Thursday, March 20, 2014

What Are Newmanesque Zips?


So I'm sitting there reading art show blurbs in the GOINGS ON ABOUT TOWN section of last week's New Yorker when I come across a description of Pat Steir's show at the Cheim & Read. In the middle of the paragraph it says, Atop huge fields of gold, silver, amber, or orange, Steir pours skeins of paint that sometimes amplify the backgrounds and sometimes obscure them; she then inserts Newmanesque zips down the middle of many, though those serve not as a testament to her bodily presence but as a further displacement of her hand.

Which begs the question, What are Newmanesque zips?

The funny part of it is that it's written as if everyone were well aware of what this means because the writer offers no explanation. I knew what Newmanesque was. I am a Newman. Newmanesque is to Newman as Kafkaesque is to Kafka. I've even got enough life experience to know that the Newman referenced here is not a songwriter (Randy) nor an actor (Paul) nor a character on a sitcom. It was apparent, or seemed so upon reading this, that the zips had something to do with Barnett, the color field painter and abstract expressionist.

I decided to do a Google search to see what more I could learn about the zips.

The first link, after the Steir review, offered this statement: in the middle of a review by Sarah Maline of Joseph Nechvatal's polyALTERITY.
A Barnett Newman with zip.*
There are glowing Barnett Newmanesque zips in several works here (for Newman these signified genesis) and in their relative coherence the lines provide a ...

Only a confirmation that the phrase is not utterly uncommon.

Here's another reference from a 2009 review in White Hot Magazine: "Many of the numerals, or Newman-esque “zips”, have been ferociously slashed, the vinyl allowed to simply collapse into flaccid waves."

Still not quite getting it though.

This one is from a review of a Melvin Moti's film The Black Room:
The frescoes are from the famous Black Room of a villa in Boscotrecase; they are in the so-called third style of Roman wall painting, which abandoned illusionismillusionism, in art, a kind of visual trickery in which painted forms seem to be real. It is sometimes called trompe l'oeil [Fr.,=fool the eye].... As Desnos tells about his life as a sleepwalker, sleepwalker, and potential sleepkiller, the camera travels along a black field which is pierced, near the edges of the video image, by thin and grotesquely elongatede·lon·gate tr. & intr.v. e·lon·gat·ed, e·lon·gat·ing, e·lon·gates To make or grow longer. adj. or elongated 1. Made longer; extended. 2. Having more length than width; slender columns that function like Newmanesque zips.

This description is doubly interesting because the writer assumes readers do not know what the phrase trompe l'oeil means and he explains it, but assumes Newmanesque zips are common knowledge.

Since the reference to Newmanesque zips appears to be widespread, you may as well learn what it means. This Vimeo film, titled On the sCent, also makes a reference and deigns to instruct us on how to think more deeply about it all.

Step one: the meta line followed to ... Step two: the many lines of choice in market consumption.
Traversing from Point A to Point B. Further definition of Point B superimposed upon the first linear action.
A cross-hatching of Newmanesque "zips" shown at a new angle and brought alive with electronic media.
In essence, a traveller seeking results - i.e, his "daily bread" - of his travails (yes, working it).
The hand-powered and the hand-composed improvisation based on the results of a mechanized mediation.
What's the point? In circumspection the point goes to there, the this becomes that.
What is in essence only a relation of comparative values and changing absolutes.
As we travel, we gain a new perspective on our needs.
We sense that beyond another horizon is where we can find what we're looking for.
The visible becomes immaterial becomes invisible becomes new materiel.
What is it you sense when that leads you to what you need?
When the sense becomes scents that become cents for the hunter.
Where is the target of practice for the seeker?
Why for art thou whither?
How has it come to pass that this is where we're at?
Who are you now that things have come to pass?

If you still fail to get exactly what zips are, you can settle for getting acquainted with the Newmanesque part. That's the title of my second short story collection, currently available on Kindle but soon to be available in print.

The one thing I did take away from reading all these reviews by art critics is that, like wow, there are a lot of good writers out there. Even if you're not into art, reading reviews might be a good way to broaden your vocabulary. Something to think about anyways.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Enjoy it.

* source: Wikipedia

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