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Illustration by Gosia Herba

The Lineaments of Gratified Desire

When he thought about it, he could see that this thing with Alexa Jamison was a betrayal of the idea of what Sonya and he had been: the romance of that. Such a sweet beginning seems always to create a following inertia: the two families, everybody coming together as part of the story. 

Stephanie Shieldhouse

Long Bright Line

Through the window Clara could see the men: dark still hats huddled together. The only thing moving was their pipe smoke. It curled in lamp-​lit clouds. Then—​a whoop!—​the clouds blew, the huddle burst, the hats were flying.

Window at Dia:Beacon in the Hudson River Valley.

Embeddedness: Robert Irwin in His Seventies

Hard to believe how I myself am now older, older by far, than Robert Irwin was when we first began having our conversations, coming on thirty years ago. Fresh out of college, a classic, overstuffed instance of surplus education, I had been working at the UCLA Oral History Program, editing other people’s oral histories of various local luminaries in the context of an NEH-sponsored series, “L.A. Art Scene: A Group Portrait,” when, working my way through someone else’s interview with this artist I had up to that point barely even heard of (which, granted, said more about me at the time than about him), increasingly engrossed, I decided to hazard writing the guy a note, which read, in its entirety, “Have you ever read Merleau-Ponty’s The Primacy of Perception?”

Saint Francisco de Paola floating across the water on his cloak. A saint of good works—charitas bonitas—he is carrying flames against his chest, a physical manifestation of his passion for the word of God.

The Stories of Strangers: Mexican Ex-Voto Paintings

While visiting a church in Guadalupe in 1917, David Alfaro Siquieros, the great muralist painter of the Mexican Revolution, found, “along with broken candelabras and other typical church adornments,” a “true mountain” of small paintings tossed carelessly on the floor. He picked one up. It was “made of paper . . . painted with colored pencils but especially interesting, perhaps more primitive than the others, almost as if executed by a child.” And, thinking he was doing nothing wrong, he took it. A priest, witnessing the scene, shouted, “Thief!”—and armed sacristans dragged him off to the station.

 

Rory’s Story

It is an unusually warm morning in San Francisco. My parents are sitting on the back porch reading the paper, sipping coffee. Suddenly, there is the sound of broken glass as I come flying through the window behind them. A surreal moment—it’s difficult to tell who is more stunned, my parents or I.

While nearly the entire window is gone, I have only minor cuts. The one who will suffer as a result of this outburst is my younger brother, Rory, who pushed me.

A Berlin Epiphany

And now, there it came looming into view: an austere block-wide low-slung hive of graphite-gray monoliths: monoface rectangular plinths arrayed in a regular perpendicular grid over gently undulating terrain—more than three thousand of them spread across nearly five acres, some (near the perimeter) as low as a foot and a half, some farther into the hive (where the terrain fell away into some of its deeper undulations) as high as ten feet, the entire expanse crisscrossed by narrow paths between the parallel rows of vaguely pitched concrete plinths, paths that veritably beckoned those above on the busy city sidewalks into this uncanny maze of vaguely determinate remembrance.

 

Turnings and Returnings: The Art of Jake Berthot

Instead of the viewer’s gaze skimming off the surface like a skipped stone as in so much contemporary painting, Jake Berthot’s paintings hold you—stop you and engage you, stir you and disturb you. When you stand in front of one of Berthot’s recent paintings, you immediately become aware of depths in the painting and you are drawn out into them, feel some part of yourself emptying into them. But then the mysterious mutuality of reverie takes hold: into your newly created emptiness, something flows from the painting. And gradually, steadily, the experience of gazing at the canvas becomes a reciprocal emptying-out and filling, an ebb and flow. Depth speaks to depth. And when at last, after successive, calm, reciprocal emptyings and fillings, you break the spell of the encounter, you emerge changed in some quiet but definite way.

 

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