Nothing strigils the mind’s filthy tongue better than a long, bleak drive, not even a night of sleep. Yet bits of images and sensations gather in my thoughts driving the bleached plain from Austin to Fort Worth. My discursive thoughts are a kitchen midden of recollections, associations, and misunderstandings hung beneath a single precipice, like an idealized mountain whose pinnacle is a singular point where a climber could find no purchase. That pinnacle was the notion that the field drawings hung on the wall behind glass in the gallery were not just what conventional wisdom allows me to corral into ‘architecture,’ but that they were ‘a building,’ or at least some constructed, real aspect of a building, or at the very least the illusion of that aspect. In my estimation they were windows. (windows, vistas, relationships, connections, expanded field, space)
I spend an inordinate amount of time below the horizon in a concrete trench. Even if the proportion of time I recall it occupying is flawed it remains a delightful prompt and a sign-off PK uses a great deal in his ‘e-flares’ to me “from below the horizon.” Like most plains cities Fort Worth rises up slowly, almost endlessly, from the south. It rises so gently that I was dizzied by the immediacy of its presence like the chance palpation of some tumorous mass. “Where did that come from?”
I drive straight to the Modern. I hardly knew where I was, or where I had just been. My thoughts are filled with the coalescing rubbish of the drive. The fringes of visual relationships between tangential stirrings limp along in the pile, occasionally locking into one another, until through some physical corruption shared between that mess and my body, the whole is given sufficient power to speak aloud as one. It is peaking.
Admission is free. A polished weekday hush aches in the lobby. The sun is silent on the pool, silent because it has burned so ceaselessly that I don’t know the noise it makes. The building is mute, mute because its voice and words have become so intertwined that I can’t tell if it is speaking or dead and singing back in my memory. Through its gauze I slip undisturbed into the first peninsular gallery. A bronze Caesar stands facing a very large mirror on the concrete wall away from the pool of water which the gallery is oriented towards. He has reached out just above the level of his head to the mirror but isn’t touching it. His fingers curl, slightly limp. An empty expression has halted on his face. It is the face of a rising epiphany, not before and not amidst. It is the irreducible instant at which this saluting Caesar, reproduced from a bronze in patina’d plaster, cast still with all the alloys of propaganda, egotism, insularity, puissance, all the thrust of history inseparable from his eternal being, looks into the mirror in this place, in this present, in this silence, in my witness, and sees just a man, weak, fallible, and doomed. It happens through the juxtaposition of figure and mirror, but not solely. The latent epiphany also relies on me. It requires my empathy, the fertility of my humanity to draw upon. I have looked at photographs of Pistoletto’s work and find them vacuous and approaching trite. This is a case in which the piece of work only functions with the perceptual corruption of the procession. This solidification of affect can only be the pinnacle of the heap, not a stone within it. Like the form of the argument that I began to weave around the situation, Pistoletto’s conceptual finesse was fragile. The resonance silently transmigrated into me without trace, like a miracle of faith, and left with me as I wandered over to the Kimbell. Again in isolation the Caesar was left with its intrinsic values, for obviously it couldn’t see itself in the mirror. It needed me to see its face in the mirror.
My hemp loafers were in tatters and I had to walk lightly and slowly to keep them from slipping off. It made me feel like I had just emerged from syncope, slightly aloft. This flaccid conveyance with Pistoletto, the highway, meetings and federal buildings, and a host of others in tow is the silent transubstantiation on which I brought PK’s pieces forward to the lawn of the Kimbell. My wife and I have discussed a shared handicap of ours. Without fail, when we are meeting a new person we become so focused on erecting the façade of social pleasantness and attentiveness, by being in the moment, that the entire content of the exchange disappears like Cinderella’s carriage when the situation passes. We ask “Do you remember that person’s name?” This kind of binary plagues me. When one thing is on another must be off. So the intellectual commitment to experience is a deferral of actual experience. Standing before PK’s work silently in Austin, having an electric conversation of a passing moment shared with a suite of dead objects, filled me with all of its qualities and left them with none of mine. It was a releasing feeling to float through the world. A building or a piece of a building is that no matter if it is alone. PK’s drawings became windows only when I was with them, and only for me.
Any of the four or five times I have raced over to the Kimbell after pencils-down at 4:30 I have only had time to take the stairs from the basement entrance up into the main vault, truly an ascension, and straight out the door to the bosk of trees. This time they are completely closed. On an earlier trip the three of us reveled at how “perfect” the building was. But what I loved rather silently were the throwaways that made it imperfect: the cracks in the travertine stuffed with gum wrappers, the little service under the south terrace stair through which the areaway is visible. I loved that the trench-drain in the staff parking lot, a pristine square, had to take the module of the double-loaded parking aisle rather than the famous building module. I felt like I had to love these things in secret, a different kind of postponement or deferral than the silent oblivion of raw experience, but a delay nonetheless. In conversations the things I fail to say feel more eternally lost than the brilliant hypnagogic musings I simply forget, because I force myself to kill them.
It came upon me sitting by the gargling sheet of water behind the Kimbell. It coalesced. The layers and dirt like clouds for a moment form the shape of a landform in my memory, less the Proustian inflection of time than the pictorial emergence of some truth. It is another suspended spring dusk. The space beneath the bosk is bright and the sky is blank. A group of girls are playing ultimate Frisbee on the lawn separating the Kimbell from the Amon Carter’s lawn. I finger the pits in travertine. The gargling water flips sunlight like ponytails into a wild cloud for a moment into the shape of a landform in my memory. No longer a discursive house of cards, having been born of flesh in the The Modern, it is the pictorial convergence of a truth. The notion that grows inside of me, or before my eyes, in the silence, or disappearance of the entire world ensorcelled by the gurgle of the water jets was at first an easy one, a laughable acknowledgment that the Kimbell is a great building. Few people would disagree. However, being so often barred from its interior by forces of schedule what I knew to be great about it was everything that it wasn’t, or possibly more explicitly, everywhere that it wasn’t. By this I mean that it was all of the things that clung to it like cowbirds or trail dust, the things that orbited around it at some distance, like me, the grackles romping in the pool, the Frisbee girls, and all of the intangible aspects that I would call the building’s own memories, like writings, anecdotes, stylistic influence and antecedents, and mythology. The space that isn’t building that too must be enabled or activated emerges, at first unorganized, because things happen, from the undesignable proclivities and potentials, but can be seen to slowly coalesce into something like a waste mold that the Kimbell itself could be cast from. Our minds and memories as a civilization, your heartbreaks, your night terrors, the films, the stories, the sketches of the traveler, the postcards written home badged with tentative photographs, and the conscious or unconscious riffs and eschewals of the Modern and the Amon Carter, are all packed there like an ephemeral mold. I saw Perry drawing molds.