Elegant variation: Paul Mattick on Sidney Tillim. (Passages).
SIDNEY TILLIM WAS BORN on June 16, 1925, and died on August 16, 2001, in New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City
City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S. . He was an artist of great inventiveness, skill, and intelligence; one of the most stimulating critics of American art American art, the art of the North American colonies and of the United States. There are separate articles on American architecture, North American Native art, pre-Columbian art and architecture, Mexican art and architecture, Spanish colonial art and architecture, in the 1960s, when he was a writer and editor at Artforum, and again in the '80s, when he returned to prominence; and an extraordinary and much-loved teacher (he was on the faculty at Bennington College Bennington College, at Bennington, Vt.; coeducational (originally for women); chartered 1925, opened 1932. Its curriculum is based on individual interests and needs. from 1966 to 1993). He saw himself, not inaccurately, as a survivor from a time when art was an obsession, not a profession from which one expected to get rich or even make a living. At the same time, in the midst Adv. 1. in the midst - the middle or central part or point; "in the midst of the forest"; "could he walk out in the midst of his piece?"
midmost of a flourishing art world, he resented--rightly, in my view--his lack of commercial and critical success; but this was only an aspect of his insistence on living in the present. His strong aesthetic and political values paradoxically helped him stay open to any and all manifestations of art. When I first met him, twenty years TWENTY YEARS. The lapse of twenty years raises a presumption of certain facts, and after such a time, the party against whom the presumption has been raised, will be required to prove a negative to establish his rights.
2. ago, I found myself thinking of him under the name Hokusai gave himself in his last years: "the art-crazy old man."
At that time Tillim had separated from his first wife, Muriel Sharon, a children's theater pioneer, to whom he nevertheless remained devoted until her death more than a decade later. He was living in a studio loft on Bleecker Street. This was a sort of art cave, heaped with paintings, drawings, photographs, and his enormous collection of books from the nineteenth century to the '50s illustrating the variety of photomechanical pho·to·me·chan·i·cal
Of, relating to, or involving any of various methods by which plates are prepared for printing by means of photography.
pho printing. There Sidney showed me his history-painting masterpiece of 1972, a veritable machine of nineteenth-century dimensions--and an oblique response to '60s politics--Count Zinzendorf Spared by the Indians, in which the spiritual power of the sleeping Moravian nobleman stays the hatchet-wielding hand of a Native American. We went on to look at the aggressively gestural abstract paintings he was working on at the time, which were soon to lead to a series of works based on imprints of paint-soaked paper towels. With a remarkable palette ranging from straightforward red, yellow, and blu e to unexpected and delicate greens, pinks, oranges, and purples, they were both elegant and emotionally furious. He liked to work with the TV on, tuned to classic movies if there was no baseball, and he spent a lot of time drawing from the tube in a hand evoking the great draftsmen of the early nineteenth century. Sidney lived the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction; the painting after Johnny Guitar in his last exhibition (held in May at Trans Hudson gallery in Manhattan) is true to the weirdness of the movie's expressiveness without a touch of camp.
Tillim was a classic GI Bill artist: Raised by Jewish shopkeeper parents in Norfolk, Virginia Norfolk is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States of America. With a population of 234,403 as of the 2000 census, Norfolk is Virginia's second-largest incorporated city. , his all-American boyhood led through two local marbles championships and a prize in a junior high essay contest on "What Americanism Means to Me" to newspaper work and a three-year stint in the army. In 1946 he entered Syracuse University Syracuse University, main campus at Syracuse, N.Y.; coeducational; chartered 1870, opened 1871. Syracuse is noted for its research programs in government and industry; facilities include the Center for Science and Technology, the Newhouse Communications Center, and as a journalism major, but by the next year switched to fine arts, though he continued to work for a couple of years as a sports and news reporter. When he graduated in 1950 and moved to New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of he was preoccupied with abstraction.
It was in 1958, after exhibiting in a few shows, that Tillim began gravitating toward figuration--a most untimely move. ("Boy," he later remembered Clement Greenberg Clement Greenberg (January 16, 1909 - May 7, 1994) was an influential American art critic closely associated with the abstract art movement in the United States. In particular, he promoted the Abstract Expressionist movement and had close ties with the painter Jackson Pollock. commenting, "you're afraid of success.") He repeated the move in reverse in the '80s, when the revival of figurative art Figurative art describes artwork - particularly paintings - which are clearly derived from real object sources, and are therefore by definition representational. The term "figurative art" is often taken to mean art which represents the human figure, or even an animal figure, and, did not prevent Tillim's rededication Noun 1. rededication - a new dedication; "the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem"
dedication - a ceremony in which something (as a building) is dedicated to some goal or purpose to abstraction. Interestingly, a second marriage late in life seems to have led to his return to narrative painting, producing the works on view at his last exhibition. He liked to say abstraction and representation were analogous to his father and mother, though he would never say which was which; in any case he was happy never to resolve this triangle--"the unconscious," he also said, "is destiny."
Sidney was a modernist without illusions about world-historical power of art--a modernist whose dedication to drawing and painting was complemented and complicated by an attraction to the movies, radio, photography of all sorts, and anything else you could look at, read, or listen to. Writing of his partiality to halftone In printing, the simulation of a continuous-tone image (shaded drawing, photograph) with dots. All printing processes, except for Cycolor, print dots. In photographically generated halftones, a camera shoots the image through a halftone screen, creating smaller dots for lighter areas and color reproductions of food and flowers from the 1890s to the 1950s, he opined in a text celebrating a new, denim-upholstered sofa that "beauty that issues from such banal and especially accessible sources seems a perfect metaphor for the American experience American Experience (sometimes abbreviated AmEx) is a television program airing on the PBS network in the United States. The program airs documentaries about important or interesting events and people in American history, many of which have won impressive to an upwardly mobile son of immigrant parents, ... who admired Milton Canniff... before he admired Picasso or Pollock." At the same time he described himself as "adamantly Eurocentric in the sense that my cultural vision is not restricted or determined by ideology and fashion." But when he got around to reading Baudrillard, he declared the then-popular European import "a shande on the goyim."
It's not surprising that the man who was the only serious critic of photomechanical illustration wrote the first perceptive reviews of Pop art. He loved to go shopping, especially for clothes, but his tendencies toward on-sale Ralph Lauren dandyism--Think Yiddish, Dress British--were perfectly matched by an unironic yet historically self-conscious bohemianism that left him elegant in tie, white trousers, and straw hat. A lifelong Zionist, he contributed funds to support a Palestinian refugee child. His second marriage, to Diane Radicki in 1998, made him giddy and as hot to work in the studio as a young painter with his first gallery contract. "Art does not let you retire (you can give up)," he wrote in a 1996 memoir. Sidney Tillim never retired, and he never gave up.
Paul Mattick is professor of philosophy at Adelphi University.