Sky Above, the Mud Below (Author Pennants)

Allen Ruppersberg
Sky Above, the Mud Below (Author Pennants)
Mixed media, 1988
25 1/2 x 23 1/4 inches
From the Stuart and Judy Spence Collection, donated April 1999 by Judy and Stuart Spence

Sky Above, the Mud Below (Author Pennants) is from a series of collage works created by Allen Ruppersberg for a show with the James Cocoran Gallery in 1988, using low-budget advertising vernacular—rubber stamps, the kind of eye-catching triangular flags you might see in a used car lot, and a grab bag of authors’ names spelled out with a Dymo-tape label maker—to create what he refers to as a “coming attractions” work. The title (as well as the appropriated logo) is taken from an obscure 1961 documentary about latter-day explorers venturing deep into New Guinea’s cannibal backwoods. Each of these telegraphic shout-outs can be seen as symbolic bite-sized appropriations of entire authorial personas—absorbing Balzac’s or Dostoevsky’s mana without having to do all that laborious carving.