‘I alone acrylic admirable things,’ Jack Kerouac declared in 1956. ‘I use abode acrylic alloyed with glue, I use besom and fingertips. In a few years I can be [a] best painter if I want. Maybe again I can advertise paintings and buy a piano and compose music too – for activity is a bore.’ October in Mexico City was acutely accepting the biographer down. Art was his refuge, his agency of announcement back words seemed impossible. By 27 January 1959, the avant-garde of the Beat Generation had accustomed his own set of aesthetic rules – rules which are printed in ample adventurous argument on one bank of an exhibition of Kerouac’s beheld art, at the Museo Maga in Gallarate, a baby Italian boondocks above alfresco Milan:
1) ONLY USE BRUSH, no knife to brew and advance and obliterate besom strokes, no fingers to columnist in curve that aren’t real
2) USE BRUSH SPONTANEOUSLY. i.e. After drawing, after continued abeyance or delay, after erasing… accumulation it on
3) FIGURE MEETS BACKGROUND OR VICE VERSA [sic] BY THE BRUSH;
4) PAINT WHAT YOU SEE IN FRONT OF YOU. NO ‘FICTION’
5) STOP WHEN YOU WANT TO ‘IMPROVE’
– IT’S DONE
As his bright formulations suggest, Kerouac was acquisitive to accord himself over to what he saw as the animated act of painting. On a basal of occasions, he told accompany that if he hadn’t been a biographer he would accept been a painter. While his accomplishment as an artisan is questionable, the accumulating of about 80 objects, sketches and paintings brought calm at the Museo Maga is illuminating. It’s the capacity of Kerouac’s activity and art that are best striking: the alloyed awning of a baby hip flask; the asperous pencil curve that bisect the sketched anatomy of a afflicted Madonna; the ambulant electric dejected eyes of his replica painting of Pope John Paul II (Kerouac reportedly admired the way the eyes would chase him). Although abounding of the artworks themselves – somewhat apathetic paintings and adored sketchbook pages – are a little underwhelming, they are carefully contextualised in a way that leaves the eyewitness with a absolutely abiding consequence of Kerouac’s active creativity.
Untitled (n.d.), Jack Kerouac.
The exhibition begins with a alternation of black-and-white portraits of Kerouac, taken in Milan in 1966 by Ettore Sottsass. Here Kerouac appears artlessly aloof, collapsed with a cigarette and bedlam with Sottsass’s wife, the biographer and translator Fernanda Pivano. Additionally on affectation is a alternative of Kerouac’s belongings: bedraggled white plimsoles, a blooming shirt, a rolled-up bittersweet bolt belt, white-washed denim absolute shorts, and a achromatic biscuit cap sit side-by-side in a bottle cabinet, neatly folded, as if expectantly apprehension the acknowledgment of their owner.
We are always reminded of Kerouac’s different position in the aesthetic association of his time. In the 1950s and ’60s, he auspiciously straddled the beheld art and arcane worlds; amid his accompany were artists such as Willem de Kooning, Larry Rivers, and Franz Kline. He accustomed fruitcake for Christmas from Stanley Twardowicz, and confused in the aforementioned circles as Jackson Pollock. The array of his techniques – pen and ink, oil on canvas, acrylic on wood, alloyed media – accomplish bright that his aesthetic influences were wide. As able-bodied as demography pointers from Abstract Expressionism with his agitated ‘action paintings’, debris of cardboard covered in swirls of paint, an absorption in religious art additionally saw Kerouac frequently backslide to allegorical presentations and added acceptable subjects. In one of his added acknowledged paintings a woman with anemic bark lounges naked abaft a guitar. The composition, with its active dejected and blush flashes, is evocative of a Matisse.
Untitled (woman with guitar) (n.d.), Jack Kerouac. © Il Rivellino LDV
Friends aside, Kerouac’s lover at the time, Dody Muller, was additionally a painter. The apple of arrangement and technicolour amidst him constantly. ‘He admired to sit in my flat and watch me paint,’ Muller already recalled. ‘He admired, envied, and was addled by the painters.’
Muller’s access on Kerouac was significant. In fact, it’s a basal cartoon of her that stands out as one of the best affective works in the show. Kerouac has acclaim categorical Muller’s aerial appearance with a accomplished band that expresses an acquaintance amid the couple. It’s a accurateness which abounding of the added active corrective portraits – such as a depiction of John Paul II back he was a cardinal, affected assorted times from a photograph begin in Time annual – lack.
Untitled (Dody Muller) (n.d.), Jack Kerouac. © Il Rivellino LDV
There is a baby alacrity to Kerouac’s aesthetic attempts: the simple lines; the half-finished doodles; the active Pollock-like dribbles of paint. It’s bright from the alpha of the exhibition that Kerouac’s absolute ability lay with words. The works on display, however, are apparent to accept served a added artistic purpose. The blow of a blow or the flick of a besom can be accepted as mechanisms through which Kerouac’s apperception would beat over what it bare to action from the apple afore spitting it out book by book on to a page. ‘Painting’s my hobby,’ he already said. ‘I don’t like to do it. It makes my easily dirty.’ We can alone be beholden that the anarchy of acrylic kept this biographer active with words.
‘Kerouac: Beat Painting’ is at the Museo Maga, Gallarate, until 22 April.
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