Tuesday, August 05, 2008


John Wayne in The Searchers. John Ford, 1956


Barnett Newman, Vir Heroicus Sublimis, 1950-51, Oil on canvas, 7' 11 3/8" x 17' 9 1/4"


On the one hand the comparison is obvious to the point of banality; on the other it's a secret, hidden in plain sight. The image of John Wayne in the doorway has become iconic but has to be seen as synecdochic. A movie frame is not a movie. It is by definition a mediocre photograph, incomplete. Films are built in overlapping images of action and out of a variety of perspectives and contexts. Time is the primary constitutive element.

Both images above are arguments for something, but Newman's is less argument than statement or aphorism. Not predicated on context itself it nonetheless requires one to be understood. Claiming to stand alone, it doesn't. By comparison, and this is dangerously glib, the Searchers is about the claim itself. Both works may come to the same conclusions but only one is loaded with caveats and doubts. One is made to be iconic, and the other is a description of how that same icon is constructed

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