I’m a list maker. My life revolves around making lists and notes, whether they’re for simple errands to run or more intricate notes for platinum printing. I’m also fascinated by famous artist’s notebooks too and a few years back I bought the book Lists, To-Dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art which accompanied an exhibition of the same extraordinarily long name.
One of the items included in the book is a hand written list by Pablo Picasso recommending artists for the 1913 Armory Show and in which he phonetically spells ‘Duchamp’. Leo Castelli, Joseph Cornell, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Alexander Calder and more are all here.
At times introspective, humorous, and resolute, but always revealing and engaging, Lists is a unique firsthand account of American cultural history that augments the personal biographies of some of the most celebrated and revered artists of the last two centuries.
Many of the lists are historically important, throwing a flood of light on a moment, movement, or event; others are private, providing an intimate view of an artist’s personal life: Pablo Picasso itemized his recommendations for the Armory Show in 1912; architect Eero Saarinen enumerated the good qualities of the then New York Times art editor and critic Aline Bernstein, his second wife; sculptor Alexander Calder’s address book reveals the who’s who of the Parisian avant-garde in the early twentieth century. In the hands of their creators, these artifacts become works of art in and of themselves.