Sundays with Clyfford Still: An Inconvenient Artist (18)

Welcome to Sundays With Clyfford Still. I’m your host, M.K. Hajdin.

This is number 18 in the series. You can read the other posts here.

M.K. Hajdin

We are spirits in the material world: 1947-H no. 3 by Clyfford Still (Credit: SFMoMA)

In this piece about an upcoming exhibition at the Clyfford Still Museum that compares Clyfford Still with reproductions of Vincent Van Gogh, Judith Dobrzynski opines, “I think Still made a huge, egotistical mistake – preventing comparisons of works by other artists side-by-side doesn’t make him look better, it makes him look afraid. Wouldn’t this have been far more interesting if the van Gogh works were actually present, instead of there in reproductions?”

My answer, which is still in moderation:

“Still did not like to be compared to anybody. We could interpret that as fear, or we could interpret it as fierce independence.

It is inconvenient for the museum, but artists are nonconformists who don’t always behave in convenient ways.”

Clyfford Still was about the most ornery artist that ever lived, so the revelation that the rules he set for his museum is now making life a bit difficult for its curators can hardly surprise.  What’s the point of labeling it “egotistical”?  Is that supposed to be a warning to other artists?  Get with the promotional program, or suffer stigma from the press?

Ego is a convenient word, but not the right word to describe a sense of purpose so strong that it would not be compromised.

Never has an artist had so much power over his own work, even after his death.  One gets the feeling that if you crossed Clyfford, his ghost would haunt you.  And it wouldn’t be one of those ghosts that just float sadly around.  Clyffie would howl and throw things.

Read the whole piece here.

You can also read more about the upcoming Still exhibition in September here.

Questions? Comments?  Talk to me in the box below, or tweet with the hashtag #clyffordlove.

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