Review by Jaye Fishel


In the final scene of the movie musical, Grease, the goody-goody girl, Sandy, finally becomes cool, which we understand when she emerges in skin-tight shiny black pants, a leather jacket, hair teased into a curly mop–a far cry from her hoop skirt/saddle shoe/pony-tail look. She’s cool. All we need to see is her outfit. It’s the opposite of camouflage, it’s a flag. It says, “Look at me now. I’m cool. I wear all black. I smoke a cigarette. I’m badass.”


This book is not like Grease. But there’s something in LODE about covering up. About putting on a black, shiny surface to cover something. A shameful past? A boring past? A past. Forget that. Block it out. But the blocked out sequences repeat, page after page, the only constant in an ever-changing grid landscape. Industry. Land. Industry. Houses. Smoke. Fire. Water. Water. Black blocks repeat, same size, shape, location. The scars of past iterations of the same, perhaps. Places covered up. Maybe even censored, not for our eyes. Can’t have it all.


Strangely, for the longest time thinking about this book, it has reminded me of Johannes Itten’s color studies. Squares of color inside larger squares of color. Color personalities. Color relationship profiles. Strange because it’s easy to apply Itten’s theories to the closing scene of Grease: at a colorful, family-fun carnival arrives a girl (woman?) all in black, with a splash of red lipstick and fluffy bleached hair. High contrast. Far away from wholesome family fun pinks and greens. Sexy.


LODE is, I think, also about contrast. Here’s the same square, different surroundings. As in Itten, here’s the same square, different colors. As in Grease, here’s the same girl, different outfit. Contrast conveys attitude. This page with frantic smoke and fire is so different from this page with soothing blue watery ripples. And the black squares emphasize the attitudinal difference, the capacity for change over time in a given finite space. A red/grey square elicits different feelings than one that is blue/grey. This badass Sandy sure is foxy.


V A Graham, Lode, (Self-published at Kala Art Institute, 2013)


Images: Cover and interior of Lode, courtesy of the artist’s website.