FIND YOUR WAY BACK
Tony Fitzpatrick, This Train: An Artist’s Journal, 2010, Firecat Publishing, 180 pp., $40.
My Artnet colleague Tony Fitzpatrick kindly sent me a copy of his new book This Train (Firecat Press), described therein as "an artist's journal" from 2009-10. I confess that Tony's art, along with that of Ana Mendieta and Salvador Dali, has always frightened me. The mixture of mythos, feeling, pictorial overload and confrontation in his work always made me look away.
But when I opened This Train, I couldn't look away anymore. For starters, you will never hold a more beautiful book. Like an illuminated Biblical manuscript, This Train burns and glows from its pages. You find yourself, moving backwards and forwards uncontrollably between Tony's daybook of texts, in which he attacks Chicago aldermen, the Miami art fairs and wealthy hunters, while praising Japanese haiku masters, Crazy Horse and hobo culture, and his shimmering, transformative and unabashedly Jungian art.
I try to control my vision by breaking down Tony's art into its elements: the iconic central figures, gorgeously colored birds, women and fish; his brilliant poetry, arranged in sparkling tatters; and the labels, advertisements and illustrated nostrums that he pulls out of the alleys and off the highways to complete his collages. But then the overall picture, stunning image after stunning image, pulls you back into its drowning pool of sparkling jewels, and you fall in love, as Tony does, with romantic characters out of his rich past, like Blue Match girl, lighting fire on her zipper.
I have never met Tony, although we communicate through the swamps and the air, his preferred means of notice, and I am not sure that I want to: I have enough problems handling my own passions without swimming too much in his. But I love the guy, or more specifically, what he does.
If you can go through life, every couple of days, meeting someone wiser than you, and remembering how to do it, you can walk with the inevitability of danger and death that life is. Tony is that person for me this week. Get a hold of This Train and let him be your fearless guide.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).