Saturday, January 22, 2005

Good advice on looking at art

I learned from Joe that the first thing to do when looking at a work of art was to do just that--look. Let your eyes take in what is in front of them. Look at a picture from different distances. Look away and then look back, but, since each picture suggests a visual starting point in it, choose a different point each time you look. At this stage, try not to have any thoughts about the work, such as where it fits in the artist's oeuvre or in art history or social history. You can do that later. If you allow such thoughts at this point, they will distance you from your seeing. And so Joe's comments at an exhibition would be of the "Look at that red" variety, when the very thing I had overlooked was the fact that red was the star--perhaps the raison d'être--of the picture. . . . For me Joe's visual perceptions were literally eye-opening.
From Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard, by Ron Padgett (Coffee House Press, 2004). Joe Brainard, American painter, is also known as the author of I Remember. Ron Padgett, American poet, is the author of many books--poems, translations, and memoirs. He and Brainard met and became friends in high school, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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