Thursday, June 24, 2004

Pictures of What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow
Zak Smith, 2004

Page proof.(Letters)(Letter to the Editor)
397 Words
22 June 2004
Artforum International
ISSN: 1086-7058; Volume 42; Issue 10
(c) 2004 Information Access Company. All rights reserved.

To the Editor:

There's an error concerning my piece Pictures of What Happens on Each Page
of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow in David Joselit's review of the
Whitney Biennial, "Apocalypse Not" [May 2004]. Joselit writes: "Like its
literary model, Smith's work adopts an episodic structure through its
arrangement of 755 page-size drawings in a grid, but the connection to
Pynchon is largely metaphorical. While adopting different visual idioms
ranging from cartoons to modernist abstraction, Smith's subject is
apparently his own private milieu."

The connection to Pynchon's text is by no means "largely metaphorical"; it
is in fact meticulous, exact, and quite literal. As the title states, the
images correspond, in the order presented on the wall, to each page of the
novel--the first Viking edition, to be precise. (See, for instance, in the
detail reproduced in Artforum, the image in the bottom row, far right, which
corresponds to page 536: "He beams at Katje, a sunburst in primary colors
spiking out from his head.") The images required hours of historical
research and are as true to the descriptions in the text as possible. If
there's a B-52 in the fiftieth drawing, it's because there's one on page 50.

While I can only guess what insights Mr. Joselit may have into my
(admittedly rather limited) "private milieu," I assume I will be believed
when I report that it is utterly devoid of V-2 rocket strikes, sentient
light-bulbs, and paranoid men in pig costumes. All of these do, however,
appear in Pynchon's book.

- --Zak Smith, New York

David Joselit responds:

I am sorry for any inaccuracy in my characterization of Zak Smith's work.
However, I remain convinced that the relation among his motifs, his formal
realization of them, and the profusion of pages that constitute the piece
place the viewer in doubt over how systematic the project is. It seems to me
that, like Gravity's Rainbow, this artwork is meant to embody a system in
the process of its own undoing. To my taste--and I'm afraid I can't cite any
higher power than taste--Smith's network of text/image somehow needed to
read more forcefully qua network in relation to its literary analogue.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Artforum International Magazine, Inc.

....more about Zak's art (which pynchonoid enjoyed tremendously at the Whitney in March):