Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Yes, Oaf

Betwixt tossing candy’d fobs at the Edvard Munch Scream-outfit’d that troop’d by, I fossick’d the pages of a distill’d book of Coleridge’s Notebooks. There’s a man who proceed’d regularly by huge unchewable mouthfuls, ambition itself caught in the craw. What’s stunning is that he complete’d anything in the roil of intent, lists of lists. I like the oddities:
Bright Reflections in the Canals of the blue & green Vitriol Bottles in the Druggist’s shops in London.
Mere plictri-plactri—

Very fond of Vegetables, particularly Bacon & Peas. Bacon & Broad Beans. —

Poetry without egotism comparatively uninteresting —
Mem. Write an Ode to Meat & Drink

A dunghill at a distance sometimes smells like musk, & a dead dog like elder-flowers. —

On a better-most sort of Remark of Dr Johnson’s recorded by Boswell —
                                a notable Flea-skip for so grave a Bug.

Injury Scotchmen have done our Language —

What a beautiful Thing urine is, in a Pot, brown yellow, transpicuous, the Image, diamond shaped of the Candle in it, especially, as it now appeared, I having emptied the Snuffers into it, & the Snuff floating about, & painting all-shaped Shadows on the Bottom.

Received: No: A Journal of the Arts, No. 4 (2005), edited by Deb Klowden and Ben Lerner ($12, 39 West 29th St. 11A, New York, New York 10001) Cover by Che Chen.

Writings by Robin Blaser, Beth Anderson, Cyrus Console, Robert Creeley, Russell Edson, James McCorkle, Cole Swenson, Peter Gizzi, Mary Jo Bang, Clark Coolidge, Barbara Guest, David Shapiro, Erin Moure, John Yau, Carla Harryman, Ken Irby, Marjorie Welish, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Renee Gladman, Pier Paolo Pasolini (translated by Michelle Cliff), Charles Baudelaire (translated by Keith Waldrop), Ann Lauterbach, David Perry, and Charles Bernstein.

Paintings by Marjorie Welish.

Essays by Forrest Gander (on Maria Negroni), Arthur Danto (on Philip Guston), Michael Clune (on Kevin Davies’s Lateral Argument), Lisa Jarnot (on Robert Duncan), and Ben Lerner and Aaron Kunin in dialogue (on Marjorie Welish).

Philip Guston, “Outskirts”
One immediate delight: the Danto sketch on mandarinism / authenticity in the case of Philip Guston’s exhibition of “notoriously oafish pictures of Klansmen in the Marlborough Gallery in 1970,” resulting in “a major outcry.” “‘It was as though I had left the Church,’ [Guston] said in a talk he gave in 1978. ‘I was excommunicated for a while.’ Among painters, only de Kooning, who had made a comparable but somehow far less incendiary gesture in 1953 in showing his great Woman paintings at the Janis gallery, supported what Guston had done. The Women, though figural, were built up of slashes of pigment, effectively like an Abstract Expressionist canvas. But Guston’s hooded figures were like comic strip characters in Mutt and Jeff.

And: “All the great Abstract Expressionists discovered a signature style. Guston’s was thought mandarin because it did not seem as if it came from the guts, which was the favored organ of artistic authenticity in that era.”

Danto argues for something like a gradual “apostasy,” quoting remarks Guston made at “a panel on the future of abstraction, held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1960”:
There is something ridiculous and miserly in the myth we inherit from abstract art: that painting is autonomous, pure, and for itself—therefore we habitually analyze its ingredients and define its limits. But painting is “impure.” It is the adjustment of “impurities” which forces its continuity. We are image-makers and image-ridden.
And breezing that against so many poèsies pures, in the issue of No at hand, frankly, what I long for (in the “scene” generally) is more oafishness. Not the recombinant superior gleaming machine-oafishness of flarf-generators, but the droopy drawers, stumbled-down, anything goes inheritors of the Biotherm-esque O’Hara, Berryman’s big mess, and Ammons’s barrages of garbage. Or Bernadette Mayer’s dishevel’d junkyard dog opus, or Alice Notley’s sass in the filigree. Ain’t there a chill despotic cleanliness, a shard-preciosity, all around now? More splendid piss-burn and rags and jags! More guffaw and bêtises! More spilt Willies!

Philip Guston, “The Studio” (1969)