Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bill DiMichele


My connection to Bill DiMichele has always been a warm one, although many-gapped, he jittering off in many directions on the west coast, I doing likewise on the east coast.  It goes back to the late eighties when he and I shared space in a number of zines devoted to visual poetry and like matter.  Twice around then my little outfit, the Runaway Spoon Press, published chapbooks of his. 
In his introduction to one of these, Heart on the Right (1992), Dale Jensen summed up Bill as he was then: “ . . . a poet, musician, painter and performance artist. He's a father. He's a member of the obscure but infamous performance group, the Outpatients, and the rock band, The False Gods. He's put out three albums of his own music.  He co-edits Score, the visualpoetry magazine.  He has several other books out besidethis one.”  In short, Bill has been, and still is, more everywhere in the arts than just about anyone else.  (And, you will see, more everywhere in each art than just about anyone else.)
Heart on the Right was a collection of poetry containing material like the following, one a complete poem, the next the first stanza of the one after it:


          so i'm dedicated to self-indulgence
          burnished during the same period
          i disembodied flower nectar
          from room to room
          into the darkened cinema
          stared down at the maelstrom
          of needles and spires
          lured to that realm.
          a prison this idiotic almost
          venerating by

          one's a felony, the other
          a cloudburst.


          because i knew a shade
          exhumed from a summertime
          followed the quest down through the radio
          echoes of stone chrysanthemums
          blooming catacombs
          carved sistine beauty
          i rushed to find diagnosis
          or heir.

I think you’ll find echoes of the quest of the persona in the second of these “down through the radio/ dimmings . . . (to) Sistine beauty,” from which he “rushed to find diagnosis or heir” in the works gathered in this collection, in spite of the change from the verbal to the predominantly graphic.  Note in particular, the similarity of the effects he achieves from oppositions like “repose/ reconstruction,” the titles of two collage sequences in the present collection, to what he gets out of “felony/ cloudburst” in the much different kind of art just quoted.  Note, too, how elegantly in the works of the present collection he “works on the cusp of confusion and harmony,” as Laurie Schneider described him in her introduction to the second of the DiMichele books my press put out, Capacity X (1988).  Again, the use of oppositions.  Relatedly, Bill seems in all artistic endeavors to somehow stay close to varieties of design long known to be effective while simultaneously veering away from them amazingly far, as in the side-by-side visual poems I have reproduced below from Capacity X:

Before I let you go to see for yourself how terrific a multi-artist Bill is, I want to spend a few moments with one frame apiece from his already-mentioned, “repose,” and “reconstruction,” each of which is a ten-frame sequence (although each of their frames is a stand-alone, as well).


clip_image008 clip_image008[1] clip_image010
Wonderful as they are here, they are, in context with the other frames in both sequences, they are another order of magnitude greater than “wonderful.”  The upper image, and the nine others in “repose,” could not more effectively express the serenity of “repose”—which here is definitely shown as a triumph achieved, not something subdued to.  At least to me, a person who finds happy lyricism in almost every artwork. Beach; the commotion of words almost vanished; the commotion of loud colors, too, just about absent; a simplicity of rectangles somehow organically right . . . 
I may be the only one to make a positive reading of “purchases,” one of the few words one can make out in “repose,” and “You won it. Now make it yours,” given the unfashionability of buying things, but I take these texts to speak of a holiday, or even a retirement, bought and entered, in spite of the tone of the advertisement slogan.
The frame for “reconstruction” is going the other way, loud wrong colors everywhere, torn fragments, a sense (for me) of things boarded up—but large-lettered ambition, possible stories rising to be told, and a buoyant confidence of a major synthesis under way.
Others will have different readings, which—finally—is the greatest virtue of Bill’s works, their multi-interpretability.  I think few will find ways to read them without exhilaration, though.
                                                                                         Bob Grumman, 3 September 2012



Bill DiMichele