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Monday
Mar062017

George Herriman: ways of seeing, ways of being

George Herriman, 1937, for King Features Syndicate.

George Herriman (b.1880 in New Orleans) published his little abstract landscapes every day from 1913 to 1944 when he died.  Under the eye of Offisa Pup, Krazy Kat's unrequited love affair with Ignatz played out in a sunbaked, empty Arizona desert: roads are two lines, mesas are geometric blocks sitting on a tabletop horizon.  Somewhere is a little scribble of action and a running text. 

This was in the childhood of so many American artists of Diebenkorn's generation: Twombly, Rauschenberg, Thiebaud, Dine.  I've written about Thiebaud's city drawings before, but I can also see the flattened space of Herriman in Diebenkorn, especially in the sketchbook drawings such as the one below.  These are ways of seeing, not in the Berger sense that the subjects of art are the objects of society, but rather a way of seeing small human dramas played out on the immense American canvas that was the early twentieth-century West.  Too, there is something about growing up without the eastern seaboard weight of European art history, that Henry James view of America, rather than the light-footedness of e e cummings

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