Thursday, June 21, 2012
The stuff from which storms were built
I photographed these jars of pigment this afternoon in Jackson Pollock's barn/studio on Accabonac Harbor in The Springs, here on the South Fork of Long Island. Apologies for the slightly blurry quality of the snapshot; it's a cell phone picture, taken in the not-so-bright antechamber of the larger, high-ceilinged painting space, with its famous spattered floor still bearing the traces of "Autumn Rhythm" and "Blue Poles," two great paintings of mid-century, as well as the spatters and drips of many more. It's an amazing space; I think even if I didn't know who had worked there, or didn't know those pictures, I'd still feel the difficult-too-name quality of energy there, the residual life. It's a kind of hum or buzz or undertow (see how these words feel like proposals quickly discarded?) that lingers in the spaces where great things have been made by a person in a state of profound concentration, perhaps in torment but probably with an equal quotient of joy. The last time I sense this was in Herman Melville's study in Pittsfield, MA, where he wrote all his major work at a table in the center of the a room which is, at least in my memory, a deep red, with a view of a strikingly profiled mountain out the window directly across from his chair. The room made me a little giddy; the atmosphere was vertiginous, electrified.
Last year, during the Abstract Expressionist New York show, a friend of mine was working at MOMA. On a Tuesday, when the Museum is closed, I went to the show with him, and we sat in silence in the grand room full of Pollock's masterworks. Because of their size and vigor, and because I've always seen them in rooms full of people coming and going, commenting, I'd thought of them as loud pictures, announcing themselves with a flourish of trumpets, but they're not. In the room where I Larry and I sat, they seemed the quietest things in the world, deep pulsing wells of silence, radiating a meditative quiet of such depth that one couldn't quite hold back from entering them.
I loved seeing these shelves, the materials out of which those force-fields were made.