Welcome to Sundays With Clyfford Still. I’m your host, M.K. Hajdin.
This is number 12 in the series. You can read the other posts here.
CNN published a story about Clyfford Still today. It covered the basics but I thought depended very heavily on Dean Sobel’s opinions, some of which sound rather familiar.
The most influential artist you’ve probably never heard of
Denver (CNN) — Clyfford Still was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, but it’s likely you’ve never heard of him. That may be starting to change though. More than a half-century after walking away from fame and fortune, the late painter is gaining renewed appreciation, with his work finding a permanent home at a Denver museum.
How the Clyfford Still Museum came to exist is nearly as compelling as the paintings on its walls. Still agreed to give away all his art in his possession to an American city that agreed to keep the entire collection intact after his death. He died in 1980.
Still is credited with being a pioneer of the abstract impressionist movement in the early 20th century. Yet the breadth of his artistic reach remains a mystery.
Thanks @belovedbelove for the link.
In this early Still we see the vertical lines that Still loved to use. Remember that even his handwriting had this very long, vertical look to it. It’s the signature of an ascetic: a person who turns away from the flesh in order to embrace the ideal. The colors are still relatively drab during this period. I think I see some decaying surrealism in there, with a bit of modernism in the shape of the yellow blocks – but there’s something about Still that’s too defiantly organic to be really modernist.
And it really does look like an abstract bunch of penguins.
In case you haven’t been following along and are wondering why I have mixed feelings about the Clyfford Still Museum, it is because I have tried repeatedly, and politely, to get some cooperation out of them in finding material about Still for this blog – only to be ignored. The museum staff is too busy to answer public inquiries – at least too busy to answer mine. Maybe because they’re too busy using the museum’s Twitter account to tweet fawning praise for local politicians or talk about their jazz record collection or what book they read instead of talking about anything that has something to do with the museum. Possibly they might view me as some kind of competition, but that’s ludicrous. I’m not selling anything here.
Then again, experts like to belittle the public opinion and consider it uneducated, so perhaps that explains why they’ve been unwilling to help. Maybe they’d be quicker to respond to their mail if my name had a MFA after it.
It’s more than a little ironic, but perhaps unavoidable, that Clyffie’s legacy is being looked after by the very kind of art snobs that he couldn’t stand in life. It only underscores the need for public participation in the art world, even when (ESPECIALLY when) the art snobs try to lord it over ordinary folk.
I say this to every person I meet who seems intimidated by the art world: “Your opinion is just as good as theirs.” Because it is.
There’s the reply box, waiting just for you. Or tweet them to me with the hashtag #clyffordlove .