Unreal Nature

February 15, 2016

An Exclaiming Joy in the Epic Intensity of Everyday Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:38 am

… It is a “seen before” style for things whose claim on our imagination lies precisely in their having been seen so many times before.

Continuing through High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture by Kirk Varnedoe and Adam Gopnik (1990):

… When Pop appeared, it had the force of a call from home [for Elizabeth Murray]. From Warhol she took what was perhaps the most far-reaching and easily overlooked part of his inheritance: his American palette, all bright make-up and Day-Glo colors. Yet Pop for her, more than a style to learn from, was a series of permissions, injunctions even, to look at life whole. The importance of Pop for her was to lead her back to James Joyce and Jasper Johns.

[line break added] In Ulysses she encountered, instead of the austere difficulty that she had been led to expect, an exclaiming joy in the epic intensity of everyday life. “I expected something distant, and it turned out to be about taking kidneys and newspaper ads and making it into The Odyssey,” she has said. “It was about the epic power of dailiness, and about the tension between what you experienced right this second and everything that everybody else had experienced all along.”

Murray_JustInTime
Elizabeth Murray, Just In Time, 1981

… The banal image — the coffee cup, or flag — releases the artist back into the primary act of painting, and the primary act of painting ends by breathing new life into the banal image.

Murray is drawn to the cartoon because it registers both the ordinary thing and the ordinary way of seeing it. It is a “seen before” style for things whose claim on our imagination lies precisely in their having been seen so many times before. Hers is the art of a poet struggling to take experience whole, kitchen tables and picture planes together; an art in which remorse for a parent takes the form of a remembered comic image.

The desert sighs in the cupboard
The glacier knocks in the bed
And a crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.
[W.H. Auden, “As I Walked Out One Evening”]

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

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