Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Lots of things used to keep
me occupied, in my head.
One of the ways I've found
to get through hardships or
bad times is to keep my
mind extremely caught
up in a problem or a
thought-progression that
becomes all-consuming
enough to keep me from
otherwise brooding. I
did this all the time in
some of the bad periods
here and elsewhere. I
guess some people in
like manner fixate on
the weather or on
curing cancer, amassing
degrees, taking trips,
or whatever. I never
had the money for any
of that  -  my stuff
had to be free or
it wasn't. So, say,
in the New Testament
when Jesus calls out
'Oh ye generation
of vipers, how can
ye, being evil, speak
good things?' That used
to bug the hell out of me.
What did Jesus mean?
In all those old, allegorical
paintings, how had this
ever been portrayed?
Had it? What did he
mean? 'Generation of
vipers' would seem to
mean 'their' generation
was low and evil, BUT
it also might mean they
were generated by vipers,
meaning their parents, and
not them, were the vipers.
Meaningless, well, yes,
perhaps, but it had to
have a meaning too,
one way or the other.
Sins of the fathers
coming down on
the sons and daughters?
Was he talking collectively
about them? Or referring
collectively to their parents?
Why? For worshipping idols?
What was the disorder here?
Guilt by association and
lineage? If an artist were
to be painting this, even
some Flemish guy in
the 1400's what would
be portrayed? What
was the actual 'message'
here that would need
to be made visual?
How satisfying would
and could it be? I
never knew, and really
never did find out  - there
are a hundred different
treatments of it, in
writing, each with
their own little spin
and theory. But I was
wondering about art.
How and if it had been
'painted'. Those old guys
were all good for setting
down the most incongruous
issues as subject matter.
Millions of tortured souls
sought guidance and
reflection through the
art they'd see, church-side
or in the royal manor house.
A real visual shorthand
between lots of illiterate
grunts. How could, then,
any of it get complicated?
It was always part of what
to watch out for.
If there was a need for
anything, I usually found
a way to get around
it. Easy stuff was easy,
the more difficult things
got harder. New York City
stealing is different from
stealing anywhere else. It's
part of the pattern there, from
the earliest days  - bogus
water contracts, Boss
Tweed, Tammany Hall.
Sure, nowadays people
say it all had its good
points, Tammany was a
relief center, it took
care of people, socialized
and welfare-sorts everywhere.
That Tweed, though a
crook with his cronies,
took care of the little guy
no matter. Thieves with
hearts of gold. Sure. In
the same way, now,
everyone's building the
Robert Moses bandwagon
back up. Even though
the guy was a scoundrel,
an autocratic menace, a
vain and power-hungry
maniac. He tore down tons
of things, and ruined and
displaced countless people
and families. The Grand
Concourse. Cross-Bronx,
Tri-Borough, and plenty
more. Thank only God
he was stopped when
he was, and hooray for
Jane Jacobs too for doing
the stopping. Right there
on Hudson Street, #555.
Like the paintings above,
and like these references here,
to Robt. Moses and Boss
Tweed and all, the calls
need to be simplified, 
whittled down, sharpened.
It has to be 'right' for people
to see and grasp. That's one
of the points I had against 
those charcoal drawings 
that I mentioned last chapter.
Too indefinite, chalky black,
smudgy. All imprecise, and
you could spend an hour 
looking for something to 
grasp onto, visually. Not 
good. It wasn't the way 
things should be. Even 
'Generation of Vipers' 
was pretty pointed
and direct, but it 
kind of led nowhere.
I always felt, in drawing
as in life, the line had to
be direct  -  sharp and 
pointed. Like the New 
York City streets, where 
no one really gave you 
a chance, certainly not a
second chance to make 
your point, direct your 
line, present your shape 
and form of idea. My 
idea of 'drawing' was 
just that : a sharp tip, 
some incongruous
lines, with overlaps, 
cut ins, breakaways, 
feints, directions. Things 
you could latch onto
immediately, and start 
to question just as fast.
Not 'scenes' so much as
'seens'  -  places I'd want 
to go to, be in. I didn't 
really need 'representation';
all I needed to know was
what it was and where it 
would be placed, were 
it there. I had different
eyes and, behind them.
different sensibilities. 
Rather that reflect worlds, 
I made them. My stuff, as
I told one of those drawing-
instructor guys, was just 
places I'd want to be, with
those sensibilities, and 
outlooks and viewpoints.
Certainly nothing 'Drawing' 
had ever had before.
Everything I made was
generated by my 'viper' of
mind and attitude and
outlook. A line never has to
'go' anywhere. It can 'suggest',
and lead, and it should do so 
distinctly and sharply, yes, but
really the only 'point relevance'
it needs is the point at the
end of the pencil itself  -  sharp,
hard, distinct, and with meaning.
No soft-soap charcoal here.

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