‘Discarded and Destroyed Books’ Series by Donald Scharfe

my goodness

each viewing there is something else

I guess you’ve gone and done it

I suppose the robes are also a constraint, and the series will be everywhere if you let it

on some levels of memorial Motherwell doesn’t really work, and I’ve only seen models of the Eisenman

my goodness gracious

Images that even to these detached and distant eyes memorialize a history
I would rather not dwell upon

that I guess will become iconic for communities far beyond the one most
committed to your rendering of the past

the books were as disturbing in the 1997 Tibor de Nagy show here as I’m sure they are in Ellicott City, and I don’t understand how the canvases work, but they work

they’ve stayed with me since that New York show.

You seem to have found a visual formula for a whole set of responses

and if I am nostalgic for that portrait of your sister-in-law, if it was
your sister-in-law, your daughter in a drawing, model asleep in a loft, it seems petty
to try and fight the silence the book series evokes.

secular chapel, painting after painting, Washington, Berlin.

books as remembrance, as idolatry, completely without aura, hallowed, shifting
into a dustbin of obsolescence

but mainly evoking in spite of themselves a priestly and at once almost secular
otherness, whatever that means.

I still do not understand. Eye lingering on subjects the mind really doesn’t
want to entertain.

elegy and surface, structure as memorial. I don’t want to continue looking but
the play of line, surface, plane keeps me enjoying a process on one level that
I resist on another.
Which in itself is an accomplishment

it is years ago and if someone had told me the painter drinking coffee
In Chock Full would create or find the memorial images others have been
seeking for fifty years he would not have been believed.

I wonder if I exaggerate

academic pieta, canons, orthodoxies based on the book, and classicisms
Based on the idolatry of the book

grandiosity dismissed, boastings of a next time squash player.

we wish to inform you that tomorrow Maillol will be reading the classics
with Dina Vierny, and she will be missed.

a rhythm of response, interest in the picture as interest in the surfaces
of cubism, yet fusing with a history we would rather evade by staying on
the surface, that only leads us back to history and to surface.

it is early morning and there are piled cartons of old books in front
of the used bookshop across from Zabar’s, a copy of Wired, oversized,
beside their sleeping Maillol forms.

Oppenheimer before beauty in the desert

and how is he in these books on a postcard

or it has nothing to do with history or remembrance but simply change.

on-line texts and auralessness, easels liquefied to screen, blur and circuitry

and flow, open-endedness, dam and flood, Sven Birkerts on reading

technology as a simple completion of the traditional text

and we will believe anything.

Ma Jolie is not the same when played upon the gray guitar

elegiac homage to the play of mind, its loss, Rothko chapel, burned,
an almost endless series of variations as they file by

after the Brillo boxes a process that has its own momentum, as yours
may on a very different level

I think it’s on page 47 that Spurling reproduces Matisse’s first painting,
a “pile of scuffed leather-bound books arranged along a small opaque glass lampshade”.

He is in a diner in Ellicott City. In the next booth they are talking
about the Rubenstein show.

Only one postcard has been sent, and if the addressee ever appears they
can close the show the next day.

Uneasy, he walks up the street to the Sheppard, looks at the first

Not all the titles of the books can be read, but he is able to piece
Some of them together, Wheelwright, The Presocratics, something about the

An assistant smiles as she begins lifting paintings from the wall.

A guard blinks the overhead lights, starts to close the windows

which, of course, is a complete misinterpretation, yet not entirely: pleasure
is perverse.

transgression is a designer word these days

The book is different from the guitar.

I’m back with the image of a museum in Berlin, on the walls only the series
of discarded and destroyed books.

a public’s level of appreciation, various, contradictory.

some of the praise from some of the publics you will not want,

satisfaction taken for entirely the wrong reasons

acclaim is contentious.

you become, are, a public figure as the images become known, take on
yourself a ceremonial role, and there are costs

elevated one day, turned on for your transgressive undermining of the
tradition you support

ostracized because the structures you imagine are both homage to the
worlds lost and a denigration of those worlds, protest as you rightly

you contribute to the sense of loss as well as mourn it, culprit as much
as victim.

he is trashing books visually in order to enshrine them philosophically.

the evocative truth of the canvases asking us to look away

studies in still life and violence.

one doesn’t come to terms with these pictures which probably means they,
we, I, we all are going to want more of them and more of them which is its own problem

and so you will stay far away from the reactions to your work, since the only
response on your part before public discussion is silence

how simple is a green Matisse

and I haven’t written any of this, and a good thing too

now tear these all up

thank you

Donald Scharfe (1940–2020)