The Blog of John Walford, British-born, but long resident in The United States. I am an art historian, currently studying satire in Netherlandish art, an amateur photographer, and occasional writer, who writes here about art, photography, and the human condition--some of it ekphratic poetry, responding to works of art. This is to be a site for words and images, interacting on one another, as vehicles of human expression.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Flickr's donvucl's "trousers"


trousers, originally uploaded by donvucl.

"Cool, man, cool!"

You gotta give it to me man -
I's looks good in 'em plaid pants!
As the music rocks, so rocks I's,
black 'en white man, it's on de plaid
De brown der under, dats de skin,
Plaids de thing for us rockin' guys!

- JW, sorry, I can't bring myself to write "trousers" after 30years in the States.
Jan 30th, 2011.

When Less Costs More: Buying a Piece of History, 2011



Kasimir Malevich, Painterly Realism of a Football Player: Color Masses in the 4th Dimension, 1915, acquired by The Art Institute, Chicago, 2011.

When a Malevich came on the auction block,
Someone paid out, in dollars, sixty million.
Then another, from the same batch, was sold
To Chicago’s Art Institute, for undisclosed sum.

What a catch, what a prize, in one hundred years,
Nay!, In one hundred and thirty-two years, rarely
A piece so significant- for this be one of the rarest
And most storied of Russian Suprematist paintings.

Now what is that, you say! A supreme Russian painting,
Or a Suprematist painting from Russia? Why the big deal?
It’s clear: The Institute lacked a Russian avant-garde work.
What a coup, to fill, in the collection, such a glaring gap!

Joe, in the newsroom, glanced at the picture, thought Hum!
Turned to the title for enlightenment, but found none.
What to make of the Painterly Realism of a Football Player,
When all he saw was one green circle, and seven other shapes.

Glancing back at the subtitle, searching for a lead, he finds
“Color Masses in the 4th Dimension,” and a date, 1915.
Looks again, seems but two dimensions, flat, colored shapes
Laid over a neutral whitish-gray field, and starts to do the math.

Hypothesize some sixty-million dollars – perhaps even more!
Imagine what that looks like, laid out in glimmering gold bars!
Imagine what that purchases, besides a flashy fleet of fine cars!
Then he looks back at the canvas, as if back in the artist’s studio.

Kasimir Malevich must have been one heck of a man! – Surely bold.
By 1912, he already had a name, painting cubo-futuristic works,
Inspired by the famed bohemians of the Paris art world. Ah Paris!
And then there was the Dutch Mondrian, heading the same way.

While Mondrian, in nineteen-twelve, still let in the hint of a tree,
A Russian could become a Suprematist, and why not me?
So Kasimir prepped his canvas, a mere 70 x 44 centimeters,
A monotone ground, all off-white-gray! – Then almost done!

Two black rectangles, and one more off-black and skewed;
Four wedges of primaries, red, blue and yellow, all floating
Above the off-white-gray ground, seemingly sprung from
One small neat circle, colored a monochrome green!

That should do it, muses Malevich, less would end as
White-on-White – yes, why not, but just not yet, because
What then comes next? Could he have dreamed, some day,
Some other would value his day’s work at some sixty million!?

Did I say, sixty million? Sixty million dollars – no less?

Now, how many people, worked how many days,
For how many years, over how many lifetimes –
To put aside sufficient surplus to pay for that?
A 70 x 44 cm canvas, with but eight daubs of color?

-- JW, January 30th, 2011.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Flickr's Donvucl's "a small amount of clarity"


a small amount of clarity, originally uploaded by donvucl.


"The Tower on the Hill"

I was born in this tower
Set high on a hill.
My mother a prisoner
Of a vulnerable king.

We spent our lives in
This little stone tower,
Isolated and cold,
And, for hope, she
Held me up to the window.

See there meadows!
See there trees!
One day my son,
You will run, and be free.

Now, at fourteen, I stand
There alone. My mother,
She died. The window,
Grew dirtier. As for me...

I gaze through that clearer
Part of the glass, recalling
My mother's words, and I wonder:
Can I live with that small amount of clarity?
--JW, for donvucl, who cleared for me,
some of the dirt off the pane, Jan.29, 2011.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Flickr's Sandeep K Bhat's "Happy Feet," 2009


Happy Feet, originally uploaded by Sandeep K Bhat.

"Ten Smiley Faces"

Such feet belong alone to our time and place -
Still fine of form, unbent, not blistered by restraint,
Clean, scrubbed, not worn from working in the fields,
Protected by silk socks, wrapped in luxury leather,
Oiled down twice a year, put up by the fire place,
Where little hands added to each, ten smiley faces.

-JW, for Sandeep K Bhat, wishing you all the best for 2011.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Flickr's Manuel Orero's "Everlasting" 2011

"Three Old Guys"

Fifty years ago, they first walked this way,
Fifty years later, they ask: What did you say?
Wind, wafting through the canopy of trees,
Whispers,"What others miss, Manuel Orero sees."

--JW, for Manuel Orero, 1/13/11.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My own "Shaft of Light on Christmas 2010 Table Decorations," Jan 2011

"One Sunbeam Sufficient"

A year can be filled with dark shadow, and deep fear.
Look back and see, shafts of light, they always were there.
Look forward to a new year, whatever befalls,
Light breaking into darkness, each Christmas recalls.

--JW, for all who struggle with unemployment, loss,
loneliness, uncertainty, doubt, and even death,
January 2nd, 2011, hopefully not one day too late for some.

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John Walford

John Walford
Not All That Meets The Eye

About Me

My photo
United States
I am a British-born, art historian, teaching in the USA; I studied law, in England,1964-68; worked part-time in the art world, 1968-69; then studied art history at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, 1969-76; completed my Ph.D. diss. at the University of Cambridge, 1981; moved to the States in 1981, and have since written, or co-authored, other books. I am currently studying satire in Netherlandish art. My wife, Maria, was born in Milan, Italy, where she worked as an interpreter, in business; she spent seven years in Switzerland, at the University of Lausanne, 1963-70. She came to Amsterdam in 1971, and we soon married. She is a wife, mother, literary critic, of Italian (and French) literature, and completed her Ph. D. diss. in 2002, at the University of Chicago, on Cesare Pavese and His Critics. We have three married children, and eight grandchildren, all of whom we excessively adore! I welcome dialog about art, photography, human behavior, beliefs, and motivation from all comers, regardless of race, color, gender, orientation, values, or beliefs. This is to be a site for words and images, as vehicles of human expression, around topics of mutual interest.

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