Thomas Hart Benton, Marsden Hartley and Ad Reinhardt as Writers
3. They Wrote As They Painted
Among the unexplored and uninhabited regions in this space is a relatively small but fertile territory occupied by works which are the product of literary endeavors by established visual artists. When twenty-nine years ago Marcia Tucker observed in “Director’s Foreword” to Blasted Allegories that “in recent years, artists’ texts have taken their place alongside visual works as a separate and equally viable medium,”90 it seemed that the existence of this area of “contact” between the visual and the verbal was officially acknowledged as a relevant aspect of the “sister arts” discourse. The truth is, however, that among artists’ written texts it is mostly those which have an identifiably theoretical or critical character that make it into academic curricula, mainly in art history departments. Without much consideration, their value as literature is usually disregarded and they are classified, at best, as merely supplementary material that can be useful in explaining artists’ aesthetic views and artistic practice. Thus, manifestos, catalogue statements, and pedagogic writings are relevant sources inasmuch as they shed light on the artist’s visual works, additionally revealing his ability to express his ideas verbally as well as being a master craftsman when working within his primary artistic medium. From this perspective, the expressive medium and form are of secondary interest, especially given that art scholars are not equipped with the tools necessary for analyzing literary output. Literary critics, who are qualified to do so, rarely take serious interest in such endeavors, assuming that even their authors consider...
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