I thought I had made my peace with the death of originality. Personally, I do not believe that originality has died, but I recognize that the obituaries cannot exactly be ignored. I keep abreast of whatever is being said about the death-of-originality movement’s dead white males, Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol. And I try to see as much as I can of the work of practitioners who, paradoxically, are alive and kicking, beginning with Jeff Koons and Richard Prince.
Click here to read the original article, “Mobs,” and click here to read David C. Ward and Jonathan D. Katz’s letter to Jed Perl. Let me make one thing absolutely clear. I have not written a review of “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.” Nor do I intend to. So while David Ward and Jonathan Katz may welcome “attacks” on their exhibition, they cannot count me among the attackers.
Click here to read the original article, “Mobs,” and click here to read Jed Perl’s response to this letter. To the Editors: Jed Perl continues to amaze with his critical ability to split the difference with “plague on both their houses” criticism that inevitably (and tiresomely) devolves into narcissistic incoherence. (He recently went to Whitman’s home in Camden?
Is a rigorous eclecticism possible? Can you admire, simultaneously, works of art that reflect widely and even wildly differing styles and sensibilities? I want the answer to be, “Yes.” I believe the answer must be, “Yes.” Only a heterogeneous sensibility can match the heterogeneity of our experience. But I know that nothing is more difficult to maintain than a rigorous eclecticism. The trouble is that knowledge is constantly being confused with knowingness. You are always in danger of losing the sense that fuels the sensibility.
The Scottsboro Boys playing at the Lyceum got some unwanted – more or less – publicity a little while ago when members of New York City’s Freedom Party picketed it for its framing of the plot in minstrel show format. The minstrel part is, in fact, the least interesting thing about a show whose main problem is being just plain hokey – which makes it as questionable to treat it as serious business as it is to picket it for the minstrelsy.
If Walter Benjamin were alive today, would he be writing a little essay about “Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen,” the exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art? It is easy to imagine Benjamin crafting a few intricate, elegant pages, combining a collector’s ardent admiration, an intellectual’s theoretical flights, and a novelist’s sensitivity to the pop-chic ambience at MoMA.
I am deeply disturbed by “Chaos and Classicism,” a survey of the arts in Europe from the end of World War I to the beginning of World War II that is currently at the Guggenheim. I know many people have been excited by this exploration of classical tendencies in France, Germany, and Italy between the wars. The subject matter has been treated in major shows in Europe—such as “Les Réalismes” in Paris in 1980 and “On Classic Ground” in London in 1990—but is not so well known over here.