Monday, May 21, 2007

But does it float?

It has been my experience that whenever anyone starts asking the question "but is it art?" they are barking up the wrong tree. They are not only asking the wrong question; they are not even near the forest, forget the tree.

When the painter Milton Resnick was younger he used a thin paint and a vivid palette. Those paintings from the Fifties were what he later dismissed as his "pretty" paintings, and he did it in such a way to suggest that anyone who liked those paintings was made of less sterner stuff. I was one of those people and I have to say I cared for him less after that. But that's me, the wimp.

But I wonder... Because his later paintings from the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties, the one's he wanted us to like, well, were they so stout? Were they so tough? Were the paintings from the Fifties the real thing, the brave thing, the brave heart, and were the later paintings just tough, like over-kneaded dough--crusty slabs of paint that were all wall, walls of paint, but a scab really, a scab over a broken heart.

Resnick was always the painter's painter, but no one else's. He was a god among painters, and he dwelled among the people. Brice Marden has never been that. In all my years as a student, painter, teacher, curator and critic, I never ONCE heard anyone say, ooouuu or wow, that Brice Marden, can he paint. Never once. But Resnick was held in awe by even successful painters, and especially by anyone who loved paint the way young painters love paint.

Paint, of course, isn't it. Word has it that Resnick blew his brains out. The final act. What was he doing with a gun? Still, how does that add to the story? His story. Robert Miller showed only the Fifties paintings. The pretty paintings. They were poetry. The poetry of a young man. The passion of a young man. He wasn't chosen. Like de Kooning, like Pollock, and yes, like Marden. Tough to be an old poet.

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