Joon Ockmqn g, Pqintin drqwiî9, thinking.

Robert Slutzky's drqwings for pqintings




Joon Ockmon retired from ColumbioUniversityin 2008 ofter directingthe TempleHoyne BuellCenter for the Study of Americon Architecture there for fourteen yeorsond teochingin the Groduote School ond Preservotion over for of Architecture,Plonning two decodes. Shehos held visitingteochingoppointments ot the Groduote Schoolof FineArts of the Universityof Pennsylvonio, Centre de Culturo the de Contemporòneo Borcelono, the Groduote Center of the City University of New York, ond Yole UniversitySchoolof Architecture.In 2002-2003she wos o Center Fellowot the InternotionolCenter for AdvoncedStudies New York University. ot She is currentlyeditingo book on the history of orchitecture educotionin North Americo,forthcoming from MIT Pressin 2012.Ockmon hos worked in the officesof RichordMeier ond Peter Eisenmon. She is the outhor or editor of severolhighlyregorded books in her fìeld, omong them Out of GroundZero. in (Munich [Prestel] 6ose Studies UrbonReinvention 2002) ond Architecture Culture 1943-1968. DocumenA (New York [Rizzoli] 1993).Her essoys tory Anthology ond reviews hove oppeored in Artforum,Journolof the Societyof ArchitecturolHistorions,Assemb/oge, ANY, Architecture,Metropolis,ArquitecturoVivo,A+U, Arch+,DesignBook Review, Wornenl Reviewof 8ooks, Horvord Design Magozineond Oppositions, omong others.They ore includedin o number of onthologies, including Autonomy ldeology. ond Positioning on Architecturol Avont-Gorde North Americo,fhe Sex of in Architecture,Architecture ond Film,The Urbon Lifeworld, ond Architecture ofthe Everydoy.

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in ln his more thon fifty yeorsof pointing, the ond evolutionof his own potientdiscovery emPloyed RobertSlutzky visuollonguoge, woys.Thesecordistinct drowingin two in to respond on ongoingdiologue hiswork ond percept,orchitectonics betweenconcePt thesewoys We moy chorocterize ond poetics. ng Increosi ly ond os diogrommotíc calligrophic. one' become thesetwo grophicimpulses for o lorgeeorlypointing' In sketches first Sourcehollondoys, executedin oils in (no longerextont)ond then repointed 1957 fifteenyeorsloter,l it is possible in ocrylics drowing to observehow the diogrommotic sensitive but os functions o succinct highly for workingout the pointing's instrument by Colorsore indicoted o nobosicstructure. to often obbrevioted o letter totionol system, or neor-squores with squores of the olphobet, ll with on X. In on initiolsketch morked of concerns the pointing the 'topologicol' eochprimorycolor os well os resolved: ore onotheronceond only once'ln blocktouches the sketch,lll ninesecond the more ossured holeor oculus grid with its centrol squore This structurewos to emergesdecisively. comPoprivileged one of Slutzky's become with increosing invested sitionolstrotegies, yeors.lf the more loyersof meoningover the

I 195711973 Sourcehollondovs, ll Sketch for SourcehollondoYs lll Sketch for SourcehollondoYs

nervoushondwritingof the first sketchintiond slippoges sheors motesthe 'jiggle-ioggle' relotionsof the figure-fìeld ond ombiguous the secondsketchportendsits finol pointing, score is rhythm.Justos o musicol rototionol for o scoffold the future eruPtionof sound, ink monochromotic drowings so Slutzky's within their of holdthe promise chromoticism shorthond. skeletol Of coursethe octuol pointingPossesses thot for exceedthe ond presence o physicolity onticipotorypotentiolto convey diogrom's reolity (not to mentionthe reproduction's its retrooctiveone),ond olso incorporotesoccitroits thot only come dentolor evolutionory of into beingin the contingent Process pointwith begoneochconvos typicolly ing.Slutzky o light pencilunderdrowing often o reinterdiogrom of pretotionond rescoling the PoPer then groduolly surfoce, - on o freshlygessoed worked from woshyto defìniteform. The of oesthetics flotnessond the unforgiving notureof ocrylicpoint,which he first begon were to usein the secondholf of the 1960s, to inimicol built up loyersof poínt.Yet he refusedto 'point by number',ond reiected the ort of those who left nothingto the finol pointingbut the tronsfer of o predetermined imoge.In hisview the diogromwos on initioof tor or focilitotorof the process moking, evenot his most In not its destiny. this sense,



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tA ...H H ,1952

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rììctopl rysrcul utrtl ccr cbr ol , l rc ncv(.r cnt r cl y rel i nqui shed the physi col i ty of the hond or rul ed out the vel l ei ti es of the process.

For similorreosons to ovoidliterol reodings Slutzky not title did ond reductive Most simplyond unsystemotihis pointings. collythey becomeUntitled Untitled ond 1, 2, so on. On occosion, however, couldnot he resisto poeticmetophoror historicol olluthe ex sion.fn Sourcehollondoys, pointing's postfoctotitle wíttily conflotespolette ond polote, the primorycolorsof De Stijlond the yolky luminosity o souce hollondoise. the As of pun mokescleor, pointing o tribute to the is Neo-Plosticism, whoseorthodox principles to dedicoted himself the better port for Slutzky He of o decode stortingoround1953-1954. leoving emborked this trojectoryofter on the ortistic hothouseof New York City for New Hovenond YoleUniversity's Schoolof Art. ln New York on older generotion ortists of pursuing figurotive reolism the wos still the of 1930s whilethe vonguord wos beingsweptup in the postwor current of Abstroct Expressionism. o beginning student, As ort first ot the Art Students Leogue ond then ot Cooper dobbled both thesetendenin Union,Slutzky Yet ot Yole,where he orrivedin 1951, cies. he foundhimself more engoged something by rigorous: Albers's pedogogy color Josef of interoction. pointing A morkingo decisive





for Sketches tipped pointingssimilorto fig. V

J o o nO c k m o n P o i n t i n gd r o w i n g ,t h i n k in g .R o b e r t Sl u tzky's r o w i n g sfo r p o i n ti n g s , d


crossroods his creotive in development the is smollbut iconlike . . . HH (1952; JA Fig.lV), which recordsthis initiolmomentof negotiotion betweenHons Hofmonn's push-pull gesturolism Albers's'retinol' ond psychology. For the next three decodes, Slutzky would find his odopteddiscipline hordof edge geometricobstroctionsuffìciently engrossing dispelony lingering to nostolgio for the expressive freedomsof the hond,ot leostovertly.Yet the pointerlydiolectics of mind-eye ond hond-body presentin his eorliest work neveroltogethervonished from his work. Upon groduoting from Yolein 1954, he took o first job teochingin the schoolof orchitectureot the Universityof Texosin Austin.There, with pointingslike Guodoloupe Boogie-Wooqie, continuedto pursuehis orhe tisticfìliotion Mondrion, to while olsoentering into o new world of orchitecturol ideos, developing closeintellectuol bondswith stimuloting colleogues Colin Roweond like John Hejduk. the sometime, his discovery At of the plostic volues Cubistond Corbusion of oesthetics which would inform the lronsporency orticleshe coouthoredwith Rowe in 1955-1956 ond his engogement with both the teoching ond mokingof collogeserved os o reminderof, ond compensotion the for, toctilevolues hod foreswornin his pointhe
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untitled, 1972


Sketchfor Untitled,1972


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Joon Ockmon

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Homogeto Boch,1973-1974


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Pointing, drowing,thinking.Robert Slutzky's drowingsfor poinrings


While exponded their rongeof colorotion, in they olsocontinued plumbthe geometries to of the squoreond the golden-section rectongleos well os the lotent illusionism the of flot surfoce.In the lotter respecthis work took o precísely oppositepoth from thot promoted ofter World Wor ll by the critic ClementGreenberg (ondhis disciple Rosolind Krouss), who upheld flotness the holy groil os of obstroct ort. Slutzky's tipped pointingsin porticulor which hongot voriousonglesoff the orthogonol,from 3 to 45 degrees- use obstroctioníst flotnessto explore the implied perspectivol oxonometric spotiolities of ond projection.In this regord his work reflects o rich seepoge orchitecturol of thinking, on originolvein he would minefurther in on exhibition with John Hejdukentitledlhe Diamondin Pointing and Architecture, presented ot the ArchitecturolLeoguein New York in 1967. As evidentfrom o poir of diogromsfor tippedpointings contoining ond seven six verticol respectively, differentth ickness, s, of spocing, ond color,vl similorto the red pointing of 1968-1969 reproducedhere,V Slutzky's intent wos to moke the picture plone reod os o folded sheet,or more precisely, creote to on oscilloting ombiguity betweenthe up-onddown donceof the color stripeson the pointing'ssurfoce ond the illusionistic possibility of

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perceiving them os bors movingforword ond The pointings figures5 ond in bock in spoce. with 6 ore still bosedon the primorypolette, But the eochof the three colorsdoubled. g os irrrroduction 'yellow- reen', indicoted of
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b o c krrrs p o c c .I lrc p o irrt irrg s lig u rc s5 o rrd rrr 6 ore still bosedon the primorypolette,with eochof the three colorsdoubled. But the introductionof 'yellow-green', indicoted os in the left-honddiogrom in figure Vl, riffs the system,setting off o relotionolgome in which one of the primories reodsos 'more primory' thon the other, or evenimpliesits complementory color.With their multipleyellows, blues, ond redsthesepointings inevitobly pointedto the next step for Slutzky, which wos to open his polette to the full spectrum. Indeed, reosoned, he Mondrionhimself would likelyhovemodeo similormovehod he lived longer:in his unfinished pointing, lost the VictoryBoogie-Wooqie, which he worked on in his New York studio from 1942to 1944,the Dutch pointer introducedsubtlevoriotions on the primory polette,suggesting thot he moy hove been poisedto embork on o rodicolly new direction.(This intuition seemsto be confìrmedby o recent onolysis the sucof cessive stogesin the pointing's long gestotion corried out by scholorsot the Gemeentemuseumin The Hogue.) An orthogonolond ostensibly more stroightforwordconvos thot Slutzkypointed o few yeors lqlsr vll consists simplyof three stripesof pure primorieson the left ond three stripesof pure complementories the on

Xl | | Untitled (color wheel),'1978-1979

XIV Sketch Untitled, for 1978-1979

Pointing, drowing,thinking.Robert slutzky'sdrowingsfor pointings

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right set ogoinsto bockgroundthot is holf groy colibrotedinond holf white. Yet the precisely tervols between these elementsond the inserwhite-groy verticols tion of three hoirline-thin produce the kinetic effect of squorefieldssliding left ond right, renderingombiguouswhot is figure ond whot ground. These dynomics, resembling curtoin moving bock ond forth, o ore onticipotedin the energetichondwriting vttt of the diogrom for this pointing. lt is noteworthy, however, thot the order of the colors projected in the diogrom wos reversedin the octuol pointing,indicotingonce ogoin the empiricol noture of the pointerly process. ln the eorly 1970sthe striped,tipped, gove woy to o new ond diomond convoses seriesof pointingsof increosingstructurol These complexity ond chromotic voriobility. compositionsof squores,rectongles,ond Lshopes,deployedin complementorypoirings ond chromotic clusters,tx xt poid homoge to Juon Gris, but olso Cubism (most especiolly ond to musicol Léger,Broque,ond Picosso) Boch, but olso jozz). forms (most especiolly Slutzkyseizedon the proclivity in Gris's lote for reflectedor inverted symmetries still-lifes obout o diogonol oxis, but set for himselfthe problem of ochievingwith his obstroct formol repertory relotionships similcr to those prorlrrr Iry tlrc Cullist prrinlr.r''s crl pipcs.c;ttitctt-s,
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(TheTempest).1981+ Untitled

n o t o rì lys lro wt h c ir- t r. u c t u r.c o rì c c p t io rì s ol but olsoprovideon inklingof the coloristic ener_ giesto be unleoshed the finolwork. in Around the mid_1970s, Slutzky uponon lit entirelyoriginolcompositionol Xill structups. At first gloncehis color_wheel pointings recollthe pulsoting fieldsof Albers,s Ho^oge to the Squore series.But Slutzky's oim wos for lessminimolist thon his ,"o.hur,r, no. just compositionolly semonticolly. bur Fusing perceptuol opticswith both the iermetic poetry of the Cubiststill_life the ond con_ ceptuolormotureof Goetheon color theory, the_ color-wheel pointings ospired be o to self-sufficient world of obstroct color, srruc_ ture, ond meoning, totol synthesis o of the pointerly universe. The twelvehuesorbit_ ing oroundthe series concentric of sguore fieldsin obedience the sequence to of the spectrum red, red_violet, violet,blue_violet, blue,blue-green, green,yellow_green, yellow, yellow-oronge, oronge,red-oronge _ lock in complementory relotionshìps thot vector ocrossthe convos, meonwhile being tronsformed volueond sizeby the color in fieldsthroughwhichthey poss. Theseintricotepointings, which on
Joon ockmon

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XVI Sketchfor pointingin the some series os nq. XV

pointing,drowing, thinking.Robert srutzky's drowingsfor porntings



Slutzky worked from obout1976to 1980, inevitobly with on inexoroble led, logic,to their own limit-point. Muchos his stretching of the boundories the primorypolette of hod eorlieropened floodgotes the rest the to of the spectrum, in the color-wheel so pointingshisexperimentotion with extremely close voluerelotionships, whichoften resulted on in opticoldissolution the boundories of between fields,ultimotely spurredhim to tronsgress the hord-edge oesthetic hod embroced he thirty yeorseorlier. With this opporently momentous move,the colligrophic impulse Slutzky hod long repressed begonto reoppeor. o In xv extroordinorily pointing 1984, beoutiful of whichsubliminolly recolls Giorgione's Iempesto in the Accodemio Venice, in monyof Slutzky's previous themesore present- the centrol oculus, peripherol the color wheel,the complementory color poirings but now in on occluded, highly otmospheric form. The pointer's brushstrokes peekfrom behindthe opoque color blockslikeroilingweotherond the spectrol sequence ourorol.In o smolldrowingfor is XVI o relotedpointing this series, ths useof in cross-hotching shoding ond suggesr Slutzky seorching o woy to investhis older system for of denototion with more connototive. ombicrrt offccts.
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Untitled(The Tempest),198/t

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trojectory.In his o portiolbreok in Slutzky's work he neverobondoned the subsequent but o hord edgeentirely, rother pursued diologuebetweenthe hord ond the soft,fìnished At objectivity ond subjectivity. ond unfìnished, resulted on uneosy in timestheseoppositions or stote of tension. coexistence unresolved in At the sometime, especiolly retrospect, in s t it is p o s s ib leo s e n s e imilo r e n s io n s t in his eorly geometricwork - for exomple, p o in t in g s , c e rt o ino f h iss t rip eo n d d io mo n d linwith their ottenuoted meondering or fields; these in eoritiesond grovity-sensitive linesservenot just to demorcompositions cote spotiolcontoursbut olso os surrogotes of for drippingpoint or os metophors the pointer's hond. Yet it is only in the lote work thot Slutzk y p e rmit so c t u o ld rip so n d b lu rso n d s mu d g ond of indecision es ond oreosof row convos persistinto the finished work, exposing to of to the privote, orconeprocess pointing moy be publicview.Indeed, lote pointings the reod os fieldsfor the octiveworking out of differences betweenpointing the ontologicol the ond drowing.Not surprisingly, nototionol of diogroms scrops poper becomeincreoson In in g lyro re ,o n d p re s u mo b ly n n e c e s s o ry . u of o series five block,somewhotimposto pointings in not completed the eorly 1990s, long ofter he hod movedout of his loft studio

XVl l l

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d , J o o nO c k m o n P o i n t i n gd r c w i n g ,t h i n ki n g .R o b e r t Sl u tzky's r o w i n g sfo r p o i n ti n g s





i n M on h o tton into on old mill building t h e on outskirtsof Philodelphio, Slutzky returnedto the nine-squore structureof his eorly Sourcehollondoys, now os o kind of colligrophic, but o n d ou tob iogrophic, memory. The mill ' s o lid s stonemosonrybecome the inspirotion unchorocteristico for this onti-notu istic Ily rol pointer- for his conception theselorge of pointings excovotions light ond color os of out of opoque, moteriolsubstonce. the lost In xlX p o in ti ng n the series, i finished 1995, 1 1 in is possible troce through photogrophs to of successive stoges its development portly of o sgroffìtoprocess erosureond emendotion of XVll xvlll leoding its ghostlyfìnols1s1s. to The pointingin figureXX, on exomple from o more ebullient series Slutzky underjust ofter the blockpointings took ond never exhibited, represents more literol return o to h is'D utch'periodond hiseorlypreo c c u potionwith primorycolorsond ploidgrids. There is on unmistokoble wink ot the severol Rietveld choirsthot were scottered oround his studioin theseyeors,not to mention o bow to Von Doesburg. Von Doesburg's hereticol of introducing diogonolinto oct the Mondrion's orthogonoluniverse 1924in going beyond the lozenge shopeof the convos into the configurotive heort of the pointing - become, Slutzky, provocotion for the 'violofor yet onotherconsciously meditoted


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Finolstote of Untitled, 1995

tion' in his own lote work. But in resurrecting this polemicol bottle betweenthe diogonol ond the orthogonol,Slutzky chorocteristicolly disputotion it tronsformed into o diolecticol Aproposof the within the pointingitself. this t h e m eo f th e mentolond the monuol, lowitc c;cstrr rcd- blrrc-ycl blocl<-wh poirrtrol
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o bow to Von Doesburg. Von Doesburg's hereticol of introducing diogonol oct the into Mondrion's orthogonoluniverse 1924in going beyondthe lozenge shopeof the convos into the configurotive heort of the pointing - become, Slutzky, for the provocotion for yet onotherconsciously 'violomeditoted


Fi rrol s tutc ol U rrtrtl t' r/. 1995

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tion' in his own lote work. But in resurrecting this polemicol bottle betweenthe diogonol ond the orthogonol,Slutzky chorocteristicolly tronsformed into o diolecticol it disputotion within the pointingitself.Apropos of the theme of the mentolond the monuol, this gestu red-blue-yel rol low-block-wh pointite ing connothelpbut suggest porollel the o to hondicroftcontext within which the metophysicol polemics De Stijlployedout. of Slutzky's internol, ongoingdiologues with Neo-Plosticism Cubismreflectnot ond just his ocuteconsciousness the historyof of ort but olso his oworeness the implicotions of of his own belotedrelotionship the Modto ern Movement. While modernist oesthetics remoined unfinished vitol projectfor on ond him to the end of his life,they did not imply o slovish repetitionbut rother demonded o geneologicol increosingly ond questioning relotionship. This often meontcirclingbockfor the sokeof o rodicolreinterpretotion. this In xxl context, o very lote pointing,of 1999, is exemplory. The syntheric world of the color-wheel pointinghos beencompletely obondonednow in fovor of forms thot fly off the convos into outer spoce, if the pointos ing were no more thon o momentoneous copturing chonce, of flototionol frogments in on infinitegoloxy.The pointingevokesyet onothericonicimogeof modernism the Joon ockmon




Pointing, drowing,thinking.Robert Slutzky's drowingsfor pointings


cerebrol, gegendstondlose universeof Supremotism. Here, however,the utopios of Molevich ond Lissitzkyseem to meet the blood ond teors of eorthly existence.The pcinterly field ond the grovitotionol fìeld ore in conflict; i t is indeterminoblewhether the truncoted red cruciform is in the oct of oscendingor croshingto eorth. Meonwhile,within this cosmic dromo, Slutzky'srigorous compositionol structuring remoins unfoiling:three primories ond three complementoriesfocing off eoch other in complementory poirings. Much of whot hos been suggestedhere with regord to the intertwined physicsond metophysics Slutzky'spointingsis summed of up in his finol work, now in the collection of the Whitney Museum in New York, xxll At the time he pointed it, ín 2002, he hod neorly lost the use of his honds to the motor neuron diseoseto which he succumbed three yeors loter, ond its minimolismmoy be oscribed,olthough only in port, to the physicol difficulty of pointing.The levitotionolploid grid, on evonescent green-blueon blue, is pinioned by two thin yellow verticols,eoch divided preciselyin holf by o tiny red dot the lost permutotions of the signoture oculus. Although Slutzky never titled this pointing, its colorotion, which completely suffuses the field of vision, evokes Hólderlin'sfrogmentory lost poem, 'ln Lovely Blue':


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xxl untitled. 1999


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In lovely bluethe steep/e b/ossoms With its metol roof.Aroundwhich Drift swollowcries, oroundwhich Liesmostlovingblue. . . . poeticolly
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grld, on cvonesccnt grcen-blue blue,ls on pinioned two thin yellowverticols, by eoch precisely holf by o tiny red dot divided in the lost permutotions the signoture of oculus. Although Slutzkynevertitled this pointing, its colorotion,which completelysuffuses the field of vision,evokesHólderlin's frogmentory lost poem, 'ln LovelyBlue':


unt it led. 1999

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ln lovelybluethe steeple blossoms With its metolroof,Aroundwhich Drift swallowuies, oroundwhich lies mostlovingblue. . . . poeticolly man dwellson this eorth . . . Would I like to be o comet? think so. I Theyare swift os birds,theyflower With fire, childlike purity.Io desire in More thon this is beyond humanmeosure.l

1 'ln lieblicherBlóue. . .'from FriedrichHólderlin,Hymns ond Frogments. Tronsloted by Richord Sieburth, Princeton (PrincetonUniversityPress)1984, pp.249,251.This some poem inspiredthe essoy'.. . Poeticolly Mon Dwells . . .' by Mortin Heidegger, onorher of whose essoys, 'Building DwellingThinking',prompted the title for the presenr reflections. Joon Ockmon


Untitled (ln LovelyBlue),2002


Pointing, drowing,thinking.Robert Slutzky's drowingsfor pointings

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