Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Colored Sketches

No need to introduce the author of Book of Sketches,(1952-1957), Jack Kerouac, who became famous after the publication of his novel On the Road in 1957.
Following the suggestion of his friend the architect Ed White, Kerouac started "sketching" with words in a pocket notebook he carried at all occasions. The published version is a small thick book filled with raw material, words building a succession of short compositions, vivid descriptions of landscapes and people. Pale pink pastel, red-pink, white, blue, cerulean blue, grey, every object from daily life is described in detail using a palette of words.

Wandering across Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska,... the writer is painting a succession of vignettes, like travelling in a car or a train looking through the window and catching a glimpse of deserts, mountains, "pale gold grass", "green sage", "plowed brown field", "snow in the mountain", "rose clouds",.. background, foreground, subject. The result is a poetic prose and one could take pen and brushes to draw the landmarks.
The rhythm of the words becomes furious at times or slows down like incantations.

The notes include also more private thoughts philosophical, religious or plain emotions related to the death of his brother. The statements in a few words are blunt at times and Kerouac describes the process of  sketching as "...purify your mind and let it pour the words and write with 100% honesty". It is a diary of sort and no illustrations are included. Kerouac also discusses more mundane subjects like women roles, debt and credit, protection plans and the slavery of belonging to a system. He introduces a genuine view of the hobos' world and singles out a group of  "fellaheens... a world generalization for peasants... unchanged by history or fashion" and assimilates Gauguin and Rembrandt to this group. His remarks on art are short "surrealism is a wild scatological paint blur".
His most compelling pieces are his small landscapes, "orange flame ball, green lettuce fields, brown dirt milky haze"
Kerouac, the icon of the beat generation likes short, provocative statements "people need no religion , no art, no war".

The introduction by George Condo, written in 2005 gives a new status to the small notebook by referring to Charlie Parker, Jackson Pollock, Edward Hopper, Picasso...with the last sentence "Only Jack and Vincent van Gogh told the inner truth".

"The Starry Night", Vincent Van Gogh, 1889, The Museum of Modern Art
"Lavender Mist- number 1", Jackson Pollock, 1950, National Gallery of Art
"Railroad Sunset", Edward Hopper, 1929, Whitney Museum of American Art

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