At the Stanford Arts Review, we find the Andersons’ generous gift to Stanford a cause for both public and intimate celebration. We encourage you to visit the collection, force your expectations of art out the door and open yourself to discomfort. For what is modern and contemporary art, after all? Scribbles on a canvas, clean lines, exultations of color that arise in all their material glory from the human mind.
We now bring you a weekly series where our writers confront each painting and sculpture in the Anderson Collection, from 001 to 121. This week: John Mason’s Spear Form, Ember and Mark Tobey’s Window.
029. Parker Clancy on John Mason’s Spear Form, Ember
Flanked by larger pieces, John Mason’s sculpture, Spear Form, Ember, nevertheless commands the space around it. As if drawn in by the immense gravity of the piece, the immediate atmosphere seems heavier and somehow more solid than that of the rest of the collection. Despite its very recent creation (2002), it projects the qualities of an ancient monolith—a storied and robust object that has survived the onslaught of years as others crumble.
Indeed, the title itself alludes to these qualities. The phrase Spear Form calls to mind tools fashioned by the earliest man—it possesses a sort of prehistoric character. The form also contains an unmistakable strength, as connoted by the burgeoning flame in the title Like rusting iron, its burnished red exterior belies the true fragility of its ceramic construction.
As I sat beside it, I felt as though the solidity and endurance of the piece was being passed on to me. I had been bequeathed the patience of this work, quietly proud. Its planes rise from a perfectly square base and meet in a pyramidal peak. This simplicity of form, uniform and geometric, also imparts a sense of stillness.
Having arrived early, there were few people around. The museum was quiet and every footstep echoed. As the minutes trickled by, the building became increasingly filled with the movements of others. Yet, while I sat in front of Mason’s work, I felt disconnected from the bustle of their steps and their quiet, critical conversations.
The piece and the space around it are a gift of calm, warmly welcome in lives full of urgency.
030. Claire Kim on Mark Tobey’s Window
It’s Saturday. Another weekend is passing by, another unnoticeable fragment of time escaping the world. Standing alone in front of “Window” by Mark Tobey, surrounded by murmuring tourists and vigilant guards, my shadow and I await our thoughts.
“Why can’t I see what’s outside this window?” I murmur. Nothing can be seen past this so-called “window,” this cloudy, congested, gray form. The space beyond is stranded. Dead. This portal has been worn by time, the paint fading on its lone, asymmetrical frame.
Instead of a portal, the painting becomes a mirror to me. In the glass covering I can see the dancing fluorescent lights, the contours of my body, and, inside the thin silver frame, I meet my distorted face and, my darkened eyes.
I am suddenly arrested by a hunger for my home.
I don’t know why, but the painting brings me back to thoughts of my mama. I suddenly miss her stories. I miss her brown eyes, wrapped in wrinkles. I miss every argument over every trivial issue in my nineteen-year-old life.
Maybe I see her likeness in the window, its cracks becoming ever more visible to the eye, carved with time. Gray and soft. Imperfect, yet extraordinary. Mother.
“How much did it snow over there?” I ask her over the phone.
“Just about right,” she says. She tells me about the snow that settled nicely in our unfenced, small backyard at home. I miss winter. I miss real Januaries.
Beyond the gray of the window, I picture the wintertime outside of our living room, the five o’clock dusk, the scent of the warm rice cooking in the kitchen. In the glass, I see the fruits of my mama’s simple love, My window, my mirror, my mama. She is my home.
As I leave, I see a security guard looking wistfully out the window, his face glowing with sunlight.
Is he longing, too?
It’s never shameful to ache for home, I want to tell him.