Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Something I missed ...

... over at Golden Rule Jones: If the exhibition were a novel. (Here is a link to the whole Guardian article: Lost in Translation.)
What caught my attention here was the mention of Josef Albers. Back in the '70s, when I worked in DC, I used to visit the National Gallery a lot. (I actually worked for a few years as a gallery director, but it was during my time in Washington that I really got to know art - just by looking at a lot of it.) At any rate, on a couple of occasions I happened to see Lewis Mumford there. I thought of introducing myself (I was even more of a nobody then than I am now, of course), but decided not to bother him - unless I saw him a third time, which never happened. But on one occasion I did overhear him discussing some of the paintings - one of which was by Albers. Mumford found it cold, lifelessly abstract. Which should not be taken to mean that he was put off because it was non-representational. I know that because nearby was a painting by Mark Tobey, an example of Tobey's "white writing," every bit as non-representational as the Albers. But Mumford told his companion - an attractive woman, much younger than he - "Tobey is a real artist" and went on to comment on the spiritual implications of the work they were looking at. I remember this especially because Mumford had in fact articulated what I had felt looking at the same paintings. So there was that bit of self-congratulation that comes from learning that a great man thinks the same way you do yourself. But I also think we were both right. People often think my tastes in art are reactionary because I frequently criticize non-representational art. But I love such art - when it's good. But it is in fact very hard to do really well, and very easy to do poorly. Like free verse.

I conclude with a quiz: Since we have linked to Golden Rule Jones, does anyone out there remember Brand Whitlock?

2 comments:

  1. Yes, I remember Brand Whitlock. Has anyone ever read a book by him? I have: "J. Hardin and Son." Talk about bleak. Sinclair Lewis's Gopher Prairie is where people from "J. Hardin and Son" go to brighten their spirits.

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  2. I'm afraid if you visit Toledo today you'll get an answer similar to the one I got when I asked after Ring Lardner in his hometown of Niles, MI:

    "Well, it's a high school."

    Except Brand isn't a high school. He's a public housing project.

    Here's a brief bio:
    http://www.firstworldwar.com/bio/whitlock.htm

    Novels aside, this guy led one hell of a life.

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