Wednesday, May 13, 2009

John McCracken ~ Sketchbook and Kindergarten

Yikes, I was all set to write about John McCracken's process. You know, what it takes to make those beautiful, luminous objects -- the cubes, the planks, the rectangles. the blocks, perhaps a pyramid. Then I saw a review of his newly published book entitled Sketchbook and was taken totally off track. The image of the book above is from Amazon. Click this link to see a different version.

The book itself is a compilation of McCracken's sketches from 1964 to 1968. Zane Fischer, the reviewer tells us "The sketches frequently are accompanied by his scrawled thoughts, and there is an easy harmony between the evolution of the blocks on the page and the philosophical and metaphysical meanderings of the mind behind the notes." He goes on to offer this nugget about play and creativity. "The sketches are a demonstrative thesis on the value of play and the correlation between hand and mind, object and idea. If play were still valued over performance, performance would improve and translations—particularly for physical and visual objects—would be unnecessary."

That discussion leads into Fischer's suggestion that we all leave a heap of Froebel blocks (Friedrich Froebel was the inventor of kindergarten back in the early 19th century) on our kitchen table when we have guests over to our homes. No one will be able to resist stacking the blocks and no two people will stack them the same. Froebel evidently had a significant influence on Frank Lloyd Wright as well other architects and artists including Braque, Klee and Mondrian.

Who knows if John McCracken had any Froebel blocks. What we do know is he continues to create these beautiful objects, thinking of them first and then producing them himself. He will spend hours upon hours mixing colors and sanding surfaces. At one point he hired an assistant but that didn't last; McCracken is too much of a perfectionist. So each and everyone of McCracken's sculptures has been part of him for many hours. As a person who time travels, John McCracken could also be there with you the next time you visit the Black Box or any of his other sculptures. Look for him in the reflection off the Black Box; he's the very tall, very thin man looking into the distance.

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