Saturday, May 9, 2009

John McCracken ~ Stonehenge and Other Realities

Each of the surfaces of John McCracken's Black Box at the Portland Art Museum reflects a different image. Your world opened at different chapters. Your life in review – where you've been, who you've met, what you've done. As you approach the the edges you have a view of what your world could be, where you will be. Of course, this means you need to be with the Black Box for more than the moment it takes to walk by it on the way into the room with Sol Lewitt's Incomplete Cube, Frank Stella's Eskimo Curlew and works by Donald Judd, Agnes Martin and Dan Flavin. John McCracken uses color in much of his work, but I find that his use of black to be most compelling. It usually takes me more places, including the internet where I found this one minute video of an exhibit of McCracken's work in New York City.

Black again, but this time black pillars, rising up like Stonehenge columns. Until last year Stonehenge was thought by most to be an ancient burial site. Following the seamless web of the internet on a search of Stonehenge, you'll find an article from Britain's Timesonline site that puts forth a new hypothesis that people travelled there for its healing powers. Evidently there was an inner ring of about eighty bluestones weighing 4 tons each. These bluestones had been dragged more than 150 miles from the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire to Wiltshire. Researchers have concluded that for thousands of years, the Preseli mountain range was home to magical healing centres and holy wells. Dennis Cummings writes about Stonehenge:
They found chips of the bluestones scattered around the site, leading them to believe that people had broken off pieces to heal themselves. Also, in studying bodies previously dug up from the site, they observed that there were a large number of seriously injured corpses and analysis of the corpses’ teeth showed that about half of them were not native to the area.

One body, that of a man from central Europe who had an infected kneecap and abscessed tooth, is thought to have died around 2,300 B.C.E. The fact that the man, known as the “Amesbury Archer,” traveled such a distance with an injured knee suggests that he was attracted by the bluestones’ supposed healing power.
So Stonehenge might be thought of as an "ancient A&E of Southern England" or perhaps a prehistoric Lourdes. Watching the man in the black suit in the video, I'm reminded of why many people including myself visit art museums or galleries. Art provides us a place of solace, a chance for observation, thought and introspection. John McCracken's Black Box can be approached to view this world and other realities as well as retrospection and healing similar to those bluestones of Stonehenge.

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