Friday, December 14, 2007

Crane and Johns

In 1932 on his return from Mexico, off the coast of Cuba, Hart Crane was "lost at sea". At least that is what is inscribed on the tombstone of his father, Clarence A. Crane. Last night I attended a lecture by Langdon Hammer, Yale University Professor, on the nexus between Hart Crane and Jasper Johns. He opened the lecture with the portrait of Crane by Walker Evans (seen at the left) in the background as he surveyed Crane's brief life. He then moved to a detailed analysis of the influence of Crane on Johns' work as shown in the explicit and implicit references to Crane in some of his "Gray" period works now on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. He noted the apparent differences between the two artists in that Crane is considered an emotional artist while Jasper Johns is usually thought of as more cerebral. In spite of that, or perhaps because, there is a connection that can be seen, by studying Johns' paintings and words as Professor Hammer has, as editor of the Library of America collection of Crane's Poetry and Letters as well as other publications.

The best part of the lecture for me was meditating on some of Crane's moving poetry, such as this excerpt, selected by Prof. Hammer:

yes, Walt,

Afoot again, and onward without halt,--

Not soon, nor suddenly,--no, never to let go

My hand

in yours,

Walt Whitman--


--Hart Crane, "Cape Hatteras" (from The Bridge, 1930)

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