Leaves of Book – The Work of Charles La Belle

I was privileged to speak at the Dec 11, book launch for Charles La Belle‘s Corpus and Guilty. To see the show, go to Saamlung Gallery in Hong Kong. To buy a copy in Shenzhen, visit the Old Heaven Bookstore in OCT. Response, below:

Charles La Belle’s artistic process of layering time and experience in a book that is simultaneously reread and rewritten reminded me of how Walt Wittman lived and in living wrote and rewrote, Leaves of Grass. Between 1855 and 1892, Wittman quite famously published no fewer than nine different editions of Leaves; over the past fourteen years, La Belle has published two volumes that relate to one ongoing project. This intellectual ebb and flow, the sentimental return and reevaluation, self-promotion and in-your-face jouissance enabled Wittman to voice and in voicing inhabit the expanding, teeming, writhing, and destabilizing emergence of a uniquely American identity. Likewise, La Belle also performs an artistic stutter-step to more fully inhabit the unruly emergence of post Cold War, post socialist, post modern, post industrial globalizing and globalized urban identities.

“Buildings Entered,” La Belle’s life work is best aligned with Wittman’s spiritual wandering at the level of process. Like Wittman, La Belle has chosen one medium and one theme to which he constantly returns; like Wittman, La Belle grapples with the problem of transforming mere being into the well-lived – and yes, this is the ethically well-lived – life; like Wittman, La Belle accepts the immanent mysticism of ordinary human lives. The building first entered, like the open road invites each of us to inhabit the unknown.

In terms of content, however, over a century of industrial expansion and relentless capitalist urbanization separate Wittman from La Belle. Continue reading