As I drove East on the Mass Pike yesterday I thought about the clever post I’d write about the significance of this day to me, but I decided that would be a pointless exercise, so here’s Plan B:
Eighty-five miles West of my exit on Route 2 is the center of Williamstown, MA. The two-hour drive gave me an opportunity to get acquainted with some new music and my own thoughts. Yeah, thinking and driving can be dangerous.
The trek was to see a Jackson Pollock show at the Williams College Museum of Art and Impressionism and Early Modern Paintings at the Clark Art Institute. The latter left me wanting and I was hopeful the Pollock exhibit would give me back my mojo. Oh my…
The exhibition is actually a tribute to the late Kirk Varnedoe. Mr. Varnedoe was a member of the Williams Class of 1967 and was Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art (yeah, that one), where he put together a comprehensive Pollock retrospective in 1998. He was like an art history rock star from what I’ve heard and read. Here he chats with Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air” and just completely defines Pollock’s work with his words.
As I sauntered down a hall that led to the exhibit, I saw preparatory drawings by Gustave Caillebotte for this. One was a perspective sketch of the city scene and the other of the couple. It seems I like much of the same stuff this guy did. He also really liked Cy Twombley, who’s work I described as “a series of crayon scribbles” after seeing some of it at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Maybe I need to give him another shot…
I walked into the small room and immediately saw Number 2, 1949. It’s a stunning sixteen foot image painted on a brick-red dyed sailcloth. There were two other Pollock works displayed, but this one dominated the room like Sinatra in the Copa room at the Sands in Vegas. Glossy black Sans Serif letters against a satin white wall welcomed visitors with Kirk Varnedoe’s warm words of admiration describing an artist who cast “the paint itself” as the star subject of his work. It also contained these words:
“Certain rewards, and rewarding uncertainties, only come through periods of private silence in front of… art. Doubtless a lot of what went into Pollock’s head, a lot that came out of his mouth, and a lot that has been and continues to be written about his pictures, embodies just the common cultural clutter of the time. The paintings do not. To be reminded of this, look at them.”–Kirk Varnedoe
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