Saturday, July 23, 2016

How Rembrandt and Nina Prepared Me to See Drips On Pollock's Paintings

How Rembrandt and Nina Prepared Me to See Drips On Pollock's Paintings

I believe part what prepared me to notice the stray drips in Pollocks paintings was my fascination with Al Hirschfeld's  caricatures which appeared every Sunday in the Arts and Leisure section of the New York Times.
Another component was my exposure to the Rembrandt Research Project. 

Each Sunday I looked forward to see how many times the name of Hirschfeld's daughter, Nina, was hidden in his caricature.  The number next to his signature indicated the number of times Nina could be found.
I was good at it and it was fun. Finding Nina was a game.  In a black and white line drawing certain areas would be prime NINA hiding places, week after week.  Any type of hair and fold in clothing were where I
would search first.

In looking for over splatter on Pollocks, the lowest portion of the painting is worth a good look.

As an undergraduate and as a MFA candidate, I worked part time at the art museum at the University of Michigan.  When I left Ann Arbor, I was hired by the chief curator of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts as an art handler.  That curator was Sam Sachs. In my job I performed the standard activities of caring for, hanging, framing, and transporting artworks.  I was sent to Malibu to pack the Getty collection
for exhibition in Minneapolis while the Getty villa was constructed.  Of greater significance; I accompanied, observed, and assisted a small group of Dutch researchers who came to examine The Minneapolis Institute of Arts  Rembrandt. I was simply a facilitator and an observer; removing the painting from the wall and taking off the frame.  I stayed with them the entirety of their visit.  They looked at the Rembrandt in ways that prepared me to see artworks differently.  These conservators looked past imagery into how the paint was layered. 

In Minneapolis I spent more time than expected in the conservation laboratory.   This familiarity with the lab helped introduce me to many more people when I moved to the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College. I was hired to replace Del Spurlock, who had been the museum technician, but was transitioning to full time at the Intermuseum Conservation Association, housed in the same building.

My office and workshop were down the corridor from the ICA lab. Naturally, especially since we took coffee breaks together, I got to know Dick Buck, Ross Merrill, Marigene Butler, Marty Radecki,  John Bertalan, Anne Clapp, and many of the interns.   I spent hours and hours looking at paintings under raking light.

It was this interest in looking at paintings from an angle that entertained and informed me for years.  I was most fascinated, in particular, with the color choices of Matisse and Klimt, how they refined their color choices.  Each opportunity to study their paintings  brought fresh insights, as both artists left clues and clear indications of how their paintings evolved. 
It was that one day at MoMA in 2003 that I finished a up close visit with a favorite Matisse, that I turned to find a  nine foot tall by eighteen foot wide canvas and I wondered if Jackson Pollock had anything to share.
I was willing to guess the answer was a no.

That day I found seven pink drips that did not belong on One: Number 31, 1950.  I wondered what this was about.  The next day I visited the Met, with similar amazement.

Al Hirschfeld always put a number next to his name, broadcasting how many times he has hidden his daughters name. Jackson Pollock left no tell tale number.

October 17, 2015  Sandy Kinnee

Once one finds Nina hidden in a drawing it is difficult to resist looking for more.  My own daughter and collaborator on the Pollock study, Lauren,  can't see a Pollock without scanning for possible over splatter.
She has a Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts and worked, as an undergraduate at the Yale University Art Gallery.  She currently teaches at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

I am an artist, not a conservator.  I was a museum professional at three museums.  During those years I had the good fortune to work with and spend time with a great many people in the art world: Richard Spear, Ellen Johnson, Gerry Kamrowski, Marvin Eisenberg, Roger Mandel, Roger Berkowitz, Dan Flavin, Clement Greenberg, Irving Sandler, Alice Neel, Richard Serra, Dorthea Rockburne; all of whom influenced me.

Taking A Bullet For Art

Taking A Bullet For Art

The idea that a Secret Service agent would willingly take a bullet for the President seems odd to most people.  That anyone might do likewise for an artwork seems much more bizarre.  Strange, yes, but true.  It’s been done.  I have done it.

My first week at the University of Michigan set me onto the path headed toward a “bullet”.  I dressed differently from the majority of art students; a clean white lab coat with a radioactivity badge, a dress shirt and tie.  Milton Cohen noticed me and asked me to put up a display of student work in the main corridor, outside the department office.  As I pounded tacks into the wall a head popped  around the corner of the department office and withdrew.  A minute later the department secretary emerged from the office and approached me.  I thought I was going to be asked to be quiet. Instead she said that the art museum had just called and wanted me to come over as soon as possible.
That was a puzzlement.  How would they know me and what did they want?  They didn’t.  The department secretary had taken the request and I was the first student she could find.  I finished hanging the little display and walked across the Law school diag to the museum.. The University of Michigan Museum of Art occupies a building known as Alumni Memorial Hall, across from the Student Union.  It was only a block and a half from Art and Design. 

I had been inside the museum before and knew there were two moderate size galleries on the entry level and two more of a similar size upstairs, with a third larger space toward the front of the building.  I asked the museum guard where to find the main office. When I identified myself as having been sent over from the art department, I was immediately directed to go upstairs and talk with the gentleman in the front gallery.  I was still clueless, but maybe they needed to a part time student assistant.  Just a hunch.  It would beat a part time job washing dishes on North Campus.  There was one  person in the gallery when I walked in, it had to be him.  He looked to be about sixty years old, smelled of what I later identified as sandalwood, and greeted me with a french accent.  At least it sounded slightly french to my untuned ears.  His suit was brown, his tie blue. His name was Paul Grigault.
He seemed to know why I was there.  He had two questions for me; “Could I use a hammer?  Certainly, I grew up the son of a carpenter.  “When could I start?”  Start what?  “Start working for the museum as an exhibition assistant; hanging paintings, handling artworks, etc.” Sure, I said.  I could report immediately after class tomorrow.

So, I did.  I worked along side a wonderful man, Carlos Clark.  Carlos belonged to an older world of the museum world, a craftsman not an artist.  Museums needed workers who were skilled at painting walls, building exhibition cases, driving nails, and doing a whole range of jobs within the museum.
Knowing about and caring for art were not always in the job description.  Over my ten years in the museum world, I found this evolving toward more art school graduates handling artwork.  Carlos came to work for the museum after having been a furniture maker.  He had built the beautiful cases in the galleries.  He was a truly wonderful person and craftsman.    His comfort around power tools benefitted me directly.  Shortly after starting to work at the museum I had to cut a few inches off a sculpture base.  I was using the table saw and had successfully completed the task, except for a scrap of wood dancing next to the spinning blade.  I elected to flick the wood away, rather than have it chucked across the room by the action of the saw blade.  Only thing wrong, my finger was caught and blood splattered everywhere..  I was horrified at the sight of my blood.  Carlos was there in a flash and placed his body between me and my finger.  He performed the necessary first aid.  I was now embarrassed by my stupidity.  Carlos showed me the scars on his fingers. Carlos showed me how to hang and secure a painting, build and pack a crate, and so much more.  He was a mentor on the non art side of museum work.

Ignorance of the importance and value of the art one is handling can be a wise thing, so long as equal care and respect are given to all works.  However, in another museum I witnessed the actions of a particular art handler.  He was moving individual objects from a case to a cart.  Everything was fine until a curator came on the scene and advised the handler to pay special attention to one certain piece.  He told the worker that this piece was worth thousands.  Immediately the worker became nervous.  His hands started to shake and he had to go have a cigarette.  He couldn’t lift the piece.

The range of skills required of a good museum technician is rather broad.  The job description for a position at a small museum might include: Must be able to transport all manner and weights of art works from the very minute to over a ton.  Needs to be capable of building crating for the safe shipment of all types of art.  Skills must include a demonstrated craftsmanship level in finished carpentry and painting.  Will be expected to fabricate sculpture bases, install paintings and sculptures, and work with security systems.
Knowledge of proper care and storage is top priority.  A good background in studio and art history is required. 

A good art handler knows little things like how to pick up a piece of paper without bending the fibers.  It is an invisible skill.  A lot of people would pick up a piece of paper by lifting one or two corners, buckling or causing a dimple to appear where the fibers are being stressed.  The fibers are microscopically broken and repeated mishandling can eventually lead to a “dog eared” piece of paper.  The correct lifting and moving of a piece of paper involves supporting diagonal corners with the four fingers below the paper and the thumbs on top applying minimal friction or pressure.

Experience is probably the best teacher an art handler can have. An art handler will learn how to be prepared for possible consequences and how to back out of a dangerous situation or deal with it if an outcome allows only two choices, such as when a hydraulic lift is failing and you have to choose to take a bullet to keep a nearly 2000 year old sculpture from being shattered or jumping back to avoid being personally injured.

Captive Audience: Clement Greenberg and Dan Flavin

Captive Audiences

While in California, packing J. Paul Getty’s art collection for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, I rented a new model that Chevrolet was just introducing; the Chevy Vega. I could have rented anything, since I was given enough money to rent a full size car. While I crated the Getty paintings I stayed at the Santa Ynes Inn, a few miles away from the Getty Ranch.  The Vega shuttled me back and forth.  Because each painting’s original shipping  crate was stored in a barn-like structure, I didn’t have to construct any new boxes.  That shortened to task considerably and I found that I was done two days early.  That allowed me time to explore California a little in my rental car, as far south as San Diego and Chula Vista.    I suppose it proves I have no knowledge or taste in vehicles that I bought  myself  a Vega immediately upon I accepting the position of museum technician at Oberlin College’s Allen Memorial Art Museum. I paid twelve hundred bucks for a brand new, little scarlet Vega. What I really wanted was a van so I could haul art and materials.  A real van would have cost a significant amount more.  This Vega was called a panel truck, something between a van and a station wagon.  But it really looked more like a partially finished car, just lacking major amenities. 
There were no side windows behind the driver and no radio.  There was no rear seat and only a vacant pit where the passenger seat would usually be located. I got a deal on the car/van because of the absent seat.  My guess is I saved a hundred dollars or more without that seat. This  wasn’t a no frills vehicle, it was transportation devise with no creature comforts at all.  Also, as there was no passenger seat, there was obviously no seat belt for any potential rider, either.  I invested three dollars in a couple of old red velvet cushions at a Goodwill shop, one to sit on and the other as a back rest,  in the event I ever had a passenger.  The two cushions were low,  allowing the rider to have a dogs-eye view out the side window. Anyone who sat at that height would have an upward angle shot of the tree tops and sky through the windshield.  It was like sitting on the floor at the dinner table, while the host sits in a chair.

Ellen Johnson was a well known modern art historian at Oberlin College and  had many friends in the Art World.  Visitors to the museum and college were frequent. The list of guests could have served as an abridged Art World Who’s Who for the sixties and seventies.  Just to name a few, there were Claes Oldenburg, Donald Judd, Miriam Shapiro, and Alice Neel.  That gives a teeny tiny glimpse of the range of Ellen’s  friends.   Sometimes when Ellen had a guest, I’d be asked to make the trip to the airport to either pick up or drop off a visitor. I had some interesting passengers.  Most seemed to find the peril and perspective at least novel. Most riders commented on the unique vantage point. Perhaps I should have been professionally aggressive with my captive audiences and let them know that I was an artist and wanted them to look at what I was doing. I imagine if they were uncomfortable with the seating that I could really have made it the trip from Hell! But I actually just wanted to make their ride pleasant and talk about the art matters of the day.

Neither Richard Spear, who was the Director of the museum, nor Ellen Johnson ever rode in my car.
I’m not certain they ever looked inside the vehicle.  Therefore, I don’t think they realized what an odd trip it might be for anyone they sent me to pick up at the Cleveland airport.  They simply knew I had a car and would gladly pick up visitors.  Some visitors never rode in my car.  They’ll never know what they missed.  Others survived the journey by closing their eyes, digging in, and treating it like a bad taxi ride.  Hey, I’ve had bad taxi rides in Rome and lived to talk about them or taxi ride in Baltimore  where I could have sworn there was a deceased passenger hidden under the seat. I do have some fond memories of those daring enough or unfortunate to have been subjected to my hour long  red cushion ride with their eyes wide open. 

Clement Greenberg and Dan Flavin were two riders who stand out.  Dan Flavin  was robust
and as close to being a roly poly guy as you might imagine.  He arrived at the airport the morning the world found out about Picasso’s passing.  We talked about Picasso.  Flavin said he thought Picasso had died long before. Neither one of us was a Picasso fan , but it was THE art news of the moment. He didn’t have too much to say about Picasso, but we both admitted that Picasso’s passing made the day significant.  I knew he  had a job as a museum guard long ago, so we compared notes on museums.  He was easy to talk  with.  Of greatest interest to me, he talked about his personal life and how he functioned as an artist, parent, and citizen.  As a matter of fact, our visit went well beyond the ride from the airport.  I spent the better part of the day with him sharing the museum’s extensive pressed glass collection. The collection was in storage, behind wooden panels and protected by plate glass.  So, I spent the better part of the day removing panels and opening cases.  To my surprise he had a deep knowledge and interest in nineteenth century glass and its conservation problems.  He pointed out to me the pieces which had changed color, due to over exposure to sunlight.  I had not considered that glass could be photosensitive. To this day I do not know if he had another reason for flying to Cleveland that day.  The museum did not own a piece by Flavin and I don’t think he gave a talk.  He appeared to be there just to look at the glasses.  He also talked of how the people in his day to day life didn’t know, and didn’t have to know, that he was an artist.  His life as an artist did not overlap with or conflict with his identity as a parent.  He told me that most people who knew him saw him as a dad who goes to ball games, attends PTA, and is somewhat politically active in the community.

That way of living seemed fine and reasonable.  Dan Flavin didn’t want to set himself off from other people by wearing an artist’s identity.  He said he had a job to do and a life to live and he wanted to get the most out of it he could.  So, spending the day examining old glass goblets brought him joy and I’m very glad I was there to share it.

Clement Greenberg said he hadn’t been feeling well and was fairly low key.  I suppose I had read something into his being so quite that would best be blamed on his health and not, as I had thought when I met him, due to the personal attacks he was under at the time.  There was a great deal being said about Greenberg “ruining” David Smith’s sculptures.  I certainly knew enough to avoid talking with him about that controversy.  From this distance, it would have been nice to actually know what he thought and why.    From high in the driver’s seat, looking down on this soft spoken man, I had a perspective not found in books. This wasn’t the pushy, mean person he was sometimes portrayed as.  He didn’t even ask if he could smoke a cigarette in my car, which I assumed he might.  I seem to recall that he said he’d given up smoking and drinking. Here was an elder statesman who clung to the sides of his velvet seat and spoke  about Picasso’s death and what it is to outlive that which  you are remembered for.  I enjoyed our all too brief conversation about art, life, death, and legacy.   He said, wait a few decades for the dust to settle, then you’ll start to understand the legacy.

It wasn’t long afterward that I traded in my little Vega for one with a real  passenger seat and a fold down one in the back.  A ride anywhere in that passenger seat was generic.

Face To The Wall Artwork

Here’s a category that was probably never even considered by the Guinness Book of Records; “Artworks hung face to the wall.”   Thank you very much for allowing me to hold this distinction.    The Museum of Modern Art, in New York organized an exhibition of works on handmade paper, in 1976.   Kathy Markel called  to tell me she was loaning a piece to of mine to the exhibition.  I was too busy with the Venturi renovation and addition to the Allen Art Museum to go see the show until toward the end.  A friend who often helped me in the studio, Walter Bosstick, was in New York about a month after the exhibition opened and reported back to me the following: “The piece they are showing is beautiful.  It’s displayed in between a Jim Dine and a Robert Rauschenberg.  But, you know, I thought I knew all your work and this one is very subtle.”  I asked him to describe it, since I didn’t know which piece was selected.  He did and I was really puzzled.  It didn’t sound like my work!  So, I asked how, other than by the label, he knew it was my work?  “It has your signature right on it.”     I was on the phone to MoMA as fast as I could dial.  I explained to the curator that I signed my work on the back.  By the time I arrived in New York the piece was properly presented.  It had even been purchased by an art critic. My question is: which side did she pay for?   
Sandy Kinnee

Short Life of an Art Courier

25 Degrees Below In Duluth, Hauling Art

The Amon Carter Museum, if I remember correctly, had asked the Minneapolis Institute of Art to aid with the loan of an Albert Bierstadt painting from a private collector in Duluth.  It seems that Gino’s Pizza Rolls had this Bierstadt hanging in their offices and agreed to loan it only if it was hand carried to and from the museum by someone from the Institute.  This was my first adventure of this type.

I was dressed to properly represent the Institute. Suit jacket, dress shoes, nice pants and tie. In Minneapolis  it was a  pleasant spring day, around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Although small piles of brown snow could be seen on the north side of anything that produced a shadow, winter had lost its grip and spring was moving in.  The Institute furnished me with a packet containing  round trip tickets, a letter identifying me and my mission,  and enough money to cover lunch and four taxi fares. A taxi sped me to the airport. Since it was such an early morning flight I skipped breakfast.  The idea was to get to Duluth, pick up the painting and catch a flight back in time for dinner.  By the time I landed in Duluth the weather had made a drastic change. Spring was to be held back and winter demanded an encore.  The taxi driver had the radio on.  “Current temperature:25 degrees below zero”.  How could this be?  It’s the same state, yes?  “It’s Dulut’ “, said the driver.  It wasn’t snowing so much as whipping the snow around.  Any snow on the ground was being given a little change of location. I was dressed to make an impression, but Mother Nature wasn’t impressed, I’m sure.
 I asked the taxi driver to stop at a store where I could at least buy some gloves and ear muffs. He knew just the place, right on the way. While I was hoping for nice thick woolen mittens, none were available.  Cotton gardening gloves, the white sort with green cuffs, were my only option.  The shop keeper must have been fooled by the springlike weather and put out the gardening gear.  By some miracle  earmuffs were still on the shelf.  Perhaps gardeners in Duluth wore earmuffs while they dug in their yards. I grabbed a pair, fuzzy, red with the metal spring clip to hold them tightly to ones head. If they had been available, a stocking cap or a ski mask might have been cozy. There wasn’t money for anything more serious and there wasn’t anything more serious to be had. As it was, I wouldn’t have lunch today, unless Gino’s Pizza was giving  free samples.  That idea kept me moving forward.  The taxi took me as close to the pizza roll plant as it could. If there was a colder place in the city of Duluth than the location of the Gino’s Pizza Roll plant, down on the docks of Lake Superior, it must have been under the ice of the lake.  I had asked the driver to wait, yes?

Gino wasn’t in.  His secretary was expecting me.  She didn’t ask to see my letter.  No one in his right mind would be wandering around Duluth looking like I did on a day like this, so I had to be the guy from Minneapolis to pick up the painting. No, she didn’t have any pizza rolls in the office.

Fortunately for the painting the original crate was on the floor and ready to be loaded.  Clearly it had been built for this painting and frame. I asked for and was given a good size piece of wrapping paper.  Taking the artwork out into the biting cold could have possibly caused condensation inside the crate, A wrapping of paper would draw and hold the moisture if that happened. I put the bundled piece into the crate. The fit was proper and snug, lined with foam padding, covered with thick red felt.  With a few twists of my wrist the screws were sunk and the lid secured.  The outside of the crate was carefully painted and waterproof.  The Bierstadt was much better protected than I was.  I left a signed piece of paper, acknowledging receipt of the artwork, and said goodbye to the secretary.

The office door  slammed shut behind me, caught by the wind.  I held the crate close to my belly and half flew to the taxi.  The driver popped the door open from the inside.  Neither I nor the crated Bierstadt was exposed to the storm for long.  We were now passengers in a warm taxi heading to the Duluth Airport.  I gave the driver every penny I knew I could spare, save what I would need in Minneapolis. 

I did reach Minneapolis and the Institute as planned.  In Minneapolis, the weather had been fine all day, so I imagined I would be wasting my time by relating my ordeal to anyone.

My next, and final, experience accompanying artworks was courtesy of Roger Mandle.  An exhibition of Dutch paintings had just closed at the Institute and would be shown next in Toledo. As I was loading the last crates into the truck, I heard Roger talking about needing someone to accompany the truck, for insurance purposes.  I knew the Toledo Art Museum and how to get there, so I volunteered.  Only after committing to this task did I learn the driver would most certainly not allow anyone to ride in the cab with him.  I thought I’d have a long nap to Toledo.   A car was hastily rented for me.  Then I was told by the truck driver that we’d pull out at dusk and drive straight through!  That was the point when I should have bailed out. I tried to, but Roger upped the offer by adding a weeks vacation.  Departure was three hours away and gave me just enough time to run to the drugstore for a box of NoDoz and a thermos for coffee.  I was able to catnap for an hour or so before being awakened for the trek.

The truck was a big classic, a Peterbilt .  The driver didn’t appreciate my tagging along and gave me his ground rules: 1. He had a big fuel tank and would make one pit stop before reaching Toledo and suggested I not drink anything that might fill my bladder. (Ditch the thermos and hooray for NoDoz.) 2. He also said he planned to lose me as soon as possible. 3. The road he was taking was not I 94 and it had plenty of drunks all night long. “Drunks drive mostly at night  and without their headlights on, to avoid being seen by the cops.”  Thanks for the warning. I asked him if he’d be pulling in to a rest stop or motel for the night and where that might be, just in case we were actually separated.  I wish he hadn’t laughed.  He said he’d been sleeping all day and just woke up.  Oh. 
I contemplated my all nighter behind the wheel.  An ugly picture was solidifying in my head.

He could have said something like, “Ok, let’s get on the road.” He didn’t say a word, just climbed into his rig, fired up the engine and started cruising.  I had time to pee next to the car and scramble in before he was out of sight.  I caught him and flashed my lights.  That’s when he slammed on his brakes.  He was making me wonder, but it turned out he was avoiding a drunk driver.  I have no idea what roads he was leading me along.  We went the back way all through Minnesota to and over into La Crosse, Wisconsin.  I stayed on his back bumper.  At some point, while cruising through a one horse town, I picked up a bubblegum machine in my rear view mirror.  My art hauler seemed to be pulling away from me as I drove with the speedometer riveted on the exact speed limit, not a mile an hour above or below, for forty-five minutes, with the cop watching for any mistake.  I must have crossed the county line or convinced him I that I wasn’t going to be worth his time any longer.
He turned around. Luckily I hadn’t lost sight of the trucks tail lights and caught up, but not without wondering if he might have used his CB radio to tell the local sheriff about some guy who’s been tailing him. Was the NoDoz contributing to this or had the driver set me up?  Somewhere in Illinois we stopped for gas.  I asked him if I could buy him a cup of coffee and a piece of pie.  He accepted, but ended up paying for both of us.  We had a short enough rest for him to admit he was just messing with me.  He actually was keeping watch over me and said that same cop had followed him many times before. 
I didn’t see how we could reach Toledo without one more stop, to which he said we’d be on the Interstate the rest of the way and at Dawn would pull into a rest stop until the morning traffic had passed.  He let me sleep for an hour or two at the promised rest stop.  We fueled up and had breakfast, too.  As we reached the Toledo city limits, he pulled over and signaled me to lead him in.  I was exhausted, yet filled with pride that I had survived the night drive and was making a triumphal entrance into Toledo!

Immediately upon arrival, I called Minneapolis and confirmed that the Dutch paintings were being safely unloaded by the staff at the Toledo Art Museum.   I handed over my pouch of loan documents
and gave my truck driver a bear hug.  My old friend and former studio partner, Steve McMath, worked at the Toledo Museum Art School.  He met me at the museum with a motorcycle trailer attached to his car.  Steve lead  me to drop off the rental car.  Then, he picked up his girlfriend and we headed to a motocross race.  I slept under the trailer until the race was over.

I eventually caught up on my sleep and suppose I made the most of the week vacation, but vowed to never again accompany artwork anywhere.

In 1970, as grad students, Steve McMath and I met Richard Serra.  He was just coming into his own.
Serra offered some good advise about making a living in order to make art and talked about his work.
One year later he was showing in Minneapolis at the Walker Art Center. 

My spur of the moment departure to Toledo coincided with one of the most horrific events to happen in Serra’s career.  During installation of one of his large steel pieces a worker was killed.

I had not heard of the accident at the Walker until after my return to Minneapolis.  No one, beyond Roger Mandle and a few close staff and friends, knew I was in Ohio and Michigan.  Apparently a number of people who worked at the Institute thought I had been helping install the Serra exhibition.  Most everyone who knew me knew I spent lots of time at the Walker.  Probably they imagined I was moonlighting there.  Because they hadn’t seen me for a week afterward, they thought I had been the one crushed when the piece fell.   When I finally returned to work a few people looked at me as if they saw a ghost.
I did meet one person who was in the room that tragic day.  He said he’d  never forget the horror and complete helplessness.  He couldn’t get the sound out of his ears.  Sad and Tragic.

Upside Down Paintings

(Most people are unaware that I worked in art museums from 1967 to 1977. Many of my art-related stories are from those days. This is one of many stories.)

The Accidental Upside Down Painting

(Ad Reinhardt. 1948 o.c., 76" X 144")
College students and people who hang out in bars  consider the Guinness Book of Records an invaluable reference. I was curious about it’s  veracity.  I looked  under “ART” and saw they had missed the boat in two categories.  The first heading in error concerned “Paintings accidentally hung upside down”.
If I recall they had a Francis Bacon listed as claiming the title.  The unpublished record may be claimed by Ad Reinhardt’s painting hung upside down in the Allen Memorial Art Museum sometime before August of 1972 and the mistake discovered only when I removed the painting for the renovation of the gallery, in 1976.   1972 is the year I came to work in the museum and it was already upside down.
Reinhardt had indicated the proper direction on the back of the canvas.  That the work is geometric and abstract should not overshadow the artist’s intention.  So, which was is up and which is down?