Sunday, January 6, 2008

Many paths to art

Doing research for a catalog essay, I came across this interesting bit of art history from the days when you didn’t need thousands of dollars for an MFA to join the ranks of the art world:

Before he was a painter, Robert Ryman was a jazz musician who studied music in his native Nashville and played in an army reserve band during the Korean War. He moved to New York in 1952 to study with jazz pianist Lennie Tristano. To support himself, Ryman took odd jobs, one of them as a guard at MoMA, and in 1953, during his first year there, started painting. In 1955 Ryman made what he considers his earliest professional work, a largely monochromatic piece entitled Orange Painting, and his first exhibition was a staff show at MoMA. Other employees, with whom he became friends. were Sol Lewitt, Robert Mangold, and Dan Flavin.

I also learned that Flavin, who previously studied for the priesthood, began making sketches for sculptures incorporating lights during another stint as a guard at the American Museum of Natural History, and that Jackson Pollock once manned the turnstile at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, which later became the Guggenheim.

Forget grad school, this guard thing sounds pretty hot--maybe all that's necessary to come up with ideas for great art is to be exposed to a bunch of it while having a lot of time on your hands.


CAP said...

I imagine museum security has also moved with the times though. Doubtless a vacancy now arises as a four page position description, with a twelve point selection criteria, available as a downloadable pdf! Qualifications will begin with a first degree, if not an MFA. Flexible hours to rostering are preferred and the uniform must be purchased. There will be a short oral examination on health and safety standards for short-listed candidates, a forklift or scissor-lift operator’s license would be an advantage. The position will be an ‘equal opportunities’ alignment of course, the selection made in accordance with state and federal policy. Successful candidates can expect to hear within the year.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carol
I knew about Ryman and Flavin, but not about Pollock. Those little bits of history of when they were mere mortals are always fun to read. I'm glad to see you are still writing and working. Say 'hi' to Tony, Barry and ... for me.
Mary Jo