Artworks change over time; their materials carry the stain of what conservators describe as inherent vice. We see paintings that need to rest, heal, and bear marks that suggest metaphors of viscera, bile, and wounds through their surfaces, condition, and textures. In the Clyfford Still Archives, archivists have worked to organize Still’s manuscripts, diaries, photographs, and ephemera, which also collectively mark the passage of time and its effects. Here, we find the impulse on Still’s part to document, witness, and rebuke a fallen world, a world ruined by war, market forces, and the thin values of modernity. And yet, the existence of the Clyfford Still Museum belies the extent to which the works and papers, the things Still held back in reserve, did manifest a future. Put differently, a ruin is still a future, and a wounded body is still one capable of future healing.
In the Museum’s largest six galleries, Katherine Simóne Reynolds illuminates competing desires held in constant tension at the Clyfford Still Museum. The collection reflects Still’s ambitious attempt to keep his collection intact, a commitment that allows us to see his works alongside paintings made in painful transitions, and others that bear the scars of time. Held Impermanence asks visitors to consider healing and rest over time; how we respond to this collection with our bodies; and to contend with his and our mortality—and, with it, a shared desire to hold impermanence.