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ArtistsAAE AaeTo-DoAAE lists: Often tiny but telling.

By Michael OAAESullivanWASHINGTONAuThe single most significant artifact in AoLists: To-Dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other ArtistsAAE EnumerationsAo is probably the least flashy object of all, in a room full of unflashy objects. Like nearly everything in this tiny but beguiling showcase organized by the Archives of American Art, itAAEs nothing but a scrap of paper.From a distance, it could be any old shopping list, scribbled in pencil and later discarded. Except that the handwriting is Pablo PicassoAAEs. And instead of groceries, it contains the painterAAEs recommendations of artists to be included in the 1913 Armory Show, a landmark exhibition notable for introducing modern artAuincluding such then-scandalous pictures as Marcel DuchampAAEs AoNude Descending a Staircase, No. 2AoAuto a provincial America.DuchampAAEs name is on that list, misspelled.The Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery of the Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture is filled with such charmingly relatable details. After all, which of us has never made, saved, cared aboutAuor botchedAua list? Whether itAAEs our resumes, agendas, receipts, address books or tax returns, we are a race of list-makers. In 1927, H.L. Mencken typed up his own litany of 29 random facts about himself, including:Ao4. Curiously enough, I greatly dislike the common American dirty stories, and avoid the men who tell them habitually. They seem dull to me. I love the obscene, but it must have wit in it.AoOur lists, you could argue, are our lives. They track our triumphs, our tragedies and our tedium.One artistAAEs list is entirely, almost obsessive-compulsively, visual. Drawn up by Adolf Konrad in the early 1960s, itAAEs a pictorial packing list, itemizing the contents of the painterAAEs suitcase, down to paintbrushes, socks and toothbrush. ItAAEs accompanied by a sketch of the artist in his skivvies.ThereAAEs also a liquor-store receipt for $274.51 from painter Franz KlineAAEs 1960 New YearAAEs Eve party. Just another historical oddity? Perhaps, but it also gives us insight, according to curator Liza Kirwin, into the role booze played in fueling the abstract expressionist culture of the time.AoLists Ao is by turns funny, telling and mundane. There are plenty of price lists, invoices and other pieces of financial arcana that demystify art-making. At times, the creative process doesnAAEt seem any different or more magical than, say, plumbing.But whatAAEs most remarkable about the show is its ability to stir emotion, through something as prosaic as a list.Perhaps the most poignant example is a to-do list by architect Eero Saarinen, whose best-known designs include the terminal for Dulles International Airport here. Dated Aug. 16, 1961, SaarinenAAEs contribution to the show is a neatly organized itemization of things large and small, urgent and not so urgent. A reminder to change a light bulb, for instance, is given no greater priority than pressing plans for buildings in Oslo, London and Chicago. The progress of each project is identified with a marginal notation: AodoneAo or Aohalf doneAo.Five days after drawing up that list, however, Saarinen was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The day before, he had celebrated his 51st birthday. A week and a half later, he was dead.Archives of American Art/Smithsonian InstitutionWPBLOO

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Feb 22, 2010
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