Paul Jenkins, Artist


Paul Jenkins (artist, writer)

“There is a magic room, which belongs to each man and each woman. To me, this room is a place to find one’s self; a place to touch the self-awareness even but for an instant. Such moments can mean the possibility of making life meaningful rather than a constant chase for shadows in the mind.

The Room is magic because each person may catch a true glimpse of himself with the distorted mirror held up to him to her by others.....

.....I can think of no better dwelling place for the imagination to be set free than the place I saw.....

.....He set my mind free from it’s confines of preconceived ideas.....

.....But the is the Room which gives me this clue to turn over in my mind and wonder about. In my own Yiddish I say, ‘the celebration of life means also making a place for life itself to celebrate’.

This Gyora Novak did for me.

The Room was drenched in color. The deceptive simplicity of it made me wish I had done it. The Room was filled with all the spectrum colors with off-gold and earth-softness as the intermediary joining patterns, but the best of all was that this was done with squares of non-flammable manufactured papers which had a kind of Egyptian papyrus texture but were not as heavy as Egyptian papyrus. They were light like medium weight Japanese mulberry paper.
I spun off. I celebrated.

I kept looking for dumb mistakes in placement, or just the arbitrary, ‘I, Gyora Novak kind of like this arrangement of squares, of colors together.’ No. It was guided by the sure hand of the most celebrated kind you find in the works of Schwitters, Ed Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, and Albers. Great knowing made it possible. Otherwise it could have just as easily been a room covered randomly with squares of decorative paper whose taste was not to be argued with, but did it mean anything?

To me it meant a flood of associations. It fired my imagination and I saw before my eyes a procession of life pass by, It became a backdrop for good events and fine rituals. I am sure that this response must have been the same one that earlier generations than mine must have felt when they saw their first Alexander Calder lumbering into sight over the crest of a hill or behind some city block. It’s idle grace and slow momentum moving and bearing down on them with cheer. What’s wrong with cheer if it celebrates life and the everlasting?

By the everlasting in this work, I mean it is like Ise in Japan. The great Shinto nature and man-made simple wood structures which defy death because they greet and are ready for removal, being torn down every twenty years......Fire, flood, monsoon...all acts of nature. Even the prospect of the evil possibility of man himself does not destroy... it merely alters it until the temple or shrine is built again as it was before. I used to wonder what the hell they were talking about when all this fragile good was “art”. And I still wonder. But I begin to get a hint that the everlasting culture understands how to adopt to shifting sands and even to quick sand. If I have lost you, let me hit the nail on the head. Gyora’s Room is expendable, but there is the possibility of it’s going on forever, of it’s being renewed when dust finally claims the colors and a certain mustiness begins to is is perfect to me because we think we have color in our lives but we don’t always have enough.

My eyes rolled in it. My body as I walked past these squares of paper, fluttered like colored intimations of ghosts and sisters private memories which were my very own.....those I would take to the grave and those I would one day share with a stranger, a friend, a loved one. These colors he showed me made me think of Tibetan prayer flags.....

This Room is transient itself for a transient’s paradise. This is a place where you want to experience unforeseen forces at work. A place, I think, to meditate meaning, to be truly with one’s self in the first stages of transformation. The actual scale of the Room itself is transformed by Novak’s color. You honestly find it very hard to judge how large the room actually is. It is a meeting place for those with differences and for those who want to exalt the same idea and substantiate it again and again.....

.....I want to repeat it another way what I mentioned earlier. I can’t help but think of Ise, the Shinto shrine to nature and man, it too is constructed in such a way that should fire, earthquake, or the hand of man tear it down it can be rebuilt in the twinkling of an eye. It is built on the principle of being rebuilt. So you see fragile goods can be quite lasting if the original meaning of what built it persists in man.

I pay compliment to this Room because for a moment it invited me to forget where I came from and built expectation and aspiration of what will come.”

Paul Jenkins, Summer of 1971, New York City

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About Novak's Artwork

Hans Van Werengrick for The Jewish Museum | Paul Jenkins, Artist | Tiffany Bell for The Empire State Collection

Gordon Washburn, Director of Asia House, Art Exhibitions | Dorothy Miller, Curator of Modern Art, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Arthur Drexler, Director Dept. of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Barnett Glimpsher, The Pace Gallery | Barnett Newman, Artist


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