Sunday, January 15, 2006

MILF: Mom I'd Like to Fulfill

In “Barbara and David Stone’s Bookshelf,” Dylan Stone examines inspiration and the anxiety of influence.

Stone assembles 38 watercolor drawings into a large-scale picture of his parents’ bookshelf, which is filled with great works of literature and philosophy. Each sheet is rendered with great loyalty to the appearance of the books, specific to publisher and edition. The spines are weathered and cracked, proving that they have been read multiple times. Atop the shelves are African and Pacific figurative sculptures, suggesting a familiarity with art history. The impression we get is that Barbara and David Stone are highly literate, cultured, and erudite; with a genuine appreciation for art and literature. To be reared by such intellectual people must be inspiring, yet intimidating; and that is Dylan Stone’s point.

“Barbara and David Stone’s Bookshelf” is autobiographical. Stone uses 38 sheets of paper for the massive drawing. The artist is 38 years old, a 1:1 ratio of sheets to years of his life, like “building blocks” in his intellectual growth. Stone develops this idea of building blocks in the configuration of the bookshelf, as the rows of books and varied heights of the moveable shelves correspond to the shape of the Periodic Table. It’s as if each book is an element in the Stone family’s cultural outlook.

This indexical effort fits into Dylan Stone’s previous projects, especially "A Trip Along the Yangtze River,” in which the artist photographically documented every block of Manhattan. In “Yangtze River,” the project is steered by urban planning rather than the artist’s habits, whims, or training. In “Bookshelf,” the strategy is similar, except that one could substitute a domestic fixture for metropolitan grid, and a couple of parents for a team of urban planners.

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