An event celebrating the publication of Martin Gantman’s new book, “Black Box: Decoding the Art Work of Martin Gantman,” will take place Tuesday from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Abby, 692 N. Robertson Blvd.
The book, published in association with the Institute of Cultural Inquiry (ICI) and ICI Press, essentially is 10 individual books, each focusing on a theoretical or practical interest that has compelled Gantman. In it, the artist describes the background, influences, history and development of his almost 40 years of artistic output.
A signed and numbered limited edition of 50 copies of the books is available. The book also is available in print-on-demand and eBook versions through bookstores and online booksellers. Copies of the print-on-demand paperback version, as well as the limited edition, will be available for sale at the book launch on Tuesday.
Gantman is a Los Angeles-based artist and writer who has exhibited internationally. His published work includes, “See you when we get home.” a project for Art Journal magazine, as well as “DuSable Park: An archeology,” “Notes on the Oddness of Things” and “Mapping the Lost Idea.” He also co-edited “Benjamin’s Blind Spot: Walter Benjamin and the Premature Death of Aura” for the Institute of Cultural Inquiry, distributed by DAP Publications in 2001. Gantman is a West Hollywood artist and a member of the city’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission. He currently is in a group show at Arena 1 Gallery in Santa Monica
Todd Williamson, a noted West Hollywood artist, provided the review of the book that follows:
Telling Stories: Martin Gantman
By Todd Williamson
When I was first asked to review Martin Gantman’s new book, “Black Box: Decoding the Art Work of Martin Gantman,” I wrongly assumed that it would be a typical artist’s book of his art. I discovered that over the years Martin, as an artist, greatly questions life. He questions identity, movement, society and basic beliefs. Martin’s upbringing in an immigrant Russian household greatly affected his work and how he sees the world. He questions everything around him with an openness that is both truthful and compelling.
He is an artist who is influenced by many of the great artists of the past decade and even beyond. He frames many of his works conceptually with a historical value that recalls Joseph Beuy’s installations, Rauschenberg and Richard Prince’s use of photography. Elements of Delacroix can be seen floating in Martin’s work, but instead of romantic notion being presented, the work asks questions. It debates the very notions that it presents. It questions the truth with subtle nuances and projected thoughts.
Not a conventional artist’s monograph of 40 years as an artist, the book is not chronological. It is a compilation of 10 books based on projects that the artist has endeavored over the years. These projects include “Atmospheric Resources Tracking” shown at Seyhoun Gallery in West Hollywood, where the artist released 100 balloons between April and December of 2004 with a pre-addressed, stamped postcard with questions for the person who found the balloon and hopefully responded to the artist’s request to return the postcard. Martin was attempting to create a fiction with the evidence returned in the postcards.
Other notable exhibitions include “Telling Stories” and “Tracking Identity.” “Telling Stories” was an exhibition curated by the artist where he hoped that through “representational content,” viewers of the exhibition would attempt to create a story based solely on the images presented before them. He believes there is always a story, and he goes to great lengths to find it.
Martin is truly as much a storyteller as an artist, and the book reads a little autobiographical as he explains his motives and thought patterns going through each exhibition over the years. His work asks many questions and he takes great strides to understand how the viewer perceives the work and if the story they see is the same as the one he conceived.
In “Tracking Identity” Martin gathered 1,150 images, some of which he took and others of which were submitted to him by friends. He wanted to see if, by gathering enough images of individual faces, he could show that facial identities do not define a person’s personality, and by doing so he could “illuminate the role of facial identity as a factor within the problem of social prejudice.” In today’s society, this has greatly become a polarizing topic that is greatly debated at the highest levels and frequently commented on by our illustrious President.
I only scratch the surface of the depths which Martin attempts in his questioning of society and where he fits into it.