December 10, 2016

I arrived at the Royal Academy to see the Abstract Expressionist exhibition ten minutes before opening time. I was a keeny. A Dutch visitor and I struck up a conversation while queuing. He was an enthusiast, with no professional commitment to the arts – a genuine and informed member of the art public. I’d been looking forward to this exhibition with a instinctive sense that it wouldn’t let me down. Some exhibitions are interesting and informative, others are also illuminating, and yet a others (very few) are also overwhelming. This was one. ‘Too much! Too much!’, I found myself muttering. Great art casts us back upon ourselves.

From ‘The Black Notebook’ (10 Mar. 2015 – ), 106-7:

Hoffman was a generator of ideas, as much for others as for himself; more important as a teacher than as an artist, in this respect / paintings are fixed points; immediate and totalising, unlike music / Krasner’s self portrait betrays TH Benton’s tutelage / Gorky: ‘deep knowledge of art history’ / AE had a ‘big’ metaphysic / an interest in other than art alone / Pollock’s drip technique overcame the dry, drawn feel of brushing / his Blue Poles (1952): astonishing; like Tesla’s electric storms; the silent frenzy of a storm under his thumb / Rothko aspired to ‘the poignancy of music’ / many of the paintings came into this world at the same time as me / students need to be more interested in the works of other artists than in their own even, if they are to achieve anything of note / some painters pursued an endgame; but when you reach that final point, you must either stop or start afresh / the beauty makes me ache, physically / have I mentioned Mark Tobey to V?

Two hours later, I was back in the tawdry and earthbound world of Christmas shoppers and tired decorations. On, then, to John Lewis, Oxford Street and, from there, to St Paul’s, where I took lunch. People of all ages poured into the Tate Modern. That was an encouraging sight. Contemporary art is no longer a minority interest, for sure:

I attended the Rauschenberg retrospective:

From ‘The Black Notebook’ (10 Mar. 2015 – ), 107-8:

R took a music appreciation course at Black Mountain College / White Painting (1951) influenced by Cage’s 4’33” / R’s work proceeded from intent / R made paintings ‘live’ on stage; First Time Painting (1961) had a microphone attached to his easel to amplify his brushstrokes / ceaseless invention, experimentation, and extension / a relationship of the work and the world: a constant / R’s work – a response to AE / even great art requires an antidote.

Before leaving the gallery, I rocketed around the first four floors of the new extension. I must return and view the entirety more gracefully:

4.00 pm: My son and I met for a Christmas shop in some of the bookshops between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. Good pickings. By 6.00 pm, the area had become saturated with shoppers, revellers, and hoards returning from the day’s football matches. Piccadilly Circus station was in partial lockdown. We escaped to Finchley Road to eat, and to watch Arrival at a Vue cinema complex. This was an intelligent, original, difficult, and disciplined film. One to be seen again, as soon as practicable.

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