Eric LoPresti at Burning in Water

Slider 2017 Oil on Linen © Burning In Water,  courtesy of the artist.

Slider 2017
Oil on Linen
©Burning In Water, courtesy of the artist.

Burning in Water New York is pleased to present An Ocean of Light by Brooklyn-based painter Eric LoPresti who was featured earlier this year in Staging Ground’s feature Art, Reality, and the Imagination. The exhibition encompasses several types of work, including large paintings on linen, mixed media works on paper and altered digital photographs.

Employing a range of approaches to his theme, Eric LoPresti constructs a multifaceted depiction of the American West that scrutinizes our physical environment within the contexts of both the expansive narrative of the atomic age and the artist’s own personal history. While the globally transformative story of the development and testing of nuclear weapons suffuses these works, LoPresti’s visual field shifts constantly and seamlessly from the micro- to the macroscopic. As with the infinitely elusive location of a particle in quantum mechanics, LoPresti presents a vision of the American West whose physical characteristics and historical associations defy any attempt to be perceived and comprehended from a fixed viewpoint.

LoPresti was raised in Richland, a seemingly anodyne suburban town in the desert steppe of eastern Washington state, but it wasn’t until after he had relocated to New York City that he began to appreciate his home town’s critical position in geopolitics. Richland is adjacent the Hanford site, where nuclear engineers created plutonium for the Manhattan Project. During the Cold War, Hanford plutonium-powered many of the over one thousand nuclear tests conducted at Nevada Test Site, and some of those underground tests are depicted in this exhibition. His subsequent remove from his home afforded LoPresti a radically different perspective on both his personal origin story and the epochal narrative of America’s atomic age. Belying the impact of his dual training as a scientist and as an artist on his modes of perception, LoPresti’s selections of visual subjects seems influenced by an almost Heisenbergian uncertainty. Rather than depicting the precise moment of a nuclear explosion – the visually ubiquitous mushroom cloud – LoPresti’s images render the affected environment, both natural and constructed, at a point of temporal attenuation. While never completely severing connections to his overarching narrative, LoPresti’s approach remains defiantly prismatic. In addition to temporal modulation, LoPresti constantly shifts his pictorial focus between the complex ecosystem of the desert, the landscape and its broader environmental and physical qualities.

Many of the resulting images include detailed, nearly microscopic, examinations of the plant and animal life that survives in the brutal environs of the desert. LoPresti’s depictions of the desert function as a bracing rejection of the oft-held notion that the desert environment is fundamentally void of life. As part of the comprehensive, vigorous examination of the atomic desert environs that recurs throughout his work, LoPresti intermittently shifts his focus to the extremely macroscopic by drawing upon high-altitude atmospheric and aerial surveillance imagery drawn from government archives.

While the title Ocean of Light is drawn from Joan Hinton’s first-hand account of the Trinity atomic bomb test, it may also be considered as referring to the ambient atmospheric qualities of the Western desert landscape. One of the most beguiling aspects of LoPresti’s art is that, while addressing the extremely fraught topic of atomic weaponry and the threat of nuclear annihilation, his work simultaneously remains resolutely defined by the optic phenomena of color and light — a paradoxical mode that he considers to be firmly ensconced within the painterly tradition of the apocalyptic sublime. For LoPresti, the visual aspects of the atomic landscape are not necessarily bifurcated into “natural” and “atomic” but rather reside at different points along an enigmatic continuum. Fundamental to these visions is LoPresti’s adherence to the “aesthetic of the western deserts – vast, harsh and beautiful places of subtle color relationships.” Within his vision of a world bathed in an ocean of light, colors remain LoPresti’s first-order elements:

The ‘secret subject’ of this work is color – the specific color of the desert, as I see it. I’m using color to speak to my individual and cultural identity as an American artist, raised in the west, painting in the east, and thinking about the contemporary landscape.

Art, Reality, and the Imagination


Over the past year, we at SG have been thinking about how to respond to recent political events and their disturbances to our routines—our routines of thinking, our routines of art production and commentary, our routines of perception of our individual and collective realities. While we feel relatively powerless to effect social or political change, we still think that what we do as writers, publishers, and people involved in art does have meaning. In fact, we believe art and writing have real power to change individuals and to influence society.

With this in mind, we’re pleased to present work by six artists: Sophie K. Arnold, Khara Devlin Gilvey, Tim Kent, Eric LoPresti, Jeremy Mangan, and Enis Sefersah.

We hope this artwork raises questions about the ways that beauty and ethics are entwined. If the immediate visual impact of art registers upon our aesthetic sensibility, then we recognize as well that the stories that the art contains are those that speak to our experiences, our times, and our understanding of ourselves as historical beings.

For each featured artist, SG presents two images. In addition, we asked each artist to respond to two questions about the intersection of art, the imagination, and “the real.” To give the artists some context for the questions, we offered the following quotes:

What is [the artist’s] function? Certainly it is not to lead people out of the confusion in which they find themselves. Nor is it, I think, to comfort them. I think his function is to make his imagination theirs and that he fulfills himself only as he sees his imagination become the light in the minds of others. –Wallace Stevens

The first effort at resistance to the effects of catastrophes, so deeply tied to the workings of tyrannies, is a poetics before a politics. –Édouard Glissant

New Chapbook by Will Alexander

Based on the Bush of Ghosts

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Chapbooks were printed in a limited edition of 100, are hand bound, and have covers letterpressed at the Center for Books Arts in NYC. Catch the rising wave of Alexander’s recent production and travel into the depths of outer space where few have dared to go.We’re pleased to announce the publication of a new chapbook by LA poet Will Alexander, Based on the Bush of Ghosts. Written in honor of the late Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola (1920-1997), the long poem serves equally as a belated eulogy and an aesthetic manifesto. Full of the verbal dynamism of Alexander’s intergalactic consciousness, the poem asks us all to consider where our minds have been and where they ought to be.


from Based on the Bush of Ghosts

its if I’m seeing you in a forest three times projected inside the moon

surrounded by certain fish

who announce obscure patterns & scorpions

uttering via a free & inevitable colloquy freed from vexatious imposition


& your writing

never entranced by libel

by hyphenated mending

according to recursive infra-cognition


never for you the guise of a rueful safety dog

or a fox in pursuit of an immigrant herring

but as forms from explosive insular dharma

certainly a living primordial iodine paradoxically opaque with trans-illusives

Daniel Kohn in Conversation

Watch the Full Conversation

How do perspective, history, and memory influence the ways that we look at the world and imbue forms with meaning? How is the process of creating art also a process of negotiating a relationship with the physical world and understanding how it works? How is an artistic practice an analytical exercise bounded by physical constraints?

Towards Brooklyn, 2002BroadCommission-Month2-Floor1Ferry, 2003

In the face of questions like these, Daniel Kohn’s paintings remind us that image often succeeds where language fails. Although, for Kohn, the point isn’t coming up with an answer as much as savoring the experience of looking for one. Kohn’s paintings straddle abstraction and realism in ways that give shape to ineffable concepts even as they complicate the things we think we know. Through perspective, Kohn might force us to confront landscapes we have internalized like the iconic New York skyline and prompt us to reconsider the historical and personal meanings that we have imposed upon it. Kohn’s paintings confront our versions of history and, in some ways, the concept of history itself as they work simultaneously to displace us and orient us. When I look at paintings from Kohn’s “Seen from Above” series, for example, they remind me where I am standing in physical space at the same time as I am reminded of Kohn’s perspective and the ways he is directing my gaze. Through this intricate process of displacement and orientation Kohn reminds us that the viewer is deeply involved in the process of making meaning. And that art, like science, is a continuous experiment and even those solid things—facts and objects—are really fluid concepts we are constructing and reconstructing as we go along.

Born in 1964 in Ahmedabad, India to French and American parents, Daniel Kohn was raised in France. He moved to New York in 1996 and, consequently, it is no surprise that place and perspective are two elements that he explores in his artwork. He has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in the United States and abroad and was, from 2003 until 2013, involved with the Broad Institute for Genomic Research, where he collaborated with scientists and explored connections between artistic and scientific processes.

You can read more about Kohn and see examples of his work here.


Staging Ground Presents 3X30

Three 30 minute performances. Cues given on cue. High meets low meets high meets low.

Meaning in the process of processionals. By professionals, in confessionals.


Office Hours written, directed and performed by Bethany Ides and co

I Am An Opera written and performed by Joseph Keckler

Pink Melon Joy by Gertrude Stein, directed by Katherine Brook

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

7:30PM Performance

7PM Doors

Tickets $15

Staging Ground Presents

Maroney Theater

St. Francis College

180 Remsen St., 7th FL

Brooklyn, NY 11201

Subways 2 3 4 5 A C F G R


Office Hours

Written and directed by Bethany Ides. Performed by Lindsay Benedict, Bethany Ides, Thomas Love, Eliza Perlmutter, Sophie Reiff, Cat Tyc, Gabi Villasenor, and Morgan Vo. Camerawork by Joy Lai and Ursula Sommer.

…Behind locked doors, what might be hiding might be a mouse, might have a message, might be that your phone is ringing and someone is answering who had been missing (we thought) … or that where we could play in private, that we’re on a dream date, experiencing real communism while everyone else is asleep …

I Am An Opera

Written and performed by Joseph Keckler.

Joseph Keckler will present a suite of short pieces from, and relating to, his recent performance piece “I Am An Opera” (commissioned by Dixon Place in 2013), a collection of laments and buffo showpieces that tell everyday stories from the artist’s life. 

Pink Melon Joy

Written by Gertrude Stein. Directed by Katherine Brook, assisted by GJ Dowding. Performed by Shonni Enelow, Lucy Kaminsky, Sipiwe Moyo, Nicolas Norena, and Alex Spieth. Designed by Chris Giarmo (sound), Diego Montoya (costumes). Dreamaturged by Shonni Enelow.

Forever radical, forever modern, Gertrude Stein’s landscapes of women are at their most complex in her early play “Pink Melon Joy” where good housekeeping is a battlefield and pregnancy is contagious. Moving briskly between wartime testimony, fractured poetry, and oozy baby talk, a group of women are drawn deeper and deeper into the uncanny valley of their femininity. Brook’s production charts the fanatical pursuit of sweetness amid horror and violence. A third-wave-feminist nightmare, it’s set on revealing the Hello Kitty in all of us.


Bethany Ides sets uncertain parameters wherein actors and actions intermingle wildly.  Her 2013 performance, installation, video and song cycle, I Feel It in My Dreams, was presented at Mandragoras Art Space in LIC.  Operating in/with VISITATION, a collaborative platform for de-institutionalizing strategies, Ides co-led a seminar in experimental punctuation at Governor’s Island and co-curated Initial Contractions, an exercise in spectral vision featuring 25 artists, composers, poets, performers, architects, activists, archivists and cooks in conjunction with Knockdown Center and the Reanimation Library.  This October, she’ll mount her month-long opera, Transient’s Theme, also at Knockdown Center, but not before establishing a provisional-conditional community in Shandanken, NY called Almost-Although.  Ides is ½ of Darkling, I Listen, an occasional witchy pop group and the author of several poetic projects.  She currently teaches at Pratt, SVA and Bard.

Joseph Keckler ( is a singer, musician, writer, and interdisciplinary artist. His most recent performance piece, I am an Opera, was commissioned by Dixon Place. Other live performances have taken place at The New Museum of Contemporary Art, Issue Project Room, BAM Fischer Center, Joe’s Pub, and many other venues. Keckler was recently featured on WNYC Soundcheck and BBC America’s The Nerdist and has received residencies from Yaddo and MacDowell, as well as a Franklin Furnace Grant and a Fellowship in Interdisciplinary Work from New York Foundation for the Arts. Current projects include a new EP and collection of stories. Composer Aleksandra Vrebalov has been commissioned by ASCAP to write a song cycle for Keckler, which will premiere next year. The Village Voice recently named him “Best Downtown Performance Artist, 2013.”

Katherine Brook ( most recently directed She Is King (Laryssa Husiak, Incubator’s Other Forces 2014), and Pink Melon Joy (Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival and Prelude ’13). Katherine Brook / Tele-Violet presented a Noh play, Lady Han, a Noh play, at Incubator Arts Project in 2013, and American Realism in 2011-12 at The Invisible Dog, the San Diego Museum of Art and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. Brook is a member of the New Georges JAM and is the Producing Manager of New York City Players. She received her MFA from Carnegie Mellon University (2011) and her BFA from NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing (2005), where she recently returned as a guest director for Acting: The First Six Lessons (Fall 2013)

Staging Ground Interviews Deborah Simon

Ursus arctos horribilius
polymer clay, faux fur, linen, embroidery floss, acrylic paint, glass, wire and foam
26”H x 22”D x 22”W, 2013

SG: What is it about animals that draws you to use them as your artistic subject?

DS: I’ve been drawing animals since I was about four, and, except for a brief stint as an undergrad, I’ve pretty much always used them as an subject. I don’t really have a good answer for this question – why do we love what we love? I could say that I like animals more than people, that I enjoy the mystery of them, that I like the fact that I will never know what they are thinking, but none of that really sums up why a fleeting glance of a wild animal is more exciting to me than seeing a human.

SG:Your sculptures exist at the intersection of the real and irreal. The viewer first mistakes them for a real (and presumably taxidermied) animal. But then, on closer inspection, they reveal themselves to be art. How would you situate the realism of the bears in relation to figurative art, tromp l’oeil, and/or hyperrealism?

DS: I never set out to be a realist artist. It’s just the way I’m bent. I’ve tried to work abstractly, but I always find a shape that resembles something – a scottie dog, an eagle, whatever – and tease it out until I have a realistic representation. I don’t think about the bears in terms of tromp l’oeil or hyperrealism. If anything I’m constantly fighting my need to be absolutely accurate and allow the pieces to drift into their own being. I like to walk the line between taxidermy, toy, and sculpture, and I like the tension this creates.

SG: The “natural” question to ask concerns the relationship between art and the environment, or the status of “environmental art.” Do you feel that you are an environmental artist? What, if any, environmental message do you hope your art conveys?

DS: I don’t think of myself as an environmental artist and generally don’t use environmental issues as a starting point for my work. I usually start with the image fully formed in my head without really understanding what it means. If the idea sticks around for several months, I know it has the staying power to keep me interested through the months and months it will take to make it.

By the very nature of using animals as a subject, people read environmental issues into the work. My husband interpreted the circulatory system on the polar bear as a reference to changing ocean currents and the warming of the arctic waters, which had never entered my mind.

I am very careful not to venture into wildlife art – images of charging buffalo and majestic lions surveying the savannah – that treat animals as odalisques there for our enjoyment and control. I want my animals to challenge the viewer and how they think about animals. I see it more of a psychological challenge than an environmental statement.

SG’s emotional reaction to your bears runs along these lines: an affective leap that makes us sympathetic followed by a sort of horror, or jarring fear. How, if at all, do you think these sculptures are tragic?

The emotional starting point for me with these pieces was vulnerability. I was thinking about how bears were both the iconic hunting trophies and are still childhood toys, and how opposed these two roles are. The taxidermy focuses on the power and violence, while the toy is a safely defanged and declawed companion for children. The toy becomes a special friend to help keep the vulnerability of childhood at bay, which in my sculpture, became a toy-size realistic bear that was flayed and exposed. The polar bear evolved on its own based on a strong image in my head, but with other bears I became more purposeful about which organ system and body language I chose. Black bears always struck me as nervous and fearful despite their size and strength. So I chose the nervous system and a defensive but frightened body language.

I usually need to connect emotionally with the piece, even if it’s not what I planned or I don’t understand the emotion. Once the emotion of the animal is set, the rest of the piece falls into place.

SG: What is your ideal context for viewing these sculptures? How does that context contribute to a viewer’s perception of the bears as artificial or realistic?

DS: I didn’t have any idea how to show these pieces. I hate pedestals, but as the bears needed to be seen from all side, they made the most sense. Pedestals, unfortunately, are around for a reason. I have been playing around with showing them on a long thin table, like a scientific exam table, and that is almost working. I’m still looking for the ideal way to show them.

SG: Without describing your entire process, can you tell us which part of making these bears was the most challenging for you, either due to the material in question or otherwise?

Figuring out the relationship of the colors of the linen, fur and embroidery has been the biggest challenge. Unless I want to start dying my own linen, I’m limited to the colors I can find in the Garment District. The textures of the fur and linen also present a challenge. Once the colors, fabrics, and embroidery are figured out through painted sketches and embroidered samples, my process switches to the relatively easier task of making everything and putting it together.

Deborah Simon
Packer Schopf Gallery

Issue 2 Launch Party


We’re very pleased to announce the release of Staging Ground Issue 2.
We’d like to invite you (and all of your friends) to our Launch Party.
Poetry by Marcella Durand, E Tracy Grinnell, Lucy Ives, Paolo Javier, and Stephen Motika.
Works in translation by Lucy McNair and Jen Zoble.
Music by Rue.
Drinks by Jeff.
Magazines and good company.

WHEN: Sunday, November 10th at 4:30pm

WHERE: Bar Reis in Park Slope – 375 5th Ave Brooklyn, NY

“Staging Ground Issue 2 is made possible with public funds from the Decentralization Program of the New York State Council on the Arts, administered in Kings County by Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC).”

Jarnot on Kurland

Bruce Kurland was born in 1938 and grew up on Long Island, studying at the Art Students League in Manhattan in the 1950s. His paintings span five decades, with an evolution out of the influence of traditional Dutch still life toward allegiances with contemporary artists such as Francis Bacon and Joel Peter Witkin. While the transience of organic matter is a theme of his field, Kurland plays with that classical concern and spins it out of the pastoral and into the everyday, urban, late 20th century world.


The viewer is confronted with the continuum of life that includes all the other creatures that trouble us with their teeth and claws, delight us with their flash of color, eat us, and are eaten by us.


BOOG City 2013


Staging Ground is heading to BOOG City, 2013. Featuring a reading by Paolo Javier (at 12:30pm on Saturday, August 3rd) and a new limited edition pamphlet publication.

See the full line-up of BOOG readers and events: BOOG CITY 2013



Paolo Javier is the Queens Borough Poet Laureate through 2013. He is the author of several books and chapbooks of poetry including, The Feeling is Actual (Marsh Hawk Press, 2011) and 60 Lv Bo(E)mbs (O Books 2005), as well as the publisher of a Queens-based tiny press, 2nd Avenue Poetry (

Translation Caravanserai

Staging Ground is pleased to introduce Translation Caravanserai, a new web series, featuring pieces by Melina Kamerić translated from the Bosnian by Jennifer Zoble; Edmond Amran El Maleh translated from the French by Lucy R. McNair; Kim Cheom Seon translated from the Korean by Matt Reeck and Angela Choi.

Melina Kameric

Melina Kamerić
from Shoes for Oscar Night

Edmond Amran El Maleh

Edmond Amran El Maleh
A Thousand Years, One Day

Kim Cheom Seon

Kim Cheom Seon
“To Die On The Back Of A Horse”