Forty-five minutes looking at Rembrandt’s “The Raising of Lazarus” at LACMA. Richard Tuttle once told me he spent hours “creatively looking” at a Caravaggio, which I think means looking as closely as you can, in as many ways as you can, to see what else it can say about itself. Calling something a “great painting” probably only means it can’t exhaust this type of looking. Or, you could just say “a great painting stays interesting to look at,” and, isn’t it wonderful that there can be no hard rules for being interesting!
You have to get very close to the girl’s face, the brightest spot in the painting: she’s stunned, excited, horrified, who knows, some combination—her expression is suspended—she is “us” encountering the painting as much as she is “herself” witnessing a miracle. What is my expression while scrutinizing this complicated little face that could fit in the palm of my hand? Even more mysterious is how the lighting creates the space, so hard and clear on her right temple and cheek, then softly shading Lazarus a grey-green not too different from the color of Christ’s feet, carving out a ring of figures in darkness.
In the Broad building there is the Turrell retrospective. I didn’t have the proper ticket and a security guard said, “You need to come back and see this show. It is really amazing.” They were about to close for the day and I talked with her until she smiled, “Okay, come with me, I am going to show you two things that I like.” Walking me into the second gallery she pointed to the corner: “See that? That box isn’t really there, its just light. Isn’t that a trip!” Following her to another gallery: “All of these are holograms!” She watches at my face as I look at them, and must like doing that with everyone who comes through. I wonder how often people look like that Rembrandt girl’s face bathed in light, completely filled with looking. It also made me think about the show that Marcia Tucker did when she was at the Whitney: she had the art handlers install a show of the collection as they liked, thinking that they knew it more intimately than anyone, and quite differently. Such a smart idea.
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-Contributed by Jarrett Earnest