Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jack Levine On His Friend Hyman Bloom

 “I just never saw anything like it in my life. He wanted a profound study of the human body. He sort of mastered most of the Michelangelo thing, the muscles, the tendons, the body projections. He was a complete master. He was amazing. I don’t think he could go on with it after so many years. He became adverse because he was very mystical in a way I can’t follow him. He would do things about the decay of human tissue or something like that and was fascinated by it. I realized later that he had come here when he was 10 years old and he’d seen some terrible things in Latvia. Which was not one of the more civilized places at that time.”

Did Bloom ever talk about what he saw? “I think he was probably stunned by it. It was a very traumatic thing. … The Jewish Museum has a bookshop, and I had read a review about the Jews in Lithuania [where Levine’s parents came from]. So I went into a bookshop, and there was a copy of the book, and I looked at it, illustrated with photographs. There was a fine photograph of a schoolyard with Jewish men in business suits chained to the ground, doubled up, and then the fine Lithuanians would go around and shoot them in the head, under the supervision of the German army, Nazis.”

“I was talking about Hyman who came from that. But I did not. I could see he was different than I was. He was horrified by something that I hadn’t been. I wouldn’t pretend I was.”

“We were both in our ways very unorthodox. We didn’t follow anything I could think of. And especially Modernism of any sort. I think Hyman and I, we began our studies at the community house. [Denman] Ross sort of funded us. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but he had little idea of what we were trying to do. He was an Impressionist very many years ago, and he had no concept of any image except what somebody sees. Which is anathema to us. Hyman and I just, these were figurations of something in our head. I mean if you depended on models you’d never do the Sistine Chapel. It’s simply beyond you. You’re not human enough to do it. And Ross really thought in terms of the human eye, I suppose, is like a camera.”

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