A Meandering Mind

I received a very thoughtful email on Friday from the Belger Art Gallery.  They were closed for our monthly art walk as they are preparing for Beneath the Surface – Excavating the Belger Collection. The exhibit, which opens March 5th, will feature rarely seen works by Terry Allen, William Christenberry, Viola Frey, Jasper Johns, Creighton Michael, Ed Ruscha, Robert Stackhouse, Renee Stout, William T. Wiley and Terry Winters.

I was enchanted when I visited the Belger for their Jasper Johns show three years ago.  They have the largest collection of Johns’s work, and while that was really something, they also have Mo Dickens to tell you all about it.  Mr. Dickens is in their employ and he knows a heck of a lot, but when he tells you about it you feel more like you’re sitting on the front porch having a lemonade than getting a lecture about art.   When I received the email I responded and asked Mr. Dickens if he could reserve a chair for me in front of the Johns pieces.  There will be only a few rare etchings at this show (they were not part of the last show), but he told me of an exhibit he saw this summer.

Mural, a work that Peggy Guggenheim commissioned Jackson Pollack to create for her New York townhouse, was on display at the Figge Museum in Davenport, Iowa.  The piece belongs to the University of Iowa (it was a gift from Ms. Guggenheim.)  Mr. Dickens informed me that a thoughtful soul had donated two Eames lounge chairs to be placed in front of the piece so visitors could sit and enjoy.  And see.  Rather than, say, strolling by and snapping a pic with a phone.  When Mural travels the chairs travel with it.

Pollock struggled with the piece and finally pulled things together at the last minute.  The show!  The client!  Everything banging around in his head and then he painted.  And turned his work in on time.  Which I like in a person as I am deadline driven myself.  Myths have sprung up around it – it was cut down to fit Guggenheim’s wall, it was painted in a day – but the canvas does not support these tales.

Pollack said of the piece, “It was a stampede…[of] every animal in the American West, cows and horses and antelopes and buffaloes. Everything is charging across that goddamn surface.”  Seems that would warrant taking a moment to stop and wonder.

Pollock, as many of you know, was a student of Thomas Hart Benton, a native Missourian.

Mural, completed in 1944, was a turning point for Pollock and American art as a whole; he began his drip paintings in 1947.

Top two images of pieces by Jasper Johns in the Belger collection from here, next two images of Mural courtesy of the University of Iowa,  Pollock in his studio from Time Out Chicago, Persephone by Thomas Hart Benton courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

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16 thoughts on “A Meandering Mind

  1. Excellent information Patricia! The movie "Pollock" shoes his struggle with the piece for Peggy Guggenheim's home. Very excited to see the Belger collection at the next opening. I have friends who have amazing Viola Frey Sculptures!

  2. Neat-o. Studied Art History but missed out on this.
    The cell phone picture taking really ruins the gallery experience for me, I like the chairs.

  3. Thank God for Peggy Guggenheim-how wonderfully wise and forward thinking in all things, and to have endowed across the country, I find it even more so. Perfect setting to step aside for the herd. pgt

  4. I only wish the Belger were closer! I adore William Christenberry and Ed Ruscha, of course. My parents own a spectacular painting by Mr. Edward Roo-shay.:-) The painting has become an issue between my brother and I. We've actually discussed a joint-custody agreement, when the time comes! Morbid, yes?!

    I love Thomas Hart Benton. His ''July Hay'' (Martha's Vineyard) painting is a personal favorite.

  5. North – I'm checking the link. I have a hankering for something from the number series myself.

    pve – good, no?

    Emom – for me too!

    Courtney – just what I was thinking.

    Karena – I've seen the film – I need to go back and watch for this now that I know the history.

    JM- me. too.

    Kerry – wonder what one does with that image? Make it your screensaver? You can do that from home.

    LA – seconding that motion.

    SP – not morbid at all! Anyone who says they are not doing the same might be fibbing a little.

  6. I will never forget when I saw Pollock first. It was in Melbourne Australia'a wonderful art museum. I think they had just acquired it and most Australians were not quite sure why! It is one of their most treasured pieces now. By the way, the date was 1973 when I saw it.

  7. Anon – When I posted this I was thinking, "So what? No one will care about this." Then I received your comment and purpose becomes clear. Contributions like yours are also the reason I still accept anonymous comments.

  8. Patricia, I love this post–art lessons like this push me to museum to see for myself. Have you read Peggy Guggenheim's autobiography? What an outstanding women–always on her own terms. Thanks, Mary

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