Entering a museum on a rainy day, one feels confident to find shelter from both pouring rain and crushing banality. There’ s even nothing like rain pelting down on a majestic glass roof to heighten one’s spiritual concentration while contemplating, say, a formidable Rubens panel.
Unless... unless in front of aforementioned panel stand two plastic buckets. drip ..... drop...... drip...drop. One anxiously searches the glass expanse far above, feeling slightly vertiginous – as if one were a perilously falling drop.
Vertigo too, gazing into the depths of grief and compassion in that
Van Der Weyden pieta.
This still yet ardent scene of grief, set against a startling sunset.
Maria desperately clutching her dead son – St John, with red-rimmed eyes, supporting both Maria and Jesus’ dead body - at some distance, the Magdalene rapt with quiet grief.
Not intended as a blasphemous remark, but this painting gives me a vertiginous sense of god-forsakenness ... , redeemed only by the sheer intensity of human compassion.
Intensity – is that what distinguishes Zadkine’s expressionist cubism from its more formalist cubist peers?
An anthropomorphic statue symbolizing a bombed out city ... Reality shot to pieces, shattered – and yet there’s an inexplicable solidity to this cubist re-assembly of fragments. As if geometry and verticality combine to offer a tangible structure to hold on to.
“Perhaps given the material’s aspiration for permanence, the best subject for a monument is indeed destruction” (1)
The next day, no apocalyptic rains to drive me into a museum. And the light (“but this light, oh Jesus Christ! this light!”(2)) dispelled all melancholy thoughts I may have had.
No more futile craving for permanence, no more vertigo, even not while blinking at the brilliant fleetingness of the October light.
It’s enough, more than enough, this slanting light, and the long shadows of a cyclist wheezing by.
(1) Joseph Brodsky – Homage to Marcus Aurelius
in all its haphazardness, even an as fragmented life of the mind as mine can spawn its deeply satisfying correspondences: on the very same day that I happened to chance upon the Zadkine statue at the museum, I was reading a completely unrelated Brodsky-essay in which this brilliant insight about sculpture, referring to precisely Zadkine (!), turned up.
(2) William Bronk – Where It Ends (finder’s credits for Bronk poems and heartfelt thanks go to A! )