Monday, February 09, 2009
Reading The Road
Just last night, I finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and thought as I put it down, how often my work has been generated by walking, and by the impressions I’ve formed along the way. In Newfoundland, where I walked to learn the landscape, the scenery was so monotonous that I took to counting my steps just to stay motivated. Walking in Maine, where the bones of the earth are heaved up in most astonishing ways, I think about tectonics. Today I walked through the Brooklyn Museum, where a 4th Floor exhibit, Selections from American Art," reexamines landscape. There’s a hilarious quasi-sculptural painting, “Falling Bierstadt,” that answers my need as a painter to go up against the euphoria of 19th century landscape painting. And as always, I found Olafur Eliasson’s grid of photographs to be awfully two dimensional in more ways than one. I’m not a fan of his obvious iterations of what is all around us all the time. (Even in New York, all you have to do is look.) But the piece that grabbed me most and held me longest, and brings me back to The Road, was Terence Koh’s stack of large and small vitrines, some empty, some containing white objects recalling man’s inhumanity to man and its artifacts. McCarthy’s apocalyptic tale, in which few people and no other life forms remain, describes a world of “nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before.” Everything covered by blowing ash. Koh’s work, it would seem, has been to collect what remnants remain from that world, remnants finally washed clean by rain, and present them to us as reminders of what once was, or what may someday come to pass.