Friday, December 20, 2013

The Lense of Vision

Moon photographed in 2012 with a 6-inch Newtonian reflector telescope I built

When I once brought my eye to the eyepiece of a telescope and witnessed the moon, it was not science but wonder that held me transfixed. And this, too, would not be correct, for what I saw was not suspended in hallucination, nor a vacant staring; I was instead enlivened by sensation. Noticing things, specific and concrete, both expanded my wonder and began a list of observations which descend to science and its purposes. But the open-eyed shock of near disbelief – the witness of one’s own miraculous vision – remained for all my life a welcome, if infrequent, occurrence. Art excites it, yet art seems a secondary illustration taken of vision’s prime effect. It is like memory rather than the first instance of seeing.

Oddly, Copley has some of that optical effect in his airless colonial portraits, and Vermeer practically sits us down in a camera obscura. It is more due to optical accuracy that the state of wonder is engendered in us like this, and it is ironic for the hard observational work – the science – needed for such a simple accomplishment on the viewer’s behalf.

So the state of seeing passes through stages – the first being prized for its sensational magic, and succeeding observations resorting to noticings, then measurements, finally a dry correspondence like this, or some account book registration.

Who will reawaken in us this first light of an object’s existence in our consciousness? Who can re-create the poetry of the brand new experience? Or have we forever passed beyond the ability to be thrilled by a movie of an arriving train? Must we now have a story to include it in?

Yet, the train arriving still thrills us in person. No story is necessary. The visceral is enough, yet the more we record it, the less we have of it. When I again have brought my eye to the lense of the telescope, and see there the moon in its finery of gray and satin whites, its bombarded continents and gray dust oceans; when I thereon do gaze languid in my summer comfort, breathing air that is nowhere present on the moon; when I partake of wonder at the stony sphere out there and of myself below drawn up by fascination; then am I at the tip-toe of my life, alive with the wonder of the all in all.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Eileen Goodman, Lauren Garvey and Aubrey Levinthal at Gross McCleaf Gallery


Aubrey Levinthal, Foggy Table, oil on panel, 16 x 16
We went to see Lauren Garvey, Aubrey Levinthal, and Eileen Goodman’s openings at Gross McCleaf. Levinthal is like the Bonnard of Philadelphia; her transparent paints and reliance on bright, visionary underpainting that gleams uncovered  gives these still lifes a euphoria and splendor.
Lauren Garvey’s abstract paintings make a more introspective impression – mysterious, lower chroma meditations that leave charm behind for something interrogative. They are deeper than Jasper Johns’ abstract painting, but share his confrontational nature, as if to say “what’s this” of something the viewer can come to know, but not understand.
Eileen Goodman’s realist watercolors display the abstract organization of objects prepared for painting. The added element is done for color and because it can be included. They then have a relationship akin to the crowd and a showy outsider. The tone, however, is somber, making these outsiders conscious and tragic as an Ayn Rand heroine (if there is such a thing; if not, there should be).
Gross McCleaf Gallery
127 S Sixteenth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Oct. 2 – 26, 2013

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bill Scott at Hollis Taggart Galleries

                                              The Fourth Cherry Tree, oil on canvas, 65 x 34 in.

The 21st Century has arrived, and this is what it consists of -- the imagination and empathy of color. What Cezanne did for the apple, Scott does for the viewer. This is partly due to something Rothko took us through on his own behalf, for his own suffering. But the result of painting after another half century of modernist development has landed in America from a unique and apt shore: the city of Philadelphia.

The difference might be said to be a shift in the last two years from opaque to transluscent paint application. It might be said to be a shift from lower chroma to high chroma paint mixture; but none of this is as important as the unique experience that continues from the former paintings, but blooms into undeniable transport.

This empathy of tender, brave and luminous paint, a shimmer of radiance lighting the mind, is as new as the iphone is to the telephone, yet just as human. What you have before you is a symphony without elegy. Nothing is impossible to imagine in a state of joy like this. There is no ballast, just lift. The eyes are upward, they see for you around corners, they see the sound of the surf in the sky, in a bath, in the reconfigured impressionism of Renoir.

You can't really say impressionism, or realism, leads to this; they lead to each other; or better yet, they stem from the same inner source of the artist's inspiration. That one artist can give us such light is like saying a man can be the helmsman of dawn.

Joy and the ode to joy is all!

In Arcadia
Bill Scott at Hollis Taggart Galleries
3 October to 2 November 2013
958 Madison Ave.
New York, New York 10021