I think I can pretty much tell Art when I see it. I don't know that much about it but I know what I like. And I know that Art (with a capital 'A') is supposed to be either about Truth . . .
. . . or Beauty . . .
Although frankly it's not quite that simple - there's also Symbolism, as in this picture, which is a symbol of, well . . .
. . . some guy with monkeys, I'd guess. Or maybe this symbol of a cat, which kind of gets me right in the old ticker . . .
That's art, for my money - that cat just seems to be looking right at me wherever I stand. So you can imagine the aesthetic and visual consternation on my recent visit to the newly-opened Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, where the works of the artist are currently (and presumably forever henceforth) on exhibit. Now, I asked myself, can this be Art? Granted, the first painting as you enter the exhibition is pretty straightforward. There sits Clyfford himself looking a bit standoffish I may say, but himself nonetheless, about six feet away if you were in the same room with him (which in a way, I suppose, you are, if you see what I mean). I mean, you look at the picture and you know where you stand, and where he stands (or leans, more like it), and everything seems just as it should when viewing a bit of Art.
Farther along and things begin to get a bit dodgy, although you can still tell what it is you're looking at (illegal farm workers).
After that, it's anyone's guess what's going on. Everything comes unmoored, the figures get wierder and then quickly disappear. How is anybody supposed to be able to tell where they're standing? I figure you should be able to look into the painting and tell pretty much how far away you are from the thing you're looking at, not to mention what you're looking at. Stuff shouldn't be flying at you out of the painting, it's enough to make you (me) jumpy. Is this about an explosion? And is it about the red thing or about the little black things?
As for the poor sod who's trying to sort all this out, it doesn't help to call something '1949' or '1957' - they don't faintly resemble any of those years (as best I can recall) or the numbers. So I sat down in front of one of them and tried to figure out what was going on here. But I couldn't focus, my eye kept traveling up and off the canvas. I just couldn't find the thing I was supposed to be looking at. Sometimes it's all you can do to calm down and pay attention. You'd expect a black canvas to be calming, like "Night in a Coalmine" or something. But not this one.
So I sat down in front of another . . .
. . . which didn't make anything plainer. I thought there must be something I was missing, maybe something else off the top or bottom of the canvas that should have been inside there somehow. How could the guy have missed so much material, I wonder? Either something was bleeding onto the canvas from somewhere outside it, or the thing he was after didn't make it onto the canvas and remained at large. I couldn't tell which.
Midway through these big panels, I thought things were pretty frenetic, what with paint spilling downwards or up, things getting off the canvas and so on. But when the paint started to move I figured I'd call it a day. You can't paint an energy field.
Trying to figure this guy out. Still - he's no Christo.