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The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 20-JAN 21

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DEC 20-JAN 21 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: New York

35. (48 Cooper Square)

After resigning from a teaching position in San Francisco, a painter moves back to New York and takes a third-floor studio where one of his first paintings is a large canvas dominated by a textured red ground encroached on by jagged shapes of orange, brown and black. Over the next month he makes what he calls “a replica” of this painting, trying to reproduce, by hand, the original as closely as possible. When asked by a museum 24 years later to comment on the two paintings he explains that when he believes he has done something important he wants to make sure its survival doesn’t depend on only “one piece of canvas.” He also insists that each of his replicas had “its special and particular life.” Going even further, he claims that the second version is actually closer to his original concept because it isn’t saddled with any “ambivalences of struggle.” The following year the painter severs his relationship with his New York gallery and withdraws his work from public exhibitions and sales except under rigorous conditions. When he dies at the age of 75, he leaves a will with instructions to donate his entire estate of some 750 oil paintings and 1,300 works on paper to any city in the United States prepared to create a museum devoted to his art. None of the work is to be “sold, given, or exchanged” and the museum cannot include any additional features such as a bookstore or cafe. It takes his widow 24 years to find a city prepared to meet these conditions.

(Clyfford Still, Patricia Still)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

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The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 20-JAN 21

All Issues