Blank space – Yale Daily News
Sometimes you don’t have to try to be art
Sunlight filters through the windows of Hendrie Hall and casts asymmetrical squares onto a white painting on the opposite wall. I can see the moving shadows of people outside the parking lot as they walk towards the entrance to the building. These are small dark spots that grow, then shrink, then disappear.
Next to the all-white paint, someone stuck a label that says “effay: albino cow in a blizzard”. Below the title, the map gives viewers more information: oil on canvas, 2017.
Four years and most – hopefully – of a pandemic later, the all-white paint is hanging on. And without the label, no one would know it’s there.
“Are people noticing it? ”
“Not really, but I think that’s the point.”
âI’m just surprised it’s so clean. I wonder if every year they take a scroll or something and paint it again. Don’t they do that with the walls too?
Paintings like âEffay: Albino Cow in a Blizzardâ are not unique. Several artists have created similar paintings: “White on White” by Kazmier Malevich, “White Stone” by Agnes Martin, “Untitled (White Square Lavender)” by Joe Baer and “Study for Homage to the Square” by Joseph Albers. But unlike Hendrie Hall’s albino cow, the titles of these other paintings do not overlap any images on the canvas. Rather, they allow us to project our own emotions onto it. Through our imaginations, we as viewers are doing something that is not there in our own work of art.
But by having a title that evokes a concrete image, Hendrie Hall’s âeffay: albino cow in a blizzardâ takes away that freedom of the imagination, challenging our preconceptions of an all-white abstract canvas.
The title tries to force us to see a cow. If you watch long enough, that is. “There is a cow, but there is no cow.”
“I like it to be here, but I’d be bored if I saw it in a museum.” I think it’s just funny enough.
Which was immediately followed by “that’s bullshit, and you can quote me”, “I think it’s great” and “if it was in a museum I might appreciate it more”.
âIt took me a year to realize it was even there. Usually when I walk here I’m just focused on where I’m going and not looking around.
Maybe it’s a painting for reflection – after all, white reflects all colors.
âI think it’s art, and I’m sure the artist had a purpose behind having a blank or blank canvas. I look at him and I ask myself: “why? “
I didn’t think people would be so willing to stop and tell me about this work of art – music students are busy. The above quotes are from the morning of January 30, 2020, when I sat on the wooden window sill on the ground floor of Hendrie Hall facing what appeared to be a blank white canvas. I asked each passerby to take a look at the board. “How does that make you feel?” “
I decided to do this after my friend asked me in December 2019 to meet them at Hendrie Hall “in front of the board”, I replied “what board? She showed me. I didn’t know how to react.
Earlier that year, I listened to an episode of the â99% Invisibleâ podcast called âThe Many Deaths of a Paintingâ. It tells the story of “one of the worst crimes in the history of contemporary art”, where a man used a utility knife to cut the large canvas of the work of abstract expressionist artist Barnett Newman ” Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue â. He did it because the painting and its simplicity elicited such a strong reaction. Then, a restorer, Daniel Goldreyer, was hired to restore the painting. After four and a half years, the painting was returned to its place at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, where a forensic test revealed that the restorer had used the equivalent of household paint and a roller to “permanently destroy and irrevocably the work of art â. I looked at the small scratches and nicks in the otherwise perfect wall. The albino cow looked at me unexpectedly. I hope no one slashes the cow – if it even exists.
Towards the end of my stay in the building that morning, I asked the Hendrie Hall security guard about the painting. She replied in the same way as me: “what painting? I pointed it out to him on the surveillance camera screen, and we walked together. We shared laughter and puzzled expressions.
âI don’t see any painting. It looks like a wall, âshe said.
âIs this art? ”
“It might be.”
Maybe painting isn’t meant to be art. Or, maybe, it’s a practical administrative joke. But I wouldn’t tell you if it was; it would spoil him. If “effay: albino cow in a blizzard” elicits such emotional and thoughtful reactions from those who miss it every day, it is art – whether or not it tries to be.