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.
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|Article Type:||Letter to the Editor|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2004|
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