When we consider someone as having prodigious talent it is almost always a child. Child prodigies usually display talent in music, mathematics and occasionally dance or athletics, but rarely in the arts that rely on a life lived to inform and enrich the creative process. Years of observation and refinement decerning what makes a work of art resonate.
The Museum of Modern Art in New York has a year-long exhibit (running through November 4, 2018), entitled The Long Run which features work chronicling the continued experimentation of artists long after their breakthrough moments, it suggests that invention results from sustained critical thinking, persistent observation, and countless hours in the studio.
Roberta Smith writing in the New York Times says " The presentation forsakes the myth of Modernism that the Modern is identified with — of art as ceaseless progress fomented almost entirely by the innovations of ambitious young (white) men. Instead, it focuses on artists, some famous, some not so famous — Lari Pittman, Ernie Gehr, Joan Jonas — who have just kept on making art, regardless of attention or affirmation, sometimes saving the best for last. The focus here is on art as an older person’s game, a pursuit less of innovation than of authenticity and a deepening personal vision."
Everything in this exhibit was made by an artist who was at least 45 and usually older. The oldest is Georgia O’Keeffe, whose seeming abstract of a white plane receding into blue, titled “From a Day With Juan II,” was made in 1977, when she was 90, and is inspired by the Washington Monument.
A sidebar space is devoted to 11 photographs of New York City street scenes by the great Helen Levitt (1913-2009), taken during the decade between her 58th and 68th birthdays.
Jasper Johns, now 87, is represented by over 30 years of his work from "between the Clock and the Bed" (1981), with its intimations of a figure and spreading light amid abstract hatch marks to “Regrets” (2013), a large, dark, dense work that circles back toward abstraction.
There is plenty more to relish here. Thanks to Moma we can visit and revisit the works of artists who have worked (and continue to work) their whole life long!
Photo by Helen Levitt: New York, Levitt photographed a woman seated on a city bus—perhaps in the middle of her daily commute. A native-New Yorker, Levitt devoted her career to documenting the city’s vibrant street life and inhabitants, often through her pioneering use of color photography.