Clyfford Still vs. Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell

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Casino Monte-Carlo & Hotel de Paris

Clyfford Still vs. Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell:  The above blend of color, caricature, and content, “Casino Monte Carlo and Hotel de Paris,” was painted by the artist known as Cove Loon, or 魏嵦毅, or B.J.W. Powell.  In her second duel against abstract expressionists she has to battle, once again, with a yellow square reminiscent of the Frankenthaler in my previously blog: Helen Frankenthaler vs. Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell. What artist? Read on.

“Still makes the rest of us look academic.” – Jackson Pollock

If you think Jackson Pollock is the only overrated abstract expressionist whose blobs, scribbles, and splotches attracted gawkers willing to spend millions, think again. Enter Clyfford Still. Look at the yellow rectangle. Is it a question of sophistication? No. To the untrained eye it looks like nothing special, and to the trained eye it looks like crap.

Wisdom of the over appreciated:  “To be stopped by a frame’s edge is intolerable.” – Clyfford Still

To be prattled at by a moron is much more intolerable. Clyfford, screw off. Seriously? You couldn’t have just kept on painting yellow if it weren’t for that damned frame’s edge. Are the synapses within your cerebellum and medulla not functioning?  I know you’re dead, but crimeeeeeiny, your followers may claim that $$$ validate pseudo-greatness. In November of 2011 Four of your “Clyfford Still” Paintings sold for over $114,000,000. Gadfuckingzooks! The Secret sells millions of books, BFD.

“Better than Still” Life with Shirt

Clyfford Still vs. My Daughter’s Shirt:  I do not claim the shirt on the right is more beautiful than the Still on the left. The Still actually has a certain aesthetic I find pleasing, though the shirt has more use as an article of clothing, and is almost as beautiful, I’d take the Still. Then I’d sell it to some rich liberal sycophant.

What to do? I understand why this Denver woman punched his painting, but that’s not the answer. All I can do is curse this proliferation of nonsensical visual art (for every Pollock, Doran, Hirst, Still, Frankenthaler etc. there are 1,000’s of aspirants). Grumble about those willing to spend gobs of $$$ on crap. And decry the fact that artists who have more worthy visions garner less attention. Once again, I ask, what would you prefer to look at, “Yellow” or “Au Café de la Place”?

Au Café de la Place

8 Responses

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  1. Caleb, I love your mom’s paintings. You are so lucky to have so many of her paintings in your home.
    they are colorful glimpses of her life and surroundings. Enjoyed your article and the responses.

    Dottie Perkins

    February 18, 2012 at 10:18 pm

  2. […] befuddling success of  Warhol, Pollock (Yankee Pot Roast captures my opinion), Frankenthaler, Still,  etc.  I classify Tracey Emin as a parallel […]

  3. […] until completion. In previous posts my mother has taken on Paul Doran, Helen Frankenthaler, and Clyfford Still, and her technique has handily defeated them. However, beating those three replicates an adult […]

  4. If you can’t understand the nature of reductive visual language, why bother disparaging it? If all you see in that Still painting is a yellow square, especially in person, then that is your own failing.


    July 1, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    • If you don’t like French cuisine, that is your own failing, if you don’t understand Orthodox Christianity, that is your own failing, namely, if you don’t have an understanding of “what I understand” that is your own failing. Really?

      Mediocre thought blames the perceiver, and uses this as a QED. We’re not talking Moby Dick, Xavier.

      Dismissing Still may not be a fault but a virtue, so stare at your “yellow square” as you parrot art critics and gawk at “reductive visual language.” It’s crap.

      Caleb Powell

      July 2, 2012 at 4:15 am

      • It’s your own failing that you do not even attempt to understand. All you see is a crappy yellow square, and you will never look or think past that. Art doesn’t have to be solely retinal – it can convey more ideas through a simpler visual language than a complex one. Just because the Still you point out is largely monochrome, doesn’t mean there’s a lack of ideas or feelings in the piece – if you make the decision to look, I think you’ll find the exact opposite.

        And it’s also not the fault of the artists that their pieces became trendy investments; they were quite poor and constantly ridiculed before they found their success, and a painter like Still didn’t see the financial success of his work while he was alive.


        July 3, 2012 at 12:58 pm

  5. My point is that it’s not a “failing” or not. “Crap” may be hyperbole directed toward Still admirers, a more accurate word is “dross.” “Reductive?” You bet. These visual displays appear often in life and do not take much talent to create or recreate. They replicate what can be found in downtown Seattle or on old barns in the country landscapes of the Pacific Northwest.

    As far as looking or engaging, my mother studied Fine Art at Cooper Union and Chinese art at Columbia, the house where I grew up was basically an art studio and museum (video on this link), full of nudes, studies, acrylics, oils, water colors, art manuals, and history, I’ve stared at these paintings over and over again, read the backgrounds, and perhaps when younger was more willing to let the authority of these institutions trump my instincts and ignorance. No more, the idea they can be appreciated and fawned over is an affront to aesthetic, both to the beauty of nature and to the hard work of any master painter. Warhol, for example, lowered the bar, and now we have to “engage” with crap like Tracey Emin. Pollock lowered the bar and now thousands of painters are filling galleries with schlock.

    Let’s appreciate Breugel and Bosch and Monet, but once you put Still in the mix you are no longer an art critic but a sycophant and follower of art “fashion”, and if by chance you are at the head of this herd, you are even worse.

    If you make the decision to look beyond Still, I think you’ll see what I mean.

    Caleb Powell

    July 4, 2012 at 6:49 am

  6. Honestly, you have your mind made up, and I can tell there’s nothing I can do. Just know I appreciate Monet or Bosch just as much as I appreciate Duchamp or Pollock (I do not like Warhol), aesthetic appeal is subjective and conditioned, and the abstract expressionist painters you despise could all paint very well figuratively if they wanted to (their older work attests to this), but the time was right to defy all that came before. Context is important when long-standing mediums veer into abstraction.

    Art as an idea, Mr. Powell. Art as an idea.


    July 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm

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