There is no way for me to relate to you much about the Who, What, Where or Why of this painting but I am going to try. I will not show you an image, tell you the name of the artist who created it or it’s title. I can tell you two when’s: Last week and 1962. Last week is when I saw this painting, a canvas with collage from 1962. It has only ever been in one collection, since 1962. As far as I know it has never been loaned to exhibitions, but I could be wrong. The artist was not quite famous but was on their way to being a pop artist; and no, it isn’t Warhol.
The reason I am writing about the painting is because I can’t get it out of my head. The artist, who I will call #1 for a reason I will shortly explain, is not someone I have ever liked very much. #1 always seemed like part of a crowd, rather than a genuine article. In fact many of #1’s paintings, though I like the way they look, are less original than those of their contemporaries. This artist seemed locked into a way of doing things and that way bored me and sometimes annoyed me. Seeing this new work, I was able to discern some of the artists original intentions and influences. Matisse is here, in pattern, texture and in form. So is Picasso, but not how I would expect. At least 4 distinct fields of color, some patterned create the overall space. Forms, painted and collaged work together to create some of the most classic tropes in painting. A reclining human form has no details and though it is clear that this is a woman, there is very little that tells that tale specifically.
The reason I call this artist #1 is because one of my first large sales (not at my current gallery) was of #1’s art. It was by no means a show stopper, just a nice sale that felt good to complete even if I was not in love with the art. And now, I wonder, if I would have cared a bit more if I had seen this painting. Would the impact of being a teeny part of #1’s career have seemed more grand? Now I will say I have seen #1’s work shown in major museums and encyclopedic gallery exhibitions. I have seen prints, drawings and paintings by #1 presented as hot commodities, just waiting to be snapped up. When it comes to #1, I have seen the money more than I have seen the art.
What if I had seen the art before I had seen the name in every case, would I have appreciated work that I have dismissed? And vice versa, do I heap praise on mundane art because it is by a hero or favorite? The lesson to be heard if not learned is to view the art first and it’s circumstance second.
So for all of this, the money and the secrecy and the mystery, I have left you with what…a feeling? Maybe a notion of who, but no solid sense of what. All the time I am writing this I wonder: “Can I tell this story without the art?”
– Jeff Bergman January 2015