Where is it? Flip through, flip through: about half a dozen of the photos in Directory have captions. The texts for “Milan,” a photograph of a solitary figure walking through a building, and “Houston,” a barely-there cityscape, led the way. Some of the other captions seemed obvious, and did not.

There are a lot of photographs of graffiti in the book. I’ve read my share about Dondi and Futura 2000, and Mailer; the mojo here is sapped, faded, bleached.

There are other planets in Directory‘s solar system: Philip-Lorca diCorcia: Thousand, which was an exhibition as well as a book, comes to mind. Also, the photography of Mark Morrisroe who was prolific and personal, as Marcopolous seems to be.

Now let me go clean the paint out of my eye so that I can actually read, and possibly review, this book.


2 thoughts on “Spraying You: Ari Marcopolous

  1. Psm

    Perhaps the joke is on us. What do you estimate unit cost to be? Groundwood? Probably quite low. Think about how much they are making at the $65 retail.

    Another thought. The resolution of the images, choice of paper- it’s about experiencing the work as a whole–the block of the directory. Firstly this is about the container. Then, to dip in and out or even view sequentially evokes the feeling of using a phone book.
    But here is where the brilliance is— a huge segment if the population doesn’t use phone books; many have never seen them. Those that used to use them are old enough to have the money to spend simply to hold one again.

    1. mvagnetti Post author

      About $3 to produce.
      Concept I like, image quality is the main quibble – a directory that gets you lost? I’m unsure if they were meant to look like that. Maybe I should interview the publisher’s PM to get the story…


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