Art Writing

Art, an Earthly Thing

Art is an eminently earthly thing. —Pierre Revardy (1927)
Beautiful things are those which please when seen—and, of course, I mean mentally seen, and therefore pleasing to the mind . . . . Anything is beautiful if it be made in such a way as to give pleasure to the mind which perceives it, and the question as to what should or should not give pleasure to the mind is no more and no less difficult than the question as to what should or should not give annoyance.
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It Ain't Bosh

“Charles,” said Cordelia, “Modern Art is all bosh, isn’t it.” “Great bosh.” “Oh, I’m so glad. I had an argument with one of our nuns and she said we shouldn’t try to criticize what we didn’t understand. Now I shall tell her I have had it straight from a real artist, and snubs to her.” —Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
Just because Waugh wrote it does not make it true. All the same, it is hard to blame him, writing as he was in the wake of Dada’s aggressive anti-art impulse. Continue Reading
A Blog of One's Own

It is an odd thing, this culture of blogging. I am still not fully at home with it. The very word blog makes me wince. It is an ungainly term, ugly to look at on the page and even uglier to hear spoken. Gelatinous. The word comes dangerously close to blob . If I had to pick a visual correlative for the term, it could only be this: Somewhere in the pudding of phonetic associations, is blah and blab . Worse, frog —as Emily Dickinson used the word:
How public, like a frog To tell your name the livelong day To an admiring bog!
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Bosch and the Grotesque, cont'd

Stay awhile with Hieronymus Bosch (1450 – 1516). In aesthetic terms, he represents an authentic art of the horrific, true evocations of the infernal. Yet his painting is a universe away from today’s so-called shock art , in intention no less than execution. Two centuries after Dante’s death, it provided vivid, comprehensible, visual analogies to the poet’s imaginative verbal descriptions of the consequences of sin. The seductiveness of sin, the force of it, and its consequences, occupies the center of Bosch’s entire body of work. Continue Reading
James Franco, Bird S**t, and the Grotesque

The grotesque is one of the most obvious forms art may take to pierce the veil of familiarity, to stab us up from the dross of the accustomed, to make us aware of the perilous paradoxically of life. Robert Penn Warren
So then, how do we approach a performance piece by celebrity artist James Franco called Bird Shit? What kind of malediction is left for a crude, fluffy-minded effort flying under cover of a protected academic category: The Grotesque? Bird Shit lands at the Museum of Modern Art’s satellite PS1 today, April 7th. Continue Reading