Like you, we're trying not to see the ingeni- ous American tilt to- ward Asia as a hodge- podge of Dulles' Cold War treaty spheres, much less our own new Greater East Asia Co- prosperity Sphere, in witty response to the ancient giant power. Opening arms bazaars and lining up promis- ing markets for depen- dent regimes: just co- incidences of no pre- cedent to worry about.
Saul Leiter Shopping ca 1953 Greenberg Gallery New York W. Eugene Smith Dance of the Flaming Coke 1955 Collection unknown Mark Rothko Untitled (Black on Grey Series) 1969 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Gift of the Mark Rothko Foundation 1986
There's always more of that stuff where it came from than can sustain the illusion that it is white. White-by-convenience undermines white for identifica- tion's sake. White-for-lack-of-a- better-word throws up its hands in genetic meaninglessness, but still it suggests a border more than an assimilation. Theologists in hues are exegetic in the news of its constraint, ignoring they're exploring a delusionary taint. What we like about Duchamp is his device for getting rid of it; about Rothko, his vision of its permeability.
In the hall of mirrors, nobody speaks. An ember smolders before hollowed cheeks. Someone empties pockets, loose change and keys, into a locker. My god forgives me. Some say love, disclosed, repels what it sees, yet if I touch the darkness, it touches me.
In the steam room, inconsolable tears fall against us, In the whirlpool, my arms, rowing through little green crests, help to steer the body, riding against death. Yet what harm is there in us? I swear to you, my friend, cross-armed in a bright beach towel, turning round to see my face in the lamplight, that eye, ear, and tongue, good things, make something sweet of fear.
Is it probable, can we suppose, that the sun even knows how to set on those happy days in Old New York, when a Mrs Mellon might swoop down on the studio of a Russian émigré painter and snaffle ten or eleven of his canvases, already painted and dry, on the way to Bendel's? Not for so long as anything remains to be possessed, it would appear, at least during the term of one's life. Yet, always, maybe, some residual glory won't be mislaid, if ever subject to the going rate. This canvas was sold in 2007 at Christie's for ten million, six hundred eighty-one thousand dollars, a daunting load for any handbag. Then came 2008, and the buyer owned its image.
The Black and Grey series of canvases from 1969-1970 do occupy the terrain of residual glory where, in fact, there is no natural price. There is nothing more eloquent in the artist's oeuvre, nothing more stunningly provocative and coherent. Exceedingly richly complex in their roiling surfaces, they are, of course, unyielding in their resistance to simplicity. They have come to define for me the likely dynamics and issues of the political contest now being framed for the American electorate, except in one material respect. Click the image.
Without precedent Mark Rothko delineated these canvases with a perimeter border in white, portraying emphasis and confinement. The musings of an American electorate, we have discovered, have a way of migrating more liberally; and they are permeable, we have discovered, to the enterprising interventions of a variety of interested parties from abroad - in addition, that is, to the domestic Supreme Court.
These paintings do not misrepresent the philosophical range and competing interests of the pending campaigns; while, they impart nothing to advise, only to edify. That edification relies on close contemplation, not only of distinctions, but of the effect of a preference for either of them. This must continue, the paintings urge, while time permits. This will, they attest. Yet they articulate conditions the electorate is certain to resist, the more the viewer inflicts his attention, defying the frame.
I saw grief, misunderstanding and more than one old revolt dividing us in the dark. The hand I wouldn't kiss, the crumb that they denied me, refusal to ask pardon. Pride. Terror at night. But he didn't say anything .. The narrow space of life crowds me up against you, and in this ghostly embrace it's as if I were being burned completely, with poignant love. Only now do we know each other. Eye-glasses, memories, portraits flow in the river of blood. Now the waters won't let me make out your distant face, distant by seventy years ...
In commentary on this poem, Helen Vendler graphs a struggle between a hungry past - feelings long con-tinued that became, over time, the motives and shapers of the self - and its present dismayed repu-diation, structured by an oscillation between the past tense and the pluper-fect past, as marking a dour discontinuity between naïveté and knowledge. One reads a political cam-paign of chronic unforced errors, and of consciously antagonizing complacency, as signs of misdirected anxiety to fulfill itself, revealed in contradiction.