Pillow Talk: The Urbane Jack Bush
“Pillow Talk”: an alternate title for “Doris Day, Jack Bush, and Rock Hudson: Achieving the Modern in Toronto the Good”
This type of impromptu writing blossoms for a night or two then dissipates, the point being made, into official work demands, to remain incomplete and unpublished. Its funny that having rejected art history for its conservatism, here I am using its primitive devices of sources of influences! I tried out this thesis on a couple of people when the Jack Bush retrospective was about to happen at the National Gallery of Canada, but those supposedly in the know have rejected it. The text was written in the mid-1990s when in a number of unpublished texts I was considering camp theatricality to be the unconscious enemy to Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried’s modernism: Jack Bush, anyone but Jack Smith!
Doris Day, Jack Bush, and Rock Hudson: Achieving the Modern in Toronto the Good
I never met Jack Bush. In the late seventies, I followed all the exhibitions of the younger Toronto painters he had so thoroughly influenced. Undoubtedly, his success, having been taken into the Greenbergian camp, fired their ambition: as Noland said to him: knock the ball out of the park. These 2nd, 3rd generation painters united under colour and gesture as the elements of painting. I was not of this inclination in painting, whose proponents arrogantly assumed history was on their side, a history conveniently outlined in Greenberg’s lucid prose, preferring myself, if it was to be painting, that derived from minimalism, the sort of work Greenberg called, along with Pop, “novelty art.” Thus, as was repeated elsewhere in art communities across North America, I had taken my position across the great divide between modernist painting and the rest of contemporary art. That position demanded an obligatory anti-Greenbergian attitude.
Yet, at a younger age, under the flush of an enthusiasm for contemporary art that held no such distinctions, I did like certain Bush paintings, especially those from the sixties, named the Sash paintings, of which the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Dazzle Red is a prime example. By the time I was writing about art, about the moment of Bush’s death in 1977, I had no sympathy for the last decade of his work. My attunement to that earlier period of Bush’s painting, still subliminally sustained, was shaken quite suddenly, however, one night a couple years ago when—I am almost embarrassed to say—I watched a Doris Day, Rock Hudson movie, Lover Come Back, on television. Too surprised immediately to turn on the videodeck to record, entranced by the sophistication of the opening credits, I was shocked to see—Bush’s paintings. Not as background; the wide-screen was composed of the structure and hues of the Bush paintings I knew so well: wide stacked horizontal bands abutted to a vertical strip. The colours—the ochre, orange, purple, red, green, and blue of Dazzle Red—saturated the screen. These bands of colour turned into type and changed variously throughout the credits, adjusting the composition and colours to the list of collaborators. Were the graphic artists and animators at Pacific Title aware of Bush’s paintings? Was this a commercial rip-off of an artist’s work? After the movie was over, I was able to verify the date of its making: 1961, predating Bush’s paintings. The opposing question came to mind. Did Jack Bush see this movie? As its nominal subject was Madison Avenue advertising, and as Bush was an urban sophisticate, and moreover a graphic designer himself, perhaps he did. Did he subliminally register, or remember these credits in starting the series of Sash paintings? This is no big deal: Bush maintained no purity to the origins of his paintings. The Sash paintings are reputed to derive from Bush seeing a clothed mannequin.
I mentally filed away this association and did not think about it again until recently I noticed Pillow Talk was to play on television. This earlier 1959 movie had set the pattern for what turned out to be a series of sophisticated sex comedies starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson, and then Day and other leading men. In turn I got out all the titles from the video store, starting with Lover Come Back. … [incomplete]
The Lover Come Back title sequence is available here. The title sequence is more sophisticated than the film that follows.