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Look at the photo of a black rectangle. It hangs in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and if you get a chance to go there, it’s a great painting for practicing the surface-features game. (This photo is OK, but doesn’t hold a candle to the original painting in SFMOMA.) At first glance it looks like someone roller-brushed about 6 by 7 1/2 feet of flat black paint onto a canvas and hung it on the wall. But if you stay there awhile, it comes alive — texture, almost invisible red vertical lines, etc. It’s actually more glossy than flat, and FYI, there’s no frame. I stop by every time I’m in the museum. It gets better all the time.
The artist is Clyfford Still. [Untitled. 82 1/8 X 69 X 1 1/2. 1951] You can google allsorts of information about Still and the kind of painting he did and learn that he died in 1980 and that a museum devoted to his work opened in Denver in 2011.
After my last visit, I did some googling and discovered a succinct YouTube by SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra that centers on a Clyford Still painting and on how one can approach an abstract painting:
The gist is that when Benezra was twelve or so, he had gone with his father, an abstract expressionist artist, to the museum and had come upon the painting above, at the time titled “Self Portrait.” How could that possibly be a self-portrait? “Well,” his father said, “it’s enough for an abstract expressionist artist to allude to the human figure. You don’t have to describe a human figure to imply one.”
The YouTube is short and well worth your time: sfmoma.org/explore/multimedia/audio/58. It’s short and well worth your time.