Is It Real or Is It Memorex?

14 June 2013

Last week I ended a decades-long absence from the Whitney Museum…I’m not in the inveterate museum-goer category. It was a show of Edward Hopper’s drawings and oils and I was looking at Nighthawks, an oil of nighttime patrons at a 1930s diner/luncheonette. I’m looking and at the same time eavesdropping on chatter between two guards…one, a lady who was there on my last visit to the Whitney, early in Reagan’s presidency, and the other, a newbie, leaning against a doorjamb between two museum rooms.

She was telling him about a museum patron who was so aggravated by a non-communicative guard that she went down to the administrative office to complain that he wouldn’t answer her question. Not only that, but he wouldn’t even deign to look at her, like he didn’t even have a pulse. The veteran lady guard, bending knees slightly to ward off cramps, started laughing hysterically recounting that, indeed, the offending guard had no pulse…he was a sculpture by Duane Hanson, who created characters, so life-like, you’d swear they’d bleed from a paper cut.

Well, all those many years ago, when I was a Whitney patron…on a Sunday…the busiest day of the week, I walked into a gallery room in the middle of which was a cleaning lady…mops, pails, cleaning gear…pushing a large refuse bin. And I said to myself, busiest day of the week, why disrupt us culture seekers with someone on a cleaning detail. I found it odd she didn’t seem to move, although my mind tried to see movement. Finally, I realized this lady, too, had no pulse…there was a gum wrapper that a real cleaning person wouldn’t have missed…and she wasn’t bending for it. I told the guard my remembrance. She also remembered, having been a guard at that installation as well.

If you search Duane Hanson on the Internet, you’ll see what I mean.