An Art of Precarious Balance
Publication Date: July 24, 2006
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George Quasha’s extraordinary sculptures unite natural stones in a state of breathtakingly improbable balance. The stones are not altered physically or bonded in any way; rather, Quasha discovers an unknown axis that brings them into radical alignment. The stones "learn" this state of levity in contrast to their ordinary state of gravity, resulting in a new art form that feels alive with its own individual energy and personality. Here, 37 axial stones are displayed in dazzling full-page color photos. The accompanying text explains not only how the stones were found and eventually came together, but explores the aesthetic, philosophical, spiritual, and practical implications of an art of danger and impermanence. "Action pages" document the process—the repeated setting up, balancing, losing balance, and falling—until the full axial stone is born: a whole being greater and more real than the sum of its parts.
Artist and poet George Quasha works across mediums to explore principles in common within language, sculpture, drawing, video, sound, installation, and performance. His axial stones and axial drawings have been exhibited at the Baumgartner Gallery in Chelsea (New York City) and elsewhere. For his video installation work “art is: Speaking Portraits (in the performative indicative),” he has filmed over 400 artists, poets, and composers (in 6 countries and 15 languages) saying "what art is." His video works (including Pulp Friction, Axial Objects, Verbal Objects) have appeared internationally in museums, galleries, schools, and biennials. A 25 year performance collaboration (video/language/sound) continues with Gary Hill and Charles Stein. His 15 books include poetry (Somapoetics, Giving the Lily Back Her Hands, Ainu Dreams [with Chie Hasegawa], Preverbs); anthologies (America a Prophecy [with Jerome Rothenberg], Open Poetry [with Ronald Gross], An Active Anthology [with Susan Quasha], The Station Hill Blanchot Reader); and writing on art (Gary Hill: Language Willing; with Charles Stein: Tall Ships, HanD HearD/liminal objects, Viewer). Awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He has taught at Stony Brook (SUNY), Bard College, the New School, and Naropa University. With Susan Quasha he is founder/publisher of Barrytown/Station Hill Press in Barrytown, New York.
Carter Ratcliff is a poet, art critic, and Contributing Editor of Art in America. His writings have appeared widely, in European and American journals and in the publications of museums in the US and abroad, including the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Guggenheim Museum (New York), and the Royal Academy (London). His books of poetry include Fever Coast and Give Me Tomorrow. Among his books on art are Out of the Box: The Reinvention of Art, 1965-1975 and The Fate of a Gesture: Jackson Pollock and Postwar American Art. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.
"At first glance, one doesn’t quite see what one is looking at. Quasha, it seems, has found a batch of wildly eccentric rocks. Then one realizes what is going on: in each case, two rocks have been joined at precisely the point that turns them into a unity. These are configurations so delicately balanced that the slightest touch would topple them…The results are astonishing…For Quasha, an axis is like an intention: a force that, as it generates possibilities, gives them a contingent but intelligible order. Every esthetic advances a hope, for truth or clarity or beauty or whatever. Quasha’s esthetic is driven by the hope that possibility will always be open and fresh, never predictable."
—Carter Ratcliff, Art in America
"So jaded am I by today’s art, full of strategic moves and empty technological gesture, that George Quasha’s Axial Stones become nothing less than a wake up call. These balancing acts contain high wire energy and at the same time absorb gravities from all directions sending out primordial messages that one is always longing to hear (whether one knows it or not). As pleasurable as these "coupling" rocks are to look at, the core experience is that of the mind weighing various details of its own cosmology one upon the other...in just so many ways."
—Gary Hill, artist
"George Quasha is an artist who manifests the mystery of a stone’s interior nature without ever penetrating its surface. He discerns the internal distribution of dense masses and delicate striations by discovering the axis that allows one stone to balance upon another. These matings are unforeseen because they are unforeseeable. Indeed, seeing is not the primary sense that guides his process. Instead of imposing his aesthetic will, Quasha submits to the dictates of stones which communicate to him through a language of tactile discourse."
—Linda Weintraub, author of Art at the Edge and Over and In the Making