Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Soon you'll have all of New York clamoring for your work!

Charles Bernstein famously has asked whether art criticism is fifty years behind poetry, concluding that "indeed, pernicious is the cliché that poetry is fifty years behind visual art." 

Yet in a recent review of Alice Goldfarb Marquis's The Pop Revolution, Adam Bresnick says this:

What Pop [Art] had done, to the annoyance of the proponents of Modernism, was to undo the essential European distinction between high and low art.  Whereas for the Romantic tradition, of which Abstract Expressionism is a late variant, works of art were artifacts supposedly in touch with the sublime, Pop artists understood art in an anthropological and commercial sense, as an activity more or less like any other.  Marquis quotes Dave Hickey, who suggests that the real blasphemy of the Pop artists "derives from the crisp analogy they draw between our appetite for 'fine art' and our appetite for food, sex, and glamour."  To paraphrase [Jasper] Johns, Pop artists took objects from daily experience, did something to them, and then did something else to them.


In the new world of image reproduction, words no longer carried their former prestige, and the great intellectual authorities of yesteryear could no longer pretend to control the discussion of art.

Now, can we not, for the sake of discussion, replace in this quotation "Pop," that half-century-old phenomenon, with "contemporary American poetry?"

If so, what explains our belatedness?


Michael Gushue said...

Some questions: What does high and low art mean in poetry? What would objects be in poetry?

Depending on how you answer these questions you could argue that poetry was ahead of the curve (nursery rhyme in Eliot "This is way the world will end"), concurrent with Pop art (The New York Poets) or just now catching up (flarf).

So maybe the comparison is not as useful as it might seem. A poet *might* say "a check is the sincerest form of flattery" but she wouldn't be getting very big ones or a lot.

If Pop art collapsed the commercial and art worlds, what's the equivalent for poetry? Maybe advertising?

Didn't mean to go on so long, sorry.

George S said...

Belatedness be blowed. Is Lucien Freud more belated than Damien Hirst or is the latter soooo yesterday by now? It doesn't work like that. We've just been told so often that it does.