Sunday, January 22, 2023

“more a popular idea of abstract art than the real thing”

rewritten a bit, for fun.

With friends like these...

Jed Perl

Over the years I’ve had conversations with friends, often artists, who tell me they much prefer Bonnard to Matisse and Braque to Picasso. For them it’s Bonnard, not Matisse, who understands the poetry of the everyday. And it’s Braque, not Picasso, who gives Cubism a lyric power. 


When I started reading The Sight of Death, I, too, thought this was the chance of a lifetime. Poussin had always left me cold, and though Richard Wollheim was one of my closest friends, part of my life, really, he was never able to awaken much enthusiasm in me for his favorite painter. But there is nothing more enriching, I have found, than to stand with someone I admire—an artist like David Reed or Knox Martin, say—and listen to them talk about the work before us.

Those two paragraphs were almost enough to make me stop reading. Danto. aka "Miss Piggy" didn't look. It took too much effort, or sense data scared him. He read or listened to other people's stories and found things to match his assumptions. And name-checking Knox Martin is a notch below name-checking Paul Jenkins, though both bring out a certain sense of of nostalgia: a mural by the West Side Highway and Allan Bates in An Unmarried Woman. 

I haven't read The Sight of Death, but Clark comes off well here, on Poussin, and the book. When he's not defending a "project", only looking the only way we can, from a point-of-view—honestly from his own experience—he's very good. You can write about an artwork to write about yourself. Every portrait is a portrait of its painter: A Titian is a Titian, not a Charles V.  If scholars are obliged to tip the scales away from themselves, as they get older they begin to tip back. 

What is pure art according to the modern idea? It is the creation of an evocative magic, containing at once the object and the subject, the world external to the artist and the artist himself.

Clark was always a conservative. Radicals are iconoclasts; art historians are at most the loyal opposition. Perl is a conservative committed to art at the expense of any commitment to the world, the commitment that makes art itself possible. 

Perl, Authority and Freedom, the blurb

Perl embraces the work of creative spirits as varied as Mozart, Michelangelo, Jane Austen, Henry James, Picasso, and Aretha Franklin. He contends that the essence of the arts is their ability to free us from fixed definitions and categories. Art is inherently uncategorizable—that’s the key to its importance. Taking his stand with artists and thinkers ranging from W. H. Auden to Hannah Arendt, Perl defends works of art as adventuresome dialogues, simultaneously dispassionate and impassioned. He describes the fundamental sense of vocation—the engagement with the tools and traditions of a medium—that gives artists their purpose and focus. Whether we’re experiencing a poem, a painting, or an opera, it’s the interplay between authority and freedom—what Perl calls “the lifeblood of the arts”—that fuels the imaginative experience. This book will be essential reading for everybody who cares about the future of the arts in a democratic society.

Houellebecq has now confirmed the obvious. He never lied. He described his perceptions as a man whose world is dying. I'll take Houellebecq's truth over Macron's lies.

In the long run, if a still extant artwork isn't relevant to our interest in the past it's ignored.

Fried is such a rube

If a single question is guiding for our understanding of Manet’s art during the first half of the 1860s, it is this: What are we to make of the numerous references in his paintings of those years to the work of the great painters of the past? A few of Manet’s historically aware contemporaries recognized explicit references to past art in some of his important pictures of that period; and by the time he died his admirers tended to play down the paintings of the first half of the sixties, if not of the entire decade, largely because of what had come to seem their overall dependence on the Old Masters. By 1912 Blanche could claim, in a kind of hyperbole, that it was impossible to find two paintings in Manet’s oeuvre that had not been inspired by other paintings, old or modern. But it has been chiefly since the retrospective exhibition of 1932 that historians investigating the sources of Manet’s art have come to realize concretely the extent to which it is based upon specific paintings, engravings after paintings, and original prints by artists who preceded him. It is now clear, for example, that most of the important pictures of the sixties depend either wholly or in part on works by Velasquez, Goya, Rubens, Van Dyck, Raphael, Titian, Giorgione, Veronese, Le Nain, Watteau, Chardin, Courbet . . . This by itself is an extraordinary fact, one that must be accounted for if Manet’s enterprise is to be made intelligible. It becomes even more extraordinary in the light of his repeated assertions, the truth of which cannot be doubted, that he had only tried to be himself and no one else. His pictures, he wrote in 1867, were above all sincere: “C’est l’effet de la sincérité de donner aux oeuvre un caractère qui les fait ressembler à une protestation, alors que la peintre n’a songé qu’à rendre son impression.”* This statement and others like it rest on familiar assumptions of mid-century realism. But they raise the further question of how those assumptions can be reconciled with the scope and explicitness of his involvement with the art of the past.

*It is sincerity which gives to works of art a character which makes them appear an act of protest, when in fact the painter has only thought of rendering his own impressions.

“The 'seriousness' of realist art is based on the absence of any reminder of the fact that it is really is a question of art".  Leo Bersani

The only time I've cited Bersani straight[!], and it's taken from Nochin's "Imaginary Orient"

Fried's realism and Bourdieu's Flaubert

"Impressions" are not "the world as it is"; they're the world "as I see it".

Courbet and Manet are remembered for good paintings that are directly related to their bad paintings that are ridiculous kitsch. They both struggled to do something, and we're left to think about what that is.

repeats. Clark on Mike Davis 

Marxism, whatever else it may be, is not a view of life. It seems to do best when it is grafted, often improbably, onto a deeper metaphysics – Messianic half-hopes, Hegelian negativity, existentialism, even a dazzled vestigial faith in poetry or music.

He would claim that as a strong defense of his "projects". It isn't.  But it is a description of the desperation Clark, and Davis share with Courbet and Manet, and many others, resulting in great hopes, wishful thinking—reach exceeding grasp—in art and life, formal rigor and melodrama: the story of modernism. 

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