Black Paragraph #1, 1962
| Image Notes
Our records indicate Dominique de Menil purchased the painting in 1964 from Allan Stone Galleries, Inc. of New York. The invoice for that purchase notes the title as Black Paragraph #1, and that is the title listed under (Menil Collection) accession number X457 in our museum files. I noticed, however, that you have a different title . Additionally a photograph of the back of the piece shows the handwritten words "George Deem, 1962" and below that "paragraph (on dark ground)." A label on the top of the stretcher bar from Allan Stone Galleries indicates "Paragraph 1" as the title of the piece. We would greatly appreciate any information you could share with us that would ensure we have the proper title. We are eager to know the intended title for this piece, as well as any other information about this work or related works you can provide. Of particular interest to us is that these works appear quite different from Mr. Deem's other paintings, which investigate spatial representations. Can you provide us with information about his text-based works during this period? (Franklin Sirmans, letter to Ronald Vance, December 18, 2007).
George Deem replied with a letter to Franklin Sirmans on January 2, 2008 (see Artist's Notes). The title of the painting is as the Menil Collection has it: Black Paragraph #1.
| Artist's Notes
Paintings: Paragraph (on dark ground) 1962 38 x 48" sold, Allan Stone (source: the artist's undated handwritten list of his paintings. Side in inches width by height).
About Black Paragraph #1, 1962.
I first painted the canvas with white impasto horizontal bands, After this dried, I thoroughly painted over the surface with black. Then, while it was still wet, I scratched through the black paint with the side of a palette knife, inscribing the calligraphic marks. This second application all had to be done on the same day before the black paint dried. The impasto bands guided me in making the horizontal calligraphic lines. That gave me my image of handwriting on lined paper. The "writing" is not meant to be readable. The painting is an image of handwriting, an image of a paragraph. I could not have done this painting, and my other calligraphic paintings, had I not done my 1959 painting A Letter to Mark Tobey. My calligraphic paintings have an ancestry in the paintings of Mark Tobey. I didn't sign this and my other calligraphic paintings on the face because I didn't want an intrusive readable word. I inscribed signature, date, and title on the back of the canvas. (George Deem, letter to Franklin Sirmans, The Menil Collection, Houston, January 2, 2008
Allan Stone Gallery, New York
The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas