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Re: All you fascinating artists on the list.
"Brad Chase" <email@example.com> put forth:
> Howdy- To the List at Large:
> Here is a simple question.......was Jackson Pollack an artist?
I was recently the beneficiary of the National Health in, strangely enough,
Chelsea Westminster, the same hospital where Jimi Hendrix was declared
dead - for a bout with kidney stones, which, I can tell you, will provide
profound contrast to one's life no matter WHO you are or WHAT you do for a
living. While getting more water through me than I can figure, and
recovering from a bad painkiller cocktail administered during admission
(which if not for my wife might have granted me a real coma, thanks to my
first allergic reaction to a drug), my eyes cleared enough from the
to be able to read. I had gotten a copy of the great Kurt Vonnegut's
"TimeQuake" while travelling in early April, and thought I should pick it
again. This was an extremely good decision, as the following excerpt will
undoubtedly show (italics surrounded by *, and the excerpt surrounded by
brackets). I think this answers a lot of questions about our current
subject-for-rehashing - and helps distinguish between the two areas we are
arguing, one being Music, and the other, Art.
Question: What is the white stuff in bird poop?
Answer: That is bird poop, too.
So much for science, and how helpful it can be in these times of
environmental calamities. Chernobyl is still hotter than a Hiroshima baby
carriage. Our underarm deodorants have eaten holes in the ozone layer.
And just get a load of this: My big brother Bernie, who can't draw for sour
apples, and who at his most objectionable used to say he didn't like
paintings because they didn't *do* anything, just hung there year after
year, has this summer become an artist!
I shit you not! Thsi Ph.D. physical chemist from MIT is now the poor man's
Jackson Pollock! He squoozles glurp of various colors and consistencies
between two flat sheets of impermeable materials, such as windowpanes or
pathroom tiles. He pulls them apart, *et voila!* This has nothing to do
with his cancer. He didn't know he had it yet, and the malignancy was in
his lungs and not his brain in any case. He was just farting around one
day, a semi-retired old geezer without a wife to ask him what in the name
God he thought he was doing, *et voila!* Better late than never, that's
I can say.
So he sent me some black-and-white Xeroxes of his squiggly miniatures,
mostly dendriticforms, maybe trees or shrubs, maybe mushrooms or umbrellas
full of holes, but really quite interesting. Like my ballroom dancing,
were *acceptable*. He has since sent me multicolored originals, which I
like a lot.
The message he sent me along with the Xeroxes, though, wasn't about
unexpected happiness. It was an unreconstructed technocrat's challenge to
the artsy-fartsy, of which I was a prime exemplar. "Is this art or not?"
asked. He couldn't have put that question so jeeringly fifty years ago, of
course, before the founding of the first wholly American school of
Abstract Expressionism, and the deification in particular of Jack the
Dripper, Jackson Pollock, who also couldn't draw for sour apples.
Bernie said, too, that a very interesting *scientific phenomenon* was
involved, having to do, he left me to guess, with how different glurps
behave when squoozled this way and that, with nowhere to go but up or down
or sideways. If the artsy-fartsy world had no use for his pictures, he
seemed to imply, his pictures could still point the way to better
or suntan lotions, or who knows what? The all-new Preparation H!
He would not sign his pictures, he said, or admit publicly that he had made
them, or describe how they were made. He plainly expected puffed-up
to sweat bullets, and excrete sizable chunks of masonry when trying to
answer his cunningly innocent question: "Art or not?"
I was pleased to reply with an ipistle which was frankly vengeful, since he
and Father had screwed me out of a liberal arts college education: "Dear
Brother: This is almost like telling you about the birds and the bees," I
began. "There are many good people who are beneficially stimulated by
but not all, manmade arrangements of colors and shapes on flat surfaces,
"You yourself are gratified by some music, arrangements of noises, and
essentially *nonsense*. If I were to kick a bucket down the cellar stairs,
and then say to you that the racket I had made was philosophically on a par
with *The Magic Flute*, this would not be the beginning of a long and
upsetting debate. An utterly satisfactory and complete response on your
part would be, 'I like what Mozart did, and I hate what the bucket did.'
"Contemplating a purported work of art is a social activity. Either you
have a rewarding time, or you don't. You don't have to say *why*
You don't have to say anything.
"You are a justly revered experimentalist, dear Brother. If you really
to know whether your pictures are, as you say, 'art or not,' you must
display them in a public place somewhere, and see if strangers like to look
at them. That is the way the game is played. Let me know what happens."
I went on: "People capable of liking some paintings or prints or whatever
can rarely do so without knowing something about the artist. Again, the
situation is social rather than scientific. Any work of art is half of a
conversation between two human beings, and it helps a lot to know who is
talking at you. Does he or she have a reputation for seriousness, for
religiosity, for suffering, for concupiscence, for rebellion, for
"There are virtually no respected paintings made by persons about which we
know zilch. We can even surmise quite a bit about the lives of whoever did
the paintings in the caverns underneath Lascaux, France.
"I dare to suggest that no picture can attract serious attention without a
particular sort of human being attached to it in the viewer's mind. If you
are unwilling to claim credit for your pictures, and to say why you hoped
others might find them worth examining, there goes the ball game.
"Pictures are famous for their humanness, and not for their pictureness."
I went on: "There is also the matter of craftsmanship. Real picture-lovers
like to *play along*, so to speak, to look closely at the surfaces, to see
how the illusion was created. If you are unwilling to say how you made
pictures, there goes the ball game a second time..."