"Prose pieces on the "similarities & distinctions between art in paint by Clyfford Still, & art in language by Charles Olson. The vertical in both is a matter of digging & penetration, not only into the matter of the work, but that of the self."
Robert Gibbons’s work transcends genres. Living body writing, what difference, if Truth comes out? And gives readers pleasure. Both Guy Davenport and Marjorie Perloff compared his work to Rimbaud’s. Sam Hamill wrote, “Anyone familiar with Thelonius Monk’s music cannot help but feel the quirky syncopations of Gibbons’ mind fitting perfectly with those of the pianist.” At 65-years-old, he’s still walking around the waterfront taking in the world, or at the desk in the backroom writing, often peering underneath for the Feminine*.
*Voice of Silence, image of the Hidden, embodiment of Beauty, signature of Peace, source of Love, etc.
As early as 1949 Clyfford Still urged his students in San Francisco to remain “underground”37 for as long as possible. His distrust of gallery owners & museum directors is well known, examples of conflict too numerous to mention, & of course, part of his history & legacy leading to construction of his own museum in Denver. But what fascinates one here is evidence of such early antagonism against the establishment. One of his students, at the California School of Fine Arts, Ernest Briggs, claims Still, “often used the analogy of guerilla warfare” as the only tactic for the artist. Still said, “subversion offers possibilities….”38 Olson wrote, “The Pharisees have gotten into all trades, including… the arts, eh?”39 Within the context of this statement to one of his own students at Black Mountain, Norman Solomon, the poet judges two aspects of these Pharisees: those who do things badly & the dead. Both, he said, ubiquitous. He says that the few exempt from this crowd are those who can practice one thing only, so that it is “exacting.” One who knows “how never even to make an empty brush stroke.”40