Notes from Motherwell's Art Writing
“But in any case, it is not unimportant, this thing Alexander Calder has done, in making objects of pleasure worthy of Adults.” . . . “It was Mondrian's influence which first led Calder from his earlier pleasantries and toys for children, to these marvelous object for the adult mind: “I was very much moved by Mondrian's studio, large, beautiful and irregular as it was, with the walls painted white, and divided by black lines and rectangles of bright color, like his paintings. . . and I thought at the time how fine it would be if everything there MOVED; though Mondrian himself did not approve of this idea at all.”
“For the goal which lies beyond the strictly aesthetic the French artists say the “unknown” or the “new,” after Baudelaire and Rimbaud; Mondrian used to say “true reality.” “Structure” or “gestalt” may be more accurate: reality has no degrees nor is there a “super” one (surrealisme). Structures are found in the interaction of the body-mind and the external world. . . “
“The passions are a kind of thirst, inexorable and intense, for certain feelings or felt states. To find of invent “objects” which are more strictly speaking, relational structures) whose felt quality satisfies the passions---that for me is the activity of the artist, an activity which does not cease even in sleep.”
“ “The Sublime I take to be the emphasis of a possible felt quality in aesthetic experience, the exalted, the novel, the lofty, “the echo of a great mind,” as the treatise formerly ascribed to Longinus phrases it.
“The Miners' graveyard. Beyond, the town's ruins, burnt sienna, pink, yellow ochre---arid and clear in the distance, as the hill towns of Italy. Here silent monuments of the past rest, in white October sun, wind sweeping from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Crystal light! Vertical personages gaping, a broken grave. Here, too, in the midst of gold and silver, there were yearnings for the word, but what confusions! Jenny Lind, the Great Patti, Mark Twain, General Tom Thumb, Uncle Tom's Cabin companies. As with French poets, desire for the sensuous “new” Dragged up the mountains from California in eight-span wagons, wood, to construct French baroque mansions. Glass chandeliers from Vienna. But the desert air is white, Mallarme's swan.
“Sometimes I have an imaginary picture in mind of the poet Mallarme in his study late at night---changing, blotting, transferring, transforming each word and its relations with such care-and I think that the sustained energy for the travail must have come from the secret knowledge that each word was a link in the chain that he was forging to bind himself to the universe; . . . “
“For make no mistake, abstract art is a form of mysticism.
Well, this is not to think of the situation very subtly. To leave out consideration of what is being put into the painting, I mean. One might truthfully say that abstract art is stripped bare of other things in order to intensify it, its rhythms, spatial intervals, and color structure. Abstraction is a process of emphasis, and emphasis vivifies life, as A. N Whitehead said.”
“The need is for felt experience---intense, immediate, direct, subtle, unified, warm, vivid, rhythmic.”
“Sometimes when I walk down park Avenue and regard the handsome and clean-cut Lever Brothers building, which I suppose belongs to the same “family” as the tall UN skyscraper, I think to my self how the interior walls need the sensuality and moral integrity of modern painting; but then one cannot help reflecting that what lies behind this building is not the possibility of collaboration between men on “ultimate concerns,” but instead big business, that is, a popular soap, whose need in the end will determine everything, including how its makers think about reality.”
“It is this context that one has to understand the fury of Picasso's famous statement of 1935 beginning, “Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the song of a bird? One loves the night flower, everything around one, without trying to understand them. while the painting everyone must understand.”
“. . . the act of painting is a deep human necessity, not the production of a hand made commodity.”
“to put the tendency of my thought in another way, I think that it is impossible to be deeply in touch with one's feelings and, looking at the world squarely, not to become revolutionary, not to want to change---in relation to imagined new possibilities---the areas of which one is aware.”
“I take an elegy to be a funeral lamentation or funeral song for something one cared about. The 'Spanish Elegies' are not 'political' but my private insistence that a terrible death happened that should not be forgot. “
“The large format, at one blow, changed the century long tendency of the French to domesticize modern painting to make it intimate. We replaced the nude girl and the French door with a modern Stonehenge, with a sense of the sublime and the tragic that had not existed since Goya and Turner.