Saturday, April 11, 2009

Questions Asked and Answered

What about that bear?
The bear has not come back - as far as we know - and all is well. Our birds have about given up looking for birdseed after we packed it all away and are concentrating on building nests in all the nesting boxes we have around the yard. So far it's mostly sparrows building nests - and our faithful robin, who returns every year.

Have you finally finished reading that Rothko bio?
The good news is that I finally, finally finished the Rothko bio! It was a long haul with those dense, 600+ pages. I was ready to give it up initially because the first 200 pages or so were extremely tedious, but once the author (James Breslin) came to the beginnings of Abstract Expressionism in 1940s New York, I was hooked and actually started underlining as I read.

This book was an incredible labor of love by Breslin, who spent seven years writing it and performed unbelievably devoted, not to say obsessive, feats of research to document minute details. His research included traveling alone to Rothko's hometown in Russia (dangerous and life threatening), investigating variances in Rothko's autopsy versus published reports of his death (not as revealing for me as for Breslin), spending five consecutive full days in the Rothko chapel in Houston studying the paintings there and seeing who visited, interviewing everyone he could find with connections to Rothko (all kinds of relatives, artists Rothko knew or surviving families of those artists, critics - including the enduringly pompous Clement Greenberg, studio assistants, etc., etc.).

When can we expect a post about Rothko?
Breslin gathered an incredible amount of information, and now, with so much detail about Rothko filling my head, it's difficult to know where to start. It will need to be more than one post because so many interesting questions were raised that not only have to do with Rothko, but with art and artists in general. I'm going to work on it this weekend and post soon - hopefully tomorrow.

Isn't asking yourself questions and answering them an intensely annoying practice?
When Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense in the late and unlamented Bush administration, he continually asked himself all those stupid questions and gave his patronizing answers. I hated that! Now here I am doing it. What's the matter with me? It's late and I'm tired. Do you promise not to do this again? I do.


Russell Bingham said...

"...enduringly pompous Clement Greenberg..."? Must not have met him. Clem was anything but.

Nancy Natale said...

Besides the reportage of his interview with Clement Greenberg on January 9, 1986, Breslin gives some quotes by Greenberg, as follows:
"To be an artist is to be pompous," he said. "He was fond of the phrase 'as stupid as a painter', and freuently lamented that 'all artists are bores.'" Rothko was a "clinical paranoid...pompous and dumb," Gottlieb "a pantspresser," Kline "a bore," Still "pretentious," Newman "boring," and deKooning "tedious beyond belief" from Naifeh and Smith, JACKSON POLLOCK, AN AMERICAN SAGA, p. 632. - Sure sounds pompous to me.