Saturday, May 28, 2011
About a year ago I was waxing poetically about morels recently found and consumed.
Francis above, Guston below
This year the dismal Spring continues; I found a total of 5 morels in three visits to my hunting grounds. Lacunae, empty spaces-that's the description of my morel bounty this year.
But my allusions to the music of Morton Feldman are still relevant because there is so much empty space in his music, and there is emptiness in my woodland floor, so devoid of mushroom. One scours the ground, and there is so much detail what with leaf litter and grass and ferns and fallen branches, but the imagined sponge- head beauties are notable for their absence. It's like there are holes in the visual field, where the morels should rightly be!
If you listen to a piece by Feldman, such as "Rothko Chapel," you'll know what I mean--the spaces between the notes, between the gestures are perhaps as important as the sounds themselves. One thinks of Philip Guston, Feldman's favorite painter who left a lot of blank canvass in his paintings. Actually, it's not blank at all, but a muted hazy coloring that in the context appears to be some kind of empty background.
But there are painters who famously left a lot of white canvas in their pictures.One who comes to mind is west coast artist Sam Francis. Betty Freeman,who was one of the great patrons of New Music in our time was also a significant collector of art. Her house in Beverly Hills, wherein she held he famous Sunday, musicales or salons, was festooned with art-=-everywhere you looked in that house there were paintings, sculptures, installations.
Some years ago I was invited to present my work at one of her Sunday soirees. I asked if it wold be OK to show images from "Alcatraz", my collaborative work with photographer Jim Bengston. No problem,, there would be a slide projector setup as well as the usual sound system. When I arrived and was shown the living room where the presentation would take place, I noticed the slide projector, but no screen. I asked Betty where the screen would be set up; she gave me a puzzled look."Oh, when we have a slide show we just project the pictures on the lower right quadrant of the Sam Francis."
Indeed, there on the wall was a huge canvas by Francis, and in his inimitable style the actual painting was confined to only about a quarter of the frame, the rest being empty with a scattering of paint bits here and there. So that evening the work of Sam Francis and Jim Bengston co mingled while my prison doors slammed away in giddy celebration.It was a sort of accidental palimpsest.