SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

University Art Museum Berkeley, 2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley

Tom Marioni, Studio Berkeley (1st November 1980)



In Studio Marioni draws his life-sized shadow which is distorted by a piece of black velvet suspended between two yellow spotlights and the vertical drawing surface. In a recent conversation Marioni explained that he chose yellow light because it is linked with the intellect in alchemical theory and would, therefore, facilitate the telepathic communication he hopes to achieve with his audience. Musical sound, alternating between jazz and classical, accompanies the action as much as it would in his own studio. It is significant to note that Marioni has maintained a life-long association with jazz and percussion which is manifested in both his drum brush drawings as well as in the action/drawing Studio. (Lewallen 1980: 3)

It is a tableau whose props suggest Marioni’s place of work. Bathed in yellow – traditionally a colour symbolizing enlightenment and the intellect – the space is filled with the artist’s presence. A large sheet of paper is affixed to the rear wall, upon which Marioni casts an attenuated shadow. Behind the paper are two contact microphones that pick up the sound of the artist’s pencil rhythmically filling in the shadow […] As Marioni relaxes, the pencil stroke is determined by the rhythm of his body […] It is […] interrupted as Marioni opens and pours a bottle of beer and later moves from the shadow to a parallelogram of light – the reflection of a tilted mirror. At that point one perceives the overriding plan, for Marioni is setting down a record of the artist at work: the shadow exerts its presence by filling and transforming its opposite, the “empty” circle of light. (Marioni 1997: 23)