The Washington Post on
the artist Horace Pippin.
In Martin Heidegger’s contemporaneous 1935-37 essay “The Origin of the Work of Art,” the existentialist philosopher argued that the artwork “opens up a world and keeps it abidingly in force.”
That idea haunts a series of exceptionally good paintings Pippin made in 1940-41, of the Birmingham Meeting House in West Chester, a stone building with white shutters, seen in Pippin’s paintings under a thick canopy of trees. Technically, Pippin is in his comfort zone — he loved strongly geometric architectural forms and the play of trees against a sky — but it is the light, the sense of enclosure, the equation of a religious space with a momentary revelation of sky through the thickness of trees, that makes these works deeply moving. In the small variations between the three Meeting House works on display in the exhibition, Pippin is grasping at something, productively and intuitively. The world, in these images, does indeed seem “abidingly in force.”