As I slowly read the seemingly exhaustive list of song titles that begin with the letter “i” as selected by Danielle Gustafson-Sundell it occurred to me how much the “I” is really all about the you. The declarations of love, doubt, and anger currently on view at Julius Caesar all in some sense, sometimes desperately, imply a response or source for their pronouncements. Text-based art or writing as art has its roots in everything from Guillaume Apollinaire’s early twentieth century Calligrammes to the conceptual work of artists such as Vito Acconci, Joseph Kosuth, and Robert Smithson. Here Gustafson-Sundell’s work feels fresh, accessible, and vibrant in its exploration of the “i” in its relation to the “you.”
Danielle Gustafson-Sundell. songs that begin with i. 2011. Image courtesy of the artist and Julius Caesar Gallery.
"songs that start with i" engages the viewer on multiple levels. Gustafson-Sundell’s crisp and simple hang of numerous sheets of paper tacked to the gallery wall is thoughtfully broken up, a tactic that complements the layout of text on the page. From a distance the text is strings of poetry, dense blocks of quotes, or possibly even text messages. A black-and-white image of a hand with a blazing lighter begins and ends the concert of words, echoing the individual I in the crowd. While this iconic image of participation has been supplanted by smartphones at the music concerts I’ve seen of late, the desire to ride the tide of a crowd lost in its own intimacies has remained intact.
A closer inspection follows the alphabetized titles to the brink of meaninglessness. However, as the eyes travel and the words blur, titles come into focus. At that moment the internal lighter flicks and memory like the flame flares. There were countless songs that bounced me from 8 track road trips as a child, to hot tears of high school shame fueled by shoeboxes of loose mix tapes. This was gleefully interrupted with smug recollections of newfound independence and tragically failed makeouts. My private moments were public only in a slight smile, but it was a wonderfully breathless experience in a gallery space. There were few bystanders to elbow and while earplugs were not required, I felt the same sense of being connected in the crowd through music, albeit in my own protected private space.
-Courtney R. Thompson, Contributing ArtSlant Writer
(A closing reception, reading, and artist talk will be held at the gallery on Sunday, January 29 at 2pm.)