by Anton Gisco, Agent/Curator 1st class Sculpture/Itinerant
with a Foreword by Deborah Vincenzo
© 2096 by BOOK-LIKE Pub; Ltd; All rights reserved. Printed in the P.P.A.
For my father
I came across this little book as I was going through my fathers' papers, a task not unhappy as he had led a full life and his files were rich with letters to dancers, writers, and film people and the normal inter-departmental memo-izing that one would expect in an organization like the Institute.
The publishing of these papers at this time is of importance for a number of reasons. The constant battle for funding, recognition, support and dissemination of art is still being fought, and the lack of any organization, even remotely like the Institute, all its faults, bureaucracy and infighting notwithstanding, needs to be addressed and remedied.
The Institute's one hundred and fifty year legacy and it's glorious heyday are an almost forgotten period of our cultural heritage. The Institute's influence on it's time, and it's repercussions, have been well documented by George Schrom in his History of the Joan D'Art Foundation, Institute of the Arts (Samarkand Press ), and D. J. McEvers, The Institute (Book-Like Pub., Ltd.).
The seeds of the demise of the Institute are evident in these papers. If by publishing Gisco's words, a few people are influenced to support, create or enjoy the magical world of Art then it has been a worthwhile endeavor. Gisco's Reply is reproduced as it was found. We've included the cover letter Gisco wrote to my father, found with the Reply itself, as an afterword. It gives an insight to the camaraderie and bureaucratic shenanigans that were a big part of the Agent/Curator job.
For those unfamiliar with the Institute's methods of operation the job of Agent/Curator involved being an Agent in the sense of undercover operative, not as dealer/negotiator as the word usually implies. The Agents would go into the "field" and recruit/discover artists that they would then commission to make pieces for the Institute's collection. The commissioned works would then be handled by other departments. Sales/promotion, for instance, would deal with the sales to collectors. museums etc. Shipping/Installation would handle just that. Fabrication/Foundry had facilities to construct pieces. The Sculpture/Itinerary group had the Institutes collection to draw on in arranging it's traveling shows. The Itinerant groups consisted of roustabouts/actors, dancers, writer/poets, sidewalk painters etc.. They would be on the road for up to two years fostering interest in the arts at the grass-roots level.
The Institute employed some 400 people in it's heyday. The resulting bureaucratic infighting that this book attests to was part, not the best part, of Gisco's and my parent's job. Finding, commissioning and seeing come into existence the new works,
dance in my fathers case, painting in my mothers, sculpture in Giscos, made up for the hassles inherent in the job.
Growing up at the Institute I was exposed to the wonders of the world of the Arts; the Itinerant shows, the often madcap meetings at our house, the rabid enthusiasm of the artists. Exposed I was as well to the frustrations and disappointments endured by my parents in battling the Institute's growing bureaucracy.
I would like to thank my editor, John Massee of Book-Like Pub., Ltd., for his help in getting this to print and all the many Agent/Curators out there. Don't give up the fight!
From: Vespic, Administration/Analysis, 3rd class
The Administration/Analysis Division is considering the re-apportioning of funds allocated to your Division. The cost/return disparity as well as the social Art/Tolerance climate impel us to re-evaluate the effectiveness and relevance of the Sculpture/Itinerant program. Our analysis of popular trends incline us toward expanding the Entertainment/ Passive division, i.e., in-house productions of musicals, action oriented films etc.
The high cost of the interactive/itinerant element of your Division i.e., traveling, real/time, man/power/installation, shipping and liability might be better utilized in more remunerative ways.
A re-positioning of your staff to the Entertainment Division, (always short of hands), we feel would benefit the Institute's recognition factor and at the same time strengthen the Institute's infrastructure thus making more liquid much needed funds to shore up and reinforce the much burdened Administration/Analysis Division.
From: Gisco, Agent/Curator 1st class, Sculpture/Itinerant
I, Agent/Curator 1st class, Sculpture/Itinerant, (commonly called The Joan D'Art foundation), of the Institute, was born in a small city in what is now known as the Protectorate of Pan America. My childhood was typical of the times. Service Corp., Inc. had the contract to run the city including the school system. The curriculum offered no classes in the arts as they were deemed unnecessary and a drain on the schools', i,e, Service Corp., Inc.'s budget. When I graduated, without honors, from the second form I went to work, for my food and lodging, for Service Corp., Inc., as did most everyone.
My first encounter with "Art" was the traveling shows, (the Institutes', by the way), that came intermittantly to our neighborhood. There were the street dancers with their percussive bands; the actors that put on what I later learned, were short episodes of Shakespeare, Shaw, Williams, and more that I don't remember. Busy groups of street painters chalked classics of what I came to recognize as Poussins, Rape of the Sabines, Da Vinci's, Mona Lisa, Pierro Della Francesca's, Duke and Duchess of Urbino, as well as works of their own, all completed overnight and washed away too soon by foot traffic and rain. It was the sculpture show that was put up in a small plaza in my neighborhood that changed the course of my life.
The plaza was an unmemorable one enclosed by tenements grey with soot and age. Boys occasionally played handball against one of the walls. People would walk through on their way to elsewhere. It hadn't any trees or benches. It was an architectural oversight. When the Institute installed the sculptures it became another world.
The sculptures were of metal. They consisted of a bottom stepped section, a middle section and a capital. The bases were painted various sandstone hues and the figures on them were painted earthy tones of red, ochre, blue, green, brown. The figures were over life size and constructed in metal, in a box-like two dimensional fashion. There was an elephant; a couple about to embrace; a portly man with his hand raised as if to give a speech; a large base with a railing atop, reached by a ladder.
It wasn't the sculptures in themselves that were such a revelation to me, as much as what they did to that horrid, squalid little plaza.
They broke up the space, they stopped the eye, they changed the flow of foot traffic, they implied a history, they made the space magical.
Later in the day the sides of some of the bases louvered up and vendors inside the bases hawked their wares. They sold sausage sandwiches out of the elephant, the smells wafting over whole plaza, Another vendor was selling pinwheels, umbrellas, and bright scarves. Another had books and rare magazines on display. There was taped music in the air and, as it got dark colored lights strung from sculpture to sculpture came on. On top of the laddered base people took turns reading and giving speeches.
I decided to apply for work at the Institute.
The sculptures were in the square for only three days. On the forth day there was nothing left. The square had returned to what it always been.
My application for employment at the Institute took several months to be processed and approved. As I had no particular talents in the Arts, that I knew of, I had applied for a position as Service/Tech., 4th class, Manual.
During the months I waited, I hungered for what I thought at the time was Art. In order to better prepare myself for work at the Institute I went to the few art galleries that still existed in town. As they all charged an admission fee to enter I was reduced to peering in at their windows. The few exhibits I saw were disappointing. One gallery had a large room, on the walls of which were hung enigmatic sayings that seemed to want to make one feel vaguely guilty and inferior. Another show I caught on the night of an opening.
The crowd, all in black funereal clothes, mingled and chatted. When the crowd shifted and parted I saw that the occasion was for four white balls set on the floor behind a velvet rope. Another gallery had large black canvases on a wall. Just that, black canvases on a grey wall. Another, a blank room with one flourescent light fixture leaned against a corner.
I began to despair that what I had thought Art was; a gargantuan feast of color, life, history, music, a joyous extravagance of smell, touch, taste, feeling and magic, was it all just a peripheral oddity. Was all that wonder only some carnival side-show? Were the sculptures in the small plaza considered simplistic, cartoonish, irrelevant and childish? I was becoming despondent to think that Art was this lifeless, guilt-ridden, boring, grey, elitist, soul deadening display that I had been seeing at the galleries. Did those people at the shows think that morose, banal stuff was Art? Was I so naive and uneducated, so plebian, to have enjoyed what I had seen in that forgotten plaza? Was I wrong to feel that what I had been seeing at the galleries was the New Clothes of some mad Emperor? I wondered what would happen if one person shouted that that stuff was naked, barren, empty, would they all turn on it, destroy it and then, sheepishly slink home?
It was at this hard crossroads of my life that my application to the Institute was accepted. I was to report as Service/tech., 4th class in a months time.
I did so.
I've worked at the Institute now for forty three years. I've held many positions. (I once even held the position of Administration/Analysis 4th class, secretary). It is here that I met my wife Joan and it is here that I will, in all likelihood end my days.
I have tried in the last few years as Agent/Curator 1st class, Sculpture/Itinerant, to provide others with a similar chance to experience the sense of humor, the Calderesque, Rabelaisian, Joycean, Flann O'Brianist, Saul Steinbergian and Charles Simicate lust an joy that I experienced in that metamorphised plaza in the backstreets of my natal city.
In short , I've attempted to use my position as Curator to promote and bring to people, ( perhaps only to those few like myself, but maybe they aren't so few), some sense of the wonder, hilarity and extravagance that I found in the realm of Art.
I feel that it would be against the Charter of the Institute, (clause IV in particular), and detrimental to our culture to "re-position" the staff of Sculpture/Itinerant now or in the future.
What follows are some sketches of, and some notes on, some of the sculptures, commissioned by the Institute, ( from the Victor Ivens Group ), that educated, inspired, and enlightened me.
signed, Anton Gisco
(click on picture for a view of the other illustration.)
To: Vincenzo, Agent/Curator 1st class