Sunday, August 17, 2003 2:00 PM
A Thorny Crown of...
From the first episode of
the television series
"The West Wing":
Original airdate: Sept. 22, 1999
Going There, Part I
Crown of Ideas
Kirk Varnedoe, 57, art historian and former curator of the Museum of Modern Art, died Thursday, August 14, 2003.
From his New York Times obituary:
" 'He loved life in its most tangible forms, and so for him art was as physical and pleasurable as being knocked down by a wave,' said Adam Gopnik, the writer and a former student of his who collaborated on Mr. Varnedoe's first big show at the Modern, 'High & Low.' 'Art was always material first — it was never, ever bound by a thorny crown of ideas.' "
For a mini-exhibit of ideas in honor of Varnedoe, see
"I was always struck by the tangibility of the words he used.... It was as if he were laying words down on the table one by one as he used them, like brushes in an artist's studio. That was why students crowded into his classes and why the National Gallery of Art had overflow audiences for his Mellon Lectures earlier this year. Something synaptic happened when you listened to Kirk Varnedoe, and, remarkably, something synaptic happened when he listened to you. You never knew what you might discover together."
Perhaps even a "thorny crown of ideas"?
Varnedoe's death coincided with
"To what extent does this idea of a civic life produced by sense of adversity correspond to actual life in Brasília? I wonder if it is something which the city actually cultivates. Consider, for example the cathedral, on the monumental axis, a circular, concrete framed building whose sixteen ribs are both structural and symbolic, making a structure that reads unambiguously as a crown of thorns; other symbolic elements include the subterranean entrance, the visitor passing through a subterranean passage before emerging in the light of the body of the cathedral. And it is light, shockingly so...."
-- Modernist Civic Space: The Case of Brasilia, by Richard J. Williams, Department of History of Art, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Going There, Part II
Simple, Bold, Clear
Art historian Kirk Varnedoe was, of course, not the only one to die on the day of the Great Blackout.
Claude Martel, 34, a senior art director of The New York Times Magazine, also died on Thursday, August 14, 2003.
Janet Froelich, the magazine's art director, describes below a sample of work that she and Martel did together:
"A new world of ideas"
Froelich notes that "the elements are simple, bold, and clear."
For another example of elements with these qualities, see my journal entry
The flag design in that entry
Note that the elements of the flag design have the qualities described so aptly by Froelich-- simplicity, boldness, clarity:
They share these qualities with the Elements of Euclid, a treatise on geometrical ideas.
For the manner in which such concepts might serve as, in Gopnik's memorable phrase, a "thorny crown of ideas," see
"Geometry for Jews" in
See also the discussion of ideas in my journal entry on theology and art titled
and the discussion of the word "idea" (as well as the word, and the concept, "Aryan") in the following classic (introduced by poet W. H. Auden):