Newman's writingDr Andre Hess
In his article 'The First Man was an Artist' Newman argues that the very first moment of human consciousness is powerfully linked to the making of the first non-utilitarian mark, ie. when 'man' first made a mark on an object and looked at it for its own sake - and though, perhaps, that it was beautiful. For decades this view was disparaged as the thoughts of a madman. It is very interesting to note that paleaoanthropologists now look for such marks as evidence of human consciousness (eg. the work done at the Sterkfontein caves in South Africa). I would like to forward the view that this is a vindication of Newman's ideas. What do others think?
"Cathedra" Back on Display in AmsterdamM. Webb
The following story was reported today in the NY Times " Moore than four years after Gerard Jan van Bladeren slashed his second painting by the American Abstract Expressionist Barnett Newman at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the majestic work, "Cathedra" (1951), is back on the museum's walls. But now it is visible only from a walkway behind a wall of Plexiglass. To the untutored eye, it is nearly impossible to tell that the 8-by-18-foot dark-blue painting, with a thin light-blue stripe, or zip, as the artist called this signature element, on the right and a broader, more dominant whitish zip to the left, had been repeatedly slashed with a small knife. The damage by Mr. van Bladeren — a frustrated artist who told authorities he didn't hate all art, just abstract art and realism — left conservators with one of the biggest challenges of their profession: how to repair, seamlessly, a large-format, basically monochromatic canvas. ... In 1986 Mr. van Bladeren slashed another Newman, "Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III" (1967), many times. ...Rudi Fuchs, director of the Stedelijk, decided that the restoration should be done at the museum. He also put together an advisory committee of eight museum professionals to consult on its repairs... Three conservators from the Stedelijk actually did the repairs to "Cathedra." Since Newman died in 1970, the team had to trace the painting's history based on documents like invoices and condition reports, primarily from the artist's foundation. The team discovered that the painting had been restored twice previously: in 1959, when it was damaged while being moved after being exhibited at Documenta in Kassel, Germany, and in early 1970, when it was cleaned, retouched and varnished after an exhibition at the Pasadena Art Museum, where it sustained several abrasions and scratches. But the most recent damage, with a knife, posed the largest challenge....All kinds of scientific analyses were also performed to determine the nature of the original paint. Once the team understood how the artist had achieved the kind of magical surface for which he was famous, it made test canvases to reproduce the damage and evaluate ways to mend the tears. The team also hired an industrial designer to create a special table that would tilt, allowing the canvas to be worked on in different positions. The table also had removable panels that enabled conservators to work from both sides of the canvas. Almost like surgeons, they used surgical suturing materials and stainless-steel orthodontic wires to consolidate and reinforce the back of the canvas. On the front of the painting, the conservators joined the torn fabric with a special conservator's glue and filled in portions with gesso. They also retouched the canvas with an ultramarine acrylic paint. When the team began working on the painting, they carefully cleaned it with distilled water to remove accumulated grime, deepening the colors of the blue layers and making the various nuances more visible..."