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For the Heart of the Second Floor

by Bill Berkson


In the fourth installment of BOMBlog’s reprints of [ 2nd Floor Projects ]’s editions, true-blue Californian Bill Berkson reflects, in verse, on an exhibition of work by Ishan Clemenco, Susan Martin, and Nina Hubbs Zurier.



For the Heart of the Second Floor

            Now you see it

no you don’t

            Not a problem put

this next to that

            Time and materials

that’s the work

            Take-out pattern

recognition delivers



an apropos


            You recognize like the back of

nobody’s business

           Small pleasures across fields

of dark matter splurge

            The problem lies


            Alongside the solution


            By the ponderous lake

raw stupor rules

            Fake governance

arrogance yammers

            The no-singing elephant

in the sunny situation room

            Outsourced consciousness

cheat sheets


on encrusted skulls

            No news is good from

sadsack Baggy Dad

           Or the cornfields


            So it goes

absent authenticity

            Under twinkly blurs

deft circularity

            Story threads legible

in every bright night sky


            Doused with travel plans

and grievance

            Compressor smudge an index

of indelible

            Opacification epithet

dire surmise default

            “What color is that?”


            Now that light has

come back to us

            Its bath of water fragments

celestial respiratory function thrives

            Some mornings I can tip my cap

air antique manners in the Philosophers

            Walk back reading up

on metamorphosis and pragmatism

            “There are many things more interesting

about me than my name” sings one attuned

            In bold magnanimity

colors squared with

            Shape advancing smilingly

print to fit


On the occasion of the exhibition UNLIKELY ARRIVAL—New work by ISHAN CLEMENCO, SUSAN MARTIN, and NINA HUBBS ZURIER

[ 2nd floor projects ] San Francisco June 7–July 13, 2008.


Image credits:

Ishan Clemenco, untitled: 40 lines; irgazine yellow/blue/white, site-specific installation drawing on Polaroid paper for Tacita Dean, 2008. Ground pigment, carrara marble dust on opacified polyester, 54 × 63 inches.

untitled (chalkline wall drawing), 2008. Ground pigment on wall, dimensions contiguous.

Susan Martin, Penelope’s Task Revisited, 112 squares, perforated paper, DMC embroidery floss (work-in-progress). When finished, all of the colors produced by DMC (487 colors) will be represented by a square.

Nina Zurier, Hegemony II, 2008. Composite of 24 images, 2 sheets, 44 × 42 inches each. Edition of 3.


About [2nd floor projects]:

Since establishing [ 2nd floor projects ] in San Francisco in 2007, I have featured twenty writers in the exhibitions, with six writers forthcoming in 2011. My programming includes commissions to writers throughout the country to produce an edition: essays, personal narratives, interviews, poetry, or mixed-genre pieces in the form of handcrafted broadsheets or chapbooks. From early on in my art practice, I have been interested in trespassing disciplines. These visual, theoretical, and narrative crossings perhaps address an interstitial space of engagement with the artists’ works from the writer’s point of departure. A distal approach rather than the traditional essay model, such as an exhibition catalogue. For each exhibition, I design and print in-house a limited run of 100 on archival papers. The writers are also invited to give a reading during the run of the exhibition, or to send a recording if they are not in the area. [ 2nd floor projects ] participated in the NY Art Book Fair in 2009 and 2010. BOMBlog will be re-publishing these pieces regularly over the next several months.

—Margaret Tedesco, Director


Bill Berkson is a poet and critic who lives in San Francisco and New York. Professor Emeritus at the San Francisco Art Institute, he is also a corresponding editor for Art in America and a contributor to such other journals as Artforum, Aperture and artcritical.com. His most recent books include For the Ordinary Artist; Sudden Address: Selected Lectures 1981-2006; BILL, a words-and-images collaboration with Colter Jacobsen; Ted Berrigan with George Schneeman; Portrait and Dream: New & Selected Poems, which won the Balcones Prize in 2010. He was the 2006 Distinguished Mellon Fellow at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and received the 2008 Goldie for Literature from the San Francisco Bay Guardian.