Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I always enjoy chronologies in exhibition catalogues. One of the zaniest I can think of is the day-by-day chronicle, Ephemerides, from Marcel Duchamp, published back in 1993 to accompany a show at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice.

How were those daily entries organized? By astrological sign, naturally. Pick a day, any day--say, September 13th, under Virgo, of course--and find out what happened throughout his life on that day, from year to year. Good luck with that.

The chronology in the catalogue for the MoMA's 1996 Jasper Johns retrospective has some entertaining entries. Take, for example, this remark from Andy Warhol, on a not-so-remarkable studio visit with Johns and Rauschenberg:

Henry [Geldzahler] brought Jasper to see me. Jasper was very quiet and that was that. Of course, I thought it was terrific that Rauschnberg and Johns had both come up; I admired them so much. After Jasper had gone, David Bourdon said, 'Well, Henry was trying to be the helpful connection, but Jasper didn't look too thrilled to be here.'

One quote from Johns bears directly on that mysterious Michael Chrichton essay in the Whitney catalogue from the late '70s:

The museum asked me what I felt about the catalogue, and I said I would like someone who was a writer rather than an art critic. People who are used to studying my work have such a layered kind of knowledge about it. There are so many references they make that I thought it might be more interesting to have someone outside that kind of training, or business, to see if such a person could see anything in my work.

Given that Johns' last literary collaborator had been Samuel Beckett, one wonders if the author of The Andromeda Strain was really the appropriate seer.


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