Negative space

Sometimes art is not the thing itself, but is something else entirely, something born from a space that is not the thing, but stands in relationship with the thing and by so doing creates a new thing unto itself. I spent Sunday pondering this question at the Hirshhorn, there to experience two exhibits, Robert Irwin and Linn Meyers. Both exhibits used the museum walls, each in their own unique way, to create art from the relationship between the thing and the wall.

Linn-Meyers1        Irwin-Untitled-1969

Before long, I found myself thinking about Count Basie. As he grew older and his manual dexterity lessened, Basie found music in the space between the notes. I found myself thinking about Henri Matisse, similarly challenged in old age and turning to cut-outs to create art.


It was a short hop from there to the notion of negative space in literature, about the story that lurks between the words, about stories that are found when things are cut out of the story. I’m currently reading a wonderful book by Gordon McAlpine, Woman with a Blue Pencil which explores the question of stories that lurk between the words, stories that are found in the deleted characters.


There was a lesson to be learned here, but it was all just a little bit too much for my aching cranium. I was feeling a bit dizzy, my moorings set adrift. I felt like Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn on the African Queen, stuck in the mud flats, just a few yards from the main channel of the Ubangi River, but unaware of its existence.


I went down into the basement of the Hirshhorn, and sat down on the floor, hoping to find my rational self. I sat there, but sanity eluded me.



5 thoughts on “Negative space

  1. And then you went somewhere and “Danced by the light of the moon,” eh? hahaha. Art can take us down a merry, thought filled path. My mother was an artist and I was allowed to join her when she went to the galleries for inspiration. I would sit in front of a piece and let it take me away. You were smart to find sanity so large or you’d never have found it at all. Great read. Thanks!


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