Original Document
Original Document
Georgine Oeri, "Notes on Franz Kline," 1961.

Not too much more than ten years ago Franz Kline had his first one-man show at Charles Egan's Gallery (in 1950). He was forty then. He is only fifty now. But it seems long ago; it feels like several decades in a row. The gallery was a little cubicle under the roof, four flights up, with an elevator that was usually out of order. Kline stood in there alone among his imperious off-spring like one of those Gothic statues whose small feet seem too delicate to hold up the dominant head erect on broad shoulders. In nodding toward the stirring black and white monsters in the round he asked Egan, "You really think, this is something?" Naturally, he did not mean to ask "Do I have merit ?" He knew that. He wanted to know "Have I affirmed it? Dit [sic] it get done?" Nobody had yet heard of Franz Kline, nor had he. There was no way to know; while lightning and thunder were happening up there. The unknown was obviated. It was obvious, but unknown.

We have extended the average of human longevity, but the artist's life span in general has shrunk to a few years. Titian was still painting with authority when he was ninety and he never ceased to be part of his contemporary scene. The Monet of the "Water-Lilies" was regarded as senile, and certainly no longer as part of the "scene". During the decade of Kline's public existence at least two younger "generations" of artists have come and possibly gone. We are somewhere between the state, where the picture is an object and the object is a picture. Unplanned obsolescence is threatening them both. But an artist, and only an artist makes art. The medium by means of which he makes it, is incidental. The astonishing thing about Franz Kline is that he still does it with paints on canvas. He makes pictures all right. He means to make pictures, that is, he creates an image, he brings a vision into being. He does not make a permanent object of more or less durability. Kline is one of those who still affirm picturemaking as a valid enterprise. Confronted with his painting, you have no question as to why he does it, or why you still bother to look at it. The world is a valuable place, as it is once more made.

Kline discovers and at the same time conquers space. Before a Kline picture you suddenly realize the existence of space. You receive the shock of recognition that you are in space, within the space he makes. It springs into being with a shout like Pallas Athene out of Zeus' skull–fully armed–that is, defined and organized. The room around you is active and alive, and your body in it is part of its animation. As a dancer's pose and movement transform and activate the whole of the stage, Kline's space becomes a physical event and is filled with events. He throws it out, loose, and encompasses it at the same time. It "escapes", as though asserting its own momentum, and it is hauled in with a majestic gesture of gentle caress. It expands and increases its inherent volume like a balloon, yet is contained in, and contains, the balloon skin, a diaphanous skin of control which is invisible. That is, it is not "there", but inferred. (The dome of the "Cupola" is implied in this way: you are at once inside and outside of it.)

Credit: Georgine Oeri, "Notes on Franz Kline," Quadrum (12), 1961.
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