Sunday, March 18, 2012

Donald Judd not Mark Rothko

One night in the 1950's DeKooning quit the painting he was working in his studio near the Cedar Tavern on 10th st. and wandered the streets of the Village ending up after midnight on a park bench in Washington sq. There was another man at the far end of the bench and Dekooning began to worry that he'd be hit on at which point the man at the other end of the bench asked him what he did for a living. Dekooning said "painter". The other man said "so am I". And that's how Dekooning met Rothko. Rothko went on to kill himself and Dekooning grew old in East Hampton, Long Island. In 1971, I moved from Taos, NM back to my birth place- NYC.  I was lost at twenty five and stayed lost the next 15 yrs pretending to be a photographer. One of my first jobs was as driver for Italian television RAI. That was the lowest member of the team of cameraman, director, (female) co-ordinator and me, the PA. We went to Houston to photograph DeBakey the great heart surgeon. We also filmed ringside the return bout Mohammad Ali fought Jimmy Ellis to a KO12. I was the light man with a sun gun. I don't remember anything except the noise of the hit each took to their bodies...the dull thud. I was very stoned on very pure cocaine. I was screwing (I don't want to use the f word) the pretty blonde producer. She was considered forbidden to a PA but the Italian director didn't want to party and I did. Very pleasant time. While in Houston I snuck off to one of the last surviving burlesque houses and the Rothko chapel built on the campus of St. Thomas University. Built by Philip Johnson and two other architects, there was a controversy over the light allowed in.
When I returned over 40 years later I was disappointed at the suite of 14 paintings. Too sober, perhaps the slight color I remembered from 1971 had faded by the light. Barnett Newman's somber sculpture facing the entrance to the chapel combined to make me feel there was NO life on campus. It wasn't because of the black paintings. I had seen and been moved by Miro's huge black paintings in Barcelona...painted when he was in his nineties and he was dealing with death. Miro's work was exhilarating.

I love Rothko's work. I think he is a giant of 20th century art. But I don't respond to the chapel with his paintings. Once, when visiting Melvin Sokolsky's (fashion photog famous for his bubble photos shot of women in bubbles floating above the Seine in Paris for Vogue) house on Mulholland Drive above LA, huge took me downstairs to meet his wife and lending against the hallway wall was a good- sized Rothko painting in squares of red. Exhilarating to be so close to a Rothko.

I was driving to get a tour at 4:30pm of Donald Judd's the block. When I got to Marfa, tx I assumed I find signs. No signs. tense in Marfa. finally got there and took a photo of Judd's pool and Hope, the museum docent, told me there was no photography.

 After the tour I stuck my Leica through the slats of the entrance gate and snapped a photo.

Judd came in 1971 to this small town and bought a barracks building from the army and then built the additional structures and a wall surrounding the block.

Inside the block are early and later pieces by Judd- very severe. very mathematical. When I left I noticed across the street from his complex, wood flats piled high.

(more later)

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