Showing posts from June, 2013

Patricia Albers' "Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter"

An informative biography, full of details about Mitchell's family background (Chicago steel heiress), love affairs and artistic struggles. Her competitive desire to be "one of the boys" of the New York School. Her fear of abandonment and death. Her steadfast love of van Gogh. She painted from the memory of a landscape, until she abstracted it in the idiom of Abstract Expressionism. The writing of the biography is in places too breezy and purple for my taste. The biographer clearly admires her subject, but does not hide her flaws.

"A new kind of cine-love"

TLS June 7 2013

from John Ridpath's review of Jonathan Sterne's MP3: The meaning of a format, Gabriele Pedulla's In Broad Daylight: Movies and spectators after the cinema, and J. Hoberman's Film After Film: or, what became of 21st century cinema:

AT&T's groundbreaking psychoacoustic research was designed with a commercial imperative in mind: to maximize bandwidth on telephone lines. By only reproducing sounds that were audible to human hearing, the company managed to quadruple its capacity by 1920s. As the twentieth century progressed, various psychoacoustic researchers turned their attention to exploiting gaps within the audible spectrum, such as those caused when one sound is rendered inaudible by a similar one that is louder (a phenomenon known as masking).  Such research contributed directly to the creation of "perceptual coders": algorithms designed to compress audio by removing inaudible sounds. As part of a drive by ISO and IEC to create standa…

The Meaning of Style

I have to record this glorious passage from The Open Mind by J. Robert Oppenheimer, which I found quoted in American Prometheus, the biography of Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin that I have been reading:

The problem of doing justice to the implicit, the imponderable, and the unknown is of course not unique in politics. It is always with us in science, it is with us in the most trivial of personal affairs, and it is one of the great problems of writing and of all forms of art. The means by which it is solved is sometimes called style. It is style which complements affirmation with limitation and with humility; it is style which makes it possible to act effectively, but not absolutely; it is style which, in the domain of foreign policy, enables us to find a harmony between the pursuit of ends essential to us, and the regard for the views, the sensibilities, the aspirations of those to whom the problem may appear in another light; it is style which is the deference that act…

El Museo’s Bienal 2013: HERE IS WHERE WE JUMP

PL and I visited El Museo del Barrio yesterday to see its 7th biennal show. I've been to the museum before, to see a show about the artistic connections between Puerto Rico and New York, but hadn't seen a biennal there. 37 emerging Latino and Latin Americans who live and work in the New York metropolitan area contributed works. As expected, video works and installation pieces dominated, most of which were thin in conception and casual in execution. To display one's process does not necessarily make a successful artwork. The aesthetics by and large felt derivative. But how does one surmount the problem of coming late to the scene?

One exceptional installation was that of Hector Arce-Espasas, who is Puerto Rican. On top of haphazardly stacked crates stood ceramic jugs made in the shape of pineapples. On the wall was a blown-up reproduction of George I presented with a pineapple by his gardener. Most of the jugs were cracked or broken, showing the effect of their overseas tr…

This Assignment Is So Gay

Just received my contributor's copy of This Assignment Is So Gay: LGBTIQ poets on the art of teaching. Proud to be out with Gregory Woods, Cyril Wong, Timothy Liu, Benjamin Grossberg and Garth Greenwell. Megan Volpert edited and Sibling Rivalry Press published this important anthology. It will be launched at the Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, Georgia, in September. I will be reading and speaking on the panel with Megan, Bryan Broland and other contributors.

Andrew Delbanco's Melville

There are two major challenges facing any biographer of Melville, as Delbanco frankly admits. The first is the paucity of surviving documentation such as correspondence and notebooks. Delbanco overcomes this deficit to some extent by sketching in the historical picture, with some nice descriptions of New York City in the 19th century, for instance, and by delineating the debate over slavery in the lead-up to civil war.

The other challenge stems directly from Melville's own writing. After the popular success of Typee and Omoo, Melville wrote his masterpiece Moby Dick in his mid-thirties. Thereafter, his writing went into a steep decline, as beset by financial worries and resenftful of the lukewarm critical reception, he turned out inconsistent puzzling books and magazine hackwork. With the exception of a few short stories like "Bartleby the Scrivener,""Benito Cereno" and "The Encantadas" and the final spurt of inspiration that gave him "Billy Budd…

The Internet Ideology

TLS May 24, 2013

from Michael Saler's review of Evgeny Morozov's To Save Everything, Click Here: Technology, solutionism and the urge to fix problems that don't exist, and Jason Lanier's Who Owns the Future?:
The internet ideology provides a quasi-religious vision of how human relationships will be transformed, material abundance created, and transcendence attained through human-machine interactions. Its prophets cite its decentralized and open strucutre as the model for a free, egalitarian and transparent world order. Their holy writ is Moore's Law, which suggests that computers will "evolve" exponentially, doubling their prowess every two years or so. Their eschatology is the Singularity, which predicts that machines will outstrip humans in the near future, and benevolently uplift (or simply upload) mere mortals to nerd Nirvana. In the interim, the messy stuff of ordinary existence will be tamed by quantifying it into the bits and butes of Information T…

Materials for Art

I loved the show of Richard Serra's early work at David Zwirner. It is full of feeling for material, volume and balance, the hallmarks of his mature achievements. My favorite work at the show was a lead plate made in the form of a canvas sheet that has been folded into four quarters and then unfolded. On the second floor were Blinky Palermo's works on paper, which he did near the end of his all-too-short life. Many of the drawings were composed in series, a feature that emphasizes his constant experimentation with color, geometric shapes and brushstroke. Even though they allude so familiarly to abstraction, Minimalism and Conceptual art, they retain an irresistible freshness.

Anselm Kiefer's Morgenthau Plan at Gagosian was a very different kind of show. Monumental, serious, intense, the paintings, which cover completely with thick impasto the blown-up photographs of fields of flowers, brood on the-then US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau's plan to transform post-wa…