Commentaries - June 2010

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Barnett Newman at the National Gallery

A series of black-and-white paintings

In the new building at the National Gallery in DC, I saw Barnett Newman's series of paintings--done between 1958 and 1966--called "The Stations of the Cross." The Stations of the Cross series of black and white paintings, begun shortly after Newman had recovered from a heart attack, is usually regarded as the peak of his achievement. The series is subtitled "Lema sabachthani" - "why have you forsaken me" - words said to have been spoken by Jesus on the cross. Newman saw these words as having universal significance in his own time. The series has also been seen as a memorial to the victims of the holocaust.

Bill of Rights in the 1950s

It's some kind of communist plot

"No doubt all of you recall the incident in Madison, Wisconsin, last Fourth of July, when American citizens were afraid to say they believed in the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights. One hundred and twelve people were asked to sign a petition that contained nothing except quotations from these two immortal documents, and one hundred and eleven refused to sign the paper. Most refused because they were afraid it was some kind of subversive document and thought that if they signed it they would be called Communists." - JAZZES H.

the written sea

The work by John Marin I know is watercolor. And mostly I've seen his early stuff--from the 1920s. But here is a canvas (at the National Gallery) done in oil, and it was made in his last year (1952; he died in '53).

Rothko's black series

DC yesterday: awful heat but two good PennSound-related meetings, one of them at the Library of Congress. But then, meetings done, to the tower we went. In and then up into the gorgeous new wing of the National Gallery in DC - to see a series of black Rothko paintings.