Michael wrote to say that he was in Philadelphia, and the view out his hotel window inspired thoughts about some ghosts. –the artblog editor The window of my hotel room in Philadelphia overlooks the grave of Benjamin Franklin. Ben’s spirit presides over Philadelphia. So does Dante. The Rodin Museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway has been here so long it’s almost invisible. Its doors are the Gates of Hell. The thinker atop the Gates and in larger scale outside the Museum is The Thinker. The only garment is Dante’s hat from the only authentic contemporaneous portrait. The Thinker is Dante. ... More » »
[Michael discovers a kindred spirit in an author who lovingly, painstakingly dissects and illustrates hundreds of bird species. –the artblog editors] I first saw Katrina van Grouw’s “The Unfeathered Bird” (Princeton University Press; Princeton and Oxford, 2013 ) in the window of Princeton’s only bookstore. I was surprised. After all, had I not definitively nailed the subject of unfeathered birds in my poem with that title? She was not only stealing my title, but had expanded it into a coffee table art book. Beaks, bones, and beauty Birds crash into glass windows. I was sitting, typing some essay off in ... More » »
On July 4 the Park Service opened the Second Bank building on Chestnut Street. It contains Charles Willson Peale’s original 18th century museum. I was very impressed. Have you seen it? Most of Peale’s paintings are there, I believe. There’s a scattering in the big national museums but this is like the Rodin museum: It’s definitive and effing amazing. The Peale museum is just one of the locked-away treasures in Philadelphia. Jefferson’s house, formerly open three hours a week, has closed permanently because of the sequestration. Most Americans find the Civil War more interesting that the Revolution. No one demands ... More » »
—Michael reviews the debut mystery novel of New York art world insider, Reba White Williams, and asks an interesting question.–the artblog editors——————————-What about a series of art world mystery novels? Restrike features amateur detectives Coleman Greene, editor of an art magazine, and her cousin Dinah Greene, director of a print gallery. The consigner of a Winslow Homer is brutally murdered. A reporter for Coleman’s magazine investigates; he too is murdered. Newly-found Durer prints are at auction. The Greenes discover they are mere restrikes. I have a restrike of a Rouault woodcut. An art dealer in Chicago purchased the original block, ... More » »
Eric Fischl catches a moment in a story. That moment, when he’s lucky, pulls the past into the present and suggests ways the present may evolve into the future. Fischl is a narrative painter who avoids melodrama. The original PAFA next door exhibits masterpieces of melodramatic 19th century narrative art. Such paintings depend on history and literature that an educated viewer would know. Fischl, on the other hand, enters in media res and leaves the viewer wondering: What happens next? Fischl tantalizes in other ways as well. Why do people love looking at other people naked? In the left panel ... More » »
Tim Eads’ exuberant Species of Spaces feels confined in Rebekah Templeton’s storefront gallery. I like this work. But I wonder how it would blossom in a larger space? I remember an Environment Paul Thek created years ago at Documenta, a room of sand dunes and art and peace and quiet breathing. Stuck in that stupid German city for a week I could instantly re-gain my composure in Thek’s room. Eads’ opening was also a performance which sadly I missed. In Eads’ space one acquires joy. It’s the contraptions. A piano wire strummed by a Jean Tinguely-machine is called Violin and ... More » »
Suddenly at the University of Chicago I discovered I could no longer tolerate literary criticism. I had noticed that anthologies of poetry and anthologies of art criticism seemed to have the same authors–Ashbery, Benedikt, Schjeldahl, O’Hara, et cetera–and all these writers seemed to live in New York. So I transferred to Columbia and decided to interview poets for my dissertation. Why not? Sexual Politics by Kate Millet had been a Columbia dissertation.
At one time Andy Warhol seemed the pinnacle of mysterious fame and glamour — beyond comprehension. He certainly seemed that way to me — and I published interviews with him in three different magazines. But when Andy died fifteen years later, it turned out he was secretly a practicing Roman Catholic. I was surprised. So were people like Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. I was raised Catholic. The Banal Catholic Church I call it; it’s as real as sparrows. Allen and William were not raised Catholic; now they thought they finally understood why they hated Andy.
The photographer Victor Vazquez makes a virtue of his defects. His nudes, for example, are not erotic. Yet as photographs they carry potent ideas. A lady in feathers, for instance, only evokes Santeria. Alas, poor chicken! Vazquez is a Puerto Rican nationalist. But his political views are neatly disciplined by a potent witty formalism. In this show, that formalism is often simply a white line.
1. NORTH BAR & NEEDLE From the window of an elevated train I scout North Philadelphia. Topless bars. Beer and shot bars. “Police” equipment: handguns, rifles, shotguns. 99 cent stores. Pawn shops. Guys congregating on corners drinking beer. I wander a neighborhood at random. The consolidated library is empty and forlorn. The cashiers in the convenience stores count pennies and dollars behind inch-thick Plexiglas. I see no neighborhood-saving murals. Is this Philadelphia unredeemed?Next Page »