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KIOSK : First-hand account
Kiosk 2004
  The Marchutz School and, "how it happened"

Schools do not just happen. Sam Bjorklund and I, at that time two young painters who had returned to Aix unaware of what was in store for us, became partners in the conception, midwifing, and wetnursing the earliest years of the Marshutz School. We have a personal history to tell; like all "personal histories", ours retraces steps, practical, physical, aesthetic, and spiritual that did not end with the establishment of the school. It evokes profound influences and a still ongoing exchange that began thirty years ago. To us at least, it appears worth the telling, if only to complement the factually incontravertible version of a story told elsewhere. A compound of aesthetics, personal experience, and art history, it raises the curtain on a stage which time, place, and circumstance had prepared for us to play out our unaccustomed and unrehearsed roles.


Memories… the Aix we knew was not the Aix we know today. We even doubt that today's Aix would, or could, give birth to the school… a city frugal and lovely, gloriously unspoiled by the post-war opulence we had left behind in America… a town closed down at 10 pm.… showers in the public bathouse… cold water comfort in quarters as cold in winter as the water itself… refuge taken on the terrace of "le Grillon", a favorite vantage point from which we viewed, compared, and admired the passing pageant of the "Cours Mirabeau"… women, refined elegance in motion, wearing with natural good taste the same well-cut clothes that they had worn yesterday… and the day before - in those times "la mode" was built to last -… "les pissoires", known less crudely, perhaps in deference to Aix's status as a former Roman colony, as "Vespasiennes", stood guard at strategic street corners, fragrant reminders that this was not America, and that despite their shameless gender bias, France was still "la France… de Gaulle… the Algerian war, an occasional bomb and less occasional student riot… streets patrolled by para-military C.R.S. obtrusive sub-machine guns at the ready… actors all, performing before our astonished, insatiable eyes.

This was a world custom-made for American students. For us, graduates and aspiring artists, it was a world of art and artists, their living presence felt, seen,discussed with a passion born in a dimension quite alien to the enveloping tourist and super marts of progress… prosperity… and their new form of impoverishment ?

Memory has two faces: one historic and factual, the other, personal and affective. Artists, nourished by feeling and intuition, respond to the latter. Thirty years ago for us this was a world peopled by living painters, legends in their lifetime… Picasso frequenting "les Deux Garçons"… Chagal at the "Fondation Maeght" in Saint Paul de Vence, commenting a retrospective of his work - his simple humility reminding me of Leo -… Masson, ailing but back on the "route du Tholonet", painting… Fernand Pouillon, the celebrated architect who designed Masson's and Leo's studios, author of "Les Pierres Sauvages", was about to leave (escape from ?) prison… Leo Marchutz himself, whose correspondence with the world's leading "Cézanniens", John Rewald, Adrien Chappuis, Fritz Novotny, Kurt Badt, and Lionello Venturi, will one day rank among the richest recorded exchanges of the twentieth century devoted to a major artist… Cézanne.

The art world that we knew was restricted neither to Aix nor to Provence. In Atlanta in 1962, my two Marchutz lithos were hung amidst the less discreet works of Franz Kline, Richard Diebenkorn, Andy Warhol, and Milton Avery. Leo was the "still small voice". In Salzburg at his "School of Vision" Oskar Kokoschka, the feisty warrior, was bucking the trent of abstract art, his eagle eyes transfixed by the visible world, exhorting his students, among them Sam, to open theirs to visible world, the miracle of nature.

Such was the background to our continuous dialogue with Leo. He was at the center of our world of art at a moment in history when it was still possible to debate what was happening, to choose on which side of a fence we stood, a fence that was beginning to resemble a wall… made of something else.


by Billy Weyman
resident artist in the south of France



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