The Origins Of Proclivity

The Edge

Richard Pousette-Dart (United States, Minnesota, Saint Paul, active New York, 1916-1992), United States, 1943-1945, Oil on linen canvas: 81 × 47 1/4 × 1 1/4 in. 

"My definition of religion amounts to art and my definition of art amounts to religion. I don't believe you can have one significantly without the other. Art and religion are the inseparable structure and living adventure of the creative.... Art is not a matter of perfect technique; it is life of the soul." --Richard Pousette-Dart

I'm not sure why certain art steals our breath, cements us to where we stand, or otherwise changes our mind any number of ways. 

But I am sure you've noticed that after the moment your eyes perceive and arrange the image of the work in your brain, some art just resonates strongly through your entire being.

Why?

Perhaps you've seen a glimpse of the world the way the artist has expressed it, and seeing it through other eyes and hands is strong enough to illicit something like a vague kinship or connectedness.

Perhaps you are moved on a visceral level by the idea being conveyed in colors, lines, shapes, and light--or the absence of them--and it feels somehow familiar, even if you've never seen it before. 

I sometimes feel this way.

Occasionally I'll eat red meat and drink red wine and get flashes of bizarrely ancient moments and images, feelings that I am connected to the past and the future, and that this has all been played out and will continue to play out over and over again. 

This brings to mind Rupert Sheldrake's Morphic Resonance theory: that we all inherit memories and habits from previous generations. While Sheldrake has been called many things (including pseudoscientist), this is extremely intriguing territory, but well beyond the scope of this post.

I think we can all agree that truly relating to a specific piece of art, music, or anything that involves the senses is oddly intimate. Jarring. And powerful.  

I felt this when I stood in front of Michelangelo's Rebellious Slave and Dying Slave last spring at the Louvre, and I feel it in front of the painting pictured above.

While de KooningPollock, and Rothko--artists I admire--were far more visible characters of the New York School, it is this particular painting that I keep going back to visit at LACMA.

Pousette-Dart started work on this when he was only 27, and he was clearly informed by massively influential painters. I see Picasso's and Lissitzky's line work, Kandinsky's color theory, and Klee's unique composition, among other influences. It's Cubist, Surrealist, Expressionist, Futurist, and Abstract.

I see power and order and discipline and strength, but the curves and vague imagery soften the the piece somehow.

I'm not an art critic, so I don't really know how to write about it, but I do know it keeps pulling me back. Just like Prokofiev and Marcus Aurelius and coriander seed and all the other things I keep returning to without quite knowing why. 

I like to think that maybe within "The Edge," this carefully-orchestrated schematic of frozen movement and ideas and spirituality--maybe within it is the answer I subconsciously crave. 

Maybe.   

And then the overwhelming realization that I don't know what the hell the question is.

Foiled again,

--Thomas