Excursion to the Gallery
The Examination of a Neo-Beatnik
April 28, 2016
He scratched on the paper with a pencil, hunched over the subway’s plastic seat. His jeans stuck to his legs and the 70s-inspired seating. If my soul could only face the sparkling concrete façade of the Gallery—the sweltering turmoil within could finally cool into something of beauty.
He needed beauty, sitting in this jangling subway car, the tube’s walls black and confining. Yearning to breath free, he recalled a famous voice. The old car slowed and shuttered to a stop, and the man pealed his sweaty thighs off the chair, his pencil behind his ear and his notepad in his back pocket.
His paper skin finally exposed to sunlight, he dodged through the swarm of people leaving the underground. The massive building before him seemed to cut the sky away with its geometric edges and impressive height. Molded to the concrete was an edifice more ancient: orange stone carved gracefully. Between him and the Gallery was a sole bench, lamely decorated with an unwatered potted plant. The artistic young man, moved by the building’s conglomerate edifice, dropped to the bench, pad on knees and pencil on pad.
The sparkling concrete surrounds: horizontal, vertical. Glass, unshattered, black and reflective in repetitive rectangles.
Then, gentle stone, carved in an earlier age. Worn, melded to the rigid concrete building. Unlike a leech on a leg, unlike a tree on the sky. More like a finger and its nail, more like a pepper with its bite.
If these pads do brush the weathered rock, they might trace the orange and cream and bump up and over each swirling filigree.
A seam, and a change in texture, and the sandpaper glitters under my digits. The familiar gray-brown that so resembles unfertile mud in the bitter winter cold. O, how its freeze does indeed glitter and excite.
He entered the building at last, some deranged sparkles left in the eye, causing slight tears. The notepad was now clutched tightly to the chest, eager to spend this summer day being defiled by a beatnik teen.
The receptionist, some other liberal arts collegiate, cupped her head in her hand, face illuminated by an LED glow. The adolescent ignored her pamphlets and fliers, instead regarding the expansive landscape behind her. Suddenly the words flow through his soul with such force as to fold him over just then, in front of the inattentive receptionist.
Quieting swamps of pastel meadows, and silencing meadows of muted swamps.
Welcoming landscape thrusts me toward and away, and toward and, finally, away. Masterful strokes to capture, but lack invention.
I yearn for abstraction and meaning.
He followed the bamboo planks, leaving the receptionist and the landscape forgotten. The white walls pulsed with light and shadow, and frames and glass and cases littered the room and its walls, but the boy remained unimpressed. Tradition, culture, and history passed him by.
He found a new bench, this far sleeker than the first. He regarded in one turn of the head all that the rooms had to offer him.
Delightful barbarity and beauteous archaicism. Ah—wood and metal. Unrecognizable sculpture and intricately simple utility.
China: Blue swirls and plump blue men upon white. That which I keep in my own cupboard but not in better wholeness. Cracked, some broken into shards and still behind glass.
Holy, holy: An idolized child—but how rendered as like a small man? Such masculine muscles does he flex drinking his virgin mother’s milk. Heavenly.
Wars and kings, and peasants and things.
Gloriously revolutionary, flags billow in the battle-torn wind. Powered and powdered man stately and stoically gilded in gold.
Such ordinary scenes of such ordinary people. Can I be art? Should I be art? Hazy apples on a platter—are these fruits art? Do I underutilize my own?
Just as suddenly as he fell to the minimalist bench, he returned to his bored yet inspiring venture. The dark bamboo flooring cut off at a doorway. The doorway, itself, made half from eggshell white drywall and half from sorbet-colored rock. The paintings and works were far less substantial, mostly being blocks of color on canvas or randomly selected objects. Some were both.
Ah, fame! Relevance! Warhol paints for me these cans of soup to warm my soul.
Lime, violet, tangerine, and sky—a rainbow menagerie of rich, sweet comfort food.
Classically American in a purely American style. Bold, unabashed, yet beautiful. Tranquil and confrontational.
A similar can sits in my very cupboard, inartistic but ready for use.
These cans are pure abstraction, but their use is obvious to the viewer.
Art or good? Can this pied syrup flow down my receptive gullet, or will I choke on its artificialness?
Art or good? At least one, if not both.
The child took it all in, gaping at colored squares or precarious light bulbs, all fascinating. The neighbor to the soup cans, a Rothko with just a black fuzzy square atop a similarly fuzzy white square on a blue background, was far more profound, he thought.
What imagination may flourish here!
Almost bare—suggestive, gently nudging this mind to this emotion or this landscape. A simplified masterpiece to which all can relate.
A big-city skyline or tranquil ocean? No—
Black night on open prairie—luminous grasses touched by silver moon. Nocturnal creatures against the darkness go unseen, and not unheard. The quiet sounds of nature overwhelm the insensible black, and the mercurial cereals do conceal the earth-dwellers.
All this in a crowded gallery, elbows and breath on this body.
Less famous artists mingled with these magnates of modernity. But the eager tot is absorbent non the less. Piet Mondrian’s canvas was scantily clad with only oily blocks of color separated by some black lines. Fox Trot B does yet dance into his imagination.
Somehow white and black predominate among the primaries.
Somehow all life is eliminated, leaving rawness unlike any other.
Remove the jagged and frayed edges of human experience, and create a piece of entire subjectivity.
Fox Trot B, a distillation of dance itself.
Footsteps in rhythm but no feet, no music. Passion unconnected to person—simple, pure.
These manuscripts he scrawled in his pad, finally finding some other bench to sit upon. Unfortunate bench, it was tucked away in a dimmer corner, and one would say to provide some sort of tangible comfort as the patron nearly faints at the sight of the adjacent piece. But this small, small edgy infant does use it as a tool to mark his poetry. Looking up from his work (that which was compiled in chronological order in this examination), his heart flops in his baby chest.
A full-sized replica of a snow shovel hung from the ceiling on a transparent cord.
Wooden shaft, metal scoop.
The snow shovel—how remarkable that art can make one see the world anew. Reimagine the commonplace!
Do they sneer at the apparent utility of the masterpiece? I marvel at its eloquence.
It is apart from its purpose, and I can see the artistry—the sleekness of the design.
Remember and appreciate the smooth efficacy, but admire its grace.
The gallery attendant appears, her rubber footsteps halting in front of his knees. Her phone still glowing in the front coat-pocket, she waited for his frantic scrawls to flourish to an end. Her pearlescent face hand now reflected the red sign: exit, exit exit. She guided the insensible baby toward the cavernous stairwell. He experienced the gradual fade into dark from the soft eggshell of the gallery.
Blinding whiteness was unmuffled by the oppressive clouds. Stumbling, the puddle, cold and splashing, he fell into the cold and filth. The world so suddenly arrives, and the collegiate peers into the closed eyes of an elderly man. He lay on his side, asleep, with an evermore increasingly soggy cardboard sign that prayed for money for alcohol and weed. A pencil stub out from his matted hair.
I’m lost in its oppressive realism.