The Dove and the Dark Angel

Pristine is the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

 

 

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The Sculpture Garden end of the MOMA’s lobby. On the wall Brice Marden’s The Propitious Garden of Plane Image, Third Version, 2000-2006, oil on linen in six panels.  Brice Marden, American born 1936

 

 

Whether you are inside or just outside

 

 

 

 

Views of the interior of MOMA, NY 

 

 

 

you have the impression of an architecture buoyed by natural light

 

 

 

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Interior, MOMA, NY

 

 

and pools of light concentrated here and there in the building.

A remarkable impression given that most of the galleries have no natural light at all and on purpose for the protection and display of the art. 

You feel, nevertheless poised and safe and self-satisfied.  Everything orderly despite the huge numbers of people in a great flux through the building every day.

  

 

Then, one day, you come to stand in front of this painting.  You start to study it and this takes time because you are at first discombobulated.

 

 

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The Dove, gelatin silver print, 1971, and detail.  Romare Bearden, 1911-1988, American. MOMA, NY

 

This is a photostat of the artist’s 1964 work, The Dove, which is listed in the MOMA’s holdings but which I have not yet found.

 

 

The Dove, 1964, cut-and-pasted printed paper, gouache, pencil, and colored pencil on board.  Romare Bearden, 1911-1988, American. MOMA, NY

 

The original is a collage: scraps of paper, photographs out of newspapers, coloured pencil.  The imagery is taken from many sources. 

 

The juxtaposition of forms is a jumble of human impossibility.  The cat, alone, a feline in all its physical integrity,  in its corner, makes the point. But you know that this is an urban street scene, busy, verging on chaos but never reaching it.  Never approaching it, actually. 

 

 

 

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The Dove, gelatin silver print, 1971, and detail.  Romare Bearden, 1911-1988, American. MOMA, NY

 

Held away from any eventuality  of chaos or violence by the central presence of the dove.  Like a tutelary deity. The white dove of peace.  A creation, then, of appreciation, love even.

 

Self-satisfaction and poise depart.

A sadness because we don’t live like this any longer where I live.  No jumble, no tumble and no rumble on the street.

Certainly no dove.  Just starlings and pigeons and an occasional lone woodpecker.  And people minding their own business.

 

I carry large shears with me now to snip away at the self-justifying links my ageing mind makes between everything and everything lest I lose myself in the world. And it become uncontrollably chaotic to my eye.

 

 

 

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Hedge shears, 1830’s or ’40’s, hand-forged iron and chestnut.  French. On display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2018. 

The museum pointed out the extraordinary artisanal workmanship of the heart which forms above the handle when the shears are closed.

 

 

 

But I did not snip away the link my mind made with this self-portrait by the American painter, George Tooker, rejuvenated, of The Dark Angel. 

George Tooker of the seen-unseen world in which we live.

 

A North American transmutation, perhaps, of the protective powers and principalities Romare Bearden has conjured up in The Dove. 

To help keep us going for fear our world becomes uncontrollably chaotic and we lose ourselves.

 

 

 

 

The Dark Angel, 1995-1996, egg tempera on gesso panel.  George Tooker, 1920-2011, American.  Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia

 

 

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