The below is excerpted from Flooded Penthouse, a book by the painter Margaux Ogden and the writer Hunter Braithwaite, launched to commemorate Ogden’s new exhibition at Puerto Rico’s Embajada, a gallery in a former sex-toy shop. The show, “Nothing Had Yet Been Sacrificed,” takes its title from Luc Sante’s line about the young Bob Dylan—“Everything seemed possible then; no options had been used up and nothing had yet been sacrificed.”
Much as a relationship grows from a mulch of moments, these drawings are built up on a ground of notes, numbers, lists. Small bills, pocket change. Doing so causes a slight impropriety to arise, not only because it’s so decidedly un-art (or, depending on how much Rauschenberg you looked at when you were younger, too-art) but because the pocket scraps are exhibitionist. Stored in our pants, folded tight against ourselves, they reveal how we pass our days: what we plan to buy, how much we paid for it, how we check off the world.
The life cycle of a note is either: into the trash with the kitchen refuse or forgotten, thrown into the wash, where the paper breaks down into pulp. But here they are pressed at and scanned, palimpsests of the scheduled and spent.
Thrown onto a scanner bed. Watercolor paper overlaid with a skim tide of transparent plastic sheets, a gesture coasting on each. Enough DPI to catch the ink in motion as it finally dries, midswirl away from itself. And though this stunning verisimilitude will likely be lost in printing, think of what will be gained when the plastic sheen rests on the pulpy page.
More than once we agreed on a perfect composition, only to lose it to the dragging suction of static electricity.
On the train this morning I was reading Maggie Nelson’s Bluets as I thought about lists: how things come together, how they contain other worlds. Nelson mentioned Sei Shōnagon, whose “Notes of the Pillow” is a list of lists. Nelson describes a few, but my mind has already gone back to Sans Soleil, a film that makes much of Shōnagon’s List of Things that Quicken the Heart, a film that I once absurdly thought of as mine.
That’s how lists work. They transfer ownership, so easily.
We watched the movie that Saturday. So beautiful, you wished it was on a loop. A looping list of images, I thought, imagining a relationship that moved in concentricity around moored works of art.
I later wondered if a list can consist of one. Is it, by definition, a collaboration?
Barely a word, since the aspirated –ist sounds more like someone is opening a window than speaking, list comes from the old French liste: a border, band, row, group. It also meant a strip of paper. So the list is both formal logic and form itself.
To list (like the boat in that picture above your dresser) is to tilt, lean, especially of a ship, circa 1880. In the 1620s, to list meant to lust. Origins of this usage are unknown, though perhaps it comes from an obscure spelling variant of the Middle English listen (to please, desire, wish, like).
To lean is to list and to list is to lust. To topple toward. What do you want?
I want to come to terms with the feeling that we were one, and now, once having identified the other, have become two. I want to wade upstream through the tributaries of creative differentiation in search of a pool of deep impulse that will later be defined, by different banks, as painting and writing. I want what I can’t have.
Margaux Ogden is a Brooklyn-based painter.
Hunter Braithwaite lives in Brooklyn. He was the founding editor of The Miami Rail. His writing has appeared in Art in America, Art News, Artforum, and Bomb, among others.