Wednesday, December 9, 2009


As a child, Glenn Gould was nauseated by the saturated colors of Disney's Fantasia.He longed for a black and white movie of sailors crossing northern seas or a darkroom to escape the teaming sea of idioretinal colors which Fantasia induced.
`To dream without sleep soon becomes a headache.
A character in Randall Jarrell's PICTURES FROM AN INSTITUTE is colorblind, butnever-the-less finds(as he tells the narrator) rainy days more colorful than sunny ones.He is different from a real life case, found in Dr. Sacks, of a painter who lost all color sense in an accident. The world looks dead to him, skin tones seem cadaverous,and only in his sense of smell can he find some residual glory.
A character in Calvino--being Calvino, a being rather than a human being---plays a continuous hide and seek with his beloved in an achromatic world of light and shadows, but then the world exfoliates into the spectrum (he makes it sound like 'Toon Town), and he loses her in technicolor, foreverafter an elusive prescence never to be found.
The colorized black and white feature movie looks more drained of color, more oddlyand arbitrarily faded, than the black and white original, dyed in the imagination's richest hues.
And there is a category of painter who paints or draws in gray scales only but who is actually "colorful",while others are not, just as there are blacks which are "really" crimson and others which are "really" blues.
Is it the act of translation between black and white and color that stimulates this?Barnett Newman used to say that whenever a painter was starting a new chapter or phase of his work he fell back on black, in which everything else was implicit.
If black were to become a musical instrument, it would be a grand piano.

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