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Gary Gissler

back asswords

May 17 - June 30, 2000



Language is a physical thing. The way a phrase gets said can leave you ecstatic, concerned, confused. Language has impact. And yet precisely because words are so ubiquitous, they are often taken as transparent, as intangible, as being just part of the ambient activity in daily living: things that aren't really things at all. Means, not objects.


Gary Gissler's work tunes into this contradiction, giving form to words in his paintings and drawings, and loading words with emotion while making them nearly impossible to read unless you engage language's very physicality. To read Gissler's words is to register a strain on the eyes while reading his delicate script, or appreciate the incredible obsessiveness necessary in order to produce written words on such microscopic scale. His works have all the simple, material and matter-of-fact beauty associated with minimalism. Three quarter inch plywood square panels sanded down by machine and hand, then polished with layers upon layers of gesso, the works also have the sensuality of skin.


The words tracing across their surfaces might seem abstract fields, smudges, or compositional lines--things barely heard or said or made, made as little psychological seismographs to mark some deep undertow of thought. Some of them have such lines running uniformly and ubiquitously across their square frames to create what seems to be knit fields of varying tonal shades. From these smudged splotches and extending lines emerges language: a meaning buried inside, a semantic language within material language, the human inside the material. Also the human that is, perhaps, all too human.


Gissler's surfaces may be exquisite, and the formal composition delicate or precise, but his language often plays on physical desire. A work features the phrase: "you know I need to know," which could be juggled by the eye to read "you know I need" or "I need to know you," showing how the physical placement and reading of words change meaning, and then feelings. The minimalist bedrock sometimes hits corporeality head-on, with the hard core sensuality (and sometimes the humor) of a raunchy rock lyric: "eager beaver shot in the arm pit stop short cut back down and out" or "beam me up too high to talk dirty to you fat fuck in the afternoon."


Tim Griffin




Catalog available, texts by Tim Griffin and Dean Wareham.

For more information please call Josee Bienvenu at (212) 219 1482 or email