Thursday, February 5, 2009
Franz Kline 1959, Steve Martin 1981 – Rue
This piece by Franz Kline, famous Abstract Expressionist painter, is entitled Rue (on loan to the Portland Art Museum from a private collection). Like his other paintings, Rue is the result of Kline having lived for many years in New York. He said that the feelings aroused in him by seeing the city for so long was what he painted. Although some abstract expressionist painters of his day left their paintings untitled. Kline chose to name many of them. Just before his first one man show he asked Willem and Elaine De Kooning to help him name his paintings. "[I]n a spirit of levity with a bottle of scotch on the table," was how Elaine would later describe the eight hour naming session. My own mind turns over the word rue and I chuckle thinking about the person who rues the day that he ate the rue he had found on the "rue".
Kline definitely belongs to the sub-group of abstract expressionists known as action painters. In my reading I found this quote from his friend Philip Pavia , "When I would visit Kline in his studio, he had stretched a large canvas on the wall, and underneath he would push with his feet a wood beer box to a certain spot. After a few trials and errors, he fixed the box into a right spot. He then slanted a plank from the floor with one end on the beer crate. A temporary ramp. Coming up the plank and down the plank, he slanted his brushstrokes for long strokes or short ones, and some of them were very loaded with paint."
Although Kline's paintings were the result of the emotions the city aroused in him and he didn't care to be in his painting, one owner of Rue did say that he could see himself in it. Steve Martin is listed as being the previous owner of this painting and had always said that he wanted to be part of it. The Portland Art Museum is also exhibiting the photo Annie Leibovitz took of Steve Martin in Beverly Hills when he posed for his portrait. Complete with black brushstrokes on his white suit, Martin realized his dream. A companion photo appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.