What’s In A Title?
Lately I’ve been contemplating the relationship between works of art and their titles. As we know, a title can contribute layers of meaning, narrative, nuance, confusion, contradiction, or even humor to a piece.
Recently I saw an exhibition of work by Color Field exponent Jules Olitski, at the Toledo Museum of Art which included a piece entitled “Loosha.” He’s done a whole series of “Looshas” — a few of them here:
What does this odd word “Loosha” evoke for you? How does it color your perception of the work? If I told you “Loosha” was a boy’s name of Polish origin, meaning “Bringer of Light,” but also the name of Olitski’s dog at the time, a female Lhasa Apso, would that change your relationship to these paintings?
The “Looshas” seem to live somewhere in the middle between overtly explanatory titles (say, Michaelangelo’s “The Last Judgment”) and all but abandoned titles (say, most works by Mark Rothko from the 1940s on). A descriptive title can be a way into the work, if not a key to understanding it. Less descriptive titles usually aim to let viewers to fully experience the work by itself, sans explanation or imposed associations. Rothko simply used colors or numbers to distinguish his works from each other, e.g. “No. 8” below.
Of course, even practical titles like that can infuse a glint of poetry.
Just for fun, I recently posted one of my new projects on Facebook and asked folks to suggest titles based on their own associations and whims. It’s been illuminating to read through the many possibilities that have come in. I haven’t made a decision yet, so feel free to keep posting your ideas. If I use your title, I’ll send you an extra tile from the project!