Lightning Gauge

More than one Texas rancher weathering a drought has shrugged off a passing storm saying he got about an inch-and-a-half of lightning from it.

Language note: as an adjective, “Texan” is not heard much in Texas cities.

(c) 2020 JMN

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The Kiss

“I feel so powerful. I’ll walk into that audience. I’ll walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women and… everybody. I’ll just give you a big fat kiss.”
— At October 2020 rally

(c) 2020 JMN

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The ‘Tintanic’ Runs on Octopower

I have a fictitious acquaintance with the Chichester locale via Sir Alistair Chichester of Chichesterton-upon-Hogg.

There’ll always be a Britain in my fancies.

(c) 2020 JMN

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Protecting the Male

(c) 2020 JMN

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Slackoff from Windbaggage

Art Spiegelman’s comment below, encountered on the fly as if on zoom wings, has helped me realize that this latest painting is just wrong: grotesque in subject, torpid in execution, and the end of a line. Fury and disgust can be better spent.

Early on I realised I didn’t want to become a Trump caricaturist – that it was just playing into his narcissism, ultimately. I just backed off and I’m now trying to see what the hell’s been happening to us. It makes me recant something I rather cockily said back in 2001, which was when I found myself unable to move from September 11 to September 12. About three months later, my brains poured back in my head and I said: ‘I guess disaster is my muse.’” He recants: “Now disaster is just a fucking disaster.”

(Sam Leith, “Graphic artist Art Spiegelman on Maus, politics and ‘drawing badly’,” the, 10-17-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

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‘Blurred Stupid Dulled’

Hilma af Klint inspires a certain perfervid evangelism which is diluted in this article by careless editing.

The article cites a beautiful film by Halina Dyrschka about the visionary artist’s astonishing work.

The beguiled film maker contracted [sic] MoMA to find out why Af Klint had been “erased from art history.” The answer she received was even more beguiling than the question posed:

“They weren’t so sure Hilma af Klint’s art worked as abstract art. After all, she hadn’t exhibited in her lifetime so how could one tell?”

Science historian Ernst Peter Ficsher [sic] is quoted saying “… our world has become blurred stupid dulled [sic] unless somewhere out there there’s a Hilma af Klint painting it all so in a hundred years we will see what we’ve missed…”

The article celebrates Af Klint’s having eventually “got what she deserved” more than a century after she “arguably invented abstract [sic] and painted some of the most beguiling if neglected canvases in art history…”

It concludes thus:

Hilma af Klint’s paintings, just maybe, gives [sic] us the opportunity to escape the everyday and marvel anew.

(Stuart Jeffries, ‘They called her a crazy witch’: did medium Hilma af Klint invent abstract art?”, 10-6-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

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Amy Sillman: The ‘Facticity’ of Paint

… [Amy Sillman] has helped lead the charge over the last decade for a reinvigorated mode of abstraction, alongside colleagues like Laura Owens, Julie Mehretu, Joanne Greenbaum or Jacqueline Humphries. These painters, mostly women, have reclaimed the potency of active brushwork and visible gestures, which for so long had felt played out. Their work is smart as hell, but not afraid to laugh at itself. Conversant with digital media… yet committed to the facticity of paint.

… Ms. Sillman is in a thin crowd (with, let’s say, Andrea Fraser, Hito Steyerl, Matias Faldbakken, David Salle) of artists who can really write. The evidence is in “Faux Pas,” a just-published collection — her fourth — of her writings that display the same good humor and intelligence of her best paintings.

“It was the first time I cried at a museum,” she says, remembering the irises at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. “Because he was so tortured. The flowers were flowers of misery. Tears of dejection and tears of joy…”

(Jason Farago, “Amy Sillman’s Breakthrough Moment is Here,” NYTimes, 10-8-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

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‘A Fond Infected Look’

A novelist’s prose can crowd poetry turf with an ineffability that thwarts paraphrase. Of his mother a protagonist says:

“Ten minutes she will spend in the kitchen working with her swift cat-efficiency, then out and away with the children, surging to and fro in their light inconstant play, her eyes fading in a fond infected look.”

And a little later:

“Outside is the special close blackness of night over water. Bugs dive into the tight new screen and bounce off with a guitar thrum. The children stand in close, feeling the mystery of the swamp and the secrecy of our cone of light.”

The passages are from “The Moviegoer” by Walker Percy.

What strikes me is how ostensible prose can somehow say more than the sum of its words, somewhat like a difficult lyric poem can: The question What does it mean? gives way to the question Could what it says be conveyed exactly in any other way? The reader’s quest is to reach “no” for the answer.

(c) 2020 JMN

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‘Whenever I Feel Bad…’

Whenever I feel bad, I go to the library and read controversial periodicals. Though I do not know whether I am a liberal or a conservative, I am nevertheless enlivened by the hatred that one bears for the other. In … Continue reading

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Shoes, Cans, Clocks, Bricks… and Hoods

This article describes Philip Guston (1913-1980) as an “artist’s artist” whose “deceptively simple subjects and emphatic brush strokes” influenced many painters of our era.

… Part of the reason he is embraced by artists in the current moment is that he stood up to the bullies in the art world who wanted art to be a certain way — notably writers like Clement Greenberg… who thought that serious, modern painting should be abstract…

“I got sick and tired of all that Purity!” he said in a 1977 interview, referring to abstraction. “Wanted to tell Stories!”

Along with the return of figures and the hoods — now drawn in a crude, cartoonish fashion that shocked even his peers in the early ’70s — Guston continued to paint ordinary objects: shoes, cans, clocks and bricks that asserted both the materiality and everydayness of painting. The critic Harold Rosenberg called his later work “a liberation from detachment” — which is to say, it was unafraid to address messy politics, the body, failure, or the changes an artist goes through in his lifetime.

It seems worth noting that what shocked Guston’s peers in the ‘70s wasn’t what he drew, but how he drew it.

(Martha Schwendener, “Why Philip Guston Can Still Provoke Such Furor, and Passion,” NYTimes, 10-4-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

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