An Experiment in Art Criticism

A couple weeks ago (gosh, is it already that far past?), Thalia and the Brilliant Scrupulously Exact Physicist came to visit.  Having but limited time together, and the Scrupulously Exact Physicist having nixed the suggestion that we go busking with a plaid hat and a repertoire of hymns, we took ourselves down to the museum in town.

You know the one.  The one with a weird bit of iron out in front, and a weird bit of carved wood out back, and oddness in between.

We determined that it would be diverting to level our most withering wit at the works within, provided we were suitably fortified; Thalia had the further brainwave that we might tell the truth slant – in fact, not merely slant, but actually perpendicular to our normal mode of discourse.  All of which is to say that we gathered up our pens, notebooks, and a flask of bourbon, and rhapsodized in the blankest verse we could muster.

(Dear sweet teetotalers: surely even you understand the importance of fortification against the utter lack of metanarrative in postpostmodern art?  Have you not read your Walker Percy? Do you not know that “post-painterly abstraction” is an honest term used by an art critic to distinguish from earlier abstract expressionism?  Read this whole page  and tell me you don’t want a drink by the end of it.)

(N.B. that we were, at least, covert in our potation.  The Scrupulously Exact Physicist whose pockets guarded the flask ended up quaffing the lion’s share, which is to say, maybe an ounce or two more than the rest of us.)

So without further ado, here are the fruits of our labors.

First, the piece the Scrupulously Exact Physicist wrote on:  Smoke Rings, by Donald Sultan

Smoke Rings

“Thunderstorm in Purple No. 6”*

inspiration drawn,
flames of unity,
darkness spills through it.

A phoenix is promised to ignite from the ashes
its crimson mane flowing,
as the firefox turns
and peace is dislodged

How many times?
will an elder rise or fall?
a leaf
falling Adonis
Cut from the top
in a swirl of cloud.

I wrote on something by Richard Diebenkorn.  It might not have looked exactly like this, but it was…similar:


Re: un tarde de Julio…

an envelope not yet trimmed or folded
rain has worn down the lines
of division,
jagged door opening
revealing naught but beige beyond.
Three figures sit at the bottom of it,
soon to be cropped out
by demands of time,
the folds pulling upward and away.
That bleeding paper
(such it might be)
bled not from any meaningful word,
any knife of truth.
All is quiet

All is empty.
something wrong:
assayed beauty via truth
as assured by Keats of unity
and believing truth
simple to see
simple to sign

a veil drawn over drawn truths
or a wash over half-depicted figures

not sad empty hopeless being,
nor vacant past plains:
a slightly yellowed page
awaiting drawing of the future.

Lastly, Thalia peered up at Helen Frankenthaler’s Sunset Corner, wrote a while, then carefully removed a number of connecting words and threw a brick at her punctuation.  Seems apt. Sunset Corner

Venetian Earthquake by Candlelight*

Lofty Depth.
Sundered plain
(Cower, blood – Dry)
murk, jagged; lurk, snagged –
Possess, weigh, measure, despair
Ache,  bile, blotch
Central – corrosive
Control, Knot, Vomit.
A template ?
Abrupt, the hope
Hence therefore; hell.

*Credit must be given to our friend, the Doctrix M. Harrison, for pointing out that such poetic assays must be titled appropriately, and for her endeavor to find something appropriate.


8 thoughts on “An Experiment in Art Criticism

    • Right-ho. Since you have forfeited your claim to “Brilliant,” you shall henceforth be “The Scrupulously Exact Physicist.”

      I hope you’re happy; I hope you’re happy now 😛

  1. Once again, the Muses introduce me to a new word. “busking!”

    I actually like some Color Field paintings/artists, though not all. It took a few Art History classes for me to begin to appreciate most modern and postmodern art (which, to be fair, may be an argument against such art) but once I did, it was a lot easier for me to enjoy it. It is, perhaps, important to mention that my professor was a discerning fellow, not an “everything is art!” hack. I still prefer older painters (like the Dutch Masters), but Mark Rothko, Marcel Duchamp, Franz Marc, and various others, I like. There is, admittedly, a lot of modern and postmodern art that I still do not like. (Mondiran, why? WHY?)

    Anyhow, I appreciate the humor and the verse. 😀

    The video on this is pretty terrible, but the song… I love Dar Williams’s music.

    • Huzzaaaah, new words! 😀

      Yeah, I imagine that taking a number of classes would help reconcile me to a number of modern/postmodern visual art…and music…and writing. I often get the feeling that some kind of conversation is going on and I’ve walked in on the middle of it, such that I don’t have enough context to make any sense of what I see. Vexing!

      • It is vexing, and rather elitist. In fact, I think that elitism is the gravest of the just charges to be leveled at Modern and Postmodern art.
        Modern art relied a great deal on certain philosophies, and without knowing the philosophies in play, sometimes a piece fall flat. Though sometimes the art is much better without the philosophy. I like some Futurist art, but their philosophy makes my blood run cold.

        Postmodernism is usually the continuation of a conversation started by Modernism, which can also incorporate much other conversations… so feeling like coming into the middle of a conversation is pretty much spot-on.

    • also: Duchamp reminds me of The Internet At Large, somehow. I rather wonder what he’d have done, had he access to Photoshop/etc.

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