Ekphrasis (working)


Because of money that he only nominally deserved and the existence of which gave him embarrassment, J. has become, obliquely,  a cheap son of a bitch. But confronted with the long line in front of the art museum on a cold  morning, he decides to buy an annual membership rather than wait. After all  the plan was for multiple trips to the Art Institute.  He wants to restart a novel, with a character who is a painter, from years before. He is going to look for new projects and ideas. Perhaps ekphrasis; a work of art created by beholding another work of art. Mostly he is going for distraction, to find ways to stop thinking about S.

The lobby is crowded. As he gets to the ticket taker he feels he has made the right choice. There are signs for a Chinese New Year event and others welcoming students from a university, possibly on-line, that he has never heard of.

His temptation is to go to the old stand-bys – El Greco, Delacroix, Matisse, the Venetians. To himself he says, ‘What to remember when walking through a museum is that  the things I love best are the things I didn’t like at first.’ So he moves without considering directions and impulsively takes the stairs.

There are building fragments of Wright and Sullivan and the top of the stairs. The Sullivan fragments are of a teller grill of the National Farmers Bank  in Ottumwa, Iowa. He recalls that this is Sullivan’s late period when he was drunk and forgotten. It is also some of his most amazing work. Was it Goethe who said architecture is frozen music? He isn’t sure. But regardless, J. ponders how Sullivan fits that equation: Dixieland? Rococco? “Prog Rock,” he smirks.

It is perhaps three feet by three feet of wrought bronze. It spreads like vines, rejecting core and balance. Some of the shapes are specific to nature, the acanthus leaves as always, and shapes that are pleasing in an organic, kind of Celtic way. There are rectilinear elements which act as props to the plant life and then finally there are classical designs adding symmetry.

But there is also a plate, unadorned, somewhat rectangular but meandering with the flow of the piece, but without design on its surface.  It doesn’t fit with any of the other types of shapes. It is other-worldly, the confidence of a master. Or the distraction of a drunk?

This exercise is satisfying for J. and he feels oddly mature for delving back into at least thinking about art. He decides to move on.

He wanders into a room full of breasts, full of Rubens. He said something about her breasts once and he remembers feeling foolish. He was clumsy. He wasn’t sure how he felt about them and didn’t care that much but he knew she was dissatisfied with the way they looked. But he wanted to make her happy.

So  now it will be El Greco. Two funny things: In her assumption why is Mary flying to heaven on a boomerang? Also Veronica – Veronica’s Veil – wipes Christ’s face and gets something approaching a polaroid. But, seriously folks, at times it seems EG is bored with certain representation – clothing for instance – because he is determined to capture compelling faces.

A woman walks by. Her eyes look like that. Not exactly but like that. I saw it in Italy. Dark, alive, slightly epicanthic. Sad. Hopeful?

Much of art is the jealousy of men being unable to give birth themselves. Ah, he thinks, this perfect bullshit. Pretentious.

Even with an addition and remodeling he finds himself in the modern wing

Otto Dix. Was Dix a foe of Weimar in a way? Doesn’t he essentially fuel the Nazi stereotype of Berlin? Perhaps change the story. He remembers, Art for Crissakes was the name, to a alternate reality. The author finds a cache of Otto Dix paintings. In this alternate reality Dix is not famous or even known. Author takes Dix’s idea – using classic composition but altering form and character to depict decaying societal or moral landscape. It would make for  a more compelling plot. Martha Rasler does it too in Bringing the war home. For novel purposes would he ignore  this?’

In front of Modigliani

Sculpture that resembles driftwood. The beach, the ocean, washes up forms unabraded my nature, untampered by evolution. Too intellectual. Change to haiku.  Maybe two.

What is gouache again? He doesn’t remember. Also impastoed. Homework.

‘You roll over words in your head. Words you typed, words you read. Things you imagined or hoped she said.’ This could find it’s way into a song but the song would be about her and that was something he wasn’t going to do.

Pollack’s The Greyed Rainbow – I don’t think the synopsis on the wall  is right – mthis is not an example of his unstructured work. The colors are only on the bottom. Is the rainbow dissolving? Becoming? A Unique work.

Early DeKooning – representation struggling against. Resisting abstraction

Research Gutai school – Japanese school of expressionism which plays differently with abstraction. Kazuo Shiragara

When the compulsion is at its worst, she contextualizes every woman, everything feminie, everything sexual.

He begins to tire. His back hurts as if he had been carrying a weight. There was no Ekphrasis to be had here. He decides to leave, with the lack of progress mire disappointing than any failure.

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