By Dan Gilsdorf
A few months back I told Crash that I was having a solo show at a gallery in Portland, Oregon and he thought it would be a good idea to put together an announcement for the TAM website. I dragged my feet on it, thinking that the exhibition didn’t have anything to do with tattoos and might not be the kind of thing that many tattooers would be into. But in the end he convinced me, so at the risk of boring his readership…
Last September I moved from Portland, Oregon in order to take two temporary positions at shops that I’ve admired for years: Freddy Corbin’s Tattoo 13 in Oakland and Black Heart Tattoo in San Francisco. Neither place needs any introduction here and it should go without saying that being granted posts at these shops was truly an honor. But in moving to California I was obliged to give up my art studio/workshop and leave all my tools, equipment and supplies back in Portland.
Typically the sculptures and installations that I make involve a lot of technology and mechanics so they are pretty labor intensive and expensive to produce. The move seemed like a great opportunity to take a little break from making art altogether and just concentrate on doing good tattoos, the standards for which are frighteningly high in the Bay Area. With my waking hours dedicated to filling those big shoes, I figured I wouldn’t have the time or space to make any work and certainly wouldn’t have anywhere to put it once it was done.
As it turned out, I couldn’t convince myself to disengage from making art work completely, yet the question remained: how to go about it in my new environment. I’d had ideas about using text in my work and had put together a few projects that rely heavily on written words, such as the Some Tattoo Ideas book, but I hadn’t taken the opportunity to explore it much farther. So freed from the (frankly kind of burdensome) constraints of a physical studio, I decided to start writing. The exhibition Sentences is the result.
Sentences is a selection of the text-based works I’ve been making since moving to SF. In my mind, they’re closely related to the mechanical sculptures that I made before in that they use technology (written language being a technology of sorts), in a repetitive and formulaic way. Although technically they are written works, I’m definitely approaching the project as a visual artist so most of them aren’t really designed to be read so much as they are designed to be looked at and thought about. They don’t have any narrative content to speak of, and a lot of them don’t have any subject matter other than a description of themselves.
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of art that isn’t really about anything other than what it actually is, so this project has been an attempt to achieve that, if such a thing is possible. Maybe the best way to say it is that these are as close as I can get to pure idea; disembodied concepts that are as simple as possible and are not encumbered by the tasks of representing something (as images do) or existing as material objects (like sculptures). As an added bonus, they barely cost anything to make and I don’t have to store them. The whole exhibition takes up less than five megabytes on my hard drive!
As with most things, Sentences is best seen in person but the images here might give you a general idea of what it’s all about. Take a look and let me know what you think.
For more info on Dan’s art projects visit his site: http://dangilsdorf.com/home/
(Dan Gilsdorf is featured in Tattoo Artist Magazine #25)