Friday, January 2, 2015

Thornhill, blown away

  Our hero, summarily recalled from
  surfing season in Montevideo to es-
  cort Betty Commilfaux to her annual
  Rose Bowl lunch, had confined him-
  self indoors to suppress highlights
  tending to upstage her coiffure, on-
  ly to marvel that a gridiron contest
  pitting squads of fattened frogs a-
  gainst flailing trolls in gold hats
  (a sort of New World Bayreuth fes-
  tival with billions in academic cor-
  ruption and residuals on the line),
  could divert anyone from her intri-
  guingly matured St Émilions. Were
  any of this interlude to waft its 
  way back to Punta del Este, he knew,
  he'd have some explaining to do.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Anything you canoe

 First, you say.
 How? Precedent
 or preference?

 From experience
 but also expec-
 tation, who can
 forget the boat
 that defines a
 body of water?

 Anything one ca-
 noe it canoe too.
 It might have be-
 gun many things.

What I am writing to say is, the timing, not
The contents, is what matters. All this could have happened
Long ago, or at least some other day,
And not meant much except insofar as the eye
Extracts a progress from almost anything. But then
It wouldn't have become a toy.
And all the myths,
Legends and misinterpretations, would have scattered
At a single pistol shot. And it would no longer know what
  I know.

John Ashbery
  Fantasia on 'The
  Nut-Brown Maid'
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999©

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

With whom is ours a Common Era?

Nightingales, Swallows, your admirers, who
Discovered each their signal songs in you,
Voiced rival dirges from opposing glades,
And one flock chafed the other: Milksop maids,
You call that grieving? Well, we're grieving, too.

Sicilian Muses, croon your sad old song.

Master thrice missed, what arrogant upstart
Would lip your pipes in mockery of your art?
Your mouth still sounds them, they still breathe your air,
And your own echoes still are straying there.
Bequeath your song to Pan? No, even Pan
Would back off, yielding mastery to a man.

Sicilian Muses ..

She lately planted on the dying Adonis.

                  Then in the incarnadine darkness
                  a great slow pulse began to beat.

  Early one summer morning when he was a boy he had watched from the kitchen a snail crawling up the window outside. The moment came back to him now, wonderfully clear, the washed sunlight in the garden, the dew, the rosebuds on the tumbledown privy, that snail. What had possessed it to climb so high, what impossible blue vision of flight reflected in the glass? The boy had trod on snails, savouring the crack and then the soft crunch, had collected them, had raced them and traded them, but never before now had he really looked at one. Pressed in a lavish embrace upon the pane, the creature gave up its frilled grey-green underparts to his gaze, while the head strained away from the glass, moving blindly from side to side, the horns weaving as if feeling out enormous forms in air. But what had held [him] was its method of crawling. He would have expected some sort of awful convulsions, but instead there was a series of uniform small smooth waves flowing endlessly upward along its length, like a visible heartbeat. The economy, the heedless beauty .. baffled him.

Moschus of Syracuse
ca 150 BC
Aaron Poochigian
The Greek Poets
  Homer to the Present
Peter Constantine
  Rachel Hadas
  Edmund Keeley
  Karen Van Dyck
W.W. Norton & Co.
op. cit.

John Banville
  A Novel
  III  Dioptrice
Secker & Warburg, 1981©

iii  John Coltrane
iv   Karlis Adlers
v    Glenn Gould
vi   Native passage
      Edward S. Curtis
      cf., Timothy Egan
             Short Nights of the
                Shadow Catcher
             Houghton Mifflin, 2012©

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


An idiomatic phrase, denot-
ing desire-window, connot-
ing to us, window-shopping, 
became lately a category of 
posting at a web page I know, 
which is concerned with tex-
tiles and other tissues of 
taste among people of deco-
rating interests in France.

My observation is that all
are born with decorating in-
terests, but that France pre-
serves a wider demilitarised
zone for us than most Western
cultures. It is a wonder, if
one thinks about it, that we
never hear of a depletion in
taste in the culture most of-
ten cited as disseminating it, 
and with such little regard
for who exercises it. Can it
be, that the human right is
not rebellious when embraced?

Not that this cultural and
psychological reality lacks
for historical derivation,
in feudalism, Catholicism,
and openly ironic absolut-
ism. The Protestant, plu-
tocratic, and capitalistic 
societies haven't synthe-
sized it, and would not
if they could. No one is
to blame for this acciden-
tal cultural injury, but
its legacy proliferates -
to make taste, dangerous.

Is this ever sustainable?
Who will mind if it isn't?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Recondita armonia

To an artist who 
suggested being
linked in.

     Scarpia. What are you
     going to do about it?

A backstage sign can't stop it.
The challenge in social media,
for lack of a better defining
phrase, is less in the quality
of their painting than in their
audience's seeing. I realize
that these things overlap, but
poor work has always existed -
with the best, often ill-served.
What's new is its distribution,
and rapidity of assimilation.
Is this temperature, reductive?

So much imbalance and unrefine-
ment are in self-reinforcing ex-
change, so that the likelihood
of their acceptance only rises,
while the excellent is suspect.
Nations panic, societies unrav-
el, friendships fray in such a
climate. Gresham's Law shows it-
self a scourge to every quality, 
irreconcilables flourish madly.
Any day, there may be Cézanne.

Because, we see, standards fail
by testing, not by neglect. If
an unharmonious way is tried,
it will nevertheless be tested.
Does art, as Cavaradossi sang,
blend contrasting beauties, to-

Is this a risk we're ever spared?
Something is always not supposed
to be shown.

Giacomo Puccini
Giuseppe Giacosa

Paul Cézanne
Houses in Provence
ca 1880
Collection Paul Mellon
National Gallery of Art

Richard Shiff
Cézanne and the
  End of Impressionism
op. cit.

Frederik Ruegger
i, ii

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ah, our horrid half-times

                  just the
                  time for

There can be no question
but that a lot of people
believed that painting
was in trouble ..

Jed Perl
New Art City
  From Ready-Mades
  to Cut-Outs
op. cit.

See also, especially,
Jed Perl
Magicians & Charlatans
  Essays on Art and Culture
  The Opportunist
op. cit.

Alexander Vandepuite
Niki de St Phalle
Jasper Johns