Bedside Manner

By Danto, Arthur Coleman | Artforum International, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Bedside Manner


Danto, Arthur Coleman, Artforum International


Every theory of painting is a metaphysics.

- Merleau-Ponty

The artist and dealer Nicholas Wilder once mentioned to David Reed that paintings by John McLaughlin were often moved by their owners into their bedrooms, as if the works somehow seduced them into more intimate relations. For Reed, his mentor's anecdote was a revelation: A "bedroom painter" was what he had always aspired to be. At the very least this reveals that, though an abstractionist, he was not a formalist, since, however formally impressive his paintings, they are meant to beckon viewers to an almost erotic colloquy, as with Mary and the Angel of the Annunciation.

Not long after Wilder made his comment, Reed staged "Two Bedrooms in San Francisco," an exhibition for which he modified clips from Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 Vertigo by inserting images of his own paintings into the bedrooms of the film's two main characters, Judy and Scottie. In addition, he made life-size replicas of the two beds as they appear in the film. Finally, on the wall above the beds, he hung the very paintings that had been inserted in the film clip, which ran continuously on a television monitor next to the beds. The work as a whole directs the viewer to establish with the (real) painting the relationship implied between Judy and Scottie - and the relationship the two have with the paintings visible in the doctored film. The message is this: Instead of simply viewing the painting under gallery conventions, imagine it as something with which to live intimately.

This work, like others that followed in this expanded vein, demonstrates that, while Reed is a bedroom painter, he is not for that reason a bedroom artist. Judy's Bedroom does not itself seem ideally suited for most homes, let alone someone's bedroom. Rather, it communicates a truth about our ideal relationship with painting, without proposing that we can or should establish that kind of relationship with the apparatus of the installation. Indeed, in these commentaries on the artist's primary practice, there may be a tacit assertion of the superiority of painting over other forms of expression that have tended to marginalize it. At Reed's recent exhibition in La Jolla, California, a girl climbed into Judy's bed, undressed under the coverlet, and was joined by a boyfriend. The two of them then made love. If they in effect transformed the gallery into a bedroom, perhaps in doing so they subverted the kind of relationship to the painting effected by the installation.

When Scottie's Bedroom, 1994, was installed at the Max Protetch Gallery in New York, I noticed that several paintings surrounding it were in what I thought of as lingerie colors - pinks and whites and pastel blues. Could this be what Reed meant by "bedroom paintings"? It wouldn't seem so. Reed claims that all his paintings belong to the genre. Here is a possible explanation: Viewers become fascinated with what we might call the "skin" of these paintings. To see them is to be drawn to touch them. A visiting art historian - of all people! - once reached over to touch a painting, consequently spoiling the work, as it happened still to be wet. She could not help herself. Touch is what we turn to, after all, when we cannot believe our eyes, which suggests that with Reed's paintings we, like Doubting Thomas, are uncertain whether what we see is real.

In Reed's images, the forms are raised only slightly above the surface - so little, in fact, that the paintings appear to be photographs. No one touches the surface of a photograph to feel through fingertips the textures of the objects shown. But given the smoothness and apparent substancelessness of Reed's forms - the qualities that lead us to imagine that he achieves his effects through some arcane photographic process - we want confirmation. His forms are thus illusionistic in two ways. They are illusionistic in the traditional sense, shaded and highlighted in such a way that some details seem further away from us than others. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Bedside Manner
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.