Unreal Nature

February 23, 2018

Frustrated & Bewildered

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… Meanwhile, the sun moves very ‘quickly’ …

This is from Under the Gowanus and Razor-Wire Journal: The making of two paintings 5.9.99 – 11.15.99 by Rackstraw Downes (2000). (The abbreviations for some words are as written in the text.):

… Under the [expressway] connector I look around. I see curves everywhere, drastic, tight curves, not my curved horizon, slightly drunk & slightly swollen. I finally am interested. What’s the criterion? That I haven’t put down on paper anything quite like this before. Sometimes when I think this, I put it down and then it looks the same as what I did before, it isn’t new.

[line break added] Here, I don’t know where to stand, just like at Chinati, several vantage points are excellent, so I start with that in mind — last year I saw only one view, and drew that, now there is a sequence — no, not a sequence because there is no ‘in order’ between them, it must be called a group, a cluster, maybe 4 or 6. I make them rapidly, the first one is intoxicating — is it the Karen Davie show that got into my head? — the next few are not so, but still interesting, one has a de Chirico ‘up-ended’ horizontal plane, a ‘Cézanne table-top’ effect — and I feel that I’ve made a start, I broke the ice today. I’m tired, and head for home.

[line break added] But on the way, approaching the Gowanus Canal — this time I see these huge tall chimneys — they always interest me — remember in Italy, Caffè della Torre?, and the gates in front, and the curving El again to its side — I see a little messy plot of land on the other side of the 4 lane road under the El — and I run for it (traffic coming all the time) and I see yet another great motif, this time with another Karen Davie curve, soaring into the air, and the high chimneys and a high billboard, the same white as the sky — it’s quite crisp and quite a startling combo of things; again it seems new.

[line break added] I go home now, tired, aching to sleep, to pee, to ease off, and I do so & feel horribly depressed and the sketches look like scribbles, and I feel ineffectual & disgusted. Dolores says it’s ever like this with you, have you read any books on creativity? and I say NO, but I think, Nor do I intend to — what does Arthur Koestler know? What is ‘creativity’ but a huge generalization, a giant closet into which everyone can be stuffed but where no one belongs.

[ … ]

7.6.99 a.m. Tried to fix the figures in the a.m. low Gowanus pntng. Put more in, took some out, made them more prominent, pushed them away. Round & round in circles. Want to get them deftly, & to reinforce, cooperate with & make more explicit the light & height. One or 2 new ones worked, a man in white shirt towards the back, real simplified down to 3 or 4 strokes, but still he’s noticeably there, & helps with the brilliance of the a.m. sunlight. Under the bridge, where they’re all in shade is what’s tough.

[line break added] Sometimes I feel this is just a lazier, older, staler version of upper B’way street scenes, must hone in on the engineering & the light of the overpass itself. Yesterday in the a.m. made a box and squared up a canvas for an a.m. ‘answer’ to my ozone pntng. The reverse of that composition. But because I’m on the opposite side of the highway, the bridge leaps out of the opposite corner, but I’m looking in the same direction. A nice little teaser. Want to get started on that soon, so I can see if there’s any chance for another multipart pntng.

7.7.99 Back to the ozonerous corner [air pollution was bothering Downes]. For about 2.5 hours wrestled with the underside of the expressway. This is easy stuff — nothing moves but the light, & since there are plenty of drawing issues, light will be established later. Today, for the first time in 2 weeks was clear & bright with a good breeze — sharp air, sharp accents, crisp colors everywhere. Then the shadows moved across the tarmac — or rather, the ocean of light advanced from right to left, & leaving the columns, they cast streamers of shadow — long, thin, parallel blue-purplish lines.

[line break added] And of course the traffic keeps coming and hiding this from me. Cars pile up at my stop light, blocking the view (indeed, the underside of the El is the only thing steadily visible all thru’ the day) and then they Go on Green, & I see the road for a half-minute; then the traffic light deep in the space goes green & a new flock comes heading towards me in a stampede; again, I can see nothing. Meanwhile, the sun moves very ‘quickly’ — it appears to — at this time of day, & I am frustrated & bewildered.

My previous post from Downes’s book is here.




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