PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE IN PAVEL TCHELITCHEW
Farris Wahbeh, Benjamin and Irma Weiss Director of Research Resources, reflects on a favorite work in the Whitney’s collection.
When I look at Pavel Tchelitchew’s Anatomical Painting, I think of our bodies: our physical ones; our virtual ones, now accustomed to being displayed in boxed grids remotely; as well as the bodies of our four-pawed friends.
As news reports flash the numbers and counts of those we’re losing, Anatomical Painting reminds me of our enmeshed global world. In its meticulous rendering of the neuron-like rays emanating from the figure’s body, the painting is a cipher of our connected earth and how it depends on us to persevere while at the same time being resilient in the face of this pandemic.
Lincoln Kirstein, cofounder of the New York City Ballet and a close friend of the artist, donated this painting to the museum. Dance was a passion they both shared, and in the painting the body emanates strength as well as fragility: like the performed body in a ballet and the queer culture Kirstein and Tchelitchew embodied.