Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist)

jar and kate

I feel very confident now
of saying, it isn't always
possible to know when one
is ready to see a great

Having to be in Washington
yesterday for other reasons,
I set aside a couple of 
hours of the afternoon to go
and look at Watteau; but the
NGA's French paintings are in
storage, pending repair of
their gallery's skylight, due
to be completed this month.

I'm not someone who can bear
to ignore a fine painting, 
and passing by the Ginevra
de' Benci is not my idea of
coming to grips with any part
of it. Moreover, I don't en-
joy assimilating more than
two masterpieces in a single
afternoon; and now that I do
not have to turn in an assign-
ment, it pleases me to look
at art as the work that it is.

I haven't any idea why the
painting I saw yesterday is not
taught along with the Eroica
symphony, apart from manifest-
ing that reign of specialisa-
tion that I so detest. This
work by Jackson Pollock is al-
so not going to be presented
here, because it cannot and it
does not make sense in this
medium - whereas, it is true,
one can read Beethoven.

A great painting will shock
for being the least radical
thing there could be; and,
as I say, it isn't always
possible to know when this
will be obvious. It will
sometimes be dozens of the
very things it is said not
to be; and in the case of
the Jackson Pollock painting
cited above, it is necessary
to tick some of them off at
once - it has structure, it
has narrative, it has coher-
ency, it has meaning, it has
eloquence, it has complete-
ness. It is, moreover, no
more than a coincidental ex-
position of its techniques.
So what was all the noise
about, we allow ourselves
to ask.

Mrs Nelson has given us a
gate to a residence, and I
suggest we look at it, past
the telltale elements of its
setting. After it has been
assimilated as a witness to
many passages, many seasons,
many handlings, many dis-
missals, what is it doing,
apart from staring us in
the face? I know very well,
what it is doing, but I
might not have done until
yesterday. It is staying.



  1. Many have missed, or forgotten, or never knew how revolutionary his work was, it's become so familiar to us now.

  2. This is one of the most thrillingly affirming things I have ever set eyes on, bearing out its share of the "revolution" in his work as true revolution always does, by vigorously conserving. Taking only one of the least-discussed attributes of this painting, first, we are ready now to perceive it as one of the gorgeous strengths of the work's integration: his superb sensitivity to colour in its narrative, structuring, and thematic weight. This is completely imperceptible via the internet, but a pervasive and gathering richness strikes the eye instantly, based on only pale hues of lavender and green (one could not help but think of the blogger at Little Augury, in this radiant achievement). And yet this "field" is established by the economy and fragmentation of these colours' distribution in the space.

    I could not agree more with your comment, except that we all know how to forget what we "know," and to stand before this painting is to perfect that capacity beyond expectation. I shall be happy for you when you stand there again! :)