A Concise Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes
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Author’s note
The dictionary
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A Concise Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes For a concise edition of his legendary arts dictionary of information and opinion, the distinguished critic and arts historian Richard Kostelanetz selects entries from the 2018 third edition. Typically he provides intelligence unavailable anywhere else, no less in print than online, about a wealth of subjects and individuals. Focused upon what is truly innovative and excellent, Kostelanetz also ranges widely with insight and surprise, including appreciations of artistic athletes such as Muhammad Ali and the Harlem Globetrotters and such collective creations as Las Vegas and his native New York City. Continuing the traditions of cheeky high-style Dictionarysts, honoring Ambrose Bierce and Samuel Johnson (both with individual entries), Kostelanetz offers a “reference book” to be enjoyed, not only in bits and chunks but continuously as one of the ten books someone would take if he or she planned to be stranded on a desert isle. Individual entries on Richard Kostelanetz’s work appear in various editions of A Reader’s Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists, Postmodern Fiction, Webster’s Dictionary of American Writers, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Directory of American Scholars, Who’s Who in America, NNDB.com, Wikipedia.org, and Britannica.com, among other distinguished directories. He lives in New York, where he was born.

A Concise Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes

Richard Kostelanetz With contributions by Richard Carlin, Mark Daniel Cohen, Geof Huth, Gerald Janecek, Katy Matheson, Gloria S. and Fred W. McDarrah, Michael Peters, John Rocco, Igor Satanovsky, Nicolas Slonimsky, Fred Truck.

First published 2020 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2020 Richard Kostelanetz The right of Richard Kostelanetz to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN: 978-1-138-57743-5 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-138-57744-2 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-351-26688-8 (ebk) Typeset in Times Ten and Futura Std by Apex CoVantage, LLC

For my colleagues, the critical historians of the avant-gardes in all the arts.


Author’s note Preface

Introduction The dictionary Biographical notes

ix xi

xv 1 215


Author’s note

After completing in 2018 a third edition of my A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes (1993, 2000), I decided to extract those about more familiar examples, initially because I’ve long thought that such a book should exist. In the course of graduate studies in intellectual history, I decided to focus upon the best, and then upon the more innovative. This bias has informed much of my writing in the half-century since. Thankfully, Ben

Piggott and his associates at Routledge have agreed to my proposal. May I urge readers to check out my larger book, if not through your own purchase then by a visit to a good library. That’s one reason why I reprint here both the preface and introduction to the third edition. —Richard Kostelanetz, 14 May 2019


Preface It takes approximately twenty years to make an artistic curiosity out of a modernistic monstrosity, and another twenty to elevate it to a masterpiece. —Nicolas Slonimsky, Lexicon of Musical Invective (1953)

My principal reason for having done, later redoing, and now redoing again a quarter-century later a book of this title would be to defend the continuing relevance of the epithet avant-garde, which has frequently appeared in my own critical writing. A second reason is that I enjoy reading cultural dictionaries myself and own a goodly number of them; but as my library has lacked any volume resembling a dictionary of avantgardes, the first reader for any book emblazoned with that title would be myself. A third reason is that I’ve come to think there is only one art, called Art, and thus that dance, literature, etc., are merely categorical conveniences, designed to make the history and the material of Art more accessible to students and other beginners. My basic measures of avant-garde work are first esthetic innovation and then initial unacceptability. Add to this my own taste for art that is extreme, unique, distinct, coherent, witty, technological, and esthetically resonant. (An artist’s courage in the choice of subject, such as scatology, say, or child abuse, is not avant-garde if the artist’s esthetic is traditional. Nor is the first painting by a three-handed dwarf avant-garde by virtue of the peculiarities of its author.) It follows that the most consequential artists, in any medium, are those who make genuine discoveries about the possibilities of art. The best avant-garde art offers, much like the best traditional art, enlightened intelligence and heightened experience. Though one often hears about “the death of the avant-garde” or “the crisis of the avant-garde,” usually from cultural conservatives or publicists with cemeteries to defend, it is not the purpose of this book to engage in an argument I take to be irrelevant at best. Though most entries here feature modern avant-garde

activities, major historical precursors, some of whom worked centuries ago, are acknowledged as well. While the epithet avant-garde is applicable to other cultural domains, we’ve tended to favor arts, broadly considered. My second editor, a dance aficionado, proposed including the basketball player Daryl Dawkins for epitomizing “the slam dunk,” which is measurably a monumental choreographic innovation, though not commonly regarded as such. My more recent editor made his unique contribution as well, and I included the man whose alternative choreography changed competitive high-jumping. One recurring theme is that avant-garde are doesn’t always come pretentiously dressed. Proclaiming the avant-garde’s death is no more acceptable than the claim, from another corner, of one or another group to represent “the avant-garde” to the exclusion of all others. The plural avant-gardes in the title is appropriate, as this book contains entries on individuals or developments representing opposed positions, if not contrary esthetics. As I warn in the entry on Pluralism, beware of anyone or any group declaring itself the sole avant-garde, especially if they exclude or ignore people doing work that is roughly similar or closely related. Be even more wary if they try to sell you anything, intellectual as well as physical. Suspect it to be a road map directing all traffic to a dead end. This book is inevitably critical, not only in judgments but in the intelligence behind my selections, because it is impossible to write selectively about the avant-gardes, with any integrity and excellence, without seeming opinionated. (If you don’t like opinions, well, you’re welcome to read a bus schedule or any country’s tax code.) Given how much information is now


xii • PREFACE commonly available on the Internet, I’ve tried here to offer guidance and secrets, along with insight and wit, not available anywhere else. This new edition wouldn’t be worth anyone’s reading or purchasing otherwise. One concern of any writer wanting to tell truths is how much truth he or she can tell (or, conversely, fearing how much cannot be told). The best reason for writing a book, rather than, say, magazine articles, is that the critic fortunately need not worry about his publishers’ constraints and biases that are customarily (if not necessarily) hidden. If this book didn’t surprise or offend, I would surmise that a putative reader had barely looked at its pages. Oh, yes, if any reader likes something in this book, please consider telling someone else. That’s how a book survives years after its initial publication. Because this Dictionary was written not just to be consulted but to be read from beginning to end, it eschews abbreviations that interrupt attention and minimizes dependency on cross-references. My literary ambition encourages stylistic variety over uniformity, even risking stylistic affectations here and there. I also cultivate the avant-garde value of SURPRISE, not only in my selections but my prose. Some of the stronger circumlocutions are collected in an ON DEMAND book titled Artful Entries (2018). I would have liked to have produced more entries on avant-garde artists new to the 21st century, who are true heroes at a time when the idea of an esthetic vanguard has been subjected to all sorts of Philistine attack, and apologize now particularly to those individuals, whoever you are, whose names will be featured in, yes, yet future editions. Just as most of the first edition of this book was written in several months, so it was rewritten in 1999 and then again recently within a comparatively short time. Both then and now I have typically drawn largely upon my capacious memory and sometimes upon earlier reviews and notes that were generally made when I first experienced something important. In writing critically about art (or in editing anthologies or even returning to restaurants), I have learned to trust my memory to separate the strongest work from everything else. One reason for my faith in memory is that it does not lie to me, which is to say that no matter my personal feelings toward an artist, no matter what reviewers might have said about his or her work, no matter what other factors might try to influence me, one working principle remains: If I cannot remember an artist’s work distinctly or I cannot from memory alone characterize it, it probably was not strong enough. It follows that only art already lodged in my head will appear in my critical writing. One of my favorite ways of testing the true quality of any well-known

artist’s work is to ask myself, as well as others, whether any specific work[s] can be identified from memory? (No peeking or cheating allowed.) Thanks mostly to their professional hustling, many artists’ names are more familiar than their works. Quite simply, what my memory chose to remember for me became the basis for this Dictionary. In the back of my mind was the image of the great Erich Auerbach (1892-1997), a German scholar living in Istanbul during World War II, writing his grandly conceived Mimesis (1946) without footnotes, because useful libraries were far away.

[Apollinaire] had an uncanny instinct for detecting genius and for seeing the revolutionary quality of a new idea of work of art. . . . He was frequently accurate and perceptive to an astounding degree; and in his choice of who or what was significant he seems in retrospect to have been nearly always right. –Edward F. Fry, Cubism (1966) Another assumption is that what distinguishes major artists from minor is a vision of singular possibilities for their art and/or for themselves as creative people. Trained elaborately in intellectual history, which for me was mostly arts history, I necessarily focus upon the best. (“Cultural history,” by contrast, focuses upon what’s been popular, sometimes with only a certain group of people.) As a historian, I think I can discern the future from the past and thus direction in high cultural produce. Because I don’t often read newsprint, I can claim resistance to, if not an ignorance of, transient promotions and fashions of many kinds. I necessarily learned early to respect unique cultural excellence and now think that from the beginning of my critical career, more than fifty years ago, I’ve established a strong record of identifying new excellence that survives. Guillaume Apollinaire has been my hero, as I respect the fact that he, born Wilhelm Kostrowicki, was commonly called Kostro, just as I’m called Kosti. Because I resist doing anything professional, even a dictionary entry, that anyone else can do better, I recruited colleagues to write as many entries as possible. These colleagues’ names appear after the entries (which are otherwise mine); it is not for nothing that their names also accompany mine on the title page. From the late Nicolas Slonimsky, I drew upon texts already published, thanks to our common publisher. Within the entries, names and sometimes words set in all caps receive fuller treatment in an alphabetically placed entry. My model arts lexicographer, who deserves the dedication of this third edition as well as its predecessors, was the great Slonimsky, who, incidentally, preferred


the epithet “Lectionary” to “Dictionary” because the former term refers to reading, the second to speaking. (The first edition of this book appeared before his centenary, 28 April 1994.) Another model for the writing of concise remarks is Ambrose Bierce, an American author too opinionated to be “great,” but whose best writing (see the entry on him) is nonetheless remembered. All of us who write dictionaries, whether authoritative or satirical, are, of course, indebted to the British writer Samuel Johnson. This Dictionary differs from others in the arts in emphasizing decisive esthetic characterization over, say, a recital of institutional positions held, teachers or students had, influences acknowledged, friendships made, or awards won. My implicit rules for writing entries on individuals were that they should be at least one hundred words long and that each entry should portray a person or concept distinctive from all others. One selftest was whether I could nail a subject in a particularly way–not simply frame her or him with common details but uniquely nail them. More than once I discarded a draft, including some about personal friends, because the results would look suspiciously deficient for failing either of these two requirements. (No one is done a favour if made to look less. I considered appending their names here, if only to honor them, but feared that such acknowledgment might have an opposite effect.) Obviously, a book with avant-garde in the title ignores those who have spent their lives trying to be acceptable to one or another orthodoxy (including some earlier avant-garde). As this book’s publisher contractually limited the number of words it would accept, I necessarily removed some previous entries; but rather than consign them to a dustbin, I decided to collect them into a book tentatively titled, Earlier Entries, available from Archae Editions at Amazon. I am also grateful not only to Richard Carlin for commissioning the first two editions before reprinting


the second in paperback, and now to Ben Piggott for contracting this latest revision for Routledge and Laura Soppelsa for expediting production. May I thank again Douglas Puchowski, now for finding illustrations, and then my literary associate Shoshana Esther Stone, who has come to oversee every word written by me. Because this book covers several arts, documentation is meant to be more useful than consistent or pseudo-definitive. For instance, following Slonimsky’s example, Douglas Puchowski and I tried to include complete birthdates and death dates, down to months and days whenever possible, acknowledging that sometimes so much detail was unavailable (particularly about individuals not yet customarily included in such compendia). To preserve an illusion of pristine research, we could have removed entries whose documentation was incomplete – by and large people whose loss would not be noticed – but instead decided that the inclusion of unfamiliar names was more important. Some people alive when this was drafted have no doubt since passed on. A book with so much detail about contemporary figures will surely contain misspellings and other minor errors of fact, as well as unintentional omissions. If only to prepare for the possibility of a fourth edition, the author welcomes corrections and suggestions, by email, please, if they are to go into a single repository, c/o his eponymous website. No kidding. Since the author is an American who spent a year studying at King’s College, London, and writing for London media, he freely mixes British orthography with American to a degree that partisans of one style or the other might find disagreeable. Consider, instead, appreciating his transatlantic catholicity. Because this book contains more proper nouns, including names, than can be successfully indexed, it also appears as an ebook whose search mechanism should be able to locate whatever details the reader would like. —Richard Kostelanetz

Introduction The avant-garde consists of those who feel sufficiently at ease with the past not to have to compete with it or duplicate it. Dick Higgins, “Does Avant-Garde Mean Anything?” (1970) The avant-garde cannot easily become an academy, because avant-garde artists usually sustain the quality which made them avant-garde artists in the first place. The styles they develop will become academic in other hands. Darby Bannard, “Sensibility of the Sixties” (1967)

The term “avant-garde” refers to those out front forging a path previously unknown, a route that others will take. Initially coined to characterize the shock troops of an army, the epithet passed over into art. Used precisely, avant-garde should refer, first, to rare work that on its first appearance satisfies three discriminatory criteria: It transcends current esthetic conventions in crucial respects, establishing discernible distance between itself and the mass of recent practices; it will necessarily take considerable time to find its maximum audience; and it will probably inspire future, comparably advanced endeavors. Only a small minority working within any art can ever be avant-garde; for once the majority has caught up to something new, whether as creators or as an audience, those doing something genuinely innovative will, by definition, have established a beachhead someplace beyond. Problems notwithstanding, avant-garde remains a critically useful category. As a temporal term, avant-garde characterizes art that is “ahead of its time” – that is, beginning something – while “decadent” art, by contrast, stands at the end of a prosperous development. “Academic” refers to art that is conceived according to rules that are learned in a classroom; it is temporally post-decadent. Whereas

decadent art is created in expectation of an immediate sale, academic artists expect approval from their social superiors, whether they be teachers or higher-ranking colleagues. Both academic art and decadent art are essentially opportunistic, created to realize immediate success, even at the cost of surely disappearing from that corpus of art that survives merely by being remembered. Both decadent art and academic art realize their maximal audience upon initial publication. One secondary characteristic of avant-garde art is that, in the course of entering new terrain, it violates entrenched rules – it seems to descend from “false premises” or “heretical assumptions”; it makes current “esthetics” seem irrelevant. For instance, Suzanne Langer’s theory of symbolism, so prominent in the 1940s and even the 1950s, hardly explains the new art of the past four decades. Relevant though Langer’s esthetics were to the arts of Aaron Copland and Martha Graham, among their contemporaries, theories of artful symbolism offered little insight into, say, the music of John Cage or Milton Babbitt, the choreography of Merce Cunningham, or the poetry of John Ashbery, where what you see or hear is generally most, if not all, of what there is. This sense of irrelevance is less a criticism of Langer’s theories, which seventy years ago seemed so persuasively encompassing, than a measure of drastic artistic difference between work prominent then and what followed.


xvi • INTRODUCTION One reason why avant-garde works should be initially hard to comprehend is not that they are intrinsically inscrutable or hermetic but that they defy, or challenge as they defy, the perceptual procedures of artistically educated people. They forbid easy access or easy acceptance, as an audience perceives them as inexplicably different, if not forbiddingly revolutionary. In order to begin to comprehend such art, people must work and think in unfamiliar ways. Nonetheless, if an audience learns to accept innovative work, this will stretch its perceptual capabilities, affording kinds of esthetic experience previously unknown. Edgard Varèse’s revolutionary lonisation (1931), for instance, taught a generation of listeners about the possible coherence and beauty in what they had previously perceived as noise. It follows that avant-garde art usually offends people, especially serious artists, before it persuades, and offends them not in terms of content, but as Art. They assert that Varèse’s noise (or Cage’s, or Babbitt’s) is unacceptable as music. That explains why avant-garde art strikes most of us as esthetically “wrong” before we acknowledge it as possibly “right”; it “fails” before we recognize that it works. (Art that offends by its content challenges only as journalism or gossip, rather than as Art, and is thus likely to disappear as quickly as other journalism or gossip.) Those most antagonized by the avant-garde are not the general populace, which does not care, but the guardians of culture, who do, whether they be cultural bureaucrats, established artists, or their epigones, because they feel, as they sometimes admit, “threatened.” Though vanguard activity may dominate discussion among sophisticated professionals, it never dominates the general making of art. Most work created in any time, in every art, honors long-passed models. Even today, in the United States, most of the fiction written and published and reviewed has, in form, scarcely progressed beyond mid-20th-century standards; most poetry today is similarly decadent. The “past” that the avant-garde aims to surpass is not the tradition of art but the currently decadent fashions, for in Harold Rosenberg’s words, “Avant-garde art is haunted by fashion.” Because avant-gardes in art are customarily portrayed as succeeding one another, the art world is equated with the world of fashion, in which styles also succeed one another. However, in both origins and function, the two are quite different. Fashion relates to the sociology of lucrative taste; avant-garde, to the history of art. In practice, avant-garde activity has a dialectical relationship with

fashion, for the emerging remunerative fashions can usually be characterized as a synthesis of advanced art (whose purposes are antithetical to those of fashion) with more familiar stuff. Whenever fashion appears to echo advanced art, a closer look reveals the governing model as art from a period recently past. The term “avant-garde” can also refer to individuals creating such path-forging art; but even by this criterion, the work itself, rather than the artist’s intentions, is the ultimate measure of the epithet’s applicability to an individual. Thus, an artist or writer is avant-garde only at certain crucial points in his or her creative career, and only those few works that were innovative at their debut comprise the history of modern avantgarde art. The term “avant-garde” may also refer to artistic groups, if and only if most of their members are (or were) crucially contributing to authentically exploratory activity. The term is sometimes equated with cultural antagonism, for it is assumed that the “avant-garde” leads artists in their perennial war against the Philistines. However, this Philistine antagonism is a secondary characteristic, as artists’ social position and attitudes descend from the fate of their creative efforts, rather than the reverse. Any artist who sets out just to mock the Philistines is wearing an old hat and thus not likely to do anything original. Esthetic conservatives are forever asserting that “the avant-garde no longer exists,” because, as they see it, either academia or the general public laps up all new art. However, it is critically both false and ignorant to use a secondary characteristic in lieu of a primary definition. Avant-garde is an art-historical term, not a sociological category. The conservative charge is factually wrong as well, as nearly all avant-gardes in art are ignored by the public (and its agents in the culture industries), precisely because innovative work is commonly perceived as “peculiar,” if not “unacceptable,” not only by the masses but by those who make a business of disseminating culture in large quantities. Indeed, the pervasiveness of those perceptions of oddity is, of course, a patent measure of a work’s being art-historically ahead of its time. Those who deny the persistence of the avant-garde are comparable to those who deny the existence of poverty, each by its fakery implicitly rationalizing retrograde attitudes and perhaps the retention of tenuous privileges. Because the avant-garde claims to be prophetic, the ultimate judge of current claims can only be a future cultural public. For now, future-sensitive critics should proceed under the assumption that in their enthusiasms they might, just might, be askew.


ABRAMOVIC, MARINA (30 November 1946) Born in Belgrade just after World War II, she attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade before beginning a career mostly of stunning PERFORMANCE and installations. Initially she explored themes of pain and duration, especially on herself. In Rhythm 0 (1974, in Naples), she invited spectators to use on her a range of instruments including knives. Moving to Amsterdam in 1975, she met Uwe Laysiepen (1943), a German known as Ulay. In their thirteen years together they did many prominent performances, including Relation in Space (1976), where they crashed their naked bodies into each other for an hour. In Night Crossing (1981), they abjured talking and eating for more than two weeks, repeating this performance in various venues, mostly notably in Australia, where it was also called Gold Found by the Artists (1981). They concluded their collaboration with The Lovers: Walk on the Great Wall (1988), where they started at opposite ends of the Chinese landmark, one crossing the Gobi Desert and the other treacherous mountain tops, until meeting on a bridge in the Shaanxi Province. After the legendary couple split, Abramovic returned to solo performances, including Biography (1992–96), a theatrical retrospective of twenty-five years of previous performances. In Cleaning the Mirror (1995, New York), clad in a long white shift, in a dank and dark basement, she scrubbed obsessively at large cow bones, removing bloody refuse that soiled her dress, creating, in RoseLee Goldberg’s judgment, “a metaphor for ethnic cleansing in Bosnia [that was] an unforgettable image of grief for her times.” Seriously entrenched in her particular art, Abramovic in 2005 presented at New York’s Guggenheim Museum Seven Easy Pieces in which she redid wholly on her own classics initially performed by other artists

mostly (e.g., Vito Acconci, Valie Export [1940]). In 2010 she became the first performance artist to merit a retrospective at New York’s MUSEUM OF MODERN ART.

ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM (c. 1948) If only because it emphasizes esthetic qualities, this term has come to be the most acceptable epithet for the innovative painting that became prominent in NEW YORK CITY in the late 1940s (and was thus sometimes called the NEW YORK SCHOOL). Drawing not only from SURREALISM but from JAZZ-based ideas of improvisatory gestural expression, certain artists laid paint on the canvas in ways that reflected physical attack, whether in the extended dripped lines of JACKSON POLLOCK or in the broad strokes of FRANZ KLINE. “Action painting,” another epithet once popular for this style of painting, was coined by the critic Harold Rosenberg, who theorized that these abstractions represented the artist’s mental state at the moment(s) of composition. One esthetic common to such painting was “all-over” composition, which is to say that the activity could be just as strong near the edges of the canvas as in the center, purportedly in contrast to the more hierarchical focusing typical of traditional art. WILLEM DE KOONING’s work is customarily placed within this term, even though his best paintings acknowledge figuration and focusing; so are BARNETT NEWMAN and AD REINHARDT, perhaps because they were roughly the same age as the others (and resided mostly in NEW YORK CITY), even though their art proceeded from decidedly nonexpressionist premises. A European epithet for comparable painting was ART INFORMEL.


2 • ABSTRACTION ABSTRACTION (c. 5000 B.C.) This term generally defines artwork, whether visual, aural, or verbal, that neither represents nor symbolizes anything in the mundane world; but, because pure abstraction is primarily an ideal, the epithet also refers to work that at least approaches the absence of identifiable figurative representation.Although some commentators make a case for abstraction as a new development in the history of visual art, such a generalization necessarily depends upon ignorance of Islamic art that traditionally observes a proscription against graven images. (Those arguing for modern abstraction as a development dismiss such Islamic art as “decorative.”) Abstract art in the West became avant-garde in the 20th century, precisely because various styles of representation had been dominant for centuries before. Within modern abstract art are two divergent traditions, one emphasizing structure and the other favoring expression; examples of both of these traditions appear not only in painting and sculpture but also in music and dance. One reason behind the oft-heard piety that “painting is more advanced than poetry” is that abstraction became more acceptable among visual artists than among writers in our century.

ABSURD, THEATER OF THE (c. 1961) The epithet comes from Martin Esslin’s brilliant 1961 book of the same title. In the plays of SAMUEL BECKETT and Eugène Ionesco, and to a lesser extent others, Esslin (1918–2002) identified nonsensical and ridiculous events that have sufficient metaphysical resonance to suggest the ultimate absurdity, or meaninglessness, of human existence. Reflecting philosophical existentialism, absurd writing represents an advance on the literature incidentally composed by the existentialist philosophers. If the latter sought a serious surface, the theatrical absurdists favored dark comedy in the tradition of ALFRED JARRY. The innovation was to demonstrate the theme of absurdity, in contrast to an earlier theater, identified with Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–80) and Albert Camus (1913–60), where characters debate it. By contrast, at the end of Ionesco’s The Chairs (1952), a particularly neat model of the convention, a hired lecturer addresses a nonexistent audience in an indecipherable tongue. This is the absurd surface. Because the lecturer’s message is supposed to represent the final wisdom of a 95-year-old couple, the meaningless message becomes an effective symbol for

the metaphysical void. In a more familiar example from SAMUEL BECKETT, two men wait for a mysterious Godot, who obviously is not coming. On the strictly theatrical influence of absurd theater, the Cambridge Guide to Literature in English (1988) says: The carrying of logic ad absurdum, the dissolution of language, the bizarre relationship of stage properties to dramatic situation, the diminution of sense by repetition or unexplained intensification, the rejection of narrative continuity, and the refusal to allow character or even scenery to be self-defining have become acceptable stage conventions. (Thanks for this summary.) Fifty years ago, I found a similar absurdist style in certain early 1960s American fiction by John Barth, Joseph Heller (1923–99), and Thomas Pynchon, among others. What seemed awesomely original and true in 1960s theater and fiction, now strikes most viewers as dated.

ACOHERENCE The literary equivalent of ATONALITY, not quite abstract, acoherence describes writing that makes sense, that organizes itself, not with an ostensible subject or an identifiable theme but around consistent diction, certain literary forms, style, and upon other qualities unique to language. Its masters were GERTRUDE STEIN and, reflecting her influence, John Ashbery. Once the latter became a professor at an American university, acoherence began to appear in the works of writing programs’ alumni, nearly all born after 1960, their names too numerous to mention, few (if any) of whom could do it as well, though their books, as often “prose” as “poetry,” often appeared with encomia from each other.


ADORNO, THEODOR (11 September 1903–6 August 1969; b. T. Ludwig Wiesengrund) Essentially a philosopher, sometimes classified as a social theorist, he also wrote books about music that are admired by some and loathed by many. They are filled


with sentences that are hard to decipher and thoughts that, even if understood, seem to go nowhere. Often Adorno is simply wrong, as when he opens a paragraph with the declaration that “Stravinsky also asserts his right to an extreme position in the modern music movement,” because IGOR STRAVINSKY spent most of his career separating his work from esthetic extremism. Plentiful Adorno references to both Karl Marx and SIGMUND FREUD contribute to an illusion of critical weight. As Adorno writes in pretentious, jargonious [sic] language that is meant to impress with its cumbersome sentences and highfalutin diction, rather than communicate from one person to another, his books on music in particular are valued by people who don’t know much about the subject. It could be said that their principal implicit theme is the intimidating power of Teutonic language and perhaps the intellectual privileges (aka indulgences) available to those who wield it. Some people have a taste for this kind of criticism, just as others have a taste for S&M. So be it. Adorno reportedly advised the German author Thomas Mann (1875–1955), likewise an exile in America during World War II, on the musical intelligence in the latter’s novel Doctor Faustus (1947), which may or may not account for that book’s musical irrelevance. The music that Adorno composed, which is sometimes mentioned to enhance his authority, is tonal and thus closer to Alban Berg (1885–1935) than to ARNOLD SCHOENBERG. (In truth, I wrote this entry only because my initial publisher insisted that this Dictionary should acknowledge Adorno. If only because his name is still remembered, it appears in this third edition.)

AFRICAN ART From the first decade of the 20th century, African art attracted avant-garde visual artists for its alternative ways of portraying the human body, particularly by elongating features. Some of the FAUVES collected it, as did HENRI MATISSE who by 1908 owned more than one dozen African sculptures. African representational restructuring later influenced CUBISM, one of whose practitioners particularly appreciated its incorporating “twenty forms into one.” More than others, PABLO PICASSO exploited African esthetics so profoundly and prolifically. The summa of its influence came when the German critic Carl Einstein published Negerplatik (1915), which analyzed its formal qualities. As early as 1935, New York’s MUSEUM OF MODERN ART mounted an exhibition mostly of sculpture, as well as publishing a catalog, African Negro Art. Oddly, neither African music nor African literature had a fraction as much influence upon Western avantgarde practice.


AFTERIMAGE This is an honorific developed in the visual arts that is applicable to other arts. In the former, the term identifies what stays in the viewer’s mind after the work containing it is no longer visible. Such surviving presence measures the strength of that image. I once heard the American painter Ben Shahn (1898–1969), near the end of his life, say that he wished he’d made films instead of paintings because of their greater leverage at implanting afterimages. The musical analogies are melodies and even arrangements that stay in listeners’ heads. In literature, consider the value of lines or characters so strong they are remembered. Conversely, whatever lacks such surviving presence, what’s not remembered, was ipso facto probably not worth remembering.

ALBERS, JOSEF (19 March 1888–25 March 1976) First a student and then an instructor at the BAUHAUS, Albers emigrated to America soon after that legendary German school was closed by the Nazi authorities, teaching first in North Carolina at BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE until 1949, and then at Yale University until his retirement. Intentionally restricting his imagery to rectangles within rectangles, which he considered scrupulously neutral shapes, Albers created paintings and drawings based primarily upon the relationships of shapes and of colors. His series “Homage to the Square” reportedly includes hundreds of paintings that are not only distinctly his, but they also suggest alternative directions, as only the best teacher’s art can. That his book Interaction of Color (1963) has gone through several editions, one posthumously revised by the art historian Nicholas Fox Weber (1947), testifies to its value. Perhaps because Josef’s art was so unique, while he held an academic position bestowing professional power, his work was included, ‘Tis claimed, in several hundred group exhibitions. The fact that little need be said about his art should not diminish any estimate of his achievement.

ALI, MUHAMMAD (17 January 1942–3 June 2016; b. Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.) Defensive boxing wasn’t his invention, but he took its choreography to a higher level. He was among the few star boxers flexible enough to bend backwards to

4 • ALLEN, WOODY escape a punch and among the few heavyweights to “dance,” which is a boxing honorific for being light on his feet. Among Ali’s defensive strategies, after setting up in a familiar offense stance, was stepping backward with his left foot, thus moving out of his opponent’s normal punching range. When the other guy necessarily moved forward to reset himself, Ali punched without risking return punishment. As a defensive fighter whose skin rarely cut, he could also “take punches,” as it’s said, until, as in his classic “Rumble in the Jungle” with mighty George Foreman (1949), his opponents punched themselves into exhaustion, becoming easy prey for Ali’s knock out. Watching him perform was a theatrical pleasure rarely duplicated in his sport. (Those coming close include Jorge Páez [1965], whose mother reportedly owned a circus in border Mexicali; and “Prince” Naseem Hamed [1974], whose fortes were striking costumes and grand entrances.) Early in his storied career, Ali displayed voluble wit. By its end, however, he was mute in public, probably as the result of taking too many strong punches.

by the Lovin’ Spoonful, a fair folk-rock group popular at the time, does this film fall down. Perhaps that last unfortunate experience prompted Allen to retain final creative control of his later films. Perhaps because he felt more responsible for earning enough money to make yet more films, his later films were less courageously innovative. He got serious; and though Allen didn’t get far in college, he made movies for those who did. No doubt over-(or under-) educated, I fell asleep in too many later Allen films; though, if prompted, I recall some inspired comedy in his Bananas (1971), which was long ago. Nobody else once worthy of an entry here has made the desire to make yet more (and more) films the principal focus of his career. Of his writings, the most original are “ballets” that he has published here and there over the years. In his personal life, Allen successfully challenged the politically correct proscription against intergenerational marriage with his sometime partner’s adopted daughter. Surviving negative publicity, they have remained tight for over two decades. Time tells its own truth.

ALLEN, WOODY (1 December 1935; b. Allan Stewart Konigsberg) His single most inventive film was his first as a director, What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), which must be seen to be believed. Taking Japanese action footage, made only a few years before, Allen made a fresh English soundtrack entirely about something else – Jews searching for the world’s best egg salad recipe. This unpretentious formula becomes the platform for rich gags, some of them exploiting Asian stereotypes (in a move probably less acceptable now); others, incongruous juxtaposition. Though Allen was only 30 when it appeared, Tiger Lily came in the wake of a rich precocious career in comedy that began when he was 17 – scriptwriting for network television shows, providing captions to New Yorker cartoons, taking the stage as a stand-up comedian where he successfully developed the persona of a neurotic, nervous, intellectual, Jewish nebbish. (This varied in crucial respects from his actual self-confident personality.) By any measure, no American had a better education in comedy to prepare him for yet greater comedy. Two qualities special about Tiger Lily are that it doesn’t depend upon his persona and it realizes mediumistic invention to a degree that Allen never tried again. Tiger Lily is screamingly, continuous funny, at the level of the best Marx Brothers, who were Allen’s initial heroes. Only where the producers insert songs

ALTERNATIVE SPACES (1970s) This has been the preferred American epithet for galleries that exhibit art and sponsor performances without the expectation of a profit. Many were founded in the wake of largesse made available by the National Endowment for the Arts and its imitators in many states, initially to serve artists who found commercial channels closed. In 1977, the NEA funded fifty-nine of over one hundred that had applied. Perhaps the largest and most famous, PS 1 in Astoria, New York, took over a vacated public school (thus the “PS”) that was among the largest in NEW YORK CITY. While its former auditoriums and gymnasiums were used for exhibitions and performances, the sometime classrooms housed smaller shows or became studios mostly for artists from abroad. (I had in 1979 an exhibition of my BOOK-ART in a ground floor corner space that must have been a principal’s office, because it housed a machine for making bells ring throughout the building.) In one of its top-floor classrooms, PS 1 permanently houses JAMES TURRELL’s Meeting (1986), a masterpiece whose roof can be opened to exhibit the changing late afternoon sky. Thousands of artists from around the world, avant-garde and otherwise, have benefited from the existence of such alternative spaces.


AMBIENT MUSIC (c. 1920) Ambient or background music was first suggested as a possible art form by ERIK SATIE. He described his concept of “furniture music” (musique d’ameublement) as “new music [to be] played during intermission at theatrical events or at a concert, designed to create a certain ambience.” In the 1930s, the Muzak Company was founded to transmit, by radio, soothing background music that would be appropriate for offices and factories. These selections were psychologically tested either to encourage more productivity or to ease stressful situations (e.g., the ever-present Muzak heard while sitting in the dentist’s chair). A common nickname for this type of overly pleasant background music is Elevator Music. In the postwar years, American composer JOHN CAGE reintroduced Satie’s notion of music to be played as a background accompaniment to other activities. This idea has been most actively espoused by composer/producer BRIAN ENO who took the term “ambient music” from Cage. Eno’s background music is supposed to be both “interesting as well as ignorable,” in the words of critic Stuart Isacoff (1949). The most famous example of Eno’s ambient work is Music for Airports, which, ironically, has been used as Muzak in several major airports. Another development in background music briefly flourished in the late ’50s and early ’60s, mostly in the hands of eccentric sound composer Esquivel. His creations, now known as “space-age bachelor pad music,” combined electronic sounds with futuristic background music. This music was designed to be played in the homes of forward-looking young men, anticipating the advances of the space-age. As pure kitsch, this music was briefly revived in the late 1990s. —Richard Carlin

ANIMATED FILM (c. 1900) It is my considered idiosyncratic opinion that animation in film has always constituted an avant-garde. Since film extended from photography, where anything resembling animation has always been scarce, animation has from its beginnings necessarily reflected discoveries about properties that made film different from photography. Whereas representational films were shot scene by scene, most animation was produced frame by frame. Movement on screen comes


not from moving the camera or the actors but from changes made on a drawing board by hand. Throughout the history of film production, animation has always been a sorry sister. It is said that the producer in charge of cartoons at WARNER BROTHERS, where some of the best animation was achieved, arrived at screenings with the epithet “Roll the trash.” And the censors at the time didn’t examine animated shorts as closely as feature films, allowing, say, the eroticism of the Fleischers’ Betty Boop to go into movie houses, where such sensuous moves by human beings in feature-length films would have been forbidden. Few critics at the time acknowledged the WARNER toons, which didn’t earn much critical writing until the 1970s. Only in 1985 did the MUSEUM OF MODERN ART mount a retrospective of Warner work. The only animated film ever to command much critical respect at its premiere was Walt Disney’s feature-length FANTASIA (1941), which is indeed a masterpiece. Curiously, the development of animated film created a precondition for video, which at its truest is not a representational medium, like most film, but something else, containing as it does the potential to generate its own imagery and to process electronically (and thus easily) prerecorded pictures. Though I’ve read many histories of animated film, I don’t consider any of them to be critically smart. Nonetheless, I recommend the thick Giannalberto Bendazzi’s Cartoons (1995) for its international information. The anthology Frames (1978), assembled by George Griffin, himself a distinguished animator, presents a page or two of credible sample images from American animators. I reprint all their names, not because they are familiar but because, decades later, they aren’t, though many probably should be: Jane Aaron, Martin Abrahams, Karen Aqua, Mary Beams, Lisze Bechtold, Adam Beckett, Gary Beydler, David Blum, Lowell Bodger, Barbara Bottner, Robert Breer, Ken Brown, Carter Burwell, John Canemaker, Vincent Collins, Lisa Crafts, Sally Cruikshank, Larry Cuba, Jody Culkin, Howard Danelowitz, Carmen D’Avino, Loring Doyle, Irra Duga, Eric Durst, Tony Eastman, David Ehrlich, Jules Engel, Victor Faccinto, Roberta Friedman, Paul Glabicki, Andrea Romez, James Gore, Linda Heller, Louis Hock, Al Jarnow, Flip Johnson, Linda Klosky, Ken Kobland, Candy Kugel, Maria Lassing, Kathleen Laughlin, Carolina Leaf, Francis Lee, Jerry Lieberman, Anthony McCall, Frank & Carolina Mouris, Eli Noyes, Pat O’Neill, Sara Petty, Dennis Pies, Suzan Pitt, Richard Protovin, Kathy Rose, Peter Rose, Susan Rubin, Robert Russett, Steve Segal, Maureen Selwood, Janet Shapero, Jim Shook, Jody Silver, Lillian & J. P. Somersaulter, Robert Swarthe, Mary Dzilagyi, Anita Thacher,

6 • ANTHOLOGIES (OF THE AVANT-GARDE) Stan Vanderbeek, Peter Wallach, and James Whitney. Consider this invisibility to be an indication of how avant-garde nearly all film animation must be, even in America.


anthologies of new avant-garde work, including a few edited by me. (Having composed anthologies, I like to read those that are thoughtfully edited, rather than compiled where, for two negative red flags, selections appear in alphabetical order by author or chronological order by birthdate.)


(1896–) The great printed collections of emerging avant-garde materials draw from disparate sources to establish persuasively the existence of a body of works previous not seen together. As literally a choice gathering of flowers, anthologies initially introduce, if not publicize; eventually, they canonize. The exemplar for proto-EXPRESSIONISM was Der Blaue Reiter Almanach (1912, The Blue Rider) and DADA was Richard Huelsenbeck’s Dada Almanach (1920; English, 1966 & 1994). Historically, SURREALIST literature benefitted from Andre Breton’s Anthologie de l’humour noir (1940, The Anthology of Black Humor). For earlier French vanguard writing, the classic was Remy de Gourmont’s two-volume Le Livre des Masques (1896, 1898) that was brilliantly reworked and later translated as The Book of Masks (1994). Among the other classic anthologies of emerging avant-gardes was Poètes à l’Écart (1946, Offside Poetry), edited by Carola GIEDION-Weckler; Robert Motherwell’s The Dada Painters and Poets (1951; second ed., 1989); Eugen Gomringer’s konkrete poesie (1960, 1996); Franz Mon’s Movens (1960); La Monte Young and Jackson Mac Low’s An Anthology of Chance Operations (1963, 1971), which features early FLUXUS along with JOHN CAGE’s early influence; Happenings, Fluxus, Pop Art, Nouveau Realisme Eine Dokumentation Herausgegeben (1965), edited by Jürgen Becker (1932) and Wolf Vostell (1932–98), who also brilliantly designed its pages; Mary Ellen Solt’s Concrete Poetry: A World View (1968), which became most valuable for its international scope; Jean-François Bory’s Once Again (1968) for visual narrative; Peter Weibel and Valie Export’s Wien: Bildkompendium Wiener Aktionismus und (1970) for Vienna Actionism; Eugene Wildman’s Experiments in Prose (1969), whose only competition for representing radically innovative fiction is an anthology of mine; Alan Sondheim’s Individuals (1977), which features a brilliant introduction often typical of such avant-garde selections; Gerhard Rühm’s Die Wiener Gruppe (1985) for certain Austrian poets; Geof Huth’s modest pwoermds (2004) for linguistic inventions. There are other consequential

(26 August 1880–9 November 1918; b. Wilhelm Apollinaris de Kostrowitzky) Born of a Polish mother who brought her fatherless sons to Monaco, where they received a French education, Kostrowitzky, known even into his adult years as “Kostro,” took a French pseudonym for a mercurial literary career that included art criticism, plays, fiction, pornography, and poetry. An early avant-garde text was the poème simultané, “Zone” (in Alcools, 1913), in which events in several places are portrayed in adjacent lines, as though the writer were a bird rapidly moving from place to place. To foster perceptions that are not linear but spatial, Kostro simply eschewed punctuation. His second innovation, presaging literary MINIMALISM was the one-line poem, “Chantre” (or “Singer”), which William Meredith (1919–2007) translates as “And the single string of the trumpets marine.” Kostro’s third major innovation was visual poems that he called “calligrammes,” in which words are handwritten or typeset to make expressive shapes, which he dubbed “visual lyricism.” For “Il pleut” (or “It rains”), the letters stream down the page, in appropriately uneven lines; “The Little Car” has several shapes reflective of automotive travel; “Mandolin Carnation and Bamboo” incorporates three roughly representational forms on the same page. Some of these handwritten poems have lines extending at various angles, words with letters in various sizes, musical staves, or diagonal typesetting, all to the end of enhancing language. Not only do such poems display a freedom in the use of materials, but Kostro apparently made it a point of principle not to repeat any image. Another, perhaps lesser, innovation he called “conversation poems” (“Les Fenêtres” and “Lundi Rue Christine”), because they were assembled from morsels overheard (and in their spatial leaping resemble “Zone”). Kostro’s best-remembered play, Les Mamelles de Tirésias (The Breasts of Tiresias, 1918, but written many years before), is a satire on sex and genius that Martin Esslin (1918–2002) identifies as a distinguished precursor to the THEATER OF THE ABSURD. Kostro’s strongest book of art criticism, Les Peintres Cubistes,


Méditations Esthétiques (1913, The Cubist Painters, Esthetic Meditations), identified a new development as it was maturing. A single essay, “L’Esprit nouveau et les poètes” (“The New Spirit and the Poets,” 1918), is no less valid today than it was when written, because of its emphasis upon surprise as an avant-garde esthetic value. As an arts critic, Kostro coined “Surnatural” that was later shortened to surréal, which stuck, and he championed PABLO PICASSO above all other painters. It should not be forgotten that, in the cultural milieus of Paris at the beginning of the century, Kostro performed invaluable service in bringing together advanced artists and writers and helping them understand one another. As Roger Shattuck (1923–2005) elegantly put it, “He wrote on all subjects, in all forms, and for all purposes. For him there was no separation of art and action; they were identical.” Since I was first called Kosti in a summer camp that had too many boys named Richard, I respect his love of accident and coincidence as I assimilate him, regarding this Dictionary as a book that Kostro would have written had he lived long enough, say to my age, and resettled in NEW YORK CITY.

APPROPRIATION (1970s) The filching of bits from earlier art, often without attribution, has become so popular a modernist procedure in literature, music, and visual art that it’s often unnoticed. In music, it’s called sampling. What was new, especially in the 1970s, was reproducing whole works, nearly intact, especially of photographs and then paintings, as well as sometimes literary texts, with the claim that the reproduction belonged to the younger artist. Simple to do, easy to write about, such works generated considerable chatter less among practicing artists than in art magazines and their principal audience of art students. In my judgment, the most profound appropriator was also among the earliest and a most meticulous painter (or repainter), rather than a (re)photographer – Elaine Sturtevant. Everyone after was after.

ARMSTRONG, LOUIS (4 August 1901–6 July 1971) A precocious horn player from an indigent family, he was gigging in black bands around his native New Orleans as a teenager. By 1922 he went to Chicago to


play in Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, a prominent group, making his first recordings with them in 1923. Quick to exploit the possibilities of records for disseminating his music, initially to black audiences, eventually to a larger multicultural public, he made countless recordings with innumerable assortments of other musicians. By 1925, still in Chicago, he organized his own groups – initially the Hot Five, later the Hot Seven, etc. Armstrong’s first musical innovations were rhythmic. As the cultural critic Albert L. Murray (1916– 2013) put it, Armstrong became: the intimate beneficiary of ragtime and stride, the shift from the popularity of the 3/4 waltz beat of the operetta to the 4/4 of the fox trot, the onestep, the two-step, the drag, the stomp, the AfroU.S. emphasis on percussion and on syncopation, the break, stop time, and so on. On a different sense of time, initially learned in black New Orleans, Armstrong founded an AfricanAmerican modern music, incidentally becoming more influential than BIX BEIDERBECKE, an Iowa-born German–American cornetist, who epitomized a more Caucasian style of horn-based jazz. (Whereas Beiderbecke died from disease exacerbated by excessive alcohol, and certain later jazz stars succumbed early to heroin, Armstrong’s principal daily recreation/ distraction was reportedly marijuana.) On the strength of his art, coupled with his persistence, Armstrong successfully imported African-American street culture into all of America’s living rooms. Given the strength of racial prejudice, not to mention the practice of segregation, during the first half of the 20th century, this was no easy feat – forging a cultural path that other African-American musicians have since successfully pursued. Once Armstrong’s reputation as a trumpeter was securely established, he became a successful vocalist, in a gravelly innovative style uniquely his, as his facility to syncopation influenced later singers. One successor, Tony Bennett (1926), often credits Armstrong with inventing uniquely American solo vocalizing. Armstrong even released best-selling disks in which his famous trumpet took a back seat to his voice. One credible hypothesis holds that he always wanted to be a singer, indeed always sang, and regarded his trumpeting as extending his singing voice. Well-managed and generous with his time, Armstrong played in the largest and most prestigious venues around the world and appeared regularly in films and on radio and then television, working steadily until his death.

8 • ARP, JEAN/HANS ARP, JEAN/HANS (16 September 1887–7 June 1966; aka Hans A.) Born a German citizen in Strasbourg, Arp moved easily between France and Germany (and thus between two first names), between the French and German languages, and between visual art and poetry. In the first respect, he made abstract reliefs dependent upon cutouts and highly distinctive sculptures utilizing curvilinear shapes. He worked with automatic composition, chance, and collaborations. He appropriated the epithet “concrete art,” even though his biomorphic forms were quite different from the geometries of THEO VAN DOESBURG, who originated the term, and MAX BILL, who popularized it. Arp spoke of wanting “to attain the transcendent, the eternal which lies above and beyond the human.” Papiers déchirés he composed by tearing up paper whose pieces fell randomly onto the floor in an analog to the “automatic writing” of SURREALISM. He wrote: I continued the development of glued works by structuring them spontaneously, automatically. I called this working “according to the law of chance.” The “law of chance,” which incorporates all laws and is as inscrutable to us as is the abyss from which all life comes, can only be experienced by surrendering completely to the unconscious. So profoundly did Arp believe in the implications of his method, he added, “I claimed that, whoever follows this law, will create pure life.” One quality common to his visual art and his poetry is simplicity of shape and color. Integrating contraries, his art seems to belong to Surrealism as well as to DADA, to CONSTRUCTIVISM as well as to Expressionism. With two first names, speaking two languages, he became the master of the pun. To the British art critic David Sylvester 1926–2001), Arp mastered “the visual pun made by a shape that means two or three different and incongruous things at once and hints, moreover, at referring to further things that can’t quite be identified.” Bingo. Arp also published criticism that included Die Kunstismen (Isms of Art, 1925), written in collaboration with EL LISSITZKY, in which the two participants persuasively identified all the avant-garde movements dating back to 1914. Oddly, this percipient text is not reprinted in the standard English-language anthology of Arp’s writings. Not unlike other Dadaists, he evaded conscription into World War I with a certain theatrical style. As the American writer Matthew Josephson (1899–1978) tells it, the German consul in Zurich gave Arp:

a form to fill in, listing about thirty questions starting with his birth. He wrote down the day, month, and year – 1889 [sic] – on the first line, repeated this for all the rest of the questions, then drew a line at the bottom of the page, and added it all up to the grand total of something like 56,610! Did his reputation gain or lose from his having a surname that sounded like the English word for Art and thus prompted such deprecating epithets as Arp’s Art?

ART POVERA, L’ART CONTEMPORAIN, ART INFORMEL, ART BRUT, ART AUTRE, SUPERREALISM, NEW ESTHETIC, ART OF THE REAL, TRANSAVANTGARDE, NEO-GEO, UNEXPRESSIONISM, ETC. These terms are grouped together because they were used at one time or another to merchandise a new group of artists. Although some of the individual artists promoted under these banners might have survived, the terms did not, mostly because they (and others with a similarly short life span) were coined with the intelligence of advertising and promotion rather than art criticism and art history. (What is surprising is that most of the “critics” adopting such opportunistic epithets survived their decline and disappearance, perhaps illustrating how the business of criticism differs from the life of art.)

ART WORLD (1960?) Much understanding of significance in recent art depends upon this concept that circumscribes people seriously involved in artistic MODERNISM, whether as creators, critics, or sponsors. Thus, what might appear to be a meaningless gesture in the outside world, such as sitting silently at a piano, becomes significant within an art world, more specifically in its contribution to the history of modernist music. To those familiar with the earlier music of the composer JOHN CAGE, the performance in 1951 of absence for four minutes and thirty-three seconds (then the maximum time available on a 12-inch 78 rpm recording disk) was initially recognized as extending his earlier well-established interest in incorporating into his music those sounds produced without musical


instruments. This absence of intentional musicmaking gains further resonance from, first, the frame of a concert including other music, within a venue where modernist music was previously presented, and then the presence of a pianist (David Tudor) already renowned for playing advanced music. Thus, by such resonant FRAMING, a move meaningless to laypeople gains meaning within an acknowledged art world. By the same enhancing process did, say, ANDY WARHOL’s paintings of common objects gain significance. Similarly, only to followers of architects can a proposal for a building unbuilt have meaning. Such effort extends the art-world’s traditional magic of establishing value, sometimes great value, upon objects that common people judge trivial. Contemporary music’s Art World slightly overlaps with that in the visual arts, which scarcely in turn interacts with that in literature where, say, semblances of chopped-up prose have long been accepted as “free verse.” Not unlike other sophisticated modernist monikers this one got vulgarized to identify people who visit galleries and museums.

ARTAUD, ANTONIN (4 September 1896–4 March 1948) Artaud is the author of a hypothetical book so extraordinary, Le Théâtre et son double (1938; The Theatre and Its Double, 1958), that it bestowed authority on everything else he ever did: books of plays, his poems, his movie appearances, his notebooks, even his persistent madness. (A more familiar example of this syndrome would be the authority that the theory of relativity bestowed upon Albert Einstein, albeit in different ballparks.) Influenced particularly by Balinese dancers he saw in Paris in the early 1930s, Artaud imagined a Western theater that would neglect realism and narrative for kinetic images, rituals, and even magic. Such theater could surround the audience, even enticing it to participate. Thus, under the banner of “theatre of cruelty,” he forecast not only Peter Brook’s (1925) more radical productions and the living theater, but also HAPPENINGS and subsequent PERFORMANCE art. Though Artaud aspired to create consequential avant-garde art and sometimes did inspired performances of his own texts, it is as a theorist and an artistic “personality” that he is mostly remembered. Curiously, he is among the few major artists to have the epithet “art” embedded within his surname.


ARTISTS’ BOOKS This term arose in the 1970s to encapsulate anything bookish made by individuals established in the visual arts world or, sometimes, who had just gone to art school. Like most art terms based on biography, rather than the intrinsic properties of the art, it was a marketing device, designed to sell works to an audience respectful of “artists”; because of the biographical base, the term forbade qualitative distinctions, “better” artists not necessarily producing superior books. Artistically considered, alternative book forms should be called BOOK-ART the produce, book-art books (to further distinguish them from “art books,” which are illustrated books, customarily in a large format, about visual art). Some of us have favored this esthetic definition over the autobiographical, without success so far.

ARTISTS’ COLONIES (1898) Throughout the 20th century, artists have gathered together, usually in some rustic setting, to create a residential community in which they could live and work apart from bourgeois pressures. Other benefits included close support of each other’s efforts and the sharing of critical intelligence. Among the earliest were Ogunquit in Maine and Worpswede in North Germany. Whereas the first centered upon an art school opened in 1898 by the painter Charles Woodbury (1864–1940), the latter counted among its more eminent members the painter Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876–1907). Around the turn of the 20th century a certain building within DOWNTOWN Manhattan, 51 West Tenth Street, became a mini artists’ colony with a gallery and the studios of several prominent artists. Around World War I Man Ray participated in a short-lived colony in Ridgefield, NJ, across the Hudson River from Manhattan. A later example in America was The Land, which for decades housed several major avant-garde figures. None of these bucolic retreats ever had more than a few dozen people. In the late 1960s, by contrast, the former Bell Labs in Manhattan’s far west Greenwich Village was renovated to become Westbeth whose many spaces with uncommonly tall ceilings were offered to certified artists at rents far below the market levels. More prominently, ARTISTS’ SOHO, by further contrast, was an industrial slum that became an art town, sort of a de facto campus, further downtown within NYC, with several hundred working artists, if not more, many of them avant-garde, some not. The concentration of so many

10 • ASSEMBLAGE painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers, et al. within a square mile created a large esthetic hot house.

ASSEMBLAGE (1950s–’70s) This term was purportedly coined in the early 1950s by the French artist Jean Dubuffet (1901–85) initially for lithographs made from paper COLLAGES and then, more influentially, for small sculptures made from papier-mache, scraps of wood, sponge, and other debris. The word was popularized by a 1961 exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, whose catalog spoke of works that “are predominantly assembled rather than painted, drawn, modeled, or carved.” On display were by-then classic collages along with sculptures by Louise Nevelson, Richard Stankiewicz, JOSEPH CORNELL, and Edward Kienholz, whose contribution was really a tableau (which differs from sculpture in having a theatrical frontside, forbidding close access). Eventually the epithet “assemblage” functioned best as a definition for three-dimensional collage.

ATONALITY (1908) This term became current in the 1910s among Viennese musicians who felt they were avoiding the traditional bases that defined both major and minor scales. The technique of atonal writing depended upon the unconstrained use of all notes, as though they had equal weight, regardless of previous “harmonious” relationships, thereby creating music that seems to float above any foundation. ARNOLD SCHOENBERG, for instance, refused to use a key signature in his work from the 1910s, preferring, in Nicolas Slonimsky’s phrases, to let “the melody flow freely unconstrained by the rigid laws of modulation, cadence, sequence, and other time-honored devices of tonal writing.” (Slonimsky adds that Schoenberg himself, predisposed to Viennese precision in language, preferred the term “atonicality,” because his music lacked not tones but tonics and dominants, which had been the traditional touchstones of Western harmony.) Once the principle of atonality was understood, the question arose whether there hadn’t been precursors. Paul Griffiths, among the more sophisticated music critics ever writing in English, says that atonal means of order MAY be distinguished as far back as Mozart: one locus classicus is the Commendatore’s grim statement in the penultimate

scene of Don Giovanni (1787), where in seven bars he touches eleven of the twelve notes. Still more striking is the opening of Liszt’s Faust Symphony (1853–57), where the unharmonized theme strikes the twelve different notes within the first thirteen. Griffith continues, “One may say there is here the threat of atonality, but the threat does not begin to be carried out until dissonant harmonies are sustained over a longer period, as they are in several of Liszt’s late piano pieces (1880–86).” My own opinion is that those predecessors’ practices were too slight to represent a radical position (that would, say, warrant an entry in a book like this). In a dialectical interpretation of modern musical tonality, atonality becomes the antithesis that is resolved with the discovery of SERIAL MUSIC as a new, alternative structure for the strict ordering of pitches. In fact, after 1923, neither Arnold Schoenberg nor ANTON WEBERN returned to nonserial atonality, having previously completed their dialectical synthesis. (I coined the epithet ACOHERENCE as a literary analog, initially to characterize the early poetry of John Ashbery, who is musically sophisticated, but now as a definition for all writing that eschews traditional grammatical and semantic structures.) Though much recent music could be defined as atonal, the term is no longer used, or useful.

AUDACITY Perhaps this quality was always appreciated in art, but only in the 20th century has audacity become such a positive attribute. The measure is simply an audience’s mouth-dropping awe before something that is so beyond their notions of acceptability, if not understanding. The historical exemplar was, of course, MARCEL DUCHAMP’s Fountain (1917), which was a store-bought urinal that an established artist offered to a juried art exhibition (which rejected it). Whereas this epitomizes content-audacity, as I’ll call it, formal audacity is something else, perhaps epitomized by CUBISM in its many forms both painterly and sculptural, later geometric paintings, monochrome canvases, and extreme atonality in music. More artistically questionable perhaps has been the introduction of materials commonly judged uncouth, such as cow dung or pickled carcasses, all respecting (or exploiting) Duchamp’s urinal from decades before; but once the dirty works of Damien Hurst (1965) and Chris Ofili (1968), among others, were purchased by established art collectors and then appreciated


favorably in public print – once the audacity emblazioned in their exhibition was accepted – their status as Art was assured.

AUDEN, W. H. (21 February 1907–29 September 1973) The more that an adventurous writer writes, the more likely it is that some of his publishing might be really good. Similarly, the more an adventurous wellsupported modern writer publishes, the more possible it is that some will be avant-garde. What was true for Edmund Wilson was also applicable to W. H. Auden whose more avant-garde work appears not in his fluent portentous verse, which influenced at least two generations of lesser English-language poets, but in some of his ancillary writing forgotten by even his more fervent admirers and, alas, misrepresented even by his most loyal publisher. Letters from Iceland (1937), written in collaboration with his fellow British poet Louis MacNeice, is not a continuous travelogue but a marvelous, multifaceted pastiche of two kinds of verse (one to each author), reportage, spirited personal letters (apparently addressed to real people), and some verbatim documents about their exploration of a North Atlantic island, itself a unique work of art on the fringe of Western Europe. After comments on Icelandic politics, society, and literature (though oddly omitting the inviting outdoor steam pools, perhaps because these young men didn’t swim) comes their most stunning conceit of a joint “Last Will and Testament,” whose well-turned lines incidentally shows that these aspiring writers knew familiarly many of their most prominent contemporaries. One additional element here, unusual in any poet’s book, is the poet’s own photographs, in this case Auden’s, reflecting his recent prior experience writing unusually poetic soundtracks for British documentary films. Not only are Auden’s pictures distinguished in sum, but they make an invaluable contribution to the whole that incidentally precedes the American classic of photographs + texts – James Agee and Walker Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1939). It is unfortunate that Auden’s photographs weren’t included in the 1967 Faber reprint of Letters from Iceland that was reissued again in 1985. In the latter edition, indeed, nothing is said about the Auden photographs other than to credit him with the image of a horse’s back half on the book’s cover. Whereas a reprint of Letters with only words is commonly available, the superior complete original was scarce until posthumously reprinted in the initial volume of


Auden’s Prose and Travel Books in Verse (1996). To no surprise perhaps, Letters isn’t mentioned in some Auden bibliographies, beginning with the one on Wikipedia in 2011. Another favorite innovative Auden text for me is his brilliant chart of literary romanticism (c. 1942), which I rescued from his executor, the Columbia English professor Edward Mendelsohn (1946) for my anthology Essaying Essays (1975, 2012). Oddly, Auden dropped his more avant-garde esthetic interests (as well as earlier tastes for pop music and new architecture) soon after immigrating to America in the late 1930s, whereas other Europeans often discovered in the USA kinds of alternative culture unavailable back home. How come? My sense is that Auden became in America a favorite of a class of people, lumpen academics, whose British peers had already rejected him as too avant-garde. Insecure in his personal life by turns Christian and gay, Auden perhaps accepted too much direction from his enthusiasts.

AUDIO ART (1980s) This term arose to define esthetic experience based on sound, as distinct from music on one side and language on the other. It can exist in live performance, whether on radio or on stage, as well as on audiotape. Typical pieces of audio art are about the sound of something – say, the sound of seduction, the sound of the language of prayer, the sound of particular cities, or sounds of nature. Among the major practitioners are JOHN CAGE (particularly in his early Williams Mix [1953]), SORREL HAYS (especially in her Southern Voices, [1981]), Jackson Mac Low, Makoto Shinohara (1931, especially in City Visit [1971]), Frits Wieland (especially in Orient Express), and Noah Creshevsky.

AUDIO-VIDEO TAPES (c. 1980) This is my coinage for video art in which the image accompanies highly articulate sound, usually because the soundtrack is composed before the image and/ or the video artist also works in audio art or music composition. The master here is Reynold Weidenaar, who indeed took degrees in music composition before turning to video, whose best videotapes incorporate his own music compositions. This procedure of sound preceding image is scarcely new. Some classic cartoons were produced this way – it’s hard to imagine how WALT DISNEY’s FANTASIA

12 • AURA could have been made otherwise. Likewise the excerpts that comprise Opera Imaginaire, an anthology of imaginative French television programs, mostly based on familiar recorded arias, which were subsequently released on commercial videotape. ORSON WELLES, who made classic radio programs before he produced films, reportedly recorded the soundtrack of his films before he shot any footage, finding in sound a surer guide to visual-verbal narrative art.

AURA An invisible halo bestowed upon the greatest works of art that places them above serious criticism, even if they are commonly disparaged and/or the possibility of an aura initially denied. Precisely because such works were often dismissed upon first appearance, the aura gains virtual presence from having been earned through the appreciation of audiences, rather than bestowed from a single higher authority like, say, a British knighthood or a Presidential Medal. For readers of this dictionary, certain entries here have acquired such veneration; others, no doubt not.

AUTOGRAPH What increases value in art, whether in a book or on a painting, almost magically, are scratches reflecting literally a golden touch ascribed to certain hands. Dare not underestimate the crucial value of this minor detail. On my walls are four silkscreened prints made by AD REINHARDT just before his death and thus unsigned, though they would be worth much more had he lived long enough to add merely his initials. Proof poof.

AVERY, TEX (26 February 1908–27 August 1980; b. Frederick B. A.) After directing some “Oswald the Rabbit” cartoons for Walter Lantz (1899–1994) at Universal in the mid-1930s, he became a principal creator of Bugs Bunny (1940, in A Wild Hare), a truly iconic figure who subsequently appeared in over 150 films as an anarchistic protagonist who survives all adversity (as, needless to say, a descendant of preternaturally wise rabbits in American folklore and literature). What distinguished the best Avery cartoons from WALT

DISNEY’s, say, are such qualities as quicker pace, a sharper edge, continuous detailed movement, greater violence (though no injury is permanent), unsupervised activities (typically without, say, both cops and parents), improbable situations (rather than realism), and a nightmare from which a protagonist cannot escape. One of my very favorites, Billy Boy (1953), portrays an insatiably voracious goat that eats up everything around him until he is rocketed to the moon, which he devours as well. As a linear narrative wholly eschewing digression, epiphany, or climax, this comes to a gruesome conclusion. Among Avery’s other creations were Chilly Willy the Penguin, Lucky Ducky, and Droopy the sorrowful-looking Dog. Among the masterpieces starring the last is Droopy’s Double Trouble (1951), in which Droopy has an identical twin, Drippy, who terrorizes a canine lummox named Spike who can’t distinguish between the two. Avery’s Bugs Bunny cartoons are widely available on videotape. He also nurtured the talents of CHUCK JONES, I. M. Freleng (1906–95; aka Friz F.), and other Warner Brothers animators prior to his quitting them in 1940.

AYGI, GENNADY (21 August 1934–21 February 2006) Considered by many to be one of the most original poets writing in Russian in his lifetime, he had also published in his first Chuvash language, which is indigenous to the Chuvash Republic in Russia. (Chuvashi are a Turkic ethnic group, native to an area stretching from the Volga Region to Siberia, and their language is the most divergent variant of Turkish.) Aygi mostly wrote in Russian after 1960, encouraged by Boris Pasternak (1890–1960). Paying special attention to the visual structure, he was much influenced by KASIMIR MALEVICH’s views on both poetry and painting. By combining motifs of Chuvashi folklore with ideas of Russian, French, and German avant-gardes, Aygi wrote poetry which was at once distinctly pastoral and neo-modernist, and sounded strange to the Russian ear. He claimed that his poetry is neither rhymed nor free verse, but rather rhythm-oriented. As his longtime translator Peter France notes in the essay “Translating a Chuvash poet,” Aygi’s poems often sound like incantations, “perhaps like the chanted prayers which Aygi inherits from his grandfather, the last pagan priest of his village.”


Returning to Baudelaire


a smouldering (from the paper into the world) –

(13 July 1936–25 November 1970)

the master as though somewhere of apparentness: a face like God’s – in the ashes – grasped: of the not-“I” of the mind crackling – with a flame! . . . – into the countenance of this wind the bright light of unpeopledness 1967 (Translated from Russian by Alex Cigale) Igor Satanovsky


More than any other, Ayler realized the highly abrasive, EXPRESSIONISTIC music that became the avant-garde edge for the younger jazz cognoscenti in the 1960s. He performed on the tenor saxophone, often in collaboration with his brother Donald (1942–2007), a trumpeter. Among the records that epitomize his style is Bells (ESP, 1965), which captures a live concert at New York’s Town Hall on 1 May 1965. He discovered in the saxophone acoustic qualities unheard before and unavailable to anyone else. (One story has the older saxophonist John Coltrane, upon first meeting Ayler, simply asking him, what kind of reeds are you using?) I have played this single-sided record for people who think themselves enthusiasts for everything “way out,” only to watch them wince. Ayler’s body was found in New York’s East River; the cause of his death has never been explained.


BACH, JOHANN SEBASTIAN (31 March 1685–28 July 1750) Since I’ve long regarded J. S. Bach as the greatest artist who ever lived, at least in any medium I understand, I’d like to include him here. His work was avant-garde by the measure of greater recognition coming to it decades after his death. Otherwise, his first innovation resulted from taking fugal polyphony and harmony to higher levels, especially in his Cantatas and the longer choral pieces collectively called Passions. More consequentially, consider that no one before J. S. Bach wrote so well or variously for solo instruments other than keyboards. In this respect his masterpieces are the six suites for solo cello, whose notes can incidentally be played brilliantly by other instruments capable of sounding only one note at a time, including a double bass, guitars, and a flute; and his equally legendary Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin. Typically then, of all his compositions for flute, the most awesome for me is BWV #1013, the only one for the instrument solo. Within this basket belong his masterpieces for solo keyboards, including The Goldberg Variations and the Well-Tempered Clavier. Need I add that for other instrumental groups this Bach wrote many other compositions that have survived; so have those by several of his sons.

BALANCHINE, GEORGE (22 January 1904–30 April 1983; b. Giorgi Melitonovich Balanchivadze) Though customarily regarded as the American master of classical ballet, he did certain more eccentric work earlier in his illustrious American career. In 1942, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus commissioned him and Igor Stravinsky to do The Ballet of the Elephants (1942) for fifty pachyderms and fifty dancing girls.


In her critical reconstruction, “Elephant in Tutus” (2007), the dance historian Sally Banes (1950) judges that Balanchine’s avant-gardism . . . consisted of his negotiating a pact between those two apparently antithetical systems, high and low cultures. He appropriated in his serious ballets popular culture, both old and new, American and European – jazz tap dancing and square dancing, Western movies, and the bodily habitus [sic] of fashion models and Rockettes. Thus here the elephants were outfitted with the short pink ballet skirts called tutus and jeweled headbands for their foreheads. Banes quotes an anonymous New York Times reviewer: They came into the ring in artificial, blue-lighted dusk, first the little pink dancers, then the great beasts. The little dancers pirouetted into the three rings and the elephant herds gravely swayed and nodded rhythmically. The arc of sway widened and the stomping picked up with the music. In the central ring, Modoc the Elephant danced with amazing grace, and in time to the tune, closing in perfect cadenced with the crashing [Stravinsky] finale. Only a few years after WALT DISNEY’s FANTASIA, The Ballet of the Elephants likewise discovered grace in animals, but the difference was that Balanchine used real animals. At once spectacle and parody, the Stravinsky score concludes with a distorted quote from Franz Schubert’s Marche Militaire. Though no pictures or footage of this are known to exist, it is vividly recalled in two memoirs by participating dancers – Connie Clausen’s I Love You, Honey, But the Season’s Over Now (1961) and Vera Zorina’s Zorina (1986). Unfortunate it was that Balanchine never again crossed over as far.




A cofounder of DADA who ended his short life as a Catholic writer, the mercurial Ball, born in Germany, began by rejecting German EXPRESSIONISM as fundamentally violent. He reportedly coined the term “Dada,” which he picked randomly from the dictionary, meaning “hobby horse,” among other definitions. Ball is best remembered for early sound poetry, which he called “Klanggedicht (1916),” that made equal sense in every language. One poem begins: “gadji beri bimba/ glandridi laula lonni cadori/ gadjama him geri glassala,” which sounds just as fresh today as it did then. “Introduce symmetries and rhythms instead of principles. Contradict the existing world orders,” he wrote in his diary in 1916. “What we are celebrating is at once a buffoonery and a requiem mass,” acknowledging a sacred dimension that distinguished him from his Dada colleagues.

his mellow egotism, Banksy functions as an urban guerilla, sometimes defacing walls already containing signage. In 1997, over the advertising in Bristol (England), it painted a teddy bear launching a Molotov cocktail at riot police. Banksy typically includes simple slogans that are anti-war and anti-capitalist. In 2004, the subversive artist produced 10-pound notes substituting Princess Diana for Queen Elizabeth and wittily changing “Bank of England” to “Banksy of England.” Producing a limited edition of 50 signed posters, he monetized his reputation. Reportedly one of these that initially sold for 100 pounds was remonetized at auction for 24,000 pounds. When Banksy came to NEW YORK CITY, which has a tougher graffiti community than London, some of his public art was redefaced, so to speak. By the 2010s, he(s?) or she(s?) was working around the world, always inventive and audacious. One speculation holds that, given how prolific this Banksy is, it might be the taken name of a collective.



(18 July 1871–1 March 1958)

(27 December 1945; aka Klarenz B.)

Commonly regarded as the most important painter associated with Italian Futurism, he contributed to the Manifesto dei pittori futuristi (1910, Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting) before producing, especially between 1913 and 1916, images of speedy movement. In particular, his Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912) and his Walking Dog on a Balcony (1912) both portray a succession of movements within a single image. His classic Velocità d’automobile (1913) does likewise visually to a moving car. Otherwise, rather than depicting machines and violence, his favoring planes of color marked him among the more abstract Futurist painters. So disparaged at the time these didn’t become acceptable for decades. Continuing to paint not only past World War I but after World War II, Balla was included in the initial Documenta in 1955 in Kassel, Germany.

Though born and educated in Calcutta, where he took his first degrees in science, Barlow resided for many years in Cologne, becoming one of the major avant-garde composers in the German-speaking world. His initial strengths are the use of computers in composition (since 1971), tonality and metricism based on number theory, pastiches that draw upon his musical literacy, and language creations that depend upon his awesome personal fluency in various tongues. The cofounder of GIMIK (Initiative Music and Informatics Cologne), he produced an acoustic portrait of his birthplace for the “Metropolis” series of Westdeutscher Rundfunk. Once the artistic director of the Institut voor Sonologie (1967) in The Hague, The Netherlands, he became in the 21st century a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

(22 February 1886–14 September 1927)




(25 March 1881–26 September 1945; b. Bartók Béla Viktor János)

This is the nom-de-art of a freehand graffiti artist(s?) whose birth name was, at last report, still unknown. Its specialty has been provocative messages in public spaces, very much like the painter René Moncada (1943) who graced the walls of Manhattan’s SOHO with his “I am the best artist.” However, unlike Moncada, who customarily sought permissions from owners’ walls for

A kind of Hungarian CHARLES IVES, he studied music only in his own country before drawing upon its folk music for a modern style uniquely identifiable, mostly through highly developed modal harmonies, irregular meters, and percussive qualities. More specifically, in 1904 he began transcribing obscure Hungarian folk songs that became a crucial influence upon his later

16 • BARTLEBY & CO compositions, beginning with the first of his String Quartets, that remain among the most successful sequences in modern music for that instrumental grouping. Later assimilating the continental influences of his contemporaries IGOR STRAVINSKY and ARNOLD SCHOENBERG, Bartók produced in the early 1920s two violin sonatas reflecting their ambitions for dissonance and complexity. Among his more frequently performed works are Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta (1936) and Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937). Indicatively, few classical composers ever wrote so well for the xylophone. Initially renowned as a precocious pianist, he wrote virtuoso pieces for himself. Indeed, Slonimsky credits Bartók with revolutionizing the art of piano performance: “Instead of emulating the refined nuances of the French masters of Impressionistic techniques or contributing to the emasculation of the piano by epicene neoBaroque practices, Bartók restored the primary function of the keyboard as a medium of percussive sonorities.” Recordings of his performances have survived. To my mind, perhaps the most extraordinary single piece is his Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin (1944), twenty minutes in length, incidentally demonstrating, much like J.S BACH’s compositions for solo strings, that some of the greatest solo instrumental music has come from writers skilled at counterpoint. This Sonata was written in New York to which Bartók has immigrated in 1940, just before his 60th birthday. Though he received an honorary doctorate from Columbia University, the only employment he could find in America was classifying a collection of SerboCroatian folk songs for the Columbia music department at a modest annual salary until special funds ran dry. Even after a newspaper published “The Strange Case of Béla Bartók,” which exposed a failure of support that happens, alas, too frequently in a prosperous Western country, the refugee’s health deteriorated, his weight sinking well below one hundred pounds as he succumbed to leukemia. Though the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) paid for his funeral expenses, not for several years was there enough money for a tombstone.

BARTLEBY & CO (1995) Of the many one-person publishers of fine limited editions, which are commonly more expensive than BOOK-ART printed in unlimited editions, this ranks among the best, especially for its inventive formats for printed, mostly literary, materials usually in containers

various in size and shape. Founded by Thorsten Baensch (1964), a German residing in Belgium, it has often reproduced original typography of a classic (e.g., John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Herman Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener) along with contemporary texts in more current designs. Most copies are purchased by sophisticated libraries that fortunately make them available for public viewing, handling, and appreciation. Among the other comparable European publishers working innovatively with bookish editions of avant-garde writers were Hundertmark (1970), initially in BERLIN, later in Cologne and then in the Canary Islands, which specialized in FLUXUS, CONCRETE POETRY, and Vienna Actionism; Rainer Verlag (1966–95), also in Berlin with a more eclectic avant-garde list; and Michèle Didier (1987), with a narrower focus, long in Brussels and Paris.

BASEBALL CARDS (1890s) What a remarkable artistic move it was to print pictures of prominent athletes not on portrait-sized paper (or larger) but on cardboard customarily no more than a few inches by several inches in size. On the cards’ backs was relevant information unique to each athlete’s career and/or an advertisement for a sponsor who was giving them away gratis. Much like Haldeman-Julius books, say, these cards could be printed cheaply, distributed widely, and carried in their owner’s pockets. Boys of various ages traded them with each other. Beginning in America in the late 19th century, the format quickly influenced semblances in Japan, Latin America, and even Australia. What started with baseball players eventually included star athletes – secular icons, if you will – in other sports, such as basketball and boxing, so that the first level for success for an aspiring athlete would be his or her appearance of a card featuring his face. Treasured by collectors of all ages (including this author and his current publisher), such cards in bulk became, especially after the acceptance of POP ART, the stuff of curated museum exhibitions. In his Artball (1971), the art professor Donald Celendar (1931–2005) put the faces of ART WORLD stars into the familiar format.

BAUDELAIRE, CHARLES (9 April 1821–31 August 1867) As a French poet and critic, commonly credited with initiating literary MODERNISM, he influenced visual artists particularly in France. The poems collected in


Les Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil, 1857) include “Correspondences” in which Baudelaire expresses the theory, basic to Symbolism, that the different sensations of sound, color, and perfume become synesthetically associated with one another. Their imagery, instead of being descriptive, is evocative and suggestive, thereby enabling the poet to portray deeper levels of sensual experience. As a major person of letters, Baudelaire also produced translations of Edgar Allan Poe (giving the American decadent more presence in France than his writing had at the time at home) and brilliant art criticism.

BAUHAUS (1919–33) In its short lifetime, the Bauhaus became the most advanced school for architecture and applied arts. Not surprisingly, it became more influential after its premature death by Nazi decree. Its teachers included Walter Gropius (1883–1969), LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE, OSKAR SCHLEMMER, Herbert Bayer (1900–85), and L. Moholy-Nagy, who disseminated its ideas in their subsequent teaching and writings. Among the central Bauhaus principles were the adaptation of technology to artistic uses, the refusal to distinguish between fine and applied art, and the teaching of all the arts collectively on the persuasive assumption that literacy in only one form or only one communications medium signifies functional illiteracy before the diversity of contemporary information. The Bauhaus’s so-called foundation course became a general introduction to materials, from which the individual student could then ideally concentrate on the medium of his or her choice. This last purpose accounts for why the original Bauhaus in Weimar (1919–25) had no course officially in architecture; that was added, purportedly for practical reasons, after its move to Dessau (1925). The Bauhaus books, edited and designed by Moholy-Nagy, became the first series of extended illustrated essays on architectural high modernism. Though Bauhaus ideas encouraged solid and economical construction over esthetic excellence, the result of Bauhaus influence has been new kinds of austere formalism: in design, artificial streamlining; and in architecture, the slick, glass-walled boxes that have become depressingly abundant on the American urban landscape. Similarly, an initially anti-academic educational program, emphasizing individual enthusiasm and choice over particular results, generated its own academic pieties of stylistic correctness (geometric patterns in textiles, say, rather than representational


images). In both architecture and design education, then, a limited interpretation of the Bauhaus esthetic placed an emphasis upon certain end products, rather than upon educational processes that might produce entirely different results.

BAUSCH, PINA (27 July 1940–30 June 2009, b. Philippine B.) Born in Germany, Bausch trained at the (Kurt Jooss [1901–79]) Folkwang School in Essen before studying at the Juilliard School of Dance in New York, where she worked with, among others, the British ballet choreographer Anthony Tudor (1908–87). Becoming director of the city-subsidized Wuppertal Dance Theater company in 1973, Bausch evolved a Tanz Theater (“dance theater”) that is a rich and complex amalgam of movement, text, music, and stunning visual effects. In Nelken (Carnations, 1982), the stage is filled with flowers; for Arien (Arias, 1979), it is a pool of water. Although most of Bausch’s performers are trained dancers, their movements rarely display virtuosic skills, instead reflecting dance techniques in their stylized interactions, mimed incidents, and gestural repetitions. In her Teutonic productions, one recurring theme was the bad things that men do to women. Her work also became the subject of a 3-D Wim Wenders (1945) documentary, Pina (2011), that is perhaps the best of its technical kind. She benefitted from the generous support of a smaller but prosperous German City, Wupperthal, from 1973 to her death. Just as some art happens only in America or only in France, hers was indigenous to Germany. —with Katy Matheson

THE BEATLES (1962–69) The story of this immensely popular singing group of the 1960s need not be retold; their avant-garde innovations as revolutionaries in popular song were many. They took the basic elements of ’50s rock-n-roll and R&B and recast them, including varied influences from such unrelated styles as country, pre-rock pop, and classical and avant-garde music. They stretched the limits of both the subject matter and length of the standard 45-rpm single, creating miniature soundscapes that were self-contained musical units (for example, consider the matched pair of memoir-recordings, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”).

18 • BEBOP They renounced touring at a time when most groups made their livings on the road. They experimented with multitracking, tape looping, backwards recording, and other “effects” that had previously only been heard in the realm of MUSIQUE CONCRÈTE. They created the “concept album” with their 1967 release, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, forever after elevating the album from a mere collection of hit singles to a coherent “artwork.” As fashion revolutionaries, they introduced long hair for men, and also popularized various styles of dress through their careers. They were also among the first pop groups to mold a specific image – the four adorable mop tops – and then, half-way through their careers, seriously challenge it by radically altering their appearances (remember the shock when the first pictures of the bearded Beatles were shown?). In their native England, where lower-class accents such as their native Liverpudlian speech were considered déclassé, they insisted on maintaining their natural speech, introducing local slang expressions (from song lyrics such as “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” to off-the-cuff slang such as “gear” and “fab”) into the international language. And, they influenced countless others to switch from folk and other musical forms to electrified rock, including, but not limited to Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Rolling Stones (at least changing them from a blues-oriented cover band to creators of original songs), and many, many more. —Richard Carlin

BEBOP (c. 1945) Perhaps the first musical form named after its characteristic sound (an onomatopoeia), Bebop was the brainchild of a group of second-generation JAZZ musicians who disliked the brash commercialism and easy accessibility of big-band jazz. Saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie (1917–93) evolved a technique for improvising over standard chord progressions to create entirely new and unexpected melodies. By this procedure they produced “new” compositions out of old standards while allowing the rhythm instruments (piano, bass, and drums) to play their old parts. Working in smaller ensembles, these Bebop musicians invented a new kind of “chamber jazz” that became popular around the world in the 1950s. They demonstrated a freer interplay among ensemble members, with a generally lighter and more subtle approach to rhythm than was previously heard

in big-band or raucous Dixieland groups, the Beboppers typically emphasizing staccato and legato, especially when played together. Finally, Bebop musicians displayed a greater intellectualism than their jazz predecessors, believing that jazz was a true art form and not merely a popular fad. —with Richard Carlin

BECKETT, SAMUEL (13 April 1906–22 December 1989) Working against the grain of his upbringing, Beckett was an Irishman whose first successful works were written in French. A disciple of JAMES JOYCE, whose succession of books increasingly came to epitomize esthetic abundance, Beckett instead explored lessness or, to be precise, lessness as moreness, or, to be more precise, the possibilities of moreness with lessness; for Beckett’s fundamental effort has been language so spare his words would render the surrounding silence resonant. Typically, at the end of one play, a character declares, “Yes, let’s go,” only to stand still silently. While the quietude marking such early plays as Waiting for Godot is by now universally familiar, Beckett’s later plays are yet more spare, often consisting of monologs punctuated by literary silences so uniquely resonant we call them Beckettian. There has been a parallel, if less familiar, evolution in his fiction – away from the repetitious, limited vocabulary (which now curiously seems less indebted to Joyce than to GERTRUDE STEIN) through L’Innommable (1955, translated as The Unnamable [1958]), which many regard as his greatest novel, to such nonsyntactic flows as this from Comment c’est (1961): “in me that were without when the panting stops scraps of an ancient voice in me not mine.” With images of pointless activities, personal alienation, and historical meaninglessness, this passage illustrates the Beckettian knacks of being at once abstract and very concrete, at once lightly comic and deadly serious. Beckett transcended being a one-note author by using various forms to realize his themes – extended prose, short prose, live theater, radio plays, and ballets – appearing with sufficient time between them to make each work a cultural event. It should not be forgotten that Beckett’s 1929 essay about FINNEGANS WAKE ranks among the classics of genuinely avantgarde criticism. Not unlike later Joyce, Beckett is perhaps best read in parts, rather than as a whole. He has translated all his writings into his native English, at times with collaborators.


BEIDERBECKE, BIX (10 March 1903–6 August 1931; b. Leon Bismarck B.) The son of Iowa German immigrants who were amateur musicians, he began to play music as a small child and developed an interest in ragtime and JAZZ that were beginning to receive national dissemination through records and radio, not to mention from traveling musicians who came to his Davenport, IA, on Mississippi riverboats. Playing his cornet (a kind of trumpet) in improvising bands composed mostly of white people (the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, The Wolverines), Beiderbecke gravitated to New York where, collaborating with saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer (1901–56), he created the epitome of white jazz – a happy peppy, propulsive, energetic improvisation utterly lacking in “soul” but still musically impressive, if not contagious. At his most innovative, Beiderbecke pioneered individuality in ensemble playing and mixed classical influences with improvisation, establishing a “third stream” long before that epithet was coined. Every year on his birthday, a university radio station in New York plays Beiderbecke around the clock, annually recovering a kind of music that got lost, if not buried, in America’s competitive music marketplace. As one older black musician explained during one of those programs, the horn style represented by LOUIS ARMSTRONG “defeated” Beiderbecke’s, partly because the latter died young from alcohol-induced pneumonia. As a precocious burnout, he was an American Mozart. Had not the technologies of music recording developed during his lifetime, the example of his music might have died with him. So powerful was this image of the jazzman’s short, self-destructive life in the decade following his death that novels based on it appeared, most notably Dorothy Baker’s Young Man with a Horn (1938). The musician Richard Sudhalter (1938–2008), who coauthored a biography of Bix, also published a thick book, Lost Chords (1998), obviously featuring Bix, about great American jazz produced by white people.

BELL LABS (c. 1887) Odd it seems at times that so much advanced technological art originated in the huge research laboratory of a major American corporation. Created in the late 19th century as the Volta Laboratory and Bureau by Alexander Graham Bell (1847–1922) himself, it later became a division of the American Telephone &


Telegraph Company (aka AT&T). Still later called Bell Telephone Laboratories, its scientists are commonly credited with developing information theory, the laser, the transistor, radio astronomy, communications satellites, UNIX, UUCP, and much else. Buried in its huge populous facilities were several people developing technologies for art. ‘Tis said that an early method for shooting motion pictures with synchronous sound was invented in one Bell lab in 1926 and that the first digital art appeared in another in 1962. Later in that decade Ken C. Knowlton (1931) developed BEFLIX (1963), the first language enabling computer animation, while Max Mathews (1926–2011) developed a program for composing wholly electronic music. I can recall visiting in 1968 the main campus of Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey, where I entered a room that resembled any other pristine office until out of file drawers my hosts pulled tape machines on which they played for me their own wholly computer-assisted compositions for me. (Some of these later appeared on a commercially released long-playing record.) Bell Labs also hosted fruitful collaborative production residencies by visual artists and composers. Another Bell staffer, J. Wilhelm (Billy) Kluver (1927–2004), initially a laser researcher, established a foundation to assist prominent artists in their ambitions – Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT). Once AT&T was dissolved, its staff dispersed; only Google, among the world’s great corporations, has tried to create a comparable advanced research facility since.

BENJAMIN, WALTER (15 July 1892–25 September 1940) A brilliantly insightful German philosopher and arts critic, Benjamin became, well after his premature death, a hero to radical intellectuals around the world. He figures in this book initially for authoring “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936), which remains one of the most insightful essays ever on the modernist difference. “For the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence upon ritual. To an ever greater degree the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility,” he wrote. “But the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice – politics.” Most commentators on high MODERNISM, including me, would give their eyeteeth to have written sentences like these.

20 • BERIO, LUCIANO Leaving his native BERLIN for Paris in 1933, Benjamin befriended the Surrealists and began a comprehensive study of CHARLES BAUDELAIRE in 19th-century Paris that was published posthumously. To others his single greatest book is The Arcades Project (English, 1999), which is a monumental compilation of fragments (information and quotation) about Paris in the 19th century. When the Nazis invaded France, Benjamin fled to the Spanish frontier. Denied entry because of his Marxist past, he committed suicide.

BERIO, LUCIANO (24 October 1925–27 May 2003) An Italian composer who worked in various media with various materials, Berio often combined spoken texts, sung texts, acoustic, and electronic instruments, taped sounds, lighting effects, and theatrical movements, including dance. He regarded all types of sound – from speech to noise to so-called musical sound – as forming a single continuum and thus himself as not so much a “composer” of works as an assembler, putting together different elements to create a total esthetic experience. The division between musical concert, spoken word, and theatrical event is an artificial one, he believed, and in his compositions he worked toward synthesizing these elements, citing as his principal predecessor not a musician but the author JAMES JOYCE, who also tried to combine language and music. Berio explored graphic notation, producing scores that resemble expressionist drawings, and for various reasons probably received more nasty reviews than most of his comparably deviant contemporaries. Some of his strongest early pieces, such as In Circles (1960), to a text by E. E. CUMMINGS, were composed for his wife at that time, Cathy Berberian. Berio’s best-known work is his Sinfonia, composed for the New York Philharmonic’s 125th anniversary in 1968 and revised in 1969, typically incorporating recognizable quotations from Gustav Mahler (1860–1911), RICHARD STRAUSS (1864–1949), and Maurice Ravel (1875–1937) as the musical analogy of FOUND ART made before the arrival of computeraided sampling.

BERKELEY, BUSBY (29 November 1895–14 March 1976; b. Berkeley William Enos) Certainly among the most original Hollywood filmmakers during the 1930s, he utilized dozens of dancers to produce masterpieces of kinetic geometry, often

complimenting a muted female eroticism, in a succession of films from 42nd Street (1933) through The Gang’s All Here (1943), which opens with “one of cinema’s most breathtaking traveling shots” (David Thomson). Most unusually among distinguished choreographers, Berkeley never featured soloists either male or female. Never performing as a dancer, he didn’t study choreography either. Perhaps a greater influence on his taste for populous formations was, curiously, his years in a military school. My favorite testimonial to Berkeley’s highest style comes from Cecile Starr (1921), herself an avant-garde filmmaker and historian: Circling displays of faces, one after another, in extreme close-up, circling around us; well-shaped bodies posed or parading in skin-tight costumes, moving in precise formations filmed from the front, side, and back angles and then miraculously seen from above, bodies and heads seeming to dissolve into out-of-this-world configurations. For masterpieces of abstract art created with human performers, consider the section in Footlight Parade (1933) commonly called “By a Waterfall,” in which one hundred women dancers in rubber swimsuits perform on five levels on revolving circular platforms, and “Dames” section of the 1934 film with the same name. Unlike other filmmakers who cut and spliced raw footage from several cameras, Berkeley tended to shoot his well-rehearsed scenes continuously. (This integrity particularly impresses me, who dislikes recent commercial films and even television programs where frequent editing often suggests that the performers were never in the same place at the same time.) Doubts though I have about Hollywood films in general, Berkeley demonstrated what was possible not if its bosses wanted to produce excellence, which cannot be initiated by executives above, but if they let inspired directors create what had not been done before. Berkeley’s influence persists less in film or in modern dance but in the extravagant PERFORMANCE of the “historic black” American colleges’ marching bands (e.g., Grambling, Florida A&M, and Southern, among others).

BERLIN Perhaps more than Paris or London, say, this became, after NEW YORK, the second city for avant-garde art in the past century. Thanks initially to the activities of Herwarth Walden whose exhibition space and magazine welcomed advanced artists from around the


world, and then to the rich café culture, all newer new arts prospered in Berlin, until the Nazis took power in the mid-1930s. After they were deposed in 1945 and the depleted city divided among the occupying powers, the western sectors of Berlin slowly became a cultural magnet again, thanks in part to generous subsidies for cultural activities from West Germany, as it was then commonly called. The city’s annual Internationale Bauausstellung (1957), the DAAD KUNSTLERPROGRAMM (1964), and the local Akademie der Kunst (1696; frequently reorganized) were instructed to recognize the most substantial avant-garde art elsewhere, the last typically mounting in 1976 the first exhibition and first book anywhere devoted to SoHo: Downtown Manhattan. Among the consequential English-speakers long resident in Berlin have been Emmett Williams, David Moss, Dorothy Iannone, Arnold Dreyblatt (1953), Liv Mette Larsen (1952), Ann Noel (1944), Stephen Wilks (1964), and Malcolm Green (1952). Once the BERLIN WALL went down, East German cultural institutions enriched the offerings of a united metropolis, while cheaper apartments in the former East Berlin attracted younger artists from around the world.

BERLIN WALL/DIE MAUER (13 August 1961–9 November 1989) Erected initially to keep East Germans from relocating into West Germany, this long and tall barrier encasing a western city legally within East Germany, unintentionally became the largest and most unique “canvas” for the richest collection of graffiti the world has ever seen. Usually 15 feet high and nearly 100 miles long, its Western side was receptive to whatever volunteer artists and sometime writers (in several languages) wanted to put there. Over its thirty-eight years graffiti images changed, as some were painted over by later artists, while others succumbed to whitewash by DDR apparatchiks. Even if understandably offensive to resident West Berliners, visitors judged this Wall a marvelous unique sight. Curiously, though graffiti was officially illegal in West Berlin, it was acceptable on the Die Mauer, as the locals called it, because the structure was physically just over the boundary line in East Berlin. Since the DDR owned it, so to speak, its government sometimes sent its employees amusingly through openings in the wall to obliterate the accumulated images, inadvertently establishing a fresh surface for newer images. Even if the product of a mob, rather than an individual, Die Mauer was surely the richest work of art ever created within the DDR.


With the demise of East Germany, only parts of this wall survived, some of its decorated on its eastern (DDR) side, perhaps unfortunately, because, solely for its artistic value, more could have been “landmarked” and thus preserved intact. After all, nothing anywhere in the world ever offered such a rich wallscape for off(or non-) gallery visual art. Nothing. Nonetheless, so appreciative were many people of the Berlin Wall itself that, after it was pulverized, supposedly authentic shards were sold in small boxes, two of which I happen to own. Shards being shards, these thus become lesser artistic mementos of a greater work of art that is no more.

BERNERS, LORD (18 September 1883–19 April 1950; b. Sir Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson, Baronet) A minor POLYARTIST, he was a self-taught composer who wrote ballet music for DIAGHILEV and an opera with GERTRUDE STEIN. In his compositions, which are rarely played, Nicolas Slonimsky finds “humor and originality, . . . a subtle gift for parody.” Berners wrote a number of memorably witty short poems of three quatrains accounting for why he preferred “red noses” to red roses. Berners also published six fairly conventional short novels, including Far from the Madding War, in which he portrayed himself as Lord Fitzcricket, in addition to stylistically British autobiographies that were reprinted long after his death. Unashamedly eccentric and financially secure, Berners also exhibited oil paintings in 1931 and 1936.

BEUYS, JOSEPH (12 May 1921–23 January 1986) Beuys was a German artist and art college professor who made his sculptures out of found material, such as bricks or bits of felt. Often, his “sculptures” were assembled and disassembled on the spot by the viewers, the process becoming part of the work itself, giving the exhibition of his art some qualities of PERFORMANCE. He hit ARTISTS’ SOHO in 1974 with a gallery show in which he lived in a cage with a coyote for several days. Beuys also exhibited his drawings, which, the Oxford Companion to 20th Century Art succinctly says, “do not for the most part invite assessment by current or traditional standards.” As both a practitioner and a teacher, he tried to develop the myth of art as action and thus the artist as a provocateur on a

22 • BIENNIALS social-political stage, even if for a small sympathetic audience. While such portentious ideas had some presence within his lifetime, particularly in ART WORLD press, they died along with him. By a more strictly esthetic measure, the most extraordinary innovation of Beuys’s career was getting his image, usually wearing a broad-brimmed hat in a frontal photo, to register far more memorably than his works. “Dressed like an old-fashioned rural worker, his gaze beaming intently from under the brim of his fedora,” the American art critic Carter Ratcliff (1941) wrote, “Beuys personified a Europe that advances optimistically while maintaining contact with a myth of its pastoral origins.” Beuys became much like a car salesman or some other huckster who puts his face in his promotions in lieu of any ostensible product – in Beuys’s case art of dubious worth (or else the seductive face wouldn’t have been necessary, natch). Some people were impressed by this radical transvaluation of esthetic merchandising; others, including me, were not. Nonetheless, Beuys got a lot of publicity for his claims of experiencing a miracle in World War II, as though that would bestow a saintly authority upon his subsequent work; but all that was affected, as far as any larger public was concerned, was distribution of pictures of his face. (A younger artist best-known for his publicized face is Francesco Clemente [1952].)

BIENNIALS Populous exhibitions of current art inevitably disappoint, no matter if they are sponsored by galleries or museums or ambitious municipalities (e.g., Kassel, Germany), simply because they include too much junk that, the further away from the exhibition anyone gets, whether in space or time, inevitably looks junkier. In this respect, biennials resemble newspaper reviews, which are likewise short-sighted and thus an unreliable guide to ultimate excellence and, it follows, arts history. For evidence, if not proof, of this last truth, examine now the thick illustrative catalog customarily issued in the past for quintennial Documenta, say, and the more frequent Whitney Museum Biennials. The further back into the past are such books, the reader recognizes few memorable works and fewer familiar names, and the more embarrassing does the populous and yet pretentious format look, inevitably. Additionally, the better publicized a perennial exhibition is, the more likely it becomes that some artists will mount a protest show to take place roughly simultaneously, finally to the benefit of both outsiders and insiders.

BIERCE, AMBROSE (24 June 1842–? 1914) A courageous independent author, endowed with an adventurous character perhaps more possible in the United States than in Europe, Bierce belongs to the avant-garde tradition less for his fiction, which was no less conventional when it was written than it is today, than for his aphorisms, which are distinctly original precisely for their dictionary-like form and their sharp critical intelligence. Indeed, precisely in such a tart inversion of both the lexicographical and aphoristic traditions is a distinctly modernist signature for his concise paragraphs. Only a 20th-century aphorist could have written: “Faith, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel” or “Politics is the conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” Begun in a weekly newspaper in 1881, his “The Cynic’s Word Book,” as it was originally called, finally appeared under a less appropriate, if more fanciful, name. To sense how unacceptable Bierce the American aphorist has been, consider that the W. H. Auden-Louis Kronenberger edited Book of Aphorisms (1962) has only one line from Bierce, compared to over thirty-five from Sir Francis Bacon and forty-nine from George Santayana; and that there is nothing, zilch, by Bierce in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1964). As an overage war correspondent, he disappeared in Mexico in 1913.

BILL, MAX (22 December 1908–9 December 1994) As one of the few native-born Swiss artists with an international avant-garde reputation, Bill was a severe geometricist predisposed to mathematical formulas, in his words, “arisen by virtue of their original means and laws – without external support from natural appearances.” For his pure art, devoid of ostensible relation to the natural world, he adopted in 1936 the term “Concrete Art,” which had been coined by THEO VAN DOESBURG only a few years before, as superior to Abstract Art. This epithet was subsequently adopted by other Swiss artists such as Richard Lohse (1902–88) and Karl Gerstner (1930–2017). As a painter, Max Bill favored complicated geometries, and as a sculptor, austere materials with smooth surfaces, which are sometimes large enough to become monuments. Bill also organized major exhibitions of Abstract Art, beginning with one for his hero Georges Vantongerloo. Long a teacher, in the early 1950s Bill


was appointed chief of the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm, which became the European center for his kind of CONSTRUCTIVISM.

BIOGRAPHIES Great biographies of major avant-garde figures are scarce, in part because book publishers are reluctant to commission, let alone contract, big books about figures who are scarcely known. Among the masterpieces are Alastair Brotchie’s Alfred Jarry (2015), Albert Glinsky’s Theremin (2000), and John Szwed’s Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (1997), all of which benefit from discovering about their often misrepresented subjects many truths that were previously unknown. The unique achievement of Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle’s The Art of Harvey Kurtzman (2009) is, by contrast, a shrewdly selected sequence of pictures, both published and unpublished, that, apart from words, portray the great cartoonist’s career. The initial big biographies are often disastrous, even if they assume the conventional form of several hundred pages with a signature of pictures. In Anthony Tommasini’s Virgil Thomson (1998), his subject’s legendary witticisms blow by the woefully thick, even if appreciative, biographer. Kenneth Silverman’s JOHN CAGE (2012) suffers from missing too much. In part because nearly all biographies are written to order, they are rarely distinguished in style or form. To demonstrate this point, consider photocopying sample pages from several of them, blot out any identifying names within the texts, put them aside for a week, and then, taking out the sample pages, try to identify which biographer wrote what. Also note that most book reviews of biographies tend to discuss the subject rather than evaluate particularities of the biography. The four progressively more informative long biographies of GLENN GOULD are interesting for demonstrating that the principle that each new one reveals details and sometimes sometime secrets that its predecessors didn’t discover or didn’t acknowledge. Rarely does a biography become so “definitive” that it discourages later efforts; but once Richard Ellmann’s mammoth James Joyce appeared in 1959, it couldn’t be topped, not even sixty years later. None of those about GETRUDE STEIN’s life are satisfactory, at least to me, though Donald Sutherland’s Gertrude Stein: A Biography of Her Work (1951) remains unsurpassed, even if eccentric. One interesting deviance, rarely pursued, is the double biography of related figures, such as Brenda


Wineapple’s fine Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein (1996). I once wanted to write one about MERCE CUNNINGHAM and JOHN CAGE, a monumentally ideal artistic couple, but put the project aside when I realized that someone else could do it better. (No one has yet.) Another subset would be a biography of an avantgarde institution, such as John Tytell’s The Living Theater: Art, Exile, and Outrage (1997) and Dougald McMillan’s Transition: The History of a Literary Era, 1927–1938 (1975). Perhaps my own The Rise and Fall of Artists’ SoHo (2003) is a biography of a neighborhood. Odd, it seems to me, that I can’t identify a formally radical biography of an avant-garde figure, though perhaps one exists unknown to me. About individuals featured in this book, I remember liking, without judging (or particularly recommending), Jeffrey Meyers’s The Enemy: A Biography of Wyndham Lewis (1982), Modigliani: A Life (2006) and his Edmund Wilson (1995); Barry Miles’s Beats trilogy – Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats (1998), Call Me Burroughs: A Life (2015), and Ginsberg: A Biography (1990); David Bourdon’s Warhol (1995); David Bellos’s George Perec: A Life in Words (1993), Christopher Finch’s Chuck Close: Life (2012), Arnold T. Schwab’s James Gibbons Huneker: Critic of the Seven Arts (1963), Masayo and Peter Duus’s The Life of Isamu Noguchi: Journey without Borders (2006), Paul Mariani’s William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked (1980), John Geier’s Nothing Is True – Everything Is Permitted: The Life of Brion Gysin (2005), Ian MacGiven’s “Literchoor Is My Beat”: A Life of James Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions (2014), B. H. Friedman’s Jackson Pollock: Energy Made Visible (1972) and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1978), Mark Scoggins’s The Poem of a Life: A Biography of Louis Zukofsky (2007), Ellmann’s Oscar Wilde (1988), and, of course, James Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1791). Whew.

BIRTHRIGHTS (1960s?) Forget about this fiction, as nobody by birth is better qualified to produce first-rank art. That’s nobody, whether because the child of an acceptable innovative artist, a graduate of a major teaching institution, or a member of one or another fashionable privileged group or. . . . That’s nobody. Getting to the top in the arts is too competitive, as in professional sports, say, where remarkably few sons and daughters of prominent athletes reach the top

24 • BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE leagues, even with solicitous parental coaching. (Consider that athletes’ children tend to be superior athletes in schools, just as teachers’ children tend to earn higher grades; but once on their own, all face greater competition.) Another theme of the myth of privileged birth holds, for untenable examples, that only a woman critic can make authoritative judgments about art made by women or only an African-American can sing blues. While the first contention has had limited currency, the best refutation of the last myth was the British woman singer Jo Ann Kelly (1944–90), who sounded like Louisiana men and, in fact, played concerts with them. The truth worth repeating is that all major avantgarde artists overcame debilitating DISADVANTAGES, as often personal as social, that would have knocked out nearly everyone else. Similarly, they wouldn’t have become avant-garde artists otherwise.

BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE (1933–57) Even though it never had more than a hundred students at any time in its regular sessions, it was, by the simple measure of producing avant-garde professionals, the most successful art school ever in America – an American Bauhaus, although, unlike the original Bauhaus, it did not produce any major styles identifiable with it. One way in which Black Mountain College transcended its predecessor was in incorporating both literature and music into the curriculum. Among its more distinguished alumni were the painters ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG and Kenneth Noland (1924–2010), the poets Robert Creeley (1926–2005) and Jonathan Williams (1929–2008), the filmmakers Arthur Penn (1922–2010) and Stan Vanderbeek, and the sculptors JOHN CHAMBERLAIN and Kenneth Snelson. The reasons for its success appear to have been that the teachers were active professionals (including at various times JOHN CAGE, MERCE CUNNINGHAM, BUCKMINSTER FULLER, JOSEF ALBERS, Paul Goodman [1911–72], FRANZ KLINE, and Alfred Kazin [1914–99]), BMC taught all the arts (rather than just visual art or just music), and the school was so small in size that the professors ate at the same tables as the students. It closed in 1957, the year after JACKSON POLLOCK crashed, both deaths ending an era. Though ambitious American arts educators often try and even claim to re-create Black Mountain, the mold must have been broken.

BLAKE, WILLIAM (28 November 1757–12 August 1827) Blake was by many measures the most original British poet, who not only self-published his major illuminated books, but drew upon his training as an engraver to print and hand-color them. He had to self-publish, because no one else could have reproduced his mixtures of picture and script with any fidelity. The next time you hear some wise guy say that only “loser poets” self-publish or self-print (which becomes more possible after the development of photocopying), always cite the counterexample of Blake. It is hard for us to understand now how unacceptable Blake once was. S. Foster Damon, who was my great teacher at college, told me that when he was a graduate student at Harvard after World War I, students typically responded to the mention of Blake’s name with “Oh, he was crazy,” swiftly terminating all discussion of his work. In response, Damon wrote the first major book on Blake’s work in America (in 1924), showing its ultimate consistencies by a systematic study of Blake’s idiosyncratic mythology. More than 150 years after his death (and nearly a century after Damon’s first Blake book), this British artist’s work remains incompletely observed. In his preface to The Illuminated Blake (1974), David V. Erdman (1911– 2001) writes that, even after years of lecturing on Blake’s “pictorial language,” he was shocked to make further discoveries: “that there were numerous animal and human forms of punctuation that I had not noticed at all! Nor was their presence or absence unimportant in the drama of the work, not to mention the choreography.” Precisely because Blake’s handwritten words and pictures were physically separate (and he neither found shape in words alone nor considered fragmenting language), he is not a progenitor of VISUAL POETRY, pattern poetry, or CONCRETE POETRY, as they are understood here. Rather, successors to his example include Kenneth Patchen and, curiously, photographers such as Duane Michals, among many others, who handwrite highly personal captions to their work. Don’t be surprised by Blake’s influence on photographers, most of whom are, of necessity, likewise self-printers, at least in beginning the distribution of their work.

BLAST (1914–15) Edited and published by WYNDHAM LEWIS, this was commonly regarded as the most advanced Englishlanguage magazine of its time. When its two issues were republished in America in 1981, Blast still looked


advanced, if only for typographical deviance greater than that developed, say, at the Bauhaus in the 1920s. MARSHALL MCLUHAN paid homage to both the spirit and design of Blast with his Counterblast (1969, designed by Harley Parker [1915–92]), a manifesto for Canadian cultural independence. With its large page size (12 inches by 9½ inches), “bright puce colour” cover, crudely uneven large typefaces, and extra space between paragraphs and graphic “designs,” as they were called in the table of contents, Blast represented British VORTICISM in both form and content. Never before had so much abstract visual art been presented in a British magazine. Among the contributors to the second number were GAUDIER-BRZESKA, T. S. ELIOT (with his first British publication), EZRA POUND, Ford Madox Ford (1873–1939, under the name F. M. Hueffer), and the editor, Wyndham Lewis, who also contributed illustrations. The principal criticism made in retrospect is that Lewis’s contributions made everyone else’s seem less radical, as perhaps they were. Lewis later edited another magazine that had three issues, The Enemy (1927–29), while John Martin’s Black Sparrow Press, in the course of reissuing facsimiles of the two Blasts in the early 1980s, produced Blast 3 (1986), which contains, among other things, previously unpublished letters from Lewis to Pound and a once-suppressed extended essay on Lewis by the British poet Roy Campbell (1902–57).

BLOM, AUGUST (26 December 1869–10 January 1947) The British film critic Vernon Young (1912–86) suggests that before Griffith this Dane, who started filmmaking in 1906, discovered “the art of cutting to express simultaneity of action in an artistically sustained film sequence” in Atlantis (1913). He quotes James Card in Image (G. Eastman House, 1956) on Atlantis as: “a film in every technical respect superior to any other motion picture in the world that has been preserved for study from the year 1913.” A fictional account of a doomed ocean liner, produced a year after the sinking of the Titanic, told through a day in the life of its passengers. By the 1920s, after producing scores of silent shorts, Blom retired from film directing and later ran a movie house in his native Copenhagen.

BOCCIONI, UMBERTO (19 October 1882–17 August 1916) More successfully than other painters associated with Italian Futurism, most of whom contributed to the “Manifesto of the Futurist Painters” (1910),


Boccioni tried to portray movement, realizing abstract fields that suggest the unprecedented busyness of modern life. Intentionally eschewing horizontals and vertical, he portrayed swirling shapes, sometimes with such specific titles as Dynamism of a Soccer Player (1913). His sculptures, while initially seeming more fixed, also represent increasing speed. Boccioni died at the beginning of World War I not from warfare or, say, the 20th-century accidents of a plane or car crash but from falling off a horse. (How 18th century!) As Boccioni was the most advanced of the Italian Futurist artists, speculating about what he might have accomplished, had he survived, is a fertile exercise.


BOOK-ART This is my preferred epithet for what is more commonly called ARTIST’s BOOKS because B-A describes the character of work, which is arts history, rather biographical origins, which belongs to journalistic merchandizing.

BORGES, JORGE LUIS (24 August 1899–14 June 1986) A prolific Argentinian writer who was by turns both decidedly avant-garde and self-consciously conventional, Borges was educated in Europe (and buried in Geneva) and so always read English and French in the original. He is best treasured for a group of short stories that he called Ficciones (1944; rev. 1961). Written in forms typical of expositions (e.g., a critical article, a librarian’s report, a footnoted scholarly essay, a writer’s obituary), these fictions portray as they exemplify the primacy of the imagination. One is about a man who discovers in his edition of an encyclopedia an imaginary country previously unknown to him or anyone else. The classic Borges is “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote,” which appears to be a sober, straightforward obituary of a writer whose “admirable ambition was to produce [out of his own head] pages which would coincide – word for word and line for line – with those of Miguel de Cervantes.” In one of the shrewdest passages, the narrator shows how the same words that might have been obscure in the 16th century become

26 • BORGLUM, GUTZON in the 20th century a meditation on William James. What begins as a complicated joke raises critical questions about authenticity, professional integrity, interpretation, and much else. Like another book that it resembles, Pale Fire (1962) by his exact contemporary Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1997), Ficciones broaches subtleties that many readers miss.

BORGLUM, GUTZON (25 March 1867–6 March 1941; b. John G. de la Mothe B.) Born in Idaho, he studied in Paris along with his brother Solon Hannibal B. (1868–1922), both becoming sculptors. Whereas the latter favored animals, Borglum made his name with outdoor civic memorials, stylistically importing Auguste Rodin (1871–1958) to America, beginning with The Wars of America (1925–25) in Newark, NJ, culminating with the colossal heads of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt for Mount Rushmore (1927–41), which is a monument in South Dakota on the scale of Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers. Kitschiness notwithstanding, these heads are awesome, even in reproduction, and are remembered if only for grandiose distinction. A feisty colleague, Borglum resigned from the group that had organized the sculpture section of the Armory Show, before leaving New York. He worked with politicians, among other types customarily avoided by artists, and, to produce his monuments, overcame daunting obstacles that would have defeated a less determined colleague. His family must have loved him, as most of the early books about his career were written by his descendants.

BOULEZ, PIERRE (26 March 1925–5 January 2016) Why is he here? As a composer, Boulez incorporated avant-garde developments into more familiar structures, always rationalizing what might otherwise be perceived as steps backward with claims to independence and individuality, pretending that his conservative opportunism should be regarded as avant-garde. Nicolas Slonimsky writes, “He specifically disassociated himself from any particular modern school of music.” As a musical director, beginning with Domaine Musical in Paris in 1953 and later with the New York Philharmonic (1971–78) and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Boulez tended to include avant-garde works without favoring them. That perhaps accounts

for why his interpretations tend to be neither excellent nor eccentric. In 1974, the French government appointed him chief of the Institut de Recherche & Coordination Acoustique/Musique, called IRCAM (commonly pronounced “ear-com”), which purportedly does something incomparably futuristic, although those results publicly released seem less than expected or promised. As a conductor of more traditional musics, he was very enterprising with several orchestras, producing tapes of the modern orchestral repertoire along with Richard Wagner operas. The disks earned him over two dozen Grammy awards. Boulez’s unending assumption of seats of power forced dependent colleagues to be respectful; but now that he’s gone, don’t be surprised to see his reputation fall and his work be forgotten.

BOURGEOIS, LOUISE (25 December 1911–31 May 2010) Bourgeois had a remarkably long artistic career. Over the course of it, she practiced drawing, painting, and, finally, sculpture, to which she exclusively devoted her efforts since the late 1940s.A mercurial artist, Bourgeois was the very model of an independent creator. She was responsible for developing an impressive breadth of new sculptural forms and styles devised to express her personal concerns. Her imagery ranged from the purely abstract to the overtly sexual; her materials from the traditional marble, bronze, and wood to rubber, fabric, and found objects; her themes from oblique and richly suggestive symbolism, the meaning of which is impossible to nail down, to politically blatant and doctrinaire statements. Her most influential and best-known work is the savage Destruction of the Father (1974), a large and cavernous environment filled with globules that line the floor and ceiling, suggesting either the absorption of the masculine into the womb-like image of the feminine, or the mastication of everything organic in the jaws of the masculine. Ultimately, her single and unchanging subject was psychological complexity, and the varied and contradictory interpretations many of her works permit serve only to heighten their effectiveness and impact. Bourgeois’s continually changing manner defied art historical analysis and testified to the indomitable nature of the individual imagination, free of the currents of stylistic innovation that surrounded her. She was an artist sui generis, entirely selfdetermined; to many, the woman herself may be her own most significant creation. —Mark Daniel Cohen


BRANCUSI, CONSTANTIN (19 February 1876–16 March 1957) Apprenticed to a cabinetmaker, Brancusi studied art, first in Bucharest and then in Munich, finally reaching Paris in 1904. Though his initial work reflected first the influence of Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), and he then created faces resembling those in AMADEO MODIGLIANI’s (1884–1920) work, Brancusi finally concentrated on abstract sculpture, which he thought captured the “essence” of things beneath surface characteristics. After 1910, Brancusi established the principles of carving everything himself, rather than employing craftsmen, and working without prior clay models. As a proto-MINIMALIST, Brancusi favored simple abstract shapes, one barely different from another, sometimes duplicating in polished bronze shapes that he had previously done in wood, or vice versa. He thought of his sculptures as beings – his thin verticals, for instance, as birds, thicker horizontals as fishes. “I live in a desert,” he once declared, “alone with my animals.” His most ambitious image was the Endless Column, whose first version, 23 feet high, was carved in wood in 1920; in Romania in 1937, he made a cast iron Endless Column nearly 100 feet tall. Brancusi struck his contemporaries as being in touch with spiritual currents not available to normal people. In spite of his penchant for replicating his work, his work and career have come to represent a higher standard of professional integrity. Sidney Geist’s monograph, subtitled “A Study of the Sculpture” (1967, 1983), is exemplary.

BRECHT, GEORGE (27 August 1926–5 December 2008) Trained in science, he worked initially as a qualitycontrol supervisor and research chemist before becoming an artist. After studying with JOHN CAGE at the New School in 1958 and 1959, he participated in FLUXUS activities organized by George Maciunas. Brecht’s first innovation was a particular kind of minimal text, some of which were headlined “events.” The Book of the Tumbler in Fire (1978) is a selfretrospective of works from 1962. The critic Henry Martin (1942) writes: The internal logic of George Brecht’s work is entirely impossible to describe, since his problem as an artist is always and only to work towards an intuitive grasp of the problems of knowledge and awareness that are central to his own individual being in the universe.


Brecht also coedited with the British artist Patrick Hughes (1939) an unprecedented anthology composed wholly of paradoxes. As an American living in Germany, this Brecht is more truly avant-garde than another writer with the same surname, more commercial in his orientation, a German who lived for a while in America.

BRETON, ANDRÉ (19 February 1896–28 September 1966) After initially participating in Paris DADA, Breton broke with TRISTAN TZARA and became the founder and self-styled “pope” of SURREALISM. Primarily a novelist and theoretical polemicist, he was a physically imposing figure whose manifestos formulated and reformulated the Surrealist esthetic. As a literary radical, Breton preached the virtues of “automatic writing” (purportedly without conscious control) and of the “exquisite corpse,” which was his term for collaboration, both of which he thought were psychologically enriching. He edited collections that are still useful, including Anthologie de l’humour noir (1940), which discovers Surrealist precursors in Jonathan Swift, G. C. Lichtenberg, Charles Fourier, Thomas de Quincey, Edgar Allan Poe, and LEWIS CARROLL, among others, creating the attractive image of an underground, proto-Surrealist tradition dating back several centuries. Authoritarian in temper, Breton convened his followers daily at certain Parisian cafés. Exiled in the US during World War II, he refused to learn English and, after the war ended, returned to France. His claims to earlier Parisian authority were initially undermined by the new postwar fashion called existentialism. Breton’s negative example perhaps accounts for why the notion of a selfconscious artists’ group has never had much currency in the United States in general and in New York in particular. Breton’s creative writings, once so prominent, are now forgotten – his novels no less than his poetry.

BRITANNICA, ENCYCLOPEDIA (1768) Some decades ago, an individual entry here was thought to be the ultimate elite recognition that could be earned from strangers. (No one could butt-kiss judges whose identities were unknown.) It still might be, though more popular and inclusive compendia such as WIKIPEDIA have so undermined its biz that EB no longer publishes books that were treasured. This is

28 • BROODTHAERS, MARCEL unfortunate, because EB is still more discriminating, given that its selection criterion is, simply, what will last. (This measure I learned from a distinguished professor on its advisory board whom I first met more than a half-century before as a fellow counselor at a summer camp!) Even within entries on individuals, its writers are particularly sharp at identifying which of a subject’s many available works is most likely to survive. Because WIKIPEDIA is compiled by volunteers, who chose to write about certain subjects without remuneration, an individual entry there essentially reflects the measure that someone admired the subject enough to begin an entry and then that others might have contributed to the entry. At Britannica, by contrast, entries on individuals are written by staffers who until recently were anonymous. The measure appears to be that some staffer thought enough of the survival power of a certain subject to draft an entry approved by higher authorities at EB. Therefore, it is scarcely surprising that among the individuals recognized in this book with an individual entry also deserving individual recognition in EB include Milton Babbitt, Kenneth Burke, SAMUEL R. DELANY, MORTON FELDMAN, Hugh Kenner, Kenneth Koch, Thomas Merton, Meredith Monk, THELONIUS MONK, NAM JUNE PAIK, Kenneth Rexroth, Roger Sessions, CECIL TAYLOR, Virgil Thomson, Nathanael West, and Louis Zukofsky. All of them, in my judgment as well, have produced work that, though once avant-garde, will indeed last.

BROODTHAERS, MARCEL (28 January 1924–28 January 1976) He was such a unique artist that he belongs less for individual works than for his career. Deciding at the age of 39 that his well-respected experimental poetry was insufficient, this Belgian invaded the ART WORLD with a series of resonant GESTURES. He entombed fifty unsold copies of his last book of poems in plaster casts. For his gallerist he provided a statement: “The idea of inventing something insincere crossed my mind and I set to work straightaway.” He later assembled objects to which he added texts. As these earned a receptive audience, he began by the late 1960s to produce larger pieces that sharply challenge the concept of a museum. In the ground floor of his Brussels house he opened Musée d’Art Moderne, Départment des Aigles (1968), that had different images of birds in glass cases all accompanied by this sign: “This is not a work of art.” Thus did Broodthaers function as the artist, director, curator, resident critic,

trustee, and landlord of his own museum, a one-man septuplet, so to speak. More audacious moves followed until Broodthaers died too young. His surname is pronounced brode-tears (as in ripping apart, not weeping).

BROOKLYN BRIDGE (1883) No one believed a river so wide could be spanned until a bridge was completed after over one dozen years of construction and reconstruction. With its massive stone towers and longest span of nearly 500 meters, thanks to the development of spidery spun steel-wire suspension, it exemplified stately beauty, incidentally inspiring major poems by the Russian VLADIMIR MAYAKOVSKY, the Spaniard Frederico Garcia-Lorca (1898–1936), and the Americans Walt Whitman (1819–92), Marianne Moore (1887–1972), Hart Crane (1899–1932), and Harvey Shapiro (1924–2013), among others; as well as classic paintings in 1915 by the Frenchman Albert Gleizes (1881–1953) and later several by the Italian American Joseph Stella, and fewer by the AmericanAmericans GEORGIA O’KEEFFE and ROBERT INDIANA; a 1953 film by the Swiss-American Rudy Burckhardt; a 1982 audio-video by Reynold Weidenaar, and memorable photographs particularly by Walker Evans (1903–75) in the initial book publication (1930) of the Hart Crane poem. The fact that no later bridge prompted so much strong writing and visual art becomes a sure measure of Brooklyn’s high esthetic value. Among 19th-century buildings inspiring artists, only the Eiffel Tower (1887–89) in Paris counts close. Within the less known tall vaults beneath the roadway on the Brooklyn side I first saw in the early 1990s the spectacular PERFORMANCE of Elizabeth Streb. However, in the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center (aka 9-11) they’ve been closed. Automobiles going over the bridge’s grated flooring also make a memorably unique sound incorporated by audio artists such as Bill Fontana (1947) and myself.

BROWN, EARLE (26 December 1926–2 July 2002) Respecting both JOHN CAGE and ALEXANDER CALDER, Earle Brown developed in the early 1950s graphic notation (eliminating traditional staves) that


encouraged both aleatory and improvisatory techniques. Folio (1952–53) is actually six compositions in which the performer is instructed to vary the duration, pitch, and rhythm. The score of his December 1952 has black rectangles various in size irregularly arrayed on white pages. Brown’s 25 Pages (1953) is designed to be played by as many as twenty-five pianists, reading the music pages in any desired order and playing the notes upside down or right-side up. Brown’s Available Forms I (1961) and Available Forms II (1962), respectively for chamber ensemble and full orchestra, contain pages of eccentric (but fixed) notation, or “available forms,” which may be sounded in any order, repeated, and combined in varying tempi, all at the spontaneous discretion of the performers. Nicolas Slonimsky finds Brown’s music represents “a mobile assembly of plastic elements in open-ended or closed forms. As a result, his usages range from astute asceticism and constrained constructivism to soaring sonorism and lush lyricism.” Perhaps because Brown favored conventional modernist musical instrumentation, his music sometimes sounds SERIAL, notwithstanding differences in compositional philosophies. As a recording engineer in the 1960s he produced for a label named (ironically?) Mainstream several lp disks influential in later decades.

BRYARS, GAVIN (16 January 1943) Initially known as a jazz bassist working in British improvisation, Bryars became a mysterious figure known only for a few compositions. Some early work depended upon the possibilities for repetition offered by audiotape. Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971) draws upon a London tramp’s a cappella singing of an old English hymn, which is looped to repeat itself and then gradually be accompanied by strings and other instruments. When the only recording of it was long out of print in the 1980s, it became a favorite of American radio stations that like to surprise their audiences, and of avant-garde music buffs who like to shock their friends. The Sinking of the Titanic (1969) repeats in slightly different ways, for well over an hour, tunes reportedly played by the ship’s drowning orchestra. Media (1982) is an opera produced in collaboration with the theater artist ROBERT WILSON. Bryars also founded the Portsmouth Sinfonia of musicians with minimal skills whose sublimely anarchic comic recordings of orchestral warhorses were coproduced by BRIAN ENO.


BRYHER (2 September 1894–28 January 1983; b. Annie Winifred Ellerman) The sole daughter of a British financier reputed at a past time to be the wealthiest Englishman outside the royal family, she took a single moniker (after the smallest of the Scilly islands off southwest Britain) to conceal her identity as an heiress. As a discriminating patron of the avant-garde, she supported many publications, including the pioneering British film journal Close-Up (1927–33) and Contact Editions, which published the more advanced books of GERTRUDE STEIN and Mina Loy, among others. One source credits her with also personally supporting for various times Dorothy Richardson (1873–1957), Djuna Barnes, and H. D. (1886–1961, b. Hilda Doolittle), with whom Bryer had an extended intimate relationship. After publishing books of criticism of film and literature, she wrote, later in her life, likewise under her pseudonym, several historical novels and two volumes of autobiography. Her principal rival for enlightened British patronage was Nancy Cunard (1896–1965), whose father’s fortune was likewise based in shipping, whose Hours Press published early books by SAMUEL BECKETT and Laura Riding, among others. Perhaps one of the principal tragedies of avant-garde American literature has been an absence of comparably enlightened private patronage.

BUÑUEL, LUIS (22 February 1900–29 July 1983) As a filmmaker who successfully translated SURREALISTIC imagery onto the screen. Buñuel worked originally in conjunction with the artist SALVADOR DALI to create the classic Un Chien Andalou (The Andalusian Dog, 1928). True to their faith, they incorporated FREUDian imagery such as the putting out of an eye (from the Oedipal myth) and ants crawling out of the center of a hand. In his later career, Buñuel achieved fame as a social critic in his biting satires of middle-class life, such as The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoise (1972) and The Phantom of Liberty (1974). In these later films, he continued to use dreamlike narratives, discontinuous story lines, and “shocking” imagery, making him the only practitioner of a Surrealist cinema later working on a larger scale.

30 • BURGESS, ANTHONY BURGESS, ANTHONY (25 February 1917–22 November, 1993; b. John A. B. Wilson) A prolific writer, he authored a large number of ordinary books in addition to a few extraordinary ones. Among the latter, A Clockwork Orange (1962) portrays a future in which unruly teenagers insert Russian words into basically English sentences, or more accurately meld new language with old idiom. On the opening page, the narrator Alex remembers, We sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus besto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days. Through such original language Burgess envisioned a violent future. Abba Abba (1977) is a historical novel with the translation of a real historical text. A complete man of letters, he was also a prolific reviewer and even an editor. In this last category, his most remarkable achievement is A Shorter Finnegans Wake (1967), which manages to extract choice passages from Joyce’s essentially nonlinear novel (whose theme of familial conflict is continuously present) to make a shorter Joycean book that is considerably more accessible than the original. Modesty in crediting notwithstanding, this is an extraordinary feat that no one else could have done. Also a trained composer, Burgess produced songs to texts by Shakespeare and himself, in addition to works for conventional instruments, that are rarely played or recorded, either because of or in spite of his literary reputation.

BURROUGHS, WILLIAM S. (5 February 1914–2 August 1997) An American original, the Harvard-educated scion of a family memorialized on a brand of adding machines, Burroughs came late to literature, beginning with a stylistically undistinguished memoir, Junkie (1953, published under the pseudonym of William Lee). Inspired by his friendship with ALLEN GINSBERG, he dabbled in formal experiments, some of them in collaboration with others, including the mixing of passages drawn from different sources, not only in adjacent paragraphs but in the horizontal lines of the page. Some of this experimentation dominates

shorter pieces, collected in several books, beginning with The Exterminator (1960, with BRION GYSIN); it informs as well Naked Lunch (1959), a hallucinatory nightmare that remains his masterpiece. One curiosity about this last title is that at least three published editions exist, none more “definitive” than the others. The first appeared in Paris; the second, reedited, in London and New York in 1964. “The Restored Text” was published in the USA and Canada in 2003. Differences reflects different circumstances of publication, as well as different editorial collaborators. Most of Burroughs’s other books are indubitably prosaic in style and structure. Some readers admire his rendering of narcotic experiences, including withdrawal; others, his dark vision; yet others, his love for cats and his homosexual fantasies. All these, while sometimes treasured, have little to do with what has made some of his writing avant-garde.

BUSONI, FERRUCCIO (1 April 1866–27 July 1924) After studies in his native Italy and Austria, Busoni lived from 1894 mostly in BERLIN. Traveling widely as both a pianist and a conductor of his own music, he aimed initially at a synthesis of traditional musical techniques with new developments in the early 20th century under the banner “Young Classicism” (preceding the STRAVINSKY-based “neo-classicism” of the 1930s and ’40s, which claimed a similar synthesis). With his seven Elegies (1907) for piano solo, Busoni broached atonality, which culminated in his Sonatina No. 2 (1912). In this period he wrote “Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music” (1911), a brilliant essay that was reprinted into the 1960s, because its radical biases seemed ever fresh. Interested in alternative relationships between music and drama, Busoni worked for years on an opera, Doktor Faust (1925), that was completed by a pupil after Busoni’s death. He also made classic arrangements for piano of certain J. S. BACH compositions initially for other instruments.

BUTOH (1959) Though this Japanese dance-theater originated in 1959, cofounded by Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno, only in the 1980s did Western audiences become familiar with it. Although the term “Butoh” incorporates different approaches, a typical


performance might include nearly nude, grimacing dancers in white body paint who are striking grotesque poses or contorting in slow motion, summoning up images of nature, crisis, and ancestral spirits. Some, but not all, of the Butoh performances incorporate improvisation. The stark, dangerous aspect of Butoh was evident in Sankai Juku’s Jomon Sho (Hommage to Pre-History, 1982), in which several performers, nearly nude and covered with white powder, hung upside down at perilous heights. (The risk was real; in 1985, in Seattle, one performer fell to his death.) Although drastically different from such reigning forms as traditional Japanese dance and mainstream Euro-American modern dance, Butoh reflects some of their influence (e.g., the slow motion esthetic of the Japanese stage and the angst of German EXPRESSIONISTIC dance). Other performers and companies central to the development of Butoh include Yoko Ashikawa (1947) and the company Hakutobo (founded in 1974), Akali Maro and the company Dal Rakuda Kan (founded in 1972), Ushio Amagatsu and the company Sankai Juku (founded in 1975), Natsu Nakajima (1943) and the company Mutekisha (founded in 1969), and Min Tinaka (1945). —Katy Matheson


BUTOR, MICHEL (14 September 1926–24 August 2016) First connected to the “nouveau roman” school that emerged in France in the late 1950s, Butor remained the most experimental of that bunch, working in various innovative ways, including extended criticism and innovative travelogue. Beginning in the 1960s, after securing a modest fame, he explored alternative structures and typographical possibilities, particularly in Mobile (1963), a detailed but elliptical portrait of America as seen not from the road but from the air, as though the author were a helicopter landing here and there. Advancing the art of travel writing, Butor composed a mosaic of impressions, along with quotations from historic memoirs (especially François René de Chateaubriand’s 18th-century America). Later works exemplifying his exemplary historical-geographic imagination include 6 810 000 litres d’eau par second (étude stéréophonique) (1965; Niagara: A Stereophonic Novel [1969]) and Boomerang (1978; Letters from the Antipodes [1981]). As an innovative essayist, Butor tried to replace twodimensional linear reportage with a more dimensional spatial writing.


CABARET VOLTAIRE (1916) This was the favored name of the first venue for Zurich DADA. Essentially a room perhaps 30 meters square (320 square feet) in the back of the Meierei restaurant on Marktgasse, an alleyway a few yards from the entrance to the Spiegelgasse in Zurich’s Niederdorf (reddish light) section, it contained a small stage, a piano, and enough tables and chairs to seat fifty people, which is to say it was ideal for small pieces for a small audience. Operating only for five months from February through early July 1916, Cabaret Voltaire housed the epochal presentations of TRISTAN TZARA, EMMY HENNINGS, and HUGO BALL, among others. Members of the audience frequently became performers. The classic 1916 painting of Cabaret Voltaire ebullient participants was done by Marcel Janco, who was there. Once the cabaret closed, Cabaret Voltaire also became the name of a one-shot anthology (May 1916) and a twenty-first-century Zurich art gallery, not to mention later publications in other countries, so honorific had the name become.

CAGE, JOHN (5 September 1912–12 August 1992; b. J. Milton C. Jr.) Cage was one of the few individuals of whom it can be said, without dispute, that had he not existed, the development of more than one art would have been different. The truest POLYARTIST, Cage produced distinguished work in music, theater, literature, and visual art. As a de facto esthetician, he had a discernible influence upon the creation of music, several areas of performance, the visual arts, and, to a lesser extent, literature, and social thought. His principal theme, applicable to all arts, was the denial of false authority


by expanding the range of acceptable and thus employable materials, beginning with non-pitched “noises,” which he thought should be heard as music “whether we’re in or out of the concert hall.” Though some consider Cage an avatar of “chance,” I think of him as an extremely fecund inventor who, once he disregarded previous conventions, was able to realize a wealth of indubitably original constraints. The (in)famous “Prepared Piano,” which prevented the emergence of familiar keyboard sounds, was merely the beginning of a career that included scrupulously alternative kinds of musical scoring, idiosyncratically structured theatrical events, and unique literary forms. Perhaps because Cage never doubled back, never dismissing his earlier works as wrong, his art remained “far-out,” challenging, and generally unacceptable to the end. In the last months of his life, he completed a ninety-minute film whose visual content was a white screen violated by various shades and shapes of gray. So much of an icon has he become that many forget that, six decades ago, when I first began following Cage’s activities, no one, but no one, received so many persistently negative comments, not just in print but in collegial conversations. When invited to give the 1988–89 Charles Eliot NORTON lectures at Harvard, perhaps the most prestigious appointment of its kind, he delivered statements so barely connected that few professors returned after Cage’s initial lecture! When Cage accepted the Norton position that gave him a title elevating him above the rest of us humans, I asked him what it was like being a Harvard professor. “Not much different from not being a Harvard professor,” he replied, true to his politics. As an anarchist from his professional beginnings, he worked, as much through example as assertion, to eliminate authority and hierarchy, even in his life, never accepting a position that might give him cultural power (as distinct from influence), never composing any work that requires an authoritarian conductor


or even a lead instrumentalist who stands before a backup group. Not unlike other avant-garde artists, Cage made works, in his case in various media, that are either much more or much less than art used to be. Though the MINIMAL pieces should not be slighted, in my considered opinion the greatest Cage works are his MAXIMAL compositions: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (1946–48) is his longest and most exhaustive exploration of his first musical invention. Williams Mix (1953) is a tape collage composed of thousands of bits, intricately fused onto six tapes that should be played simultaneously, so that the result is an abundance of sounds within only several minutes. In HPSCHD (1969), Cage filled a humongous 15,000seat basketball arena with a multitude of sounds and sights, and EUROPERA (1987) draws upon 19thcentury European opera for musical parts, costumes, and scenarios that are then distributed at random to performers in a professional opera company. Given my bias toward abundance, my favorite Cage visual art is the sequence of Plexiglas plates that became Not Wanting to Say Anything about Marcel (1969); the single most impressive Cage text, the Harvard lectures that became the long poem l-VI (1990). In his notorious “silent piece,” the superficially much, much less 4′33″ (1952), he became an avatar of CONCEPTUAL ART. By having the distinguished pianist David Tudor make no sound in a concert otherwise devoted to contemporary piano music, Cage framed four minutes and thirty-three seconds of a pianist’s silence to suggest that the inadvertent sounds within the auditorium constitute the “musical” experience and, by extension, that all sounds, whether intentional or not, can be considered music. (One strain of conceptual art consists of demonstrations or statements that convey radical esthetic implications.) Since the content of 4′33″ and its successors is miscellaneous sounds, it is more accurate to characterize it as a noise piece. Cage also revolutionized musical scoring (eventually collecting an anthology of Notations [1969] that mostly reflects his influence), introducing graphic notations and prose instructions in place of horizontal musical staves. The most extraordinary of his own scores is the two-volume Song Books (Solos for Voice, 3–92) (1970), which contains, in part through length and number, an incomparable wealth of alternative performance instructions. He was also among the rare artists whose statements about his own work were often more true and insightful than his critics’ writings. The surest measure of his works’ canonicity is that they were realized and, yes, discussed as often in the 21st century as they were before his death.


CAHUN, CLAUDE (25 October 1894–8 December 1954; b. Lucy Renee Mathilde Schwob) As a more modest POLYARTIST, she worked strongly in both images and words around themes of gender and identity along the fringes of French SURREALISM. In his early A Short Survey of Surrealism (1935), the British writer David Gascoyne (1916–2001) quotes her as “he,” while some later surveys of Surrealism don’t mention her at all. Well before CINDY SHERMAN, Cahun produced photographic portraits of herself in various guises, including a coquette, a bodybuilder, a vamp, a young boy, and a Japanese puppet. Cahun’s single classic, an androgynous face often reprinted, is Self-Portrait in the Mirror with Checkered Jacket (1928). Her written “Heroines” (1925) contains monologs entwining female fairy-tale characters with contemporary female images. Her book Carrefour (1930) includes dreams illustrated with photomontages. In 1937 Cahun settled in Jersey (in the Channel Islands) with her life-partner Suzanne Malherbe (1892–1972), who took the name, likewise ambiguous in gender, of Marcel Moore for her own work as a writer and photographer. Under German occupation during World War II, the women engaged in subversive artistic activities, mostly requiring the printing of fliers, until they were jailed, though not deported. As much through their ambiguous themes as their polyartistic courage, their artistic fame grew posthumously.

CALDER, ALEXANDER (22 July 1898–11 November 1976) The son and grandson of sculptors, but also an alumnus of the Stevens Institute of Technology, Calder was a great inventor who recognized that the early modern avant-garde idea of KINETIC ART could be realized without motors. His innovation was three-dimensional art that, while suspended from a ceiling mount, moved through the natural balancing and counterbalancing of weights within the piece itself. Early in the history of this departure, his colleague MARCEL DUCHAMP dubbed them mobiles, which became an epithet that stuck. Initially Calder used simple wooden shapes, most of them painted, which are delicately suspended from wooden dowels. He later used metals of various kinds, in various shapes and sizes. Whereas individual images in the 1930s reflected the geometries of PIET MONDRIAN, whose Paris

34 • CAPPA MARINETTI, BENEDETTA studio Calder first visited in the early 1930; those from later times echo the more organic abstract forms of Joan Miró (1893–1983). Thanks in part to his engineering education, Calder figured how some of his mobiles could be quite large and hang in public spaces, most notably airport terminals. In lieu of physical space typical of previous sculpture, a mobile creates virtual space, which is to say that it needs much more space than it physically occupies (and thus becomes an implicit precursor of other virtual art). Of all Calder’s many enthusiasts, none is more curious, or perceptive, than the French writer JeanPaul Sartre (1905–80), who wrote: A mobile does not suggest anything; it captures genuine living movements and shapes them. Mobiles have no meaning, make you think of nothing but themselves. They are, that is all; they are absolutes. There is more of the unpredictable about them than in any other human creation. The later major Calder sculptures can be divided into those that hang freely from supports and those that rest stationary on the ground. Having become known for “mobiles,” he had to give another name to his stationary sculptures, “stabiles,” which seems an ironic joke on himself. Generally larger than mobiles, these fulfilled commissions for outdoor sites. The largest, the 60-foot high Teodelapio, was installed at a road junction in Spoleto, Italy, in 1962. None of these, in my judgment, are as strong as his best mobiles. Indeed, most of them, when actually seen nowadays, function to remind me of his superior mobiles. Prior to his discovery of the mobile, Calder was known to his Parisian colleagues for his miniature puppet-circus (late 1920s), with figures and animals made from wire and string. Extraordinary in spite of its modesty, this survived, not only in a short documentary film and in a book but as a semi-permanent display long on the ground floor of the Whitney Museum in New York, becoming perhaps his greatest single masterpiece. A 1943 exhibition of this work at the MUSEUM OF MODERN ART admitted Calder to the canon of modern sculpture. Though Calder’s unwillingness or inability to talk about art made him seem unserious, if not a sort of idiot esthetic savant, the physical truth is that he produced approximately 15,000 pieces, which is to say nearly one a day for fifty years. He was a sort of automatic artist. In a documentary film about Calder, someone notes that, though he may have drunk too much alcohol, his hands never stopped making objects.

CAPPA MARINETTI, BENEDETTA (14 August 1897–15 May 1977) At a major Italian Futurism exhibition mounted at New York’s Guggenheim Museum in 2014, the greatest revelation was the excellence of large paintings by F. T. MARINETTI’s wife Benedetta, who professionally signed only her first name. Resembling murals in scale, created in 1933–34 for the conference room of a post office in Palermo, Sicily, these five canvases epitomized certain Futurist principles made large. Collectively titled “Synthesis of Communication,” they depict communication by telephone, telegraph, air, sea, and land, all representing the modernization advocated by Italy’s prime minister at the time, Benito Mussolini (1883–1945), whom certain Futurist painters idolized.

CARLOS, WENDY (14 November 1939; b. Walter C.) Educated first in physics and then in music composition, Carlos released Switched-on Bach in 1968, which was the first recording of “ELECTRONIC MUSIC” to sell a million copies. Working with an early monophonic Moog synthesizer, Carlos laid individual lines of notes on a multitrack tape recorder. He then adjusted the levels of the various tracks (or lines) in creating (literally mixing them down onto) a two-track, stereophonic tape. It was painstaking and pioneering work, unlike anything anyone had done (or thought about doing) in Electronic Music before; but one benefit, especially in comparing Carlos’s interpretation of J. S. BACH’s Brandenburg concerti to traditional instrumental recordings, was revealing the master’s contrapuntal lines that were previously muffled. Though these technologies of a sound synthesizer and multitrack tape were widely available then, no other musician utilized them so well. Decades later, Switched-On Bach Set (1999) was a brilliant retrospective. Carlos subsequently produced other albums, some likewise original interpretations of classical warhorses, others of his own music (e.g., the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange), none of which were quite so innovative or successful. By the 21st century, Carlos was producing the most extraordinary photographs of solar eclipses. Born Walter Carlos, he became Wendy C. in the mid-1970s, discussing this voluntary gender reassignment at length in a memorable Playboy interview (May 1979).





(1941– October 1989)

(11 December 1908–5 November 2012)

Mexican by birth, he published in the late 1960s in his native country two collections of short stories that Mónica de la Torre characterized as “competent but unexceptional.” After moving to Amsterdam in the early 1970s, he became active in several dimensions of avant-garde art. In addition to running a bookshop/exhibition space called Other Books and So, he became the first great theorist of “Bookworks,” as he preferred to call them in English (over my “Book Art” or the more common “Artists’ Books.” In his classic 1975 manifesto, “The New Art of Making Books,” his simple formulation held that in the “old art the writer writes texts,” but “in the new art the writer makes books.” Exploiting the new technologies initially of mimeographing and then photocopying, implicitly forecasting such later developments as ON-DEMAND PRINTING, Carrión foresaw that the book-artist can safely ignore the cultural gatekeepers in distributing radically innovative (and possibly first rank) work. Variously active, Carrión also produced performances and videos that are recalled decades after his passing, particularly in a 2017 retrospective with nearly 350 pieces in Mexico City titled (in English) “Dear Reader. Don’t read.” I remember best when Ulises and his Dutch partner Aart van Barneveld (?-1990) visited me in ARTISTS’ SOHO the day of a 1977 blackout in New York City, when he gladly accepted a plate of melting ice cream.

Educated in English literature before he turned to music composition, Carter was, until his forties, one of many Americans working in “neoclassicism,” which was in the 1930s and 1940s an encompassing term for tonal music that acknowledged traditional forms (purportedly in reaction to both 19th-century romantic EXPRESSIONISM and SERIAL MUSIC). With his first Piano Sonata, however, Carter began to explore overtones (sounds inadvertently produced by notes in combination) and also the ways in which these overtones create their own semblance of melodies. His Sonata for Cello and Piano (1948) incorporates a musical idea that he would subsequently develop: the individuality of each instrument prevents a group of them from blending together completely. This idea was developed in a series of string quartets that rank among the strongest in contemporary music (1952, 1959, 1971, 1988–89, 1995). To enhance individuality Carter required that the performers sit farther apart than customary. Carter also introduced an innovative technique, since called “metrical modulation,” which depends upon continual changes of speed. That is to say, his rhythms are neither regular nor syncopated but continually rearticulated until the sense of perpetual rhythmic change becomes itself a major theme of the piece. He recalled in 1969, with characteristically multicultural reference, that:

CARROLL, LEWIS (27 January 1832–14 January 1898; b. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) A university lecturer in mathematics who was also an ordained minister, Carroll wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), probably the first children’s book to have enough cultural resonance to interest sophisticated adult readers as well. MARTIN GARDNER, among others, has interpreted the book as portraying more than three dimensions and similarly sophisticated themes. Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1872) continues the story, with a greater sense of what adults might appreciate. Another Carroll classic, The Hunting of the Snark (1876), is a highly metrical nonsense poem, written well before similar efforts by Kenneth Koch, among others. After you’ve read Carroll, whose complete literary works fit into a single volume, check out the editions intelligently annotated by Martin Gardner.

Rhythmic means [had] begun to seem a very limited routine in most contemporary and older Western music. I had taken up again an interest in Indian talas, the Arabic durub, the “tempi” of Balinese gamelans (especially the accelerating Gangsar and Rangkep), and studied the newer recordings of African music, that of the Watusi in particular. At the same time, the music of the early quattrocento, of Scriabin, Ives, and the techniques described in [Henry] Cowell’s New Musical Resources also furnished me with many ideas. The result was a way of evolving rhythms and rhythmic continuities, sometimes called “metrical modulation.” Such Carter music realizes a textual intensity that reflects the complexity of serial music without literally following Schoenbergian rules. Indeed, precisely because Carter’s best music must be reheard even to begin to be understood, it could be said that he composed not for the live concert hall but for reproductive media, at first records, then cassette tapes, and now compact disks, which enable listeners to rehear

36 • CASSAVETES, JOHN an initially evasive work as often as they wish. Of his other pieces, the most monumental is A Symphony of Three Orchestras (1977), in which Carter continually divides and redivides the instruments into smaller groups more typical of chamber ensembles. Incidentally, this interest in rearticulating pace prompted the art critic John Russell (1919–2008) for one to suggest that Carter had “speculated about the nature of time and memory as persistently as anyone since Marcel Proust and Edmund Husserl.” Though Carter continued composing into his hundreds, his late monumental birthdays were recognized with more fanfare, not to mention premieres, in England than in the United States, for reasons that are perhaps indicative of larger cultural discrepancies. No other composer ever was as active as Carter past the age of 90, often appearing at concerts aided not by a wheelchair but a cane. Sometimes he would sit on a concert stage answering questions. Between the ages of 90 and 100 he published more than forty new works; once a centenarian, Carter completed at least twenty more. Not unlike other composers of his generation, Carter could also be a discriminating critic, eventually collecting his best essays and talks into a single book, where the strongest single line mocks American orchestras for commissioning in the 1960s not “good, effective yet technically advanced scores [that] would be helpful in maintaining high performance standards in an orchestra . . . but new works that make an immediate effect with a minimum of effort and time.” Decades later, that critical assessment is still true.

CASSAVETES, JOHN (9 December 1929–3 February 1989) Before he became a prominent Hollywood actor and sometime director, Cassavetes independently produced an innovative feature-length film in which he didn’t appear. Shot on 16 mm. film, reportedly for less than $50,000, Shadows (1960) is an extraordinarily intimate portrait of a love affair between a white teenager and a fair-skinned black girl – decades before interracial romance ever became a more familiar subject. Filming in situ in NEW YORK CITY, Cassavetes directed his cameramen to move around, getting close to things and people, again well before such moves became popular. Some of the most memorable scenes were filmed in rooms with low ceilings. At the time, I remember comparing the scene of the protagonists in bed to a more formal treatment of a similar sequence in Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), which was made around the same time. Indicatively, when

Cassavetes’s female protagonist walks down 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenue, the lights flicker not up in the sky but right behind her ears. A scene in which guys pick up three girls has an air of authenticity precisely because of the clumsiness of both the actors and the camera. Perhaps Cassavetes’s real achievement was making the camera more responsible than the actors for defining his characters. Even in Hollywood, he did not forget his independence, financing his own films, using hand-held cameras, allowing his releases to appear erratic and perhaps unfinished, frequently blaming corporate studios for their insufficiencies, etc.

CASTELLI, LEO (4 September 1907–21 August 1999; b. Leo Krausz) During the second half of his long life, no gallerist in America succeeded as well at selling new work by certain avant-garde artists. Born in Trieste, educated in Austria and Italy, he came to America during World War II and, though already in his forties, connected to emerging artists by helping with the Ninth Street Show. Later opening an eponymous gallery in the large living room of his Upper East Side Manhattan townhouse, Castelli sponsored initial exhibitions by ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG and JASPER JOHNS before discovering the major avatars of POP ART. No gallerist was shrewder at establishing prices and reputations. Loyal to his chosen artists, Castelli nonetheless kept exhibiting some whose success was limited (e.g., Nassos Daphnis [1914–2010] and Mia Westerhund Roosen [1942]), as Castelli’s touch was hardly golden. Relocating his gallery downtown to a larger space in SoHo in the early 1970s, in the wake of the success of the O.K. Harris Gallery founded by his sometime assistant Ivan Karp (1926–2013), Castelli sold his artists’ newest produce to collectors and institutions loyal to him at levels above other merchants of avant-garde art, rather than of, say, old masters or some exotica. In this respect, he was the principal American successor to such fabled European gallerists of avant-garde art as Ambrose Volland (1867–1939) and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884–1979). At 420 W. Broadway, along ARTISTS’ SOHO’s main drag, his eponymous gallery became the anchor that newcomers to SoHo visited first. Once I suggested that a biography of an art dealer could not be written, because too many of their dealings were kept secret; but Annie Cohen-Solal (1948), a French writer once on a diplomatic mission in New York City, produced Leo and His Circle (2010), which I found credible.


CELEBRITY Unfortunate it is that once the name of an artist, even if his or her work was once avant-garde, becomes familiar with people scarcely interested in art, then he or she often comes to prefer the company and culture of other celebrities over fellow artists and thus to learn more for their professional lives from other celebrities, especially about how to be a celebrity, than from their artistic colleagues. Otherwise, the problems with celebrity for the artist are, that after obtaining it, her or his work usually declines, often because of remunerative commissions reflecting sponsor’s designs over the artist’s purposes, and then that celebrity cannot be tenured, often disintegrating well before the artist’s death, in a negative fall that can’t be controlled or reversed. Consider that among the artists once featured on the cover of TIME magazine since 1923, surely a measure of highest public “classy” fame in, were the painters Thomas Hart Benton, Augustus John, and Andrew Wyeth; the architects Wallace Harrison, Richard Neutra, and Edward D. Stone; the jazz musicians Dave Brubeck and Duke Ellington; and the composers Sergei Prokofiev and David Byrne. Q. E. D.

CÉLINE, LOUIS-FERDINAND (27 May 1894–1 July 1961; b. L-F. Auguste Destouches) Céline was a notable French writer and, by all reports, a humane doctor, in spite of his disagreeable Fascist politics and bursts of inexcusable anti-Semitism. Seriously wounded in the head during World War I, he suffered for the rest of his life from vertigo, chronic migraine, partial paralysis of his right arm, and a constant buzz in his ears. Out of this deranged mentality, he concocted a literary style of unprecedented splenetic frustration and despair, comic in its excesses, whose truest subject is not society but the contents of his damaged head: My great rival is music, it sticks in the bottom of my ears and rots . . . it never stops scolding . . . it dazes me with blasts of the trombone, it keeps on day and night. I’ve got every noise in nature, from the flute to Niagara Falls . . . . Wherever I go, I’ve got drums with me and an avalanche of trombones . . . for weeks on end I play the triangle . . . . On the bugle I can’t be beat. I still have my own private birdhouse complete with three thousand five hundred and seven birds that will never calm down. I am the organs of the Universe.


As his later translator Ralph Manheim (1907–92) points out, the slight innovation of three dots, sometimes called ellipses, “which so infuriated academic critics at the time . . . mark the incompleteness, the abruptness, the sudden shifts of direction characteristic of everyday speech.” Those who can read his Parisian slang, itself new to French literature in his time, testify that Céline’s prose is even more extraordinary in the original.

CENDRARS, BLAISE (1 September 1887–21 January 1961; b. Frédéric-Louis Sauser) Born in Switzerland of a Scottish mother, Cendrars wrote in French mostly about his mercurial cosmopolitan life. Creating the persona of himself as a man of action, he concocted a propulsive, rhythmically abrupt literary style that informed both his poetry and his prose. To put it differently, self-possessed and up-to-date, he made much, in style as well as content, of the mania of being so self-possessed and up-to-date. “I have deciphered all the confused texts of the wheels and I have assembled the scattered elements of a most violent beauty/That I control/And which compels me,” he writes in La Prose du Transsibérien et la Petite Jehanne de France. Remarkably generous in collaborating with colleagues, he produced GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE and SONIA DELAUNEY an edition of Transsibérien (1913), which is commonly regarded among the monuments of modern literary book-art. Printed in an accordion format, over 6 feet tall when unfolded upwise, its continuous vertical imagery becomes a counterpoint to Cendrars’s continuous text whose multiple fonts compliment Delaunay’s free use of many colors. Acclaimed at the time, this book has been inferiorly reproduced often.

CERCLE ET CARRÉ (1929–30; 1936–43) Though a 1930 Parisian exhibition with this title found little audience at the time, it became legendary, thanks to a three-shot magazine with the same name and then the later writings of MICHEL SEUPHOR, an enthusiast who later portrayed it as more successful than it actually was. With 130 works by many artists, it tried with numbers to establish credibility for geometric abstraction epitomized by the shapes in its title, all in opposition to SURREALISM then dominant in Paris. Among the featured artists were PIET MONDRIAN, then already in his mid-fifties, ROBERT DELAUNAY and Moholy-Nagy. As another

38 • CHAGALL, MARC theme was the international range of such art, the exhibition included Germans, Russians, Poles, Italians, another Hungarian, a Catalan, a Dane, a Czech, an American, a Dominican, an Alsatian, and an Icelander. In its wake came another group calling itself Abstraction-Création that attracted more members, including NAUM GABO, Barbara Hepworth, and JOSEF ALBERS. This too became the title of another French-language magazine (1931–36). Participating in both exhibitions was Joaquin Torres-Garcia, who, when he returned to his native Uruguay, published in Montevideo in Spanish and French yet another art magazine titled Círculo y Cuadrado (1936–43; though not between 1939 and 1942) with the same C&C logo, natch.

sculptures composed initially of iron pipes and then of crushed automobile parts, usually preserving their original industrial colors. Even with materials so culturally declassé, he realized formal qualities rather than social comment. Reflecting DE KOONING’s interpretation of CUBISM In their compositional syntax of colliding planes, his sculptures also epitomize ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM in metal. DONALD JUDD credits Chamberlain in making color an issue in contemporary sculpture. Though he later worked with other materials, including urethane and fiberglass, and then galvanized steel and aluminum, nothing else he ever did was quite as stunning and innovative as his “junk sculpture.”


(February 1889–20 October 1960)

(7 July 1887–28 March 1985; b. Moishe Shagalov)

Initially FUTURIST in his orientation, Chicherin became the founder and theoretician of Russian Literary Constructivism in the early 1920s, attempting to apply the principles of CONSTRUCTIVISM (practical application of avant-garde achievements in the visual arts to design and architecture) within the literary sphere. The main principle was “maximal concentration of function on units of the construction” (“We Know,” 1922). His most significant works are Fluks (1922), in which he introduced a system of phonetic transcription and diacritical marks to convey the precise features of idiolect, and his contributions to the important Constructivist collection Change of All (1924). His works in Change of All initially employ a transcription like those in Fluks, which are designed to ensure the accurate performance of a compact text, but step by step the recitation cues become more elaborate, resembling musical notation, while the text becomes briefer. In the final stages of this development, verbal elements give way entirely to geometric figures that can be interpreted symbolically. Chicherin’s booklet Kan-Fun (1926) elaborates on his theories of Constructivist functionalism. However, a split developed between Chicherin and his less radical, more practical colleagues in Literary CONSTRUCTIVISM, who expelled him from their association in 1924. He spent the latter part of his life quietly working as a book designer.

What to say? From the beginning of his career he participated in various phases of modernism without dominating or losing his SIGNATURE of fantasies at once audacious and charming. Two stylistic tricks were situating his subjects in mid-air and recoloring them. Though a Russian who became a Frenchman, he wisely refused to join Parisian SURREALISM, which invited him, as perhaps did other recruiting art groups, and thus survived its and their decline. PICASSO reportedly judged that Chagall understood color almost as well as MATISSSE. Overcoming a limited imagination, Chagall worked in many media, including stained glass, murals, tapestries, illustrated books, ceramics, and stage sets. At the last, he especially excelled. Glib “humanists” praise his anthropomorphic semblances. Widely admired for his “Jewish art,” Chagall nonetheless violated the proscription against producing graven images, which may or may not be unacceptable. So remarkable was his redoing the interior of the Moscow Jewish Theater late in 1920 that it alone became the subject of a 1992 exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum. One critical question is whether anything he produced after departing Russia in 1922 was as innovative and/or substantial? Unusually adept at surviving, Chagall nonetheless prospered into his late nineties. Enough said?

—Gerald Janecek



(16 April 1927–21 December 2011)

(10 July 1888–20 November 1978)

Taking from DAVID SMITH a taste for industrial materials and a competence in welding, Chamberlain made

Born in Greece of Italian parents, he studied engineering in Athens and Munich before going to Paris, where


he met artists gathered around GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE. His most memorable paintings were produced from 1909 to 1919. Coming to Italy in 1915 for military service, for which he was judged unfit, he went back to a Paris where his sometime admirer Apollinaire was no longer present. After 1920 or so he developed a romantic neoclassism that in its other worldliness resembled Surrealism, but was never so popular. In revenge perhaps but also to make money, he produced backdated paintings that resembled his earlier more successful art while protesting that other lesser paintings with his name were forgeries. He also wrote a single novel, Hebdomeros (1929), as well as distinguished criticism and experimental prose. His career is perhaps too rich a subject for a perfunctory biographer. His brother, who called himself Alberto Savinio, was a POLYARTIST who produced writing, painting, and even music compositions that are still remembered.

CHRISTMAS TRUCE (December 1914; in German, Weihnachtsfrieden; in French, Trêve de Noël) This great collective PERFORMANCE occurred near the beginning of World War I when roughly 100,000 German and British troops spontaneously agreed not to fight. Instead, they sang carols, exchanged Christmas gifts, perhaps played soccer against each, etc., as well they could, thanks to a fortunate press embargo, until their generals, stationed far away, instructed them to return to killing each other, which, nearly all Christian, they were naturally reluctant to do. One dozen years later, a World War I veteran, then a British parliamentarian, imagined that if only the young solders could have kept their essentially anarchist performance going, repudiating their commanders, they could have changed not only World War I but set a beneficial precedent for modern history. Silent Night (2001) is a great appreciation by the major American literary historian Stanley Weintraub (1929). What isn’t commonly celebrated as a great work of innovative Folk Art, with such a large number of participating performers, should be.


b. J.-C. Denat de Guillebon), whose collaborative support was envied by other artists and their spouses, and then to New York. His original sculptural idea, in the late 1950s, involved wrapping familiar objects in cloth, initially, I suppose, to give them esthetic value by destroying their original identity. He began with small objects before wrapping a wheelchair, a motorcycle, and then a small car. Instead of moving onto other ideas, Christo escalated his wrapping schemes to monumental and, at times, comic proportions, encasing at various times an exhibition space in Berne, Switzerland, a section of Australian coast, islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Reichstag in BERLIN; and most famously perhaps, in Manhattan’s Central Park in February 2005, each of them for a limited length of time. Temporary and theatrical, such work involved a large number of people. In my own experience, nothing in my hometown had the temporary enhancing presence of over seven thousand tall orange curtains, rearticulating the familiar landscape with a wealth of new images, until they were dismantled, best remembered now with videotapes or large-format picture books. The Gates, as it was called, differed as sculpture in that spectators were invited to walk through and around them for two glorious weeks in an otherwise bleak winter. Self-financing, Christo sold drawings and relics, incidentally giving the official date(s) of this project as “1979–2005,” to acknowledge how long it took for the proposal to be realized. Though several other public artists have promised to do as well again by NEW YORK CITY, which can be a “tough space,” none has come close. Thinking big, not only with his structures but about their “gallery,” Christo also built a fence running 24 miles long in California in 1976. His installation of hundreds of oversize umbrellas in Southern California and Japan (1991) became notorious, particularly after several umbrellas toppled during storms, endangering local populations. Though some of his projects were unrealized, Christo’s proposals, presented in drawings, benefitted from arriving in the wake of CONCEPTUAL ART. Later works were customarily credited to “Christo and Jeanne-Claude.”


CHRISTO (13 June 1935; b. C. Vladimirov Javacheff) Born in Bulgaria, Christo emigrated first to Paris, where he took a wife, Jeanne-Claude (1935–2009;

Invented by the French physicist Dr. Henri Chrétien (1879–1956), this is the name for a film projection system that produces a far wider image than that of conventional film. Thirty-five-millimeter film is shot with an anamorphic lens that horizontally squeezes the wider image into the standard film ratios. To be

40 • CINERAMA seen properly, this compressed image must then be projected through a compensating lens that extends it horizontally. Cinemascope was first used commercially for The Robe (1953) and contributes, in my opinion, to the excellence and character of such visually spectacular films as David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. When shown on television or videotapes, such films generally are visually compromised, their sides lost from view, unless reproduced in the so-called letterbox format with their tops and bottoms blackened.

CINERAMA (c. 1938) Invented by Fred Waller (1886–1954), this is the name for a three-screen projection system whose images were recorded by three synchronized cameras. The synchronized films were then projected with their seams aligned onto a curvilinear screen that filled the audience’s horizontal vision. This Is Cinerama (1952) was one of the great movie going experiences of my youth, establishing my taste for physically expanded film. The success of that film prompted the use of CINEMASCOPE, which offered the economic advantage of requiring only one projector at the esthetic cost of a flatter, less extended image; but every time I remember any multiple projection, I wish that I could see This Is Cinerama again. It is unfortunate that it is no longer available, as some of its esthetic terrain was appropriated by more recent developments such as IMAX.

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL (1984) While most circuses are kitchy, the genre has been a fertile PERFORMANCE art susceptible to innovation. The great departure of the most famous American circus, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey (1918–2017), came from the employment of elephants, many of them, some of them more intelligent than others, all of whom incidentally made the smaller bears favored, say, by the smaller Russian circuses look slight. Indicatively, not only were RB&B pachyderms featured in logos but they became the co-stars for GEORGE BALANCHINE’s single most innovative choreography, Circus Polka (1942) for fifty ballerinas and fifty elephants. The simultaneous use of three stages, called “three rings,” supported RB&B’s claim to be “the greatest show on earth.” As indeed it was – for decades.

More recently, none could equal, though some tried to rival, Cirque du Soleil, a French-Canadian group that began on the streets of Quebec province before eventually moving to LAS VEGAS, where they found a corporate patron who employed them regularly, and built theaters especially for them so they could perform simultaneously in more than one venue. Eventually Cirque du Soleil toured their brand around the world. Among the more subtle departures are abolishing the ringmaster that earlier circuses used as a master of ceremonies, if not a guide with his stentorian introductions. Cirque du Soleil retired as well animals, freaks, and unnecessary dangers by having trapeze artists, say, perform with harnesses visibly attached to their bodies. Performers, not stagehands, change props. Technologically sophisticated is the use of both lights and sounds. Rarely are their performances vulgar. Oddly, the story of how an innovative performance group became a billion-dollar company hasn’t yet been fully documented.

CITROEN, PAUL (15 December 1896–13 March 1983) While many artists have made PHOTOMONTAGES that pieced together fragments from different sources within a single frame, the most influential masterpiece was Paul Citroen’s Metropolis (1923), which includes shots of many tall buildings laid side and side to establish the verticality and density typical of the modern city. As only a bit of sky is visible at the top, another theme of Metropolis (1923) is diminishing the presence of Nature. So immediately respected was this Citroen image, it was reprinted widely at the time in both magazines and books, also influencing visibly Fritz Lang’s 1926 film with the same name, as well as such paintings such as Downtown (c. 1925) by the American Jan Matulka (1890–1972) and Broadway (c. 1935) by Mark Tobey (1890–1976). Citroen, a Dutch Jew born and raised in BERLIN, made variations, all apparently with the same title. Decades later, his photomontage became a kind of logo for audio portraits of the world’s cities, likewise collectively called Metropolis, produced by various individual artists for Westdeutscher Rundfunk. If an exemplar establishes the validity of a new art form, this is it. Closest are the pre-1925 photomontages by JOHN HEARTFIELD, who, as a Communist political critic, later favored topical subjects; for his Nazis did not survive past World War II as well as Citroen’s vertical Metropolis has. Yet far, far away from arts history are the simple photomontages usually appearing in advertisements.


ˇ CIURLIONIS, MIKALOJUS (10 September 1875–10 April 1911) A trained Lithuanian composer who worked in Warsaw as a choral conductor from 1902 to 1909 and whose Symbolist music resembles that of his contemporary ALEXANDER SCRIABIN, Čiurlionis developed theories of “tonal ground formation” that presaged SERIAL music. Clearly a proto-POLYARTIST, he later became a painter of cosmic, Symbolist landscapes, often in series, with such musical titles as Sonata of the Stars and Prelude and Fugue. Sea Sonata (1908–09), for instance, has panels with titles such as “Allegro,” “Andante,” and “Finale.” The third number (1914) of the St. Petersburg magazine Apollon, as well as a 1961 issue of the Brooklyn journal Lituanus (Vol. 7, no. 2), were entirely devoted to the composer-painter who, like KANDINSKY, explored analogies between the two arts. One principal scholar on Čiurlionis has been Vytautas Landsbergis (1932), who, after editing his letters, writing monographs, and introducing his visual art, became president of Lithuania in 1990. Unfortunately, Čiurlionis himself died young of tuberculosis.

COBURN, ALVIN LANGDON (11 June 1882–23 November 1966) As a Boston native who became an Englishman, he was a pioneering photographer at the beginning of the 20th century, famed mostly for his respectful portraits of prominent artists and writers. His more remarkable photographs, however, portrayed overlapping faces thanks to a contraption made around 1916 of three mirrors clamped together. EZRA POUND, one of the first subjects for these representationally radical portraits, called them Vortographs reflecting VORTICISM that was prominent in England at the time. Though the first great photography gallerist ALFRED STIEGLITZ refused to exhibit Coburn’s departure, which he stopped producing after only a few dozen examples, others did, crediting him with inventing photographs that reflected painterly cubism and thus approached abstraction. Nonetheless, by 1930, as Coburn sadly lost interest in photography, he destroyed several thousand glass and film negatives.

COCTEAU, JEAN (5 July 1889–11 October 1963) Cocteau was one of those figures who flirt with the avant-garde without ever quite influencing or joining it,


who championed certain innovative art without actually making any, perhaps because he was too self-conscious of his early CELEBRITY to be courageously radical, mostly because he simply lacked originality while aspiring to be fashionable. As he once told Francis Picabia, “You are the extreme left, I am the extreme right.” Among his professional associates at various times in his career were SERGEI DHAGHILEV, PABLO PICASSO, GERTRUDE STEIN, ERIK SATIE, IGOR STRAVINSKY, and Kenneth Anger. As a slick POLYARTIST who published his first book of poems while still a teenager, Cocteau wrote plays, scripted scenarios, designed theatrical sets, and directed films, in addition to exhibiting drawings that, in Lucy R. Lippard’s phrases, “remained firmly Picassoid, dry, coquettish, over-refined, and elegant.” Though he was renowned when alive, posterity defeated his work. Of all his efforts, his film La Belle et la Bête (1946, Beauty and the Beast) is most likely to survive, if any at all. In his pretentious compromises, as well as his position in French culture, Cocteau very much resembled his fellow Parisian, the composer PIERRE BOULEZ.

COLEMAN, ORNETTE (9 March 1930–11 June 2015) Born in Texas, self-taught as a musician, Coleman around 1960 challenged the world of JAZZ music much as IGOR STRAVINSKY did in classical music decades before. Coleman’s innovation was instrumental independence, which is to say that the soloist performs independently of any preassigned harmonic scheme, and then that everyone in his group performs with scant acknowledgment of the percussionist’s beat. Called “free jazz,” Coleman’s own improvisations, mostly on the alto saxophone, gained a strong following in New York in the ’60s and Europe in the ’70s. In addition to performing on the violin and trumpet, he composed extended works for classical ensembles.

COLLAGE (c. 1910) The earliest fine-art examples of collage depended upon the incorporation of real objects, such as bits of newspaper or other mass-produced images, into a picture’s field, the objects at once contributing to the image and yet through difference suggesting another dimension of experience. One visual theme was perceiving the difference between pasted object

42 • COLLECTORS, AVANT-GARDE and material surface. Initiated by CUBISTS, the compositional principle was extended by FUTURISTS, DADAISTS, and SURREALISTS, always in ways typical of each. Collage was, by many measures, the most popular artistic innovation of early 20th-century art. Later collages depended upon using separate images for ironic juxtapositions; others functioned to expand the imagery available to art. The collage principle influenced work in other arts, including sculpture, where ASSEMBLAGE is three-dimensional collage; PHOTOMONTAGE; music, where the post-World War II development of audiotape facilitated the mixing of dissimilar sounds; and VIDEO, even though that last art did not arise until the late 1960s. Max Ernst’s La femme 100 fetes (1932) is a book-length narrative composed of collages. The Czech artist Jirí Kolàr (whose last name is pronounced to sound like “collage”) has extended the compositional principle, often in ironic ways, to works he calls “crumplage,” “rollage,” “intercollage,” “prollage,” “chiasmage,” and “anti-collage.” Another innovation in this tradition is the composer Mauricio Kagel’s “Metacollage,” where all the materials for his mix come from a single source (e.g., Beethoven’s music, for example, or 19th-century German culture). I judge that collage, as an easily adopted innovation, became dead by the 1960s, which is to say that, although collages continued to appear, none of them, especially in visual art, were strikingly original or excellent. A contrary interpretation of collage sees it as not early modernist, as I do, but proto-postmodernist: Unlike the works of modernism proper, it is an assault on the integrity of the work of art in that it brings foreign materials into the space previously reserved for painting on the canvas. Since these materials include such things as newspaper clippings, collage thus forges a line between ‘high’ art and mass culture. This comes from The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism [1995], which was on publication self-consciously up-to-date.

rivaled David Bermant (1919–2000), a developer of retail malls who incidentally placed some of his holdings in them. For FLUXUS scores, objects, and other ephemera, the greatest collectors were Lila and Gilbert Silverman, a Detroit real-estate developer. By contrast, the collection of Francesco Conz (1935–2010), an Italian based in Asolo and then Verona, included much FLUXUS along with VISUAL POETRY, LETTRISM, and Vienna Actionism. Another collection, not only of Fluxus but also of Happenings documents, was amassed by Hanns Sohm (1921–99), a suburban Stuttgart dentist, who donated it to a local Staatsgalerie. As its website claims, “As these were objects which no-one else bothered to keep, Sohm can be said to have preserved this culture almost single-handedly.” Martin Sackner (1931), a Miami (FL) physician and inventor, and his wife Ruth (1936–2005) gathered over 75,000 objects relating to CONCRETE and visual poetries. Discriminating collectors are special people, as scarce as discriminating critics, and perhaps much like artists in their passionate focus. When the ItalianGerman collector of avant-garde materials Egidio Marzona (1944) visited my SoHo studio in the 1990s, he looked at my library and estimated 17,000 books. When I asked how he derived that number, which was news to me, he replied, “I have 40,000.” Dispute I couldn’t. When the director of the Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas visited the Sackners, he noticed many books he had never seen before, implicitly measuring their collection’s distinction. Marvin Sackner tells the illustrative story of his visiting Sohm in the latter’s home/office/archive. He invited Sackner to select from the dentist’s collection any duplicates that Sackner didn’t already have. While Sohm attended to a patient, Sackner selected several items. When he eventually showed his choices to Sohm, the latter rebuked Sacker by identifying which ones were already in Sackner’s collection whose inventory Sohm had apparently memorized. Normal people scarcely know what’s in their closets.

COLOMBO, JOHN ROBERT COLLECTORS, AVANT-GARDE While people collecting avant-garde paintings are plentiful, rare are the individuals who compile notable, discriminating, usually unique gatherings of avant-garde materials in the other arts. Most prominent among those for musical manuscripts was PAUL SACHER, already acknowledged here. For kinetic sculptures, few

(24 March 1936) Very much a strong man both inside and outside within Canadian literature, a prolific writer and editor whose achievements are so plentiful they are foolishly taken for granted in his native country, Colombo has worked with a variety of unusual poetic strategies. His first books were found poetry, each dependent upon


making art from esoteric texts found in his unusually wide reading; his term at the time was “redeemed prose.” The Canadian critic Douglas Barbour (1940) writes that Colombo’s The Great Cities of Antiquity (1979): Is a collection of found poems in a dizzying variety of modes, based on entries in the famous eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Written in 1969, it is possibly Colombo’s most extreme collage, a veritable textbook on the many formal experiments of modern and postmodern poetry. Finding language, rather than creating it, has been a fertile idea for new poetry into the 21st century. Of the poems written, by contrast, out of Colombo’s own head, consider the excellence of “Secret Wants” in Neo Poems (1971). A full-time booksmith, writing, and editing well over two hundred volumes for publishers both large and small (no false snob he), Colombo has also collaborated on literary translations from several languages and edited several important anthologies of poetry and of paranormal experience, including New Directions in Canadian Poetry (1970, perhaps the only English language anthology of avant-garde poetries aimed at high school students). In addition, he compiled such pioneering culturally patriotic compendia as Colombo’s Canadian Quotations (1994), Colombo’s Canadian References (1976), Colombo’s Book of Canada (1978), and The Dictionary of Canadian Quotations (1991), which all have the distinction of being books that nobody else could create, even if they tried. That’s one reason why they’ve survived decades later. One mark of his anthologies is bookish distance, perhaps reflecting the Olympian influence of his teacher NORTHROP FRYE, as distinct from journalistic topicality. Colombo’s single most marvelous book is likewise unique – Self-Schrift (1999), which contains, as he puts it, “commentaries – anecdotes, insights, appreciations, criticisms, ideas, and theories – about the 136 books that he has written, compiled, or translated over the years.” Why invite others, the book implies, when a prolific author can honor himself? Contagiously readable, at once proud and modest, it will become, I suspect, a model for similarly professional autobiographies by authors fortunate enough to be prolific. In reviewing The Collected Poems of John Robert Colombo (2005), three volumes that gather a rich assortment of verbal departures, I discovered a rich unintentional poem within the book’s table of contents, which, incidentally, became a “found” poem that no one else could have written. Innately irrepressiable, he has in the


21st century self-published annual collections of his latest writing, incidentally setting a good example for other veteran writers overcoming what he charmingly dubs “a publishing block.”

COLOR-FIELD PAINTING (c. 1950) The theme was using color apart from drawing, apart from shape and shading, until it acquires a purely visual status. However, in contrast to monochromic painting, most color-field work involves at least two colors, which prompt surprising retinal responses, such as ambiguous figure-ground reversals, usually along the sharply delineated border between the colors. The last fact prompted the epithet “hard-edge abstraction,” which is also used to describe this style of painting. One master was Ellsworth Kelly, who was also among the first to paint on nonrectangular canvases. Since some post-World War II color-field painters had worked in camouflage during the War, their military experience must have taught them strategic tricks about color relationships that afterwards were turned to esthetic uses. In my collection is a Suzan Frecon painting, in which a deeply repainted black rectangle sits in the center of a very white larger canvas. Stand at least 14 feet away from this work and stare at it intently, and you will observe that the black rectangle starts to shimmer. (And the shimmering won’t stop!)

COLTRANE, JOHN (23 September 1926–17 July 1967) Working out of a jazz tradition, he assimilated an interest, more typical of modernist classical music, in alternative tonalities, beginning with his close study from the 1950s of Nicolas Slonimsky’s Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns (1947), which is a brilliant compendium of how else the notes within a scale might be played. As John Schott wrote, “Its exhaustive treatment of octave divisions and symmetrical interval patterns was also a goad in his quest for a tonal system that would supplant traditional tonality.” Initially recognized as an accomplished saxophonist, Coltrane created long melodic lines that reflected the modernist “emancipation of dissonance,” in ARNOLD SCHOENBERG’s phrase. Coltrane was also interested in original aggregate relationships, which is to say chords, but again with a taste for atonality. One recurring theme of his improvisations was symmetry. In his classic appreciation of Coltrane’s

44 • COMBINE complexity, Schott reprints a rich diagram drawn by Coltrane in 1960 and explains: The diagram juxtaposes the two whole-tone collections five times around the perimeters of a circle. Lines are drawn connecting each tone to its tritone across the circle, bisecting the circle thirty times. Every fifth tone is enclosed is a box to show the circle of fifths. Each member of the circle of fifths is also enclosed with its upper and lower neighbors in two ovals, etc. While acknowledging the metaphysical implications of the diagram’s configuration, Schott’s theme is Coltrane’s ambition to realize within an improvisatory context the intensity of overlapping interconnections typical of serial composition. In the wake of too much heroin and alcohol, he died too young.

COMBINE (1954) ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG purportedly coined this nifty epithet to define painting enhanced with protrusive objects. The classic precursor was, of course, “a real bottle brush projecting at right angles from the painted surface” in MARCEL DUCHAMP’s TU’M (1918). Within his own painterly fields Rauschenberg in the 1950s incorporated pillows, clocks, and stuffed animals, among other sub-artistic objects. Other canvasmen did likewise after him, including JASPER JOHNS and Jim Dine (1935). Their obvious unacceptability notwithstanding, the best of these junk-filled combines ended on the walls not of private collectors but in museums that have often paid millions of dollars to own and display them.

COMEDY This has become the preferred mode for avant-garde art, in contrast to its antipode Tragedy, which belongs to traditional art. If Tragedy portrays what should not happen, one theme of Comedy is possibility not only with the materials of art but in human existence. It follows that many major avant-garde artists were incidentally great comedians. Need I add that some artists are oblivious to comedy. Likewise some arts critics. Likewise to irony that depends upon seeing through transparent façades. Those so oblivious usually oppose avant-garde arts. Consider from George Lord Byron (1788–1824): “All tragedies are finished by a death, all comedies

are ended by a marriage.” If so, I’ll take comedy any time. NORTHROP FRYE, accepting this dichotomy, famously classified the Book of Job as a comedy. I once heard JOHN CAGE say that comedy was “more profound” than tragedy; but since no one else heard that judgment from him, may I claim it as mine?

COMPETITION The great secret of professional arts is that their worlds are ferociously competitive. Of the many who aspire, only a few reach the top, if only briefly, and fewer for long; and what is true of art worlds in general is even more true of avant-garde turfs. This truth accounts for why even aspirants with the best preparations and/or the strongest backers don’t necessarily prosper, and why, by contrast, some major artists began with negligible connections. And then why as well anyone swimming high is liable not only to drowning sometime soon or attack from below. Good fortune can help now and then, as well as here and there; but nothing ultimately succeeds as much as strong work that lasts and then more strong work.

CONCEPTUAL ART (c. 1960) The radical idea is that the FRAMING of absence can generate esthetic experience, if properly interpreted. The classic forerunner, conceived nearly a decade before the epithet was coined, is JOHN CAGE’s oftcalled “silent” piece, 4′33″ (1952), in which, in a concert situation, pianist David Tudor plays no notes for the required duration of four minutes and thirty-three seconds. By framing the performance situation of a concert with a prominent pianist, Cage suggested that all the miscellaneous noises heard in that space during that duration constitute “music.” It logically follows that any unintended noise, even apart from the enclosure of 4-minute 33 seconds, could provide esthetic experience (and thus that what has commonly been called Cage’s “silent piece” is really a noise piece). Much depends upon a resonant context. The sometime economist Henry Flynt is commonly credited with originating the radical notion of statement-aloneart in his 1961 essay “Concept Art,” which he defined as “first of all an art of which the material is concepts, as the material of e.g. music is sound.” Self-conscious conceptual art, which arrived in the late 1960s, customarily took such forms as written instructions, esthetically undistinguished photographs,


scale models, maps, or documentary videotapes, all of which are theoretically intended to suggest esthetic experiences that could not be evoked in any other way. YOKO ONO specialized in performance instructions that could not be realized, such as, simply, “Fly.” A later, charming example was CLAES OLDENBURG’s “inverted monument” for New York City, for which he hired professional grave diggers to excavate and then fill in a large rectangular hole behind New York’s Metropolitan Museum (rather than, say, at a garbage dump, which would be contextually less resonant). Extending the radical principle, SOL LEWITT suggested, “In conceptual art, the idea, or concept, is the most important aspect of the work.” Among the pioneering practitioners of such Idea Art, to recall another epithet, were Douglas Huebler (1924–97), Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner, Dan Graham, John Baldessari (1931), Hans Haacke, the German Hanne Darboven (1941–2009), and Frenchman Daniel Buren (1938). Some of these artists specialized in written texts that they insisted should not be considered Literature. Even as late as 1996, Darboven explored the nature of time in Kulturgeschichte 1880–1983, an exhibition of 1,589 panels uniform in size and format that document those years with photographs, numbers, texts, and historic postcards.

CONCRETE POETRY (1950s) Concrete Poetry aims to reduce language to its concrete essentials, free not only of semantic but of syntactical necessities. It is often confused with SOUND POETRY and VISUAL POETRY (which are, respectively, the enhancement of language primarily in terms of acoustic qualities and the enhancement of language primarily through image), but is really something else. The true Concrete Poem is simply letters or disconnected words scattered abstractly across the page or a succession of aurally nonrepresentational (and linguistically incomprehensible) sounds. The rationale comes from KURT SCHWITTERS’s 1924 manifesto “Consistent Poetry”: Not the word but the letter is the original material of poetry. Word is 1.) Composition of Letters. 2.) Sound. 3.) Denotation (Meaning). 4.) Carrier of associations of ideas. In his or her use of language, the Concrete poet is generally reductive; the choice of methods for enhancing language could be expansive. Unfortunately, the


earliest anthologies of Concrete Poetry did more to obscure than clarify the issue of its differences, particularly by including poems that were primarily visual or acoustic. Among the truest practitioners of Concrete Poetry were IAN HAMILTON FINLAY, Dom Sylvester Houédard, Haroldo and Augusto de Campos (1929–2003, 1931), Decio Pignatari (1927–2012), Max Bense (1910–90), Pierre Garnier (1928–2014), Paul de Vree (1909–84), and Eugen Gomringer. What had at first seemed puzzling to readers, not to mention critics, has since inspired a growing scholarly literature.

CONSTRUCTIVISM (c. late 1910s) In the decade after World War I, this term was, like Futurism, adopted by two groups – one in Russia, the other in Western Europe – whose aims were sufficiently different to distinguish between them. Coming in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution, most Soviet Constructivists were Abstract artists participating in social change with applied projects that nonetheless reflected their esthetic program. Thus, the historical exhibition Art into Life (1990) included large-scale graphics, environments, photomontage, stage designs, and architectural proposals, along with paintings and sculptures. The key figure in this exhibition was Aleksandr Rodchenko, whose environmental The Workers Club (1925) included unusual chairs and reading tables. Also in this exhibition was VLADIMIR TATLIN’s Letatlin (1932), which is the model for a flying machine; EL LISSITZKY; and various works by GUSTAV KLUCIS, a Latvian slighted in previous surveys. (This exhibition did not include Antoine Pevsner (1886–1962) and NAUM GABO, brothers who objected to utilitarian art, or the mercurial KAZIMIR MALEVICH, who was, strictly speaking, not a Constructivist.) Rejecting traditional artistic practice as reflecting bourgeois individualism, they explored factory production. Once cultural policy tightened in Russia, culminating in the terrible purges of the 1930s, Russian Constructivism disintegrated. Klucis died in a World War II concentration camp and Tatlin died a decade later of food poisoning, in relative obscurity. European Constructivism, sometimes called International Constructivism, favored conscious and deliberate compositions that were supposedly reflective of recently discovered universal and purportedly objective esthetic principles. Thus, its artists made scrupulously nonrepresentational Abstract structures that differed from the other avant-gardes of the earlier

46 • COPLAND, AARON 20th century in favoring simplicity, clarity, and precision. Among the principal participants at the beginning were THEO VAN DOESBURG, PIET MONDRIAN, and HANS RICHTER; the principal magazines were DE STIJL and Richter’s G. Among the later International Constructivists were MICHEL SEUPHOR, Georges Vantongerloo, Joaquin Torres-Garcia, and Moholy-Nagy. The last of these artists introduced Constructivist ideas to the BAUHAUS, where he taught from 1923 to 1928; and as the publisher of the pioneering Bauhaus books, Moholy-Nagy issued a collection of Mondrian’s essays in 1925 and Malevich’s The NonObjective World in 1927. When Naum Gabo moved to England, he collaborated with the painter Ben Nicholson (1894–1982) and the young architect J. L. Martin in editing Circle (1937), an impressive anthology subtitled International Survey of Constructive Art. Constructivism came to America with art-school teachers such as Moholy-Nagy and JOSEF ALBERS, the former in Chicago after 1938, the latter first at BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE from the middle 1930s to the late 1940s and then at Yale until he retired. Constructivism survives in certain kinds of Minimal geometric sculpture; in the mobiles of GEORGE RICKEY, incidentally wrote an excellent history of the movement; in certain strains of COLOR-FIELD painting; in the Constructivist Fictions of Richard Kostelanetz; and in the magazine The Structurist (1958), which the American-Canadian artist Eli Bornstein (1922) has edited out of the University of Saskatchewan.

COPLAND, AARON (14 November 1900–2 December 1990) Very much a two-sided composer, he produced a few works that were moderately innovative and much music that wasn’t. These more avant-garde efforts appear, almost as surprises, at various times in his career. One is a Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1927) that incorporated JAZZ elements into a score for the Boston Symphony. A second is Vitebsk: Study on a Jewish Theme (1928) for piano trio. A third is the Piano Variations (1930), which has in its dissonance a seven-note theme that is repeated in ways suggesting SERIAL MUSIC, which appears fully formed in Copland’s Piano Quartet (1950). Another is his Piano Fantasy (1952–57). Those committed to strict Serial Music consider Copland’s Connotations (1962) for orchestra to signal his conversion, but he later strayed from that church. Perhaps a few other pieces belong in the select canon of his avant-garde works.

Otherwise, Copland produced many compositions that made his name familiar around the world, most of them sounding much like one another in the repeated use of certain strategies, such as open chords and modest syncopation. My own sense of his career is that Copland’s compositions became thinner whenever he got involved with theater or film, even though the results of these involvements include some of his more attractive scores – Rodeo (1942), Appalachian Spring (1944), The Red Pony (1948), and the ever-popular Lincoln Portrait (1942), which has a narration so performerproof that hot politicians and celebrities can declaim it without embarrassment. Nonetheless, Copland’s music for the film Our Town (1940) ranks among the most effective for that purpose, ever. Copland was also a masterful arts politician particularly skilled at forging alliances and getting rewards for himself (including his name on a school of music founded at the City University of New York during his lifetime) but also, more significantly perhaps, at apportioning widely the spoils that came to and through him and especially in giving advice to potential sponsors. Notwithstanding his homosexuality and sometime Communist sympathies, he could be an incomparably effective advocate for an American-American classical music. As early as 1928, he joined Roger Sessions, then a young composer slightly older and likewise Brooklyn-born, in sponsoring three years of presentations that were known and long remembered as the Copland-Sessions Concerts because of their influence. As a result, just as several younger composers acknowledged Sessions among their teachers, so many more American composers of this next generation readily identified “Aaron” as their “best friend” among the older titans. These last achievements of his extraordinary career shouldn’t be ignored.

CORNELL, JOSEPH (24 December 1903–29 December 1972) An American original, working without formal art education, lacking even rudimentary competence at artful drawing, Cornell made small boxes with cutaway fronts – a form closer to reliefs and theatrical proscenia than to sculpture proper in demanding to be viewed from the frontal perpendicular perspective. He meticulously filled these miniature stages with many objects not usually found together in either art or life. “Their imagery includes mementos of the theater and the dance, the world of nature and that of the heavens,” writes the arts historian Matthew Baigell


(1933). “Cornell’s boxes also often contain 19th century memorabilia (especially those made during the 1940s, of ballerinas).” As intimate tableaus, these boxes combine the dreaminess of SURREALISM with the formal austerity of CONSTRUCTIVISM, the free use of materials typical of DADA, and the mellow vision of Christian Science, the American faith that Cornell practiced. Each enclosure seems, not unlike a JACKSON POLLOCK painting, to represent in objective form a particular state of mind in a moment of time, as well as an immense but circumscribed world of theatrical activity. Though he never visited Europe, Cornell introduced 1930s Parisian ASSEMBLAGE to post-World War II New York. He often produced works in series, exploring themes through variations. Though others have made excellent tableaus, no one else ever did boxed sculpture so well. With help from others, as he never learned to use a motion-picture camera, Cornell also made memorable short films. Thanks to his regular visits to Manhattan junk shops, he amassed a rich collection of silent films that he generously shared with his artist colleagues. As he lived to their deaths with his problematic mother and his invalid brother in lower-middle class Queens (NYC), few major artists ever overcame so brilliantly so many personal obstacles and insufficiencies.

CORTÁZAR, JULIO (26 August 1914–12 February 1984) An Argentine who lived mostly in Paris, whose books were initially published everywhere besides his two home countries, Cortázar made formal alternatives a recurring subject. He prefaces Rayuela (1963; Hopscotch, 1966) with the advice that it “consists of many books, but two books above all. The first can be read in a normal fashion, and it ends with Chapter 56.” He then suggests an alternative route, beginning with chapter 73 and continuing with “1-2-116-3-84-4-715-81-74 . . .” that not only includes certain chapters twice but directs the reader as far as chapter 155. The American edition sold surprisingly well, perhaps because the cover of its 1967 paperback edition promised “life/love/sex.” Some admirers judge Cortázar’s 62: Modelo Para Amar (1968, A Model Kit) as formally more challenging. Although other Cortázar books were commercially credible, his more experimental short pieces, collected in La Vuelta al dia en ochenta mundos (1967) and Ultimo Round (1969), both of which were initially published in Mexico, are scarcely known.


COUNTERCULTURE (1960) This epithet identifies the social avant-garde that advocates unpredictable innovation(s) that, though commonly dismissed as unacceptable at its beginnings, necessarily overcomes resistances to achieve what’s not been done before, with the likelihood of greater influence. In authoritarian societies, the counterculture attacks government; in democratic societies, it focuses more on social customs, in recent decades advocating, say, the acceptance of divorce, recreational drugs, non-contractual cohabitation, and, most important, the emergence of underclasses whether defined by race, gender, or other derogatory discriminations. With certain commercial success came, especially in the popular arts, some bargain counterculture. At influencing social change, the greatest countercultural surprise for me has been the widespread acceptance in Western countries of alternatives to traditional heterosexuality. Fifty years ago, I wouldn’t have predicted, let alone imagined, the gender options publicly available in the twenty-first century. As a general rule, consider that thriving countercultures are a measure of an open society; a closed society would suppress any semblance of one out of existence. One theme for me is that the histories of avantgarde arts, which epitomize intellectual history, should not be confused with avant-garde social history, though the two can be complementary, occasionally involving the same active individuals.

COUNTERTENORS (c. 1960s) When I was young in the 1960s, there were only two countertenors of note – the Englishman Alfred Deller (1912–79) and the American Russell Oberlin (1928– 2016). Much as a great contralto such as Marian Anderson (1897–1993) could sing notes lower than those available to most female altos, so a countertenor could reach notes higher than most tenors. One difference between Deller and Oberlin was that the Englishman sang falsetto – with a sound false to his own speaking voice because it was produced in the throat, rather than in the chest, from where most concert singers gain their power. Indeed, especially when heard after Oberlin, Deller’s voice sounded thinner, needing microphones to be heard, especially in concert with others. Falsettos were also used by pop singers, likewise

48 • COURAGE microphone-dependent, such as Gene Vincent (1935– 71) in “Be-Bop-A-Lula” (1956). A subsequent generation of male singers began to develop their throat voices, sometimes to sound like women, usually to sound like something neither male nor female but uniquely countertenored, to so speak. Among the most successful are Derek Lee Ragin (1958), an American working mostly in Europe, who became one of the two off-screen voices in a 1994 biographical feature-length film about the historic castrato Farinelli. Late in 2001, I heard the German countertenor Andreas Scholl (1967), also among the greatest, sing in duet with a French horn unamplified at Carnegie Hall, the impressive volume of his high voice the equal of an instrument normally played. Years later I saw a singer named only Shequida (b. 1980, Gary Hall) do an awesome act that included a falsetto I could only characterize as “fat” with a heavy vibrato in the tradition of large-framed female opera singers whom he was at once honoring and parodying. If Scholl in a man’s suit resembled a broad shouldered American football player, Shequida was skinny in a dress that came down to his ankles; he had a blonde wig over his brown face and high heels. Only his great height, well over 6 feet tall, and the large size of his feet would have prompted questions. Among the post-Deller & Oberlin countertenors I deem extraordinary are James Bowman (1941) and René Jacobs (1946) from the second generation; Jochen Kowalski (1954) and Ragin from a third; David Daniels (1966) and Scholl from a forth; and Max Emanuel Cenčić (1976) and Philippe Jaroussky (1978) from a fifth. Though I discover more new good countertenors every year, none of these falsetto singers, however, sound like Russell Oberlin whose unique voice is still instantly recognizable in recordings made before his retirement in the early 1960s. (For a masterpiece available on YouTube, may I recommend his performing J. S. Bach’s Cantata #54 with GLENN GOULD at the CBC.) To me the measure of a successful countertenor is realizing, much as Marian Anderson did in her lowest register, a vocal sound beyond or above gender, suggesting the voices of angels – yes, angels.

COURAGE (forever) As an essential quality informing not only the creation of avant-garde art but also writing about it, courage can’t be faked; it can’t be bestowed or assigned to an underling. Development depends upon practice, as well as overcoming resistance, again and again.

CRAIG, GORDON (16 January 1872–29 July 1966; b. Edward Godwin) The illegitimate son of the prominent British actress Ellen Terry (1847–1928), purportedly by the architect Edward William Godwin (1833–86), Craig began as an actor. In addition to producing visual art, particularly wood-engraving, Craig worked in fringe English theaters at the beginning of the century, designing several productions that were regarded as challenges to the conventions of Victorian theater. Disappointed with his native country, he moved to the European continent where he developed a vision of an alternative theater less in actual productions than in books and articles, drawings, and woodcuts, models and engravings. Many of his essays appeared in a periodical he founded and edited intermittently between 1908 and 1929, The Mask, and in his book On the Art of Theatre (1911). A series of etchings, Scene (1923), advocates a great flexible performing area in which a great variety of things can happen. Craig imagined a PERFORMANCE that would engage spectators through movement alone, probably without a plot or verbal text, but through the programmed movement of sound, light, and people in motion. Not unlike other theatrical visionaries later in the 20th century, he thought the actor to be the most recalcitrant link in a retrograde chain, and so proposed in his classic 1907 essay that “in his place comes the inanimate figure – the Uber-marionette we may call him.” Craig continued, The Uber-marionette will not compete with life – rather will go beyond it. Its ideal will not be the flesh and blood but rather the body in trance – it will aim to clothe itself with a death-life beauty while exhaling a living spirit. Raising the ante yet more, as any good polemicist should, Craig concluded: I pray earnestly for the return of the image – the Uber-marionette to the theatre; and when he comes again and is but seen, he will be loved so well that once more will it be possible for the people to return to their ancient joy in ceremonies – once more will Creation be celebrated – homage rendered to existence – and divine and happy intercession made to Death. Wow! Writing like this could be influential, even as it was resisted and dismissed. Craig lived another fifty years, producing books about his mother and other


British theatricists, in addition to an autobiography, Index to the Story of My Days (1957); so that his evocative prose about theater remained more influential than any productions.


One hypothesis not incredible, given two reputations, claims that Cravan survived to become the famous but publicly invisible German-Mexican novelist B. Traven whose nom de plume, do note, incidentally differs by only one letter from Fabian Avenarius Lloyd’s adopted surname.

CRAVAN, ARTHUR (22 May 1887–November 1918; b. Fabian Avenarius Lloyd) By common consent, a legendary artistic non-artist, he lived an artistic life among artists involved with the vanguards of DADA and SURREALISM. Typically inventing various pseudonyms, he traveled widely, often with forged passports, in sum creating the unique fiction that was himself. As an aristocratically self-possessed con(show)man, Cravan pitched himself to the center of many spectacles, even challenging the heavyweight champion Jack Johnson (1878–1946) to a boxing match in Barcelona. (The veteran boxer later noted casually that his voluntary opponent, knocked out, didn’t train sufficiently.) Living outside the ART WORLD, Johnson couldn’t appreciate the artist Cravan’s doing what no other artist did (or dare do). ‘Tis said that his negative review of APOLLINAIRE’s partner’s self-portrait prompted the French writer to propose a duel with Cravan. From 1911 to 1915 Cravan also published a Dada magazine, Maintenant! (Now!), whose five issues were worth reprinting as a single book in 1971. The Parisian critic Marc Dachy reminds us that one issue he wrote entirely by himself: W. Cooper for articles on Oscar Wilde, Eduard Archinard (almost a phonetic anagram of anarchie) for a poem in classical alexandrines, Marie Lowitska for aphorisms, Robert Miradique for literary criticism. The boxer-poet signed his own name to his apocryphal encounters with Andre Gide and to his detailed, mordant comments upon the artists exhibiting at the Salon des Independants. Coming to New York in 1914, initially to dodge conscription into World War I, Cravan loved the prominent poet Mina Loy (1882–1966). They agreed to travel to South America separately, she by steamer, he by sailboat. However, as he never arrived, his disappearance became another mythic GESTURE for his colleagues. In short, the Cravan persona gained sufficient weight to bestow artistic value on vanishing. Many poseurs since have tried to redo his act, never as successfully, perhaps most of them lived too long.

CRITICAL IMAGINATION As a key quality prerequisite to understanding and, later, supporting avant-garde art, this is possessed by not only the critics but the greatest CULTURAL LEADERS. The measures are, simply, identifying originality that hadn’t been understood before and making connections not recognized before. Anyone who ever looked at, say, JACKSON POLLOCK’s paintings in the early 1950s knew they were strong and different, but Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg identified why and how, if differently. Dick Higgins clarified a new direction in many avant-garde arts by coining INTERMEDIA. Lincoln Kirstein imagined that classical ballet could thrive in America. And so. Much of this book honors superior Critical Imagination, which surely exists, much like higher artistic imagination.

CRUMB, R. (30 August 1943; b. Robert C.) Certainly the most famous of the underground comics artists of the 1960s, Crumb was one of the artists instrumental in expanding the possibilities for the comic book form. Before him and his compatriots, comic books were stories of superheros and furry animals, but little else. What Crumb added to comic books was graphic sex (sometimes undertaken by furry animals) and freedom of expression but also a disdain for narrative flow. Crumb was more willing than anyone else in the field to experiment with narrative: to tell the modern disjointed story. Some of his stories had neither protagonists nor stable settings, and although such tricks might have been common in the nouveau roman, they were never common in American comic book-art. Crumb is best remembered for his character Fritz the Cat and his slogan (in its familiar big-footed incarnation) “Keep on Truckin.’” Remarkably, Crumb lost two lawsuits: one where he tried to receive compensation for the use of Fritz the Cat in the eponymous X-rated cartoon and a similar suit concerning the once-ubiquitous “Keep on Truckin’” logo. A quirky and powerful portrait of Crumb and

50 • CRUYFF, JOHAN his family emerges from Terry Zwigoff’s documentary film Crumb (1994). —Geof Huth

CRUYFF, JOHAN (25 April 1947–24 March 2016; b. Hendrik Johannes Cruijff) Commonly considered among the five dominant figures in late-20th-century soccer, he began as a teenage star for the Ajax team in his native Amsterdam. In the course of retiring and unretiring, he played around the world and was thus, though he never completed high school, able fluently to answer journalists’ questions not only in his native Dutch, which he spoke with a shamelessly declassé accent, but also, unique among star athletes, in German, Spanish, French, and English. Assertively independent, thanks to his celebrity, Cruyff also coined such memorable aphorisms, as: “You can’t win without the ball.” “Winning is an important thing, but to have your own style, to have people copy you, to admire you; that is the greatest gift.” This last nugget is likewise true in art, among other domains. As a soccer intellectual, Cruyff espoused the choreography of Total Football (totaalvoetbal, in Dutch), where individual field players learned to exceed the limitations of their assigned positions by assuming others’ roles, say with midfielders becoming strikers, especially in the course of attacking the opponents’ goal, resulting in a more fluid, improvisational game whose higher theatricality appealed to fans. “Tis” said that before he concentrated on soccer, Cruyff as a young teenager starred on the Ajax baseball team. May we wonder if he ever met, or simply just appreciated from afar, the American baseballer Yogi Berra with whom he shared so much as a famous player, a successful coach, and ingenious wordsmith? Though English-speakers tend to pronounce “Croif,” his surname sounds slightly different in Dutch, just like “Van Go” to me is “Von Hoch” to them. From Peter Frank, an American fluent in Dutch, comes this guidance: The Dutch “uy” is one of the great impossible diphthongs – nay, triphthongs – of the world. It is a combination of “ui” and “ij” (= “y”). both mezzo-multi-vowels, if you would. “Ij” begins as the English long “i,” but modifies halfway to a long “a” – something along the lines of “aey.” As for “ui,” think of it as every vowel at once. “Ow” is probably the closest sound we have in English; if you can keep your mouth agape but taut, as if

you were making a flat “e” sound or a schwa, and say “ow,” you might approximate it. It has an etymological relationship to our “ow,” as it appears in “huis,” “uit,” and other English-related words. Okay, now combine “ui” and “ij” and your tongue is going one way while your mouth goes another. I think you could get away with a simply “oy,” appropriately enough. And don’t forget to gargle the “r” ever so slightly. It’ll ease you into “uy.” Got it?

CUBISM (c. 1907–21) Cubism was the creation of the painters Georges Braque (1882–1963) and PABLO PICASSO, working separately in Paris around 1907. Art historians customarily divide its subsequent development into two periods: Analytic Cubism (1907–12) and Synthetic Cubism (1912–21). The SIGNATURE of Cubism is the rendering of solid objects – whether they be musical instruments, household objects, or human forms – as overlapping “cubes” or planes, giving the illusion of portraying simultaneously several different perspectives and, by extension, different moments in time. Regarding the radical implications of such reinterpretation of pictorial representations, the American art historian Robert Rosenblum (1927–2006) wrote: For the traditional distinction between solid form and the space around it, Cubism substituted a radically new fusion of mass and void. In place of earlier perspective systems that determined the precise location of discrete objects in illusory depth, Cubism offered an unstable structure of dismembered planes in indeterminate spatial positions. Instead of assuming that the work of art was an illusion of a reality that lay behind it, Cubism proposed that the work of art was itself a reality that represented the very process by which nature is transformed into art. The rigorous analytic phase epitomized a more austere Cubism, as painters eschewed traditional subject matter and a full palette in the course of dissecting light, line, and plane, incidentally draining much earlier emotional content from painting. Thus, a typical Cubist still life from this period might consist of several intersecting planes portrayed in various neutral, nearly monochromatic tones. Synthetic Cubism, by contrast, introduced objects found in the real world, such as newspaper clippings, wallpaper, ticket stubs, or matchbooks, which were attached


to the canvas. Rosenblum comments on an example, “Perhaps the greatest heresy introduced in this collage concerns Western painting’s convention that the artist achieve his illusion of reality with paint or pencil alone.” Cubist painters introduced an additional visual irony by simulating these objects, thus introducing trompe I’oeil effects by creating false woodgrains or wallpaper patterns, making it appear as if fragments of these objects were part of the canvas. A fuller palette and more sensuous texture were other hallmarks of Synthetic Cubism. The Cubist movement was perhaps as important as a critical revolt against “pretty” art as for its actual products. Many Cubist paintings inspired heated debate not only among art critics but among the general public as well. Perhaps the most famous single example was MARCEL DUCHAMP’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912), which was the star of the Armory Show in NEW YORK, although it could be said that Duchamp departed from Cubism as quickly as he entered it. Though both Duchamp and Picasso began with Cubism, it wasn’t visible in their later work, and they had little influence upon each other. Instead, the strength of Cubism is evident not only in such immediate successors as Futurism (Italian) and VORTICISM, especially in WYNDHAM LEWIS’s illustrations for SHAKESPEARE’s Timon of Athens (1913 or 1914), but also in the careers of such older artists as PIET MONDRIAN and KAZIMIR MALEVICH, and then, more than a generation later, in the best work of WILLEM DE KOONING, among other major postWorld War II painters.

CUBO-FUTURISM (c. 1909) This term arose in Russia to distinguish native work from EUROPEAN CUBISM. Whereas the work of Natalia Goncharova (1882–1962) and Mikhail Larionov (1881–1964) favored a POST-PICASSO modernist primitivism based upon Russian peasant art, the brothers Burliuk (Vladimir [1886–1917] and David [1882–1967]) preferred more urban subjects. The innately mercurial KAZIMIR MALEVICH used this epithet for works that he submitted for exhibitions in 1912 and 1913. Vladimir Markov’s pioneering Russian Futurism (1968) devotes an entire chapter to CuboFuturism in poetry.

CULTURAL LEADERS The measure is that while working within institutions these individuals supported imaginative art


that wouldn’t have otherwise happened, usually by funding advanced artists to produce excellence that they wouldn’t have otherwise done – more specifically, what they wouldn’t have done before but what needed to be done. Personally I’ve known Klaus Schöning (1936), who established a different kind and quality of acoustic Hörspiel radio art during three decades on the staff at Westdeutscher Rundfunk; Brian O’doherty, who introduced several innovative programs during his many years at the National Endowment for the Arts, first in visual arts department, then in media arts; Dick Higgins whose SOMETHING ELSE PRESS educated my generation about the most avant-garde arts during the 1960s into the early 1970s; and JONAS MEKAS, who championed alternative American filmmaking from the 1950s into the 21st century, not only as a writer and the copublisher of the indispensable magazine Film Culture (1955–96) but as cofounder in Manhattan of both the Filmmakers Cooperative (1960) and the Anthology Film Archives (1970), both which survive decades later. Again, all of men (yes, men) did what wasn’t imagined before, what no one else was doing, and what needed to be done. Among those avant-garde cultural leaders preceding me were Eugène Jolas as the founding editor of the most progressive literary arts magazine of the 1920s and 1930s, Transition; Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney for her progressive philanthropy in more than one art and founding an eponymous museum; ALFRED STIEGLITZ, who established photography as a significant art through his gallery and his magazine Camera Work; Lincoln Kirstein, as much through supporting American ballet and ballet pedagogy as through founding the second (after THE DIAL) major American modernist literary magazine, The Hound and the Horn (1927–34); LEOPOLD STOKOWSKI for commissioning and then performing more new American classical music than anyone else; John Roberts (1930), who governed music programming at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; Henry Allen Moe (1894–1975) as the founding principal administrator at the GUGGENHEIM FOUNDATION, which merited early a reputation as the most discriminating and thus prestigious of its kind precisely by rewarding avant-garde figures early in their careers; Alfred H. Barr, Jr. (1902–81), on behalf of advanced visual art not only as an executive at the MUSEUM OF MODERN ART but as a strong writer; Dorothy C. Miller (1904–2003), his long-time associate for American art at MoMA; Holger Cahill (1887–1960) as national director of the Federal Arts Project from 1935 to 1943: Michel Guy (1927–90), who founded the annual Festival d’automne de Paris, directing it except for a spell as France’s most progressive

52 • “CULTURE WARS” Minister of Culture; and John Andrew Rice (1888–68), the initial director (to 1940) of the legendary BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE. (I suspect that comparably consequential officials existed elsewhere in the world, but they are unknown to me.) To my pantheon of cultural leaders may I add, even though they bore no institutional titles, George Maciunas, who led the transformation of an industrial slum into ARTISTS’ SOHO that incidentally became a de facto educational institution; and JOHN CAGE, who influenced so many arts and artists in various ways. As any fool with a purse can bankroll what’s been done before and or what others would support, one measure of cultural leadership is imagination comparable in quality to high artistic vision.

“CULTURE WARS” (1980–) This term arose in America to characterize the challenges posed by artists belonging to minorities previously slighted initially because of race, sometimes geography, later of gender (but never religion or age). Legitimate though the outsiders’ protests and claims were socially, they distracted from the more profound, more historic, more continuing conflicts between the commercial and the noncommercial, between mediocrity and excellence, and between establishments and the avant-gardes. In all three pairs, the latter are initially disadvantaged only to overcome eventually, as nearly all critical histories of modern arts – the ultimate arbiters – invariably favor not economically needy people but, crucially, certain work that was not just avant-garde and excellent, but usually noncommercial at its beginnings.

CUMMINGS, E. E. (14 October 1894–3 September 1962) The avant-garde Cummings is not the author of charming lyrics reprinted in nearly every anthology of American verse or of a name entirely printed in lowercase letters, but of several more inventive, less familiar poems. Appreciation of this alternative Cummings should begin with such poetic wit as “Gay-Pay-Oo” for the Soviet secret police (G.P.U.); his use of prefixes and suffixes to modify a root word in various subtle ways (so that “unalive” is not synonymous with dead); his evocative typography (as in a familiar poem about grasshoppers, or “t,a,p,s,” or “SpRiN,K,LiNG”); and his integration of the erotic with the experimental.

He wrote poems that cohere more in terms of sound than syntax or semantics: “bingbongwhom chewchoo/ laugh dingle nails personally/bin loamhome picpac / obviously scratches tomorrowlobs.” He wrote abstract poetry long before everyone else, the opening poem of 1 X 1 (1944) beginning: “nonsum blob a /cold to / skylessness /sticking fire Amy are you /are birds our all/and one gone/away the they.” As an extraordinary exercise in radical formalism, “No Thanks” (1935), beginning with “bright,” contains only eleven discrete words, all six letters or less in length. Successfully broken apart and nonsyntactically combined, they form fifteen lines of forty-four words with all three-letter words appearing thrice, all fourletter words four times, etc. With such rigorous structures Cummings presaged several major developments in later avant-garde poetry. Though some of these innovations were not included in earlier selections and collections of Cummings’s poetry, thankfully they all appear in his Complete Poems (1991, 2016), which incidentally demonstrates that these more experimental poems were written throughout his career, rather than, say, being bunched within a short period. They are featured in AnOther E. E. Cummings (1998), which also includes examples of his highly experimental plays, perhaps the first film scenario written in America by a noted poet (1926), elliptical narratives, theater criticism that emphasizes PERFORMANCE over drama, and the opening chapter of a text known only as [No Title] (1930), whose prose broaches abstraction. Consider these concluding lines from its opening chapter: while generating a heat so terrific as to evaporate the largest river of the kingdom – which, completely disappearing in less than eleven seconds, revealed a gilt-edged submarine of the UR type, containing(among other things)the entire royal family(including the king, who still held his hat in his hand) in the act of escaping, disguised as cheeses. (A reviewer of AnOther E.E.C noted that the book places Cummings “not among Pound and Eliot, with whom he has little in common, but rather with Russian Futurists and Dadaists; with Latin American and German concrete poets; [etc.],” all of which I wish I had said before him, because this reassignment is true.) No appreciation of the avant-garde Cummings would be complete without acknowledging his Eimi (1933), a prose memoir of his disillusioning 1931 trip to the Soviet Union, as audacious in style as it is in content, along with the brilliant retrospective summary of this book that he prepared especially for a reprint in the late 1950s.


Cummings also produced a considerable amount of visual art, which has never been fully exhibited (even though his oeuvre reportedly includes over two thousand paintings and over ten thousand sheets of drawings). In short, don’t forget the avant-garde Cummings behind the familiar versifier.

CUNNINGHAM, MERCE (16 April 1919–26 July 2009; b. Mercier Philip C.) After years off the edge of American dance, Cunningham became, beginning in the late 1960s, the principal figure in advanced American choreography, remaining for decades after its most influential individual, as much by example as by becoming a monument whose activity long intimidated his successors. Originally part of MARTHA GRAHAM’s dance company, he presented in 1944, in collaboration with JOHN CAGE, his first New York recital of self-composed solos. Rejected by dance aficionados who were devoted to prior masters, Cunningham earned his initial following among professionals in other arts. The initial reason for the dance world’s neglect was that Cunningham had drastically reworked many dimensions of dance-making: not only the articulation of performance time, but the use of theatrical space; not only the movements of dancers’ bodies, but their relationship to one another on the stage. For instance, if most ballet and even modern dance had a front and a back, Cunningham’s works are designed to be seen from all sides; and though theatrical custom forced him to mount most of his performances on a proscenium stage (one that has a front and thus a back), his pieces have also been successfully performed in gymnasiums and museums. Time in Cunningham’s work is nonclimactic, which means that a piece begins not with a fanfare but a movement, and it ends not with a flourish but simply when the performers stop. Because he eschews the traditional structure of theme and variation, the dominant events within a work seem to proceed at an irregular, unpredictable pace; their temporal form is, metaphorically, lumpy. “It’s human time,” he explains, “which can’t be too slow or too fast, but includes various time possibilities. I like to change tempos.” Cunningham’s dances generally lack a specific subject or story, even though interpretation-hungry spectators sometimes identify particular subjects and/ or semblances of narrative (and more than one Cunningham dancer has suspected the existence of secret stories). It follows that his dancers eschew dramatic characterizations for nonparticularized roles, which


is to say that Cunningham dancers always play themselves and no one else. Just as he defied tradition by allowing parts of a dancer’s body to function disjunctively and nonsynchronously, so the distribution of Cunningham’s performers customarily lacks a center – important events occur all over the performing area, even in the corners. The result is organized disorganization, so to speak, that initially seems chaotic only if stricter forms of ordering are expected. The titles of Cunningham’s works tend to be abstract (Aeon [1961], Winterbranch [1964]), or situational (Rain-Forest [1968], Summerspace [1958], Place [1966]), or formally descriptive (Story [1963], Scramble [1967], Walkaround Time [1968]). As his dancers’ gestures have been ends in themselves, rather than vehicles of emotional representation or narrative progression, Cunningham freed himself to explore the possibilities of human movement. In this respect, he was incomparably inventive and remarkably prolific. To put it differently, once he decided that traditional rules need not be followed, he was free to produce many dances filled with unfamiliar moves and innovative choreographic relationships. Cunningham also developed, especially for dancing in nontheatrical spaces, a genre he called Events, which incorporated selections from earlier works into a continuous stream with nothing to announce their sources, their theme thus becoming the characteristics and integrity of his SIGNATURE choreography. During the 1980s, Cunningham produced a series of distinguished videotapes, often in collaboration with Charles Atlas (1949), of dances made only for the medium, with the camera sometimes appearing as a participating dancer, all in contrast to the taping of pre-existing performances. Biped (1999) cleverly exploited new animation technology of capturing movements that are projected on a front scrim not as dancers’ bodies but as movements in outline. As walking became problematic for him by the 1990s, he produced for the Identities exhibition (2001) at the MIT Media Lab a dance for his hands. Thanks to its videographer Paul Kaiser (1956), Loops, to quote a press release, offers: A definitive recording of Cunningham performing the work in a motion capture studio. This recording preserved the intricate performance as 3D data, which portrayed not Cunningham’s appearance, but rather his motion. Cunningham’s joints become nodes in a network that sets them into fluctuating relationships with one another, at times suggesting the hands underlying them, but more often depicting complex cat’s-cradle variations.

54 • CYBERNETICS Because Cunningham’s activities are not symbolic of human activities or emotions, they are meant to be appreciated as ends in themselves. His dance thus demands not empathy from the spectator but, as Cage once explained, “your faculty of kinesthetic sympathy. It is this faculty we employ when, seeing the flight of birds, we ourselves, by identification, fly up, glide and soar.” What seems at first inscrutable about Cunningham’s choreography is quite comprehensible, providing one does not strive too hard to find underlying “significances.” What you see is most of what there is. Another departure came with his use of music. Whereas most choreographers draw their inspirations from particular scores, Cunningham composed all but a few of his pieces without music; his dancers count to themselves for their cues. What music is heard in his work is customarily composed apart from the dance, as are the decor and costumes, and thus not mixed with the dance until the final rehearsals. The music tends to be harshly atonal and rhythmically irrelevant, as Cunningham for his accompaniments long favored John Cage and those composers gathered around him. Cunningham’s choreographies are generally manysided, nonlinear, nonexpressionistic, spatially noncentered, temporally nonclimactic, and compositionally assembled. The decor and sound are supplementary, rather than complementary; and the dancers are highly individualized. Though Cunningham’s art was avant-garde, his sensibility was classical, which is to say precise, CONSTRUCTIVIST, and severe. He revealed the scope of his choreographic intelligence through his profound knowledge of dance and dancers, coupled with his seemingly limitless capacity for invention. Though Cunnngham’s will stipulated that his company be dissolved, as he perhaps feared the disasters following other choreographers’ deaths, certain sometime Cunningham dancers have continued his tradition – particularly Robert Swinston (1950), long his company’s assistant director, as an American working mostly in France.

CYBERNETICS (c. 1945) This word was coined by Norbert Wiener (1894–1964), an MIT professor, for self-steering mechanisms, which is to say those entities that, like human beings, consider intelligently their results of their own output. For example, if you step (output) on a hot coal (input), you’ll probably pull back your foot and won’t step on hot coals again. The initial idea was to make robots capable of this human trait. Necessarily incorporating the

new disciplines of information theory, control systems, automatons, artificial intelligence, computer-simulated activities, and information processing, the ideal of cybernetics had great influence, particularly in the 1960s. A good example of cybernetic art would be the responsive mechanism, such as James Seawright’s Scanner (1966), which is a large, plastic-ribbed, ball-shaped cage some 6 feet in diameter that is suspended from the ceiling. From the ball’s lowest point extends a thin metal arm that contains photocells. A strobe light is projected upwards out of the piece’s vertical core and then reflected by mirrors at its top, both down the plastic ribs and into the field around the sculpture. The photocells respond to decided changes in the room’s lighting (natural as well as artificial, depending upon the hour) by halting the arm, which then swings in either direction (depending upon whether the alternating current is positive or negative at the precise moment of contact). The turning of the arm inevitably gives the photocells a different perspective on the field, causing another decisive change in the light that prompts the system to halt again and electronically reconsider the direction of its movement. In sum, then, this self-considering activity makes Scanner a genuine example of a cybernetic machine whose output (the movement of the arm) causes it to reconsider its input (the field of light) and to continually adjust itself. Within its normal operations are the cybernetic processes of response, information processing, selection, and self-control. The critic/curator Cynthia Goodman describes Nicolas Schöffer’s earlier “Cysp” series (the term being an abbreviation of cybernetics and spatiodynamics), which were CONSTRUCTIVIST structures that performed like robots: They were mounted on four rollers that gave them the capability to move. Photoelectric cells, microphones, and rotating blades powered by small motors were connected to their scaffoldlike structures. Controlled by an electronic brain developed by Philips [the Dutch electronics business], a Cysp responded to variations in color intensity, light, and sound. Goodman, who has been the principal American critic/ curator of this underacknowledged turf, praises a robot (1984–87) modeled after ANDY WARHOL that was constructed by a former Walt Disney animator to be a surrogate for Warhol on lecture tours. “An appropriate tribute to a man who so often claimed he wanted to be a machine, the computer-controlled robot is endowed with preprogrammed speech and fifty-four separate body movements that supposedly will be barely distinguishable from Warhol’s.”


DAAD BERLINER KUNSTLERPROGRAMM (1963–; The Berlin Artists’ Program) Whereas most of the grant-giving programs in the arts have no shame about mostly supporting people whose work has been conventional, who are safely established professionally, who don’t need support for their more readily acceptable work, the first distinction of this more progressive artists’ program was to invite to West Berlin, customarily for several months at a stretch, the world’s avant-garde, including many of the artists and writers featured in this book – among them, MICHEL BUTOR (in 1964), GYÖRGY LIGETI (1969), Dick Higgins (1969, 1981), Yvonne Rainer (1976), Dan Graham (1976), On Kawara (1976), Stephen Antonakos (1980), and GEORGE RICKEY (1968). And recipients were encouraged to produce work they could not have done before at home. Founded by the Ford Foundation in 1963, perhaps with a dash of surreptitious US government money, it was turned over to German control in 1966. Perhaps because of its origins, in addition to its location in West Berlin then under American military occupation, it was more predisposed than other post-World War II European institutions to avant-garde Americans. More crucially, had it not invited strong artists and encouraged them to work in BERLIN, the DAAD program would have jeopardized its funding. (Few cultural benefactors known to me operate under as much reality-corrective.) Because the DAAD artists’ program was part of the effort to bolster the culture of West Berlin as a vulnerable island inside East Germany, it wanted its beneficiaries to contribute visibly to local culture. So, instead of simply giving the recipient a place to live along with a stipend, as most “residency” programs do, DAAD

administrators invited the program’s guests to cultural events around town and introduced them to cultural officials who could mount exhibitions by the guestartists, perform their music, commission radio programs, finance independent films, and much, much else. The American composer Roger Sessions came in 1964 to oversee the first production anywhere of the opera Montezuma (1964) that he had begun decades before. GEORGE RICKEY came in 1968 to install a sculpture and returned annually to Berlin for many years afterwards. A few guests stayed permanently in Berlin, in part because their native countries were politically inhospitable: ARVO PÄRT (arriving in 1981), the Chilean writer Antonio Avaria (in 1978), and the Korean composer Isang Yun (in 1964). I know about the DAAD program, because I was a guest in 1981–83, and while in Berlin I wrote severely minimal fictions, coproduced one film and began another, and composed electroacoustic art for the radio stations, among other things I couldn’t do back home. One way I can personally measure DAAD’s decidedly avant-garde bias is that I have received grants for many things (scholarship, films, criticism, radio, visual art), but only the Berliner Kunstlerprogramm ever rewarded me as a Schriftsteller, or writer, which is what most colleagues think I mostly do, albeit in provocatively unusual ways. (Once offered a similarly extended residency in another place, I turned it down, because the patrons wanted that I live among them, rather than supporting my creation of significant work.) Unfortunately, once the Berlin Wall went down and Germany was unified, the rationale for bolstering Berlin’s isolated culture disintegrated. The exemplary Kunstlerprogramm has nonetheless continued, albeit with fewer funds and, alas, less impact. It is lamentable that cultural officials in other major cities aren’t so needy, or so smart.


56 • DADA DADA (1915–24) Dada and SURREALISM are popularly regarded as nearly synonymous movements, or as precursor and successor in the step-by-step history of modern art. Although their memberships overlapped and both espoused two major esthetic positions in common – the irrelevance of 19th-century forms of comprehension and the rejection of established modes of artistic rendering – they differed from each other in one crucial respect. Whereas Surrealism was the art of representing subconscious psychological terrains, Dada artists dealt primarily with the external world: the character of the commonly perceived environment; patterns of intellectual and artistic coherence; and standard definitions of meaning and significance. Therefore, while Surrealistic art presents the experience of hallucinations, Dada favors the distortion, often ludicrous, of familiar contexts and the portrayal of worldly absurdity. Surrealists ANDRÉ BRETON and SALVADOR DALI purportedly cast their interior fantasies in objective forms and, unlike the Dadaists, acknowledged the theories of Sigmund Freud. Dada master MARCEL DUCHAMP, by contrast, drew his models from the mundane environment (often finding his actual material there) and thereby challenged “Art” with “non-art,” implicitly questioning all absolutist esthetics and creating impersonal objects that relate not to the psychic life of his audience but to their perception of experience. Finally, whereas Surrealism was serious, Dada established a radical esthetic that regarded laughter as a laudable response (so that any subsequent art incorporating higher humor was glibly classified [if not denegrated] as neo-Dada). The masters of Dada used a variety of esthetic designs on behalf of their purposes. One consisted of infusing distortion and mundane gesture into a conventional form: painting a mustache on LEONARDO’s Mona Lisa, speaking gibberish at a poetry reading, fragmenting an image or narrative beyond the point of comprehension, introducing a urinal into an exhibition of sculpture, etc. At its best, this dash of nonsense revealed the ridiculous irrelevance of certain social or artistic hierarchies and conventions, as well as initiating such anti-conventions for subsequent modern art as the artistic validity of all manufactured objects. This rejection of established forms of order complemented an anarchistic political bias. Whereas Surrealism is concise and imagistic, like poetry, Dada is more diffuse, like fiction.

Dada historically began in Zurich in 1915–16 when young artists, very much distressed by the burgeoning world war, engaged in esthetic actions, collectively, and individually, that seemed socially subversive and politically revolutionary. The origin of the name Dada has been endlessly debated, some saying it comes from the French word for a “hobbyhorse,” while others regard it as taken from the Slavonic words for “yes, yes.” Within two years, similar developments occurred in New York and BERLIN particularly, but also in Hanover, Cologne, and Paris. Zurich Dada was predominantly literary and theatrical. Richard Huelsenbeck brought to Berlin a Dada more predisposed to public art exhibitions and political satire. Hanover Dada was mostly the creation of KURT SCHWITTERS; Cologne Dada depended upon MAX ERNST. Paris Dada initially consisted mostly of young writers briefly enamored with TRISTAN TZARA; most of them eventually became, like Tzara, Surrealists. New York Dada has a more complicated history, including as it does immigrants such as Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia, along with natives, all of whom gathered regularly at the West 67th Street apartment of the art patron Walter Conrad Arensberg. So pervasive were Dada ideas that they persisted even among those who publicly converted to Surrealism, who sometimes insisted that they were Dadaists at heart. So strong was the Dada esthetic that a Dada magazine appeared in the mid-1920s in the European boonies of the Soviet republic of Georgia (I remember the Slavic scholar John Bowlt [1943] sharing this information with a professional audience, all of us as ignorant of Georgian as he). So resonant was Dada politics that even a century later we sympathize with the 1918 demand for “the introduction of progressive unemployment through comprehensive mechanization of every field of activity.”

DALI, SALVADOR (11 May 1904–23 January 1989) As a painter, Dali is best remembered for meticulously rendered SURREALIST paintings that portray a dreamlike world with images of melting watches and half-open drawers suggesting erotic resonances. Such paintings influenced subsequent realists, sometimes called Magic Realists, who adopted the surrealist interest in dream imagery while primarily portraying semblances of the real world. As a filmmaker, Dali also collaborated with LUIS BUÑUEL on two classic avant-garde films, Un Chien


Andalou (1928) and L ‘Age d’Or (1931), which feature Surrealist imagery and allusions to both classical mythology and Freudian symbolism. Such classic/ contemporary juxtapositions of often violent images greatly influenced later filmmakers, both avant-garde and mainstream. From roughly 1940 onwards, Dali and his wife Gaia (1894–1982), a true coconspirator, spent (too?) much of their time in ceaseless self-promotion, remaking his initially innocent face to have wide-open eyes and a pencil-thin mustache. This new self-creation became as unique in its day as ANDY WARHOL’s visage or JOSEPH BEUYS’s would become years later, in all cases the face becoming a stronger professional SIGNATURE, or afterimage, than any other of their creations. In this sense, Dali’s image/persona was his most memorable invention, a Surreal figure come to life. Though initially a strong writer, he later authored books whose pages, as well as their titles, reflect his commitment to relentless self-promotion: The Secret Life of Salvador Dali (1961) and Diary of a Genius (1966). Whole books debunking him (and her) have since appeared, to no surprise.

DAWKINS, DARYL (11 January 1957–27 August 2015) My initial publisher for this Dictionary, who previously edited books about modern dance, suggested that I include an entry on this African-American basketball player, whose great choreographic innovation was called a Slam Dunk. Nearly 7 feet tall and propulsively athletic, Dawkins was able to get his favored hand so far above the basket that he could propel the big ball downwards with thunderous aplomb. It was a choreographic feat that others quickly imitated. So spectacular was Dawkins that his slam dunk would sometimes tear the hoop away from its moorings, shattering the backboard glass (and, needless to say, bringing the game to a halt until it could be replaced). Though this practice was initially banned by the NBA, such slam dunks became crowd-pleasers that kept basketball officials from the obvious obstacle of raising the hoop a foot or two. Also verbally adept, Dawkins is credited in some anthologies with this bit of Zen: “Nothing means nothing, but it isn’t really nothing because nothing is something that isn’t.” In a dance sequel, the choreographer Elizabeth Streb often concluded her program with a dancer diving fist-first through a pane of glass. When a spectator


is anticipating either this choreographic move or a likely slam dunk, don’t blink, or you might miss it.

DE ANDREA, JOHN (24 November 1941) De Andrea, among others, has created awesomely lifelike sculptures of people, especially nudes with nothing to hide. Such sculptures reflect as they transcend the illusions typical of, say, the traditional wax museum. Hyperrealism is more successful in sculpture than in painting or photography, in part because three-dimensionality is unavailable to the latter art forms, but mostly because of new materials, as well as new intelligence, that have become available to sculptors. De Andrea has an unusual ability to give his sculptures humanity. It was the British poet-critic Edward LucieSmith (1933) who pointed out, “They somehow give away both their class and their national origin through details of posture, hair style, and expression.” The cleverest de Andrea in my experience involved three figures – two nude women and a clothed man facing them. You knew the women were “fake,” so to speak, but you had to look and think twice to realize that the man with his back to you was an inanimate sculpture as well.

DE KOONING, WILLEM (24 April 1904–19 March 1997) Born in Holland, de Kooning emigrated to America as a young man and worked as a W.P.A. muralist. His midlife innovation came from imaginatively developing and extending a major stylistic contribution of European CUBISM, breaking up the representational plane to portray an object or field as seen from two or more perspectives simultaneously. The initial paintings in his Women series, done in the early 1950s, evoke in impulsive and yet well-drawn strokes (and colors identical to those in the environment portrayed) a single figure regarded from a multitude of perspectives, both vertical and horizontal, in several kinds of light and, therefore, implicitly at various moments in time. Not only are the differences between figure and setting, past and present, and background and foreground all thoroughly blurred, but nearly every major detail in this all-over and yet focused field suggests a different angle of vision or a different intensity of light. De Kooning never did as well again, even in roughly similar styles, though his admirers were forever hailing later works with the wish that he had.

58 • DE STIJL DE STIJL (1917–32) A Dutch periodical of art and esthetics edited by THEO VAN DOESBURG until his premature death, De Stijl was commonly considered the most influential avant-garde art magazine of its time, representing not just Dutch CONSTRUCTIVISM but a rationalist approach to art and society. Its title, meaning “the style,” is pronounced (in English) as, roughly, “duh style.” Among the member-contributors were PIET MONDRIAN, Georges Vantongerloo, EL LISSITZKY, George Antheil, JEAN/HANS ARP, and architects and industrial designers. Rejecting particularly EXPRESSIONISM along with nearly everything else, “This periodical hopes to make a contribution to the development of a new awareness of beauty,” van Doesburg wrote in the initial issue. “It wishes to make modern man receptive to what is new in the visual arts.” This “new” they called the “new plasticism,” which not only rejected representation (Mondrian having once specialized in flowers) but, instead, strictly limited painting to straight lines, 90-degree angles, and the three primary colors of red, yellow, and blue (along with the neutrals of black, white, and gray). As a polemic in the great modernist tradition, all on behalf of certain socially redemptive higher idealisms, the Stijl writers promised heroically to realize spiritually with art what it could not do before. As H. L. C. Jaffe (1915) wrote in the principal history of the magazine, “The purification of the plastic means of expression should also serve to solve various actual problems of our present time.” Because van Doesburg as a POLYARTIST was as much a writer as a painter, one of De Stijl’s issues was devoted to literature that was avant-garde at the time; and because he became involved with DADA, a 1922 issue had a Dada supplement titled Mecano. Too radical at the time for Holland, the Stijl artists were excluded from the Dutch pavilion at a Paris art fair in 1925. Just as they rejected much to establish its highly particular terrain, so were their limitations easily spurned by other artists. Their polemic finally had more influence on architecture and design, particularly of furniture. From the American critic Peter Frank, who speaks Dutch, comes this advice: Because “de Stijl” is integrally the name of an art movement, it would be under “D” even though the “de” is not capitalized. Were it the name of someone, however – like “de Hooch” or “de Leeuw” – it would be under the capitalized letter

if the person were still in the Netherlands. If s/he has moved to another country, the naming and alphabetizing would follow that country’s protocols, right down to capitalizing what hadn’t been capitalized (e.g. “De Kooning”). Got it?

DEFAMILIARIZATION (c. 1920s) One of the great modernist esthetic ideas, sometimes translated as “making strange” and other times as “estrangement,” this was coined by the Russian formalist critic Viktor Shklovsky (1893–1984) to honor the process of disrupting conventional forms of literary presentation and thus habitual forms of literary experience – in his phrases, “to make objects unfamiliar, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of the perception process.” Defamiliarization comes from deviations in literary devices such as language, syntax, narrative, or point of view. (Writing in the 1920s, Shklovsky cites Leo Tolstoy’s story “Kholsomer,” which is told from a horse’s perspective. Later literature offers more extreme examples.) The principle of defamiliarization is applicable to the nonliterary arts as well. It is scarcely surprising that in the late teens of the 20th century, as he came to maturity, Shklovsky was personally close to the poets who made RUSSIAN FUTURISM.

DELANY, SAMUEL R. (1 April 1942) Though he has been a prolific and prominent author of science fiction that represents an advance within that genre but has little influence on new literature, his more avant-garde activities have involved, first, criticism, which he often casts as rewritten interviews, in which he sympathetically understands the most extreme literary developments; and, then, co-editing a mass-paperback periodical Quark/ (1970–72) that published among other radical texts James Keilty’s “The People of Prashad,” which includes a radical language of alternative signs. As none of the other mass paperback periodicals were so receptive to avant-garde writing, a selection from this magazine should be reissued; even decades later, it would surprise. Delany’s novel Hogg (1995) is a fictional memoir of prepubscent homosexual experience that took years to get into print and then, its text corrected, reprint. His


Dahlgren (1974) has won more readers than any other Delany book, its daunting length notwithstanding.

DELAUNAY, ROBERT (12 April 1885–25 October 1941) As a pioneering abstract painter, he founded, in collaboration with his wife SONIA, among others, a movement that GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE called Orphism. In contrast to other early abstractionists favoring alternative, often geometric shapes, they favored strong colors verging on vulgarity. At their best, his paintings suggest movements not only back and forth but side to side in a vibrant field, all devoid of any exterior reference. To put it differently, in his masterpiece Homage à Blériot (1914), the shapes become resonant planes that move. From MICHEL SEUPHOR comes the best summary: “He thus revealed a highly individual approach, never tired of trying new resonances of colours, of experimenting with new rhythms, which always, as though spontaneous, blended in an absolute harmony.” Especially with frequent references to the Eiffel Tower, they epitomize Parisian art. Over the years Delaunay also published texts advocating his grand ideas about color. Odd it seems to me that some histories feature his early portraits, which I find peculiar. Perhaps Delaunay’s single most spectacular work came in 1937, when the prime minister of France, Léon Blum, more sympathetic to avant-garde art than most statesmen, invited Delaunay to make for an International Exposition several thousand square feet of paintings. One condition of this commission was hiring at least fifty unemployed artists, among them several who later had visible careers. Given that his images could be expanded in size without much esthetic loss, the results were as spectacular as avant-garde art for World’s Fairs can be.


About her own painting, Seuphor wrote when she was still alive: “Her art, which at the beginning inclined more toward the Fauves and Gauguin then Cézanne and Cubism, has retained its warmth and an exuberant lyricism befitting the ‘orphic’ powers of the Delaunays.” As a Jewish artist born in the Ukraine, raised in Jewish St. Petersburg, she respected the commandment against representing graven images.

DEPERO, FORTUNATO (30 March 1892–29 November 1960)


Born an Austrian citizen in northern Italy, he was a precocious toy designer as a child. He moved to Rome in 1913 and participated in Futurist exhibitions, becoming a leader of the movement’s second phase. After collaborating with Giacomo Balla (1871–1958) on Ricostruzione Futurista dell’Universo (The Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe, 1915), Depero produced kinetic sculpture and mechanical theater, along with stunning theatrical texts, some of which were collected in Michael and Victoria Nes Kirby’s pioneering anthology, Futurist Performance (1971). The summa of his Futurist design visions were Vegetazione a deformazione artificiale (1915, Artificially Deformed Vegetables) and Typographical Architecture (1927). Historians of the history of BOOK-ART credit Depero with preceding George Maciunas in using industrial bolts in 1927 to bind a book. Between 1928 and 1930 Depero resided in NEW YORK CITY. Though he barely spoke English, he designed covers for slick magazines, produced interiors for midtown restaurants, and even built a house on 23rd Street. After World War II, he returned to America, living in Fairfield Country, Connecticut, with a plan to open an eponymous museum. Returning to his native Italy in 1950, he fulfilled this dream, instead, in the small city of Rovereto where he grew up. With more than 3,000 objects the Casa d’Arte Futurista Depero is said to be the only Italian museum wholly devoted to Italian Futurism.

(14 November 1885–5 December 1979; b. Sarah Ilinitchna Stern)


One of the great partners of modern art, she supported her more prominent husband Robert D. not only in their time together but for thirty-eight years after his death. In MICHEL SEUPHOR’s firsthand judgment: “I have heard [Mr.] DELAUNAY say that but for her many a canvas would have remained unfinished.” While earning income greater than his in fashion design and decoration, she also ran a salon connecting artists to sponsors of fashion and mounted a prominent contribution to the annual Parisian exhibitions of Art Décoratifs.

(1911–14) As a successor to the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (1909–12), this short-lived populous art group with a catchier moniker represented basically the aspirations of young Munich artists desiring to overthrow the dominance of BERLIN. Taking the name of an important 1903 painting by WASSILY KANDINSKY, then perhaps the most prominent vanguard painter residing there, they sponsored a large

60 • DERRIDA, JACQUES exhibition and published an illustrated anthology, actually titled an Almanach that was emblazoned with their name. Among the more prominent were LYONEL FEININGER, Gabriele Münter (1877–1962), Franz Marc (1880–1916), and Kandinsky, all of them then residing in Munich. After an initial show came other populous exhibitions including more new artists, many of them residing elsewhere: PABLO PICASSO, David Burliuk, ROBERT DELAUNAY, KASIMIR MALEVICH, and ARNOLD SCHOENBERG (with his paintings). So disparate was the group and so diffuse their esthetics that they soon dispersed, perhaps fortunately, before the beginning of World War I and later political strife within Munich. Berlin later reigned again.

DERRIDA, JACQUES (15 July 1930–8 October 2004; b. Jackie Élie D.) A Frenchman from North Africa, Derrida became in some academic literature (not literary) circles the most influential critical theorist since NORTHROP FRYE. His dense and often confusing books seem designed for the classroom, which means that initially they are most successfully read with a guide, in concert with other seekers. Where they are comprehensible, at least in my experience, their ideas are obvious; where they are incomprehensible, Derrida’s theories of Deconstruction offer the cognoscenti rich opportunities for the kinds of one-upmanship endemic to such hierarchical societies as the military and most universities. I quote one summary, from Philip M. W. Thody’s contribution to the encyclopedia Twentieth-Century Culture (1983), not because I agree with it but because Thody (1928), who once wrote a good book on Albert Camus, seems to know what he’s talking about (and I can’t confidently summarize it): Philosophers have gone wrong in trying to make sense of experience by looking for essential truth lying with the “essence of things.” What they should do is look at language itself, but without seeing individual words as having a meaning because of the link which they are alleged to have with the object, concepts, or activities they designate. Instead they should follow out the full implications of Saussure’s remark that language contains only difference and that meaning is created by the distinction between the sounds of e.g., “pin” and “pen.” The task of the philosopher is to examine how language works both by the differences within it and by the chain of expectations

which the writer or speaker sets up and which require the listener to defer the moment when she or he decides what a particular sentence may nor may not mean. Got it? If not, don’t ask me to make it any clearer for you. To my mind, Derrida’s originality comes from his way of expressing his thoughts, which I discovered not from reading his works but from hearing him speak. In Jerusalem in the 1980s, I witnessed a question and answer performance before a predominantly academic audience, most speaking, as he does, non-native English. Whenever Derrida took a question, you could see him fumble for the beginnings of an answer, but once he got on track, an elaborate digression followed, at once elegant and idiosyncratic, until he reached a pause. Having followed him so far, you wondered whether he would then turn to the left or to the right, each direction seeming equally valid, only to admire the next verbal flight that led to another roadstop, with similarly arbitrary choices before continuing or concluding. In response to the next question, Derrida improvised structurally similar rhetorical gymnastics. What separates Derrida from traditional literary theorists is this commitment to improvisatory thinking, with all of its possibilities and limitations. I suspected the influence of 1950s American jazz; he was playing CHARLIE PARKER, so to speak. Should you have a taste for high-flown intellectual flights, consider MARSHALL MCLUHAN, whose similarly improvised perceptions were sociologically more substantial. If you think improvisation is “no way to play music,” you might judge that Derrida’s example is no way to think.

DI SUVERO, MARK (18 September 1933; b. Marco Polo di S.) Born in Shanghai of Italian-Jewish parents, di Suvero moved with his family to California in 1941 and majored in philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley. Taking off from DAVID SMITH’s sense of sculpture as an outdoor art and FRANZ KLINE’s taste for broad lines and odd angles, di Suvero fabricated monumental sculptures initially of thick wood and then of scrap steel beams retrieved from demolished buildings and junkyards. Asymmetrical and firmly attached to the ground, these sculptures sometimes contain seats inviting the spectator to gain a more intimate experience of the work. Some contain parts that can be slightly moved. Though CUBIST in syntax, they look like nothing found in life and could thus be considered CONSTRUCTIVIST as


well. He is credited among the first sculptors to use a construction crane in fabricating his work. A distinguished older sculptor who was famously generous, Sidney Geist (1914–2005), greeted di Suvero’s first exhibition in 1960 with this published encomium: “I myself have not been so moved by a show of sculpture since the Brancusi exhibition of 1933.” In a classic of appreciative criticism, Geist continued: “History is glad to record the arrival of any new artist, the creation of a new beauty, or the presence of a singular work of art; but the real stuff of history is made of those moments at which one can say: from now on nothing will be the same.” After leaving America in protest against the Vietnam War, di Suvero returned to the NEW YORK CITY borough of Queens, where he located his huge studio in an abandoned waterfront pier and later established outdoors in an adjacent property Socrates Sculpture Park that he donated to New York City. A few years older than RICHARD SERRA, who is likewise a Jewish Californian who passed through the state university in Berkeley, di Suvero similarly made abstract sculpture far larger than David Smith, say, could have imagined working in his studio home barely larger than a modest SoHo loft. However, whereas Serra’s structures try to intimidate through their massive presence, di Suvero’s are skeletal and mellow. Typically perhaps, di Suvero tends to work with available materials, rather than preparing drawings for himself (or others) to fabricate. Among the geometric forms repeated in his sculptures are triangles, extended straight diagonal lines, the letters X and V, and acute angles. While most of his sculptures are easily identifiable as his, selecting which ones might be better and why becomes problematic. The Storm King Art Center up the Hudson River from NYC invited him in the 1970s to “store” his sculptures on its palatial grounds where they are indeed magnificent, sometimes suggesting that, since none stands above the others, all of them might comprise a single work.

DIAGHILEV, SERGEI PAVLOVICH (19 March 1872–20 August 1929) One of the greatest organizers of innovative artistic performance, Diaghilev first became known as a leading figure in the St. Petersburg World of Art Group, as founder and editor of the journal World of Art (Mir iskusstva, 1899–1904), which introduced important new European art movements to the Russian public in an elegantly printed format, setting a high standard for subsequent Russian art and literary journals. Diaghilev ceaselessly promoted native Russian achievements,


as well as innovative trends in the fields of art, music, opera, and ballet. His most significant accomplishment was the creation and management of the renowned Les Ballets Russes, which, beginning in 1909, produced some of the most brilliant spectacles in the history of ballet. To realize his high ambitions, he engaged some of the most talented avant-garde artists, composers, choreographers, and dancers of Russia and France, including Leon Bakst (1866–1924), Aleksandr Benois (1870– 1960), Natalia Goncharova (1881–1962), Mikhail Larionov (1881–1964), PABLO PICASSO, Henri Matisse (1869–1954), Georges Braque (1882–1963), IGOR STRAVINSKY, Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953), Maurice Ravel (1875–1937), Claude Debussy (1862– 1918), Mikhail Fokine (1880–1942), Vaslav Nijinsky (1890–1950), Anna Pavlova (1881–1931), and Tamara Karsavina (1885–1978). Perhaps his most artistically successful production was Petrushka (1912), with music by Stravinsky, stage design by Benois, choreography by Fokine, and Nijinsky dancing the title role. His most scandalous success occurred in May 1913, with the premier of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Nijinsky’s unusual choreography, evoking pagan rituals in pre-Christian Russia, plus the wild music, caused a riot during the performance. Diaghilev’s role was to stimulate, in fact to demand, innovative work from his collaborators and to provide them with the resources to stage the results. His motto was “surprise me.” —Gerald Janecek

THE DIAL (1840–44; 1920–29) Doubly significant, because it was twice an influential magazine credited with publishing emerging writers, The Dial in its first emanation was, in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s introduction, a “Journal of the new spirit.” Its first editor was Margaret Fuller (1810–50), the most important American woman writer of her time. Among its contributors were the historical American Transcendentalists: not only Emerson but Theodore Parker and Henry David Thoreau. Scarcely popular enough, this Dial never gained more than two hundred subscribers and so closed too soon. A second Dial appeared in the 1860s; a third began publishing in 1880 with the promise to continue the first. Though this third Dial survived into the second decade of the 20th century, it was less legendary. Its owners sold The Dial to yet another publisher, Scofield Thayer (1889–1982), who recruited James Sibley Watson, Jr, as a co-conspirator. Together they

62 • DIGITAL redefined it as the first truly modernist literary magazine in America, as this Dial published T. S. ELIOT’s The Waste Land (1922), among other future classics. In its first year alone contributors included such avantgarde heavies as Djuna Barnes, Kenneth Burke, E. E. CUMMINGS, W. C. WILLIAMS, EZRA POUND, and AMY LOWELL. Though this Dial died in 1929, a later attempt to revive the title yet again, via a commercial book publisher in the 1960s, swiftly piffed.

DIGITAL (1960s) This term is a euphemism for any mechanism, commonly computer-assisted, that converts an input to numerical quantities, which are positive or negative impulses (commonly characterized as 0/1). The term is applicable to visual and video as well as audio machines. Digital-to-analog conversion refers to the process of taking material stored in a computer medium, such as on a tape or a hard disk, and making it more accessible, whether on paper or on analog audiotape.

artworks (5.25-inch computer disks) are usually unintelligible, now decades past their expected viability. Four Canadian and American poets solved, at least temporarily, the preservation of the Apple Basic poems of BP Nichol through emulation, whereby the original code was maintained without modification or migration but set to play within a piece of software that emulated the original digital environment of the piece. In another vein, the Media Archeology Lab at the University of Colorado in Boulder is a research center that runs and keeps operational old digital equipment to ensure access to all important media, especially artworks, of the technological past. Neither of these solutions addresses the larger and more difficult issue of maintaining access to artworks existing on old digital formats and that were designed to play on obsolete machines. Since digital archives have become much more sophisticated in the 21st century, there is some hope that we might be able to save the kinetic, interactive, and aleatoric digital artworks of our near past. If not, this art designed to take advantage of the possibilities of the computer will be sacrificed on the altar of computer evolution. What this may mean is that much of the avant-garde art of our age will be lost to the future and be remembered only through description.

DIGITAL ARCHIVES (2000s) Only in the 21st century have archivists seriously begun to address the issue of preservation of digital art (any art created digitally and also retained and experienced in that digital form), yet the proposed and implemented solutions remain inchoate and not always reliable. The first flowerings of any art form are naturally avantgarde; they represent a separation from the long wide stream of art into a narrow and initially small outlet. Given their initial position on the periphery of the art world, the avant-garde art of the past has sometimes been ignored or despised at its birth, only later to be re-discovered and cherished. This process worked well enough when the artworks in question were in analog media: paper, canvas, paint. But any digital art is more complex than its analogous analog forms, each piece requiring a certain digital environment in which to exist and from which to present itself. Given the proliferation of digital art forms, the need for digital archives focused on the preservation of these complex digital objects is greater than ever. Many of the computer artworks of the 1980s are already disappearing or unintelligible. For instance, during the mid-1980s, a few poets wrote kinetic computer poems in BASIC for the Apple IIe computer. A few of these computers still exist, but the media holding the digital

—Geof Huth

DISNEY, WALT (5 December 1901–15 December 1966) Though so much done with his name is discreditable, he was from his beginnings in Kansas City an ambitious and determined artist who revolutionized film animation along with producing some great films, particularly FANTASIA which reflects his efforts with both time and money. Technically Disney introduced synchronized sound and feature-length animation. He also envisioned, unlike any European animator, that his films devoid of human “stars” could be massmerchandized. Don’t forget as well that soon after his death, from lung cancer probably caused by heavy cigarette-smoking, his estate bankrolled Cal Arts to be, for a while, the most advanced multiarts college in America. May I leave for another entry an appreciation of his eponymous theme parks.

DISNEYLAND (1955)/DISNEY WORLD (C. 1971) Besides his classsic animated feature FANTASIA and his development of synchronized sound for film


animation in Steamboat Willie (1928), WALT DISNEY must surely be counted among the few visionaries who actually created from scratch a parallel fantasy world. While others have proposed creating self-contained environments, Disney’s Disneyland and, later, Disney World, Euro-Disney, and Disneyland-Tokyo, became among the first large-scale alternate worlds created and operated successfully. Not only business models for later developments (the so-called theme parks that now dot the landscape promoting various commercial operations), Disney’s parks also became neat universes where visitors could enter not only the childlike world of Disney’s characters but also experience, through sub-parks like Epcot Center, various world cultures (without the tedium or danger of world travel). Just as American culture has invaded the world, Disney has scooped up the world and Americanized it, making it palatable for mass audiences. Disney’s success relied on total control of the environment, so that ideally visitors must stay in Disney-operated hotels, eat at Disney-operated concessions, and see only Disneyoperated attractions. To do otherwise would be to explode the mythic power of Disney’s creation (and also rob corporate Disney of its stranglehold on your pocketbook). While the artistic LAS VEGAS is an artificial neighborhood within a larger city with many owners and a resident population, Disneyland and Disney World are perhaps more perfect because more complete, as the entire artificial reality is maintained consistently through one owner, and whose only real population are tourists. —with Richard Carlin

DOCUMENTARY ARCHIVISTS Within every serious art scene potentially worthy of historical remembering are individuals who collect whatever they can. Sometimes they accumulate books; other times, composers’ scores, which became PAUL SACHER’s specialty. In visual arts, whoever couldn’t afford paintings or sculptures could at least accumulate photographs or, more conveniently, slides. For DOWNTOWN New York art, the key documentarian was Larry Qualls (1946), who happened to be a partner for three decades in my ARTISTS’ SOHO coop. (No one else among us had a Ph.D.) Simply, from the late 1970s into the 21st century, he asked gallerists to give him their own slides of whatever they were exhibiting. Additionally he took his own photographs. Working modestly, without drawing much attention to himself, he amassed not thousands


of images but a few hundred thousand. As no else had so many slides of contemporary art, he initially duplicated them to sell as packages to provincial institutions. Eventually, his entire archive of more than 350,000 images went to Yale University, which digitized them for public use. Other people have no doubt done likewise elsewhere in history and around the world. Though I asked around, no names were offered to me. Younger people could no doubt do likewise again.

DODECAPHONIC MUSIC (1924) In historical perspective, dodecaphonic music is the product of a luxuriant development of chromatic melody and harmony. A conscious avoidance of all tonal centers led to the abolition of key signature and a decline of triadic harmony. The type of composition in which all tonal points of reference have been eliminated became known as ATONALITY. It was from this paludous atmosphere of inchoate atonality that the positive and important technical idiom of dodecaphonic composition was gradually evolved and eventually formulated by ARNOLD SCHOENBERG as the “method of composing with 12 tones related only to one another.” Schoenberg’s first explicit use of his method occurs in his Serenade, op. 24, written in 1924. Five fundamental ideas underlie Schoenberg’s method: (1) Dodecaphonic monothematism in which the entire work is derived from a twelve-tone row (Tonreihe), which comprises twelve different notes of the chromatic scale. (2) The tone-row is utilized in four conjugate forms: original, retrograde, inversion, and retrograde inversion. (3) Although the order of the notes in the tone-row is rigidly observed, the individual members of the series can be placed in any octave position, a peculiar feature of dodecaphonic music which results in the wide distribution of the thematic ingredients over the entire vocal or instrumental range of a single part or over sections of different parts. (4) Since each of the four forms of the basic twelvetone series can be transposed to any starting point of the chromatic scale, the total of all available forms is forty-eight. (5) Melody, harmony, and counterpoint are functions of the tone-row, which may appear in all its avatars, horizontally as melody, vertically as harmony and diagonally as canonic counterpoint. It may also be distributed partly in melodic progressions, partly in harmonic or contrapuntal structures, creating dodecaphonic meloharmony or melocounterpoint. Because of the providential divisibility of the number 12, the

64 • DODECAPHONIC MUSIC twelve-tone row can be arranged in six groups in twopart counterpoint, four groups in three-part counterpoint (or harmony), three groups in four-part harmony, or two groups in six-part harmony. In a communication sent to Nicolas Slonimsky in 1939, Ernst Krenek describes the relationship between atonality and the method of composing with twelve tones as follows: Atonality is a state of the musical material brought about through a general historical development. The 12-tone technique is a method of writing music within the realm of atonality. The sense of key has been destroyed by atonality. The method of composing with 12 tones was worked out in order to replace the old organization of the material by certain new devices. SCHOENBERG was not alone in his dodecaphonic illumination. Several musicians, mostly in Austria and Germany, evolved similar systems of organizing the resources of the chromatic scale in a logical and selfcontained system of composition. JEF GOLYSCHEFF, Russian composer and painter who lived in Germany and eventually settled in Brazil, worked on the problem as early as 1914, and in 1924 published a collection which he called twelve Tondauer Musik, making use of twelve different tones in thematic structures. At about the same time, Nicolas Obouhov invented a system that he called “Absolute Harmony,” which involved the use of all twelve chromatic tones without doubling; he played his piano pieces written in this system at a concert in Petrograd on 3 February 1916. Passages containing twelve different notes in succession, apart from the simple chromatic scale, are found even in classical works. There is a highly chromaticized passage in Mozart’s G Minor Symphony derived from three mutually exclusive diminished-seventh chords, aggregating to twelve different notes. The main subject in the section “Of Science” in the score of Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss contains the twelve different notes of the chromatic scale, but they remain uninverted, untergiversated, and otherwise unmetamorphosed, and thus cannot be regarded as a sampler of dodecaphonic writing. Liszt’s Faust Symphony opens with a theme consisting of four successive augmented triads descending by semitones, comprising the twelve different tones, but it cannot be meaningfully described as an anticipation of the dodecaphonic method. CHARLES IVES uses a twelve-tone series of different chromatic notes in his instrumental piece Tone Road No. 3, which he wrote in 1915. This intuitive invention is important not only as an illustration of his prophetic genius, but also as another indication that dodecaphonic ideas appeared

in the minds of musicians working in different parts of the world, completely independently of each other. Among scattered examples of twelve-tone composition of the pre-dodecaphonic years is L’adieu à la vie for piano by Alfredo Casella, which ends on a chord of twelve different notes. An amusing example of dodecaphonic prevision is the Hymn to Futurism by Cesar Cui, written in 1917, when the last surviving member of the Russian Mighty Five was 82 years old. Intended as a spoof, the piece contains a passage of three mutually exclusive diminished-seventh chords in arpeggio adding up to twelve different notes, and another passage comprising two mutually exclusive augmented triads with a complementary scale of whole tones passing through the unoccupied six spaces, forming another series of twelve different notes. The fact that Cui had two dodecaphonic series in his short composition demonstrates that even in a musical satire the thematic use of twelve different notes was a logical outcome of the process of tonal decay, serving as a fertilizer for the germination of dodecaphonic organisms. The method of composing with twelve tones related only to one another did not remain a rigid dogma. Its greatest protagonists, besides Schoenberg himself, were his disciples Alban Berg (1885–1935) and ANTON VON WEBERN. Somewhat frivolously, they have been described as the Vienna Trinity, with Schoenberg the Father, Berg the Son, and Webern the Holy Ghost. Both Berg and Webern introduced considerable innovations into the Schoenbergian practice. While Schoenberg studiously avoided triadic constructions, Alban Berg used the conjunct series of alternating minor and major triads capped by three whole tones as the principal subject of his last work, the Violin Concerto op. 36 (1936). Schoenberg practically excluded symmetric intervallic constructions and sequences, but Alban Berg inserted, in his opera Lulu, a dodecaphonic episode built on two mutually exclusive whole-tone scales. Anton von Webern dissected the twelve-tone series into autonomous sections of six, four, or three units in a group, and related them individually to one another by inversion, retrograde, and inverted retrograde. This fragmentation enabled him to make use of canonic imitation much more freely than would have been possible according to the strict Schoenbergian doctrine. The commonly used term for dodecaphonic music in German is Zwölftonmusik. In American usage it was translated literally as twelve-tone music, but English music theorists strenuously object to this terminology, pointing out that a tone is an acoustical phenomenon, that dodecaphony deals with the arrangement of written notes, and that it should be consequently called twelve-note music. In Italy the method became known as Dodecafonia or Musica dodecafonica. Incidentally, the term Dodecafonia was first used by the


Italian music scholar Domenico Alaleona in his article “L’armonia modernissima,” published in Rivista Musicale in 1911, but it was applied there in the sense of total chromaticism as an extension of Wagnerian harmony. The proliferation of dodecaphony in Italy was as potent as it was unexpected, considering the differences between Germanic and Latin cultures, the one introspective and speculative, the other humanistic and practical. Luigi Dallapiccola was one of the earliest adepts, but he liberalized Schoenberg’s method and admitted tonal elements. In his opera II Prigioniero, written in 1944, he made use of four mutually exclusive triads. The greatest conquest of Schoenberg’s method was the totally unexpected conversion of IGOR STRAVINSKY, whose entire esthetic code had seemed to stand in opposition to any predetermined scheme of composition; yet he adopted it when he was already in his seventies. Many other composers of world renown turned to dodecaphonic devices as a thematic expedient, without full utilization of the four basic forms of the tonerow. Bela Bartok made use of a twelve-tone melody in his Second Violin Concerto op. 112 (1937–38), but he modified its structure by inner permutations within the second statement of the tone-row. Ernest Bloch, a composer for whom the constrictions of modern techniques had little attraction, made use of twelve-tone subjects in his Sinfonia Breve and in his last string quartets. English composers who have adopted the technique of twelvetone composition with various degrees of consistency are Michael Tippett, Lennox Berkeley, Benjamin Frankel, Humphrey Searle, and Richard Rodney Bennett. William Walton makes use of a twelve-tone subject in the fugal finale of his Second Symphony. Benjamin Britten joined the dodecaphonic community by way of tonality., when in his Eighth Symphony he adopted Schoenberg’s method in all its orthodoxy. Leonard Bernstein inserted a twelve-tone series in the score of his Age of Anxiety to express inner agitation and anguished expectancy of the music. Samuel Barber made an excursion into the dodecaphonic field in a movement of his Piano Sonata. Gian Carlo Menotti turned dodecaphony into parody in his opera The Last Savage to illustrate the decadence of modern civilization into which the hero was unexpectedly catapulted from his primitivistic habitat. —Nicolas Slonimsky

DONEN, STANLEY (13 April 1924) A veteran Hollywood director, particularly renowned for his films including dance, Donen made at least one extraordinary short film, scarcely known, in which he shot with several cameras the pianist Micha Dichter


(1945) playing the extremely frenetic and daunting third movement of Sergei Prokofiev’s Seventh Piano Sonata. Through juggling several images simultaneously and variously on a single screen, Donen realizes a visual density comparable to the musical density. I’ve seen this short dozens of times, which is not a measure I’ll honor any feature-length Hollywood film. One implicit theme of this short, titled simply Prokofieff Sonata No. 7, Op. 83 (1999), is that a Hollywood director can produce avantgarde film if he wants; a second theme, likewise general, is that nearly all the most innovative films to come out of Hollywood, even recently, are less than thirty minutes in length. To no surprise perhaps, this film is not mentioned in short Donen biographies, including Wikipedia’s the last time I looked. Oddly, I find no mention of Donen’s producing anything else comparable.


“DOWNTOWN” (1970s) This epithet, based on NEW YORK CITY art geography, arose initially in talk about classical music to distinguish work produced below 14th Street from that more typical of “uptown,” which refers pointedly to culture produced on the Upper West Side between Lincoln Center in the south and Columbia University to the north. If uptown composers were affiliated with institutions such as universities, those working downtown were customarily independent. Audiences at uptown concerts tended to be older and better dressed than those downtown. If uptown composers tended to write serial music for their university colleagues to play, those residing downtown tended to modular or other kinds of alternative music for themselves and their similarly unaffiliated friends to play. The uptown composer Milton Babbitt (who curiously lived most of his Manhattan life downtown, south of 23rd Street), told me in 1997 that “midtown composers” were the New Yorkers who, regardless of where they actually lived, “get the token commissions from provincial orchestras.” The remark was fresh enough at the time for me to tell it to others. So applicable was this binary New York geographical distinction that it was extended to other cultural domains. Here the stylistic measure is difference, if not “deviance,” in form and/or content, particularly literature. Most of the art produced in SOHO couldn’t have been made, let alone exhibited, uptown. Similarly, it

66 • DUBUFFET, JEAN makes symbolic sense that the Fales Special Collections at New York University, once specializing in 19th-century British fiction, should concentrate on downtown New York writing, much as its music library collects downtown scores and recordings, as New York University is the only major Manhattan academic institution located south of Tenth Street. Refining this theme of geographical difference down to finer details, I once identified several strains within downtown Manhattan literature, distinguishing that produced in the West Village from East Village writing, which in turn differed from SoHo literature. Specifically, as the East Village literature extended developments in poetry, SoHo writing reflected advanced visual and musical arts. Its fairly broad strokes notwithstanding, downtown/uptown defines clear differences in New York City dance and even visual art. The point of the pioneering 1976 BERLIN exhibition, SoHo, was introducing Europe to artistic styles that then could not prosper above 14th Street. Geographical differences are probably applicable to arts in other cities as well, though their fault lines might be different (east vs. west, lakefront vs. interior, etc.).

DUBUFFET, JEAN (31 July 1901–12 May 1985) The son of a wealthy wine merchant, Dubuffet had little serious artistic training and spent little of his early life painting before beginning a life in Paris as a rich dilettante. After World War II, he took up painting again, developing a technique in which he loaded the canvas with a heavy paste made of plaster, putty, asphalt, concrete, and glue, and in which he embedded pebbles, broken glass, and various kinds of rubbish. Onto this dense paste, he scrawled and scratched crude renderings of figures reminiscent of the drawings of children and, to some extent, the childlike drawings of Paul Klee. He also championed the artworks of the insane, the untutored, and children, which he viewed as directly and intimately expressive and unencumbered by the stultifying (in his view) traditions of art history. He collected and exhibited the artworks of the mentally handicapped and gave them the title “Art Brut.” His own work did not advance. Although he briefly turned to sculpture in the 1950s, he showed little ability for it, and he lacked the training and wherewithal to develop artistically in any way. Critics and art historians have disagreed sharply over the worth of his work. Some find it valueless. Others see Dubuffet

as a pioneer of anti-art and of the movement away from the use of traditional materials. Certainly, it can be said that his work provided hope and an unfortunate impetus to many artists in the late 20th century who possessed insufficient talent to have flourished at any other time. —Mark Daniel Cohen

DUCHAMP, MARCEL (28 July 1887–2 October 1968) The grandson of a painter, this Duchamp had three siblings who were also visual artists; but unlike them, he turned his ironic skepticism about art into a most extraordinary career built on the smallest amount of work. Indeed, it was his unique and improbable talent to endow, or get others to endow, even his inactivity with esthetic weight. Ostensibly, he went to Paris at sixteen to study art. From 1905 to 1910 he contributed cartoons to French papers. Early paintings, from 1910 to 1911, depict members of his family. His next paintings reflect an interest in movement, presaging the themes of ITALIAN FUTURIST work; the epitome is the multiframe NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE NO. 2 (1912), which became the single most notorious work at the Armory Show in NEW YORK CITY. Abandoning painting for three-dimensional art, Duchamp then offered such common objects as a Bicycle Wheel (1913) and Bottle Rack (1914) as “readymades.” Moving to New York in 1915, he spent several years working on Large Glass: The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915–23), which is often regarded as his single most monumental piece. Built from lead wire and tinfoil affixed to a sheet of glass, it is nearly 9 feet high and 6 feet wide. Exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in 1926, it was later found shattered and then restored in 1936 with repaired glass for permanent installation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Facsimiles were made for Duchamp exhibitions in London in 1966 and in Venice in 1993.) Meanwhile, Duchamp became the modern master of the provocative and resonant esthetic GESTURE. With courage based upon self-confidence, he submitted a urinal titled Fountain to the 1917 exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, which he had cofounded and whose vice president he was. When the exhibition organizers refused to accept it, he resigned. (The implication, subsequently developed by others, was that esthetic value could be bestowed upon commonly available objects.) Similarly, to a DADA exhibition in Paris in 1920 Duchamp submitted a full-color reproduction of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa to which he


had added a beard and mustache; its official title was L. H. O. O. Q. (Elle a chaud au cui), whose French is loosely translated as she has a hot arse. Whereas successful visual artists are encouraged to repeat themselves by their dealers and collectors, Duchamp alternatively established the avoidance of repetition as a laudatory professional principle. Implicitly he became a crucial contrast to PICASSO, if not his de facto professional conscience. By the mid-1920s, Duchamp had publicly abandoned painting in favor first of chess, his principal pastime, and then certain experiments in kineticism: Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics) (1925), film collaborations with Man Ray, and Rotoreliefs (c. 1935), or disks with regular lines that create three-dimensional illusions when rotated like a phonograph record. Returning to New York in 1942, Duchamp became a presence, even in his inactivity, especially at exhibitions including his early work. He worked on the contents of his Boîte-en-Valise/Box in a Valise, which he designed in the 1930s and began selling in the 1940s as a kind of autobiographical container with miniatures of his most important works, even adding Paysage Fautif (1946, Wayward Landscape) which appears to contain semen, probably his own, as a representation of frustrated love at age 59. Yet so controversial was his art, and so generally unacceptable to the reigning gate-keepers, that not until 1963, past his own seventy-fifth year, did Duchamp have an institutional retrospective, which was not in New York or Paris, but in Pasadena, California. After Duchamp died, even his aficionados were surprised to find in his studio a tableau, Ètant données, on which he had secretly worked for many years. The viewer must peer through a crack in a door to see a diorama of a nude woman with her legs apart (which must be seen firsthand at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, because photographs of it, once forbidden, are necessarily limited).

DUCHAMP, SUZANNE, RAYMOND (-VILLON), JACQUES VILLON (respectively, 20 October 1889–11 September 1963; 5 November 1876–9 October 1918, b. Pierre-MauriceRaymond D.; 31 July 1875–9 June 1963, b. Emile Méry Frédéric Gaston Duchamp) As the closest semblance of the musical Bachs in modern art, no other family included as many members contributing significantly. Aside from MARCEL, the youngest son and most prominent, his older brother Raymond produced CUBIST sculpture, reworking


familiar objects into abstract shapes, most notably in Horse (1914), before his early death in World War I. Their sister Suzanne made DADA paintings before marrying Jean Crotti, himself a distinguished painter. Jacques the oldest redid his surname in tribute to the medieval French poet François Villon. Though Jacques’s visual art was generally more modest, his masterpiece is the abstract stained glass windows that he produced in 1967 for the magnificent Saint-Stephen Cathedral in Metz, France. (Within the same building are other windows, less distinguished, by MARC CHAGALL.) As a group initially more prominent than Marcel alone, at least until the 1960s, New York’s Guggenheim Museum exhibited them collectively in 1957. In 1967, the last surviving sibling, Marcel, curated a traveling exhibition of all four for a tour of French museums. The closest American analog would be the Stettheimer Sisters: Florine (1871–1944), a painter prominent in her time for glittering surfaces, though she rarely exhibited her work; Ettie (1875–1955), a writer; and Carrie (1869–1944), the hostess whose single major artwork was a richly detailed dollhouse 4 feet by 3 feet that is still treasured. Unlike the Duchamp siblings, the Stettheimers lived together (in midtown Manhattan) for most of their lives.

DUNCAN, ISADORA (27 May 1877–14 September 1927) The legend of Isadora Duncan was based upon her flamboyant lifestyle, memorialized first in her autobiography and later in a pop movie. Her initial achievement came from her artistic evocation of a “natural” style of dance performance that contradicted the ballet conventions of her time. Though Duncan had in fact received some ballet training and performed on vaudeville stages, she questioned the validity of established modes of dance movement, seeking her inspiration instead in her perceptions of nature (for example, the motions of the sea) and antiquity (Greek art and architecture). She believed all movement originates from the solar plexus and acknowledges the force of gravity (in this last respect, in particular, differing from ballet that transcends the floor). Her dance vocabulary included loose, graceful, flowing gestures and childlike runs, skips, and leaps, in addition to tension and relaxation, flexing and extending, and rotation with the transfer of weight. As an expressive dancer, who thought movement alone could articulate emotion, Duncan touched people through the palpable passion of her performances. She

68 • DUNCAN, ISADORA cherished great music and chose to perform to classical masterpieces (at a time when some ballet dancers were frequently performing to mediocre scores). Duncan was personally associated with some of the great artists of her time, including the innovative stage designer EDWARD GORDON CRAIG (by whom she bore a child) and the Russian poet Sergei Esenin (1895–1925, whom she married). Although born in Oakland, California, Duncan spent most of her adult

life in Europe, where she died in an unfortunate automobile accident. Before her death, she unofficially adopted younger women to do her choreography. Six became the Isadorables (1905–20). One of them, Irma Erich-Grimme (1897–1977), took the name of Irma Duncan who, once in New York in the early 1930s, assembled a large company of dancers that included my mother Ethel Cory K. (1911–2002). —with Katy Matheson


E-ZINE (1990s) One of the hallmarks of the micropress in the 1990s has been its insistent movement away from the paper copy culture and into cyberspace. From the mid-1990s on, there has been a definite and inexorable migration of the avant-garde press from the difficulties and anonymity of the paper press to the moderate ease and the possibly greater exposure offered by the Internet. This change has occurred, of course, concurrent with a similar change in American culture away from printed matter towards the liquid paper screen of the computer. At the beginning of this transition, the term “e-zine” was born, meaning a zine presented over the Internet. Sometimes these zines were distributed via e-mail, but most frequently they were loaded onto the World Wide Web for viewing by the entire world. Such e-zines still flourish, but the term has been appropriated by the Internet community at large, and the term now refers merely to any electronic periodical, most of which are commercial in nature. —Geof Huth

EAMES, CHARLES AND RAY (17 June 1907–21 August 1978; 15 December 1912–21 August 1988, b. Bernice Alexandra Kaiser) In addition to being prominent industrial designers, very much for hire, the Eameses, husband and wife working with equal credit long before such acknowledgment became more frequent in art, produced for their clients several remarkable innovative films. These were composed initially not from footage but photographic stills and then made mostly not in Hollywood studios near their Southern California home but in their own workshop. Glimpses of USA (1959)

consisted of seven films, composed from still photos projected simultaneously on seven screens that were 20 by 30 feet in size. Glimpses was shown continuously for twelve-minute stretches at the Moscow World’s Fair. For Kaleidoscope Shop (1959) they filmed their own creations through lenses that increasingly abstracted them. House of Science (1962) was a six-screen film, fifteen and one-half minutes long, created for the Seattle World’s Fair. Think (1964–65), made for the New York World’s Fair, featured twenty-two screens of various shapes. A Rough Sketch for a Proposed Film Dealing with the Powers of Ten and the Relative Size of Things in the Universe (1968) became the preliminary version of their indubitable masterpiece Powers of Ten (1977), both of which deal concretely with questions of scale. (A later videotape produced by Charles Eames’s grandson, Eames Demetrios, reverses the sequence of the films.) Though these two shorts were made for instructional purposes (with funding from the IBM corporation, no less), the concept of enlargements (and then contractions) of a human body on a beach by powers of ten at a quick and regular speed is so original and brilliant that purposeful pedagogy attains genuine esthetic quality. After pulling back continuously from the hand of a sleeping man into the galaxies (10 to the 24th power), in every ten seconds moving ten times the distance traveled in the previous ten seconds, the camera returns at a yet faster pace, entering the man’s skin, reaching finally the structure of the atom (10 to the minus-13th power), in sum traversing the universe and the microcosm, all in less than eight minutes. On the left side of the screen in the earlier film are three chronometers measuring distance and time. This sort of conceptual tripping makes even KUBRICK’s 2001, say, seem elementary at broaching scientific exposition. The French arts historian Frank Popper credits Charles Eames alone with constructing a Do-Nothing Machine (1955) powered solely by solar energy, while several histories of contemporary architecture


70 • EARTH ART acknowledge the originality of residential studio house that the Eames built for themselves in Santa Monica, California. At the design of large instructional exhibitions, initially of their own works and later on such grand themes as mathematics or “The World of Franklin and Jefferson” (1975), they also excelled, though all but one of these, much like theatrical performances (which they essentially were), survive only with descriptions and photographic documentation. (The exception is Mathematica [1961] long on permanent display in the Museum of Science in Boston, MA.) Working not just differently but profoundly differently, the Eames are also credited with the inventive design of chairs and the discovery of alternative materials, particularly molded plywood, for their manufacture. Awarding recognition more typical of smaller countries with greater cultural sophistication, the USPS (government postal service) in 2008 memorialized some of their designs on postage stamps.

EARTH ART (1960s, aka “earthworks” and “land art”) Perhaps as a reaction to the visual tedium and the sleek, boxy technological polish of Minimalist sculpture, or perhaps in an effort to break out of the commercial system that treated works of art as commodities, a number of artists in the late 1960s began executing enormous projects that altered the land in areas remote from civilization. Earth Art works existed primarily in situ and involved large excavations, the transferral of earth and stone to new sites in artificial configurations, and the burial of objects. These works became publicly known through exhibiting of photographic records of the projects, which often did not long survive their completion. Earth Art made its first appearance in an exhibition in 1968 at the Dwan Gallery in New York City with SOL LEWITT’s Box in a Hole (1968), in which a steel cube was, presumably, buried in the ground in the Netherlands, and Walter De Maria’s Mile Long Drawing (1968), in which two parallel white lines were drawn in the desert in Nevada. Other artists involved in Earth Art were Robert Smithson, Robert Morris, Michael Heizer, Richard Long, and RICHARD SERRA. Regardless of the initiating motivation, Earth Art certainly was an expression of the typical Romantic impulse to combine art and nature, and the congenitally American urge to return to the wilderness. However, Earth Art projects lacked any Huckleberry-Finn deliberate naivete. They often were guided by complex, attenuated, and elusive intellectual programs, so elusive that this form of art did

not continue for long after the early death of Smithson in 1973. By the end of the 1970s, Earth Art was going out of fashion, and later artists who followed the inspiration to fuse together art and nature, like David Nash, returned to the creation and exhibition of object-based art. If there is one work by which Earth Art is primarily remembered through its photographic records, it is Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970), which was a piled-up runway of basalt rock and dirt that corkscrewed its way along the surface of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. —Mark Daniel Cohen

EDGERTON, HAROLD (6 February 1903–4 January 1990) Though by trade a professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he became one of photography’s greatest inventors. The development of the rapidly flashing strobe light enabled Edgerton to freeze within a single photographic print a succession of moving postures – literally compressing MUYBRIDGE into a single image. A classic Edgerton photograph, Golf Drive by Denmore Shute (1938), artfully documents over four dozen different positions within a single golf swing. Other Edgerton photographs reveal details never seen before, such as the movements of a dancer or the flailing arms of a jazz drummer. These were pictures that no painter could make, unless, of course, he was duplicating the image of an Edgerton photograph. Nor could a filmmaker. In the MUSEUM OF MODERN ART’s 1939 retrospective, an exhibition and book both titled Art of Our Time, he was one of seven featured photographers. Edgerton also produced aerial reconnaissance photography during World War II in addition to artful photographs of the undersea and marine organisms, a bullet passing through an apple, and an atomic bomb exploding.

EDISON, THOMAS (11 February 1847–18 October 1931) If George Eastman belongs here, so does his near contemporary, Edison, an inventor who contributed not only to such pure technologies as the telephone, electric light, and the wireless telegraph, but to such artistic machines as the phonograph and the motionpicture projector. If not for Edison, modern life would have been different; likewise, modern art. Edison’s life resembles that of some avant-garde artists


in that he was thought uneducable and taken out of school. At the age of twelve he took odd jobs, becoming, while a teenager, a telegraph operator whose deafness enabled him to concentrate on the telegraph’s clicks, much as some advanced artists learn to exploit personal incapacities to practical advantage (e.g., JOHN CAGE, GERTRUDE STEIN). Inventing the phonograph in 1877, Edison found it a dead end until he developed a wax-coated cylinder on which sounds could be encoded, and then a floating stylus for playing back the sounds, and finally an electroplated master recording from which copies could be pressed, completing the processes necessary for the dissemination of acoustic materials. Surrounding himself with teams of engineers and researchers, Edison founded the first industrial laboratory, incidentally establishing a corporate model that, in later hands such as BELL LABS, created other inventions with esthetic applications.

EISENSTEIN, SERGEI MIKHAILOVICH (23 January 1898–11 February 1948) His Battleship Potemkin (1925; aka, simply, Potemkin) was the first distinctly Soviet film to receive international acclaim. Exemplifying the power of montage, or the rapid cutting between scenes to portray conflict, this film showed how radically different the medium of film could be from the theatrical staging or from the filming of staged activities. His reputation established, Eisenstein became enough of a cultural celebrity for Soviet officials to worry about and thus to restrict his subsequent activities. While the original negative of Battleship Potemkin was mutilated, his next film, October (1927), had to be reedited after Leon Trotsky’s demotion, reportedly under Joseph Stalin’s personal scrutiny. Invited to work in Hollywood in 1930, Eisenstein made several film proposals that were not accepted. With the help of the American writer Upton Sinclair (1878–1968), he began a feature film about Mexico that was not finished until decades after Eisenstein’s death, albeit in an incomplete form. Returning to the Soviet Union, Eisenstein was allowed to work on only a few of several possible projects, and then production was often halted before the films were complete. Before dying at 50, of a second heart attack, Eisenstein also wrote classic essays that have been read by everyone seriously interested in film. Decades after his death, gallerists discovered a rich collection of his remarkable drawings, many of which, as they portrayed erotic experience between men and animals, would have been suppressed by puritan Communism.




ELECTRONIC MUSIC (c. 1910) Used accurately, Electronic Music describes not one new thing but several new developments; for music, of all the arts, has been the most constant beneficiary of recent technological developments. These inventions include not only new instruments but technically superior versions of older ones for both composers and performers, in addition to editing and structuring technologies far handier than their predecessors. Do not forget that modern technologies created new listening situations for music, beginning, of course, with the capacity to record musical sound to be played back at a later date (initially through a phonograph), and then with the capacity (initially provided by radio) to transmit in live time musical sound from one source to many outlets. Neither of those capabilities existed in the 19th century. The same American who co-invented night lights for outdoor sports arenas, Thaddeus Cahill (1867–1934), also built at the beginning of the 20th century the Telharmonium, a 200-ton machine that could synthesize musical sounds for distribution over telephone lines. The machine had to be big and loud, because Cahill did not know the later principle of acoustic amplification that became familiar. Nowadays, even a common home-audio system can radically transform an existing instrumental sound, not only making it louder but also accentuating its treble or bass, if not redefining its timbre and extending the duration of such enhanced sound to unlimited lengths. By the 1960s, microphone pickups were incorporated into a whole range of instruments – guitar, double bass, piano, saxophone, clarinet, flute – to give the natural sound of each more presence than it previously had. Whereas early electronic pop musicians performed with only single speakers, groups new to the 1960s used whole banks of huge speakers to escalate their sounds to unprecedentedly high volumes, thereby also creating such technical dysfunctions as distortion, hum, buzzing, and ear-piercing feedback. Among classical musicians, PHILIP GLASS and Andre Kostelanetz, among others, exploited the volume controls

72 • ELIOT, T. S. and mixing panel of a standard recording studio to radically modify the music made by live performers, so that what the audience heard – what became available on record – would be radically different from the sounds originally made. The history of Electronic Music also includes wholly new instruments, beginning with the THEREMIN in the early 1920s. In 1928, the French inventor Maurice Martenot (1898–1980) introduced the Ondes Martenot (“Martenot’s Waves”), a keyboard that electronically produces one note at a time and can slide through its entire tonal range. In 1930 came Frederick Trautwein’s (1888–1956) Trautonium, another electronic one note generator that could be attached to a piano, requiring that the performer devote one hand to each instrument. Unlike the Ondes Martenot and the Theremin, which were designed to produce radically different sounds, the Hammond organ was invented in the 1930s to imitate electronically the familiar sounds of a pipe organ, but performers discovered the electronic organ had capabilities for sustained reverberation and tremolo that were unavailable to the traditional instrument. The original synthesizers were essentially electronic organs designed to generate a greater range of more precisely specified (and often quite innovative) musical sounds. Synthesizers became something else when they could incorporate sounds made outside of the instrument and process them into unprecedented acoustic experiences. This tradition became the source in the 1970s for Live Electronic Music and, later, for sampling. Another line of Electronic Music depended upon the development of magnetic audiotape that could be neatly edited and recomposed; audiotapes also became the preferred storage medium for electronic compositions. Sounds previously recorded in the environment could be enhanced by being played at a faster speed or a slower speed, or by being passed through filters that removed certain frequencies or added echo or reverberation. Extended echoing dependent upon tapedelay was also possible. Both Electro-Acoustic Music and MUSIQUE CONCRÈTE was based upon these techniques. The next step was to work entirely with electronically generated sounds, beginning with those from elementary sound generators, such as sawtooth, triangular, and variable rectangular waves. Among the best early endeavors in this vein was Bülent Arel’s Music for a Sacred Service (1961). One step after that involved mixing sounds that were originally live with artificial sources on a single fixed tape. Once stereophonic and then multitrack tape became available, sounds from separate sources, even recorded at

separate times, could be mixed together. When played back, these acoustic compositions could be distributed to speakers that would surround the spectator with sound; materials in individual speakers could conduct pseudo-conversations with one another. Because wholly Electronic Music did not depend upon instruments, it eschewed conventional scoring. Indeed, if a piece were created entirely “by ear,” so to speak, there would be no score at all, initially creating a problem with the American copyright office, which would accept scores but not tapes as evidence of authorship. Partly to deal with this problem, tape composers developed all kinds of inventive timeline graphings in lieu of scores. A half-century ago, the composer Virgil Thomson suggested, in the course of an article on JOHN CAGE, that any sound emerging from loudspeakers (and thus electronic at some point in its history) was fundamentally debased. Although his opinion was dismissed then and is perhaps forgotten now, can I be alone in having the experience, usually in a church, of hearing music that initially sounds funny? I know why, I must remind myself – no amplification. Since the arrival of Robert Moog’s synthesizer in the late 1960s and then the personal computer in the 1970s brought other kinds of Electronic Music, some of these are discussed separately in this book. By the 21st century, when nearly all music included electronics, this term as such became irrelevant.

ELIOT, T. S. (26 September 1888–4 January 1965; born Thomas Stearns E.) Where and when was Eliot avant-garde? Not in his pseudo-juvenile Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939), or in the solemn footnotes at the end of The Waste Land (1922). One could make a case for Sweeney Agonistes (1932) as a CONCEPTUAL play, because it cannot be staged as is; but to my mind, Eliot’s greatest departure was publication, even in his initial Collected Poems (1930), of several works that are explicitly introduced as “Unfinished.” The heirs and editors of a dead poet might have inserted that qualifying term, but rarely has a living poet done it, especially in his or her early forties. The assumption is that even in an admittedly unfinished state a text such as “Coriolan” can be read on its own. His near contemporary, MARCEL DUCHAMP, around 1923 stopped work on his Large Glass: The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915–23), declaring it “definitively unfinished,” although it was later counted among his



principal achievements. On the critical level, this move represents a GESTURE available only to certain artistic leaders. Advocates of poems composed from words “found” in the works of others, rather than wholly created from within, have cited Eliot’s essay on Thomas Massinger for this rationale:

tomorrow I have chased out from the boabab forests of your eyes the peacocks and panthers and lyre-birds I will shut them in my strongholds and we shall go walking together in the forests of Asia of Europe of Africa and America which surround our castles in the admirable forests of your eyes which are accustomed to my splendour.

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion.

To some this is an authentic psychological representation; to others, it epitomizes studied affectation, either because of or despite the absence of internal punctuation. Éluard’s French reputation gained from more traditional poems collected into books published during World War II, as he, unlike Breton, chose to remain in Europe. He also collaborated with painters such as Max Ernst and PABLO PICASSO in producing not VISUAL POETRY but fields in which text and image complement each other. What should be made of the fact that his first wife Gaia went on to marry SALVADOR DALI and become the Svengali behind her new husband’s progressively more dubious career?

However, by no measure did T.S. Eliot himself produce FOUND POETRY. That visionary he wasn’t.

ÉLUARD, PAUL (14 December 1895–18 November 1952; b. EugèneEmile-Paul Grindel)


Generally regarded as the second most important SURREALIST poet after ANDRÉ BRETON, whom he first met around 1920, Éluard was also a political activist who joined the Communist Party and kept reminding his literary colleagues of his radical politics. Nonetheless, his best poems portray heterosexual passion. In a translation by the American poet Michael Benedikt (1935–2007), “Ecstasy” opens:


Before this feminine landscape I feel As if I were a child standing before a fireplace Full of delight with my eyes full of tears And closes: Before this feminine landscape I feel As if I were some green branch in a fire. In addition to publishing his own poems, many of which purportedly transcribed his dreams, Éluard collaborated with MAX ERNST on two pioneering visual-verbal books (1932) and with Breton in writing L’lmmaculèe conception (1930), which attempts to portray a variety of mental disturbances. The hundred and fifty castles where we were going to make love were not enough for me a hundred thousand more will be built for me

ENGLISH LITERATURE, POST-WORLD WAR II (1945–) Back in the spring of 1965, at the end of my year as a Fulbright scholar at King’s College, London, I proposed a renewal that aimed to discover what was radically excellent in literature published initially in Britain after World War II. I noticed that most of it was produced by writers born outside of Britain. In mind were the familiar examples of GEORGE ORWELL (India) and Doris Lessing (Persia, 1919–2013), of course; but I’d already appreciated the novels of Wilson Harris (Guyana, 1921–2018); AMOS TUTUOLA’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952), which was told in a “pidgin” English uniquely Nigerian, and the formally ingenious Morning at the Office (1951) by Edgar Mittelholzer (Guyana, 1909–65). The last was then, and probably still is, the most extraordinary novel isolating racial prejudice in a culture (Trinidad) where people have many hues. My assumption was that this foundation would lead me to discover additional appropriate texts. One wrinkle I needed to consider was whether writers

74 • ENO, BRIAN such as SAMUEL BECKETT, DYLAN THOMAS, Dom Sylvester Houédard, Stefan Themerson, IAN HAMILTON FINLAY, and Sydney Goodsir Smith (1915–74) were non-English by virtue of the fact that they hailed respectively from Ireland, Wales, Guernsey, Poland, Bahamas and Scotland, and New Zealand and Scotland. (The most prominent precursors with alien origins in Eng. Lit. were, of course, Joseph Conrad [1857–1924; b. Ukraine] and the American T. S. ELIOT.) Indicatively, most of the recent literary Nobelists residing mostly in England were born outside the British Isles: not only Lessing but V. S. Naipaul (in 2001), Mario Vargas Llosa (2010), and Kazuo Ishiguro (2017), their number perhaps reflecting a conscious bias among the Nobel electors. Though my renewal wasn’t funded (and I returned to New York), I learned later that my avant-garde thesis was not just true but subsequently influential, albeit in my absence and thus without any acknowledgment of me, alas.

ENO, BRIAN (15 May 1948; b. Brian Peter George E.) A prolific producer of recordings, though formally untrained in music, Eno adapted avant-garde ideas for more popular purposes; only some survive as consequential innovative art. As a sort of CULTURAL LEADER, he founded Obscure Records (1975–78), which offered only ten disks, including one JOHN CAGE, to a larger audience. Another Eno creation is “ambient music,” most famously Music for Airports (1978), which is designed to be heard continuously as background in public spaces, as a more modernist version of what was once called “elevator music” or, more simply, “Musak.” His biography suggests that Eno must have remarkable skills in working with so many other artists, especially musicians. The lost Eno classic is Portsmouth Sinfonia (1974), for which musically amateur art-school students were enlisted to perform such classical warhorses as The Blue Danube Waltz and the William Tell Overture. Less famous is his Oblique Strategies (1975, in collaboration with Peter Schmidt [1931–80]), which began as a box with a deck of small printed cards, each of which (reflecting perhaps John Cage’s influence) suggested challenging constraints to help artists, especially musicians, to move ahead. For examples: “Honor thy error as a hidden intention.” “Try faking it.” “Work at a different speed.” “Are there sections? Consider transitions.” Much like other successful self-help books,

Oblique Strategies has been translated into other languages and reprinted several times. What should be made of the fact that Eno’s surname is an anagram for ONE?

ENVIRONMENT (forever) This term describes an enclosed space that is artistically enhanced. The materials defining such space might be visual, sculptural, kinetic, or even acoustic or may contain combinations of all these elements, but the measure is that certain art gives that space a particular esthetic character it would not otherwise have. To put it differently, thanks to what the artist does, the interior space itself becomes an encompassing, surrounding work of art. Among the classic Environments are St. Peter’s Church in Rome and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. In more recent art, consider Stanley Landesman’s multiply mirrored room, WalkIn Infinity Chamber (1968), in which spectators inside the Environment see themselves infinitely reflected; the kinetic galleries mounted by the artists’ collective known only as USCO in the late 1960s; CLAES OLDENBURG’s The Store (1962), which was filled with ironic renditions of seedy objects; and JOHN CAGE’s HPSCHD, which filled a 15,000-seat basketball arena with sounds and images for several hours (but could have gone on forever). An Environment differs, on one hand, from a MixedMeans theatrical piece that has a definite beginning and an end and, on the other, from an INSTALLATION, which describes art made for a particular site, theoretically to inhabit it forever or be destroyed when the exhibition is over.

ERNST, MAX (2 April 1891–1 April 1976; b. Maximilian E.) After six years studying philosophy, Ernst fought in World War I; soon after his demobilization, he became a leader of Cologne DADA, personally dubbed “Dadamax” by 1919. Quickly moving over to Parisian SURREALISM, Ernst is credited with having introduced the techniques of COLLAGE and PHOTOMONTAGE to Surrealist art. Surrealist collage differed from Dada in aiming not to juxtapose dissimilars but to weave from “found” pictures a coherent subconscious image. Ernst’s best collages draw upon banal engravings, some of which he incorporated into bookart narratives that I rank among his strongest works:


La Femme 100 Têtes (1929) and Une semaine de bonté (1934). The latter, subtitled A Surrealist Novel in Collage, is actually a suite of separate stories that depend upon Ernst’s pasting additions onto existing illustrations. He also developed frottage, which comes from tracing patterns found in an object (e.g., the grain of a floorboard, the texture of sackcloth) as a technique for freeing the subconscious by relieving the author of direct control, becoming the visual analog for ANDRÉ BRETON’s automatic writing. More handsome than most, Ernst went during World War II to New York, where he married successively Peggy Guggenheim, a major patron of the avant-garde, and Dorothea Tanning (1910–2012), herself an important artist and writer; he remained in America until 1952. While in the United States, Ernst collaborated with Breton and MARCEL DUCHAMP on the periodical VVV (1942).

ESCHER, M. C. (17 June 1898–27 March 1972; b. Maurits Cornelis E.) The art cognoscenti can be divided almost evenly into those who appreciate Escher and those who think his visual art is slick kitsch. What is interesting about this particular dichotomy is that, unlike other opinionsplitters, this divisory test bears no ostensible relation to any other issue. After establishing a style of repeated symmetrical configurations of animals, Escher made profoundly ingenious geometrical illusions, such as a stairway that appears to be constantly ascending or a water sluice that is constantly descending, using images based on reason to portray what is, as a whole, not credible, which is to say that he made a rational art to portray irrationality. As these images became more familiar in the late 1960s, when they appeared on T-shirts, posters, and even coffee mugs, Escher’s work was dismissed as decorative – a kind of contemporary Dutch equivalent of Irish illuminated manuscripts (e.g., The Book of Kells [c. 8th to 9th century]). The simplest measure of Escher’s originality is the recognition of a visual style that is easily identifiable as his SIGNATURE.

ESSAYING (ALTERNATIVE) (1936) Considering other ways of documenting external realities, writers have turned away from linear prose in paragraphs to consider charts, often with lines documenting flow, as in Alfred Barr’s 1936 classic


single-image history of modern art and George Maciunas’s more complicated and detailed visual histories of avant-garde art. JOHN CAGE’s nonsyntatic exploration of key words, especially in his Harvard Norton lectures I-VI (1990), likewise represent alternative exposition. Perhaps the epitome of a more complicated polemical visual essays are AD REINHARDT’s “cartoons” of the ART WORLD in the 1950s. A selection of such printed alternatives appears in my anthology Essaying Essays (1975, 2013). Consider as well that documentary filmmakers and videographers are producing essays. So are photographers with many images about a single subject. Within a circular multiplex hologram titled On Holography (1975), I mounted five syntactically circular statements about holography: holos = complete; gram = message; representation in depth = hologram = the hologram creates a world of incorporeal activity that exists only within he illusion not only of depth but of equal focus to all distances are characteristics particular to holography which creates by capturing on photosensitive material the amplitude, the wave-length and, most important, the phases of light reflected off an object a hologram reconstructs a three-dimensional image As the clear cylinder containing them (and only them) turns, whenever the longest bottom statement appears once, the next appears twice, the third three times, and the top two in unison four times, making my hologram an essay about itself, “printed” in the form where it appears best.

ESTHETICS (forever) One obstacle that makes avant-garde art different from mainstream work is that the authors of the most persuasive general understandings, have not been university philosophers, who are certified professional estheticians, but practicing artists thinking philosophically. While an academic philosopher’s hypotheses might realize a certain intellectual weight based in part upon internal consistency and acknowledgment of other philosophers, they rarely offer as much useful intelligence about avant-garde art as certain writings by artists themselves. That became the theme of my anthology Esthetics Contemporary (1978), whose second revised volume

76 • EUROPERA appeared in 1989. Among the contributors to the first edition were Robert Morris, L. Moholy-Nagy, MARCEL DUCHAMP, Michael Kirby, WALTER DE MARIA, Robert Smithson, and James Wines. For the revised edition, I added Brian O’doherty, JOHN CAGE, Richard Foreman, and AD REINAHRDT, among others. Curious I am to learn if someone, not I, could compose a comparable “esthetics” anthology mostly of artists’ philosophical writings in the 21st century.

EUROPERA (1987) For his first opera, JOHN CAGE, commissioned by the Frankfurt Oper, simply copied random pages from 19th-century European operas to produce, with the assistance of Andrew Culver (1953), an encompassing pastiche, literally a recycling, of sounds and costumes from the repertoire that is no longer protected by copyright. The title, itself a shrewd verbal invention, not only incorporates “Europe” and “opera,” but it also sounds like “your opera,” which is to say everyone’s opera. Though flutists, say, each received music previously composed for their instrument, each flutist was given different scores. Thus, motifs from various operas could be heard from the same instruments simultaneously. Noticing that operatic voices are customarily classified under nineteen categories (for sopranos alone, for instance, coloratura, lyric coloratura, lyric, lyric spinto, and dramatic), Cage requested nineteen singers, each of whom was allowed to select which public domain arias were appropriate for him or her; but only in the performance itself would each find out when, where, or if they could sing them. So several arias, each from a different opera, could be sung at once, to instrumental accompaniment(s) culled from yet other operas. The costumes were likewise drawn from disparate sources, and these clothes were assigned to individual singers without reference to what they would sing or do onstage. From a wealth of opera pictures, Cage selected various images that were then enlarged and painted, only in black and white, for the flats. These flats are mechanically brought onstage from left, right, or above with an arbitrariness reminiscent of the changing backdrops in the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera (1935). Once a flat or prop is no longer needed, it is simply laid to rest beside the performing area, visibly contributing to the chaotic mise en-scène. A computer program ensures that the lighting of the stage will be similarly haphazard.

For the libretti offered to the audience, Cage simply extracted sentences from traditional operatic plot summaries, replacing specific names with pronouns like “he” and “she.” These sentences were scrambled to produce twelve different pseudo-summaries, each two paragraphs long (to coincide with the two acts), none of which has any intentional connection with what actually occurs on stage. Each program distributed at Europera’s premiere contained only one of the twelve synopses, which meant that people sitting next to each another had different guides, further contributing to the elegant chaos. What Europera is finally about, from its transcriptions of phrases and images to its libretti, is the culture of opera, at once a homage and a burlesque, offering a wealth of surprises with familiar material; its theme could be defined, simply, as the conventions of 19thcentury European opera after a 20th-century avantgarde American has processed it. Europera has two parts, subtitled I and II, the second being half the length of the former. As with his earlier HPSCHD, Cage made “chamber” versions – Europera 3 & 4 (1990) and Europera 5 (1991) – that, if only for their diminished scale, are less successful. Nicolas Slonimsky, historically knowledgeable, sees them representing “a unique theatrical genre.”

EXERCICES DE STYLE (1947) A post-World War II classic initially simple but ultimately complex, this RAYMOND QUENEAU novel tells in ninety-nine different ways about a narrator getting on a Paris bus and witnessing a fight between two passengers one of whom, a man with a long neck and a funny hat, he sees again two hours later at a train station adding a button to his overcoat. So attractive has this fertile concept been to other adventurous writers that translations, some more imaginative than others, have appeared in over two dozen languages, including, no joke, Basque, Zurich German, Galician, and Esperanto. Among the distinguished translators have been Umberto Eco (Italian), Danilo Kiš (Serbian), and Ludwig Harig and Eugen Helmlé (German). The first in English came from Barbara Wright (1915–2009), who, more than any other translator into English, consistently favored the more avant-garde French texts. Chris Clarke’s later English translation (2012) includes twenty-eight additional Exercises written by Queneau himself. The challenge of audaciously rewriting a single nut at least ninety-nine times has inspired other writers (including myself in Declarations of Independence [2019]).


EXHAUSTION One of the great truths of MODERNISM holds that an esthetic departure has a life, eventually exhausting itself; and although good work can be produced in the exhaust of an innovation, whatever appears too late can come to seem opportunistic, if not decadent. Most conspicuously, the innovation epitomized by COLLAGE, initially a great departure, seemed exhausted by the mid-20th century, though collages continued to appear well into the next century, not only in visual arts but, say, in literature and music. ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM had a shorter life after World War II, barely surviving into the 1960s, though art reflecting its influence, if not imitating its forms, continued to appear. Sometimes dismissed as “a myth,” exhaustion rules.

EXPANDED PUBLISHING (1959) Traditionally writers, who are essentially word-artists, provided texts for publishers to print and for actors to perform, rarely considering such alternatives for making their words public as, say, handwritten prints for exhibition or public signage. Whereas E. E. CUMMINGS, for one, worked closely with his personal typographer (S.A. Jacobs) to make uniquely different printed pages, certain more contemporary writers have become their own typographers, so to speak, drawing letters by hand or with stencils for later printing. By the 21st century, some self-designing writers were exploiting radical typefaces that were easily available via a desktop computer. In Sweden in the 1960s, published poets such as Bengt-Emil Johnson and Sten Hanson produced in electronic music studios, wholly on their own authority, audiotapes of SOUND POETRY. Other published writers produced videotapes in which their words (not themselves) appear on screen. In the 1980s, Fred Truck developed his “Performance Bank” that existed only as computer print-out. With his Swallows (1986), Paul Zelevansky produced on a 5¼-inch floppy disk an interactive narrative made for an Apple computer (later accessible only through an Apple II emulator). After beginning as a poet, Eduardo Kac made reflection holograms with words as a prelude to his later high-tech art. In my own activities I’ve produced a spinning multiplex hologram of syntactically circular sentences (1978), a two-sided transmission hologram of complimentary pairs of words (1985), a poem 200 feet long and a narrative 50


feet long (2004), and a computer-assisted multiscreen installation at the MIT Media Lab (2001), among other departures in formats for my writings. Whereas most Expanded Writing is necessarily self-published, the last work initially appeared in a group show at the organization that had commissioned it. Others have made ebooks that exist only on websites, usually requiring from the reader certain cursor movements more various than flipping pages. Much as the genre of SCULPTURE, say, has expanded to include developments inconceivable before 1960, so will Literature in the coming decades continue to appear in unprecedented forms in media we can scarcely imagine now.

EXPO 67 (MONTREAL) (1967) Better than populous art exhibitions such as Documenta or the Venice Biennale, so beholden as they are to gallerists’ promotions, the world’s World’s Fairs often provide richer introductions to the new avantgarde art most likely to survive. The most distinguished in my experience was Expo 67, officially titled the Universal and International World Exhibition in Montreal. Here I had my first experience of a BUCKMINSTER FULLER architectural dome and the lightweight tensile architecture of Frei Otto (1925–2015). Beside the long escalator in the American pavilion was a very tall version of ROBERT INDIANA’s magisterial numerical sequence. An ALEXANDER CALDER ran 60 feet high. Also on the Fair’s premises was the prototype for Moshe Safdie’s modular housing that survived successfully the show’s closing to become a desirable Montreal residence. The most significant education for me came from appreciating films projected on surfaces other than the standard singular rectangular screen of the familiar movie house. I recall one set-up titled In the Labyrinth/ Labyrinthe where I looked down upon a screen parallel to the floor while beside one end was another screen running perpendicularly up a wall, each 12 meters in length, their simultaneous imagery complimentary. On the other end of a mirrored maze whose winding corridors was a chamber with five screens in the shape of a cross. Elsewhere, the New York filmmakers Francis Thompson and Alexander Hammid contributed We Are Young!, which was simultaneously projected onto six screens different in size. This echoed their three-screen film, To Be Alive, which was featured a few years before at a World’s Fair in Queens, New York, its parts likewise establishing rich cinematic counterpoint.

78 • EXPRESSIONISM In another venue at Expo 67 housed Canada 67, a sort of travelogue that was continuously projected on a totally surrounding horizontal screen – literally a 360-degree circle vision. In yet another venue, a Czech theatrical magician named Josef Svoboda (1920–2002) mounted in his Polyvision a wall with 112 small moving screens, developing beyond his Polyekran with only eight screens that was featured in Brussels’ Expo 58 several years before. In Graeme Ferguson’s Polar Life eleven projectors threw images onto eleven stationary screens while a turntable moved the audience. Elsewhere at Expo 67, while A Place to Stand had a single screen 20 meters wide and 9 meters high, the film shot with 70 mm (or twice as wide as the 35 mm then standard) incorporated within its frame many smaller moving complimentary images, mostly about life in Canadian Ontario, all blessedly devoid of any narration! (That last departure is still scarce in film/video documentaries.) Never again would I witness a comparable anthology of alternative projections, which I came to admire enormously. Were the same collection offered fifty years later (e.g., 2017) it would still look fresh and revelatory. May I venture that other “World’s Fairs” around the world included at least some comparably avant-garde cinema.

Arising from Romanticism that tied expression to the notion of “genius,” the term became popular around the turn of the 20th century, beginning with Edvard Munch’s (1863–1944) famous woodcut depicting a face proclaiming terror. Indeed, the term “Expressionistic” became an honorific, implicitly excluding whatever arts lacked such quality. It characterized work produced by disparate individuals, rather than a self-conscious group (such as DADA or SURREALISM). Responding to the examples of Munch and Vincent van Gogh in painting, as well as Oskar Kokoschka (1886–1980) and Egon Schiele (1890–1918) after them, critics began to confine the epithet Expressionism to art (and sometimes thought) produced in Northern and/or Teutonic European countries, in contrast to French and/or Mediterranean traditions. This last notion legitimized German Expressionism of the 1920s and 1930s, in poetry as well as visual art, and perhaps American ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM afterwards. The German dancer Mary Wigman appropriated Expressionist esthetics for her dance works.

EXTER, ALEXANDRA (6 January 1882–17 March 1949)

EXPRESSIONISM (c. 1895) (This concept is so unsympathetic to me that I fear misrepresentation, but here goes.) The central assumption is that, through the making of a work, the artist transfers his or her emotions and feelings, customarily anguished, to the viewer/reader. Such art is judged “expressive” to the degree that these feelings and emotions are projected by it; therefore, the success of such communication often depends upon the use of images or subjects familiar to the audience, the artist thus always skirting opportunism, if not vulgarity. The social rationale was breaking down the inhibitions and repressions of bourgeois society. (The trouble is that different viewers get different messages, especially in different cultures and at different times. That difficulty perhaps accounts for why the concept of Expressionism is scarcely universal, being almost unknown in Eastern art. Another fault is that light feeling and thus comedy become unacceptable.)

Exter’s earliest distinguished paintings, from the time of the Russian Revolution, display geometric shapes in a larger field, somewhat more reflective of Italian Futurism than other Russian Abstract Art in that period. For these planes that appear to float around one another, she favored the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue. The Parisian art historian Andrei B. Nakov (1941), who published the first contemporary monograph on Exter’s work, speaks of a “centrifugal structure . . . based on a center of energy within the work. For this possibility is based not on the static weight of the mass but rather on its own dynamic potential whose principal role is to counteract the immobility of forms.” For Yakov Protazanov’s science fiction film Aelita (1924), based on an Aleksei Tolstoy story about Russians transported to Mars, Exter designed costumes that emphasized geometric asymmetry, black-and-white contrasts, and the use of shiny materials. Because Aelita was at the time the most popular Russian film in the West, Exter emigrated to Paris, where she worked mostly as a designer for stage, fashion, and architectural interiors. Her surname is sometimes spelled Ekster.






In 1973, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts mounted an exhibition of artistic forgeries dating back centuries. Some already in museums were so clean that not only were expects hired to deauthenticate, to so speak, but some examples became touchstones of professional argument. A visually credible AUTOGRAPH is not enough, as it too can be faked, as sometimes only stray details betray false origins. Certain forgeries were so treasured that, even after they are identified as fake, their owners keep and often continued to display them, no doubt with some ironic pleasure. The status and value of such discredited visual art became a challenge for esthetic philosophers such as Nelson Goodman (1906–98). The classic hoax in English literature is a cycle of epic poems credited in 1760 to a Gaelic/Scottish poet named Ossian but actually written by the Scottish poet James Macpherson (1736–96). Little remembered is ORSON WELLES’s final feature film, F Is for Fake (1977), an imaginative documentary that focuses mostly on Elmyr de Hory (1906–76; b. Elemér Albert Hoffmann), a Hungarian painter who sold hundreds of his forgeries to galleries around the world, as he moved from country to country, always a step ahead of possible captors. To no surprise perhaps, Hory became the subject of a 1969 biography by Clifford Irving, himself a monumental faker. Recall as well as Welles himself catapulted to national fame in the wake of his deceptively credible 1938 fake newscast about an invasion from Mars. To the dissemination of fakes in art and writing there has been, is, and will be no end.

Aside from what you might think of WALT DISNEY (1901–66), a schlockmeister if ever there were one, consider his most ambitious film for its virtues: especially luscious (pre-computer) animation, pioneering stereo sound, and the visualizing of classical music (the last element making it a precursor of later “rock videos”). Even though this last idea was “stolen” from Oskar Fischinger, who had come to Hollywood only a few years before (and who worked on the project before resigning because he felt that his art was compromised), Disney went far beyond previous schemes for filming classical music. Remember that Fantasia has sections, each produced by a different army of Hollywood technicians, and that some sections are better than others; the original soundtrack conducted by LEOPOLD STOKOWSKI is superior to that used for the 1982 release. There has been nothing quite like Fantasia before or since (as it makes nearly all later “rock videos” seem inelegant and impatient). The only films to come close, in my considered opinion, are TEX AVERY’s The Magical Maestro (1951); Robert Clampett’s A Corny Concerto (1943) produced under the banner of Bugs Bunny, typically having a sharper edge, by the competing Warner Brothers studio; Bruno Bozzetto’s Allegro Non Troppo (1976), an Italian feature combining rather mundane live action with some clever animation (particularly to Maurice Ravel’s Bolero); and several shorts collected under the generic title Opera Imaginaire. Fantasia, often rereleased for movie houses, eventually became available, fortunately with the original Stokowski soundtrack, on both videotape and DVD.


80 • FANZINE One thesis that I’ve cultivated for years, without ever developing, alas, holds that the greatest animated films were based upon music. (If this theme appears elsewhere in this book, consider that repetition enhances more than diminishes a superior idea.)

FANZINE (c. 1970s) With an increased availability of copying machines (1970s and ’80s), followed by the personal computer (late 1980s–90s), new technologies enabled fanatics with a passion for a circumscribed underground topic to self-publish small magazines or “fanzines.” Not to be confused with related esthetics of the micropress, which have also been called “zines,” fanzines in particular have typically (but not always) been associated with a genre or sub-genre of underground popular music. They are read and distributed among the select crowd that their fanzine of choice champions, but unlike popular large-scale magazines, a fanzine is usually a one-person operation. Although fanzine prototypes existed in the early 1970s, Sniffin’ Glue, a London-based photocopied punk fanzine (c.1977), displayed all the characteristics of later music-related fanzines and is usually considered to be one of the first true fanzines. As a countercultural vehicle of information, fanzines sometimes still possessed strong political connections to the historical samizdat tradition, and by the mid-90s, reached epic popularity in the underground. Some were self-published once and never heard from again. Some became full-fledged magazines. But in every case, access to new technology enabled these publishers to disseminate variously subversive content with notable speed through a music-related network. Whereas layout and graphics were a defining primitive esthetic in the early cut and paste days, the computer created a sudden increase in well-designed, attractive layouts. Some fanzine publishers started paying extra for good-looking print jobs, selling ads to small “indie” record labels, and sending their publications to larger-scale distributors. In the same way that vinyl records (or “cassette culture”) has come and gone in waves of either technological nostalgia or sincere appreciation, fanzines certainly still exist, but the internet, websites, blogs, and social media have all but digitally supplanted the underground popularity and function of the more traditional form. —Michael Peters

FAULKNER, WILLIAM (25 September 1897–6 July 1962) Faulkner seemed so vague, in person and at times in print, while conservative critics were predisposed to overpraise his conventional virtues, that we tend to forget he wrote some of the greatest avant-garde fiction of the 20th century. I’m thinking initially of The Sound and the Fury (1929) and As I Lay Dying (1930), both with multiple narrators, each so radically different in intelligence (and thus style) from the other, and then of Absalom, Absalom! (1936), with its inimitable prose, composed of words rushing over one another, initially with complementary adjectives, devoid of commas. From the book’s opening sentence, Faulkner offered marvelously enriched English: From a little after two o clock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that – a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) become latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them. No one wrote English like this before, and no one has quite done so since (though several have tried). A style so strong makes any plot, in this case about a Southern dynasty in the 19th century, seem secondary. Some comparably extraordinary prose style also appears in Faulkner’s short story “The Bear” (1940), and also from time to time elsewhere in his work.

FAUVES (1905) Taking a French name that translates as “wild beast,” the loose group of painters waving this banner in the first decade of the 20th century favored color for color’s sake – more precisely, bright, intense color for bright color’s sake, along with rougher, blatant brushwork. In liberating themselves from the demands of representation and scrupulous detailing, the Fauves were extending suggestions about the intrinsic power


of color that were articulated by such predecessors as Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), Vincent Van Gogh (1853– 90), and Paul Gauguin (1848–1903). Though this unanticipated departure is remembered mostly through HENRI MATISSE, other artists prominently involved included the French painters André Derain (1880–1954) and Maurice de Vlaminck (1876–1958). To Matisse: “One will feel my picture rather than see it.” While their aims were pictorial and spatial, weaker work seemed decorative. So quickly, in art-history time, was their position accepted (and the wild beasts tamed, so to speak) with only three group exhibitions, that the cabal, such as it was, disintegrated.

FEININGER, LYONEL (17 July 1871–13 January 1956) He stands to be remembered among the first artists born in America to have established a successful career not in England or France, which other American artists favored in the late 19th century, but in Germany, more specifically in BERLIN, where he first went as a teenager. Feininger began with caricatures for magazines in both Germany and America. By 1894 he was producing comics that Art Speigelman (1948), himself no slouch at that art, judges have “achieved a breathtaking formal grace unsurpassed in the history of the medium.” Soon after Feininger started producing finer art, he had an exhibition at Herwarth Walden’s Strum Gallery in Berlin. He was among the first German artists to acknowledge Parisian CUBISM. After GROPIUS founded the BAUHAUS, Feininger was invited to head the printmaking workshop. His classic woodcut “Cathedral” graced the cover of the 1919 Bauhaus announcement. The son of a violinist, he also composed organ fugues that were publicly performed in both Germany and Switzerland. Feininger incidentally produced a large number of photographs that, curiously, he decided not to exhibit but to donate to friends some of whom later made them more public. Once the Nazis assumed power, the Lyonel Feininger family returned to his native country where he continued to teach and exhibit. His sons Andreas F. (1906–99) and T. Lux F. (1910–2011) had distinguished American careers as respectively a photographer and a painter. Their careers prompt me to recall JOHN CAGE remarking about a certain German composer, “He must have had some talent. His sons became musicians.” Among the later American-born innovative artists to have careers mostly in Germany were Emmett


Williams and the sculptor Stephan von Huene (1932– 2000). Far more of ROBERT WILSON’s theater has premiered in Germany than in his native USA.

FELDMAN, MORTON (12 January 1926–3 September 1987) Initially regarded as a composer working in the wake of JOHN CAGE, Feldman eventually forged a different sort of career, first as a tenured professor (which Cage never was), mostly at SUNY-Buffalo, and eventually in his compositional style. His characteristic scores of the 1950s and ’60s are graphic notations (within fixed pagination) that merely approximate dimensions and relationships of pitches, registers, and attacks, all of which the individual performer is invited to interpret to his or her taste. Nonetheless, the sounds of Feldman’s music tend to be soft and isolated, with a consistency that is audibly different from the chaos cultivated by Cage. This aural pointillism, indebted in part to Feldman’s interest in contemporary painting, superficially sounds like ANTON WEBERN’s music, but the former’s compositional choices owe more to personal intuition and thus his claims to superior taste (which is a key word in Feldman’s vocabulary, unlike Cage’s) than either SERIAL systems or strictly Cagean indeterminate vocabulary. Once he became a professor surrounded by aspiring young musicians, Feldman composed several very long pieces, at once austere and self-indulgent, e.g., For Philip Guston [1984], which runs 265:16’, or over four hours, in its first recording or String Quartet No. 2, which clocks in at 375’ or over six hours, performed without a refreshment/bathroom break, all reflecting Feldman’s ambition to make masterpieces not big and loud, as was traditionally done, but long and soft. For this quality alone, his later music became idiosyncratic. He was incidentally a supremely provocative conversationalist whose monumental jokes were often passed among strangers. When someone in his audience screamed, “You’re full of shit,” Feldman replied, “What are you full of?” Pausing as great comedians do, he jabbed: “Ideas?” Though at least three books of his prose have appeared, his best remarks are only remembered by others, as here.

FELLINI, FREDERICO (20 January 1920–31 October 1993) Buried in the oeuvre of many essentially slick filmmakers is an avant-garde gem scarcely known to

82 • FEMINISM even his most devout fans. For STANLEY DONEN, it’s the multi-camera short of a pianist playing Sergei Prokofiev’s daunting Seventh Piano Sonata. For WOODY ALLEN, the gem is his first featurelength film What’s Up, Tiger Lily (1966). For Fellini, the avant-garde classic is Toby Dammit (1968), only thirty-seven minutes in length, which appeared within a feature-length triptych Spirits of the Dead (1968, beside two lesser films by other directors). Freely adapting the Edgar Allen Poe short story “Never Bet the Devil Your Head,” this Fellini short epitomizes well-financed SURREALISM in portraying an alcoholic actor making a deal with the devil to get a new car. To quote one summary, “The second half of the movie is a phantasmagoric joy ride as a crazed Dammit blasts through the streets of Rome in his new car. It’s a drive straight to a very Felliniesque hell.” How appropriate is this film for an artist who died on Halloween. Whereas I recall longer Fellini films as soporific, this wasn’t.

FEMINISM (forever) Scarcely avant-garde, as some women have tried to advance the fortunes of all women over male dominance, based upon generally greater physical presence, since the beginning of time. What’s new in recent decades is that in Western cultures more women, especially younger women, declare themselves feminists, especially in the arts, and that more women do indeed achieve success equal to their male counterparts. Likewise do representatives from other social minorities who sometimes make special claims, on whose behalf claims for compensatory privilege are sometimes made. The risks implicit in the general success of any group previously suppressed is that favoring weaker apples in a single tree undermines the reputation of the others and, second, that the avatar can’t afford to fail because to do so would jeopardize the fortunes of others similarly disadvantaged. This last truth I credit to the American baseballer Jackie Robinson (1919–72), whose success knocked down the color barrier in all professional sports in America and perhaps elsewhere. Had Robinson failed as an athlete and become a bitter human being, far more than his memory would have been damaged. It’s not for nothing that stronger artists resist being classified with one or another moniker awarded (or just desiring) compensatory privilege; they neither need nor want false advantages.

FÉNÉON, FÉLIX (22 June 1861–29 February 1944) One of the greatest progressive figures of his time, he was at various times a journalist, a surreptitious bureaucrat (working in a French War Office), an art critic, an anarchist, a pioneering minimal fictioner, and an art collector whose accumulations sold so well after his death that an art prize was established with his name. As Fénéon the art critic was an earlier advocate of painterly pointillism, his profile is memorialized in a frequently reproduced 1890 painting by Paul Signac. As a writer of pseudo-realistic fiction, Fénéon anonymously contributed in 1906 to page 3 of a six-page newspaper, under the headline “divers incidents,” very short fake news stories about gruesome happenings. Later collected as “Nouvelles en trois lignes,” these stand as an early monument of literary MINIMALISM. Fénéon’s biographer Joan U. Halperin judged them “almost always funny.” Sparsely translated into English here and there over the years, most auspiciously in Elaine Marks’s anthology of Great French Short Stories (1960), these were mostly unavailable in English until Novels in Three Lines (2007), which is embarrassingly inept. While the translation might be superficially accurate, down to keeping daily newspaper references, too much of the humor in the originals is lost. Others can do better by Fénéon; I’ve tried. Although Fénéon did not take credit for them upon their initial publication, his friend GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE knew enough to identify Fénéon as representing avant-garde “mots en liberté.” Since Fénéon was also known as an anarchist, I am reminded of my conjecture that, if the appropriate literary form for conservatism is tragedy, portraying what cannot or should not be done, avant-garde anarchists, such as myself, should be predisposed to comedy with its bias toward surprising possibilities.

FILM SCRIPTS (1910) This is my term for printed materials, often incorporating images along with words, that suggest a film that probably won’t be made. The classic in my memory vault is L. Moholy-Nagy’s Dynamic of the Metropolis (written 1921–22; completed 1924) whose 14 intricately designed pages include visual descriptions and instructions along with striking images all suggesting the subject announced in its title. The implicit theme is that these pages realize wholly on their own a certain


artistic validity, and indeed they do. (First published in Hungarian, it was later translated into German and then into English.) Highly literary, strictly verbal earlier film scripts include GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE’s “Un beau film” in his L’Hérésiarque et Cie (1910) and Paul Van Ostaijen’s “De Bankroet Jazz” (1920–21, “Bankruptcy Jazz”). SERGEI EISENSEIN wrote prose notes toward an improbable film of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital (1927). The British playwright Harold Pinter (1930–2008) published a scenario about MARCEL PROUST; Jean-Paul Sartre, another about Sigmund Freud. As such film scripts are meant to stand by themselves, much like Conceptual Dance, printed anthologies of them ought to exist.

FINNEGANS WAKE (1939) One reason why JAMES JOYCE’s final book remains a monumental masterpiece is that its particular inventions have never been exceeded. Unlike journalism, which tries to render complex experience in the simplest possible form, the Wake tells a simple story in an exceedingly complex form. Its subject is familial conflict – among two brothers, a sister, and their two parents. Exploiting the techniques of literary Symbolism, Joyce portrays numerous conflicts taking the same familial forms. The metaphors for the two brothers include competing writers, such as Pope and Swift, or competing countries, such as Britain and America, among other antagonistic pairs of roughly equal age and/or authority. This interpretation of human experience hardly ranks as “original” or “profound,” but thanks to the techniques of multiple reference, incorporating innumerable examples into every part of the text, the theme is extended into a broad range of experience. No other literary work rivals the Wake in allusive density; in no other piece of writing known to me are so many dimensions simultaneously articulated. Congruent with his method, Joyce coins linguistic portmanteaus that echo various familiar words; the use of many languages serves to increase the range of reference and multiplicity. He favors puns that serve a similar function of incorporating more than one meaning within a single unit – a verbal technique reflecting the theme of history repeating itself many times over. Thus, the book’s principal theme is entwined in its method. As SAMUEL BECKETT noticed, back in 1929, “Here form is content, content is form.” One implication of this method is that Finnegans Wake need not be read sequentially to be understood. A principal


index of its originality is that no other major modern work is still as widely unread and persistently misunderstood, decades after its initial publication. Whether an individual reader “accepts” or “rejects” Joyce’s final masterpiece is also, in my observation, a fairly reliable resonant test of his or her sympathy toward subsequent avant-garde writing. (Another similarly useful test can be carried out with the more experimental writings of Gertrude Stein.) The addition of an apostrophe to the book’s title is not just a spelling mistake, happen though it often does; it becomes a red flag reflecting literary illiteracy.

FLAVIN, DAN (1 April 1933–29 November 1996) An undistinguished painter he was before he discovered fluorescent lamps (manufactured not by himself but by others) to produce complex arrays of illumination. Perhaps the epitome of the avant-garde MINIMAL artist, Flavin typically situates his simple means, sometimes various in color, along walls or locates them in corners of darkened spaces to induce a meditative atmosphere. His early works range in complexity from simple rows of vertical tubes with a single hue to intricate arrangements with crossing tubes of green, pink, orange, and blue on the ceiling of a long corridor in his untitled piece “(dedicated to Elizabeth and Richard Koshalek)” shown at the Castelli Gallery in New York in 1971. Not only are the fluorescent tubes in this piece set at right angles to one another and in four layers, but two of the colored lamps are placed behind their diffuser pans, so that they are seen only as reflected light. As Flavin wants viewers to appreciate not the lamps but the light they create, one theme here and elsewhere is visual qualities peculiar to pure fluorescent light (in contrast to the more familiar incandescent lamp). Though officially three-dimensional and thus sculptural, their effects are essential retinal and thus painterly. Successfully virtual in filling surrounding space without actually occupying it, they resemble ALEXANDER CALDER’s Mobiles. One curious precursor for Flavin was the prologue to the novelist Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1953), where the narrator inhabits an underground cell filled with abundant electric light. (A sculptor colleague read from it as a Flavin memorial.) A second was EL LISSITZKY’s Proun Room, which was an artistically rearticulated interior space. One peculiarity of Flavin’s practice was incorporating dedications into the titles of his pieces. T’was not for nothing that his single most

84 • FLEISCHER, DAVE AND MAX ambitious work acknowledged VLADIMIR TATLIN, whose ambitions for a larger scale was a major influence. ‘Tis said that, since his lamps were publicly available, Flavin sold his works with paper certificates of his authorship. That meant first that, should a single lamp within a work of his burn out, he’d offer to replace it; but, second, that if the certificate were lost, he’d not replace it. Such were the departures required by the avant-garde art biz in the late 20th century. Because Flavin used his light constructions to enhance brilliantly all kinds of architectural spaces from an underground train station to the otherwise underoccupied corner walls of an art museum or gallery, he received many commissions and yet died with scores of unrealized proposals. While echoing the late paintings of BARNETT NEWMAN, who become a prominent supportive colleague, as well as the color shadings of Morris Louis and Jules Olitski (1922–2007), Flavin’s exquisite art broaches radiant qualities more typical of such sacred forms as stained glass and religious icons.

FLEISCHER, DAVE AND MAX (14 July 1894–25 June 1979; 17 July 1883–11 September 1972) Among the principal innovators in cinematic animation, these two brothers produced films with human rather than animal characters and, in Betty Boop, creating the epitome of the sophisticated urban woman (who even today makes human sex symbols look reserved). In contrast to WALT DISNEY’s farm boys working in the bright light of Hollywood, the Fleischers were immigrants’ children, the elder born in Vienna; they worked in a studio located within NEW YORK CITY. It was the brothers’ good fortune that the censors who restricted feature films were slow to discover what was happening in short cartoons, eventually forcing the Fleischers to clean up Betty Boop’s highly erotic act. As serious animators, they developed several technical innovations, such as creating the illusion of depth by filming their protagonists on clear cells against a background diorama. What most impresses me, as a sometime dance critic, is the choreography of the Fleischers’ people, whose continuous movements are at once evocative and delicate. My own feeling is that the Fleischers’ post-censorship films, such as Gulliver’s Travels (1939), while longer and more ambitious, are less original and less consequential. Additionally, the Fleischer studio also initiated the characters of Popeye the Sailor, whose superhuman strength depends upon his eating spinach, and Grampie, who lives in a world of RUBE GOLDBERG inventions.

Perhaps because I come from the culture of reading, which enables me to flip pages when the going is slow, I’ve always found conventional Hollywood films soporifically languid in ways that cartoons by the Fleischers or TEX AVERY and his associates are not. Thus, to my taste, most of the greatest commercial films are less than thirty minutes in length. The misfortune is, that while books about Disney continue to appear, extended appreciations of the Fleischers are comparatively scarce.

FLUXUS (1962–78) A multi-art group, both formed and deformed by George Maciunas, roughly on the hierarchical model of SURREALISM, though in the irreverent spirit of DADA. FIuxus included at various times Dick Higgins, Robert Watts (1923–88), Ken Friedman, Jean Dupuy (1926), Wolf Vostell (1932–98), Ay-O (1931), and Alison Knowles, among others. The myth of FIuxus has always had more success in Europe, whose cultural institutions are more predisposed to understand the concept of an artists’ group, than in America, even though most of its participants were Americans. The best works displayed under the FIuxus banner are audaciously comic, prompting some critics to classify it as “neo-Dada,” though some of the participants were scarcely humorous. In museum exhibitions wholly of Fluxus, individual pieces by Macuinas himself tend to stand out. Especially after Maciunas’s death, Fluxus became a badge reflecting past affiliations, much like an Ivy college diploma, rather than an esthetic category.

FORM(S), DISTINGUISHED (forever) What’s important in true art; what makes art Art. Everything else is something else. Simply, innovative form(s) distinguish distinguished avant-garde art. That truth informs this book.

FORMALISTS, RUSSIAN (1914–28) In the years around World War I, several Russian linguists and literary critics attempted to define rigorously the devices and conventions that distinguish


literary language from common talk. The name of their group was OPOYAZ, which was an acronym for the Society for the Study of Poetic Language. According to their principal historian Victor Ehrlich (1914–2007), they represented “the first critical movement in Russia which attacked in systematic fashion the problems of rhythm and meter, of style and composition.” The major figures were Roman Jakobson (1896–1982) and Viktor Shklovsky (1893–1984). Whereas Jakobson’s specialty was the elaborate close analysis of innovative poetry, beginning with VELIMIR KHLEBNIKOV’s, Skhlovsky concentrated on prose, particularly contributing the useful concept of DEFAMILIARIZATION, which is also translated as “making strange,” which he identified as a quality distinguishing literary language from practical. Another instructive epithet is foregrounding. The historian Ehrlich wrote: “The Formalist movement had ever since its inception made common cause with the artistic avant-garde. In their early writing, Shklovsky and Jakobson sought to elevate the Futurist experiments into general laws of poetics.” In their disregard of biography and history, the Russian Formalists resembled the New Critics, who became prominent in America in the 1930s. Because of their emphasis on form over content, the Russian Formalists fell to the wrath of the Stalinist demand for a literature of socialist realism. While Shklovsky stayed behind in Leningrad (aka St. Petersburg), producing semiautobiographical texts that incidentally illustrated his theories, Jacobson emigrated first to Prague, where he joined the literary scholar René Wellek (1903–95), among others, in the Prague Linguistic Circle, which survived until the beginnings of World War II, when both men emigrated to America. Wellek became at Yale the principal English-language historian of literary criticism, while Jakobson, eventually at Harvard, became the de facto dean of American Slavic Professors, applying some of his Russian avant-garde experience to many linguistic and literary problems. Meanwhile, Wellek joined an American New Critic, Austin Warren (1899– 1986), in writing Theory of Literature (1949, subsequently revised), for many years a popular textbook that advocated the autonomy of the literary work and critical analysis based on “intrinsic” or “specifically literary” qualities. My recollection is that the professors teaching the Theory of Literature to me some six decades ago said nothing about the book’s conceptual origins in Russian Formalism and Russian Futurism, which I had to discover on my own. Perhaps the reason for such neglect is that American New Criticism was more predisposed to irrational religious literature.


FOSBURY, DICK (6 March 1947; b. Richard Douglas F.) As an athletic choreographer, he revolutionized the challenge of jumping cleanly over a thin horizontal bar precariously perched above the level of his head. In the 1950s, when the track-team coach taught me competitive high-jumping, I ran toward the high bar from an angle almost parallel and threw my forward leg as high as I could while pushing off the back leg and then, as my body reached the level of the bar, turning my body over it, so that my stomach safely scaled over the bar as I fell to the ground, sometimes landing on my feet in a sawdust pit on ground level. This technique was called a Forward Roll or a Scissors Straddle. In the mid-1960s, Fosbury, while still officially a student, approached the bar, by contrast, from roughly a 25-degree angle and stepped away from the bar before leaping off his outside foot with his back to the bar. As first his shoulders and then his bottom scaled safely over the horizontal bar, he kicked his legs upward before landing on his back on a soft surface a few feet higher than the ground. Even as I write appreciatively about it, decades after first observing it, the technique seems to me counterintuitive. At 6 feet 4 inches in height, Fosbury was able to cross over a bar much taller than he was, winning a gold medal in the 1968 Olympics before eventually establishing a temporary world record at 2.24 meters (or 7 feet 4¼ inches), which is a whole foot higher than he was. So influential was the Fosbury Flop, as it was initially called, that nearly all world-class high jumpers have used his innovative choreography since, especially if they are skinny gals and guys with flatish butts.

FOUND ART (c. 1910s) One of the principal innovations of avant-garde visual arts in the century’s teens was the introduction of real objects into an artistic context. In America, while CHARLES IVES incorporated hymn tunes into classical music, MARCEL DUCHAMP insisted through his “readymades” that a Bicycle Wheel (1913), a Bottle Rack (1914), and even a urinal he called Fountain (1917) be regarded as art. Back in Europe, painters introduced ticket stubs and newspaper clippings into collages that were exhibited as paintings. Not until the 1960s did visual artists become so concerned with estheticizing mundane objects that George Maciunas

86 • FOUND POETRY for one coined the term “Concretism,” which he defined as “the opposite of abstraction.” He continued: The realistic painting is not realistic; it’s illusionistic. You can have illusionistic music; you can have abstract music, you can have concrete music. In music, let’s say if you have an orchestra play, that’s abstract music, because the sounds are all done artificially by musical instruments. But if that orchestra is trying to imitate a storm, say, like Debussy or Ravel do it, that’s illusionistic; it’s still not realistic. But if you’re going to use noises like the clapping of the audience or farting or whatever, now that’s concrete. Or street car sounds, or a whole bunch of dishes falling from the shelf. That’s concrete – nothing illusionist or abstract about it. By the 1980s, found sculptural objects became an overpublicized movement that, at least to those who knew history, seemed derivative. On the other hand, appropriation of another composer’s music, which was a minor development in modernism, became more feasible in the 1990s with computer-assisted sampling.

FOUND POETRY For the poet wishing to discover poetry in language not her or his own, the simplest strategy is to break apart prose into lines, with appropriately sensitive line-breaks. William Butler Yeats took Walter Pater’s prose evocation of the Mona Lisa and, retyping it into free verse, made it the initial poem in his The Oxford Book of Modern Verse (1936). Some of the COMTE DE LAUTRÉAMONT’s Les Chants de Maldoror (posthumously published in 1890) were, scholars later discovered, direct quotations from an 1853 encyclopedia of natural history. With this likewise posthumous discovery in mind, consider this rationale for poetic plagiarism found elsewhere in Lautréamont’s writings: “It stays close to the words of an author; it uses his expressions, erasing a false idea and replacing it with a correct one.” The Times Literary Supplement in 1965 published a serial debate over the Scottish poet HUGH MacDIARMID’s authoring of a poem that begins with a verse arrangement of words from another poet’s short story. In introducing MacDiarmid’s Selected Poems (1993), the critic and translator Eliot Weinberger (1949) finds that much of MacDiarmid’s Cornish Heroic Songs for Valda Trevlyn (1937–38) was drawn from “long passages from obscure travel and science books, reviews in the Times Literary Supplement, Herman Melville’s letters, the writings of

Martin Buber, Thomas Mann’s Tonio Kroger.” John Ashbery acknowledged that his major early long poem “Europe” contains phrases lifted (and translated) randomly from a 1917 children’s book by William LeQueux, Beryl of the Biplane. The Canadian found poetry advocate JOHN ROBERT COLOMBO identifies the first book wholly composed of found poetry as John S. Barnes’s A Stone, A Leaf, A Door (1945), which consists entirely of the novelist Thomas Wolfe’s prose, broken apart to look like poetry. Bern Porter composed his “founds” from words in advertising, appropriating typography as well as language, while JOHN CAGE has drawn on Henry David Thoreau and JAMES JOYCE, among others, for his shrewdly chosen source texts. Richard Kostelanetz has scrambled the opening pages of literary classics in his prose-looking Aftertexts (1987) and the opening pages of his own essays in Recyclings (1973, 1984), which he considers to be implicitly a kind of “literary autobiography.” Though recent developments in the visual arts have given to “appropriation” a new authority that has, curiously, scarcely extended into literary appreciation, writers continue to remember T. S. ELIOT’s succinct advice: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”

FOURTEENTH STREET (20th century) Within every city hospitable to a large number of working artists is a boundary commonly acknowledged as separating artists from the larger world; and just as artists are reluctant to venture to the other side of this line, so residents of the greater city acknowledge difference. In Manhattan for most of the 20th century a dividing line was 14th Street that stretched from the East River to the Hudson River in lower Manhattan. Below 14th Street was Greenwich Village to the west and then the scruffy East Village to the East. As streets with a higher number were uptown, each side regarded as the other as “unsafe,” albeit differently. After 1970 or so, when an industrial slum further south (and downtown) was renovated into ARTISTS’ SOHO, while apartment houses were built in the middle parts of Greenwich Village, the dividing line shifted one kilometer south (and parallel) to Houston Street, where it roughly remained to the end of the century. In other cities hospitable to communities of artists are similar dividing lines, perhaps less definite, sometimes only barely acknowledged.


FRACTAL GEOMETRY (1975) Examining what he memorably called “the art of roughness,” the Polish-French-American polymathic mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot (1924–2010) showed that what initially appeared disordered, such as the curved lines of a seacoast, actually showed some regularity that he called “fractals.” This discovery prompted certain ambitious artists to work backwards, so to speak, creating a fractal art. As most of it so far resembles psychedelic mandalas or OP ART, one artist with an individual entry here amusingly judges, “It was always rigorously boring to me.” That is to measure that its LEONARDO(a)s either haven’t yet appeared or made their work known. As is said about one’s favorite team at the end of a baseball season, “Wait ’til next year.”

FRAMING (1913) This is perhaps the most appropriate epithet for the modernist practice of taking a common object and giving it a title that poses artistic challenge. The classics, of course, were MARCEL DUCHAMP’s offering to art exhibitions a store-bought bicycle wheel mounted upside down on a wooden stool, a snow shovel titled “From Marcel Duchamp” (1915, and later retitled “In Advance of a Broken Arm”), and a porcelain urinal that he titled Fountain (1917). No doubt reflecting Duchamp’s seminal influence, Francis Picabia in 1920 published in the initial number of the DADA magazine Cannibale a page titled at its bottom “Natures Morte.” Around three sides of the image of an ugly toy monkey were the words “Portrait de” followed by the hallowed names of Cezanne, Renoir, and Rembrandt. Man Ray’s Gift (1921) is a common household iron with a row of tacks protruding from its flat surface. As much of the significance of these moves have depended upon the reputation of the artist at the time they were offered to the public, few similar framings since have embodied so much weight.

FRANKENTHALER, HELEN (12 December 1928–27 December 2011) Her genuine innovation was saturating a large unprimed canvas set not on a wall but on the floor with oil paint heavily diluted with turpentine. After several


applications that she dubbed “soak stain” she realized an unprecedentedly rich translucent surface that resembled watercolor but needed a frame to be Art rather than just color. Onto such qualitatively different painterly surfaces she placed images that appear to float. Mountains and Sea (1952) launched her presence soon after her graduation from college. As other painters took up her departure, their results were called “Color Field.” Pretentious titling (e.g., Greek myths, Biblical references) gave her canvases the illusion of more depth. As too often happens to an artist whose youthful successes aren’t duplicated, falling below fashion made a hot painter cooler.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (1967) This extraordinary American legal innovation entitles every American citizen to have a copy of any government document including his or her name. Passed by Congress and signed by the president Lyndon B. Johnson, the FOIA has enabled artists such as the painter Arnold Mesches (1923–2016) to get authentic documents and even exhibit them in galleries and/or reprint them in books as higher examples of FOUND ART. When I in 1982 told the German-American-East German novelist Stefan Heym (1913–2001), then living in Communist East BERLIN about the FOIA, he recalled that he’d been an American citizen and thus qualified, even though he no longer paid American taxes. So the New York Times reported a few years later that a large package had come directly to his DDR home from Washington, DC, with information that he probably incorporated into his autobiographical writings. Thanks to the FOIA, I was able to document how an NEA top grant to me for BOOK-ART in 1985 was surreptitiously killed only to be partially restored. Though the names of individual speakers were “redacted” (i.e., blacked out), anyone could tell from the document’s list of names participating in the mugging who was speaking what. None of these artistic and literary moves could have been done before the FOIA. Consider the fact that it still stands, though forever disrespected by government functionaries, to be a tribute to the avant-garde American principles of uncovering secrets and respecting freedom.

FREUD, SIGMUND (6 May 1856–23 September 1939; b. Sigismund Schlomo F.)

88 • FROGTHINK As a false messiah who could not deliver what he promised, he misled generations of artists and writers not only in the creation of art but in understanding art made by others. Huge amounts of bad art and bad criticism paraded his influence. By the 21st century, Freud is seen as epitomizing a stubborn fashion that has finally gone out of fashion. Failing the tests of science, psychoanalysis wasn’t particularly effective treating individuals with therapeutic needs. Some biographers note that for himself Freud preferred cocaine. What kept his personal reputation going was his own effectiveness as a writer. This last truth was brilliantly documented by the American literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman (1919–70) in The Tangled Bank (1962), which incidentally includes a companion literary appreciation of Karl Marx (1818–83), another mischievous writer whose deleterious influence was less upon the destruction of minds than the killing of bodies.

FROGTHINK (1970s) This has been my coinage for purportedly critical writing that is more concerned with spouting a highfalutin rhetoric and self-consistent thinking than in defining worldly realities. It is scarcely new. In his classic Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1852), the Scottish author Charles Mackay (1814–89) speaks in passing of a French philosopher who “had constructed a very satisfactory theory on some subject or other, and was not a little proud of it.” “But the facts, my dear fellow,” said his friend, “the facts do not agree with your theory. Don’t they?” replied the philosopher, shrugging his shoulders, “then, tant pis pour le faits”; – so much the worse for the facts. It would be mistake to think that only French speakers practice frogthink. Germans have done it for decades, but some Americans only recently. If only because frogthinkers think their style avant-garde, they often choose genuinely avant-garde art to be the subjects, or victims, of their discourse. The epitome of narcissistic writing, frogthink is meant to impress immediate superiors without aspiring, pretenses to the contrary, to any lasting value.

FRYE, NORTHROP (14 July 1912–23 January 1991; b. Herman N. F.) A loyal Canadian, Frye spent nearly his entire life in the country where he was born and mostly educated, even

though he became for a time the most influential literary theorist in the entire English-speaking world. Perhaps because his first major book dealt with WILLIAM BLAKE, Frye had a broad conception of literary possibility. Thanks to an extraordinary memory for literary detail, as well as a capacity to view the largest cultural terrain from a great Olympian distance, he could make generalizations appropriate to many examples. He belongs in this book less for his major theories, which remain influential, than for passing insights into avant-garde writing that remain freshly persuasive. More than once have I quoted this nugget: Literature seems to be intermediate between music and painting: its words form rhythms which approach a musical sequence of sounds at one of its boundaries, and form patterns which approach the hieroglyphic or pictorial image at the other. The attempt to get as near to these boundaries as possible forms the main body of what is called experimental writing. One virtue of these sentences is accurately placing not only VISUAL POETRY but TEXT-SOUND in the largest artistic context. Respecting Frye’s extraordinary talents for aphorisms, JOHN ROBERT COLOMBO, himself an accomplished aphorist, edited The Northrop Frye Quote Book (2014).

FULLER, BUCKMINSTER (12 July 1895–1 July 1983; Richard Buckminster F.) The architectural historian Wayne Andrews (1913–87) identified, in his Architecture, Ambition, and Americans (1955), two indigenous architectural traditions, producing buildings as fundamentally different as their rationales. One, typified in American thought by William James (1842–1910), holds that a beautiful building will enhance the lives of all who dwell within and around it, as elegant architecture supposedly doth elegant people make. The second tradition, from Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929), holds that, because a building’s usefulness as a human habitat is primary, technical efficiency and human considerations create architectural quality and perhaps a certain kind of beauty. The most original and profound Veblenian was Fuller, who based his architecture upon the “dymaxion” principle (the maximalization of dynamic performance), which he related to industrial ephemeralization: the achievement of increasingly more production from increasingly fewer materials; the practical advantages of mass production; and the universal applicability of architectural solutions.


Because Fuller came to architecture from an education in engineering and experience in a business selling construction materials, his designs lack discernible stylistic antecedents. Fuller’s Dymaxion House (1927) is a circular multiroom area 50 feet in diameter, suspended by cable from a central unit, 40 feet high, that can be set into the ground anywhere on earth. The living space is partitioned into several rooms, while the volume between its floor and the ground can be curtained and filled to the owner’s taste – its most likely use being an indoor parking place. Above the living space is an open-air landing partially shaded from the sun by a suspended roof. A later version, built closer to the ground, was the Wichita House, a circular aluminum shell-plus-utilitycore that Fuller tried to mass-produce after World War II. The dymaxion principle also informed the Kleenex House, a 15-foot surrogate tent designed for the US Marine Corps. Fuller claimed it would be “one-third the weight of a tent, cost one-fifteenth as much, use less than ten dollars’ worth of materials, and be packed into a small box,” in sum exemplifying his three principles. Extending his bias for doing more with less, Fuller suggested that distances commonly bridged by cables or girders should instead be spanned by a network of threedimensional triangles (actually, tetrahedrons) often built up into larger networks; for Fuller’s innovative truth, strangely not recognized by earlier builders, was that the triangular tetrahedron more effectively distributes weight and tension than the rectangular shapes traditionally favored. The most effective overarching form for these tetrahedrons was the geodesic dome, which could span spaces of theoretically unlimited diameters with an unprecedentedly lightweight structure, demonstrating the dymaxion principle of high performance per pound. The first full realization of this last innovation was the 93-foot rotunda for a Ford plant in Detroit (1953); the most successful is the nearly complete sphere, over 200 feet in diameter, that Fuller built for EXPO 67 in Montreal. This had a grandeur that, in my experience, was implicitly Jamesian, particularly since several interior levels made its tetrahedrons visible from various angles and the Lucite skin changed color in response to the outside climate. Because other structures were as large as 384 feet in diameter, enclosing two-and-a-half acres, Fuller proposed constructing domes miles in diameter over whole cities or neighborhoods. One proposal for a dome over midtown Manhattan would have weighed 80,000 tons and cost 200 million dollars. Don’t forget Fuller’s writings, which are in their coinages and complex sentences as stylistically original as his thinking: Living upon the threshold between yesterday and tomorrow, which threshold we reflexively


assumed in some long ago yesterday to constitute an eternal now, we are aware of the daily occurring, vast multiplication of experiencegenerated information by which we potentially may improve our understanding of our yesterday’s experiences and therefrom derive our most farsighted preparedness for successive tomorrows. It is not surprising that Petr Kotik, who had previously composed an extended choral piece to a difficult GERTRUDE STEIN text, Many Many Women (1978/80), did likewise with selected passages from Fuller’s twovolume Synergetics (1976, 1979).

FULLER, LOÏE (22 January 1862–2 January 1928; b. Mary Louise F.) An American dancer and theater artist, Fuller achieved great fame in Europe, especially in France, where she made her debut at the Folies-Bergere in 1892 and where, at the 1900 Paris World Fair, a special theater was built to house her performances (much as theaters were later built especially for CIRQUE DU SOLEIL). Fuller was renowned for spectacular stage effects that she accomplished through the use of colored lights, diaphanous cloth (such as silk), and mechanical devices (such as the use of wooden sticks to extend the lines of her arms). For her popular Fire Dance, she reportedly required fourteen electricians who, responding to her taps and gestures as she danced on glass, would change the light emanating from below, creating the illusion of smoke and flame. She put her performers on pedestals with glass tops so that, when illuminated from underneath, they “would appear to be mysteriously suspended in air,” to quote a contemporaneous reviewer. Her recent biographers Richard and Maria Ewing Current credit Fuller with “another invention[:] an arrangement of mirrors set at an angle to one another, with a row of incandescent bulbs along each of the joined edges, so as to reflect a ‘bewildering maze of dancers, skirts, and colors.’” Fuller was so popular that Parisian couturiers sold dresses based on her costumes. Although she apparently had little dance training, improvised movement became an important element in her performances. Portraying herself as tall and lovely, the master illusionist was actually short and stumpy, her features, plain. She billed herself as “Le Loïe Fuller,” adding an umlaut to an unfamiliar place, because, according to the Currents, “without those two dots above the ‘ï’ [her name] would be ‘Lwah’ in French and the word ‘the goose,’ or ‘law.’” Notwithstanding all her years and

90 • FURNIVAL, JOHN fame abroad, Fuller retained her American citizenship. The Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) wrote:


When Loïe Fuller’s Chinese Dances unwound A shining web, a floating ribbon of cloth, It seemed that a dragon of air Had fallen among dancers, had whirled them round. Because many other leading artistic figures found Fuller’s work enchanting – among them Anatole France (1844–1964), Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), and STEPHANE MALLARMÉ – and more than seventy artists in ten countries portrayed her in lithographs, pastels, and sculptures, her performances were remembered long after she ceased presenting them. The Italian arts historian Giovanni Lista (1943) has reportedly written the fullest reconstructions of her performances. —with Katy Matheson

FURNIVAL, JOHN (29 May 1933) Trained as a visual artist and for many years a professor at the Bath Academy in western England, Furnival in the early 1960s developed a highly original and indubitably personal style of building up layers of words, usually chosen with taste and literacy, into architecturally representational structures, done not on small sheets of paper but on pieces of wood (doors, actually), 6 feet high and a few feet wide. In the words that make the shape of La Tour Eiffel (1964) are, for instance, the puns “eye full” and “Evefall.” The word “lift” turns into “ascenseur” where the elevator is, and among other representational markings is “echafaudage” (or “scaffolding”) on the other leg. If only for its scale and scope of reference, Tours de Babel Changées en Ponts (1964) is Furnival’s greatest work, if not the masterpiece of its kind. Onto six panels, each originally a wooden door onto which Furnival drew and stamped words in ink, all together 12 feet in length and 6½” feet high (and usually displayed in a semicircular form), this work tells of the evolution of language. A key image is a succession of word bridges (with here and there the names of the great 19th-century bridge builders) connecting the otherwise isolated towers. The panels can be read from left to right as well as from right to left, and from top to bottom and back again. As they contain more secrets than anyone can count, Furnival’s visually arranged words must be read as closely and completely as those of any modern poet.

The premier avant-garde movement in Russian literature, Futurism was in part a reaction to Symbolism, which nonetheless shared the latter’s interest in the sound texture of the word and in the work’s suggestive power beyond its denotative meaning. Russian Futurism is customarily divided into two wings. Ego-Futurism, centered in St. Petersburg, focused upon romantic hyperbolization of the poet-ego. Its chief figures were Igor Severyanin (1887–1941, who gave the movement its name in 1911), Konstantin Olimpov (1889–1940), and Ivan Ignatyev (1892–1914). The last was particularly important as a publisher of a series of Futurist miscellanies. While the Ego-Futurists’ imagery could be extravagant, they were verbally less experimental than the second group, the CUBO-FUTURISTS, centered in Moscow. This group numbered among its members three of the most important and innovative poets of the 20th century: VELIMIR KHLEBNIKOV, ALEKSEI KRUCHONYKH, and Vladimir MAYAKOVSKY. Vasilisk Gnedov (1890–1978), nominally associated with the Ego-Futurists, demonstrated some of the same verbal inventiveness as the Cubo-Futurists. While both groups had been active since 1909 and were to some extent familiar with the activities of the Italian Futurists, they developed independently of the Italian movement and did not share its militaristic aspirations. What finally caught the attention of the Russian public was “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste” (1912), signed by Kruchonykh, Khlebnikov, and Mayakovsky, along with David Burliuk (1882–1967), if only for this oft-quoted line: “Throw Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc. etc., overboard from the Ship of Modernity.” Other statements in the manifesto argued for the poet’s right to create “arbitrary and derivative words (word-novelty)” and for the “self-sufficient word.” This soon led to the rise of Zaum (translational language), the most radical development in 20th-century poetry. Kruchonykh’s “dyr bul shchyl” (1913) and his opera Victory Over the Sun (1913) epitomize early Zaum. The Cubo-Futurists were also innovative in introducing visual effects into Russian literature, ranging from primitive manuscript books to floridly typographed works. The year 1913 was the high point of Russian Futurism, the most important events and publications all occurring in that year, which ended with a well-publicized tour of the provinces. By 1917, a new center had formed in the Georgian capital of Tiflis with ILIA ZDANEVICH (AKA Iliazd), Kruchonykh, and Igor Terentiev (1892–1937) as the core of a group called 41°.


This group produced particularly radical examples of Zaum and innovative visual effects in their texts. In 1921, Kruchonykh joined forces once again in Moscow with Mayakovsky, around whom the group Left Front of the Arts (LEF) formed; they published a journal of the same name. They propagandized for the role of Futurism as the truly revolutionary art most appropriate for the new socialist society. However, neither the Bolshevik government nor proletarian writers and critics were sympathetic. By the later 1920s, the movement had disappeared, its members succumbing to the demand to produce less radical and politically more acceptable writing. Futurism is credited with having a strong impact on the development of Russian Formalism, CONSTRUCTIVISM, and OBERIU, an acronym for a group of writers formed in the late 1920s. Futurism’s achievements are still being discovered by a new generation of Russian avant-gardists who were ignorant of the movement until the liberalization under glasnost. —Gerald Janecek

FUTURIST MUSIC Futurism is a modern movement in the arts that emerged in Italy early in the 20th century, under the aegis of the Italian poet F. T MARINETTI. Its musical credo was formulated by Balilla Pratella (1880–1955) in his Manifesto of Futurist Musicians issued in Milan on 11 October 1910 and supplemented by a Technical Manifesto of Futurist Music of 11 March 1911.


On 11 March 1913 Luigi Russolo published his own Futurist Manifesto. In these declarations the Italian Futurists proclaimed their complete disassociation from classical, romantic, and IMPRESSIONIST music and announced their aim to build an entirely new music inspired by the reality of life in the new century, with the machine as the source of inspiration. And since modern machines were most conspicuous by the noise they made, Pratella and Russolo created a new art of noises, Arte dei Rumori. Russolo designed special noise instruments and subdivided them into six categories. His instruments were rudimentary and crude, with amplification obtained by megaphones, but there is no denying that the Futurists provided a prophetic vision of the electronic future of fifty years later. It is interesting to note that most Futurist musicians and poets were also painters. Their pictures, notably those of Luigi Russolo, emphasized color rather than machinelike abstractions, and generally approximated the manner of ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM. In the music by Pratella and others we find a profusion of modern devices of their Futurist day, with a foremost place given to the Whole-Tone Scale. The Futurists gave monody preference over polyphony, and steady rhythm over asymmetry. The future of the Futurists appears passé, but they opened the gates to the experimenters of the actual chronological future, which none of them lived to witness. The Italian pianist/composer/visual artist Daniele Lombardi (1946–2018) produced many respectful recordings of this music in the 21st century. —with Nicolas Slonimsky


GABO, NAUM (5 August 1890–23 August 1977; b. Naum Neemia Pevsner) Born in Russia, Gabo studied medicine and engineering in Germany before returning to his homeland in 1920. Back in Russia, he joined his older brother Antoine Pevsner (1886–1962) in drafting a Realistic Manifesto (1920) that established the principles of what became European Constructivism, in contrast to the CONSTRUCTIVISM that VLADIMIR TATUN, among others, advocated in Russia. While in Russia, Gabo made Virtual Kinetic Volume (1920, also known as Kinetic Sculpture), a vibrating strip of steel that is customarily identified as the first artwork to incorporate a motor. Taking transparency to a higher level, his later sculptures defined space not with volumes but by a frame of uniquely curved lines that became his SIGNATURE. Objecting to the Soviet government’s regimentation of artistic activities, Gabo moved west, first to BERLIN, then to Paris and to England, until he came to the United States in 1946, becoming an American citizen in 1952. Once in America, Gabo worked inventively with strings strung within a frame in a series titled Linear Construction (1942–43), while specializing in monuments, which often remained proposals, and monumental sculptures for new buildings.

GALTON, FRANCIS (16 February 1822–17 January 1911) One of the most fecund inventors of the late 19th century, he incidentally discovered in the 1880s the departure of composite photography by taking several exposures of the same person and then printing them superimposed, their eyes becoming the constant peg, to make an image unavailable not only to normal


vision but also to ordinary photography. During his long life Galton also explored meteorology (inventing the first weather map), psychology (identifying SYNAESTHESIA), acoustics, anthropology, statistics, and genetics. While most of Galton’s work was readily acceptable, as honors including a British knighthood were bestowed on him, the proto-utopian novel that he wrote in the last year of his life went unpublished for a century. Though a niece reportedly destroyed parts that she found objectionable, Kantsaywhere has since appeared, much like other lost literature, online (2011), to be recognized as precursor to a certain strain of science fiction.

GANCE, ABEL (25 October 1889–10 November 1981) Initially an actor, Gance made unsuccessful short silent films before returning to the stage. Resuming his film career during World War I, he experimented with close-ups and tracking shots, which were at the time thought to be confusing techniques. By 1917, according to the film lexicographer Ephraim Katz (1932–92), “He was considered important enough as a director for his picture to appear ahead of the stars in a film’s title sequence. This was to become a personal trademark of all Gance’s silent films.” He made the first major film about the horrors of the Great War, J’accuse/I Accuse (1919) with footage he shot with real soldiers in real battles, for successful release just after Armistice Day. His technique of quickly cutting from scene to scene, from horror to horror, influenced filmmakers coming of age at that time. After the commercial failure of La Roue (1923), which began as thirty-two reels (over five hours) before being abridged to twelve, he made his most stupendous film, Napoleon (1927), which remains a monumental masterpiece. Initially an epic on the


scale of D. W. GRIFFITH’s Intolerance (1918), it is also technically innovative. The concluding sections of the film were shot by three synchronized cameras to be shown simultaneously on three screens, in a technique resembling CINERAMA, which came thirty years later. When these additional images appear, toward the end of the film, they produce a gasp of awe, even decades later. Other parts were shot in two-camera 3-D and in color, but not used. Unfortunately, this Gance film failed commercially. One source reports that the three-screen format was seen in only eight European cities. The version shown at the time in America was so drastically butchered it was incomprehensible. Several years later, Gance recorded stereophonic sound effects that he wanted to add to the master print. Beginning in the 1930s, he made melodramas on familiar historical subjects (e.g., Lucrezia Borga, Beethoven, Cyrano, and D’Artagnan). Only in the 1970s, thanks to the culturally responsible Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola (1939), was the original three-screen version of Napoleon made available to American audiences. When I saw it at Manhattan’s immense Radio City Music Hall, it knocked me out. Though Gance lived long enough to see his innovations exploited elsewhere, he was never again encouraged to make innovative film.

GARDNER, MARTIN (21 October 1914–22 May 2010) A truly independent writer for most of his life, noted mostly for his books about science and pseudoscience, Gardner also became incidentally a primary scholar of truly eccentric literature, beginning with his elaborately annotated and introduced editions of Lewis Carroll: The Annotated Alice (1960) and The Annotated Snark (1962), the latter dealing with the more daunting Carroll text. Furthermore, some of Gardner’s appreciations of OULIPO, among other avant-garde writers mentioned here, appeared in his regular column in Scientific American, illustrating the instructive principle that literacy about advanced science might be good preparation for understanding advanced literature, and vice versa. Otherwise, Gardner’s The New Ambidextrous Universe (1964) influenced, among others, Vladimir Nabokov, who mentions the book on page 542 of his novel Ada (1969). In 1992, when JOHN ROBERT COLOMBO edited an anthology of stories less than fifty words long, he sent copies to several like-minded enthusiasts, asking in part for suggestions for a future


edition. In reply the most nominations came from Martin Gardner. On the other hand, his The Night Is Large (1996), erroneously subtitled “Collected Essays,” demonstrates the breadth and depth of Gardner’s intellectual concerns. Much like other widely published magazine writers, he wrote clearly and cleanly. Only H. L. Mencken, among modern essayists, ever published as many books that are essentially collections of essays. As no one else on such a variety of daunting subjects, his intellectual range was perhaps unrivaled. Don’t be surprised to find that no other book about contemporary art or writing honors his name.

GAUDÍ, ANTONI (25 June 1852–10 June 1926) By the measure of images alone, Gaudi was the most original architect of early modern times. Influenced by Catalonian philosophers who glorified earlier Spanish arts and crafts, Gaudi developed a taste for undulating lines, ornamental details, ornate additions, compelling materials, and colorful paint – all in sharp contrast to the austere esthetic that later informed the streamlined International Style. For instance, Gaudi’s Church of the Sagrada Familia (1883–1926, Sacred Family) has three open doorways leading to four towers intertwined at their bases, their diagonal spires rising to a height over 100 meters. At the top of each tower is an ornate echo of a flower. Though Gaudi worked on it for four decades, this church was unfinished at his death and thus more interesting for suggesting what additionally he might have done. Established in the Catalonian city of Barcelona, Gaudi distributed his buildings all over the city to give it a personal architectural definition perhaps unique in the Western world. Literally, his architecture is everywhere – not only in the famous church but in apartment houses, private mansions, a municipal park, and other buildings. Striking in pictures, his buildings are even more impressive before your eyes, especially in Barcelona where I saw them in the 21st century. Also important in Gaudi’s history are his proposals that weren’t accepted. Especially suggestive is one from 1908 for a New York hotel that, had it been completed, would have looked different from every other hotel there, not to mention other buildings, even more than a century later. Visionary he was, to a higher degree. One Gaudi assumption, made particularly clear in his later years, was that, whereas the straight line belonged to man, the curved line was God’s. Because Gaudi’s style is so eccentric, it had scarce acceptance

94 • GENDER and scattered influence. Curiously, the later masterpiece most resembling Gaudi’s esthetic is the Los Angeles Watts Towers of Simon Rodia, an Italian-American handyman who may or may not have known of Gaudi’s work. Too bad he didn’t survive long enough to work in LAS VEGAS.

them up, to humorous effect.” One problem is that such fantastic comedy in art can be easily missed, as often by those predisposed as by those opposed.

GERSHWIN, GEORGE (26 September 1898–11 July 1937)

GENDER Along with the general acceptance of homosexuality and bisexuality (among other behaviors previously regarded as “deviant”), the avant-garde has long stretched the notion of gender. Famous female avantgarde artists have adopted male attire (GERTRUDE STEIN, for one), while others, both male and female, have created their own unisexual image (ANDY WARHOL). This has degenerated in pop culture into “gender-bender” fashions – from the “moptop” longhaired male rock stars of the 1960s to the shavedhead look of the popular female Irish singer Sinead O’Connor (1966). The visual assault of gender-bending is meant to make the viewer question his or her own sexual preconceptions while expanding social acceptance for alternative ways of interhuman relating. In the best sense, these artists transform themselves into living artistic statements, to shock, to amuse, or to befuddle the general public. In the worst sense, as in the case of commercial celebrities like Madonna (1958; b. M. Ciccone), outre sex is used as the ultimate tool to sell a bill of goods. —Richard Carlin In contrast to my sometime loyal publisher, usually a smart guy, I think gender one of many current (recent?) categories that really don’t belong in this book, because its terms relate to journalism, which by definition lasts only a day, rather than to books, which are meant to last for years. Only the innocent and very young find revelation in the notion that femininity and masculinity are not biological truths but cultural constructs visible to different degrees in different people. My own opinion is that understandings based on gender have become (became?) the great heresy of a recent generation, just as intelligence based on psychotropic drugs was the great heresy of my contemporaries and alcoholic unintelligence sabotaged the best minds of a previous generation, all of which provide the illusion of insight only to those who indulge. While preparing this third edition, I discovered the initially attractive notion of “gender surfing” whose definition I reprint sooner than appropriate: “The confusing game with sexual roles whose point is to mix

His greatest innovation was inventing a distinctly American opera in Porgy and Bess (1934). Not only is it set in America, but more distinctly in AfricanAmerica, but it also favors American musical departures and American musicians. The test for the latter is syncopation, which comes from hitting a note slightly before or after what’s annotated. Europeans can’t do it without years of discovery and then practice. For instance, the song “It Ain’t Necessarily So” is best sung with an off-beat pause before the second word. Critically deprecated on its premiere, Porgy survived, notwithstanding a depressing (so “Russian”?) plot, in part because it contains such classic songs as “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” “My Man’s Done Gone,” and the immortal “Summertime.” Gershwin’s other masterpiece is the distinctly American symphony, Rhapsody in Blue (1924) that opens with a short clarinet solo. I once heard this performed by a prominent European orchestra whose lead clarinetist missed the syncopation possible in that opening phrase. For me that performance ran downhill from there. Conducting around 2015 an email symposium among colleagues asked to identify the five Greatest American Operas, I found that nearly all of us put Porgy near the on the top of our lists, which measures that just as nothing before was in the same league, so little since has been.


GESTURES, SIGNIFICANT (20th century) As a prophet of what later became known as Conceptual Art, MARCEL DUCHAMP offered a storebought urinal to a contemporary art exhibition. This exemplified a gesture that gained significance from its appearance in a populous art exhibition, rather than in a hardware store. So did Duchamp’s refusal afterwards to make art; likewise later prominent artists’ refusal(s) differ, say, from an art student’s.


Another significant gesture was JOHN CAGE’s positioning silence in a concert where music was expected. So established is the custom of identifying value wholly by an artist’s personal history and/or ART WORLD situations that, especially in the 21st century, comparable purported anti-art artists’ moves often seem, especially if insufficiently based in some flimsy context, to be exploiting trivially some “artistic” privilege. Significant gestures are, needless to say perhaps, different from dancers’ or painters’ physical movements and also from artists’ personal gifts.

GIEDIONS (Carola G.-Welcker, 1893–1979; Sigfried, 1888–1968) While many very young critical historians love and marry with the hope of abetting each other’s careers, few couples produced the achievements of the Giedions. Becoming the more prominent, Siegfried produced Space, Time, and Architecture (1941), which became for decades the seminal book for understanding modernist architecture. His other sweeping masterpiece, Mechanization Takes Command (1948), portrays technological development as “Anonymous History.” She wrote a biography of PAUL KLEE (1961) and Modern Sculpture (1977), among other books of art history, in addition to editing two taste-making anthologies – Poètes à l’Écart/ anthologie der abseitigen (1946, Offside Poetry) and Fonts 1926–1971 (1973). In the late 1920s their Zurich home welcomed many artists and writers residing there including HANS ARP and JAMES JOYCE. Without the Giedions’ efforts, together and later apart, modernist understanding would have been less.

GILBERT AND GEORGE (G. Proesch, 17 September 1943; and G. Passmore, 8 January 1942) Meeting as sculpture students at the St. Martin’s School of Art in 1967, these two men, billed only with their first names, have worked together ever since. Their initial innovation was to exhibit themselves as “living sculptures,” cleanly dressed in identical gray suits, their faces and hands usually painted silver, one bespectacled and the other not. In vaudeville-like, scheduled performances that had announced beginnings, they would typically sing “Underneath the Arches,” a British music hall passé tune, again and again. Or they would pose on a museum’s stairway for several hours straight, earning


newspaper articles with titles like “Living Sculptures” or “They Keep Stiff for Hours.” They issued resonant statements: “Being living Sculpture is our life blood.” They’ve insisted upon being regarded as not a duet or a partnership but a single artist. In the early 1970s, Gilbert and George were ubiquitous, illustrating how rapidly and internationally a truly original idea can find acceptance in visual-arts venues. In 1970 alone, they had over a dozen solo exhibitions in venues as various as museums in Dusseldorf, Krefeld, Oxford, Copenhagen, Stuttgart, Turin, and Oslo, and private galleries in Milan, London, BERLIN, Cologne, and Amsterdam. Not unlike celebrities in other cultural domains, they exploited their fame to produce book-art, videotapes, drawings, and, especially large photographs arrayed in photogrids, most of which portrayed them in various posed circumstances, some of which portray naked young males including themseves. Hellish (1980), among the strongest (appearing on the cover of a 1980 exhibition catalog) has one man in profile, colored yellow, sticking his tongue out toward the other, in contrary profile, his face evenly red, with his mouth open only inches away, as though he would soon receive his colleague’s tongue. The work measures 240 centimeters by 300 centimeters (or roughly 8 feet by 11 feet), in twenty-four separate panels. Gilbert and George’s “book as a sculpture,” Dark Shadow (1974), portrays in photographs and texts a decadent world that seems to lie behind their self-consciously neat appearance. Catalogs about Gilbert and George resemble hagiography in glorifying what would normally seem trivial, in part because nearly all featured pictures of themselves. (As photographers, they were curiously far less successful than ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE at making nude bodies appear sculptural in a two-dimensional medium.) Though neither was born in English, they have become British artists, even if untypical in producing a decidedly urban art that ignores the countrysides. Their names together echo a British twosome renowned a century before for their charming operettas.

GINSBERG, ALLEN (3 June 1926–5 April 1997) The avant-garde Ginsberg is the author not of postWhitmanian lines that survive in the head of every literate American but of certain sound poems that he published without musical notation. (He also published, as well as sang, many conventionally configured songs.) One of them, “Fie My Fum,” appears in his Collected Poems (1984), while most do not. An example is

96 • GLASS, PHILIP “Put Down Yr Cigarette Rag,” whose verses conclude with variations on the refrain “dont smoke dont smoke dont smoke dont smoke”: “Nine billion bucks for dope/ approved by Time & Life/ America’s lost hope/ The President smokes his wife/ Dont Smoke dont smoke dont smoke dont smoke dont smoke nope/ nope nope nope.” Especially when I heard Ginsberg perform this, I wished he produced more poems like it.


The requirements of music theater, as he prefers to call it, made his music more accessible and his name more familiar, as it did for AARON COPLAND before him. Glass’s composing in the 1980s became more lyrical and more charming, which is to say devoid of those earlier challenging characteristics that might make it problematic to his new, larger audience.

GODARD, JEAN-LUC (3 December 1930)

(31 January 1937) Traditionally trained, not only at the Juilliard conservatory but with the legendary teacher Nadia Boulanger (1887–1979) in Paris, Glass began as a conventional composer before creating music of distinction: a sequence of pieces that included Strung Out (1967), Music in Similar Motion (1969), Music in Contrary Motion (1969), and Music in Fifths (1969). Essentially monophonic, these compositions have lines of individual notes, with neither harmonies nor counterpoint; they are tonal without offering melodies, accessible without being seductive. What made this music seem radical in the 1960s was its avoidance of all the principal issues that preoccupied nearly all contemporary composers at that time – issues such as chance and control, serialism, and atonality, improvisation and spontaneity. It is scarcely surprising that before his music was performed in concert halls it was heard in art galleries and in art museums. Though this music was frequently characterized as MINIMAL, the epithet MODULAR is more appropriate for Glass (as well as STEVE REICH and Terry Riley, among others) in that severely circumscribed bits of musical material are repeated in various ways. One minor innovation is that even in live concerts Glass’s music would usually be heard through amplifiers, the man at the electronic mixing board (Kurt Munkasci) becoming one of the acknowledged “musicians.” Within Music with Changing Parts (1970), Glass moved progressively from monophony, in its opening moments, to a greater polyphonic complexity and then, toward its end, into the kinds of modulations that would inform his next major work, Music in Twelve Parts (1974), an exhaustive four-hour piece that epitomizes Glass’s compositional ideas at that time and remains, in my opinion, the zenith of his avant-garde art. Glass subsequently moved into operatic collaborations, beginning with Einstein on the Beach (1976, with ROBERT WILSON) and then SATYAGRAHA (1980, based upon Mahatma Gandhi’s early years), among other operas.

While working toward a Certificate in Ethnology at the Sorbonne, Jean-Luc Godard regularly attended meetings and screenings at the Cine-Club du Quartier Latin. By all accounts, the young Godard was obsessed by movies, developing a taste for American films that struggled against the Hollywood system (the cigar-munching Samuel Fuller appears in Godard’s Pierrot le Fou [1965] as himself and defines “movies”). Godard also developed an immediate dislike and, more importantly, distrust of overt commercial cinema, particularly of French origins. Godard’s contribution to the New Wave was always the most experimental, most confrontational, and most political of those of the directors connected to him. His New Wave films attacked the very grammar of traditional cinema. His first film was a shock to the system of movies: À Bout de Souffle (Breathless) (1960) is a “gangster” film that reshapes the language of the commercial film through technical experimentation – jump cuts, a shaky camera, a wild pace – at the same time that it questions the form. All of Godard’s films of the 1960s work in this manner because a Godard film is always an essay on film. Between the years 1960–67, Godard produced a staggering fifteen films, including some of the classics of the New Wave: Vivre sa Vie (1962), Les Carabiniers (1963), Une Femme Mariée (1964), and Alphaville (1965). His films were also political critiques, exemplified by the examination of the war in Le Petit Soldat (1960), which was banned by the French government until 1963, and La Chinoise (1967). Weekend (1967) ended the first phase of Godard’s career at the same time that it depicted the end of Western civilization. Denouncing cinema as “bourgeois,” Godard made the art “disappear” as he turned to a new form: “revolutionary films for revolutionary people.” From 1968 to 1973 Godard made films as a part of the Marxist filmmaking collective known as the DzigaVertov group. If Bertolt Brecht had been an influence on Godard’s “alienation” of traditional cinema, then it was Brecht’s political example that pushed Godard into making films such as One Plus One (Sympathy for


the Devil) (1968) and See You at Mao (1969). The former work featured factory noise so excruciating that it is difficult to listen to. One Plus One (Sympathy for the Devil) was famous for featuring the Rolling Stones working on a record album; it was also an infamous film for the fight Godard waged with the film’s producer over the final cut. Godard’s cut had the Stones working on a set of songs without any conclusion to their efforts – the revolution is not complete. The early 1970s marked Godard’s break with the Marxist group, although he still kept his confrontational politics. He began experiments with mixing film and video in works entitled Numeró deux (1975), which he said was a “remake” of Breathless, and Comment ça va? (1975). This mixture of film and video led to his first feature film in almost eight years: Sauve qui peut (1980). The main character of this return to film is a Godard alter ego who teaches a class on cinema. Critical awareness of the evolution of film Godard brought to the films that follow, most notably the controversial retelling of the immaculate conception in Je vous salue, Marie (Hail Mary) (1984), and the story of a God in a man’s body that is Hélas pour moi (1993). Godard’s next project was a video work begun in 1989 called Histoire(s) du cinéma. A history of film, Godard’s ongoing video, whose latest segments were completed in 1997, combines images from painting, film, and sculpture to form a collage of ideas and impressions. It is an unfinished essay on watching film by someone who destroyed movies before breathing avant-garde life back into them. —John Rocco

GOETHE, JOHANN WOLFGANG VON (28 August 1749–22 March 1832) Aside from appreciating the quality of his various works, he should be remembered as the first writer to amplify the frame of what a writer could do. Remembered as the author of classic plays in both verse and prose, he wrote a first novel, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (1774, 1787, The Sorrows of Young Werther), that established his fame. Afterwards came other fiction, poetry, literary criticism, polemics on esthetics, jurisprudence, texts about botany and anatomy, a treatise on color, memoirs, and a classic autobiography. In addition, he left behind a wealth of resonant unfinished texts worth study and nearly 3,000 drawings. Simply, he exploited fame not to redo his earlier success, as a


commercial hack might, but as a springboard for his expansive cultural imagination. Less a polymath (like LEONARDO DA VINCI) than a writer whose career exemplified what we later call POLYARTISTRY, Goethe would stand as a model. One curiosity is that, notwithstanding his sophistication and success, he chose to reside not in a major cultural center but in a small city, Weimar, where for decades he stood as king (“von”) of a low hill.

GOLDBERG, RUBE (4 July 1883–7 December 1970; b. Reuben Lucius G.) Do not dismiss Goldberg as a mere cartoonist, because his stylistically unique pictures tell within single frames complicated stories leading his readers mostly with words through narrative steps that are filled with unobvious moves sometimes defying reality. His theme becomes the ironic relation between effort and result. By making a simple move needlessly complex they satirize a certain modern predisposition. By no measure are they “cartoons” whose point can be understood instantly, which is to say that, for all their resemblance to popular art, they approach more serious work by requiring of their readers time merely to go back and forth between the verbal and the visual. As visual literature, they tell within a single frame stories with a protagonist who must overcome obstacles. It is not for nothing that his influence can be observed in the kinetic sculpture of George Rhoads and the poetic art of David Morice, among others. Remember that, much like ALEXANDER CALDER and certain other idiosyncratic artists, Goldberg earned a degree in engineering, from the University of California at Berkeley no less. And that he published for sixty-five years and, finally, might be the only individual featured in this book ever to earn a Pulitzer Prize.

GOMBRICH, E. H. (30 March 1909–3 November 2001; b. Ernst Hans Josef G.) Born in Vienna, he immigrated to England in the 1930s and learned to write in English several major books that placed him among the towering figures in 20th-century art history. One theme important to him was establishing that new art comes mostly out of previous art and thus that it gains value from contributing to previous acknowledged achievements, also thus implicitly

98 • GOREY, EDWARD minimizing claims to superior personal experience. Though he was in his own tastes no fan of any avantgarde, this principle becomes useful in recognizing the value of various developments, including CONCEPTUAL ART. Attending Gombrich’s graduate seminar at the Warburg Institute, London, in the spring of 1965, I was initially puzzled by what appeared to be contrary strong opinions, praising as he did the philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) and Karl Popper (1902–94), along with SIGMUND FREUD! I had to be told that the key to his loyalties was Gombrich’s native city in the 1920s, when all three of his masters resided there. Thus, by contrast, people or ideas that he could identify as contributing to Vienna’s later decline were deprecated. Amazed I was that an intellectual with such profound ideas could favor such a simplistic principle in his specific judgments. Nevertheless, he died Sir Ernest.

GOREY, EDWARD (22 February 1925–15 April 2000) Gorey became the master of visual fiction, which is to say images, generally composed of pictures mixed with words, whose sequences suggest narrative. Superficially similar to comic books in their use of successive panels, Gorey’s stories are generally more profound in theme and more serious in subject, with an adult use of language and more detailed pictures. In an extreme Gorey work, like “The West Wing,” the images appear without words; for “The Wuggly Ump,” he added color. Gorey also produced literary ballets or scenarios for dance. His works look superficially similar as well to the work of Frans Masereel, who likewise produced successive panels suggesting narrative; but Gorey is a far superior craftsman with a superior narrative imagination. Though Gorey’s SIGNATURE is well known, thanks to his distinctive book covers and their publication in prominent magazines, his visual narratives are not acknowledged in histories or encyclopedias of American fiction. Curiously, Gorey is probably the most prominent visual artist ever to graduate from Harvard College, his work reflecting in its literacy an Ivy League education.

GORGEOUS GEORGE (24 March 1915–26 December 1963; b. George Raymond Wagner) Within the theatrical universe of “professional wrestling,” he was the innovative figure who starred not with

his martial skills but through his extravagant appearance that broke established proscriptions. Less than 6 feet tall, weighing slightly over 200 pounds, George Wagner dominated the roped stage by dying his hair platinum blonde and letting it grow long enough to need gold bobby pins. Audaciously renaming himself, he appeared with a sequined robe, smelling of perfume, and appearing effeminate (though long-married). His elaborate entrance included a factotum who laid down a red carpet and carried a silver mirror while spreading rose petals at George’s feet. Especially in the 1950s, he became a television star whom fans loved to love or to hate, also drawing an appreciative audience that paid money simply to see him live. Able to negotiate for 50 percent of the ticket receipts, George became for a while the highest paid “athlete” in the world. His extravagant theatrical style influenced not only sportsmen such as MUHAMMED ALI, who actually met George when he was still Cassius Clay, and later exhibition wrestlers (athletic clowns) but pop singers such as Elvis Presley (1935–77) and James Brown (1933–2006). The latter once told his biographer that he donned costumes even to venture outside his house because he needed to appear like someone whom “people paid to see.”

GORMLEY, ANTONY (3 August 1950) The British artist Gormley and Robert Gober have been the two principal young sculptors to focus on figurative work through the 1980s and 1990s, a period in which sculptors have largely moved away from representation of the human form and experimented with found materials arranged in large installations. Whereas Gober builds tableaux that frequently, but not always, include the figure, Gormley works almost exclusively with the human form. By casting in lead, he creates life-sized figures that are usually stiffly upright, almost mummified, and softly defined. The gray, characterless images wear a grid work of highly visible horizontal and vertical white seams where the parts have been assembled, and Gormley distributes them in odd positions around the exhibition space. They lie flat on their backs, float horizontally with feet against the wall, hang with their heads embedded in the ceiling. On occasion, they roll up in a ball, lie spreadeagled with arms and legs thrown out, or sit on their haunches. And sometimes Gormley turns to other images: airplanes, fish, enormous spheres. But these works stand apart from his principal thrust. Gormley has observed that he is interested


in “materializing perhaps for the first time, the space within the body. . . . To realize embodiment, without really worrying too much about mimesis, about representation in a traditional way.” His purpose is to instigate a sense of the body’s inner cavity as the focus of a meditative state. The evident seams on his figures give them the appearance of being hollow, vessels containing something within. Their lack of animation makes them seem less like living beings and more like shells of life, and their frequent hovering suggests an otherworldliness. —Mark Daniel Cohen

GOULD, GLENN (25 September 1932–4 October 1982) While Gould’s piano performances represented a stunning departure from standard classical interpretation, especially in his recordings of J. S. BACH, they gained immediate acceptability that was not bestowed upon his creative works, which were audiotape compositions of speech and sound done mostly for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The first three portray isolation in Canada: The Idea of North (1967) focuses on individuals who live near the Arctic Circle; The Latecomers (1969) depicts Newfoundland; and Quiet in the Land (1973) portrays religious fundamentalists. A second trilogy deals with the musicians A RNOLD SCHOENBERG, L EOPOLD S TOKOWSKI , and Richard Strauss (1864–1949), again incorporating interviews into an audio montage that gives the illusion of a live symposium with ingeniously appropriate musical backgrounds. Gould also collaborated with the French musician Bruno Monsaingeon (1943) in producing what remains, in my judgment, the most exquisite and unaffected film/ video ever of musical performance, The Goldberg Variations (1981). Otherwise, Gould was a brilliant and witty writer, especially about the revolution implicit in recordings. In his highly imaginative reinterpretations of certain classical piano music, Gould successfully made familiar repertoire unfamiliar until, thanks to recordings, his performances gained increasing acceptance. Measuring his greatness, these recordings are treasured decades after they were initially issued. His closest competitor as a profoundly radical pianist, often favoring a different repertoire, was the Russian Sviatoslav Richter (1915–97), who incidentally honored Gould, who extended to Richter great respect in return.


GRAHAM, MARTHA (11 May 1894–1 April 1991) Initially noted for her dynamic performing presence, this American modern dance pioneer also developed a unique technique for movement. Trained with the Denishawn company, she broke from its style, which was indebted to ballet and François Delsarte (1811– 71), to explore deep motions of the torso, especially “contraction and release.” A barefoot modern to the end (despite an occasional sandal), she nonetheless increasingly encouraged performing virtuosity in her dancers. In her long, sustained career as a choreographer, Graham created over 200 works, including such early ABSTRACT and EXPRESSIONIST pieces as Lamentation (1930), in which, enshrouded in fabric and poised on a bench, she enacted grief distilled through her movements and gestures. She explored American forms and themes in Primitive Mysteries (1931), inspired by Native American ritual, and in Letter to the World (1950), which was based on Emily Dickinson’s poetry and life. Graham developed narrative dances exploring Jungian theory and Greek mythology in works such as Cave of the Heart (1946) and the evening-length Clytemnestra (1958). She explored alternative narrative devices such as flashback in Seraphic Dialogue (1955). Although the predominant feeling of her work was dark and serious, notable exceptions include the joyous Diversion of Angels (1948) and her last work, the surprising Maple Leaf Rag (1990) to music by Scott Joplin, which poked fun at her own stylistic conventions. For her set designs she invited many notable artists, including ISAMU NOGUCHI. Due to her significance, longevity, and relative accessibility, more has been written about her than anyone else in American modern dance. —Katy Matheson

GRAPHIC NARRATIVE (1919) This, along with graphic novel, has become the accepted term for sequences of visual panels, sometimes including words, that for “reading” depend upon readers’ moving eyes from one frame to another, often by turning printed pages, but also sometimes from upper-left frames across to upper right, and then down eventually to lower right. I prefer Narrative to “Novel,” because many are shorter than book-length, while some aren’t fictional at all. (For early non-fictional graphic

100 • GRAPHIC NOTATION narrative, consider James Reid’s The Life of Christ in Woodcuts [1930], which lacks words, and Charles Turzak’s Abraham Lincoln: A Biography in Woodcuts [1933], which accompany short paragraphs.) Among the first, with one wordless panel to a page, were Frans Masereel’s oft-reprinted Passionate Journey (1919) and, in America, Hearts of Gold: The Great American Novel (and Not a Word in It – No Music too) (1930), by Milt Gross otherwise known for his comic strips, this second book in particular suggesting that Graphic Narratives are highbrow comics. In my anthology Breakthrough Fictioneers (1973) are “Process Poems” by two Brazilians, Moacy Cirne (1943–2014) and Alvaro da Sá (1935–2001), who put within a single page many tiny panels that in sequence suggest a narrative, much as comic strips do when reprinted in books. For me (though not some others) this epithet would include at one extreme certain narratives that are composed entirely of photos (e.g., Duane Michals) and, on another edge, books only of words where “reading” depends entirely upon turning pages, such as Emmett Williams’s Sweethearts. Online must be graphic narratives requiring the viewer to hit a key to move from one image to the next, which is the equivalent of turning the page. By avant-garde standards, abstract graphic ficton represents a higher form. The category Graphic Narratives should not include “narrative painting” that customarily within a single image suggests a moment within an ongoing story.

GRAPHIC NOTATION (1920s) Ever since 1000 A.D., when Guido d’Arezzo drew a line to mark the arbitrary height of pitch, musical notation has been geometric in its symbolism. The horizontal coordinate of the music staff still represents the temporal succession of melodic notes, and the vertical axis indicates the simultaneous use of two or more notes in a chord. Duration values have, through the centuries of evolution, been indicated by the color and shape of notes and stems to which they were attached. The composers of the avant-garde eager to reestablish the mathematical correlation between the coordinates of the musical axes have written scores in which the duration was indicated by proportional distance between the notes. Undoubtedly such geometrical precision contributes to the audio-visual clarity of notation, but it is impractical in actual usage. A passage

in whole-notes or half-notes followed by a section in rapid rhythms would be more difficult to read than the imprecise notation inherited from the past. In orchestral scores, there is an increasing tendency to cut off the inactive instrumental parts in the middle of the page rather than to strew such vacuums with a rash of rests. A graphic system of tablature notation was launched in Holland under the name Klavarskribo, an Esperanto word meaning keyboard writing. It has been adopted in many schools in Holland. New sounds demanded new notational symbols. Henry Cowell, who invented tone-clusters, notated them by drawing thick vertical lines attached to a stem. Similar notation was used for similar effects by the Russian composer Vladimir Rebikov. In his book New Musical Resources, Cowell tackled the problem of non-binary rhythmic division and outlined a plausible system that would satisfy this need by using square, triangular, and rhomboid shapes of notes. Alois Haba of Czechoslovakia, a pioneer in microtonal music, devised special notation for quarter-tones, third-tones, and sixth-tones. As long as the elements of pitch, duration, intervallic extension, and polyphonic simultaneity remain in force, the musical staff can accommodate these elements more or less adequately. Then noises were introduced by the Italian Futurists into their works. In his compositions, the Futurist Luigi Russolo drew a network of curves, thick lines, and zigzags to represent each particular noise. But still the measure and the proportional lengths of duration retained their validity. The situation changed dramatically with the introduction of aleatory processes and the notion of INDETERMINACY of musical elements. The visual appearance of aleatory scores assumes the aspect of ideograms. JOHN CAGE, in particular, remodeled the old musical notation so as to give improvisatory latitude to the performer. The score of his Variations I suggests the track of cosmic rays in a cloud chamber. His Cartridge Music looks like an exploding supernova, and his Fontana Mix is a projection of irregular curves upon a strip of graph paper. The Polish avant-garde composer Krzysztof Penderecki uses various graphic symbols to designate such effects as the highest possible sound on a given instrument, free improvisation within a certain limited range of chromatic notes, or icositetraphonic tone-clusters. In music for mixed media, notation ceases to function per se, giving way to pictorial representation of the actions or psychological factors involved. Indeed, the modern Greek composer Jani Christo introduces the Greek letter psi to indicate the psychology of the musical action, with geometric ideograms and masks symbolizing changing mental states ranging from complete


passivity to panic. The score of Passion According to Marquis de Sade by Sylvano Bussotti looks like a surrealistic painting with musical notes strewn across its path. The British avant-garde composer Cornelius Cardew draws black and white circles, triangles, and rectangles to indicate musical action. Iannis Xenakis prefers to use numbers and letters, indicating the specific tape recordings to be used in his musical structures. Some composers abandon the problem of notation entirely, recording their inspirations on tape. The attractiveness of a visual pattern is a decisive factor. The American avant-garde composer EARLE BROWN draws linear abstractions of singular geometric excellence. KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN often supplements his analytical charts by elucidatory (or tantalizingly obscurative) annotations. The chess grandmaster Tarrasch said of a problematical chess move: “If it is ugly, it is bad.” Mutatis mutandis, the same criterion applies to a composer’s musical graph. —Nicolas Slonimsky

GRIFFITH, D. W. (22 January 1875–23 July 1948; b. David Llewelyn Wark G.) Initially among the most prolific directors of early silent films, Griffith belongs here less for his general achievement than for a single film, Intolerance (1916), which in crucial respects transcended everything made before it. Among the film’s innovations was its structure of telling four separate but interwoven stories (“The Modern Story,” “The Judean Story,” “The French Story,” and “The Babylonian Story”) that were linked by the common theme announced in its title and explained in an opening statement. The technical departure of interweaving four stories (more than a decade before WILLIAM FAULKNER’s structurally similar The Sound and the Fury, 1929) gives the film a fugal form, a grand scope, and a historical resonance previously unknown and subsequently rare. As the independent film scholar Seymour Stern (1908–78) pointed out, Griffith worked without a script, even editing from memory, meaning there was nothing for his corporate bosses to approve prior to his making the film. The spectacle is a reflection, in Stern’s luminous phrases, of a creative titan’s hand, moving puppet-forces, but moving them in a resplendent esthetic of coordinated masses, counterpoised rhythms, orchestrated tempos, parallel movements, structured multiple movement-forces, configurations both


static and dynamic, visual confluences of timeless space, imagistic symphonies of people, objects, and light: the filmic architecture of history and tragedy beyond emotion and beyond criticism. The surviving print has occasional verbal frames, contrary to Griffith’s original intention of making a purely visual film with the integrity of a Beethoven string quartet. Griffith also varied the size and shape of the screen, forecasting images of alternative projection, including circular screens and the ratios of CINEMASCOPE. Perhaps because of the commercial failure of Intolerance, only more modest films would follow. Much of his energies were then devoted to finding better ways for serious directors to fund their films, first by cofounding the collaborative United Artists Corporation (with Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks), later by legally incorporating himself, all without sufficient success to permit him to control his subsequent filmmaking. He died alone and forgotten in a Hollywood hotel room.

GROTOWSKI, JERZY (11 August 1933–14 January 1999) From modest professional beginnings directing a theatrical company in the small Polish city of Opole (formerly Oppeln) and then another in Wroclav (formerly Breslau), Grotowski quickly became known for radical stagings. He put the audience for Calderon de la Barca’s The Constant Prince on a four-sided shelf behind a high wooden fence, so that spectators had to stand and peer like voyeurs over the barrier. His production of Stanislaw Wyspiański’s (1869–1907) Akropolis (1904) required performers to build structures through the audience. He also cut and transposed texts, resetting their action. Grotowski was so successful that, when he returned to America the following year, he gave lectures titled “Misconceptions in the United States about the Grotowski Method.” He wrote provocatively: “The actors can play among the spectators, directly contacting the audience and giving it a passive role in the drama.” For his 1969 New York productions of several plays, he limited attendance to one hundred people and the duration of the PERFORMANCE to only one hour. In his Theatre Trip (1969), the sometime theater critic Michael Smith (1935) describes a laying area “roughly fifteen feet by twenty-five feet” for Grotowski’s The Constant Prince. The actors are often within arm’s reach, they play continuously at an ecstatic level of energy, they are

102 • GUERRILLA GIRLS sometimes all but naked, their concentration is perfect. The sound and movements they make are indescribably extravagant, and their extravagance is given force by impeccable discipline and control. One looks down upon them from a very close range. One might be examining them under a microscope – but they are full size, human, alive. Grotowski says that the spectator must see the beads of sweat on the actor’s face. The experience is absolutely enthralling, altogether too much to take in. The theme of Grotowski’s book Towards a Poor Theater (1970) was that performance could exist without lights, music, or scenery. All it required was one performer and one spectator. Grotowski also developed an innovative program for training actors for extraordinary, almost superhuman (e.g. trancelike) performances and inhuman sounds. Much of the influence of the pedagogy depended at the time upon the extraordinary actor Ryszard (Richard) Cieślak (1937–90). Sometime in the 1970s, Grotowski became, no joke, a Southern California academic, before resettling in Pontedera, Italy, where he died. He was also one of the few individuals featured in this book to get a MacArthur “genius” grant, perhaps because avant-garde stars are more acceptable to certain American funders if they are foreign-born.

GUERRILLA GIRLS (1985) The specialty of this scrupulously anonymous collective is the provocative poster, customarily realized with considerable irony and wit. Such posters appear wherever they can be placed, beginning with the walls of New York’s SOHO but including other venues, such as pages of magazines. The posters customarily have a large-type headline over a series of short assertions. My favorite is headlined “Relax Senator Helms, the Art World Is Your Kind of Place” (1989). Among the assertions, each preceded by a bullet, in ironic reference to advertising styles, are: “Museums are separate but equal. No female black painter or sculptor has been in a Whitney Biennial since 1973. Instead, they can show at the Studio Museum in Harlem or the Women’s Museum in Washington”; “The majority of exposed penises in major museums belong to the Baby Jesus.” These statements are not just true, but stylishly presented; and when radicals are appealing to people receptive to art, that last quality helps. Surprised may I be that decades later no individual has broken the commitment to collective anonymity.

Could they all pass without historians ever identifying who they were?

GUGGENHEIM FOUNDATION (1925) It was an extraordinary move, really, for an independent entity to give modest sums to artists (and scholars) applying to do whatever they wished for a year or two, and in this respect the Foundation established by the Guggenheim family, in memory of a son who died young, set a good example. Based on private money, rather than state money (or royal money), the Guggenheim Foundation was accountable only to itself. This differed from private patronage, such as Peggy Guggenheim’s (from the same family), wherein rich people support someone they know, whose work or company pleases them personally, for several years at least. Rather than rely on their own tastes or a single trusted advisor, as most private patrons do, the Guggenheim Foundation established selection committees that would review applications in which supplicants propose the projects that each wishes to pursue. Over the years, thanks largely to the genuine leadership of its initial principal administrator, Henry Allen Moe (1894–1975), the Guggenheim Foundation differed from less distinguished funders by including genuinely avant-garde artists, including many featured in this book. Of course, it missed opportunities, as when ARNOLD SCHOENBERG applied in the mid-1940s to complete the third act of his opera Moses und Aron; and it wasted profligately, as in awarding four fellowships in the 1930s to a middling composer named DANTE FIORELLO, who vanished physically in the early 1950s. Whereas Guggenheim grants at the beginning funded those who were young and barely known, it was widely thought in the 1960s and 1970s that the Guggenheim Foundation, less secure in its decision making, would fund only people whose work had already been recognized elsewhere, the Foundation in effect putting its rubber stamp on someone, probably in mid-career, already approved (in implicit exchange for their subsequently acknowledging the Guggenheim tag in their biographies). Like all arts funders, this patron should get credit for what it actually does, not what it says it wants to do. The best that can be said is that the Guggenheim Foundation has made culture happen that would not otherwise have happened; since much of this new


culture was good, the beneficiaries ultimately included a public larger than the initial artist. Of the later independent foundations, few have equaled the Pollock-Krasner, established by JACKSON POLLOCK’s widow in the 1980s (with money earned from art, not commerce), in supporting a large number of needy artists (mostly painters and sculptors). Too many other funding programs, by contrast, support remarkably few people, often of indistinct quality, with too much fanfare (aka “publicity”), so that a skeptic observing results inevitably questions why and thus how it selected its beneficiaries, rather than others more deserving, whose work is demonstrably superior.

GUTAI ART ASSOCIATION (1954–72) A group of Japanese artists, trained in various disciplines including law and literature, founded in Osaka by Jiro Yoshihara (1905–72), who incidentally also headed a large cooking oil business, they produced collective paintings and PERFORMANCE pieces, some of them quite spectacular. They favored materials odd to art, such as smoke, colored water, mud, chemicals; they explored time. The first Gutai exhibition in Tokyo, October 1955, included Saburo Murakami’s Paper Tearing and Kazuo Shiraga’s Challenging Mud, both of which were influential. Yoshihara founded a journal named Gutai that lasted a decade (1955–65) and issued The Gutai Manifesto in 1956. Among the other participants were Atsuko Tanaka (1932–2005), Sadamasa Motonaga (1922–2011), Kazuo Shiraga (1924–2008), and Minuru Yoshida (1935–2010). The theatricist Michael Kirby describes them as expanding the means used in the action of painting. One artist tied a paintbrush to a toy tank and exhibited the marks it left on the canvas; others


painted with their feet, with boxing gloves made of rags and dipped in paint, or by throwing bottles filled with paint at a canvas with rocks under it. Kirby continues: In 1957 the Gutai presented more formal theater works for an audience. A large plastic bag filled with red smoke was pushed through a hole at the back of the stage and inflated. Smoke puffed out through holes in the side. Another presentation employed a large box with three transparent plastic walls and one opaque white wall. Performers inside the box dropped balls of paper into buckets of paint and threw them against the white wall, coloring the surface. Then colored water was thrown against the plastic walls that separated the spectators from the performers. The critic Udo Kultermann (1927–2013) writes, The Gutai artists built huge figures after designs by Atsuko Tanaka and lighted them from the inside with strings of colored lamps. The lamps flashed rhythmically, suggesting such disparate effects as outdoor advertising and blood circulation. A moving strip covered with footprints snaked across the forest floor and up a tree. There were also spatial constructions that could be entered, traffic signs, jellyfish-shaped mounds of mud, plastic, and rope, stuffed sacks hanging from trees tied with ribbons. Shiraga thrashed around for twenty minutes in clay that he had piled in a courtyard. I’ve seen a photo of Ms. Tanaka’s face barely visible behind an abundance of fluorescent tubes mostly in color. As far as I can tell, this major avant-garde group mostly disbanded by the middle 1960s, the individual members pursuing separate, less consequential careers. Yoshihara’s death in 1972 ended it. The name Gutai could be translated into English as “embodiment” or “concrete.”


HÁBA, ALOIS (21 June 1893–18 November 1973) Discovering sounds between the familiar twelve tones to a scale, he explored quarter tones, as he called them, in his Suite for String Orchestra (1917) and then in a large body of works incorporating not just quarter tones but fifth and sixth tones, for ensembles ranging from pianos to string quartets to operas. His theoretical treatises are available only through excerpts quoted here and there. In the mysterious politics informing modern-music performance, this innovative Czech’s works are largely more forgotten than those by his contemporaries: Americans such as Charles Ives and Henry Cowell, and certain Viennese.

HAMILTON, RICHARD (24 February 1922–12 September 2011) A supremely adventurous and persistent British artist, he worked in several areas, some more successfully than others. Interpreting less than imagining, he drew often upon public information and images. In 1960, while MARCEL DUCHAMP was still alive, Hamilton produced a typographic version of the older artist’s original notes for the design and construction for The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors. Hamilton later made copies of his master’s often fragile oeuvre for exhibitions, including the legendary Large Glass long at London’s Tate Modern. His appropriation of images from advertising, particularly a body-builder in 1956, marked him as a precursor of POP ART, notwithstanding a COLLAGE less than one foot square. Among Hamilton’s more ambitious projects, in progress for decades, were illustrations for JAMES JOYCE’s ULYSSES. His collaboration with DIETER ROTH was fecund and strong enough to be remembered in a solo book.


As Hamilton aged, his unusually long face with a long nose became his principal SIGNATURE. “A maddeningly difficult artist to place,” to the British critic David Sylvester (1924–2001), this British treasure earned not one or two but a whopping three retrospectives at the august Tate Museum, not in its provincial branches, but in London itself, each exhibition significantly different from the others.

HAMILTON FINLAY, IAN (28 October 1925–27 March 2006) Would that I liked his work more, because he is among the few contemporaries to be honored in the histories of both contemporary poetry and contemporary visual art. He began as a conventional Scottish poet whose first book, The Dancers Inherit the Party (1960), contained traditional rhymed sentiments about people in the Scottish outlands. Within a few years, he had become the principal Scottish participant in international CONCRETE POETRY, often writing poems that were just collections of nouns. An example is “Little Calendar”: april light light light light may light trees light trees June trees light trees light July trees trees trees trees august trees light trees light September lights trees lights trees His next development was VISUAL POEMS that transcended the limitations of the printed page, some of them created in collaboration with professional craftsmen and visual artists. Many of these pieces began as additions to his home garden in Lanarkshire, a remote area he rarely left because he regarded it (and thus the works collected there) as a refuge from the cruel modern world. As Hamilton Finlay’s work assumed more political themes in the 1980s (and he came into conflict with


cultural officials over one issue or another), his pieces have often been included in thematic exhibitions that were installed outdoors. His five-acre home garden, Little Sparta in Lanarkshire, Scotland, became his masterwork. In the British tradition, his surname properly opens with the letter H.

HANDICAPS/DISADVANTAGES One of the hidden truths informing avant-garde creation is that many major figures overcame severe professional limitations that would have defeated less determined people. After JOHN CAGE’s teacher judged that the aspiring composer had no talent for harmony, the younger man composed musics independent of harmony. As GERTRUDE STEIN lacked competence with conventional sentences, she wrote something else. As MERCE CUNNINGHAM was born too tight-jointed to make the flexible extensions favored by most dancers, he developed other movements as both a dancer and choreographer. As JACKSON POLLOCK was limited at his easel, he developed another way to apply painting to canvas. Many distinguished modern visual artists couldn’t pass an elementary class on “drawing.” My own juvenile efforts at linear prose fiction were dismissed by a novelist once prominent well before I produced radical narratives barely dependent upon imaginative “prose.” One conclusion behind this observation is that certain major avant-garde artists courageously transcended a genuine lack of innate “talent,” sometimes because they develop a strong esthetic idea that incorporated an intelligence of its own. As the great Dutch footballer JOHAN CRUYFF understood: “Every disadvantage has its advantage.” Such achievement should be neither disrespected nor discouraged.

HAPPENING (1958) Coined by Allan Kaprow, a gifted wordsmith as well as an innovative artist, for his particular kind of nonverbal, Mixed-Means theatrical piece, this term came, in the late ’60s, to characterize any and every chaotic event, particularly if it wasn’t immediately definable. Especially because the epithet had been vulgarized elsewhere, it became, within the community of visual performance, exclusively the property of Kaprow, who defined it thus: An assemblage of events performed or perceived in more than one time and place. Its material


environments may be constructed, taken over directly from what is available, or altered slightly, just as its activities may be invented or commonplace. A Happening, unlike a stage play, may occur at a supermarket, driving along a highway, under a pile of rags, and in a friend’s kitchen, either at once or sequentially. If sequential, time may extend to more than a year. The Happening is performed according to a plan without rehearsal, audience, or repetition. Like all good definitions, this excludes more than it encompasses, beginning with some examples that one might think belong.

HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS (1926) Long the greatest comedians in “sports,” they gave their first PERFORMANCE not in a sports arena but in a night club, indeed a legendary ballroom, incidentally initiating an African-American basketball tradition not necessarily to win but to display athletic virtuosity, not only with individual stars but as a team. At a time when the professional basketball teams were lily white and visibly graceless, these African-Americans invented their own more theatrical style with witty ball-handling and delicate dribbling, including such awesome acrobatic moves as the above-the-rim dunks that DARYL DAWKINS later displayed in the National Basketball League. After the NBA color bar went down, white basketballers adopted some Globetrotter moves, playing “blackface,” so to speak, while “honest” basketballers, including certain NBA stars, joined the touring team from time to time. Later recruits to the Globetrotters have included women and very short players. One defining individual in establishing theatrical excellence was Reese “Goose” Tatum (1921–67), famous as a long-armed “clown prince,” whom I first saw around 1955 and whose unique antics I have remembered ever since. Once Tatum retired, his crown was assumed by Meadow Lemon III (1932–2015), known as Meadowlark L. Collectively the Harlem Globetrotters developed delicious routines that could be performed over and over again without failure. Over the decades they have toured around the world, reportedly playing over 25,000 “games” that don’t require translation, pleasing adults as well as children, in tandem with mostly Caucasian opponents, who are fated to lose. While imitators have come and gone, the HG’s virtuosic comedy survives. Odd it is perhaps that nothing comparable has succeeded in other team sports.

106 • HAUSMANN, RAOUL HAUSMANN, RAOUL (12 July 1886–1 February 1971) Born in Vienna, Hausmann spent his teen years in BERLIN, where as a young man he met Johannes Baader (1875–1955), who joined him and Richard Huelsenbeck in founding the DADA Club in 1918. Already in his thirties, Hausmann soon afterwards became, in Marc Dachy’s summary, “painter, craftsman, photographer, creator of photomontages, visual concrete poet, sound poet, theoretician, prose writer, technician, journalist, historian, magazine editor, dancer, and performer,” which is to say a POLYARTIST. In 1919, Hausmann started the periodical Der Dada and organized the first Dada exhibition in Berlin. Politically radical, he allied with Baader in placing fictitious articles in Berlin daily newspapers and in proposing a Dada Republic in the Berlin suburb of Nikolassee, announcing their political activities through eyecatching posters. Hausmann invented the Optophone, which was a photoelectric machine for translating kaleidoscopic forms into sound, and also created the Dada “phonetic poem” before KURT SCHWITTERS took the idea to a higher level, the former’s performance in 1921 of his “FMSBW” reportedly influencing the latter. “The sound poem,” according to Hausmann, “is an art consisting of respiratory and auditive combinations. In order to express these elements typographically, I use letters of different sizes to give them the character of musical notation.” Hausmann probably invented PHOTOMONTAGE before Moholy-Nagy and JOHN HEARTFIELD. His polyartistic career is best defined by an English epithet more popular in Europe than America: “multiple researches.”

HEARTFIELD, JOHN (19 June 1891–26 April 1968; b. Helmut Herzfeld) The son of a socialist poet, he anglicized both his names in 1916 as a protest against forced military service in World War I and, under this new moniker, produced advanced art. As a founding member of BERLIN Dada, calling himself Monteurdada, he joined Rudolf Schlichter (1890–1955), in hanging from the ceiling Prussian Archangel (1920), a shop-window dummy dressed in a German officer’s uniform and fitted with a pig’s head. Heartfield differed from his politically dissenting colleagues by actually joining the Communist party, inadvertently inviting some antagonistic journalists to equate Dada with Bolshevism, which otherwise wasn’t generally true.

Later an early adventurer in PHOTOMONTAGE, Heartfield specialized in visually seamless cutups that ridiculed Fascist politicians. These were published as cartoons, posters, illustrations, and book covers (a format that he particularly revolutionized) – wherever he could, in his aspiration to be a popular political artist. Heartfield’s most famous image is Adolf, Der Übermensch: Schluckt Gold und redet Blech (1932), depicting Hitler swallowing large coins and spewing junk. Once Hitler took power, Heartfield fled to Prague and then to London (while his brother, Wieland Herzfelde [1896–1988], a prominent publisher, escaped to New York City). After settling in East Germany in 1950, John Heartfield, his name still English, received all the benefits and privileges that a communist state could offer.

HESSE, EVA (11 January 1936–29 May 1970) Born in Hamburg, Hesse fled in 1939 to New York with her educated and cultured family. In her brief career as a sculptor, cut terribly short by terminal brain cancer, Hesse discovered the feasibility of using several materials previously unknown to three-dimensional visual art. After dark gouaches of 1960–61, whose motifs presage later sculptures, she made reliefs and sculptures in grays and blacks. The classic Hesse work, Expanded Expansion (1969), has vertical fiberglass poles, several feet high, with treated cheesecloth suspended horizontally across them; her rubberizing and resin treatment gives cloth a density and tension previously unavailable to it. Given the essential softness of her materials, the sculpture would necessarily assume a different look each time this work was exhibited. Though Expanded Expansion is already several feet across, there is a suggestion, which the artist acknowledged, that it could have been extended to surrounding, thus ENVIRONMENTAL, length. Reportedly destroyed, the work may never be exhibited again, its mythic status notwithstanding. Hesse also used latex. In part because she was, along with Lee Bontecou (1931), among the first American women sculptors to be generally acclaimed, Hesse also became, posthumously alas, a feminist heroine.

HISTORIES (OF AVANT-GARDE ARTS) (1946) One quality common to the greatest histories of radical MODERNISM is discussing all the arts together, whether in appreciating a single institution, such as Mary Emma Harris (1943) on The Arts at Black


Mountain College or Hans Maria Wingler’s The Bauhaus (1969), or the most innovative work in several arts, as in L. Moholy-Nagy’s remarkably percipient Vision in Motion (1946). One critical departure, epitomized by Roger Shattuck in The Banquet Years (1958), is representing the period between 1885 and World War I with four artists working in music composition, painting, theater and fiction, and poetry and criticism. Among the mono-art critical histories of the avantgardes, few can rival Guillermo De Torre on literature, Paul Griffiths on music, or SIEGFRIED GIEDION on architecture, all of whose books remained relevant decades after their original publication. The avantgarde usually dominates in memorable books by discriminating historians, as, by contrast, those favoring traditional work in the 20th century tend to be paltry, if not embarrassing. Q. E. D.

HÖCH, HANNAH (1 November 1889–31 May 1978; b. Anna Therese Johanne H.) If PAUL CITROEN made the single most classic photomontage and JOHN HEARTFIELD more famous political recompositions, Hoch was the more adventurous, not only in her art but in her life. As early as 1915 she joined both RAOUL HAUSMANN and then BERLIN DADA, soon creating from photo snippets rectangular montages with richly various imagery often personal. In her Cut with the Kitchen Knife through the Beer-Belly on the Weimar Republic (1919), often reproduced, she pasted papers with images of people both familiar and unfamiliar, industrial tools, words, letters, and bric-a-brac, all equally present in non-centered space within a frame roughly 5 feet by 3 feet. Similar tastes inform Da-Dandy (1919), which is much smaller at 12 inches by 9½ inches. Otherwise, Hoch was the only woman artist whom the other prominent Berlin Dadaists, all male, treated as an equal. As Hoch left Hausmann for a nine-year relationship with a Dutch woman before marrying a German man for several years, same-sex couples, switch-hitting (as is said in baseball), and androgyny became recurring subjects in her later photomontages such as Dompteuse (tamer) (1930), which depicts a decidedly female face above crossed muscular hairy arms. Surviving World War II in suburban Berlin, Hoch languished afterwards, unfortunately not surviving long enough to see her work revived and her heroic feminism recognized. A prominent Berlin art prize is named after her; among its recipients, as Berlin is Berlin, are individuals with entries in this book.


HOLOGRAPHY (c. 1947) A technology new to the 1960s, drawing upon scientific discoveries of the late 1940s, holography superficially resembles photography in representing an image on two-dimensional photoemulsion (film), but it differs in capturing an image in different situations (and thus, at least implicitly, at different times) and then in situating that image in illusory space. That is to say that the principal feature of holography is creating the illusion that things are located spatially where they are not. (A variant, called a multiplex or stereogram, is created by shooting an image with motion-picture film that is then compressed anamorphically into vertical slivers that, once illuminated from below, create within a frame the illusion of an image suspended in space.) Holograms differ from stereoscopic photography and 3-D films in that the former can be viewed without special glasses. Exploiting a laser split-beam process to register information on a photographic plate, holography is also a far more recalcitrant medium than either photography before it, or video, which arrived around the same time. The fundamental measure of the former’s recalcitrance is this statistic: Whereas there are millions of photographers and millions of video users, nearly all of them amateur, there are only a few dozen holographers, nearly all of them professional. Incidentally, what they make is a hologram, which is not the same as a “holograph.” That word, at least in English, refers to a document wholly written, usually by hand, by the person who is its author. Among the most distinguished hologram artists are Margaret Benyon (1940–2016), Rudie Berkhout (1946–2008), Arthur David Fonari (1949), Dieter Jung (1941), Sam Moree (1946), Dan Schweitzer (1946–2001), Fred Unterseher (1945), and Doris Vila (1950).

HOME THEATER (1990s) This new epithet describes the possibility for the homeowner to purchase enough audio and video equipment to simulate the experience of a moviehouse. This requires not a monitor, like traditional television, but a screen that receives a projected video image (either from in front or from behind), in addition to several loudspeakers of varying capabilities distributed over the seating area. Designed principally for watching movies, such a system also enhances the sound of compact disks, to the degree that six speakers are better

108 • HÖRSPIEL than two. Fans of science fiction movies or movies with many stereophonic effects (such as airplanes swooping across the sound field) are particularly enamored of the sound quality available through having a subwoofer and more speakers spread around the room. My own experience of a large video screen (6 feet at the diagonal, taking three projections from an old Kloss perpendicularly in front of it) is that it works best for sports events and old movies. It is less successful at reproducing television produced in a studio or films produced since the mass dissemination of television, which favor closeups designed eventually to be seen on small screens. As film theaters housed within a “cineplex” become smaller and smaller, the home theater maven will go to the moviehouse not for superior reproduction but only to see new films not yet available via DVD or Internet streaming – or perhaps to make new friends.


HOUDINI, HARRY (24 March 1874–31 October 1926; b. Erik Weisz) Commonly acknowledged among the great performers in an era of great American popular PERFORMANCE, he became a master magician particularly renowned for his escapes from seemingly impenetrable constraints. He began modestly as a traveling vaudeville performer doing as many as a dozen shows in a single day. Professionally struggling in America, he went to Europe, much as other major American artists did a century ago, to win fame and fortune previously unavailable at home. During his tours around the world, Houdini escaped from handcuffs, straitjackets, jails, underwater containers, and much else daunting. His stage name remains synonymous with higher conjuring a full century later. Were he still alive today, Houdini would probably have his own theater in LAS VEGAS.

HOUSE OF WAX (1953) To compete with the increasingly popularity of television, which had by the early 1950s halved the American film-going audience, the Hollywood studios developed several kinds of alternative projection to transcend the

TV screen. One was CINERAMA with its three contiguous screens; a second was CINEMASCOPE with its broader image. Another development was 3-D films, as they are called, because, if viewed through appropriate disposable glasses, they do indeed suggest greater depth than normal film. Of the first, House of Wax, whose plot was trivial, I remember best a sequence in which a male character wields a paddle with a ball attached to its base with an elastic band. As he bounced the ball directly in front of him toward the camera, it seemed to emerge from the screen to various spots around me, intimidating me with its illusion of dimensionality. House of Wax was also the first Hollywood film to offer stereophonic sound that was then likewise unavailable on television. Hollywood produced and/or distributed many later films that could be viewed with 3-D glasses; but if any of them had a scene as strong as that bouncing ball, I don’t remember it.

HULTÉN, PONTUS (21 June 1924–25 October 2006; b. Karl Gunnar Vougt P. H.) Of the many impresarios of modern visual art, he ranked among the more prodigious, as he moved from institution to institution, from country to country, always as a chief who apparently understood early that he’d better speak several languages fluently and own a big suitcase. After directing the Moderna Museet in his native Stockholm for a dozen years, he became in 1973 the founding director of the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris. By 1980 he was in Los Angeles establishing there the Museum of Contemporary Art, commonly called MoCA there. In between Hultén guest-curated large exhibitions often memorialized in big books on The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age (MoMA, 1968), Picabia (1976), MALEVITCH (1978), Paris-New York (1977), Paris-Moscow (1979), ÖYVIND FAHLSTRÖM (1982), Futurism (1986), The Arcimboldo Effect: Transformations of the Face from the 16th to the 20th Century (1987), BRANCUSI (1987), Paris-Berlin (1992), Paris-Paris (1992), etc. Whew. Less successful (and perhaps curatorially undone) in California, he returned to Europe, assuming positions, if less influential. He took charge of the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, Italy in 1984 and in 1985 joined others in founding an art college in Paris. From 1991 to 1995 he directed a Museum in Bonn, Germany, and later the Jean Tinguely Museum in Basel, Switzerland. Just before his death, Hultén gave his private collection of several hundred art objects, many no doubt


acquired as gifts directly from artists, to his original launching pad, Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, with the stipulation that they be exhibited not within the museum itself but in a separate warehouse. What a great career move. MM also published a book titled Pontus Hulten Collection. Meeting him once, I recall a big guy who could have been a general in a country that, unlike his native Sweden, had a serious army.

HYPERTEXT Coined by researcher Theodor Holm Nelson, this term defines writing done in the nonlinear or consequential verbal structures made possible by the computer, for a true computer exposition – whether an essay or a story – offers multiple paths of alternate routes in linking segments. In his radical redefinition, Nelson characterizes literature as “a system of interconnecting documents.” “With its network of alternate routes (as opposed to print’s fixed unidirectional page-turning),” writes the novelist Robert Coover (1934) (a fan but not a practitioner), “hypertext presents a radically divergent technology, interactive, and polyvocal, favoring a plurality of discourses over definitive utterance and freeing the


reader from domination by the author.” Though multipath fiction appeared before in Hopscotch (1963) by JULIO CORTÁZAR and Charles Platt’s “Norman vs. America,” which was reprinted in my anthology Breakthrough Fictioneers (1973), as well as in a new kind of juvenile adventure story available through the 1980s, it becomes more feasible with the development of computers. (Hypertext also enables scholars to find linkages through tracing key words, not just through single books, but through whole bodies of scholarship, better illustrating Nelson’s redefinition.) In his introductory survey, Coover credits Michael Joyce’s Afternoon (1987) as the “granddaddy of fulllength hypertext fictions” (though the year before, Paul Zelevansky published on disk his Swallows, which is a mostly visual fiction of immeasurable length). Hypertext literature frequently appears in literary periodicals that are published on computer disks, such as Postmodern Culture (1990) in Raleigh, North Carolina (Box 8105, 27695), and Richard Freeman’s PBW (1990) in Yellow Springs, Ohio (130 W. Limestone, 45387). The Art Com Electronic Network (ACEN) that is connected to the WELL (Whole Earth Lectronic Link) has made works by Fred Truck and JOHN CAGE, among others, available gratis through the Internet.


ICELAND This is the closest semblance of a country as a work of unique art, much as LAS VEGAS is a unique city; but if the latter’s originality was man-(corporation-)made, Iceland is a natural rock promontory in the upper north Atlantic. Its gray barren terrain is uniquely beautiful; as are its sky and natural ice sculptures, all changing with the seasons and visibly different in winter from summer, though always awesome. Because of underground “geothermal” heat, complimented by the Gulf Stream, land so close to the Arctic Circle is surprisingly temperate the year-round; its ocean air bracingly fresh and its ground warm. As nearly every town has a swimming pool with welcoming warm water, some additionally have outdoor hot tubs, often in groups with different temperatures. Such physical amenities represent, at least to me, a highly civilized society. So culturally classy are Icelanders that a population of only a few hundred thousand, the size of a small America city, supports a world-class symphony orchestra, more than one newspaper, book publishers, printings plants, all in a palpably mellow society. No place elsewhere looks and feels like this art work that no human beings could have made, even with unlimited funds.

IDENTITY/BIOGRAPHY Any artist or work promoted with details about the author/artist’s putatively special background is ipso facto revealing her/him/itself as inferior. Probably not genuinely avant-garde either. The truth is, fads notwithstanding, that neither identity nor biography make art excellent or formally innovative; nor, say, does one or another old school tie or (un)fashionable personal


experience, though any of these tags may be waved to attract some audience(s) that might otherwise ignore certain favored work. Similarly, allusions to whatever “theory” or “school” is currently familiar, if not fashionable, serve the same advertising inflation of what might otherwise go unnoticed. As in engaging any other competitive marketplace plagued by hype, caveat emptor.

IMAX (1970) This registered pseudo-acronym, written entirely in capitals, means “Maximum Image” offered by a projection technology that the Canadian Graeme Ferguson (1929) developed in the wake of the brilliantly successful multiscreen films shown at EXPO 67 in Montreal. Using special cameras (and thus special projectors as well), a 70-mm film runs sideways through the camera, so that the equivalent space of three frames is shot at once. Producing a negative image several times the size of the standard 35-mm frame, such footage offers far finer detail on large screens than the prior expanded projection techniques of CINERAMA and CINEMASCOPE. In specially installed theaters around the world, IMAX films are customarily screened with sixchannel sound. The paradox is that, in this age of ever smaller public motion picture theaters, certain developments exploit the possibilities of bigger screens. OMNIMAX is a derivative technology for smaller spaces, with a wide, deeply dished, concave, almost spherical screen. The IMAX company also developed three-dimensional film projection more popular than the cumbersome system briefly popular in the 1950s, and IMAX HD, which doubles the speed at which its film passes through the camera.


IMPRESSIONISM (MUSICAL) (1874) The innovations introduced by Impressionist techniques are as significant in the negation of old formulas as in the affirmation of the novelties. They may be summarized in the following categories: MELODY 1. Extreme brevity of substantive thematic statements. (2) Cultivation of monothematism and the elimination of all auxiliary notes, ornaments, melodic excrescences, and rhythmic protuberances. (3) Introduction of simulacra of old Grecian and ecclesiastical modes calculated to evoke the spirit of serene antiquity in stately motion of rhythmic units. (4) Thematic employment of pentatonic scales to conjure up imitative sonorities and tintinnisonant Orientalistic effects. (5) Coloristic use of the scale of whole tones for exotic ambience. (6) Rapid iteration of single notes to simulate the rhythms of primitive drums. HARMONY 1. Extension of tertian chord formations into chords of the eleventh, or raised eleventh, and chords of the thirteenth. (2) Modulatory schemes in root progressions of intervals derived from the equal division of the octave into 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12 parts in preference to the traditional modulations following the order of the cycle of fourths and fifths. (3) Motion by block harmonies without transitions. (4) Preferential use of plagal cadences, either in triadic harmonies or extended chordal formations. (5) Quartal harmonies used as harmonic entities which move in parallel formations. (6) Modal harmonization in root positions of perfect triads within a given mode, with the intervallic relationships between the melody notes and the bass following the formula 8, 3, 5, 8, etc. when harmonizing an ascending scale or mode, and the reverse numerical progression 8, 5, 3, 8, etc. when harmonizing a descending scale or mode, excluding the incidence of the diminished fifth between the melody and the bass; the reverse numerical progression, 8, 5, 3, 8, 5, etc. for an ascending scale results in a common harmonization in tonic, dominant, and subdominant triads in root position; the same common harmonization results when the formula 8, 3, 5, 8, 3, etc. is applied to the harmonization of a descending scale; this reciprocal relationship between a modal and a


tonal harmonization is indeed magical in its precise numerical formula. (7) Intertonal harmonization in major triads, in which no more than two successive chords belong to any given tonality, with the melody moving in contrary motion to the bass; since only root positions of major triads are used, the intervals between the melody and the bass can be only a major third, a perfect fifth, and an octave. In harmonizing an ascending scale, whether diatonic, chromatic, or partly chromatic, the formula is limited to the numerical intervallic progression 3, 5, 8, 3, 5, etc., and the reverse in harmonizing a descending scale, i.e., 8, 5, 3, 8, 5, 3, etc. Cadential formulas of pre-Baroque music are often intertonal in their exclusive application of major triads in root positions. A remarkable instance of the literal application of the formula of intertonal harmonization is found in the scene of Gregory’s prophetic vision in Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov, in which the ascending melodic progression, itself intertonal in its peculiar modality, B, C-sharp, E, F-sharp, G, is harmonized successively in the major triads in root positions, E major, C-sharp major, A major, F-sharp major, E-flat major. Another instance of intertonal harmonization occurs in the second act of Puccini’s opera Tosca, in which the motto of the chief of police, a descending whole-tone scale in the bass, is harmonized in ascending major triads in root positions, in contrary motion; the intervallic relationship between the melody and the bass follows the formula 8, 3, 5, 8, 3, 5, 8. (8) Parallel progressions of inversions of triads, particularly second inversions of major triads, with the root progression ascending or descending in minor thirds, so that the basses outline a diminished seventh chord. (9) Parallel progressions of major ninth chords, also with a bass moving by minor thirds. (10) Parallel progressions of inverted dominant-seventh chords, particularly 6/5/3 chords. (11) Free use of unattached and unresolved dissonant chords, particularly suspensions of major sevenths over diminished-seventh chords. (12) Cadential formulas with the added major sixth over major triads in close harmony. COUNTERPOINT 1. A virtual abandonment of Baroque procedures; abolition of tonal sequences and of strict canonic imitation. (2) Reduction of fugal processes to adumbrative thematic echoes, memos, and mementos. (3) Cultivation of parallel motion of voices, particularly consecutive fourths andorganum-like perfect fifths.

112 • IMPROVISATION FORM 1. Desuetude of sectional symphonies of the classical or romantic type, and their replacement by coloristic tone poems of a rhapsodic genre. (2) Virtual disappearance of thematic development, its function being taken over by dynamic elements. (3) Cessation in the practice of traditional variations, discontinuance of auxiliary embellishing ments, melodic and harmonic figurations whether above, below, or around the thematic notes and the concomitant cultivation of instrumental variations in which the alteration of tone color becomes the means of variegation. A theme may be subjected to augmentation or diminution, and in some cases to topological dislocations of the intervallic parameters. Thus, the tonal theme of Debussy’s La Mer is extended in the climax into a series of whole tones. (4) Homeological imitation of melorhythmic formulas of old dance forms, often with pandiatonic amplification of the harmony. (5) A general tendency towards miniaturization of nominally classical forms, such as sonata or prelude. —Nicolas Slonimsky


INCOMPREHENSIBLE CRITICAL PROSE (forever) Always with us, alas, incomprehensible writing about culture and the arts became more frequent, if not more acceptable, in the wake of intellectual invasions from France, beginning in the 1970s, continuing into the 1980s and perhaps later. Examples became so plentiful, not only in books but pretentious magazines, that I fear singling out examples, because readers might think I picked one or another whopper out of revenge or personal distaste. The theme of incomprehensible critical prose is pride in privilege, no matter what its writer is trying or pretending to say (including her or his exposure of privilege in others); its implicit purpose is demonstrating that its author can brazenly write (or talk) as you and I can’t, for fear we might be criticized, demoted, dismissed, or simply ignored. Incomprehensible authors customarily benefit from belonging (or aspiring) to one or another exclusive social class, to which compensatory intellectual privileges are extended – whether female, hued, or third-world-born (or, ideally, at least two of the three,

if not a triple play) – the recital of which can be turned into a shield against obvious criticism. Rest assured, dear reader, that the following excerpts come from people I don’t know and, in truth, would rather not know, thinking, as I do, that incomprehensible prose is a symptom of more serious intellectual and moral defects. If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classifications can be seen as the desperate efforts to “normalize” formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality. (In this context, a book titled Locations of Culture [1994], Homi Bhabha’s final phrase packs a particularly mighty fluff punch.) Consider this about the German-American Dada baroness Elsa Van Freytag-Loringhoven, who reportedly made a plaster cast of a penis (since lost), and the French American MARCEL DUCHAMP: It was imperative that the New Woman, per Picabia, be contained within the anxiety-reducing mechanomorphic forms of the facetious machine image, not parading freely through the streets wielding a penis clearly disattached from its conventional role as guarantor of male privilege. The baroness’ per-formative (rather than biological) penis, along with Marcel’s erotically invested gargonne-esque eros/rose-as-commodity, were the ultimate weapons against the bourgeois norms that Dada in general is thought of as radically antagonizing. I also suspect that anyone who reads widely has his or her favorite bête-noirs perhaps mounted on walls that accept darts. Incidentally, the best antidote for such contagiously bad medicine is reading or rereading GEORGE ORWELL’s concise and classic Politics and the English Language” (1946), whose clearly expressed insights into peculiar language are more prophetically true than he could have foreseen.

INDETERMINACY (c. 1954) Incidentally the title of JOHN CAGE’s first solo record (1957), this term refers to music composed with


the assistance of chance operations – such as throwing dice in order to make decisions, observing the imperfections in paper to discover notes on staves, or using random tables – and to musical instructions likely to produce radically unpredictable results. In the latter case, the composer may provide only generalized directions; or collections of notes that may be played in any order, at any speed, in any combination, etc.; or allow for a surprise that, if observed, will necessarily redirect the performance. Indeterminate performance differs from improvisation in providing ground rules that will prevent its performers from seeking familiar solutions. Indeterminacy differs as well from aleatory music, which was an alternative popularized by PIERRE BOULEZ in the 1960s, with compromises typical of him, purportedly to represent a saner avant-garde. In my experience, indeterminacy, aka “chance,” functioned as a divisive issue in talking, say, about John Cage’s music until the late 1970s, when everyone both opposed and predisposed realized that the issue wasn’t as important as it once seemed.

INDIANA, ROBERT (13 September 1928–19 May 2018; b. R. Clarke) Initially classified among the POP artists, Indiana is actually a word painter, at his best among the best of its kind, which is to say that the innovation of his strongest paintings comes from making them mostly, if not exclusively, of language. Using bold letters and sometimes numerals, rendered in the clean-edge tradition of American commercial sign painting, Indiana exposed very short Americanisms to art, or vice versa, establishing himself as a master of color, shape, and craftsmanship (though repetitiously favoring Roman letters and numerals within circles, as well as circles within circles) well before Jenny Holzer, among others. Indiana’s single most famous work, Love (1966), depends upon tilting the letter O, which in this heavy Roman style evokes the sexuality embodied in its shape, and then upon the fact that all four letters are literally touching each of their adjacent letters. One version is a painting, since reproduced on a USA postage stamp, with the red, blue, and green so even in value that the foreground does not protrude from the background. Four of these LOVE shapes, each 5 by 5 feet, were grouped into a magisterial LoveWall (1966), 10 feet by 10 feet of rearrangeable panels, each deployed perpendicularly to its companions, all of which can be rotated so that different common letters meet at the center of the field. My favorite numerical Indiana is Cardinal


Numbers, an extended vertical progression from zero to nine that was displayed at EXPO 67. I rank Indiana’s design for the basketball court at the Milwaukee Mecca (1977, since destroyed) as the best floor done by an American artist in recent memory.

INSTALLATION (c. 1980) The term “installation” has come to identify art made for a particular space, which need not be a gallery. Such art theoretically exploits certain qualities of that space that the work of art will inhabit forever or will be destroyed when the exhibition is terminated. The category arose in the 1980s as an open and yet debased term for what had previously been called “site-specific art,” as exemplified by the sculptors Nancy Holt (1938) and Mary Miss (1944), among others. Examples include Walter De Maria’s Earth Room (1968), which, in its third incarnation (or installation), has been permanently on display in SOHO since the late 1970s. One theme of a major retrospective of Installation Art, Blurring the Boundaries (1997, San Diego) is that many of the best received support from the National Endowment for the Arts when it was last supportive of avant-garde art. Both installations and site-specific art differ from an ENVIRONMENT, which is an artistically enhanced circumscribed space.

INTEGRITY Though rarely discussed as such, it always honored not only in appreciating artists’ careers but especially in measuring critics. To recall a baseball metaphor, higher integrity distinguishes major league players from minor. Those lacking it, or failing to recognize it, customarily don’t know what they’re missing.

INTERMEDIA (1966) This term was recoined by Dick Higgins to define new genres of art that combined the aspects of two heretofore separate types of art. Intermedia differs from “multimedia,” which implies something much less unified – the inclusion of various art media, such as different kinds of material, within one work, usually a performance, thus in the tradition of a Gesamtkunstwerk epitomized by a RICHARD WAGNER opera.

114 • INTERNATIONAL STYLE One frequently cited example of intermedia is VISUAL POETRY, which results from an underrecognized combination of literary and visual arts. Although there is a long (and mostly unknown) tradition of visual literature, the modern fusion of the two arts becomes a distinct intermedium that is not conventional literature and not exclusively visual art. During the 20th century, experimentation with intermedia became more common as artists searched for radically alternative modes of expression. Other genres of intermedia are artistic machines (combining sculpture with technology), SOUND POETRY (combining music and literature), and artistically enclosed spaces (combining architecture with music, sculpture, or painting). It is possible, however, that sometime in the future such intermedia will be considered perfectly usual forms of art and that other intermedia will appear on the continuum of art forms. My own (RK’s) considered opinion holds that, just as COLLAGE was the great fertile interart esthetic invention of the early 20th century, so will intermedia in its various forms came to represent retrospectively the end of that century. My own sense of the larger history of the past seventy years is that the radical developments in art came either from purifying the materials of a traditional form (whether printing or music) or from mixing forms. As COLORFIELD painters, say, represented purification, so ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG explored miscegenation; as Milton Babbitt and ELLIOTT CARTER purified, so JOHN CAGE pushed his initially musical ideas into other arts.

INTERNATIONAL STYLE (c. 1920) Born in Germany, mostly at the BAUHAUS, this kind of architecture was popularized in America, first with the publication of Henry-Russell Hitchcock’s and Philip Johnson’s book The International Style (1932), and then with exhibitions at MoMA, which became its principal publicist. To quote the cultural historian Russell Lynes (1910–91), “If few people liked the International Style when it first appeared in America, it was the MoMA that did more than any other institution to bring about its acceptance.” With the immigration to the US of Walter Gropius (1883–1969) and MIES VAN DER ROHE, both masters of the mode, the International Style became the dominant architectural fashion, particularly in office buildings, in the 1950s. Also known as the Functional Style and the Machine Style, this International Style stood for six general

principles: the marriage of art and the latest technology; geometric CONSTRUCTIVIST forms whose “streamlining” symbolized the spirit of the machine more than intrinsic technological quality; the building as a volume rather than a mass (thus the penchant for glass walls that visually denied a building’s massive weight); a rejection of axial symmetry typical of classic cathedrals, in favor of noncentered, asymmetrical regularity, as epitomized by, say, rows of glass walls; the practice of making opposite sides, if not all four sides, resemble one another so that, formally at least, the building has no obvious “front” or “back”; and, finally, a scrupulous absence of surface ornament. For these reasons, buildings cast in the International Style suggest no-nonsense efficiency and economy, if not a physical environment consonant with both modern technology and bureaucratic ideals, all tempered by geometric grandeur and numerous subtle visual effects produced, for instance, by colors in the glass or intersecting lines and planes. What was initially called “POSTMODERN” in architecture represented various conscious reactions against the purported sterility of this International Style that has, in my opinion, nonetheless survived stronger than its antagonists.

INTERNET ART (1980s) Since the first edition of this Dictionary in 1991, much on Internet Art has changed. For one, Internet Art has developed a history. For another, while artists have come and gone, some academic institutions are now teaching the practice of Internet Art, and museums are taking a cautious role in displaying Internet Art works. Support is not widespread, but is there. Most of the support has come from the artists themselves who’ve made the platforms for showing their work. Finally, the development of social media such as Facebook has provided a meeting place as well as a place to show work or links to new work. It is interactive, and easily accessible. Simply, Internet art makes use of the Internet, not only as a means of distribution but as a virtual space for art to appear in. The space is defined by all the connections that make up a given computer network. For the sake of clarity in the following article, early Internet Art will fall into the realm of historical artifacts, up to about 2005. After that, from 2005 to the present, Internet Art will be considered contemporary. By 2005, browsers such as Safari for the Macintosh and Internet Explorer for the PC were in common use. These browsers are the basic means of connecting to the Internet and cyberspace and Internet Art.


The history of Internet Art has been difficult to find until recently when MIT Press published Judy Malloy’s Social Media Archaeology and Poetics in August of 2016. This book covers work on the Internet done from 1973 with the development of ARPANET to the mid-1990s, when the World Wide Web was firmly established. Malloy’s genius in placing the arts in social media has been to include everyone working with microcomputers at that time in a creative way, including engineers, scientists, and military researchers and entrepreneurs along with artists, writers, and musicians to show the incredibly rich panoply that existed then, and how information flowed from one group to another enriching everyone. Social Media Archeology and Poetics is the source for the period. Much contemporary Internet Art had its roots in the ’80s and ’90s because that was the time when artists working on the Internet set down fundamental notions of what made Internet Art. Key to this experience was breaking down the barriers between all that could be art and the necessity to program the computer to control the platform. Perhaps the most famous of all was JOHN CAGE’s The First Meeting of the Satie Society, which was carried on the Art Com Electronic Network. This long mesostic poem was not simply a long text displayed on a monitor. Satie had an intricate UNIX driver that displayed the poem in 15-line chunks. Then delivery of the poem paused, while the user read. Delivery continued when the user pressed the space bar. However, it is no longer online. Judith Malloy, who began her writing in the Internet Art mode with her Uncle Roger in 1986 is still active today, creating extremely intricate texts that extend stream of consciousness writing pioneered by Virginia Woolf in the early years of the 20th century. In The Whole Room (work in progress) parts of which have appeared on Facebook, she merges stream of consciousness techniques with computer coding to generate new and unimagined texts that expand awareness. The animation in Fred Truck’s The Milk Bottle Reliquary in 2016, connects his virtual sculptures with his real-space objects in an artist’s museum form through a unique but practical video index. In this work, Truck created 3D models of all his sculptures in a wide variety of modeling programs, and then ran them through an animation program. The animation program wrote the code, responding to movements he orchestrated as he placed the models in the scene. www.fredtruck.com/reliquary/ The resources listed below, kindly provided by Judy Malloy are light and playful, and are a joy to experience. These works are Internet-based: Phillipe Bootz, petite brosse à dépoussiérer la fiction www.bootz.fr/brosse/brosse.html


JR Carpenter, “Along the Briny Beach” http://luckysoap.com/alongthebrinybeach/index.html Sharif Ezzat, “Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky” http://collection.eliterature.org/1/works/ezzat__ like_stars_in_a_clear_night_sky.html Bill Harris, “Fireflies” http://community.middlebury.edu/~harris/HyperPoetry/fireflies.html Rob Kendell, Soothcircuit http://logozoa.com/soothcircuit/ Judy Malloy, The Roar of Destiny www.well.com/user/jmalloy/control.html Mark Marino, a show of hands http://hands.literatronica.net/src/initium.aspx Maria Mencia, Birds Singing Other Birds Songs – http://collection.eliterature.org/1/works/mencia__ birds_singing_other_birds_songs/index.html Emily Short, Bronze www.well.com/user/jmalloy/elit/emily_short_bronze. html Nanette Wylde: Storyland –http://collection.eliterature. org/1/works/wylde__storyland/storyland2.swf Many thanks to Judy Malloy (1942) for the URLs for these Internet works. —Fred Truck


IRONY (EXTREME) Traditionally identifying a literary move that reveals the presence of a second, often contradictory meaning, comic irony becomes more radical in avant-garde art, if not so original that it shocks and/or blows blithely by allegedly knowledgeable people. When Marcel Duchamp submitted to an officially curated art exhibition a common urinal that he titled Fountain, his move exemplified extreme irony. (No wonder it was “rejected,” though not forgotten.) Recall as well how many years it took for musiclovers to accept that the ironic theme of John Cage’s so-called silent piece (of four minutes and thirtythree seconds of a prominent pianist stationary at a keyboard in a concert venue) was that the noise within that time-space frame constituted its Art. One strictly painterly classic in this mode is Komar & Melamid’s Double Self-Portrait (1972) of their own profiles posed to resemble Lenin’s and Stalin’s. When

116 • IRWIN, ROBERT artists appropriate historic texts or images under their own names, the result can epitomize extreme irony (e.g., Richard Prince’s pilfering of J. S. Salinger). Avant-garde irony at is best is so serious it’s funny. (Wouldn’t pilfering devoid of comedy be plagiarism?) Since most ironists proceed instinctively, rather than with premeditation, consider that some entries in this book unintentionally might realize such extreme irony.

IRWIN, ROBERT (12 September 1928) The initial Robert Irwin work for me, first seen at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, was an untitled white circular disk 5 feet in diameter, painted white with automobile laquer, centrally mounted from behind to stand 18 inches away from the background wall. When illuminated by four foodlights distributed to the corners of a rectangle in front of the disk, an illusion is formed on the background wall of four overlapping disks, creating a three-dimensional tension between the original disk (that initially appears nearly flush with the wall) and its shadows, as well as faint concentric bands of color on the real disc’s face. The supporting wall, the surrounding space, and the quality of the light all become as crucial to esthetic experience as the disk. Because Irwin regarded visual perception as the principal subject of his art, he favored objects with little physical substance. “Inquiry” is a favorite epithet for his own activity. Ever articulate, Irwin once declared, “To be an artist is not a matter of making paintings and objects at all. What we are really dealing with is our state of consciousness and the shape of our perceptions.” In 1992 at New York’s Pace Gallery, Irwin made an untitled installation where one initially sees a black rectangle behind several layers of rectangular gauze. As the illumination in the spaces between the gauze changes color, so does the black. Because the spectator is allowed to go between the layers, he or she can look back on the piece in different ways. In discussing Irwin, as well as his colleague JAMES TURRELL, simple descriptions scarcely convey the remarkable experience of his light transformations, apart from any object. For obvious reasons, photographs of Irwin’s art are rarely sufficient.

ITTEN, JOHANNES (11 November 1888–25 March 1967) As a Swiss eccentric among eccentrics at the original BAUHAUS, where he developed the basic painting

course from 1919 to 1922, he taught not just color but several kinds of color contrasts. His Chromatic Squares (c. 1919) precede visibly similar paintings by JOSEF ALBERS that are more familiar. Solid though this was esthetically, Itten’s passionate interests in esoteric philosophies became problematic. A Wikipedia scribe noted in 2017 that Itten’s work “is also said to be an inspiration for seasonal color analysis. Itten had been the first to associate color palettes with four types of people.” Even a century later, his highly unusual thinking may not be fully understood.

IVES, CHARLES (20 October 1874–19 May 1954) It is perhaps typically American that an avant-garde composer so neglected in his own time should be so widely acclaimed by later generations. Though Ives’s works were so rarely played during his lifetime that he never heard some of his major pieces, nearly all of his music is currently available on disk. Though he taught no pupils and founded no school, Ives is generally considered the progenitor of nearly everything distinctly American in American music. He was not an intentional avant-gardist, conscientiously aiming for innovation, but a modest spare-time composer (who spent most of his adult days as an insurance salesman and then as a long-term convalescent). A well-trained musician’s well-trained son, who worked as a church organist upon graduating from college, Ives was essentially a great inventor with several major musical patents to his name. While still in his teens, he developed his own system of polytonality – the technique of writing for two or more keys simultaneously. In a piece composed when he was twenty (Song for Harvest Season), he assigned four different keys to four instruments. Ives was the first modern composer who consistently didn’t resolve his dissonances. Many contemporary composers have followed Ives’s The Unanswered Question (1908) in strategically distributing musicians over a physical space, so that the acoustic source of the music affects not only PERFORMANCE but the sounds actually heard. For the Concord Sonata, composed between 1909 and 1915 (and arguably his masterpiece), Ives invented the tone cluster, where the pianist uses either his or her forearm or a block of wood to sound simultaneously whole groups, if not octaves, of notes. He originated the esthetics of POP ART, for Ives, like CLAES OLDENBURG and ROBERT INDIANA after him, drew quotations from mundane culture – hymn tunes, patriotic ditties, etc. – and stitched them into his modernist artistic fabric. Though other composers had incorporated “found” sounds prior to


Ives, he was probably the first to allow a quotation to stand out dissonantly from the context, as well as the first, like the Pop Artists after him, to distort a popular quotation into a comic semblance of the original. Just as Claes Oldenburg’s famous Giant Hamburger (1962) – 7 feet in diameter, made of canvas, and stuffed with kapok – creates a comic tension with our memory of the original model, so Ives, decades before, evoked a similar effect in his Variations on a National Hymn [“America”] (1891, composed when he was seventeen!). In juxtaposing popular tunes like “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” in the same musical field with allusions to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Ives employed another Pop strategy to create a distinctly American style suggesting that both classical music and popular, both formal and informal cultures, are equally immediate and perhaps equally relevant. Other Ivesian musical innovations include polyrhythms – where various sections of the orchestra play in wholly different meters, often under the batons of separate conductors, all to create multiple crossrhythms of great intricacy. In his rhythmic freedom, as well as his unashamed atonality, Ives clearly fathered the chaotic language of modern music, a tradition that runs through Henry Cowell and early EDGARD VARÈSE to John Cage. Indeed, Ives anticipated Cage by inventing INDETERMINANCY – where the scripts offered the musicians are so indefinite at crucial points that they could not possibly play exactly the same sounds in successive performances. In The Unanswered Question, Ives further discouraged musical unanimity by placing three separate groups of musicians in such ways that one could not necessarily see the others. As one of the first modern composers to develop a distinctly eccentric music notation, Ives anticipated contemporary use of graphs, charts, and abstract patterns – manuscripts that resemble everything but traditional musical scores – to make their works available to others. He also scored what he knew could not be played, such as a 1/1,024 note in the Concord Sonata, followed by the words “Play as fast as you can.” Indeed, Ives’s scripts were so unusually written, as well as misplaced and scrambled in big notebooks, that editors have labored valiantly to reconstruct definitive


versions of his major pieces, some of which had their debuts long after his death. The independent scholar Maynard Solomon (1930), among others, has questioned the dates commonly attributed to some Ives compositions. There is a remarkable intellectual similarity between Ives and GERTRUDE STEIN, who, born in America in the same year, was as radically original in her art as Ives was in his. While we can now identify what each of them did quite precisely, given our awareness of the avant-garde traditions to which they significantly contributed, it is not so clear to us now what either of them thought they were doing – what exactly was on their minds when they made their most radical moves – so different was their art from even innovative work that was done before or around them.

IWERKS, UB (24 March 1901–7 July 1971; b. Ubbe Eert I.) Befriending WALT DISNEY when both were teenage art students in Kansas City, Iwerks moved with his buddy to Los Angeles and, as the initial genius behind a genius, collaborated in the development of film animation. Some historians identify Iwerks as particularly responsible for the distinctive visual style of the earliest Disney shorts, which were at the time the best of their kind, as well as for the first sound animation. Wholly on his own perhaps, Iwerks developed the character of the iconic character of Mickey Mouse. Once he quit Disney Iwerks produced animations made only with his own name, the more marvelous cartoons featuring his later creation of Flip the Frog. (Whereas the FLEISCHER brothers as city boys animated people, these midwesterners created anthropomorphic animals. Another Kansas City boy working early with Iwerks and thus Disney was Friz Freleng [1905–95], who later at Warner Brothers produced classic animations under his own name.) As these were less successful financially, Iwerks returned in the early 1940s to Disney’s burgeoning operation, working mostly on advanced technical effects. His odd name comes from Ostfriesland (East Frisia).




In critical writing, the function of jargon is not to illuminate but to suggest that its author is “verbally correct,” which is a higher (or lower) semblance of politically correct. So, should you come across a piece of criticism filled with imposing terms (such as “ambiguity,” “tension,” and “metonymy” in days gone by; “dialectical,” “signifier,” “disruption,” “confrontation,” “contradiction,” “deconstruction,” “differance” [sic], “logocentrism,” “asymptotic,” “indexical,” “decentering,” etc., recently; Lord Knows What, nowadays), to all appearances used in unfathomable ways, do not worry and, most of all, don’t be intimidated (unless you’re a student or an untenured professor, whose function in the academic hierarchy is to be predisposed to intimidation). You’re not supposed to understand anything, but merely to be impressed by the author’s modish choice of lingo, much as, in other contexts, you might be awed by his or her choice of dress, shoes, car, or something else superficial. It was the caustic American sociologist Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929) who pointed out more than a century ago that inefficient expression is meant to reflect

(8 September 1873–1 November 1907)

the industrial exemption of the speaker. The advantage of the accredited locutions lies in their reputability; they are reputable because they are cumbrous and out of date, and therefore argue waste of time and exemption from the use and the need of direct and forcible speech. That is to say, you must be economically comfortable to talk that way and, by doing so, are implicitly announcing that you are. The reason why such jargon amuses common people is that they know instantly, as a measure of their lesser economic class, what its real purpose is.


An eccentric’s eccentric, who lived modestly and needed collegial support to make his works known, Jarry wrote plays and fiction so different from the late Victorian conventions that they are commonly regarded as having anticipated SURREALISM, DADA, the THEATER OF THE ABSURD, and much else, which is to say that Jarry was a slugger in spite of himself. His play Ubu Roi (King Ubu, 1896) opens with the word Merdre, which is customarily translated as “Shittr,” proclaiming from the start its ridicule of bourgeois false propriety. Furthermore, the freewheeling movement from line to line, and scene to scene, makes it different from any plays written before. Yet more innovative, to my mind, are Jarry’s fictions, such as Gestes et Opinions du Dr Faustroll, Pataphysicien (1911), and Le Surmâle (The Supermale, 1902), in which ridiculousness is raised to a higher level. The former begins as a satire on Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1767), if that is possible, but it ends in the modern world with pseudo-mathematics in an extraordinary chapter “Concerning the Surface of God,” which concludes with this monumental IRONY: “GOD IS THE TANGENTIAL POINT BETWEEN ZERO AND INFINITY.” Though Jarry was a limited writer, the image of the man and his work had a great influence upon his avant-garde betters; in this respect, he resembles his near-contemporary compatriot, Raymond Roussel, and his successor, ANTONIN ARTAUD. (Another useful divide within avant-garde consciousness is separating those who treasure Jarry from those who worship Artaud and thus those valuing mad invention over inventive madness.) After initiating a college du ‘PataPhysique, Jarry died young of tubercular meningitis aggravated by alcoholism, which was in its time no more avant-garde, alas, than drug abuse was later.


JAZZ (c. 1885) Arising from obscure origins in the American South, this indigenous music first became prominent in New Orleans at the beginning of the 20th century. While reflecting African and African-American concepts of alternative rhythm and group participation, early jazz initially followed black gospel music in observing European harmonies abetted by rhythmic deviance. Nonetheless, other musical strategies seem peculiar to jazz in its many forms: melodic improvisation within a predetermined harmonic range; continuous harmonies either within a solo instrument or a backup band; and certain kinds of instrumentation and thus timbre and intonation. Even when adopted by musicians other than African-Americans, such as BIX BEIDERBECKE, a master improvising cornetist from Iowa, or Jewish Klezmer musicians, the result is called jazzy – or, in the Klezmer example, “Jewish jazz.” Though many prominent jazz musicians had compositional careers, jazz has remained essentially a performer’s music. Avant-garde jazz is the fringe that was initially unacceptable because of formal deviations, beginning historically with LOUIS ARMSTRONG’s transcending the piano-based ragtime predominant between 1900 and 1920 by featuring the trumpet as a solo instrument. This departure created the foundation for the “big bands” of the 1930s that featured brass instruments customarily played in harmonic unison. The principal alternative to this style came in the 1940s with the dissonance cultivated by CHARLIE PARKER in smaller bands. Behind him came in the next decades ORNETTE COLEMAN and ALBERT AYLER, among others, who eschewed any metronomic beat while often playing as rapidly as possible. The development of jazz is [to Richard Carlin] a paradigm for American avant-garde success. Instead of moving linearly from folk blues to Dixieland jazz through big band jazz to BEBOP and free jazz to jazz/ rock fusion to new acoustic jazz (in emulation of a European model of avant-garde development), jazz both moves forward and looks backwards. Although the heyday of New Orleans jazz was the 1920s, New Orleans jazz continues to be played today, both by musicians raised in this style and by others who emulate it. In this sense, each new style does not replace the old ways, but rather complements them. [RK disagrees with this RC formulation.] From the beginning of the 1920s, classically trained composers could hardly resist the influence of jazz, as many of them incorporated one or another jazz device (or, sometimes, a live jazz musician) into their own works.


Though such fusions are sometimes hailed for representing a “third stream” between classical music and jazz, that epithet has never had much acceptance with either the jazz public or that devoted to modernist classical music. The real influence of jazz on classical avant-garde music lies in the acceptance of kinds of rhythms, beginning with syncopation, indigenous to North America. One recent myth that must be dispelled is that jazz is an African-American monopoly. Elsewhere in this book is an entry on BIX BIEDERBECKE, a Caucasian whose improvisations represented jazz at its best. Nicolas Slonimsky, from the perspective of classical music, thinks that whites in the 1920s developed a modern type of jazz designed for concert performance. Among them were Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Guy Lombardo, and Paul Whiteman. The most important contribution to concert jazz was made by GEORGE GERSHWIN, whose Rhapsody in Blue became a modern classic. Few jazz keyboardists have been as brilliant as George Shearing (1919–2011), who was born blind in the Battersea section of London. The first great jazz guitarist was a Belgian gypsy named Django Reinhardt (1910–53). A subsidiary effect of jazz’s success was new kinds of dancing, not only between couples in social situations but on stages, beginning with percussive tap dancing that complements jazz to the same degree that classical music complements ballet. Within this general rubric of jazz dance are a wide variety of alternatives with unique names, such as Black Bottom, Shimmy, Charleston, Cakewalk, Strut Step, Hucklebuck, Mashed Potato, about which an encyclopedia could no doubt be written. Marshall and Jean Steams’ Jazz Dance (1968) includes graphic notations documenting how various parts of the body should be positioned for each dance, in addition to a list of films and kinescopes dating back to the end of the 19th century. One interesting measure of jazz’s cultural acceptance is that, since 1950, most purportedly comprehensive histories of American music acknowledge jazz. —with Richard Carlin

JOHNS, JASPER (15 May 1930) Though he was initially paired with his friend ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, who was five years his senior, Johns is a different sort of artist, concerned less

120 • JOHNSON, SAMUEL with exploring unfamiliar materials than with creating objects that pose esthetic questions. In looking at his early and prototypical Target with Four Faces (1955), one cannot help but ask: Is this a replica of a target? A collection of concentric circles? Or something else? What relationship do those four sculpted bottoms of heads (noses and mouths, to be precise) have to the two-dimensional picture? Why is the target-image represented so realistically and yet the heads so surrealistically? Is there some symbolism here, or do all meanings exist within the picture? “I thought he was doing three things,” JOHN CAGE once wrote, “five things he was doing escaped my notice.” By painting a realistic image without a background, Johns followed JACKSON POLLOCK in abolishing the discrepancy between image and field that had been a core of traditional representational art, again raising the question of whether the target-image was a mechanical copy of the original target, or a nonrepresentational design (and what in this context would be the difference anyway?). Later Johns works develop this love of images and objects unfamiliar to painting, as well as displaying his taste for ambiguity, puzzle, and enigma. Given such a high level of exploratory richness, it is not surprising that the first major critic of his work should have been Leo Steinberg, an art history professor whose forte was the exhaustive examination of significances available within a single picture. Johns’s work is generating a secondary literature approaching in size that devoted to MARCEL DUCHAMP, so that even catalogues accompanying his exhibitions physically resemble coffee-table books.

JOHNSON, SAMUEL (18 September 1709–13 December 1784) Aside from other contributions he made to English Literature, particularly as an exemplary essayist, this Johnson became the first master of the Art of the Entry, which is his case was stylish definitions of English words in the form of a Dictionary. Given the constraint of very few words, an entry necessarily becomes a platform for aphoristic writing that at its best lightly reflects great learning as it incorporates economy and wit. Ideally, a good entry should be remembered, if not precisely, at least credibly; if not as a whole, at least in part. Among this Johnson’s classics are: Rant: High sounding language unsupported by dignity of thought. Network: Any thing reticulated or decussated, at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections.

Rust: The red desquamation of old iron. Grubstreet: Originally the name of a street in Moorfields in London, much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems; whence any mean production is called grubstreet. More than any other dictionary known to me Johnson’s contains rich asides. It also inspires the reader not to read continuously but to flip pages, both backwards and forwards, before putting the book down. It is commonly considered the greatest work of literature customarily kept in the “reference” section of a library. Unfortunate it is that most later dictionaries, at least in English, are written by committees and thus devoid of style. Nonetheless, among the later masters of this Entry Art are Nicolas Slonimsky, AMBROSE BIERCE, and JOHN ROBERT COLOMBO whose books have likewise been produced by one learned and witty writer.

JONES, CHUCK (21 September 1912–22 February 2002; b. Charles M. J.) Coming of age in Los Angeles, just as the film industry was rapidly burgeoning, he found work not in the features but in shorter films that shot not live performers but hand-made drawings – actually sequences of drawings – and were thus called “cartoons.” Thanks to support from Warner Brothers, whose bosses wanted shorter films to precede the feature that attracted most filmgoers (some of whom might be arriving late), Jones and his colleagues worked in a corporate outpost where, under-supervised (and under-funded), they were able to make all sorts of remarkable departures, such as the discovery of anthropomorphic animals who could move through the world as people could not. Customarily only several minutes in length, these films also proceed with a speed different from longer Hollywood films, which often put me to sleep. Prolific and often profound, Jones directed Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, among other popular series; he created a character called the Roadrunner. He made “public service” animations during World War II and afterwards. Whereas most of his 300 cartoons were acceptable for modest purposes, he deserves credit for some of the most brilliant animations of all: Duck Amuck (1953), where the protagonist Daffy Duck must frantically improvise as everything around him rapidly changes in less than seven minutes; and What’s Opera, Doc (1957), which compresses


RICHARD WAGNER’s Ring Cycle likewise into a single 35 mm reel less than seven minutes long. In both critical histories of the cartoons genre, these two are counted among the masterpieces. The great tragedy of Jones’s artistic life was that Warner Brothers shut down animation production in 1962, when he was barely 50 years old. He formed his own company as well as working for other Hollywood studios in the years immediately afterwards. Though always respected, he never again produced work as brilliant as before. For his last years Jones oversaw packages reissuing his greatest works, which are still appreciated, especially in contrast to more recent computer-generated animations that seem visually klunky in comparison. He spoke often and intelligently about his career at venues around the world. Indicatively, the most thoughtful critical appreciation of Jones was written by Hugh Kenner, a literature professor otherwise known for his books about the great modern writers. I think of Chuck and SPIKE, both Jones, born only several months apart, both from Los Angeles, to epitomize the Angelino imagination at its avant-garde best.

JONES, SPIKE (14 December 1911–1 May 1965; b. Lindley Armstrong J.) One of the greatest comic musical performers ever, a contemporary of CHUCK JONES, both born around Los Angeles within a single year apart, Spike Jones gathered in the early 1940s a group of musicians whom he called the City Slickers, who were willing to perform his extravagant comedy. Their first greater success came with a 78 rpm. recording of “Das Fuhrer’s Face” (1942) in which the semblance of a Teutonic oom-pah band regularly screams “Sieg Hiel” followed by the sound of flatulence to various lyrics deprecating Adolf Hitler. (The real Führer reportedly so hated this record that he tried to destroy every copy he could.) Over the next dozen years the City Slickers recorded prolifically and toured widely with songs and comic arrangements that were both popular and musically sophisticated. Often they began with a song or theme already popular: “Holiday for Strings,” “Hawaiian War Chant,” “You Always Hurt the One You Love.” More memorable now probably are the group’s take-offs from more classical music, such as Franz Liszt’s Liebestgräume, which they played as fast as they could with unusual instruments; likewise Gioacchino Rossini’s William Tell Overture, played with kitchen implements.


As true classics, these musical (re)arrangements remain hilarious decades later. ‘Tis said that Spike’s imagination got lost in the late 1950s wake of early rock music, which he reportedly judged already ridiculous (and thus unavailable for parody), and then the decline in his personal health exacerbated by heavy cigarette smoking. Visibly hypernervous, he ostentatiously performed with chewing gum as a kind of SIGNATURE movement. He died too young. Among the later major musical comedians reflecting his influence count Raymond Scott (1908–94), Allan Sherman (1924–73), Gerard Hoffnung (1925–59, the sole Brit here), P.D.Q. Bach, FRANK ZAPPA, and “Weird Al” Yankovic (1959). Someday an appreciative book should be written about the two Jones boys, Chuck and Spike, perhaps along with FRANK ZAPPA, as epitomizing a rich strain of Angelino art.

JOPLIN, SCOTT (24 November 1868–1 April 1917) An itinerant Midwestern pianist, Joplin is generally credited with composing the first popular piano piece to sell a million copies of sheet music, “Maple Leaf Rag” (1899). Although the term “ragtime” was meant to be semi-derogatory, Joplin’s piano pieces were as classically rigorous as Chopin’s études, with four parts, composed AA-BB-AA-CC (trio)-DD. Joplin’s music also incorporated dissonant harmonies, intuitively expanding the musical idioms of popular composition; his “Stop Time Rag” was the first sheet music to include markings for foot-tapping. One misfortune of Joplin’s life is that, not unlike GEORGE GERSHWIN, after him, Joplin thought himself worthy of more ambitious music, composing a ballet based on ragtime, and then a full-scale opera, Treemonisha (1911), which everyone wishes were better than it is. He died just short of 50, a full half-century before his music was revived, first in brilliant records in the early 1970s by the conductor-pianist-musicologistarranger Joshua Rifkin (1944), then in the popular film The Sting (1974). —with Richard Carlin

JOYCE, JAMES (2 February 1882–13 January 1941) My job in a book like this is to distinguish the avant-garde Joyce from the more traditional writer.

122 • JUDD, DONALD FINNEGANS WAKE obviously belongs and, if only to measure its extraordinary excellence, deserves a separate entry. For Joyce’s stories, Dubliners (1914), the innovation was the concept of the epiphany, which is the revelatory moment, customarily appearing near the end, that would give meaning to the entire fiction. “The epiphany is, in Christian terms, the ‘showing forth’ of Jesus Christ’s divinity to the Magi,” notes the British writer Martin Seymour-Smith (1928–98). “They are ‘sudden revelation[s] of the whatness of a thing,’ ‘sudden spiritual manifestation’ – in the vulgarity of speech or gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself.” Thus the departure of a Joycean story is the form not of an arc, where events proceed to a climax before retreating to a denouement, but of continuous events that establish a flat form until the flashing epiphany. One innovation of ULYSSES (1922) is the elegant interior monologue, also called stream-of-consciousness. Retelling in many ways the story of an oafish Jew, who has as much resemblance to the classic Ulysses as a bulldog to a greyhound, this thick book incorporates a wealth of parodies, epiphanies, allusions, extended sentences, and contrary philosophies within a fairly conventional story. What also distinguishes Joyce’s career is the escalation of his art, as each new book proved ever more extraordinary than its predecessor. The culmination was the WAKE (1939). One’s mind boggles at the notion of what Joyce might have produced had he lived twenty years longer. Indeed, this sense of esthetic awe, if not incredulity, is intrinsic in our appreciation of Joyce’s continuing high reputation. Another measure of awe is the sense that decades later his greatest works still aren’t completely understood. New insights continue to appear.

JUDD, DONALD (3 June 1928–12 February 1994) A pioneer of MINIMALIST sculpture, Judd established his canonical reputation with the display of simple three-dimensional forms, devoid not just of any base but also of any fronts or sides. These objects were distributed in evenly measured ways, such as protruding three-dimensional rectangles up the side of a wall. Viewed from various angles, such definite forms suggest paradoxically a variety of interrelated shapes, for Judd’s point was to make one thing that could look like

many things. With success, he used more expensive metals fabricated to his specifications, often with seductive monochromatic coloring, and produced many variations, only slightly different from one another, on a few ideas. As a writer, Judd contributed regular reviews to the art magazines of the early 1960s, advocating the move away from emotional EXPRESSIONISM toward more intellectual structuring, and away from an earlier sense of art, particularly sculpture, as interrelated parts toward an idea of a single “holistic” image. Forever severe, he preferred to call his three-dimensional works “specific objects,” instead of sculpture.

JUDSON DANCE THEATER (1962–64) Out of the composition classes taught in the early 1960s by Robert Ellis Dunn (1928–96) at the MERCE CUNNINGHAM Studio came young dancers wanting to create their own pieces. As a Greenwich Village landmark (1877), which had already gained cultural fame, rare for a church at that time, by making its space available for a Poet’s Theater, The Judson Memorial Church was receptive to aspiring choreographers. The result was, in Sally Banes’s succinct summary, the first avant-garde movement in dance theater since the modern dance of the 1930s and 1940s. The choreographers of the Judson Dance Theater radically questioned dance aesthetics, both in their dances and in their weekly discussions. They rejected the codification of both ballet and modern dance. They questioned the traditional dance concert format and explored the nature of dance performance. They also discovered a cooperative method for producing dance concerts. The result was a rich succession of choreographic experiments, some more successful than others. In addition to involving dancers who subsequently had distinguished choreographic careers, such as Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, and Lucinda Childs, the Judson Dance Theater hosted performances authored by such predominantly visual artists as ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG and Robert Morris. New York’s MoMA mounted an exhibition remembering Judson Dance late in 2018.


KABAKOV(S), ILYA & EMILIA (30 September 1933; 1945; b. E. Lekach) The artistic couple of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov are among the contemporary artists born in the USSR bestknown in the West. Beginning his artistic career in the 1950s as a children’s books illustrator, Ilya by the 1970s was creating numerous conceptual art albums based on fictional characters. These albums eventually led to the painting series that explored the widespread Soviet experience of living in communal apartments. Many critics consider Ilya Kabakov’s work “Answers of the Experimental Group” (1972) to be the foundation of Moscow Conceptualism. In lieu of visual images, it contains a grid of hand-written phrases. “Answers of the Experimental Group” parodied the omnipresent such Soviet-era visual aids as schedule boards and posters. Kabakov’s SIGNATURE approach became an overall conceptual framework, combined with a detailed attention to the most familiar signifiers of the Soviet existence. By the 1980s, as Ilya Kabakov’s output of traditional artworks diminished, he began experimenting with installations. The Man Who Flew into Space from His Apartment (1982–86) is among his most influential works of that period. One of his first “total installations,” as he calls this genre, it presents a messy room in total disarray, with a big hole in the ceiling. Posters cover the walls, red color dominates. A mysterious device is hanging from the center of the ceiling. This installation presents the ultimate dream materialization of the typical Soviet communal apartment dweller: a successful escape that is an antithesis to the apotheosis of Russian Constructivist sculpture, Letatlin (1932) by VLADIMIR TATLIN. The early Soviet utopian quest for universal expansion turns into an escape quest from the late Soviet dystopia. In 1987, Kabakov moved to Western Europe, working and exhibiting everywhere. In 1989, his “niece” Emilia, prior an art dealer and a curator in Israel and

New York, became his third wife and a full artistic collaborator. Incredibly prolific and successful since then, the Kabakovs currently live on Long Island, as did, say, the émigré artist David Burliuk before them. For one testament to their popularity, consider that eBay is flooded with fake Kabakovs. —Igor Satanovsky

KANDINSKY, WASSILY (16 December 1866–13 December 1944; b. W. Wassilyevich K.) Born in Moscow, Kandinsky studied law and social science at the local University, where he later taught law. Impressed by the first Russian exhibition of French Impressionists in 1895, he traveled in 1897 to Munich to study painting. Older than the other students, Kandinsky quickly progressed professionally, organizing exhibitions throughout Europe. By 1909, he became a founding member of Neue Künstlervereinigung (NKV), which initially represented the style of the Fauves against the German version of Art Nouveau called Jugendstil. By the following year, the NKV exhibition included a broader range of advanced European painting. By 1912, Kandinsky belonged to a dissident group that published the Blaue Reiter Almanach, which he coedited; in the same year, he authored Über das Geistige in der Kunst (Concerning the Spiritual in Art), which still ranks among the major essays in the development of nonrepresentational painting for insisting upon the primacy of expressive and compositional elements in art. During World War I, Kandinsky returned to Russia, where he worked in arts administration, until he was invited in 1921 to teach at the BAUHAUS, remaining there until it was closed by the Nazis. He then moved to Paris, where he lived until his death. Kandinsky’s own mature paintings emphasized bright color, an intentionally flat field, and irregular


124 • KAUFMAN, ANDY abstract forms whose unfettered exuberance seems reminiscent of the art of his sometime colleague at the Bauhaus, Paul Klee (1879–1940). Perhaps because of the softness of their abstraction, both Klee and Kandinsky are now less influential than they used to be.

KAUFMAN, ANDY (17 January 1949–16 May 1984; b. Andrew G. K.) Among the most original standup performers of his time, he didn’t tell jokes or even sympathetically address his audience. Instead, he played various familiar roles badly, verging on what was called “camp,” which is an honorific characterizing art, usually live performance, that was so awful it became good. His specialty was inept impersonations, particularly of Elvis Presley. After singing a Presley song as well as duplicating the singer’s gyrations, Kaufman would toss his leather jacket into the audience but, unlike Presley, then ask that it be returned to him. While taking his bows, he would adopt another impersonation as he sounded like an eternal immigrant: “Tank you veddy much.” Kaufman also adopted such ridiculous personas as Tony Clifton, who was a lousy lounge singer, or that of a professional wrestler. Forever audacious, Kaufman once invited the audience of his Carnegie Hall performance to join him afterwards for milk and cookies, even hiring two dozen buses to transport them. When newspapers reported that he died young of lung cancer (though he didn’t smoke), some thought his death was another audacious Andy Kaufman hoax; it wasn’t. His unique performances are remembered decades after his death.

that the house comes out resembling a wild CUBIST construction. (Because the main entry is on the second floor, one continuing gag in the film is Keaton’s pratfalls when he exits the house.) Keaton was among the first to experiment with the nature of reality and illusion in film. His 1922 short The Play House features some of the earliest trick photography, in which Keaton, through multiple exposures, portrays an entire orchestra, performing troupe, and audience. The protagonist of Sherlock, Jr. (1924), his first feature-length film, is a film projectionist who, in his dreams, leaps into the film that he is showing, becoming unwittingly involved with the action on screen. As his own director, Keaton was also a masterful film editor, often working with striking juxtapositions. In Cops (1922), he created a classic chase sequence in which gangs of police appear and disappear (almost magically) as they pursue the unwitting hero through a busy city landscape. Much of the comedy depends upon the cuts between scenes where the lone Keaton is shown running down a street and then, moments later, a sea of policemen run through the same space. With the advent of sound (and thus more expensive productions), Keaton unfortunately lost creative control of his films, appearing in a series of lame MGM features, often paired with the hopelessly overbearing Jimmy Durante. Late in his life, when his silent masterpieces were rediscovered, Keaton starred again in some wonderful short films, including a dialogueless film portraying him traveling across Canada on a small handcar (The Railroader [1965]) and the SAMUEL BECKETT-scripted short, entitled simply Film (1965) that was incomplete at the time of Keaton’s death. —Richard Carlin

KEATON, BUSTER (4 October 1895–1 February 1966; b. Joseph Francis K.) Among the most innovative of all silent film directors, Keaton created a character with so little external affect that much of his comedy depends upon his deadpan reaction to the catastrophes occurring around him. Nicknamed “Stoneface,” the Keaton persona remained unchanged whether he was in the midst of a hurricane (as at the end of his classic Steamboat Bill, Jr. [1928]) or fleeing from Union troops in the Civil War (The General [1927]). Keaton’s comic conceptions often bordered on DADA, as in the famous short (One Week [1920]) in which a newly married couple struggle to build their dream house. A villain has so scrambled the directions

KENTRIDGE, WILLIAM (28 April 1955) Aside from his achievements as a purely visual artist with prints and drawings, as well as tapestries and short animated films, I want to commend his extraordinary stagecraft. No one enhances operas as strongly as he. As the stage director of the Metropolitan Opera production of Dmitri Shostakovich’s fanciful The Nose (2010), Kentridge not only designed the sets and moved the performers, but he offered a wealth of projections, both static and kinetic, and such unusual moves as pitching his singers on smaller platforms at various levels above the main stage. The décor became


more surprising than the music. Measurably, Kentridge has taken higher than his predecessors the modernist adventure of distinguished visual artists’ enhancing operas. Otherwise, his innovative short animations depend upon charcoal drawings produced by himself on the same sheet of paper, rather than the more customary separate cells, and thus portray his incremental drawing. Collectively, nine of them were titled 9 Drawings for Projection (1989–2003). Other clever short films are shot like animation, with pauses between frames or doubling himself, to portray Kentridge making his own art or talking to himself. Some of his work reflects his continuing residence in South Africa where he was born and educated. Otherwise, in talking about his own efforts few visual artists so prominent are as articulate and thoughtful as Kentridge. Not for nothing was he a NORTON PROFESSOR at Harvard.

KEROUAC, JACK (12 March 1922–21 October 1969; b. Jean-Louis Kérouac) The avant-garde Kerouac is not the chronicler of hitchhiking through America in On the Road (1957) or the embarrassing drunk of his later years, but the author of certain abstract prose in which words are strung together not to describe a subject but for qualities indigenous to language. Visions of Cody (1972, though written many years before) and, especially, “Old Angel Midnight” are thought to be examples of “automatic writing,” Kerouac purportedly transcribing words at the forefront of his consciousness. Whether that last claim is true, the result is extraordinary writing, as in the following from the latter title: Stump – all on a stump the stump – accord yourself with a sweet declining woman one night – I mean by declining that she lays back & declines to say no – accuerdo ud. con una merveillosa – accorde tue, Ti Pousse, avec une belle fe’Tune folle pi vas, t’councer – if ya don’t understand s 11 and tish, that language, it’s because the langue just bubbles & in the babbling void I Lowsy Me I’s tihed. Like other Kerouac writing, this is about the possibilities of language and memory, but differs from most other Kerouac in being about the limitless intensities of each. Kerouac’s major experimental poems are “Sea,” which initially appeared as an appendix to Big Sur (1962), and Mexico City Blues (242 Choruses) (1959), which displayed linguistic leaps similar to those quoted from “Old Angel Midnight.”


KHAN, NUSRAT FATEH ALI (13 October 1948–16 August 1997) Though ecstatic singers are honored in every religion supporting such sacred music, few could ever equal the heightened spiritual musicality of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in performing Qawwali, the devotional music of Sufis. Born a Muslim Punjabi in Pakistan, the son of a musician who descended from earlier musicians, he developed a small performance ensemble that, thanks to ingenious arrangements and amplification, to the accompaniment solely of harmoniums, could sound like a male mob. More impressively, his Qawwali Party would perform for hours at a time. As their music was best heard live, they toured around the world. Since his death, a nephew Rahat Fatah Ali Khan (1974) has continued the Qawwali tradition.

KHAN, USTAD BISMILLAH (21 March 1916–21 August 2006) A virtuoso on the South Asian shehnai, a kind of oboe, in the performance of Indian music, he was the epitome of the instrumental musician who played with such originality, subtlety, and proficiency that the instrument, or in his case a double reed, never sounded so strong elsewhere. One measure of his excellence was no one after him could play any double reed as well, perhaps because he accepted few students. Other instrumental soloists approaching Khan’s level for innovation and brilliance include, in my opinion, Paul Zukofsky (1943–2107) on the violin, GLENN GOULD and Art Tatum (1909–56) on the piano, Pablo Casals (1986–73) and Frances-Marie Uitti on the cello, Andrés Segovia (1893–1987) on the gut-stringed guitar, and both LOUIS ARMSTRONG and Bobby McFerrin for the human voice. (Here readers can add their own favorites in this book’s margins.) Hearing only a few notes from any of these unique performers, the listener can identify the player. (None of them, incidentally, taught much.) As Ustad was an acquired honorific, this Bismillah Khan is not the prominent Pakistani cricketer born in 1990.

KHLEBNIKOV, VELIMIR (9 November 1885–28 June 1922; b. Viktor Vladimirovich K.) The brilliant pathfinder of RUSSIAN FUTURISM and one of the greatest Russian poets of the 20th

126 • KINETIC ART century, Khlebnikov was a quiet, reclusive man who led a nomadic existence, in contrast to the brash behavior of the other CUBO-FUTURISTS. They nonetheless recognized him as the genius of the movement, one whose ceaseless innovation and great poetic achievement served as a creative stimulus in the areas of both practice and theory. His earliest poems (1906–08) already show the marks of originality and innovation that made Khlebnikov a leader of Futurism when the movement began to form in 1910. One of his most famous early poems is “Incantation on Laughter,” a series of neologisms based on the root smekh (“laughter”) and published in 1910. Khlebnikov’s major poetic quest was to uncover the true creative roots of language that existed in primitive times, when presumably there was a close iconic link between linguistic signs and their meaning. Many of Khlebnikov’s theoretical works are devoted to uncovering these links in the Slavic language, and many of his poems are partly illustrations of his theories. Khlebnikov was a Slavophile in his attitude toward language, and he avoided borrowings from European languages (especially from French and German, which are heard frequently in spoken and literate Russian). The goal of many of his coinages was to demonstrate the capacity of Slavic to generate all the words necessary for present and future needs, not only to replace foreign borrowings in current use but also to name new phenomena. While the term “Zaum” was used by him and others to describe these linguistic inventions, Khlebnikov, in contrast to ALEKSEI KRUCHONYKH, intended his coinages to be clearly understood and not to be indeterminate in meaning, at least in the long run. Often he provided keys to their interpretation either explicitly by giving definitions or implicitly by providing analogies to known words within the same context. Khlebnikov’s innovations were not limited to word-creation, but covered a full linguistic range, from attempting to define the universal meanings of individual sounds and letters to new ways of creating metaphors, to rhythmic and syntactic experiments, and to new syntheses of all of these elements in larger forms called “supersagas,” one of the most noted of which is Zangezi (1922). Khlebnikov was also a significant writer of prose fiction and theater texts. His “The Radio of the Future” (1921) is filled with suggestions that still seem radical today. He preferred to depict the primitive state of man in close contact with nature, a state analogous to primitive man’s close contact with the roots of language. Slavic mythology is a notable element. Khlebnikov was not as enamored of modern technology and urban life as other Futurists. However, in addition to his principal concern of creating a perfect language for the future, he

penned a number of Utopian descriptions of futuristic life. As he was a trained mathematician, his favorite project was attempting to discover the mathematical laws governing human destiny, according to which the pattern of historical events could be understood and future events predicted. Because of his nomadic existence and personal eccentricity, publications of Khlebnikov’s works during his lifetime were often to some degree faulty, filled with typographical errors, misreadings, and variant or fragmentary versions, the author’s final wishes being to varying degrees uncertain. These problems continued in posthumous editions until very recently, when more rigorously edited volumes have begun to appear. Khlebnikov was fortunate, however, to have had champions throughout the Soviet period when his work appeared with some regularity, though not abundantly. As the difficulty of his poetry still challenges even the most sophisticated reader, he has never been and is unlikely ever to become broadly popular; he will remain a “poet’s poet” whose work continues to inspire new generations of Russian writers. —Gerald Janecek

KINETIC ART (c. 1920) Several artists between 1910 and 1920 – among them, NAUM GABO, Alexander Archipenko, MARCEL DUCHAMP, and GIACOMO BALLA – came up with the idea of making art move, utilizing motors to propel their initially sculptural objects. In a famous 1920 manifesto, Gabo joined his brother Antoine Pevsner (1886–1962) in suggesting, “In place of static rhythm in the plastic arts, we announce the existence of a new element, kinetic rhythm, which is to be the basis of a new perception of real time.” In his book The Origins and Development of Kinetic Art (1969), the French critic Frank Popper (1918) distinguishes among several genres of kinetic art. One depends upon some kind of machinery (e.g., the artists already cited, POL BURY and MoholyNagy). A second, called mobiles, realizes movement without motors (e.g., ALEXANDER CALDER and GEORGE RICKEY). A third depends upon moving light (e.g., THOMAS WILFRED and Joshua Light). A fourth, such as that made by JULIO LE PARC and Yaacov Agam, depends upon spectators shifting themselves for the illusion of movement to occur in the work of art. Certain holograms also depend upon spectator movement. A fifth is a kind of Optical Art that, if stared at fixedly, will generate the illusion



of movement; the exemplars here are Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely. To Popper’s list I would add a genre of machines that respond to outside influences (such as works by James Seawright [1936] and ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG) and a second of kinetic sculptures that function autonomously. One contemporary master in the last category is George Rhoads, who uses a motor to lift a small ball to the top of a multi-route contraption that then depends upon pretechnological forces of gravity to make the artwork move. The sculptures of Wen-Ying Tsai transcend Popper’s categories by incorporating both motors and changing light. Some contemporary kinetic art has been produced by collectives, such as USCO. Some examples are permanently installed (such as the George Rhoads 42nd Street Ballroom in Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal); others, such as JEAN TINQUELY’s Hommage a New York (1960), were meant to survive only for an evening. Some recent kinetic art exploits computers, at times to make the activity more various than was possible in the mechanical age, or to make it respond to viewers’ presence.

today for his scathing critiques, particularly of intellectual fakery:



(23 May 1910–13 May 1962)

(21 February 1886–17 June 1968; b. A. Yeliseyevich Kruchonykh)

Initially a painter of urban silhouettes as shadowless forms, Kline in the 1950s developed an extremely original style of abstraction with broad brushstrokes assuming the quality of monumental calligraphy, if not ideograms. It is said that he projected an image of one of his drawings onto a wall, and in the contrast between large black and white fields saw his mature painting. Precisely because so many of Kline’s paintings are mostly black, the untainted white areas attain the status of independent images. In their avoidance of colors typical of Nature, these canvases could be regarded as an epitome of a NEW YORK CITY sensibility. As a native New Yorker, whose idea of highest Nature is the Atlantic Ocean, I once suggested that only two colors are worthy of art – black and white; all other colors are appropriate for illustrations.

KRAUS, KARL (28 April 1874–12 June 1936) His life centered on a periodical he founded in 1899, when he was 25, Die Fackel (The Torch), and edited to his death. From 1912 onwards, he was its sole contributor. A monumentally severe essayist, he is remembered

Psychoanalysis is the disease of which it claims to be the cure. People would rather catch venereal diseases than forego their cause, for it is still easier to be cured of them than of the inclination unintentionally to catch them. Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country. No ideas and the ability to express them – that’s a journalist. For independence and intellectual guts, his own competitor is the American H. L. Mencken, who was roughly his contemporary. Odd it is that, as far as I can count a negative, neither acknowledged the other, though both spoke the other’s language. Unfortunate his readers were that Krauss died just as Naziism was assuming power in Austria.

The wild man of RUSSIAN FUTURISM, notorious for his Zaum poetry, Kruchenykh began his career as an art teacher but became associated with the Hylaea branch of the Russian Futurists and, in 1912, began publishing a series of lithographed primitivist booklets with his own and other Futurists poetry, with illustrations by Mikhail Larionov (1881–1964), Natalia Goncharova (1881–1962), KAZIMIR MALEVICH, and others. Kruchenykh’s most famous poem, “Dyr bul shchyl,” is the first Russian poem written explicitly in an “indefinite” personal language. Although the idea of writing poetry in “unknown words” was suggested to him by David Burliuk (1882–1967), it was Kruchenykh who developed this form of poetry in all its ramifications. His most elaborate creation was the opera Victory Over the Sun, performed in St. Petersburg in December 1913, with music by MIKHAIL MATIUSHIN and sets and costumes by Kazimir Malevich. A scandalous success, the performances were sold out. Kruchenykh continued to experiment in various ways to create indeterminacy in language on all levels from the phonetic to the narrative, until the early 1920s. Throughout this period, he was often the critical whipping boy of

128 • KUBRICK, STANLEY Russian Futurism; his works were treated as examples of the most ridiculous extremes of the movement. While VLADIMIR MAYAKOVSKY and VELIMIR KHLEBNIKOV were sometimes granted reluctant respect, Kruchenykh was always treated as beneath serious consideration. His anti-esthetic imagery, crude eroticism, and deliberately clumsy language contributed to an impression of a lack of talent and culture. His most famous poem, when acknowledged, was (and still is) almost always misquoted. During World War I, Kruchenykh was drafted to work on the southern railroad, which brought him into contact with Iliazd and Igor Terentyev (1892–1937) in Tiflis, and he formed with them the avant-garde group 41°. At this time his works consisted of a long series of handmade (autographic) booklets duplicated by carbon copy or hectograph; others were elegantly typographed by Iliazd. In the former, his Zaum poetry reached a Minimalist level in sparse compositions of individual letters and lines and even blank pages. For Kruchenykh, the visual appearance of poetry was always important, as was its sound texture. In 1921, Kruchenykh moved permanently to Moscow, where he attempted to enter literary life by arguing for the usefulness of his literary experiments for the new socialist culture and producing a series of valuable theoretical texts. However, his poetry was already less adventurous. Because of his reputation and a certain residual thickness of texture, his efforts to create works that would appeal to the common reader or theatergoer were unsuccessful. Though shunned by Soviet publishers after 1930, Kruchenykh continued to write significant poetry afterward; he survived into the 1960s by collecting and trading in avant-garde and mainstream poetic materials. Kruchenykh remained the most consistent publicist for Futurist views. For some time his works were largely unknown to the Russian reader, in part because the first edition of his work appeared in Germany (1973);

only in the 1990s did his works begin to receive serious scholarly attention, initially in the West but then in Russia as well. —Gerald Janecek


KUNSTHALLE (1869) Initially a Swiss-German innovation, this identifies a government-supported exhibition venue, usually within an urban setting, that is designed to accept a traveling exhibition, usually of contemporary art, customarily without “collecting” anything more substantial than enthusiastic recommendations. Various in size, these kunsthallen can be impressive free-standing structures designed by advanced architects or discrete rooms buried (or sometimes popping up) within a larger building devoted mostly to other activities. Typically, a kunsthalle needs a smaller staff than a traditional museum that must employ curators and a conservation staff to care for a permanent collection. While a Kunstverein is similar, except for private backers, a Kunsthaus in Germany is customarily a more pretentious institution. As kunsthallen, inherently flexible, can accept not only visual art but new media, they become avant-garde for other museums. The closest semblance in America would be the native invention of a gallery embedded in a university that isn’t an art school. Between them kunsthalles and university galleries probably exhibit more uncommercial visual art than all the world’s museums combined. If only because this should be an acceptable English word, it’s neither italicized nor capitalized here.


LAS VEGAS (c. 1947) Las Vegas represents a continuing collective attempt to create a city as a unique work of art. As a 1940s frontier town in the middle of an otherwise empty desert but near the construction site that became the Hoover Dam, Las Vegas initially benefited from the absence of laws forbidding gambling. When entrepreneurs decided to build hotels initially for southern Californians on a holiday, it began to assume its current identity. After a dormant period, construction increased rapidly in the 1990s. As the hotels were built to have unique identities, rather than restrictive uniformity, Las Vegas itself became a work of avant-garde art. The kind of extravagant eccentricity of Hollywood architecture, so aptly satirized in Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust (1939), is in Las Vegas extended to a higher, much higher level. Simply to walk down its main tourist street, Las Vegas Boulevard, customarily called the Strip, is to experience not only impressive kinetic signage (itself a public art form insufficiently appreciated) but, on one stretch, a building styled after medieval England next to an Egyptian pyramid adjacent to another hotel meant to recreate neighborhoods within New York City. Elsewhere on the Strip, next to a hotel that has a pseudovolcano fronting the street that “erupts” every twenty minutes is another hotel that mounts a fight between two 18th-century pirate ships every ninety minutes. Even on foot, one is continually moving through different worlds (or their surrogates). Another hotel on the Strip houses an art gallery with classic sculptures and paintings. It was not for nothing that Robert Venturi (1925–2018), an academically trained architect, boosted his reputation by publishing back in 1972 an influential essay titled Learning from Las Vegas. In the hotels are, in addition to casinos devoid of clocks, spectacularly spacious theatrical venues that sponsor live entertainments ranging in quality from semipro magicians

to the world-class performance troupe, CIRQUE DU SOLEIL. The surprise is that the casino corporations have become modern-day Medicis who support the traditional art of LIVE PERFORMANCE in the age of mass media. As a continuous show in itself, the Las Vegas Strip is always changing, as hotels only a few decades old are razed to make space for new ones with yet more extravagant images (northern Italy, Venice, etc.). Because no one could have imagined this by himself, Las Vegas represents a collective effort that has the character of folk art and yet differs from traditional folk art in its corporate sponsorship. Obviously, profits from gambling, which is rigged to fleece, finance this mammoth eccentricity; but don’t forget that it is possible to experience Las Vegas as an ever-changing artistic INSTALLATION without ever losing a penny to vice.

LAUTRÉAMONT, COMTE DE (4 April 1846–24 November 1870; b. Isidore-Lucian Ducasse) Born in Uruguay of French parents, Lautréamont came to Paris to prepare for the polytechnical high school. Failing in this mission, plagued by poverty, he began a prose poem, Les Chants de Maldoror (posthumously published in 1890), which, while reflecting classical literature, became recognized as a precursor of SURREALISM. As his protagonist, Maldoror, suffers gruesome misfortunes, Lautrémont’s language becomes extremely hallucinatory: Who could have realized that whenever he embraced a young child with rosy cheeks he longed to slice off those cheeks with a razor, and he would have done it many times had he not been restrained by the thought of Justice with her long funereal procession of punishments. —trans. Guy Wernham


130 • LAWRENCE, T. E. LAWRENCE, T. E. (16 August 1888–19 May 1935; b. Thomas Edward L.) One of the most original writers in English, he excelled at rich prose, not only in his memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926, though first completed in 1922) but in his personal letters, which rank among the greatest in the language. Ostensibly about his experience as a British liaison officer siding with the Arabs in their revolt (1916–18) against the Ottoman Turks, his great book is filled with rich turns of phrase, magnificent descriptions, and high literary allusions, beginning with the title that comes from the Book of Proverbs. The Syrians had their de facto government, which endured for two years, without foreign advice, in an occupied country wasted by war, and against the will of important elements among the Allies. Lawrence’s book also inspired one of the most beautiful feature-length films (1962) ever made by a commercial company, which rarely does great books appropriately. More than fifty years later, the film remains a classic of its kind; nearly a whole century later, the book is likewise classic.

LÉGER, FERNAND (4 February 1881–17 August 1955) A physically imposing, personally ebullient visual artist, he moved prodigiously along the edge of several avant-garde activities, beginning with Parisian CUBISM, without being fully identified with (or central to) any of them. Two visual marks of his stylistically idiosyncratic paintings were brighter, perhaps gaudy colors and semblances of human figures and machines in an abstract field. In his most avant-garde painting (1918–20), the themes are pure pictorial contrasts and dynamic dissonance. This he rejected in the 1920s for a neo-classicism comparable to a simultaneous development in classical music. Not until he returned from America after World War II did Legér, then in his late sixties, exhibit regularly in France. (Odd it is that too many avant-garde artists must also go to a second country to get recognitions that they finally deserve back home.) For his final paintings, he favored larger canvases that became more typical decades later in ARTISTS’ SOHO. Notwithstanding his professional independence, Léger collaborated at various times with choice colleagues, producing limited editions with BLAISE CENDRARS (The End of the World, 1919) and

designing sets for the premiere of Darius Milhaud’s La création du monde (1925, The Creation of the World). Léger also conceived and co-directed a classic abstract film, Ballet méchanique (1923–24), in collaboration with Man Ray and George Antheil. Professionally expansive in his own practice as well, Léger additionally produced mosaics, murals, stained-glass windows, polychrome ceramic sculptures, theatrical designs, and book illustrations. Thanks to his generous temperament, Léger was a popular colleague and teacher. Among his sometime students were many who had visible careers as visual artists. His coming to America during World War II was such an important event that, so Harold Rosenberg once told me, many New York artists went down to some Hudson River pier expressly to welcome him on 12 November 1940. Once in the USA, he collaborated with HANS RICHTER on part of the latter’s film Dreams That Money Can Buy (1944–46) and at various times taught at American universities, along with such distinguished French World War II refugees as the art historian Henri Focillon (1881–1943), the essayist André Maurois (1885–1967), and the composer Darius Milhaud (1892–1974). In the classic 1942 George Platt Lynes (1907–55) photograph of 14 Artists in Exile, only Léger isn’t wearing a white shirt with a tie, looking more like a working artist than an executive, his physique also visibly broader than the others’.

LENNON, JOHN (9 October 1940–8 December 1980) At the height of the success of THE BEATLES (1962– 69), for which he initially played rhythm guitar, Lennon published two self-illustrated books of free form prose, In His Own Write (1965) and A Spaniard in the Works (1966), that reflect the influences of Edward Lear, LEWIS CARROLL, and JAMES JOYCE, but these did not sell enough copies to persuade publishers to hound the celebrated singer for more. It was Lennon, no one else, who reportedly initiated THE BEATLES’s experiments with feedback (in “I Feel Fine”), backwards tape (in “Rain” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”), and AUDIO ART (“Strawberry Fields Forever” and “A Day in the Life”). Later, working in collaboration with his second wife, YOKO ONO, Lennon created less successful self-consciously experimental music beginning with the tape montage “Revolution No. 9” featured on The Beatles (1969; commonly known as “The White Album”) and the Lennon/Ono albums Two Virgins (1968) and Life with the Lions (1969). —with Richard Carlin




Situationist writings have been translated into English, Lettrist texts barely have – to our loss.

(15 April 1452–2 May 1519) The prototypical avant-garde artist, he was original and innovative as a painter of masterpieces (e.g., Mona Lisa, The Last Supper), an esthetic visionary, an inventor, a writer, and much else long familiar. In particular his “notebooks” constitute in sum the richest inventory of possibilities ever conceived by a single individual. That is to say, whereas others painted nearly as well, no one else mixed writings and drawings so imaginatively, elevating the artistic and intellectual status of his initially private jottings to a level rarely attained since. So ahead of his time was Leonardo that fugitive passages in his notebooks are still admired, some five centuries later. Consider that few images from this time are reproduced as often, even on t-shirts and Euro coins, as his superimposed Vitruvian Man (1490).

LETTRISM (mid-1940s) Founded in Paris by Isidore Isou (1925–2007; b. IoanIsidore Goldstein), himself a young refugee recently arrived from Rumania, this is perhaps the epitome of a circumscribed European literary group, with its untitled head, its insiders, its hangers-on, and, alas, its excommunications. Lettrist poetry seems based on calligraphy, initially for printed pages but also for visual art, and thus in the age of print seems quite innovative (though it might not have fared as well in preprint times). One recurring device is letters that resemble poetry, even though they are devoid of words. Later work, in the 21st century, continuing this principle called itself Asemic Writing. Jean-Louis Brau (1930–85), Gil J. Wolman (1929– 95), Maurice Lemaître (1926), Roberto Altmann (1942), Roland Sabatier (1942), and Jean-Paul Curtay (1951) were among the other prominent writer/artists based in France who were associated with Lettrism at various times. Not unlike other self-conscious agglomerations, Lettrism has been particularly skilled at the production of manifestos, which can be read with varying degrees of sense. By discounting semantic and syntactical coherence for language art, Lettrist works can be seen as precursors of CONCRETE POETRY. Among the Lettrist alumni was Guy Ernest Debord (1931–94), who, under the name Guy Debord, is commonly credited with initiating the Situationist International (c. 1958–72), which can be seen as representing artists’ most profound, courageous, and, it follows, most successful involvement in radical politics. While

LEWIS, WYNDHAM (18 November 1882–7 March 1957; b. Percy W. L.) Born off the Canadian coast on his British father’s yacht, Lewis studied at the Slade School of Art in London before becoming an abstract painter and the founder of VORTICISM, a British sort of Italian Futurism favoring geometrical recompositions and aggressive colors. In 1914, Lewis founded and edited two issues of BLAST, one of the great avantgarde magazines, distinguished not only for its content but for its expressive typography (which still looks avant-garde, a century later). Lewis later edited more modest magazines to which he was likewise also a prominent contributor, The Tyro (1921–22) and The Enemy (1927). Initially the author of plays, satires, and short stories, collected in various volumes, Lewis eventually wrote novels, beginning with Tarr (1918), which some think had an influence on JAMES JOYCE and continuing with a tetralogy, The Human Age, which the British poet/critic Martin Seymour-Smith (1928–98) for one ranks as “the greatest single imaginative prose work in English of this century.” (It includes The Childermass [1928; rev. ed.1956], Malign Fiesta, Monstre Gai [1955], and the incomplete Trial of Man.) One-Way Song (1933) is a stylistically unique anti-progressive political poem whose 2,000-plus lines were fortunately reprinted in Collected Poems and Plays (1979). In addition to writing criticism and scintillating polemics, he painted highly evocative portraits of his contemporaries, including T. S. ELIOT and EZRA POUND. Lewis spent World War II under-recognized in Canada and his postwar years in London as an art critic for the weekly Listener. Not unlike other avantgarde writers of his generation, he is continually being rediscovered with new editions, as well as new selections, of his works. He is not to be confused with D. B. Wyndham Lewis (1891–1969), who wrote polite biographies.

LEWITT, SOL (9 September 1928–8 April 2007) An abstract artist from his beginnings, a geometricist interested in systems, and a prolific producer with a generous collection of assistants, LeWitt is best

132 • LIGETI, GYÖRGY remembered for his sculptures, his wall drawings, and his writings on CONCEPTUAL ART. The theme of the first, especially in sum, is variations on the cube, which over the years were arrayed, stacked, and left partially incomplete, among other unprecedented moves. LeWitt’s wall drawings, which were customarily executed in his absence, affix a geometric scheme – say, different sets of curved lines a few inches apart – to spaces from which they can be removed at an exhibition’s end. His was a rigorously non-referential art that is concerned with purity of both concept and execution, precisely by suggesting nothing that is not obviously perceptible. Third, LeWitt’s much-reprinted “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” rationalizes work where: All of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. This kind of art is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive; it is involved with all types of mental processes and it is purposeless. Two developments within LeWitt’s wall art are the addition of colors other than black and white and verbal titles that are more poetic than descriptive (if not informative). It is said that over his entire career he has never missed opening a show on time. My own alternative opinion holds that, good as his other work has been, LeWitt’s greatest works are the BOOK-ART books that he produced mostly during the 1970s. The first masterpiece is Arcs, Circles & Grids (1972), which has 195 progressively denser combinations of the linear geometric images announced in its title. Though LeWitt may have had something else in mind, I see this book as an elegantly simple narrative about increasing linear density. Autobiography (1980) has a large number of square black-and-white photographs, each 2 5/8 inches square, of every object in LeWitt’s living and working space, none of them featured over any others; and although no photograph of the author or any of his works appears, the book does indeed portray not only a life but the roots of his particular imaginative sensibility. Among LeWitt’s many other books and booklets are Incomplete Open Cubes (1974), The Location of Lines (1974), Lines & Color (1975), Squares with Sides and Corners Torn Off (n.d.), Red, Blue and Yellow Lines from Sides, Corners and the Center of the Page to Points on a Grid (1975), Photogrids (1977), and Sunrise and Sunset at Praiano (1980), all of which accurately reflect their titles. Throughout the 1970s, LeWitt cleverly made it his custom to do fresh book-art in lieu of catalogs for his exhibitions.

LIGETI, GYÖRGY (28 May 1923–12 June 2006) Born in Transylvania, educated at the Budapest Music Academy, Ligeti (pronounced LI-get-tee) left Hungary in 1956, reportedly walking to Cologne. Within fifteen years, he was a professor at the principal Hamburg music school. His most successful pieces incorporate clusters of closely related sounds, aggregations literally, resembling acoustic bands more than traditional separate notes, articulated with a strong sense of instrumental texture, he says to produce “acoustic motionlessness.” The most familiar is the “Kyrie” from Requiem, which incidentally appeared in the soundtrack to the Stanley Kubrick film 2001. Among Ligeti’s more eccentric pieces is Poème symphonique, its title alluding to EDGARD VARÈSE, except that Ligeti’s is for one hundred metronomes, all running at different speeds. His son, Lukas L. (1965), is a remarkably different, but similarly innovative, composer/ percussionist teaching in Southern California.

LIGHT ART (c. 1900) It seems odd, in retrospect, that visual artists were slow to realize the esthetic possibilities of electric light – that light had been around for many years before artists recognized that it could become the principal material of their work. The principal innovator of light art is commonly considered to be THOMAS WILFRED, whose specialty was projections from behind a translucent screen; among subsequent projection-light artists were the Joshua Light Show, György Kepes (1906–2001), who founded a Center for Advanced Visual Studies at M.I.T., and Earl Reiback (1931–2006), who purchased Wilfred’s studio after the latter’s death. Subsequent light artists have used fluorescent lamps, such as DAN FLAVIN; neon lamps, such as STEPHEN ANTONAKIS; or small bulbs so transparent that their flickering filaments are visible, such as Otto Piene (1928–2014); lamps of various colors, programmed to change constantly, such as Boyd Mefferd (1941); or lasers, as in Rockne Krebs’s (1938– 2011) Aleph [squared] (1969), where intense, narrow beams, either red or green, projected over one’s head, bounce off mirrored walls in a dark room. Some light art depends upon reflecting or refracting materials, such as Moholy Nagy’s Light-Space Modulator (1930), which is a kinetic sculpture designed to redirect projected light in various ways, and Clyde Lynds’s use of fiber optics to make light turn corners. Though individual light artists have had major exhibitions over the


past decades, I’m not aware of any recent comprehensive overview, either in books or a museum.

LISSITZKY, EL (23 November 1890–30 December 1941; b. Eliezer or Lazar Markovich L.) Born in Smolensk, Russia, Lissitzky studied engineering in Germany before returning to Russia during World War I. After collaborating with MARC CHAGALL on the illustration of Jewish books and with KAZIMIR MALEVICH in establishing RUSSIAN CONSTRUCTIVISM, Lissitzky moved to BERLIN, where he published The Story of Two Squares (1922), which, as its title says, is a pioneering abstract visual fiction, as well as a modest masterpiece of modern typography. Lissitzky then finished a series of Constructivist paintings that he called Proun. In 1928, for a museum in Hanover, he designed an “abstract gallery,” a protoENVIRONMENT that Alexander Dorner described in The Way Beyond “Art” (1958): The walls of that room were sheathed with narrow tin strips set at right angles to the wall plane. Since these strips were painted black on one side, grey on the other, and white on the edge, the wall changed its character with every move of the spectator. The sequence of tones varied in different parts of the room. This construction thus established a supraspatial milieu of the frameless compositions [i.e., suspended paintings]. Dorner continues, “This room contained many more sensory images than could have been accommodated by a rigid room.” By current categories, this was a proto-Environment. Lissitzky also made innovative PHOTOMONTAGES and wrote about architectural possibilities (An Architecture for World Revolution, 1930) before returning in the 1930s to Russia, where he confined himself mainly to typography and industrial design (e.g., the Soviet Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair in 1939) until his premature death. As an innovative typographer, he disrupted conventional forms with visualized typography. Lissitzky also designed Die Kunstismen/Les ismes de I’art/The Isms of Art (1925), a cunningly illustrated anthology of illustrations exemplifying CUBISM, neoplasticism, Futurism, CONSTRUCTIVISM, DADA, suprematism, expressionisms, simultaneity, etc., as represented by MONDRIAN, Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, MALEVITCH, KANDINSKY, TATLIN, RICHTER, PICASSO, VAN DOESBURG, Vantongerloo, et al. (In


retrospect, we can judge that the selection of individuals reflected prescient taste.) Published in Switzerland, this is the first modern art book known to me (conceding there might have been predecessors) to have parallel texts in French, English, and German (none of which was Lissitzky’s mother tongue). Not solely an antique, this book was reprinted intact, likewise in Switzerland. So were the two issues, likewise initially in several languages, now with elaborate annotations in English, of the spectacularly prophetic magazine Gegenstand (1922) that Lissitzky co-edited with the Russian writer llya Ehrenburg (1891–1967).

LITTLE MAGAZINES As an initial outlet for avant-garde writing and other arts, certain periodicals with modest, if not minimal circulation, have served indispensable functions in making new innovative work available initially to other artists and then to a larger public. Among those representing avant-garde music, the classics have been Minna Lederman’s Modern Music, Larry Austin and Stanley Lunetta’s Source: Music of the Avant-Garde (1966–73) and Perspectives of New Music (1962) edited at various times by the composer Benjamin Boretz (1934), among others. For those in based in visual art, three American goldmines were Wallace Berman’s Semina (1955–64), Phyllis Johnson’s Aspen and Willoughby Sharp’s Avalanche (1970–76). Among those in literature, Eugene Jolas’s Transition, the early New Directions annuals. In media arts, Radical Software (1970–74). In architecture, Archigram. Some small-circulation magazines have a pointed influence and are remembered, even if only a single issue appears: Wallace Thurman’s Fire! and possibilities edited by JOHN CAGE and others. On the fringe was, by contrast, Ralph Ginzberg’s Avant-Garde (1968–71), which appeared in a larger square format, too slick and star-struck. Striving for more subscribers than its name could support, this periodical flamed out. Incidentally, Aspen and Source exemplify the principle that departures in content create preconditions for radically alternative formats. Consider that little magazines, in sum, constitute the periodical analog of SMALL PRESSES in serving avant-gardes and their audiences. From both groups, only the strongest are remembered.

LOFT LIVING (1960s) Needing large open spaces, especially in NEW YORK CITY after World War II, artists rented or purchased

134 • LOVE industrial spaces that no longer attracted tenants, such as upstairs showrooms, storage facilities, or small factories. Artists renovated these decrepit enclosures to include a residential area so that they could go straight from sleep to work (and back to sleep), in contrast, say, to the Parisian tradition of a high-floor “atelier” apart from the artist’s residence. Though the term “loft” was commonly attached to ARTISTS’ SOHO, which became the largest community of working artists in the world, similar renovations were made elsewhere in the city and later in commercial spaces around the world. Once living lofts were featured in slick magazines, people other than artists decided that they too wanted for themselves larger, more open spaces with taller ceilings than were more common in “apartments.” By the late 20th century, when the term referred to open spaces carved out of previously residential properties or even included in new suburban home designs, bohemian artists who pioneered in renovating industrial slums also influenced bourgeois interior design.

LOVE This quality is rarely mentioned in discussions of new art, crucial though it is, not only in its creation, as most

artists love what they do, but also in its dissemination as individual art-lovers tell others about what they love. More sophisticated art-lovers particularly relish recommending artists not commonly familiar. If an artist makes a work that he or she shows to someone else who genuinely (not politely) loves it, that work is more likely to be recommended to a third person. If it is loved again, that third person is more likely to recommend it to a fourth circle of people, and so on. The image for understanding strong art’s circulation is circles within circles; the measure of successful is voluntary acceptance by larger circles. A merchandizer may for one or another reason imagine that certain work can be sold to a larger public (say, a tenth circle). If that effort fails, then only what it loved, even if loved by a few whom the artist never knew personally, can survive. (Admiration from people other than “friends” and relatives becomes a truer measure.) Much avant-garde arts, as well as many avant-garde artists, are “hated,” often ostentatiously, by people who look smugly stupid and RETROGRADE over time, love always overcomes hate. Simply, while formerly successful artists are often forgotten, some “failed” artists, even obscure artists, are remembered, as in some entries here, because a stranger (here me) loves their work.


MacDIARMID, HUGH (11 August 1892–9 September 1978; b. Christopher Murray Grieve) A monumentally truculent literary activist, he was expelled from the Scottish Nationalist Party in the 1930s for his Communism and soon afterwards bounced from the Communist Party for his Scottish Nationalism. His earliest major work, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926), is frequently credited with awakening nationalistic consciousness in Scottish writers. Taking his own advice, MacDiarmid produced poems in a curious self-taught Scots that is barely comprehensible to English-speaking readers. Indeed, his synthetic literary lingo seems more indebted to his Irish contemporary JAMES JOYCE than to his Scottish predecessor Robert Burns (1759–96). Epitomizing DEFAMILIARIZATION to some and gibberish to others, the results include this stanza from “Overinzievar”: The pigs shoot up their gruntles here, The hens staund hullerie, And a’ the hinds glower roond about Wi’ unco dullery. Wi sook-the-bluids and switchables The grund’s fair crottled up,’ And owre’t the forkit lichtnin’ flees Like a cleisher o’ a whup. (Does it help to know that gruntles=snots; hullerie=with ruffled feathers; hinds are farmhands; sook-thebluids=little red beetles; switchables=earwigs; crottled=crumbled; owre’t=over it; cleisher=lash; and, to less surprise, whup=whip, and wi=with and perhaps we?) Especially in his longer poems, his great subject was uniquely Scottish experience. As his First Hymn to Lenin (1931) had a broader influence, the ever-challenging MacDiarmid also wrote “Epitaph on British Leftish Poetry, 1930–40,” which

mocks the effete political writings of his more prominent British contemporaries: Auden, MacNeice, Day Lewis, I have read them all, Hoping against hope to hear the authentic call. When MacDiarmid later got caught appropriating someone else’s esoteric prose for his own verse, he replied more arrogantly than contritely, his reputation for higher-than-thou integrity undermined. My suspicion is that Christopher Murray Grieve, much like the man behind “Louis-Ferdinand Céline,” used a pseudonym for a more audacious (more political and less responsible) part of himself. Typically perhaps, he used yet another pseudonym, “Arthur Leslie,” for his extraordinary level-headed essay on “The Politics of Poetry of Hugh MacDiarmid” (1952), an audacious selfappreciation, as contrary and contradictory as the poet himself, that I rank among the best of its rare kind.

MAD MAGAZINE (1952) On second thought, it is scarcely surprising that one of the most influential radical magazines in America should have begun as a sort of comic book for more skeptical teenagers. And it has remained a sort of comic book, internal improvements notwithstanding. Whenever nosy parents (and their surrogates in “law enforcement”) tried to censor it, MAD’s audience increased and its reputation gained. MAD Magazine pioneered all kinds of satire and irreverent humor, wholly without the benefit of advertisers (which made it different from most other large-circulation magazines and purportedly immune from corporate meddling), and even without advertising itself elsewhere. In addition to a periodical that appeared eight times a year, the MAD men (all male,


136 • MAGRITTE, RENÉ alas) produced innumerable small-format paperback self-anthologies where, as in the source periodical, every detail, verbal as well as visual, became a platform for humor, all of which continue to educate critically. To measure seriously its subversive influence, consider an appreciation by the British scholar Nathan Abrams: “MAD’s Other New York Intellectuals” (2003). Even in a purportedly straight memoir by a MAD writer, such as Dick DeBartelo (1945), there are classic passages such as this, explaining how the anarchic medium should now be owned by Time Warner: [The publisher] sold EC Publications, MAD’s parent company, to Premiere Industries. They sold it to Kenney Corporation, which was originally in the rent-a-car and the rent-a-hearse business. Then Kinney merged with Warner, and became part of Amalgamated By-Products. They merged with World Wide Rust, a division of International House of Flannel. MAD was spun off into the cooking division until three years later, when it was discovered that MAD was not edible . . . . Then one morning we all woke up to find we were owned by Time Warner. I thought of writing more here about its typical art, beginning with the reincarnations of its anti-logo “Alfred E. Neuman/What – Me Worry?” Then I figured that most people reading this Dictionary already know whatever I might say, as MAD is remembered first in nearly everyone’s mental storage and then in several perpetually selling anthologies, sometimes on uncharacteristically finer book paper, of choice materials from its newsprint pages. On the other hand, in the pages of a competitor named Cracked (1958–2007) was a more sophisticated, more literate, more adult satire though never as successful or influential. The self-retrospectives from its pages, The Cracked Reader (1960) and Completely Cracked (1962), display palpable cultural difference, among other insufficiencies.

MAGRITTE, RENÉ (21 November 1898–15 August 1967; b. René-FrançoisGhislain M.) Magritte aligned himself with the Parisian SURREALISTS in the late 1920s, and subsequently became, along with SALVADOR DALI, one of the two Surrealist painters beloved by the general public. Again, like Dali, Magritte used strictly realistic imagery (which probably accounts for the shared popularity); but unlike

Dali, he did not paint particularly well, and Magritte never distorted his images with a nightmare logic. He presented normal objects and figures in absurd situations: enormous boulders floating like clouds, a railroad train emerging from the back wall of a fireplace (presumably an escalation of imagined smoke with the smoke of burning wood), landscape paintings in ornate frames depicted as standing before “real” landscapes that continue the image within the frame, an image of a smoking pipe above the words: “This is not a pipe” (which has sent hordes of postmodern thinkers who study linguistic theory into intellectual genuflection). With his clear images but unclear meanings, Magritte does not display a visual sensibility; his imagination is literary and theoretical. He is stylistically an illustrator conveying irrational anecdotes and posing logical conundrums. And he did more than any other artist, and much more than Dali, to tone down Surrealism’s excesses and make it palatable: to make Surrealism seem intriguing, and nothing more than strange, and in no sense psychologically dangerous or disorienting. —Mark Daniel Cohen

MAIL ART Out of the reasonable assumption that the commercial gallery system is limited, many initially visual artists emerging in the 1970s and 1980s around the world decided it would be more feasible to exhibit their work not through galleries and ancillary museums but through the postal system, especially if they lived in areas where galleries and other artists were scarce. For the production of imagery, they drew often upon xerography and the earlier graphic technology of rubber stamps. They would also announce exhibitions in venues previously devoid of art, such as city halls in remote parts of the world, ideally accepting everything submitted and issuing a catalog with names, usually accompanied by addresses and selected reproductions. While such work had little impact upon commercial galleries (and those “art magazines” dependent upon galleries’ ads), one result was a thriving alternative culture, calling itself “The Eternal Network,” as intensely interested in itself as serious artists have always been.

MALAPARTE, CURZIO (9 June 1898–19 July 1957; b. Kurt Erich Suckert) Born in Italy of a German father and Italian mother, he took an Italian literary pseudonym, the first name


being the Italian equivalent of Kurt, the adopted surname meaning “bad-part,” as he was an indeed a provocative writer on the fringe of the Italian fascist party. Imprisoned from 1933 to 1935 for defamation and slander, he was released early as a favor to Mussolini’s sonin-law. In addition to editing literary magazines, among which Prospettive (Perspectives) from 1940 through 1943, was the most distinguished, Malaparte published popular, stylistically conventional books that generated enough royalties to build in the early 1940s, in collaboration with a friendly architect, his avant-garde masterpiece – a house on a barely accessible rock cliff in the Mediterranean isle of Capri. So impressively distinctive is this unusual construction, roughly 30 feet by 150 feet, with water on three sides, and so successful at self-advertising is this maosuleum that a whole coffee-table book has been devoted to it, Malaparte: A House Like Me (1999), with appreciations by architects from around the world. The only writer’s comparable architectural monument known to me is Robinson Jeffers’s unusual house likewise overlooking the ocean in northern California.


Not unlike his near-contemporary PIET MONDRIAN, Malevich, in writing about his art, made claims that are hard to verify: for example, “Suprematism is pure feeling.” In their fields of unmodulated color, these works resemble monochromic paintings that became more familiar after 1960. In the 1920s, Malevich extended Suprematist principles to sculpture. As a supporter of the Soviet Revolution, he became head of the Viebsk art school. Everyone acknowledged his exceptional organizational skills, as well as his capacity to forge professional alliances. Shrewdly sensing trouble at home, he traveled in 1927 to Germany, leaving some of his more radical paintings there, to remain undiscovered until the 1970s. Back in Leningrad, Malevich returned to figurative painting, concluding his career with portraits of friends and family. Given all the rapid changes (through, in Valentine Marcade’s sweeping summary, “Impressionism, NeoPrimitivism, Fauvism, Futurism, Cubism, Alogism, Suprematism, the arkhitekton constructions and then, in the 1930s, back to figurative art”), the critical question posed by all the shifts in Malevich’s career was whether he was mercurial or opportunistic.

MALEVICH, KAZIMIR (23 February 1878–15 May 1935) Malevich came to Moscow in his late twenties, initially working as an Impressionist painter. Befriending political radicals in the pre-World War I decade, Malevich produced paintings depicting rural peasants in a deliberately primitive style. Working with flat planes of unmodulated color, Malevich called his art CUBO-FUTURISM. Changing his style again, he made COLLAGES and juxtapositions of realistically rendered details in the manner of PABLO PICASSO and Georges Braque (1882–1963). In 1913, he designed stage sets and costumes for Mikhail Matyushin’s and ALEKSEI KRUCHONYKH’s opera Victory Over the Sun, by common consent a monument of FUTURIST theater. By 1915–16, Malevich reached his most radical style of non-objective painting which he called Suprematism, best regarded as a radical development within CONSTRUCTIVISM. A 1915 oil painting titled Red Square (Painterly Realism: Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions), 53 cm square, has a large, unmodulated red square set against a white background, the title alone implying representational intentions. Indicatively, a reproduction of this crucial work became not only the cover but the opening illustration of The Great Utopia [1992], a rich exhibition of Russian avant-garde art from 1915 to 1932.

MALLARMÉ, STÉPHANE (18 March 1842–9 September 1898; b. Étienne M.) For Mallarmé’s avant-garde classic, the long poem Un Coup de Dés (1897, but not published until 1914), the radical idea for this work was making the page a field receptive to various typographies and verbal relationships both syntactical and spatial. With this move, Mallarmé foreshadowed GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE and Charles Olson, among many other poets, who developed a similar idea about the poetic centrality of the printed page. “The word image-complex,” Charles Mauron (1899–1966) wrote, “is the fundamental quality of poetry, and melody is ancillary to that.” Because the theme of Un Coup seems to be that everything perishes unless it is remembered in print, the form complements the content. Mallarmé’s short poems are so precious and obscure that they are still treasured by those who regard preciousness and obscurity as the essence of poetic art. (Not I.) As Mauron added, “This cumulative effect of the auras of words is the essential quality of the poetic act.” The fact that the standard French edition of Mallarmé’s complete works contains less than a hundred poems abets this image. A teacher of English by trade, he is frequently credited with revolutionizing French narrative and with an Olympian detachment

138 • MAPPLETHORPE, ROBERT utterly contrary to the EXPRESSIONISTS who followed him. The Anthony Hartley translations are prose footnotes to the French, while Roger Fry’s follow the structure of verse. Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–80), who was frequently obsessed with writers profoundly unlike himself, produced an inspired monograph on Mallarmé (1953).


The principal effect of Marinetti’s rhetoric was making a few good artists famous – Giacomo Balla (1871– 1958), FORTUNATO DEPERO, etc. – at least for a while. Marinetti also edited a later anthology, Nuovi Poeti futuristi (1925) that’s hard to find. His international reputation suffered from his early support of Benito Mussolini and Fascism, while some of his inflammatory remarks are embarrassing decades later, beginning with the declaration to “fight moralism, feminism [sic], every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.”

(4 November 1946–9 March 1989) A studio portrait photographer whose trick was lighting and shooting in ways that rendered his subjects sculptural, Mapplethorpe was made famous by dumb and/or devious reactionaries vociferously deploring him. Not much more can be said about him as an artist. Whereas an earlier generation of photographers kept some distance from the subcultures they portrayed (think of Walker Evans or Paul Strand in the 1930s), Mapplethorpe, like Nan Goldin (1953) after him, made no secret of his physical and emotional involvements, such admissions supposedly bestowing certain credibility upon his photographs. (Is the surest diagnostician the doctor or the person who has had all the diseases?) Mapplethorpe’s subject range was limited but disparate – nude males and females, flowers, himself. Since most of his early advocates were likewise gay, the acceptance of Mapplethorpe by arts institutions and then the larger public was seen, along with the needling of the noisy thick yahoos, to reflect a surreptitious sociopolitical agenda. Meteorically successful, Mapplethorpe died young of AIDS-related diseases, leaving behind a lot of expensive prints and books, as well as a foundation that supposedly benefits from them. From such short artists’ lives are pop biographies made.

MARINETTI, FILIPPO TOMMASO (22 December 1876–2 December 1944) Even if the founder of Italian Futurism wanted to be known as a poet, fictioner, and playwright, he is remembered mostly as a generous and reportedly personable impresario/patron/publicist who authored strong sentences advocating alternative art: “Literature having up to now glorified thoughtful immobility, ecstasy, and slumber, we wish to exalt the aggressive moment, the feverish insomnia, running, the perilous leap, the cuff, and the blow.” Such writing epitomized the FUTURIST taste for extravagant manifestoes. The metaphor of the artist as a boxer became particularly influential.

MARTIN, AGNES (22 March 1912–16 December 2004) Born Canadian in Saskatchewan, she immigrated to the United States in 1932 to attend college in Washington State and New York. In the early 1960s, a few years after relocating from lower Manhattan to New Mexico, Martin began producing paintings of grids composed of small white bricks, so to speak, that run from edge to edge, both vertically and horizontally, incidentally reflecting the layout of uptown Manhattan. Perhaps sensing that she had reached an ultimate image, much as her near-contemporary AD REINHARDT had, she stopped painting for several years before returning to grids that were even more subtle in making thin, straight parallel lines that shimmer, and thus evoke a spiritual experience outside of themselves. Not unlike Reinhardt again, Martin was also an assertive writer: “Art work is a representation of our devotion to life. Everyone is devoted to life with an intensity far beyond our comprehension. The slightest hint of devotion to life in art work is received by all with gratitude.” Especially within group exhibitions, in my experience her work successfully shines through the quiet strength of subtlety.

MARX BROTHERS (Chico, b. Leonard M., 22 March 1887–11 October 1961; Harpo, b. Adolph-Arthur M., 23 November 1888–28 September 1964; Groucho, b. Julius Henry M., 2 October 1980–19 August 1977) The first great triplets in comedy, they became the model for other groups of three much of whose comedy depended upon differences among them. Whereas Groucho was intelligently verbal, Chico portrayed himself as illiterate but cunning. Between them Harpo was silent. They needed each other; without any one of them, their act would have been much less. Through the 1930s, when they were already in their


forties, the Marx Brothers made several great films that are still classics decades later. (The questions of which of these flicks are best and why have been debated for decades.) Their principal imitators were the Three Stooges, in fact two brothers and another guy who were active from 1922 to 1970. Their more raucous comedy, often hilariously brilliant, appealed more to children. Other comic trios included the Ritz Brothers (active from 1925 into the late 1960s) and, briefly, Chevy Chase (1943), Steve Martin (1945), and Martin Short (1950) in the film ¡Three Amigos! (1986). Trios differ from duos such as (George) Burns & (Gracie) Allen or Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis whose comedy depended upon one being “straight” (or pseudo-normal) while the other was askew. Both differ from solo comedians. (In improvised music, trios are likewise different from duets.) The number three was crucial to their identity and success, as I’m unaware of any comic quads or quints. When the Marx Brothers included their much younger brother called Zeppo (b., Herbert Manfred M.; 1901–79), to some personally funnier than his older brothers, he made no contribution to the ensemble other than being a handsome straight man whose role was easily assumed by others. Those familiar with American Jewish cultural history note that the Marx Brothers were German-Jewish, actually French-German-Jewish, rather than, like nearly every other major Jew in American show business, the descendant of Yiddish-speaking Eastern European.

MATISSE, HENRI (31 December 1869–3 November 1954) Aside from his achievements as a major modern colorist whose canvases also redistributed emphases within a painting away from the center, his great invention was the cutout. Physically impaired in his later years, though always eager to produce art, Matisse worked with white paper painted with gouache (opaque pigments ground in water and thickened with glue) various in color. He then placed atop a continuous field various shapes that cutout with scissors. Though the process assumed the possibility of three-dimensionality, the works were meant to be hung on walls, much like his earlier paintings and his few reliefs. His summa cutout is The Swimming Pool (1952, thus at 83), which is over 6 feet long and more than 2 feet high, portraying swimmers from various angles. To quote from a MoMA publication, “Matisse combines contrasting viewing angles – from above looking down into the water or sideways as if from the water – so that the different postures of the figures themselves determine the


composition as a whole . . . to create an idealized environment.” Other cutout gems are The Negro Boxer (1947) and The Sorrow of the King (1952), which is a more complex large field, approximately 10 feet by 15 feet that some regard as Matisse’s final self-portrait. Jazz (1947), his BOOK-ART gem, for which he incidentally also wrote the text, was likewise composed from cutouts.

MAXIMAL ART (c. 1970) This was my coinage, which I’d be the first to admit has scarcely taken, for works that, in contrast to MINIMAL ART, contain more of the stuff of art than previous art. A principal literary example of maximal art is JAMES J OYCE’s F INNEGANS W AKE , which, though it relates a simple story, has a wealth of words and, by extension, a wealth of references. Another is M ilton Babbitt’s multiple SERIALIZATION, where each note contributes to several musical developments. (I remember telling Babbitt that another composer claimed his work presented several hundred “musical events” within a few minutes; as true to his esthetic as ever, Babbitt thought that number was not particularly high.) Influenced by James Joyce, the playwright C harles L udlam used “Maximal” to measure his own ambitions. The term “Maximal art” is also applicable to my very favorite JOHN CAGE pieces: Williams Mix, which likewise offers several hundred acoustic events in only a few minutes; EUROPERA, which draws upon dozens of classic operas; and HPSCHD, which comes from a large number of independent sound sources. Maximality in visual art might be harder to measure. It is certainly implied in the multiple references of JASPER JOHNS; it is explicit in the several Plexiglas levels of John Cage’s Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel (1969) and in the kinetic sculptures of George Rhoads. I find Maximality in AD REINHARDT’s cartoons about the art world (in sharp contrast to his decidedly Minimal paintings) and in MERCE CUNNINGHAM’s choreography, though others may disagree.

MAYAKOVSKY, VLADIMIR (19 July 1893–14 April 1930) Born in Russian Georgia, Mayakovsky studied art before turning to the poetry that made him famous, initially among the FUTURIST painters and poets

140 • McLUHAN, MARSHALL before the Russian Revolution, then as one of the first avant-gardists to support the Revolution actively, and later as a favored beneficiary of the new Soviet state. He visited NEW YORK in the mid-1920s and wrote a memorable poem about it. Mayakovsky collaborated with major avant-garde artists in poster designs and, in his own poetry, broached enough visual devices to warrant an extended analysis by Gerald Janecek in his classic book The Look of Russian Literature (1984). Among Mayakovsky’s minor formal inventions was the “stepladder poem,” since popularized by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919), among others, in which narrow lines run diagonally down a wider page. Though Mayakovsky’s poetry was never as deviant as that of VELIMIR KHLEBNIKOV and, especially, ALEKSEI KRUCHONYKH, the other principals in Futurist poetry, it was popular (for reasons that remain mysterious to the reader of English translations). Precisely because he was a state-favored poet, much as Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–75) became a Sovie composer, every new work of Mayakovsky’s was subjected to excessive critical scrutiny, as often by ignorant commissars as by knowledgeable critics. After his last two plays The Bedbug (1929) and The Bath House (1930) were negatively received, Mayakovsky committed suicide in 1930. (Shostakovich chain-smoked and struck Westerners as insufferably nervous.) The poet’s name, long spelled in America as I have it, is now sometimes spelled Maiakovskii.

McLUHAN, MARSHALL (21 July 1911–31 December 1980) Beginning with The Mechanical Bride (1951), McLuhan examined mass-cultural artifacts and then mass culture itself with a critical sensibility honed on the close rhetorical analysis of English literature. This approach generated a wealth of original insights, such as the perception, then original and now obvious, that the representational discontinuity distinguishing modernist painting and literature resembled the newspaper’s front page, with its discontinuous field of unrelated articles, oversized headlines, and occasional captioned pictures. One theme of Understanding Media (1964) holds that this discontinuity reflects the impact of electronic information technology and that, differences in quality notwithstanding, “the great work of a period has much in common with the poorest work.” All this insight into mass culture did not prevent McLuhan from proposing a necessary and persuasive measure for distinguishing esthetic quality from kitsch: “How heavy a demand does it make on the

intelligence? How inclusive a consciousness does it focus?” The great paradox of McLuhan personally was that he had remarkably little firsthand experience of the new media that he seemed to understand so brilliantly. His sometime student Hugh Kenner wondered once if his former teacher ever sat through an entire movie. He rarely watched television. If one definition of a “genius” is someone with great insight into things he knows little about, McLuhan epitomizes that sort of higher mentality. His medium was books, which he read adventurously and which he wrote brilliantly. Not unlike other literary adventurers, McLuhan cofounded a literary magazine, Explorations (1953–59), and then edited an anthology drawn from its pages, Explorations in Communication (1960). In the 1960s, he also collaborated with the book designer Quentin Fiore (1920) in producing imaginatively designed books that looked fresh when they were reprinted intact in the 1990s by the computerwaving magazine Wired, which incidentally listed McLuhan on its masthead as “patron saint.” Since one book McLuhan knew thoroughly was James Joyce’s FINNEGANS WAKE, he wrote insightfully about its general structure and operation. The Essential McLuhan (1995) is a rich recent selection of his thoughts, both heavy and light, on various subjects. His influence persisted into the 21st century, when publishers reissued his books, as well as fresh collections of his writings.


MEKAS, JONAS (24 December 1922) Aside from his achievements as a (Lithuanian) poet and personal filmmaker, he’s been a true CULTURAL LEADER on behalf of alternative American filmmaking from the 1950s into the 21st century, not only as a passionate reviewer long at The Village Voice weekly newspaper and the co-publisher of the indispensable periodical Film Culture (1955–96) but as a founder of the venerable Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan. In my own judgment, however, his greatest achievements are his critical chronicles of avant-garde NEW YORK CITY, fortunately collected into several books, some of which were published in the US, others in Germany in English (which was his fourth language). If not for his remembering, the result would have been absence and thus loss.


MÉLIÈS, GEORGES (8 December 1861–21 January 1938; b. Marie-GeorgesJean M.) Probably the first to decide consciously to make artful film, he discovered at the end of the 19th century how the new medium differed from live performance by cutting from one scene to another, rather than showing continuous movement, typically introducing the appearance or disappearance of a visible figure (in the tradition of theatrical magic, which he had previously practiced). Among his other cinematic discoveries were time-lapse photography, substitution splices, multiple exposures, dissolves, and hand-painted color. Between 1896 and 1913, he reportedly made hundreds of films, in length from a single minute to forty minutes. By common consent, the most substantial film were fantasies, epitomized by his A Trip to the Moon (1902). Likewise a pioneer in distribution, Méliès established his own theater, which is comparable to self-publishing in literature. Here his letterhead promised “transformations, tricks, fairy-tales, apotheoses, artistic and fantastic scenes, comic subjects, war pictures, fantasies, and illusions.” Misfortunes contributed to the end of his filmmaking by 1912, more than two decades before his death. More than a century later, thanks to new duplication technologies, his best silent films still look marvelous.

MERZ (1920) This was a fertile coinage by KURT SCHWITTERS, who took it from the German word kommerziell, torn from a newspaper, that he glued into an early COLLAGE. From 1923 to 1932 Schwitters published a magazine likewise titled Merz, which then became his SIGNATURE, likewise applicable to the Merzwerbe advertising agency that he briefly ran and to the monumental ASSEMBLAGE called Merzbau that burgeoned within his own house in Hannover, Germany during the 1930s. When he left Nazi Germany first for Norway and then for the British midlands, Schwitters took the term Merzbau with him; it didn’t need translation. Now historians regard it as a subdivision of DADA.


established architect and then working as an assistant before establishing his own office in 1913, incidentally adding his mother’s name to his father’s for Teutonic presence. Emigrating from Hitler’s Germany, Mies had the foresight to settle in Chicago, which had traditionally been more supportive of advanced architecture than other American cities, and then to teach at its technological institute, rather than, say, at a liberal arts university. Unlike Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe did not deviate from the glass-walled, strictly geometric INTERNATIONAL STYLE in any consequential way. Contemporary Masterworks (1991) includes a case for the Farnsworth House (1945–50), designed early in Mies’s stay in America, as an example of his break, even though it displays unadorned geometries and glass walls. The book’s contributor makes a claim for “the placement of furniture”: “Functional and aesthetic requirements were carefully balanced. With sophistication and subtlety, beds, chairs, and tables served as counterpoints to the fixed elements, animating the total composition and enhancing the total spatial experience.” This sounds like the International Style to me, and persuades me that, even in America, Mies’s buildings have epitomized it. Of those I’ve seen firsthand, the strongest is the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. (The Seagram Building in New York, by contrast, suffers from the imitators surrounding it.) Among this architect’s subsidiary interests was furniture design, including distinctive chairs. Though he didn’t write as much as Le Corbusier and FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT, the other modernist masters with whom he is customarily grouped (as in Peter Blake’s popular introduction, The Master Builders [1960]), Mies also coined one of modernism’s most popular aphorisms, “Less is more,” which, notwithstanding its suggestive resonance, is only sometimes true.


MINIMALISM (c. 1965)

MIES VAN DER ROHE, LUDWIG (27 March 1886–17 August 1969) The son of an Aachen stonemason, he moved to BERLIN as a teenager, apprenticing himself to an

The idea of doing more with less was so persuasive that, once the principle was articulated in the late 1960s (first by whom remains a question of dispute), it conquered not only the visual arts but also acoustic arts. The term particularly refers to work with an usually low degree of differentiation, which is to say

142 • MODERNISM a monochromic (or nearly monochromic) canvas or a piece of music composed from only a few notes. At first the term also referred to work that revealed a meager amount of artist’s effort, such as MARCEL DUCHAMP’s exhibition of a urinal, ideally to suggest, at times by critical inference, meanings that would otherwise be unavailable. (Processes of intellectual inference could function to locate a work’s ultimate meanings outside of itself, say within the acknowledged contexts of art history.) Once the idea(l) of Minimalism won adherents, many earlier artists could be identified as proto Minimalists – among others, KAZIMIR MALEVICH in painting, or Tony Smith in sculpture. Back in his System and Dialectics of Art (1937), the Russian-born American painter John Graham mentioned “reducing of painting to the minimum ingredients for the sake of discovering the ultimate, logical destination of painting in the process of abstracting.” I have used it to characterize poems, such as certain texts by Yvor Winters and Robert Lax, among others, with drastically few words. A very thick trilingual book titled Minimalismo/Minimalism (2003) documents the esthetic principle’s influence upon design around the world. Used sometimes to refer to fiction that by most measures is scarcely Minimal, containing as it does full pages of conventional sentences, the term fell (much like “HAPPENINGS” just before it) into the mouths of opportunistic publicists who, for their success, necessarily depended upon ignorance of what the term initially meant and honored.

MODERNISM What this book is about: art reflecting modern times, which includes the development of new technologies, the dissemination of alternative ideas, the influence of new arts upon one another, the transcendence of transient content and transience-based media (aka journalism), the discovery of possibilities unique to every medium, the unprecedented appreciation of innovation, among other values that continue, indicating that modernism has not ended, any more than “modern times” have ended. Any polemic advocating the end of modernism in art, usually for the purpose of justifying RETROGRADE and probably inferior work, should not be called “POSTMODERNIST” but “antimodernist.” The most authentic history of modernism today will be the one that ignores “postmodernism” for the opportunism that it is. Accept no substitutes. One reason for my writing and then rewriting this Dictionary has been to defend modernism and

modernist standards not only from traditionalists, who have scarcely disappeared, but from their de facto allies, the Philistines disguised as sophisticates. To define my position, consider this from the critic Paul Mann (1948): “Studies that focus on the similarity or partnership between modernism and the avant-garde tend to emphasize aesthetic issues, whereas studies that argue for the distinction between them tend to emphasize ideology.” With this caveat in mind, consider how many prominent “critics” proclaiming the death of the avant-garde vulgarize their polemic with one or another ideological bias.

MODIGLIANI, AMADEO (12 July 1884–24 January 1920) Mythologized as the epitome of the dissolute destructive modern painter, he was also an avant-garde artist who made unique contributions to early MODERNISM. One was a unique way of depicting female faces with long necks and noses, as well as simplified features, all reflecting the influence of AFRICAN ART in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. His second, more unique departure was making a representational drawing, again usually of a female face, with remarkably few lines. Incredible it would seem a century later, but works that scarcely sold during his lifetime later routinely earn at auction millions of dollars for their previous owners. Consider that creating such posthumous escalating value is itself a very scarce art.

MODULAR MUSIC (late 1960s) In the middle 1970s, most of this work was first called MINIMAL music, in acknowledgment of self-imposed severe limitations on the use of musical materials (and perhaps to capitalize upon the growing reputation of Minimal visual art); but since all of its practitioners (other than La Monte Young) produced work far more various in surface texture than monochromic paintings or simple geometrical shapes, another epithet would be more appropriate. I prefer “modular” in that composers/performers such as PHILIP GLASS, STEVE REICH, Terry Riley, Meredith Monk, JON GIBSON, John Adams (1947), and the Canadian composer Lubomyr Melnyck (1948), among others, tend to use circumscribed musical materials, such as a limited number of phrases (e.g., Terry Riley’s In C [1964]), as modules that are repeated either in different ways or in different combinations with other instruments.


MONDRIAN, PIET (7 March 1872–1 February 1944; b. Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan) Though the best geometric paintings resemble one another more than anything else, any sense of a single family is an illusion. Whereas one strain in his work reflects a rational CONSTRUCTIVISM that includes Moholy-Nagy, SOL LEWITT, François Morellet, and Manfred Mohr, another strain, epitomized by traditional Islamic art and among the moderns Mondrian, regards geometries as a key to ultimate truths. Mondrian came to his mature, familiar style after many years of doing something else. His first known paintings are landscapes; he painted flowers; he passed through CUBISM to a style that abstracted lines and rectangles from naturalistic scenes. Joining those artists, mostly Dutch, gathered around DE STIJL in 1917, he developed a compositional style, limited to horizontals and verticals, that he called Neo-Plasticism. Making precision an ideal, he eliminated from his paintings all signs of brushstrokes and individual technique. A purist in temperament, Mondrian objected to VAN DOESBURG’s use of diagonals, and over that issue, incredible though it seems, broke with De Stijl. His last years were spent in America, where his painting changed with the introduction of colored lines instead of black ones and blocks of contrasting colors that were thought to reflect his enthusiasm for American jazz. To some, these New York paintings marked new possibilities; to earlier Mondrian admirers, they represented a step back. Contrary to the sense that his geometries must reflect a dogged rationalist, his writings include his opposition to art which is purely abstract. In removing completely from the work all objects, “the world is not separated from the spirit,” but is on the contrary, put into a balanced opposition with the spirit, since the one and the other are purified. This creates a perfect unity between the two opposites. He continues, Precisely by its existence non-figurative art shows that “art” continues always on its true road. It shows that “art” is not the expression of the appearance of reality such as we see it, nor of the life which we live, but that it is the expression of true reality and true life . . . indefinable but realizable in plastics. Surprised?


Incidentally, Mondrian’s collected writings include an extraordinary appreciation of “Italian Futurists’ Bruiteurs” (1921), as he called them, which might be the only major essay on modernist music written by someone known primarily for visual art.

MONK, THELONIOUS SPHERE (10 October 1917–17 February 1982) Emerging on the margins of BEBOP as an inventive pianist who also behaved eccentrically, wearing scullcaps and dark glasses, occasionally arising from the piano to do a tap dance, Monk could smoke a cigarette while improvising, his hand going to the ashtray and coming back to the keyboard to continue an earlier complex rhythm at exactly the right micro-moment. To the classical musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky, who was likewise a pianist, Monk experimented with discordant harmonies [angular rhythms and asymmetrical bar sequences], searching for new combinations of sounds. Paradoxically, he elevated his ostentatious ineptitude to a weirdly cogent modern idiom, so that even deep-thinking jazz critics could not decide whether he was simply inept or prophetically innovative. Most experienced jazz listeners can instantly identify Monk’s music after only a few bars. Verbally true to his music, Monk also had a taste for idiosyncratic titles such as Epistrophy Misterioso, and Rhythm-a-ning. Leslie Gourse’s biography (1997) lists ninety-one compositions, including the legendary “Round Midnight,” which Monk registered with BMI, as well as a “Sessionography,” which documents sixty occasions with identification of his musical colleagues and the pieces played.

MOSCOW SUBWAY STATIONS (1931–) This was reportedly Joseph Stalin’s pet art project and perhaps the only surviving compensation for all the prominent artists and writers his regime killed in mid-career. Not only are the stations esthetically more magnificent than those in other cities, but they were also individually designed in a variety of styles with chandeliers, statuary, and reliefs. The trackside pillars in some stations incorporate columnar designs, while

144 • MUSEUM OF MODERN ART those in other stations have flat, rectangular shapes. Some stations also have street-level entrances that are likewise magnificent. Because Moscow subways ran more frequently than those elsewhere, in 1981, when I was last there, I could get out at any stop, admire that station’s interior design, and expect another train to come along within a few minutes. The Moscow Subway stations represent collective art, much like LAS VEGAS, but whereas the latter was constructed by independent entrepreneurs in competition with one another, the Moscow Subway stations reflect a plan officially initiated by the Soviet Central Committee. During my Moscow visit, I purchased a paperback book with color illustrations that was produced for the 1980 Olympics (in which the USA did not participate) that effectively represents the whole work. No other city known to me has even tried to build subway stations of comparable individuality and esthetic quality, preferring instead for their public transportation a grim uniformity.

institutions around the world similarly titled, MoMA has set a standard. Whether this prominence will continue into the 21st century is good question implicitly raised by Modern Contemporary (2000), subtitled “Art at MoMA Since 1980,” whose selection seems so weak, so under-curated, that some might rightly fear for MoMA’s future. Note that the acronym should be spelled MoMA, not MOMA, which is an easy illiteracy that nonetheless appears in published writings by people who should know better, much like “Julliard” (instead of Juilliard, which is correct) or Finnegans Wake with an apostrophe. (Ain’t none.) In writings about avant-garde arts, such small erroneous details, while barely noticed by most readers, implicitly epitomize greater ignorance to the cognoscenti.


MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (1929) In America at least, it has long been strongest and thus the model of its kind. Established in 1929, controlled by the Rockefeller family unit it wasn’t, MoMA has usually supported high MODERNISM as the institution has grown steadily over the decades, adding innumerable items to its incomparable collections while expanding its physical space in midtown New York and even adding satellites within the city. Credit MoMA with the first populous one-person retrospectives that established the reputations of many avant-garde artists, including, say, ALEXANDER CALDER and CLAES OLDENBERG, among others. Credit it as well with pioneering departments of film and photography that helped establish the artistic legitimacy of those new media before defining the canon in those new arts. (With later new media, such video or computer-assisted art, MoMA was less successful.) Its library reportedly “includes over 300,000 books and exhibition catalogues, 1,000 periodical titles, and over 40,000 files of ephemera about individual artists and groups.” Artwise, MoMA is the most educationally consequential art school in NEW YORK CITY, if not the entire US, because it not taught not only spectators but potential artists, incidentally becoming a choice venue for artists meeting each other. Even some of its young floor guards became distinguished visual artists (e.g., Robert Ryman, DAN FLAVIN). For other

This epithet arose after World War II, in the wake of the development of magnetic audiotape. Sound had previously been recorded on wax cylinder, shellac disk, or magnetic wire, none of which offered the opportunity for neat editing. Tape, by contrast, could be cut with a razor blade, much like film, its loose ends spliced together with a minimum of audible signs. Musique concrète differs from subsequent ELECTRONIC MUSIC in drawing upon the sounds of the world, rather than only artificial sound generators. These natural sounds could then be played at faster or slower speeds, modifying not only pitch and rhythm but timbre, while parts separately recorded could be spliced together. Once stereo and then multitrack tape were developed, the composer could mix and play back separately produced sounds simultaneously. One practical (dis)advantage was that the tape composer did not need to know how to read music. As the epithet suggests, the prime movers of musique concrète were based in Paris, often working at European radio stations: Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer (1910–95). One masterpiece in this mode is JOHN CAGE’s Williams Mix (1953), which consists of six tapes, each made from the tiniest feasible fragments, that are designed to emerge from six transducers/speakers simultaneously (but not synchronously) as a kind of prerecorded chorus. One familiar example of Musique Concrète is JOHN LENNON’s “Revolution No. 9” (1968), which is as close to contemporary avantgarde music as any Beatle ever came; it purportedly has a different sound if played backwards (a feat then possible only with reel-to-reel audiotape). A later term for


audiotape produced mostly from live sources is “electroacoustic,” again as distinct from Electronic Music.

MUYBRIDGE, EADWEARD (9 April 1830–8 May 1904; b. Edward James Muggeridge) Born in England, Muybridge came to America in 1852 and settled in San Francisco in 1855. As a pioneering photographer, Muybridge took early pictures of Yosemite Valley and, in 1867, became Director of Photographic Surveys for the US government. Influenced by


American landscape painting, he developed an interest in representing photographically unusual atmospheric effects. Beginning in 1878, Muybridge used several still cameras to portray movement, initially of a galloping horse, later of nude men and women. This led to his development of a “zoopraxiscope,” as he called it, in which motion could be reproduced through a sequence of photographs mounted on the inside of a rotating cylinder. Thanks to his photographic ingenuity, Muybridge proved for the first time that a galloping horse had at certain points all four feet off the ground. The books collecting his motion studies, at once accurate and informative, remain in print.


NEGRO SPIRITUALS (1800s) A uniquely American folk invention, these began as klunky British hymns imaginatively reworked. One departure was the introduction of more expressive rhythms, beginning with syncopation that comes from performers hitting a note slightly before or after the annotated beat. A second came from the structure of the blues songs, another American invention, where the first line is repeated, as often as three times, before the second is sung. How these songs began and developed seems unknown; but even in the late 19th century, choirs from historic black southern colleges successfully toured them through Europe. So powerful has the presence of these songs been in Europe that they are heard implicitly in the music of Antonin Dvorak (1841–1904) and, ostensibly, in the single greatest composition of Britain’s Michael Tippett (1905–98), Child of Our Time (1941). When I sang in All-State (NY high school) chorus in 1956, our conductor, William L. Dawson (1899–1990), who had earlier conducted the legendary Tuskegee Institute Choir (1886), had us perform 16th-century songs (Palestrina, de Victoria, etc.) before the intermission and then these spirituals afterwards. The implicit theme of this concert was that the two elegant musics were esthetically equal, as indeed they sounded. When I later heard choirs from historic black colleges, as was Tuskegee, the programming of both musics respectively before and after the intermission was similar. The great historic soloists for these major American songs include Roland Hayes (1887–1977) and Marion Anderson (1897–1993). Certain churches in the African-American south took these spirituals so seriously that the amateur level in performance became very high, much as happens when German church people, say, sing their J. S. Bach, perhaps because both rehearse and perform nearly every week of the year.


For such classic music I prefer using the historic moniker as an honorific, as “African-American” seems clumsy, much like the verbal “English hymns.” Such songs differ from Gospel music, likewise an American invention, which is more expressionist, if not raucous.

NEW YORK CITY (1920–) In the first two decades after World War I, America’s biggest city inspired extraordinary works by American artists and writers such as Hart Crane (1899–1932) and numerous painters, as well as by such Europeans visiting there as VLADIMIR MAYAKOVSKY, BLAISE CENDRARS, Juliette Roche, and Frederico García Lorca (1898–1936), all of whom produced major poems about their experience of New York. In 1930 HENRI MATISSE wrote: “The first time I saw America, I mean New York, at seven o’clock in the evening, this gold and black block in the night, reflected in the water, I was in complete ecstasy.” After major European artists settled in New York, New York, during World War II, it replaced Paris as the most hospitable city for the education in and creation of avant-garde arts. In various precincts of DOWNTOWN Manhattan – Greenwich Village, SoHo, and the East Village – artists from around the world found generous space, low rents, and congenial company. There the immigrants made new art, often reflecting other art made there, sometimes about its culture. The principal change in the 21st century is that the avantgarde moved across the East River to certain precincts of Brooklyn mainly connected to a subway line commonly called the L-train. Other than the New York School of ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONIST artists in the 1950s, most groups of writers or artists hanging themselves on “New York [this]” or “New York [that]” are hangers-on.


May I admit to a predisposed prejudice, having resided in New York City my entire life and judging its culture to be profoundly and endlessly inspiring.

NEW YORK SCHOOL, SCHOOL OF PARIS, BLACK MOUNTAIN POETS, ETC. Any purportedly categorical classifications of art or artists based upon geography, sex, race, or academic background do not belong in arts criticism, as they rarely say anything significant about the character of an individual artist’s work. Such epithets customarily function as sales slogans, capitalizing upon preestablished favorable auras of key words (e.g., New York, Paris, feminism, etc.) in the marketing both of works and of opinions (and even of “critical” books), mostly to establish significance for art or artists about which and whom nothing more substantial can be said. Beware of any artist who opens his or her biography with sexual, racial, geographic, or academic tags designed to substitute for genuine credentials, artistic styles, or past achievements. Whereas some consumers of art lap up these sorts of deceptions, others avoid them like a plague. Caveat emptor.

NEWMAN, BARNETT (29 January 1905–4 July 1970) Though a painting contemporary of WILLEM DE KOONING and JACKSON POLLOCK, Newman, proceeding from different assumptions, incorporating gesture with geometry, created a different sort of scarce work, whose excellence was thus not acknowledged until the 1960s. Typical Newman paintings consist of a predominantly monochromatic canvas with deeply saturated color, interrupted by only a few contrasting marks that often take the form of vertical stripes. The Wild (1950), for instance, was a canvas nearly 8 feet high but only 1 5/8 inches wide. In Abraham (1950), 6 feet 10¾ inches high but only 34½ inches wide, a dark black vertical stripe bisects a uniformly light black field. Because Newman’s first one-person exhibitions in 1950 and 1951 aroused hostile responses, he did not show again in New York until 1959, when he was in his mid-fifties. Only with a 1966 exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, featuring his monumentally christened Stations of the Cross, was his genius fully acknowledged. In the fourteen paintings comprising that last work,


each 6½” feet by 5 feet, the traditional Biblical narrative is “told” through vertical stripes of various widths and shapes, against a background field of raw canvas, so that the absence of familiar iconography becomes a commentary on the classic myth, as well as an echo of the simple cosmological forms of primitive art. His most notable sculpture, Broken Obelisk (1963– 67), is similarly vertical, with a ground-based pyramid on whose pointed top is balanced a rectangular volume whose bottom comes to a point. (This looks technically impossible and no doubt required sophisticated engineering.) In retrospect, Newman can be regarded as a primary precursor of COLOR-FIELD PAINTING, monochromic painting, the conundrum art of JASPER JOHNS, and much else. He was also a strong writer and talker whose prose was posthumously collected into a book, who often contributed titles to his colleagues’ paintings. Since his contemporaries regarded him as an extremely funny, recalling his monumental jokes, I’ve often wondered if viewers miss the humor of his ostensibly solemn art.

NEWSPAPER REVIEWERS For truer critical guidance about avant-garde literature and art, forget about newspaper reviewers, nearly all of them. Likewise those on the daily mass media (as distinct from those occasionally online). They’re usually wrong and superficial in their opinions, if they cover avant-garde work at all. The history of their errors and ignorance is indisputable. For artistic judgment and understanding, trust more those critics writing for weeklies and monthlies and, even more, the authors of books, because, simply, the further the distance the critic gains from new work, the greater is her or his immunity more likely from passing promotions and fads and thus the more likely it becomes that his or her critical guidance will be true. More serious critics, don’t forget, have principled positions informing their opinions. Consider as well that mistakes and misjudgments made in newspapers will be forgotten within a week or so, while those in books could plague their authors forever. One measure of mental hygiene in both appreciating the arts and writing about them is resistance to short-sightedness. Without distance, even detailed knowledge and purportedly greater intelligence can seem dumb. In my head is the principal professor of the opening course for graduate students in history (not journalism) at Columbia advising us: “You’re here to learn what not to read.”

148 • NICHOLAS BROTHERS NICHOLAS BROTHERS (Fayard N., 1914–2006; Harold N., 1921–2000) Though other masters of the uniquely American art of tap dancing might have been better in their time, their immortality depends upon a single filmed sequence only a few minutes in length, informally titled “Jumping Jive,” in which they demonstrate the possibilities for exuberant dancers moving mostly to their own percussion. Originally the finale of the film Stormy Weather (1943), the film clip shows the two formally dressed men, one visibly taller and suppler than the other, leaping unaided onto a grand piano and then tap dancing up steps to a raised platform before descending with their legs split apart as they hit each landing and pushing themselves erect, moving in and out of unison activity while continuously tapping intricate beats. Descending from American vaudeville, rather than modern dance, the Nicholas Brothers’ work epitomized athletic nonrepresentational dance at a time when EXPRESSIONISM was more common and then modest filming when BUSBY BERKELEY’s spectacles for dozens of women were more popular. Perhaps the greatest dance film ever, “Jumping Jive” must be seen to be believed. Decades later, one brother joked that this dance could not be duplicated – certainly not by them or any other humans, probably not by robots either.

1980S Much of what emerged during that decade, especially in the visual arts, was RETROGRADE disguised as “fresh.” The truth of this generalization, which I only sensed at the time (residing as I did in ARTISTS’ SOHO and West BERLIN), was confirmed in a largeformat 1992 picture book ostensibly about the new art of the previous decade – Klaus Honnef’s Contemporary Art (Benedikt Taschen). The artists featured in its pages seemed to exemplify opportunistic POSTMODERNISM: kitschy, simplistic, anti-intellectual, unproblematic, exploitative, immediately appealing, and often avowedly anti-avant-garde. Catalogues surviving from large “blockbuster” exhibitions of new art from this decade confirm my judgment. One suspicion I’ve developed three decades later is that, as the modernist masterpieces of the previous decades became too expensive, as more wealthy people established collections, the market had to be expanded opportunistically with lousy lighter art susceptible to enough publicity to support purchases. If any of these artists new during the 1980s will be remembered two decades from now, I’d be surprised

and so won’t name them here; but aged 78 as I write this, I might not be around to find out. May I nonetheless wager (with money for my heirs) that 1980s art will be reinterpreted to identify hidden excellences while artists prominent then will be degraded, much as critical art historians after 1970 identified as major certain 1930s artists scarcely known at that time. As an experienced arts historian who writes books, I can’t afford to be wrong about such judgments of quality. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

NOGUCHI, ISAMU (17 November 1904–30 December 1988) Born in Los Angeles, the son of an American writer named Leonie Gilmore (1873–1933) and a Japanese poet who abandoned her before their son was born, Noguchi grew up in Japan before studying (as “Sam Gilmour”) at an Indiana high school. After taking courses in art in both New York and Paris, where he befriended CONSTANTIN BRANCUSI, he then studied further in both China and Japan. It is often said that his art synthesized Eastern and Western influences more profoundly than anyone else based in the USA. His early stone and metal sculptures favored a postBrancusi reduction of forms to simple, smooth surfaces that assumed organic qualities. Beginning in the 1940s, he sometimes placed electric lamps inside his works. Noguchi experimented with various base supports. In a fully productive long career, he also designed gardens, furniture, and lamps. His late masterpiece is a memorial fountain (1978) placed in a Detroit public plaza. His decors for ballets by GEORGE BALANCHINE and MARTHA GRAHAM are remembered as among the best in that genre. Perhaps because Noguchi was moderately famous for so long, while his art didn’t change appreciably, little was written about his later exhibitions. In Long Island City, just over the East River from Manhattan, he made his studio-home into a modest eponymous museum that survived his death (albeit across the street from a humongous Costco).

“NONSENSE” (forever) Actually there is no such thing, for any human creation that can be defined in one way, rather than another way, has by that fact of definition a certain amount of esthetic sense. Indeed, some of the most inspired avant-garde writing, from Edward Lear through FINNEGANS WAKE to the present, has struck many


who should have known better, if only as a measure of esthetic intelligence, as “nonsense.” That means that the use of that word as derogatory criticism indicates that the writer/speaker is none too smart about contemporary art. Wim Tigges’s An Anatomy of Literary Nonsense (1988) contains essays on Lear, LEWIS CARROLL, EDWARD GOREY, Edward Lear, Flann O’brien, and Stefen Themerson, as well as a useful bibliography.


written about works so greeted, as well as the stupidity of otherwise accredited people who have uttered that dismissive epithet. Just as Nicolas Slonimsky compiled a classic anthology of wrong reviews of famous composers, A Lexicon of Musical Invective (1953), so could a comparable collection be made solely about declarations of “not art.” It’s not for nothing that an annual arts festival in Australia proudly calls itself “This Is Not Art” (1998). Were I ever in New South Wales, I’d attend TINA.

NORTON PROFESSOR (1926) No academic appointment anywhere in the world has included as many truly avant-garde artists and writers as this revolving chair at Harvard University. Beginning in 1926, named after a previous president of Harvard (Charles Eliot N., 1827–1908), it has since annually invited individual recipients superlatively distinguished in various arts to give six lectures in the course of an academic year before sending them home. Representing all the arts, recipients have over its ninety years included T.S. ELIOT, SIGFRIED GIEDION, E. E. CUMMINGS, Herbert Read, Meyer Schapiro, Roger Sessions, CHARLES EAMES, NORTHROP FRYE, FRANK STELLA, John Cage, John Ashbery, Umberto Eco, Leo Steinberg, and WILLIAM KENTRIDGE. Texts of their lectures often appear later as a book, and some of these volumes, such as Giedion’s Space, Time and Architecture (1941, often revised since), have become classics on their own. If any mausoleum for the avant-garde elite exists in the world, this would be uniquely it. Consider, by contrast, of those recognized with an individual entry in earlier editions of this book, only George D. Birkhoff (1884–1944), ostensibly a mathematician, was ever a tenured professor at Harvard, and surprisingly few were alumni.

“NOT ART” (20th century) Often has startlingly original work in the 20th century been initially dismissed as “not art,” customarily for violating established restrictions on esthetic propriety, only to become accepted, if not canonical, at later times. Indeed, the tradition of “not art,” as well as “not poetry,” is so distinguished that whole books could be

NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE (1912) The title of Marcel Duchamp’s most famous early painting actually belongs to two works, respectively subtitled No. 1 (1911–12) and No. 2, the sequel far more elaborate than the first. One of the most familiar images in early modernist art, it initially looks like a series of vertical panels, askew at various angles, in shades running behind brown and yellow, against a darker brown background. Like so (too?) much other Duchamp work, it depends upon (gains from?) its title. Though made in France, it became prominent in the United States, particularly at the Armory Show that opened on 17 February 1913, in a large exhibition that intended to mix avant-garde European art with the latest American work. Duchamp provided his last oil painting, and at over 2 feet high, nearly 10 feet wide, the Nude’s fame obscures recognition of several other extraordinary paintings similar in vertical style, made by Duchamp around the same time – Sad Young Man on a Train (1911), The King and Queens Surrounded by Swift Nudes (1912), and Passage from Virgin to Bride (1912), in sum representing probably the summa of early CUBISM. Journalists at the time feasted upon this Duchamp more for its title, which suggested eroticism, than its visual style, which didn’t. As no other single picture at the time gained so much notoriety, Nude was also parodied, most successfully by a New York Evening Sun cartoon titled “Seeing New York with a Cubist,” subtitled “The Rude Descending a Staircase (Rush Hour at the Subway).” So often badly reproduced, Duchamp’s second Nude had less influence upon later art than Duchamp himself. Nonetheless, it should be seen live. Once owned by Arensberg, it is now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


OBERIU (late 1920s) An acronym for “Union of Real Art,” this turned out to be the last important development of the Russian avant-garde in the first half of the 20th century. A group of poets who came together in St. Petersburg in the late twenties, this consisted of Aleksandr Vvedensky, Daniil Kharms, Nikolai Zabolotsky, Igor Bakhterev and sometime collaborators Konstantin Vaginov and Nikolai Oleynikov. A poster from an OBERIU theatricalized evening, Three Left Hours, presented on 24 January 1928, states that it involved a poetry reading, a staging of D. Kharms’s play Elizaveta Bam , movie shorts presentation, and a jazz band playing in intermissions. While sharing ideals and goals of the most radical Futurists like KASIMIR MALEVICH and ALEXEI KRUCHONYKH, the OBERIU poets found their own direction exploring concepts of nonsense and the absurd. Their influences, besides Futurism, included “outsider” genres like Russian nonsense folklore, children’s poems, poems of the mad, and even bad amateur poetry. Unlike Zaum, OBERIU writing stayed mostly within the limits of Russian traditional vocabulary and meter, and yet was infinitely inventive in juxtaposing different semantic layers of language. Filled with dark humor of the most subversive kind, their works were particularly unacceptable to Stalin’s regime. Because few of OBERIU members’ major works appeared in print in the late twenties, their greater immediate impact was in performance and theater. OBERIU plays like Vvedensky and Kharms’s “All in Clocks My Mother Walks” (1926) or Kharms’s “Elizaveta Bam” (1928) defined THEATER OF THE ABSURD well before this term was invented. Though most of the OBERIU poets were arrested and prosecuted by 1931, individual members continued to create innovative works well into the late 1930s,


before perishing in the Soviet Gulags. Their works were rediscovered by the younger generation of Russian poets in the ’60s, in large part thanks to the last surviving OBERIU member, Igor Bakherev (1908–96). —Igor Satanovsky

O’KEEFFE, GEORGIA (15 November 1887–6 March 1986) Apparently learning from photography about the esthetic advantages of enlargement, O’Keeffe initially discovered formal qualities and radiant colors in the extremely close observations of biomorphic objects, such as flowers, plants, and pelvic bones, often painting similar objects many times over, in series. Moving to rural New Mexico in the late 1940s, she again echoed photography by using the contrary strategy of painting broad expanses in a compressed scale. These paintings in turn echo her remarkably stark and lyrical 1920s horizontal views of New York. The thin paint of her early watercolors presages the innovations of Morris Louis and HELEN FRANKENTHALER, among others. O’Keeffe lived long enough to become a feminist exemplar whose celebrity could support a commercial publisher releasing a strong collection of images accompanied by her writings.

OLDENBURG, CLAES (28 January 1929) Born in Sweden, raised in Chicago as the son of a Swedish diplomat, educated in English literature at Yale, Oldenburg mounted a 1959 exhibition of sculpture made from urban junk and soon afterward created his first truly memorable works: semblances of


such common objects as ice-cream cones, hamburgers both with and without an accompanying pickle, cigarette ends, pastries, clothespins, toasters, telephones, plumbing pipes, and so forth. Compared to their models, Oldenburg’s fabrications are usually exaggerated in size, distorted in detail, and/or dog-eared in surface texture. By such transformations, these pedestal-less sculptures usually gained, or accentuated, several other, less obvious resonances, most of them archetypal or sexual in theme, in the latter respect echoing Francis Picabia. Epitomizing POP ART, Oldenburg’s Ice Cream Cone (1962) is indubitably phallic; Soft Wall Switches (1964) looks like a pair of nipples; the soft Giant Hamburger (1963), several feet across, is distinctly vaginal; and so forth. “Appearances are not what counts,” he once succinctly wrote, “it is the forms that count.” After 1962, Oldenburg’s strategy of ironic displacement took another elaborate form in his “soft” sculpture, in which semblances of originally hard objects are fabricated in slick-surfaced, nonrigid materials different from the traditional sculptural staples. These representations of a toilet, a bathtub, a typewriter, and a drum set are so flabby that they behave contrary to the original object’s nature and thus customarily need some external support for effective display. They also create a perversely ironic, if not ghostly, relation between the sculpture and its original model. Thanks to an adventurous imagination (and perhaps an education not in art but in literature), Oldenburg has worked successfully in various media. The Store (1962) was a real Lower East Side store-front filled with artistically fabricated but faintly representational (storelike) objects. Because regular hours were kept, people could browse through the place and even purchase objects, so that The Store was indeed an authentic store, but it was also an artistically defined space, an ENVIRONMENT, wholly in Oldenburg’s early 1960s style of colorful but ironic renditions of seedy objects. As an ingenious writer, whose first job after Yale University was working as a newspaper reporter, who once acknowledged F.-L. CÉLINE as a major influence, Oldenburg authored Store Days (1967), a large-format, glossy book that contains a disconnected collection of prose and pictures as miscellaneous in form as the stuff of his store: historical data, replicas of important printed materials (such as a business card), sketches, price lists for the objects, photographs, scripts for his staged performances, various recipes, esthetic statements, parodies, declarations, and even an occasional aphorism (which may not be entirely serious).


The result is an original open-ended potpourri of bookish materials that, unlike a conventional artist’s manifesto, “explains” Oldenburg’s Environmental art less by declarative statements than by implied resemblances. He has also published books of his theatrical scripts, some of which were staged as Mixed-Means performance. As I’ve advised him several times, more of his special writings, especially from his journals, should appear in print. Perhaps best of kind, they can be both stylish and informative. One question raised by his work of nearly six decades was whether it declined. Those who think it did point to the ameliorative influence of his second wife, Coosje van Bruggen (1942–2009), an art historian/ curator who became his close collaborator, especially for public projects where her own name was added. My own sense is that, while Oldenberg didn’t “develop,” so profound were his initial ideas that they sustained later variations.

ON-DEMAND PRINTING (1991, aka digital printing) Thanks to this major development in centuries-old duplicating procedure, it’s possible to print complete spine-bound books one at a time at equal cost, thus enabling the publication of anything with minimal circulation. Prior to this development, even when printing from a digital file, smaller publishers were confronted by economics of scale that made the cost of manufacturing, say, a thousand copies scarcely more expensive in sum than the cost of 500, thus encouraging small publishers to print more books than they could quickly sell, thus incurring the expense of storage and disappointment in “remaindering” surplus copies, etc. While the cost per copy of on-demand printing from a digital file might be greater per book than one thousand copies printed from a physical plate, the most immediate benefit offered by the new technology is transcending censorship-by-commerce, which in Western countries has always been more deleterious than government censorship. “Unpublishable” becomes an obsolete epithet with the elimination of gatekeepers to economical publication. On-demand printing also enables a writer in the twilight of his career, such as myself, to make public his unpublished manuscripts in a public channel that, even if he charged an exorbitant price for what he’d rather keep out of circulation during his lifetime, he could expect to survive him, no doubt later at a more reasonable price.

152 • ONO, YOKO ONO, YOKO (18 February 1933) Born in Japan, she came of age in upper-middle-class America; and though she has returned to Japan for visits and speaks English with a Japanese accent, she has been an American CONCEPTUAL artist known initially for her radical proposals. She later gained international celebrity from her 1969 marriage to her third husband, the pop singer-songwriter JOHN LENNON. Ono’s strongest avant-garde works are the PERFORMANCE texts collected in her book Grapefruit (1964). For “Beat Piece,” the entire instruction is “Listen to a heartbeat.” Her “Cut Piece” requires the performer, usually herself, to come on the stage and sit down, “placing a pair of scissors in front of her and asking the audience to come up on the stage, one by one, and cut a portion of her clothing (anywhere they like) and take it.” (One charm of this piece is that the spectator courts as much embarrassment as the performer-author.) Ono’s films customarily have the same audacious image repeated to excess (e.g., human butts). She pioneered the essentially literary form of the verbal film script meant to stand on its own: 1. Give a print of the same film to many directors. 2. Ask each one to re-edit the print without leaving out any of the material in such a way that it will be unnoticed that the print was re-edited. 3. Show all the versions together omnibus style. Ono also collaborated with Lennon on musical works in which her highly expressionist singing, part chanting and part screaming, sustained to excessive duration influenced PUNK musicians in the mid-1970s. Perhaps because her best works are too physically slight to warrant a museum exhibition, one at MoMA in 2005 was disappointing, implicitly supporting the unfortunate myth that, for too many dopes, Ono will never be more than a famous pop singer’s widow.

OP ART (1960) This abbreviation for Optical Art was one of several developments in the wake of the general sense common in the early 1960s that ABSTACT EXPRESSIONISM had declined. (Another was POP ART.) The defining Op mark was an image that, if observed patiently, began to suggest the illusion of movement.

Among the masters at creating such shimmer were Bridget Riley in England, Richard Anuszkiewicz (1930) in America, Victor Vaserely as a Hungarian in Paris, Wen-Ying Tsai as Chinese in America, and Julian Stanczak (1928–2017) as a Pole also in America. A group exhibition at the MoMA, The Responsive Eye (1965), was more popular than most, in spite of negative newspaper reviews. This show, which I still remember among the greatest of that decade, became the subject of a nifty short film directed by Brian de Palma (1940), who later had a Hollywood career, and produced by my college buddy Kenneth David Burrows (1941), later a lawyer.

ORWELL, GEORGE (25 June 1903–21 January 1950; b. Eric Blair) Born in India and thus in the colonies of the country whose literature he embraced (Britain), he was the second (after Rudyard Kipling [1865–1936]) to bring the critical distance of colonial intelligence to its mainstream, preceding in this respect other British writers such as V. S. Naipaul (1931–2018, born in Trinidad), Doris Lessing (1919–2013, born in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe), Edgar Mittelholzer (1919–65, born in Guyana), AMOS TUTUOLA, and Edward Lucie-Smith (1933, born in Jamaica), all of whom wrote differently from native-born Brits. The last four also produced formally innovative work. This post-colonial sensibility informs Orwell’s fiction, some of which takes place in British colonies, and his essays, which are written from an Olympian distance more typical of an outsider. Comparably colonial later French writers would include Albert Camus (1913–60) and JACQUES DERRIDA, both of whom were born in North Africa. Orwell and these writers also created preconditions for the acceptance of yet other writers who did not descend from the country of their mother-language. (Oddly, such figures scarcely exist in American literature.) Among Orwell’s other virtues not necessarily avant-garde are a clear intelligence, not only in his expository writing whose best essays have survived (e.g., “Politics and the English Language”) but as a fabulist with a persuasively insightful portrayal of a totalitarian society he did not know firsthand. (I can recall being told by people in Communist Poland in 1985 that the more accurate book about their society was Orwell’s 1984!) Consider his best works to be persuasive evidence for the argument that Olympian distance might be a prerequisite for cultural survival.




but Mathews himself, first met in 1965, insisted that I do otherwise.

(1960–) Founded by RAYMOND QUENEAU and François Le Lionnais (1901–84), this Parisian-based group began with the intention of basing experimental writing on mathematics. Its name is an acronym for Ouvroir de Litérature Potentielle (Workshop of Potential Literature). Once others came aboard, the group’s theme became the use, at times the invention, of highly restrictive literary structures. According to Harry Mathews, its principal American participant, “The difference between constrictive and ordinary forms (such as rhyme and meter) is essentially one of degree.” Jean Lescure (1912–2005) took texts written by someone else and by rigorous methods substituted, say, each noun with the seventh noun to appear after it in a common dictionary. Others wrote “recurrent literature,” as they called it, which was defined as “any text that contains, explicitly or implicitly, generative rules that invite the reader (or the teller, or the singer) to pursue the production of the text to infinity (or until the exhaustion of interest or attention).” One associate, by trade a professor of mathematics, wrote a sober analysis of “Mathematics in the Method of Raymond Queneau.” No other literary gang, in any language known to me, has produced quite so many extreme innovations; and perhaps because Oulipo does not distinguish among members living and dead, its influence continues to grow. Among the contributors to its first major selfanthology, Oulipo, la littérature potentielle (1973), were Queneau, GEORGES PEREC, Jean Queval (1913– 90), Marcel Bénabou (1939), Jacques Roubaud (1932), and Noël Arnaud (1919–2003), all of whom are, by any measure, consequential experimental authors. MARCEL DUCHAMP joined Oulipo in 1962, while Oskar Pastior, a German-speaking Rumanian long resident in BERLIN, wasn’t inducted until 1995. In the American translation of much of this initial anthology is a new name: Italo Calvino, whose celebrity made his association untypical and finally marginal. The Oulipo Compendium (1998) is a witty and masterful guide both to the entire movement and its constituents. I wanted to spell it OuLiPo, acknowledging the component words,

OUTSIDER ART (18th century?) The epithet customarily refers to exceptional visual art produced by individuals who didn’t go to art school or socialize with other artists. Some suffered from more serious physical or psychological handicaps. Some of the European exemplars were actually institutionalized. Customarily praised for a lack of sophistication, such work is at its best only incidentally (or accidentally) avant-garde, reflecting not conscious intention but the lack of it. Perhaps the most famous Outsider Artist in America was Grandma Moses (1860–1961, b. Anna Mary Robertson), who didn’t start serious painting until her early eighties, with work that seems commercially prosaic. Other American outsiders producing more avantgarde work include Simon Rodia, James Castle, C.A.A. Dellschau, and Henry Darger (1892–1973). My own sense is that the greatest outsider visual art appears not in painting but in sculpture sometimes composed of agglomerations produced, like Rodia’s Watts Towers, within the artist’s homestead. The outsider epithet is less applicable in literature and extended music composition, both of which require more training and apprenticeship.

OXBRIDGE Whatever contributions Britain’s two most august universities, more specifically the University of Oxford (1096, perhaps) and Cambridge University (1209, maybe, maybe), both of them collection of colleges, have made to the making (or even the understanding) of avant-garde art, ever, will need to be written by someone else, ever. Remarkable is the fact that few of the most advanced art minds in the English-speaking world (say, recognized here) ever passed through either institution. None are teaching there now.


PAGANINI, NICOLÒ (27 October 1782–27 May 1840) His single greatest composition is also his most inventive: 24 Caprices for Solo Violin (1801–09?). Their theme is demonstrating the musical and acoustic possibilities available in playing a single small four-stringed instrument, on which Paganini was widely known as a virtuoso. More than Johann Sebastian Bach in his monumental compositions for the same instrument, Paganini discovered extreme articulations wholly for their sounds, in sum no less austere than Bach, utterly devoid of schmaltz typical, say, of Italian operas popular in his culture at that time. As these Caprices, to support his reputation as a legendary performer, are famously difficult, only the most accomplished violinists have recorded them; fewer have dared perform all of them live. From the recordings known to me I recommend those by Paul Zukofsky (1943–2017), who incidentally favored a longer, purportedly more authentic score. As his Caprices represent the innovative summa of his talents, other Paganini compositions are less impressive. Later composers, such as Johannes Brahms (1833–97) and Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943) made whole works based upon bits of them.

PAIK, NAM JUNE (20 July 1932–29 January 2006) Born in Korea, educated in music in Japan and then in Germany, where his work earned support from both KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN and JOHN CAGE, neither of them pushovers, Paik came to America in 1964 as a celebrated young international artist. His initial forte was ELECTRONIC MUSIC, thanks to three years of work at a Cologne studio. On the side, so to speak, Paik did other things that assumed more importance in his career. After several outrageous


PERFORMANCE pieces in Europe, many of them in FLUXUS festivals, some of them involving genuine danger (e.g., leaving a stage on which a motorcycle engine was left running, thus filling a small space with increasing amounts of carbon monoxide), Paik, in 1963, installed the historically first exhibition of his video work in a gallery in Wuppertal, Germany – thirteen used television sets whose imagery he altered by manipulating the signal through the use of magnets, among other techniques. Paik incidentally realized a lesson since lost – that training in high-tech music might be a better preparation for video-art than education in film and visual art, and thus that video programs belong in music schools rather than art schools. (Reynold Weidenaar is another major VIDEO ARTIST who began in Electronic Music, initially exploiting a competence required there – the ability to decipher daunting technical manuals.) Though Paik continued producing audacious live performance, his video activities had greater impact. Late in 1965, he showed a videotape made with a portable video camera he had purchased earlier that day, and soon afterward held an exhibition that depended upon a videotape player. He was among the first artists-in-residence at the Boston Public Television station WGBH, where Paik also codeveloped a video synthesizer that, extending his original video-art principle, could radically transform an image fed into it. Another oft-repeated move involved incorporating television monitors into unexpected places, such as on a bra worn by the cellist Charlotte Moorman, amid live plants, or in a robot. That is to say that he exhibited not video, as such, but television sets. Indeed, the abundance of screens became a SIGNATURE move that others dared not imitate. Into the 1980s, if any museum exhibition included some video-art, the token representative was usually Paik. Precisely because the most sophisticated American television stations and private foundations concentrated so much of their resources on Paik’s video


career, there was reason for both jealousy and disappointment. From the beginning, his art had remarkably few strategies, most of them used repeatedly: performances that are audacious and yet fundamentally silly; tapes that depend upon juxtapositions of initially unrelated images, which is to say COLLAGE, which has become old-fashioned in other arts; installations depending upon accumulations of monitors that show either the same image or related images; and unexpected placements of monitors (such as in a bra). Much of his originality depended upon a goofy humor that many famously missed, beginning with certain institutional curators sponsoring his work. His American base notwithstanding, not to mention his owning several properties in ARTISTS’ SOHO, Paik’s work was recognized around the world. In 1979, he was awarded a professorship at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf; in 1987, he was elected to the Akademie der Kunste in BERLIN. In 1988, he was commissioned to erect a tower with 1,003 monitors for the Olympic Games in his native Seoul. Because of an incapacitating stroke in 1996, Paik spent his last decade living mostly in Miami Beach. I heard his surname as “pike” as in turnpike. Paik’s wife/widow Shigeko Kubota (1937 in Japan), has likewise produced distinguished video, particularly with agglomerations of monitors varying in imagery (“multichannel”) and other objects in a genre called “video sculpture.” In addition, from 1974 to 1983, she curated the video program at New York’s most important venue for screening alternative film, the Anthology Film Archives.

PARADIGM SHIFT (1962) This phrase comes from The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), a book written by Thomas Kuhn (1922–96), a physicist turned an historian of science with scarce ostensible interest in art. Its argument held that a true scientific departure did not build upon recognized previous achievements but created something so differently new that it represented another way of thinking, thus insuring that the new paradigm was, for one measure of departure, scarcely acknowledged by practitioners of “normal science,” if they understood the new ways at all. Attracting gaggles of cultural explorers soon after the book’s appearance, Kuhn’s sophisticated theme inadvertently validated ABSTRACTION in visual art at the beginning of the 20th century and then CONCEPTUAL ART soon after the book’s appearance. Likewise SERIAL MUSIC and MERCE


CUNNINGHAM’s dance, among other radical practices. Despite later quibbles with details in Kuhn’s seminal book, its central theme remains valid. Indicatively perhaps, his text began not as a book for a university press, whose vetting procedures usually block such innovative thought, but as a long article for the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science (1955). Once it was acclaimed there, a university press could publish it alone. By 1987, Scientific Revolutions was ranked first among 20th-century books most frequently cited between 1976 and 1983 in the arts and humanities. By its 50th anniversary, it had gone through three revised editions and been translated into many languages, selling in sum over one million copies.

PARKER, CHARLIE (29 August 1920–12 March 1955; b. Charles Christopher P., aka Yardbird, Bird) Essentially self-taught on the alto saxophone, Parker became the premier jazzman of his generation, beginning his professional life in Kansas City at 15, coming to New York while still a teenager, and first recording when he was 21, in an initially precocious career. As one of the progenitors of the new style of the 1940s called BEBOP, he excelled, in Nicolas Slonimsky’s summary, at “virtuosic speed, intense tone, complex harmonies, and florid melodies having irregular rhythmic patterns and asymmetric phrase lengths.” Rejecting the big bands favored by the preceding generation of jazzmen, Parker and his closest colleagues favored smaller “combos,” as they are called, in a kind of chamber art that was precious to some and path-breaking to others. Parker turned JAZZ into a modernist art of a quality distinctly different from its slicker predecessor. Knowing where he had gone, he once asked EDGARD VARÈSE for lessons in composing. It is hard to imagine subsequent departures in jazz without Parker’s foundation. Troubled in everyday life he died young, essentially of self-abuse. One of the more interesting extended appreciations of him appears in a thick scholarly history of modern music by the Cornell musicologist William Austin (1920–2000). Stanley Crouch (1945) authored the strongest biography, Kansas City Lightning (2013).

PÄRT, ARVO (11 September 1935) Initially a tonal composer and then one of the few SERIAL composers in his native Estonia, Pärt

156 • PEREC, GEORGES developed in the mid-1970s his “tintinnabuli style,” derived from tintinnabulation, or the sound of ringing bells. These pieces are tonal, with gradual scalar shifts and resounding rhythms in the tradition of plainsong and Russian liturgical music; they also incorporate repetition and extended structures that are totally absent from serial music. Like ringing bells, they are filled with overtones and undertones. Pärt’s best works are profoundly sacred: Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten (1976), where the repeated sound of bells comes to epitomize his tintinnabuli style; and Stabat Mater (1985), which echoes his earlier Passio (1982), which is probably his strongest single work. Fully entitled Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem, the latter opens with a choral chord reminiscent of Bach. With gorgeous writing for voices alone, especially in the highest and lowest registers, this seventy-minute oratorio fully intends to stand beside Bach’s work. Pärt is among the few composers featured in this book to benefit from the ideal arrangement of loyal continued support from a single recording company.

PEREC, GEORGES (7 March 1936–3 March 1982) Surely the most variously ambitious experimental French writer of his generation, Perec began as an author of crossword puzzles, which perhaps accounts for why few writers, ever, could match his dexterity with innovative linguistic structures. As a major contributor to OULIPO, he wrote many books, including La Disparition (1969), a novel totally devoid of the most popular letter in both English and French – the E – only to discover that the stunt had been done years before, albeit with less literary distinction, by the American Ernest Vincent Wright in Gadsby, 1939. “By the end of La Disparition,” writes his sometime collaborator Harry Mathews, e has become whatever is unspoken or cannot be spoken – the unconscious, the reality outside the written work that determines it and that it can neither escape nor master. E becomes whatever animates the writing of fiction; it is the fiction of fiction. Perec’s La vie mode d’emploi (1978, A User’s Manual) records in several hundred pages detailed life in a Parisian apartment building, while his poems observe a variety of inventive constraints. The departure in his W ou le sourvenir d’/enfance (1975, W or The Memory of Childhood) is mixing genuine autobiography with fiction. His

principal American translator has been David Bellos (1945), Perec’s biographer, who has also put into English other more advanced European fictioners.

PERFORMANCE (c. 1975–) This became a superior epithet for a presentational genre that had previously been called HAPPENINGS or Mixed-Means Theater, which is to say a live presentations incoporating dance, music, drama, and sometimes motion pictures. Performance art shares two elements. The various parts function disharmoniously, in the tradition of COLLAGE, which is based upon the principle of assembling elements not normally found together; aliveness, because a recorded piece, whether on video or audiotape, lacks spontaneity. Performance art may also involve members of the audience, voluntarily or involuntarily. Allan Kaprow developed his coinage Happenings to describe a one-time event, generally held outdoors, in which people come together unrehearsed, to execute instructions they have not seen before. In JOHN CAGE’s untitled forty-five-minute piece staged at BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE in 1952, one person read a text, another performed choreography, and a third produced sounds, all with minimal preparation. The art depends upon discovery and surprise. While performance art extends this tradition of alternative theater, the term came to identify more modest theatrical events, often involving one performer who was customarily also her or his own director. Much depended upon a certain paradoxical treatment of materials. If the performer was trained in theater, words, if used at all, play a secondary role to the articulation of image and movement. If, however, the performer was trained in dance, language might predominate over movement. Such later performance art differs esthetically from the masterpieces of 1960s mixed-means theater in reflecting the later influence of MINIMALISM and CONCEPTUAL ART.

PHOTOGRAPHY The initial measure of avant-garde photography is doing what common photographers don’t (and probably can’t) make. Among the many options have been overexposure, underexposure, multiple exposure (COBURN), superimposition, photograms made without a camera (Man Ray, Moholy-Nagy), millisecond exposure (EDGERTON), reworking a Polaroid while it is developing (Samaras), PHOTOMONTAGE,


handwriting directly on the picture (ALLEN GINSBERG), using kaleidoscopes (WEEGEE), and, more recently, digital adding and editing, etc., etc. Needless to say perhaps, some artists have made each of these alternative moves better than others. One early classic photograph deserving canonization is MARCEL DUCHAMP’s of himself quintupled (1917), which also ranks among the few original mug shots (e.g., facial portraits). View the self-portrait here: https://juliamargaretcameronsecession.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/ marcel-duchamp-5-wat-self-portrait-1917/

PHOTOMONTAGE (late 1910s) Literally, a photomontage is made by using splicing techniques to assemble photographic images. Technically, photomontage should really be called photocollage, as collage means gluing in French and montage implies sequence, as in film. (True photomontage would thus exhibit two images from different times, as in superimpositions.) For me at least, the epitome of photomontage is PAUL CITROEN’s (1896–1983) Metropolis, which is the name not for one image but several that the Dutchman composed around 1923. Taking bits of distinctly metropolitan images, particularly buildings whose height exceeds their width, Citroen filled a vertical rectangle, from top to bottom, from side to side, making a persuasive image of an all-encompassing urban world (that has no relation to primary nature). Though this image has frequently been reprinted, there is no book in English about Citroen. To other critics, the great photomontagist is JOHN HEARTFIELD, a German who took an English name for publishing images that resemble political cartoons, really, by customarily mixing the faces of politicians, particularly Adolf Hitler, with critical imagery, such as coins replacing Hitler’s spinal structure, and captions that became part of the picture as the image was rephotographed, so to speak. As Richard Huelsenbeck wrote of Heartfield’s photomontage: “It has an everyday character, it wants to teach and instruct, its rearrangement of parts indicates ideological and practical principles.” The defining mark of Russian images by Solomon Telingator (1903–1969) was montaging photographs with expressive typography.

PICASSO, PABLO (25 October 1881–8 April 1973)


After beginning his career in his native Spain as an exceptionally talented realistic painter, Picasso moved to France where he participated in initiating CUBISM in the first decade of the 20th century. Over the years, until World War II, he passed through a succession of artistic styles, mirroring many “isms” of the rapidly galloping art world (Analytic Cubism, Synthetic Cubism, Neoclassicism, SURREALISM, and so forth). Some of Picasso’s many innovative additions to world art include assimilating AFRICAN ART into Western painting, incorporating several vantage points into a single portrait, and introducing into his still-life paintings such found objects as newspaper headlines, wallpaper fragments, and ticket stubs. His constant stylistic changing is considered avant-garde, because it reflected a restlessness and dissatisfaction with the status quo, even when much of that status quo was his own creation. Reflecting modernist possibility, as well as reflecting his fortunate innate facility and a long life, his unique historical achievement was contributing significantly to so many distinct paintingly “periods.” Some historians identify Picasso as initiating Cubist sculpture, as his subsequent three-dimensional art took a variety of forms. A whimsical sculpture of a gorilla whose face was sculpted around one of his children’s toy cars predicted later POP ART. His many Cubist constructions of guitars brought the intersecting planes of Cubist painting into three dimensions; they also incorporated scrap metal, wire, and scrap wood, among other materials not often found in fine art sculpture at the time. Picasso worked for a brief period as a stage designer for SERGEI DIAGHILEV’s Ballets Russes, contributing Cubist back-drops and costumes to others’ innovative productions, most notably Parade (1917). As an aspiring POLYARTIST, Picasso spent two years mostly writing poetry and plays that, though moderately experimental, are now forgotten. Not everything touched by him became gold. One question of how much of his abundant production will survive. In contrast, say, to MARCEL DUCHAMP, whose score approaches 100 percent and thus becomes Picasso’s de facto “conscience,” the figure for the latter is arguable. To me it’s less than 50 percent, which is still pretty good, especially for an artist so adventurous and productive; others will no doubt offer a different figure, all surely much less than perfect. One common opinion holds that his very best years for work were 1907–14 and 1925–37. Since one measure of a discriminating critic is identifying in a major artist certain work that is less known, I nominate two black-white etching and aquatints with nine panels apiece accompanied by his prose text titled Sueño y mentira de Franco (1937, The Dream and Lie

158 • PLURALISM of Franco) once in the collection of Peggy Guggenheim, now in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. As his first overly political work, it presages the larger and more familiar White & Black Guernica done later in the same year. Otherwise, consider that a major autobiographical theme implicit in Picasso’s entire work, enhancing it for some while diminishing it for others, is his changing erotic experience.

PLURALISM (1970s) One assumption behind the individual selections in this book, not to mention its title, holds that, particularly since the 1960s, there is not one and only one avantgarde in any art, but several; and, because monopoly is impossible in open societies, where culture develops mostly apart from state dominance, these avant-gardes move in different, if comparably original, directions. For instance, the field of painting has in the past sixty years witnessed POP ART, OP ART, shaped canvases, monochromic fields, nonhierarchical pastiche, conundrum art (associated with JASPER JOHNS), CONCEPTUAL ART as well as ASSEMBLAGE, space-encasing ENVIRONMENTS, and works that resemble paintings but are not, such as the light pieces of JAMES TURRELL Whereas only the followers of ARNOLD SCHOENBERG on one side and JOHN CAGE on the other were identified with avant-garde music three decades ago, now we can speak of aleatory, MODULAR, microtonal, and multitrack and sampling tape developments as each generating new art. Indeed, it seems that a period of pluralism in all the arts has succeeded an era of dichotomies. Although avant-garde remains a useful general measure for distinguishing originality from familiarity, thus one work can be more avant-garde than another (even if created by the same artist); but beware of anyone who says that one or another decidedly innovative direction is necessarily “more” avant-garde than others. Likewise, beware of anyone or any group declaring itself the sole avant-garde, especially if s/he excludes or ignores people doing work that is roughly similar or closely related. Be even more wary if such monopolists try to sell you anything, intellectual as well as physical. Suspect this to be a road map directing all traffic to a dead end. Into the 21st century the pluralism of avant-gardes parallels comparable pluralism in all the arts, where competing styles peacefully coexist, so to speak. Anyone who wants to be king or queen of the hill, any hill in the arts, will find the earth sinking under his or her feet.

One fundamental difference among the recent avant-gardes is that some would isolate the processes, capabilities, and materials of the established medium – say, the application of paint to a plane of canvas – while the other would mix painting with concerns and procedures from the other arts, such as working in three dimensions or using light. Similarly, the new music descending from Schoenberg would isolate phenomena particular to music – pitch, amplitude, timbre, dynamics, and duration – and then subject each of these musical dimensions to an articulate ordering, creating pieces of exceptionally rich musical interactivity. Another new music, traditionally credited to JOHN CAGE, would combine sound with theatrical materials in original ways, creating an experience not just for the ear but for the other senses too. In dance, one avantgarde would explore the possibilities of movement alone, while the other favors theatrical conceptions, mixing in unusual ways such means as music, props, lights, setting, and costumes. Paradoxically, MERCE CUNNINGHAM, who was in his beginnings avantgarde in the first sense, switched his emphasis in the early 1960s to become an innovating figure in MixedMeans dance, only to return after 1967 to pieces predominantly about movement. The avant-garde is thus not a single step built upon an old house but a diversity of radical and discontinuous alternatives to previously established paradigms. The result is not worldwide stylistic uniformity but numerous pockets of exponents of one or another innovative style. It has been the bias of art historians to portray one style as succeeding another (thus fresh artists gain reputations by climbing over their predecessors’ backs), whereas the contemporary truth holds that several new styles can develop and thrive simultaneously. While “progress” in art cannot be measured, the expansion of possibilities is indisputably palpable.

POLLOCK, JACKSON (28 January 1912–11 August 1956) Following his oldest brother’s ambition for a fine art life, Jackson Pollock studied in high school with Frederick Schwankovsky, who also taught other teenagers who later had visible careers as artists. As a young man, Pollock went to New York, studying with the prominent Americanist painter Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975), among others, who taught realisms that Pollock quickly outgrew. Lacking conventional facility, Pollock was not a good student. Befriending the Russian-American painter John Graham, Pollock learned not only about modern


European painting but primitive art that purportedly reflected unconscious dimensions of human experience. Whereas DE KOONING, his contemporary, radically extended CUBISM, Pollock initially developed another major innovation of early 20th-century European art – EXPRESSIONISM. Pollock’s radical departure depended upon innovative methods of applying paint to canvas. As early as 1947, he laid canvas on the floor and then, in a series of rapid movements with sticks and stiffened brushes, literally poured and splattered paint all over the surface. He worked on his canvases from all sides, dripping paint at various angles, mixing enamels with oil pigments squeezed directly from its tubes, varying the rhythms of his movements. Some of the brilliance of Blue Poles: Number 11, 1952 (1952), perhaps Pollock’s last great painting, comes from adding aluminum paint. Though Pollock rejected many of the canvases produced by these impulsive and purposeful actions, certain pictures attained an overwhelming density of visual activity. Sometimes appearing to depict pure energy, his work epitomized what the critic Harold Rosenberg called ACTION PAINTING. One innovative departure resulting from such Expressionist methods is an intensity that is visible all over the nonhierarchical, nonfocused canvas, thereby not only realizing the principle that any part epitomizes the whole but creating the sense that the imagery could have extended itself well beyond the painting’s actual edges, if not forever. Wishing to overwhelm, Pollock’s best paintings, like de Kooning’s, suggest different levels of illusionistic space, but Pollock’s decisively differed from de Kooning’s by finally eschewing any reference to figures outside of painting. Such a complete meshing of image and field, content and canvas, even stasis and movement, creates a completely integrated, autonomous, and self-referential work that differs radically from the fragmented, allusive, and structured field of post-Cubist painting. Since he had undergone Jungian psychoanalysis, it was said that the only experience represented in Pollock’s art was his mind at the time(s) of actually painting. Whereas some of these expressionist canvases were big – often 9 feet by 18, recalling Pollock’s earlier interest in murals, others were small. He eschewed using the same size twice. Among the masterpieces in the former vein is a favorite of mine, Full Fathom Five (1947), 50 7/8 inches by 30 1/8 inches, whose dark, closely articulated surface includes not only paint thickly applied, but buttons, nails, tacks, coins, cigarettes, matches, etc. I also especially like his extended Summertime: Number 9A (1948), which is over 18 feet wide while less than 3 feet high; and such black/white paintings as Portrait and a Dream (1953) and Deep 1953). Whereas early


Pollock paintings had poetic titles, some of which came from solicitous friends, by 1948 he followed the precedent established by Moholy-Nagy, among others, of simply numbering his works within each year, sometimes adding poetic prefixes or suffixes as subtitles. Once Pollock’s innovations earned sudden international acclaim in the mid-1950s (along with the inevitable negative notices from dissenters), the selfdestructive painter stopped producing, regrettably succumbing to the alcoholism that had earlier contributed more than once to his emotional unraveling. JOHN CAGE, among other sometime friends, spoke of how they would avoid contact with him in social situations. Pollock’s premature death in an auto accident seems, in retrospect, almost a narrative convenience. A 1998 traveling retrospective, initiated at the MoMA, belongs among the greatest exhibitions, including not only a wealth of works from Pollock’s entire career but also demonstrating how certain familiar images, often reproduced, look not only so different, but so much more impressive, on walls, in their original sizes. Another virtue of this exhibition was including the classic Hans Namuth and Paul Falkenberg film about Pollock at work, some of it shot from a glass below, which ranks among the classic documentaries of artistic process (so superior to the more familiar form of an earnest head jabbering about his or her work). Pollock’s work was so well understood soon after its first appearance that commentary on it has hardly developed or changed in the decades since; and in this respect, Pollock criticism differs from that accumulating around other comparably original artists.

POLYARTIST (1969) This is my honorific, coined back in 1969 and occasionally used by others, for the individual who excels at more than one nonadjacent art or, more precisely, is a master of several unrelated arts. The principal qualifier in my definition is “nonadjacent.” In my understanding (sometimes missed by others using the term), painting and sculpture are adjacent, as are both film and photography and both poetry and fiction (as many individuals excel at each pair). However, poetry and music are not adjacent. Nor are painting and fiction. Thus, JOHN CAGE was a polyartist for excelling at music and poetry. So, in different ways were WYNDHAM LEWIS, Moholy-Nagy, THEO VAN DOESBURG, KURT SCHWITTERS, JEAN (HANS) ARP, JEAN COCTEAU, and WILLIAM BLAKE. Among

160 • POP ART contemporaries after Cage I would rank Yvonne Rainer, Dick Higgins, and Kenneth King. I distinguish the polyartist from the individual who excels at one art but not in another, such as PABLO PICASSO, who quit painting for eighteen months in order to write modest poetry and plays, from the artist who incorporates several media into a single performance, in the tradition of the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk (literally, “total artwork”); and from the dilettante who, as I understand that epithet, excels at nothing. “No one capable of genuine polyartistry,” I once wrote, “should want to be merely an ‘artist’ anymore.” One critical advantage of the term is forbidding the interpretation of work in one art with the terms of another (such as “poet’s paintings”). Consider too that the great movements of classic modernism – DADA, SURREALISM, Futurism, the BAUHAUS – were all essentially polyartistic enterprises. True polyartistic criticism attempts to identify the core esthetic ideas that are reflected in categorically various works.

POP ART (c. 1960) It was quite stunning at the beginning – the first postWorld War II representational reaction to Abstract Art that was not primarily conservative (or antimodernist) in spirit. As the creation of painters conscious of art history, who had assimilated and revealed the influence of ABSTRACTION, these paintings and sculptures of popular icons are primarily about “Art” (in contrast to commercial art, which is thoroughly worldly). One Pop style, exemplified by James Rosenquist (1933–2017), used both the scale and flat color, as well as the sentimentally realistic style and visible panel-separating lines, of billboard art to create large, glossy paintings that, like his classic 10-foot by 88-foot F-111 (1965), are full of incongruous images. As the critic Harold Rosenberg once cracked, “This was advertising art advertising itself as art that hates advertising.” To Barbara Rose (1938), at that time as sharp a critic as any, “These artists are linked only through subject matter, not through stylistic similarities.” Another Pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein, painted enlarged comicstrip images, which are so refined in their realism that they even reproduce the dots characteristic of comicbook coloring. This theme of ironic displacement – the incongruous relation between the identifiable image and its model – informs not only Lichtenstein’s highly comic paintings but also the Pop sculpture of CLAES OLDENBURG and certain paintings of ANDY WARHOL. In retrospect, Lucy R. Lippard, who wrote

the pioneering book on the subject, identified only five true Pop artists: Oldenburg, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rosenquist, and Tom Wesselman (1931–2004). From historical distance, their work curiously extends American Still-Life Painting.

PORTER, EDWIN S. (21 April 1870–30 April 1941) Treasure his film The Great Train Robbery (1903) as the first not to portray a continuous action but to edit credibly a sequence of images shot at different times and different places, thus enabling Porter to make a film more than ten minutes long that represented a cinematic advance, much as the long-playing record offered greater possibilities than the few minutes available on a 78 rpm. To tell a story familiar to pulp fiction, literally “A Western,” Porter introduced cameras mounted on moving trains, special effects optically generated, hand-colored images of gunshots and explosions, and trick photography. He worked for THOMAS EDISON in various capacities: the design and building of cameras, later a cameraman and director of the Edison Studio in New York City.

“POSTMODERN” (c. 1949) This term is included here not because it belongs but because too many people think it might belong. It is commonly used to characterize work that is not avantgarde at all but still purportedly contemporary, usually because of its journalistic subject matter (the erroneous assumption being that modernism has died, to be replaced by something else). My personal opinion holds that anything characterized as “postmodern,” whether by its author or its advocates, is beneath critical consideration, no matter how immediately publicized or acceptable it might be. The assumption of this book is that the revolutions implicit in MODERNISM continue, and thus that current avant-garde art simply extends modernism, which is dead only to dodos. Charles Jencks (1939) has proposed the useful term “late modern” as separate from early modern and postmodern. While I accept Jencks’s moniker as a useful antidote, I wish it were not necessary. Just as the second edition was going to press, I looked into Mark C. Taylor’s Hiding (1997), which is marvelously designed, with typography running both vertically and horizontally on the same pages, printing


in various colors, paper differing in quality from section to section, faded photos of tattooed people, various colors, etc. After noticing on a copyright page that its author and/or his publisher wished the book to be classified under “postmodernism,” my crap-detector, as Ernest Hemingway called it, turned itself on. Thinking to test my resistance to that red flag against the text itself, I found on page 95 the following: European modernism invents itself by inventing primitivism. The modern is what the primitive is not, and the primitive is what the modern is not. Far from preceding the modern temporally and historically, primitivism and modernism are mutually constitutive and, therefore, emerge together. Aside from approaching double-talk in the folding back of the concluding sentence, this is simply wrong historically. Modernism arose in response to prior developments in art and culture. Only later did some (and only some) modernists come to identify certain primitivistic elements. As the first paragraph here was written for the initial edition nearly three decades ago and the entry’s second paragraph a decade later, may I advise again, perhaps unnecessarily well into the 21st century: Beware of anything billed as “postmodernist.” And also hope that some other entries here that might seem debatable now will survive intact two or three decades from now. Q.E.D.?

POUND, EZRA (30 October 1885–1 November 1972) Pound’s innovation was poetic COLLAGE, in which an abundance and variety of both experiential and linguistic materials are pulled together into a poetically integral mosaic – so that, even where striking images are evoked, the effect of their structural principle is unfamiliar, perhaps pointed juxtapositions. The achievement of the final edition of his The Cantos (1970), which were begun over fifty years before, is a wealth of reference and language, both historic and contemporary, incorporated into a single sustained pastiche. The paradox of the poem’s long history is that the collage form that seemed so innovative when the poem was begun had become familiar, if not old-fashioned, by the time it was complete. Back in 1970, I was compelled to moan, “More bad poetry in America today is indebted to Pound than anyone else.” Certainly was true then, but perhaps no longer. Pound’s translations of Chinese and classic Latin and Greek poetry were innovative in that he did not


attempt literally to translate these works. Though he often “translated” poems from languages he could not read, his unliteral versions were often thought better at capturing the essence of the originals than more “accurate” translations. Pound was also a strong literary publicist who identified early in their careers the best writers of his generation, such as T. S. ELIOT and JAMES JOYCE, and even visual artists such as HENRI Gaudier-Brzeska. Pound’s classic literary essay, ABC of Reading (1935), is no less provocative today. Hugh Kenner, who wrote the first influential introduction to Pound in 1951, produced in The Pound Era a rich interpretation of Pound’s centrality to literary MODERNISM. New appreciations of his work continue to appear in the 21st century.

PROUST, MARCEL (10 July 1871–18 November 1922; b. Valentin Louis Georges Eugène M. P.) In his multivolume fiction, A la Recherche du temps perdu (1913–27 (Remembrance of Things Past), this French author transcended earlier conventions of novel-writing. Drawing upon Henri Bergson’s theories of time – chiefly the difference between historical or chronological time and interior or psychological time – Proust weaves a story that is as much about the processes of memory (voluntary, involuntary, rational, and especially sensate) as it is about its main characters (Charles Swann and the wealthy Guermantes family). The novel amplifies late 19th-century realism with rich and abundant detail, for example using many pages to describe lying in bed or taking a piece of cake with a cup of tea. At the same time, “real” objects and events assume “symbolic” and mythic import in Proust’s poetic evocation. Although dealing with issues of morality and decadence in its depiction of French culture at the turn of the 20th century, Proust’s work consciously displays the power of art to fix permanently what in life, time, and memory are always in flux. Originally published in sixteen French volumes, Proust’s masterpiece was available in English first in C. K. Scott Moncrieff’s translation (1927–32) and later in Terence Kilmartin’s revision of Scott Moncrieff’s text. More recently, the American fictioner Lydia Davis translated only Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time (2003). Proust’s influence on subsequent writers such as WILLIAM FAULKNER and JACK KEROUAC is immeasurable. —Katy Matheson

162 • PSYCHEDELIC ART PSYCHEDELIC ART (1960s) This epithet arose in the 1960s, in the wake of increasing recreational use of lysergic acid, commonly called LSD, along with related “psychedelics” that produced colorful hallucinations in the user’s mind and had an obvious attraction to those predisposed to otherworldly experience. Psychedelic art purported to represent such heightened mental states, customarily on canvas, sometimes with lights. One critical claim made for this work was that it represented deeper unconscious states than could be reached without such stimulants. Most psychedelic art in retrospect looks either like a highly stylized Expressionism or colorful updated religious art that didn’t survive into the 1970s. For all the work’s innovative strength when it first appeared, the principal contemporaneous book about the style features names that are now forgotten, some of them perhaps lost to drug excesses that had deleterious effects upon those coming of age in the 1960s comparable to that caused by alcohol for earlier generations.

slick, commercial popular music associated with the first generation of rock stars born in the 1940s. (It is awesome to recall that the Rolling Stones, so raucously offensive in 1965, especially to older people, could be perceived only a decade later as slick.) One assumption of punk was that anybody could play or write music – indeed, that school-certified musical talent might even be a liability. Punk clubs made little distinction between performer and audience. While the performers often held their audiences in contempt, the audience responded by ignoring the performance on stage, all in reaction to the mutual seductiveness of earlier popular music. British punk also had a political dimension as a reaction to increasingly conservative British politics. When punk came to lower Manhattan in the mid1970s, it had more impact on fashion than music, as new kinds of hairstyles, clothing, makeup, and demeanor seemed stronger than any musical message. Griel Marcus (1945), among the more literate of the American rock critics, once wrote a fat, pretentious, but ultimately unpersuasive book that regarded punk as the legitimate heir of avant-garde radicalism. —with Richard Carlin

PUNK ROCK (c. 1975) Punk developed in England as a reaction of those musicians born in the 1950s and 1960s to the increasingly


QUENEAU, RAYMOND (21 February 1903–25 October 1976) Very much a smart writer’s smart(est) writer, Queneau was literarily brilliant beyond measure, working in a variety of mostly original ways. After SURREALIST beginnings, he became involved with ‘Pataphysics, an avant-garde parody-philosophy calling itself the “science of imaginary solutions.” In 1960, Queneau cofounded (as well as confounded) Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle, commonly known as OULIPO, along with the mathematician François Le Lionnais (1901–84). In addition to working for a prominent book publisher, as a translator into French (of books such as The Palm Wine Drinkard by AMOS TUTUOLA), and as the principal editor of the Encyclopédie de la Pléiade, Queneau published comic pop novels, such as Zazie dans le metro (1959; Zazie, 1960), along with such experimental works

as EXERCISES DE STYLE (1947; Exercises in Style, 1958), a tour de force, or farce, in which the same scene is described in ninety-nine different ways. His avant-garde masterpiece, so audaciously extraordinary it will never be transcended or remotely repeated, is Cent mille milliards de poemes (100,000 Million Million Poems, 1961), in which he wrote ten sonnets whose lines (in place) are interchangeable, because they are die-cut into strips bound to the book’s spine, creating combinatorial sonnet possibilities numbering ten to the fourteenth power. The result is the creation of preconditions for the reader to discover a multitude of relationships not intended. Though daunting, this book has been translated into English, German, and even Polish. Whereas the writing of his near-contemporary Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–80) was unashamedly heavy, Queneau’s was both light and heavy or, more precisely, heavier because it was so deceptively light.



RADIO ART (1920s) Radio art exploits capabilities unique to audio broadcasting. Mark E. Cory (1942) tells of Richard Hughes’s 1924 radio play set in a deep mine after a cave-in had extinguished all light. As Cory writes, “Listeners and characters work out the consequences of being trapped in darkness in a bond no other dramatic medium could forge as well. NBC would later exploit the principle [of theatrical lightlessness] in its Lights Out series of ghost stories.” ORSON WELLES’s famous War of the Worlds broadcast depended upon the established radio convention, used even in 1938, of interrupting a program with on-the-scene news bulletins. The Australian Chris Mann (1949–2018) reportedly broadcast his Quadraphonic Cocktail simultaneously over two mono AM stations and one stereo FM station, depending upon the fact that in Australia listeners were likely to have three radios in fairly close proximity to one another. Within broadcasting institutions after World War II, artful radio matured mostly in Germany, usually in departments called Hörspiel, or “hear-play.” The principal development transcended reproducing poetic monologues or the illusion of live theater with their literary base, toward audio experience based in sound. In Der Monolog der Terry Jo (Saarländischer Rundfunk, 1968), by Ludwig Harig (1927) and Max Bense (1910–90), the voice of an unconscious accident victim is rendered by an electroacoustic vocoder, which is able to create approximations of human speech until recognizable words appear. One theme is the kind of message communicated by incomprehensible speech. Other radio works, such as my own Invocations (Sender Freies Berlin, 1981), bring into the same acoustic space sounds that would normally be heard separately – in my piece, prayers spoken by ministers of various (even antagonistic) faiths.


The principal sponsor of this Akustische Kunst (acoustic art) has been Klaus Schöning (1936), who has also edited books of scripts and criticism. During the 1980s, certain German stations publicly broadcast radio art designed to be heard through earphones, Kunstkopf (literally, art-head) stereo, surrounding the listener with stereophonic effects.

RAUSCHENBERG, ROBERT (25 October 1925–12 May 2008; b. Milton Ernest R.) His innovations were based upon two radical principles: that literally everything could be incorporated into painterly art, and that one part of a picture need not dominate, or even relate to, the others. In the first respect, he painted his own bed, transforming a subesthetic object into something that was purchased and displayed by the MoMA (Bed, 1955); he put a whole stuffed Angora goat into a painted field (Monogram, 1959); added a live radio to another (Broadcast, 1959); and even added a clock to yet another (Third Time Painting, 1961). For a while, Rauschenberg seemed the most inventive productive visual artist since PABLO PICASSO. Rauschenberg’s earlier White Painting (1951, three panels) has reflective surfaces designed to incorporate lights and images from the surrounding environment (in contrast to AD REINHARDT, say, whose polytonal black canvases were intentionally nonreflective). About this early work, Allan Kaprow wrote a decade later: They were taken as a joke by most of the committed artists of the New York school. Yet they are the pivotal works of the artist, for in the context of Abstract Expressionist noise and gesture, they suddenly brought us face to face with the humbling devastating silence.


For painted ASSEMBLAGES that had three dimensions and yet were not quite sculpture, Rauschenberg coined the term COMBINES. In the late 1960s, he worked with technology and theatrical PERFORMANCE. Otherwise, the typical Rauschenberg painting (or graphic) is a disparate collection of images, some of them painted, others applied in other ways (such as silkscreen or glue), in which no image is more important than any other, though they may comment upon one another. Rauschenberg’s initial adventurousness notwithstanding, he never developed much beyond his early innovations, perhaps because by the 1970s he had forsaken NEW YORK CITY, which seemed an inspiration for his art, for residence on an island off the west coast of Florida. By the 1980s, he became the Leonard Bernstein (1918–90) of visual art, a sort of elder statesman whose public activities were exemplary and publicized, even though his art ceased being interesting or influential.

RECALLING What can be recalled in art (and probably in life as well) is usually worth remembering, as involuntary memory can function as an honest mechanism for distinguishing strong from weak, especially with new art, more particularly with avant-garde work. However, may I introduce one caveat. Try to recall work(s), rather than just artists’ names, because the latter may simply benefit from fortunate publicity. Consider this test which you can give yourself: Even if you can remember, say, a poet’s name, try to identify solely from memory the name of a poem by him or her that’s not the title of a book? Similarly, try a similar self-test with a composer or a visual artist. The challenge can also be presented to others who are favoring one or another artist. As a prerequisite: no peeking, no cheating. Don’t disrespect the truth embedded in this exercise.

REICH, STEVE (3 October 1936) Not unlike his Juilliard schoolmate and sometime colleague PHILIP GLASS, Reich began as a daunting avant-garde composer whose work has become more accessible and popular over the years. What Music in Twelve Parts (1974) was for Glass, Drumming (1971) was for Reich, which is to say the apex of his radical style – a composition that benefits from being longer


and thus more ambitious than his previous innovative works, as well as more limited in its instrumentation. Reich’s original radical idea was a strain of MODULAR MUSIC, in which bits of material would be repeated, customarily in slightly different forms, until through repetition alone they generated a pulsing sound. The clearest example of this effect is It’s Gonna Rain (1965), where that three-word phrase becomes a chorus of itself, as Reich working in an early electronic music studio realized an incantatory intensity unequaled in audio language art. Another, similarly composed work, Come Out (1966) depends upon more violent language, as initially spoken by a black teenager who had suffered a police beating. Whereas Glass is a melodist, the best Reich, as in Drumming, marks him as a superior rhythmicist. Of the middle-period Reich, I like Tehillim (1981) for its imaginative setting of a Hebrew text. A more ambitious later work, The Cave (1993), based on the Biblical story of Abraham, Sarah, and their sons, includes multiscreen video made by his wife Beryl Korot (1945) in a kind of multimedia oratorio. In 1997 Nonesuch produced a box of 10 Reich CDs, a monument with an accompanying book running 136 pages, that ranks him among the major living composers and Nonesuch high among those distributive companies supporting the best contemporary composers.

REINHARDT, AD (24 December 1913–30 August 1967; b. Fredrick Adolf R.) A college chum of both Robert Lax and Thomas Merton, Reinhardt was, from his professional beginnings, a scrupulous ABSTRACTIONIST, perhaps the only major American Abstract artist of his generation never to have exhibited primarily representational art. His most distinctive early paintings had geometric shapes on a multicolored field, while works of the late forties favored less definite abstract shapes. By 1953, he offered canvases painted entirely in different shades of the same color – all red, all blue, all black, in one case, all white – usually subtly divided into geometric shapes whose slight differences in hue became more visible with the spectator’s increased attention. Reinhardt’s classic Black Paintings of the early 1960s, each 5 feet square, contain not a sole black color evenly painted from edge to edge, but many rectilinear forms, each painted a slightly different hue of black. Viewing Reinhardt’s work from the perspective of subsequent art history (which generally clarifies earlier innovations), the critic Lucy R. Lippard judges

166 • RETROGRADE succinctly that his “innovations consist largely of the establishment of a valid function for nonrelational, monotonal concepts, progressive elimination of texture, color contrast, value contrast and eventually of color itself, which was replaced by a uniquely nonillusionistic painted light.” In addition to being a masterfully sophisticated cartoonist, more precisely a great visual essayist critically portraying within a single frame ideas and life in the New York art world, Reinhardt was a witty and aphoristic writer of sharp prose, declaring, for instance, “An avant-garde in art advances art-as-art or it isn’t an avant-garde” – an adage that could have been an epigraph to this book, did it not seem more appropriate here. Less commonly appreciated were his postcards, handwritten in a unique calligraphy, customarily filling all the available space with a concise message. If only as a radical contribution to the genre of an author’s “letters,” a book reprinting the best of them should appear. (‘Tis said as a great believer in postcards he would begin his visit to a new museum by purchasing picture postcards of featured works and then try to find the originals on the museum’s walls.) I’m also a great fan of Reinhardt’s travel photographs that I saw in the 1970s as a projection of slides that he would show to his colleagues two decades before. Everywhere he went around the world Reinhardt photographed verticals and horizontals, usually in human constructions, with scant attention to Nature, in sum reflecting the sensibility of a native New Yorker who lived his entire life there, incidentally much like myself. These too should sometime appear as a book.

RETROGRADE As the opposite of avant-garde, this epithet is certainly more pointed and thus memorable than derrière-garde, which sounds asinine (at least in English), or rear-guard or backward, both of which sound more condescending, as they imply retreating and retiring. Often confused with both bourgeois or commercial, both of which are nearly always retrograde, this derogation retrograde is not synonymous with academic, which characterizes something familiarly formulaic. Retrograde can be used to characterize art, artists, critics, media, institutions, and much else cultural. Even though retrograde is the negative of the avantgarde’s positive, I’d love to read (though would not write, not even for golden moolah), “A Dictionary of the Retrogrades,” again preferring the plural over the singular, as, much like the avant-garde, it comes from more than one direction. Two questions are: would this

book, if more tactile than CONCEPTUAL ART, be longer or shorter than DAG? Would it be funnier?

RICHTER, HANS (6 April 1888–1 February 1976) A POLYARTIST of sorts, Richter is now remembered mostly for his pioneering films and his books, beginning with his 1921 abstract film Rhythmus 21, which focuses upon a single formal element, the rectangle. In Germany, he worked initially with VIKING EGGELING and then with SERGEI EISENSTEIN. In Vormittagsspuk/Ghosts before Breakfast (1927–28), bowler hats fly through the landscape in articulate formations, Richter replicating in human action footage the animator’s trick of creating on film certain comic effects that could not be done live on stage. Once settled in America, where he became director of the Institute of Film Techniques at New York’s City College (1942–52), Richter organized Dreams That Money Can Buy (1946), a feature-length color film that drew upon scenarios by ALEXANDER CALDER, MARCEL DUCHAMP, MAX ERNST, and Man Ray, among others. Another longer film, 8×8 (1957), made after his return to Switzerland, involved JEAN COCTEAU, among others. Richter compiled a two-part self-retrospective mostly of paintings, Forty Years of Experiment (1951, 1961), in addition to writing histories featuring his own involvements in the arts. In the concluding two decades of his life, much of them spent back in Europe, he worked principally as a painter. He authored in the middle 1960s an early book-length history of DADA that, partly because of a lack of competition at the time, got widely translated and reprinted.

RICKEY, GEORGE (6 June 1907–17 July 2002) ALEXANDER CALDER’s innovation (of a nonmechanical, kinetic, three-dimensional art) was so different from traditional sculpture that his sort of work, apparently requiring competences different from those typically learned in art school, had remarkably few successors. The most important, as well as original, disciple was been George Rickey, a Scotsman who had spent most of his life in the United States (and learned mechanics in the US Army Air Corps). His delicately poised pieces move, like Calder’s, in response to the gentlest shifts of air (even drafts within museums). Whereas Calder customarily suspended his floating and spatially



intersecting parts from a central point (itself usually suspended from the ceiling), providing a pivotal axis, Rickey either suspended his metal pieces individually from several axes or pitched them up from an axial point close to the ground, as in his classic Two Lines (1964), where intersecting blades, like scissors, run 35 feet high into the open air. Though Rickey’s oeuvre may not be as rich as Calder’s, it suggests that the medium of nonmechanical kinetic art is scarcely exhausted. Rickey also published the strongest critical history of artistic Constuctivism: Its Origins and Evolution (1967), which remains standard a half-century later. From his own private collection, compiled mostly from swapping with colleagues, he also mounted an exhibition Constructivist Tendencies (1970) that traveled through smaller museums, mostly in American universities. Among the most loyal guests of the DAAD BERLINER KUNSTLERPROGRAMM, he returned regularly to West Berlin to oversee European work. An especially thoughtful visual artist he seemed to me when I met him there around 1982.

that she likewise titled Olympia (1937) also ranks as a masterpiece of its genre. Because of Riefenstahl’s Nazi involvements, most notoriously as the producer of Triumph of the Will (1936) about the 1934 Nuremberg Nazi Party Convention, she was interned in various prison camps after World War II, her films and filmmaking equipment confiscated. Her good looks gave credence to the charge that she had been Hitler’s mistress, though this was not true. Although Riefenstahl later worked for European magazines as a photographer, she never again produced a major film. (Tiefland, based upon an opera by Eugene d’Albert [1864–1932], was actually completed in 1944, a decade before it was released.) Germans making a documentary in 1990s continually confronted her about her prewar political involvements, which should be forgotten by now, rather than acknowledging her pioneering artistic achievements that will stand. Surviving for more than a century, Riefenstahl probably experienced the perverse pleasure of reading most of her detractors’ obituaries.



(22 August 1902–8 September 2003; b. Helene Bertha Amalie R.)

(20 October 1854–10 November 1891; b. Jean Nicolas A. R.)

Riefenstahl was the EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE of film, which is to say that she mastered, as no one before her had done as well, the capture of human motion. Her masterpiece is Olympia (1938), a four-hour documentary ostensibly about the 1936 BERLIN Olympics, but stylistically a glorification of human athletic performance at its highest. Generously supported by the Nazi government, Riefenstahl used forty-five cameras, some of which were sunk in holes dug into the ground, others of which were in balloons; and after amassing over two hundred hours of raw footage, she spent over a year editing . (Ironically, the African-American sprinter Jesse Owens [1913–80] often credited a female follower of Adolf Hitler with making him famous through her visual record of his stunning victories and his memorable smiling face.) If only for directorial decisions about shooting individual events, nearly every major sports film since seems in some way or another indebted to Riefenstahl. (To her credit, she eschewed the post-victory, talkinghead interviews that plague American television’s coverage of sports. Since her soundtrack wasn’t synchronized with the visual elements, Riefenstahl could redo her work in different languages without changing her brilliant footage.) Her book of still photographs

Running away from home, the teenage Rimbaud befriended the prominent French poet Paul Verlaine (1844–96), who left his wife to live and travel with Rimbaud, until the older man shot the younger. That prompted Rimbaud to write Une Saison en enfer (1873, A Season in Hell), which consists mostly of prose poems filled with extreme imagery. Rimbaud’s other important prose poem, Illuminations, also composed before 1874, introduces his theory of the poet as seer, thereby influencing poetic practice well into the 20th century. The legend is that Rimbaud abandoned poetry before turning 20. Without roots, in constant rebellion against his family and social conventions, Rimbaud explored both mental and social derangements, producing an art of hallucination and irrationality through symbolism that is often obscure. For generations thereafter, the acceptance or rejection of Rimbaud’s psychopoetic orientation became an important decision for aspiring poets. Perhaps the most curious testimony about his later influence is Wallace Fowlie’s Rimbaud and Jim Morrison (1994), which is based upon an appreciative letter about his Rimbaud book that the scholartranslator received from the rock star (1943–1971) in 1968.

168 • RIVERA, DIEGO RIVERA, DIEGO (8 December 1886–24 November 1957; b. D. María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la R. y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez) Of the several masters of Mexican mural painting in the early 20th century, Rivera is at once the most famous and the most notorious. Some of his fame and notoriety came during his life from his Communist politics and provocative imagery, both of which prompted opinionmakers to take sides. Later, he was posthumously vilified for bullying his diminutive infirm wife, the painter Frida Kahlo (1907–54), who became a feminist heroine in the 1970s. None of this gossip, essentially, should obscure his genuine painterly achievements. Initially Rivera practiced Cubism, epitomized by his 1915 portrait of Ramón Gómez De La Serna (1915). Returning to his native Mexico in 1921, after fifteen years in Europe during which he studied Italian fresco paintings, Rivera was commissioned by the victorious socialist government to paint a series of frescos glorifying the Mexican Revolution. Those in the patio of the Ministry of Education in Mexico City are commonly regarded as his finest murals. Perhaps the most successful in the United States proper are those portraying American autoworkers on the ceilings of the Detroit Institute for the Arts. Those commissioned for Rockefeller Center in the 1930s survive only in a book, because Nelson Rockefeller himself (1908–79), then a young man, and later a prominent (if flawed) art patron, ordered them destroyed (i.e., censored). Rivera painted all his murals with his own hand, while working on a scaffold, depending upon “assistants” only to assist, not substitute, his strokes reflecting extraordinary attention to detail that sometimes reflected personal research. To the American critic Max Kozloff (1933), “Rivera’s pictorial economy takes into itself the insatiable need to show how things work, and his frescoes, loaded with an almost bewildering amount of information, are more descriptive than any other words with a comparable object.” His principal biographer Bertram Wolfe (1896–1977) reports one Mexican scholar estimating that by 1949 Rivera had covered on walls alone approximately four kilometers of painting one meter high. Wow. Nonetheless, compared to his contemporary José Orozco, Rivera seems the lesser – shorter on both art and character. In his native country he was generous and beloved, both personally and professionally, also as a pioneering collector of early Mexican art and artifacts, amassing several thousand objects for which he built a monument, all donated to his country. Consider as well that Bertram Wolfe, an independent American writer,

wrote not one but two long biographies of Rivera, in addition to an exhibition catalogue in between.

ROTH, DIETER (21 April 1930–5 June 1998; b. Karl-Dietrich R., perhaps) The most original and fecund Swiss artist of his generation, Roth began as a graphic designer, and so it is scarcely surprising that he published over a hundred books, many of which rank as extraordinary BOOKART. He also exhibited organic materials that change color, not to mention odor, over the course of an exhibition. Allan Kaprow remembers this 1969 piece: Twenty-odd old suitcases filled with a variety of international cheese specialties. The suitcases – all different – were placed close together in the middle of the floor, as you might find them at a Greyhound bus terminal. In a few days the cheeses began to ripen, some started oozing out of the suitcases, all of them grew marvelous molds (which you could examine by opening the lids), and maggots were crawling by the thousands. Naturally, the smell was incredible. Rot once collected two years of personal trash into transparent plastic bags that were stacked into two pyramids in Zurich’s Helmhaus. His favorite exhibition form became an INSTALLATION. In addition to giving concerts with instruments he was not trained to play (and frequently concocting new versions of his name, the most familiar alluding to the 18th-century French philosopher Diderot), Roth published highly innovative prose in more than one language. Fighting glib artistic classification, he often produced inscrutable ironic statements. Incorrigibly obsessive, he photographed all the buildings in ICELAND’s main city. He produced an installation with over two dozen video monitors simultaneously playing tapes of his mundane activities, including time spent on his can (toilet). He compulsively painted over postcards, particularly of London’s Piccadilly Circus, wittily entitling this project 96 Piccadillies (1977), incidentally claiming that “painting and drawing on unpainted or unmarked paper is harder to do than on paper with something already on it.” Etc., etc. Among Roth’s several magnum opi is Gartensulptor (Garden Sculpture) that began with a self-portrait made of chocolate and birdseed, placed upon a bird table, exposed to the elements. To this he added drawings, paintings, sculptures, and much else, all placed


on trellises, as in normal gardens. Exhibited indoors in 1992 in Switzerland, it filled an entire room. A few years ago it was over 21 yards long; by 2000, after his death, perhaps 42 yards long. Had Roth lived longer, it could have become a monumental accretive masterpiece. I saw in Milan around 2013 a posthumous exhibition that filled a huge space.


Honoring his memory, some admirers have founded Dieter Roth Academies in many countries around the world. Perhaps by the measure of sheer numbers and perhaps gross volume, no other contemporary artist (two generations younger than PICASSO) produced as much strong work.


SACHER, PAUL (28 April 1906–26 May 1999) In his twenties, Sacher founded a chamber orchestra and a choir in his native city of Basel, Switzerland; in the 1950s, he directed the local music academy. In between he toured as a conductor and incidentally married the widow of the founder of a large Swiss pharmaceutical firm. Thanks to her largess, Sacher personally commissioned over two hundred works from living composers, including several future classics. Later he began to collect original scores and then whole archives, typically purchasing for over five million dollars the entire IGOR STRAVINSKY horde soon after the composer’s death. As his collection is incomparable, it is housed in the Paul Sacher Foundation building in Basel. The book issued just before his death, Settling New Scores (1998), is, its peculiar title notwithstanding, an incomparable retrospective/memoir/catalog. Perhaps because such patrons are personally modest and/ or their efforts are taken for granted, extended appreciations of their contributions are scarce.

the René Clair film of the ballet Relâche (1924), whose original form was a comic masterpiece that Satie produced in collaboration with Francis Picabia and Jean Börlin (1893–1930) of the Swedish Ballet. Satie’s most popular compositions are short pieces for piano collectively known as Gymnopédies (1888). Others have programmatic titles (e.g., in the shape of a pear). His music frequently depends upon unresolved chords; some works encourage unconventional distributions of musicians in a performance space. JOHN CAGE uncovered certain radical experiments ignored by most Satie scholars, such as Vexations (1892–93), which is a page of piano music meant to be repeated 840 times (typically performed in 1963 by five pianists working round the clock), and furniture music that, because it does not require conscious listening, presages not only Muzak but BRIAN ENO’s ambient music. Satie was also a master of ironic aphorisms: “Although our information is incorrect, we do not vouch for it”; “I want to compose a piece for dogs, and I already have my decor. The curtain rises on a bone.”

SCHLEMMER, OSKAR SATIE, ERIK (17 May 1866–1 July 1925; b. Éric Alfred Leslie S.) A slow starter, whose early adult years were devoted more to radical religion and politics than music (and his “music” mostly to tickling the ivories in Paris cabarets), Satie returned to music school in 1905 for three years of intensive study. Not until 1915 did his more serious music begin to receive recognition, and his reputation has grown enormously since his death. The last decade of Satie’s life was consumed with such commissions as Parade (1917) for SERGE DIAGHILEV’s Ballets Russes; Socrate (1919), which is a symphonic drama for four sopranos and a small orchestra; and music for


(4 September 1888–13 April 1943) After undistinguished beginnings as a painter, Schlemmer made reliefs of concave and convex shapes and in 1921 exhibited abstract free-standing sculpture. On the faculty of the BAUHAUS from 1920 to 1929, he initially taught stone-carving and then theatrical design. Beginning with the Triadischen Ballett (1922, Triadic Ballet), he made padded costumes that resembled figurines more than traditional ballet garb, giving props and lighting as much presence as performers (presaging Alwin Nikolais, among others). The result was a CONSTRUCTIVIST theater more attuned to Bauhaus values (and contrary to EXPRESSIONISM). “Theater is the concentrated orchestration,” he wrote, “of sound, light (color), space,


form, and motion. The Theatre of Totality with its multifarious complexities of light, space, plane, form, motion, sound, man – and with all the possibilities for varying and combining these elements – must be an organism.” Any traditional “dramatic” script was thus a “literary encumbrance” lacking “the creative forms peculiar only to the stage.” Schlemmer’s 1926 plans for a “total theater,” which would incorporate a deep stage and a center stage, in addition to a conventional proscenium and a fourth stage suspended above the others, still look radical today.

SCHOENBERG, ARNOLD (13 September 1874–13 July 1951; b. A. Franz Walter Schönberg) An essentially self-taught composer, he produced in his native Vienna his first major work, the popular Verklärte Nacht (1899, Transfigured Night) for string sextet, which is more commonly performed in an arrangement for string orchestra. Relocating to BERLIN in 1901, Schönberg worked at orchestrating operettas and directing a cabaret orchestra. Returning home in 1903 to teach, he befriended not only Gustav Mahler (1860–1911), the older prominent Viennese composer and conductor who supported Schönberg’s activities, but two younger men who became his most prominent protégés, Alban Berg (1885–1935) and ANTON WEBERN. Because Schoenberg’s harmonies in particular were so extreme, riots erupted at the premieres of his first two string quartets in 1905 and 1908. One result was to instill in Schönberg a fear of public performances; he preferred instead that audiences at his concerts be restricted. Around this time, he began painting with certain seriousness, in an Expressionist style that, differences in media notwithstanding, roughly resembled his music at the time. To a more contemporary eye, the images collected by Jane Kallir (1955) in Arnold Schoenberg’s Vienna (1984) suggest that his strongest paintings portray atmospheres, including in their title the word “gaze.” In 1911, Schönberg published his book Harmonielehr (Theory of Harmony), which he dedicated to Mahler’s memory. He moved again to Berlin, where he composed Pierrot Lunaire (1912), which remains among his most influential works, composed in an idiom customarily called ATONAL because the music eschewed dependence upon tonics and dominants. Returning to Vienna during World War I, Schönberg developed by 1923 his SERIAL method of composition, which is regarded as his extraordinary invention. (It is discussed in detail elsewhere in this book.) Invited to return to Berlin in 1925, where he was offered a professorship at the Academy of the Arts, the sometime self-taught avant-garde composer finally achieved bourgeois prestige and financial security


However, once the Nazis assumed power, Schönberg, a Jew who had converted to Christianity, resumed his initial faith and departed for America, eventually settling in Los Angeles, where he taught at local universities. Though his archcompetitor IGOR STRAVINSKY had likewise immigrated to Los Angeles, the two men met only once, in passing. Becoming a naturalized American citizen in 1941, the Viennese composer incidentally Americanized the spelling of his surname from Schönberg to Schoenberg, which is preferred when writing about him in English. His serial innovation notwithstanding, most of Schoenberg’s compositions reflect the Expressionistic esthetics of his youth, sometimes in his choice of literary texts, often in the ways these texts are sung. Those less enthusiastic about serialism per se like to point out that most of his compositions do not strictly observe serial requirements and that his later compositions were less observant than those from the 1920s and 1930s. Schoenberg was at times a strong writer, initially in German, later in English, his best writing reflecting the influence of KARL KRAUS, likewise a Viennese. Of his essays, generally uneven in quality, the most masterful, such as “Composition in Twelve Tones” (1941), deal with his esthetics and compositional processes. Schoenberg’s example perhaps accounts for why composers are generally more predisposed than other kinds of artists (painters certainly, poets perhaps) to want to write well about their art. Like RICHARD WAGNER before him, Schoenberg also wrote not only the libretto but also highly detailed stage directions for his monumental opera Moses und Aron (begun in the early 1930s, but not premiered until 1957, after his death) and frequently revived since.



SCHWARZ, ARTURO (2 February 1924) One of the great impresarios of the avant-garde, he has functioned impressively as a collector, a dealer in Milan, the author of catalog raisonné and other prodigious

172 • SCHWITTERS, KURT books on MARCEL DUCHAMP, and a philanthropist who gave several hundred works of DADA and SURREALISM to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Born Jewish in Alexandria, Egypt, from a German father and Italian mother, Schwarz moved to post-fascist Italy in 1952, incidentally reviving the tradition, exemplified by NELSON MURPURGO before him, of Egyptian Jews participating in new Italian art. As a major Italian SMALL PRESS author, Schwarz has also published books and essays about Tantrism, Israeli art, alchemy, and the Kabbalah, as well as his own poetry. Working as an independent scholar, Schwarz was the first to discover Man Ray’s verifiable birth name.

SCHWITTERS, KURT (20 June 1887–8 January 1948; b. K. Hermann Eduard Karl Julius S.) Born and raised in Hannover, a modest North Germany city roughly halfway between BERLIN and Cologne, Schwitters was denied membership in the Berlin DADA Club and so took the word “MERZ,” which he made the title of his Hannover magazine (1923–27). Schwitters’s initial masterpieces were brilliantly colored COLLAGES composed of printed ephemera, such as ticket stubs, used toward abstract ends (that is, an appreciation of the composition as a composition, rather than, say, a political commentary). What most impressed me about his visual art, in an exhibition at MOMA in the mid1980s, was the small size of most of his works, few of them being larger than a foot square. (At that time this was the size more typical of East Village art shown in storefronts different from the barns of ARTISTS’ SOHO.) Schwitters also built within his home the Merzbau, which was a CONSTRUCTIVIST ASSEMBLAGE of discarded junk that eventually pierced the ceiling. Once the Nazis took hold, even the avowedly apolitical Schwitters fled to Norway, where he began a second Merzbau that was destroyed by fire after he left it, and then to England, where he began a third in a countryside barn, with funds from New York’s MoMA; it was incomplete at his death. Schwitters’s first major poem, Anna Blume (1919), is a Dada classic in which the conventions of love poetry are rendered nonsensical. His literary masterpiece is the Ursonate (1922–32), in which the musical form is filled with nonsemantic vocables for thirty-five minutes. Schwitters’s previously uncollected writings, which appeared in Germany in five rich volumes – over 1,700 pages in total length (1973–81) – establish him as a POLYARTIST.

SCRIABIN, ALEXANDER (6 January 1872–27 April 1915) Beginning as a composer-pianist in the tradition of Frederic Chopin (1810–49) and Franz Liszt (1811–86), Scriabin established his reputation with piano music, including ten solo sonatas (1892–1913), before pursuing, roughly after 1902, more radical ways. La Poème de I’extase (1907, The Poem of Ecstasy) incorporates original, complex harmonies on behalf of mystical notions derived from theosophy. In Nicolas Slonimsky’s summary: Scriabin was a genuine innovator in harmony . . . . He gradually evolved in his own melodic and harmonic style, marked by extreme chromaticism; in his piano piece, Désir, Op. 57 (1908), the threshold of polytonality and atonality is reached; the key signature is dispensed with in his subsequent works; chromatic alternations and compound appoggiaturas [grace notes] create a harmonic web of such complexity that all distinction between consonance and dissonance vanishes. Building chords by fourths rather than by thirds, Scriabin constructed his “mystic chord” of 6 notes (C, F-sharp, B-flat, E, A, and D), which is the harmonic foundation of Promethee (1911). Also titled Poéme du feu, the latter included a score for a color keyboard designed to project changing colors progr ammed to individual notes (C major as red, F-sharp major as bright blue, etc.), because, to quote Slonimsky again, “at that time he was deeply immersed in the speculation about parallelism of all the arts in their visual and auditory aspects.” Because few composers subsequently adopted either his ideas for enhancing music with color or his mystic chord, Scriabin’s originality is currently regarded as a cul-de-sac. Just before his early death from blood poisoning, Scriabin was working on a “Mysterium” to be performed in the Himalayas. The independent American author and translator Faubion Bowers (1917– 99) produced indispensable volumes about Scriabin.

SCULPTURE No art has so radically redefined itself during the 20th century. What once simply defined objects on pedestals, customarily carved or modeled with materials meant to endure, usually with a front and a back, came to include perpendiculars meant to be viewed equally from all sides (BRANCUSI), gently kinetic structures (CALDER, RICKEY), humongous recarvings of hillsides (BORGLUM), objects low on the floor (Joel Shapiro), holes in the earth (DE MARIA, Heizer), accumulations


of common objects (many), regatherings of natural materials (Smithson), mechanical theaters (Rhoads), rapidly moving objects (Anthony Howe), temporary outdoor fences and wrappings (CHRISTO), sunken gardens (NOGUCHI), proscenium boxes (JOSEPH CORNELL), plates making shadows on a wall (ROBERT IRWIN), small figures distributed through public spaces (Otterness), stones inscribed with words (IAN HAMILTON FINLAY), a row of Cadillacs buried fronts down in the ground (Ant Farm), square plates laid flat on a floor (Carl Andre), heavy vertical objects that are physically intimidating (SERRA), live statuary performance (GILBERT & GEORGE), etc., etc. Departures from tradition though these are, all realize the ideal, articulated by GAUDIER-BRZESKA: “Sculpture is the art of expressing the beauty of ideas in the most palpable form.” I once insisted that my clear small jars (3 inches by 2 inches in diameter) containing words set in a circle (with their letters facing outwards) must be sculptures because they needed to be turned in the viewer’s hand simply to be read. Perhaps?.

SECOND VIENNESE SCHOOL (c. 1910) This epithet, once more popular, identified the composers gathered around ARNOLD SCHOENBERG, beginning with Alban Berg (1885–1935) and ANTON WEBERN, but also including former pupils who became prominent in their home countries – among them, Roberto Gerhard (1896–1970, Spanish) and Nikos Skalkottas (1904–49, Greek), even though the last studied with Schönberg not in Vienna but in BERLIN. Because these 20th-century composers were customarily regarded as pioneers, it wasn’t obvious that the first Viennese school was meant to identify F. J. Haydn (1732–1809), W. A. Mozart (1756–91), L. von Beethoven (1770–1827), and Franz Schubert (1797– 1828), who were, needless to say, a less cohesive bunch, since they lived in Vienna at different times and never met one another. The SVS description was finally pretentious, as geographical terms usually are in art, in this case capitalizing on the established musical reputation of Vienna; because “The Schönberg School” would have been a more appropriate, if less effective, banner.

SEMIOTICS (1980–?) What couldn’t have been said about the purported “study of signs and symbols” in its heyday, the 1970s, can


be written now, which is to say that this term stands some decades later as the epitome of an academic fad – no more, no less – whose professors were sometimes called, no joke, “semioticians,” epitomizing in turn a lingo verging on JARGON designed to entice a self-selected few while alienating many. (Attempts to license its practitioners, much like doctors or plumbers are, fortunately failed.) Curiously, while prominent in certain backwaters, such semidiocy was unknown in others. About certain other “critical” tags, names now also forgotten, others claiming to be “avant-garde” but eventually becoming a cul-de-sac, some merely reinventing the light bulb while claiming original illumination, might similarly sad judgments be definitively made.

SERIAL MUSIC (c. 1910s) It was an extraordinary invention, really, even if serial music was later widely criticized as esthetically convoluted. As a radically different way of cohering musical notes, this was, literally, a new musical language that had to establish its own rules for organizing musical sounds (its own “grammar,” so to speak), its own patterns of procedures (syntax), and its own kinds of structures (sentences). In brief, ARNOLD SCHOENBERG postulated that the composer, working within the open range of twelve tones to an octave, could structure any number of tones (up to twelve), without repeating a tone, into a certain order of intervals that are called, variously, the “row,” “series,” or “set.” The German epithet is Zwölftonmusik. Another name more common in the 1940s than now is Dodecaphony, which is sort of Greek for twelve-toneness. Once the composer chooses a row, it becomes his or her basic pattern for the piece. This sequence of intervals can be used in one of four ways: (1) in its original form; (2) in a reversed or retrograde order; (3) in an inverse order (so that if the second note in the original was three steps up, now it is three steps down, etc.); (4) in an inverted, reversed order. This row, we should remember, is less a series of specific musical notes than a pattern of intervallic relations. Suggesting that traditional musical notation is insufficient, the composer Milton Babbitt, perhaps the foremost contemporary theorist of serial procedure, proposed instead that a row be represented in the following terms: 0,0; 1,1; 2,7; 3,5; 4,6; 5,4; 6,10; 7,8; 8,9; 9,11; 10,2; 11,3 with the first number of each pair marking the individual note’s position in the entire set. Therefore, as

174 • SERRA, RICHARD the left-hand numbers in each pair escalate from 0 to 11, the second number in each pair refers to that particular note’s intervallic relation to the first or base note of the row. (Because distances must necessarily be different, no number in the second part of each pair is duplicated.) If this row up were transposed up two intervals, we would then mark it as follows: 0,2; 1,3; 2,9; 3,7; 4,8; 5,6; 6,0; 7,10; 8,11; 9,1; 10,4; 11,5 This kind of notation illustrates the nature of the row, as well as how the elements relate to one another, more clearly than musical notes do; but these numbers, don’t forget, are like notes on a staff, which is to say instructions for producing musical sounds. Whereas note number 6 in the original numerical notation had the interval designation of 10, now it becomes 0, for what adds up to 12 becomes 0 (as 11 + 2 in note number 9 becomes 1). Once the row’s pattern is imposed upon musical notes, the numbers refer not just to specific notes but to what Babbitt called “pitch classes.” That is, if note number 6 in this row produces C-sharp, then serial composers can designate any of the C-sharps available to their instruments. Second, just as the notes of a row can be strung out in a line, so they can be bunched into a single chord. The row used in this illustration comes from Schoenberg’s opera Moses und Aron (1930–32). The fact that Schoenberg could successfully transform this basic material into various structures for a restricted evening-length opera demonstrates, quite conclusively, that the serial language is not as constricting as all the rules superficially suggest – tonal music, one remembers, has its rules too. Instead, just as twelve-tone procedure discourages the kind of repetition endemic in tonal music, so it creates its own kind of syntactical and grammatical possibilities. The history of the twelve-tone language has been rather checkered and its development uneven. Soon after Schoenberg invented it, it attracted adherents throughout Europe; by the late 1920s, Schoenberg was invited to succeed Ferrucio Busoni (1886–1924) as professor of composition at the Berlin Academy of Art. However, once the Nazis assumed power, Schoenberg, born a Jew but raised a Christian, resigned his post, emigrating first to England and then to America, where he eventually taught at UCLA. Soon after Fascist cultural authorities classified twelve-tone music as “degenerate,” other musicians devoted to the new technique either left German territories or went culturally underground, while ANTON WEBERN, deprived of his conducting jobs,

nonetheless remained in Austria, where he eventually became a copyeditor and proofreader for the same firm that earlier published his music. After Schoenberg arrived in America (and respelled his surname), several important composers who were previously counted among its antagonists adopted the serial language: IGOR STRAVINSKY and Ernst Krenek, among the immigrants; and among the American-born, Roger Sessions, Arthur Berger (1912–2003), and even AARON COPLAND toward the end of his compositional career. Meanwhile, in post-World War II Europe, temporary converts to serialism included such prominent young composers as KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN and PIERRE BOULEZ, who differed from the Americans in declaring particular allegiance to Webern as purportedly the most consistent and rigorous serial composer (and thus more advanced than Schoenberg).

SERRA, RICHARD (2 November 1938) Serra’s innovation was to make three-dimensional visual art – sculpture – that emphasized presence over appearance and thus weight over even any illusion of lightness, let alone seductive beauty. He began by hanging a row of loops of rubber from nails in a wall (that even in their stillness resembled some of Len Lye’s motorized sculptures exhibited around the same time) and by pouring molten lead into the corners of an exhibition space before pulling away a lead island whose jagged edge corresponded to the part remaining against the wall – in both cases revealing process. Later, Serra took large sheets of lead and propped them precariously against each other or against a wall, at times injuring people when they were moved. As an example of art with an aggressive presence, the curving wall of his mammoth Tilted Arc (1981) bisected a public plaza in lower Manhattan. The result was not just visually impressive but physically intimidating. However, as the steel began to rust, assuming a color associated with decay, it became an affront to the people working there (and, incidentally, a blackboard for graffiti). People employed in the vicinity of the sculpture agitated for its removal and, after controversial hearings, in 1989 succeeded, illustrating the possibility of a distinguished artist making strong public sculpture that, as the street is not a museum, the public, alas, judged unacceptable. Most of his public art has since been mounted not in NEW YORK CITY where he still mostly resides but outside: San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; Bourdeaux,


France; Puteaux, France; Bilbao, Spain; and Doha, Qatar. Sometimes in visual art especially, a New York artist no longer comfortable (or welcome) in his hometown shows in venues progressively further away. Though Serra has not exhibited any paintings, his drawings impressively reflect his aggressive temper. Taking a U Cal degree in English literature before a Yale degree in art, he can be remarkably articulate.


his contemporary GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE realized in words. Additionally, Travelmemories (1909) stands as a proto-photomontage. Though Severini quit school as a teenager, he nonetheless published in 1921 a treatise on mathematical theories of harmony and proportion and later an autobiography. Refusing the retrospectively smart “career move” of dying too young, Severini continued to paint and exhibit for decades, unfortunately with less celebrity or success.

(10 March 1901–12 February 1999; b. Fernand-Louis Berckelaers)


Born in Antwerp of Flemish parents, he published from 1921 to 1925 in Belgium the journal Het Overzicht, which featured both art and writing. Moving to Paris, Berckelaers adopted a French name that scrambles the letters in Orpheus and founded a group, that included PIET MONDRIAN, and published a magazine, Cercle et carré (1929–30). In April 1930, he coorganized with Joaquin TorresGarcia the first international exhibition of modernist abstract art. As a preeminent person of arts’ letters, Seuphor wrote L’Art abstrait – ses origines, ses premiers maitres (1949), which became a standard guide to Abstract Art in the French-speaking world, as well as Dictionnaire de la Peinture Abstraite (1957), an informative and decisive guide that still stands among the best of its alphabetical kind. It is not surprising that in 1956 he wrote initially in French a major monograph on Mondrian, who influenced Seuphor’s paintings and graphic art, which were exhibited widely in Europe. Having also published experimental poetry, Seuphor could be a brilliant aphorist, especially about esthetic issues: “As for myself, I confess to a preference for clearcut situations,” he once wrote, “for radical, and even extreme positions.” Me too, on all counts.

(26[?] April 1564–23 April 1516)

SEVERINI, GINO (7 April 1883–26 February 1966) His initial achievement as a FUTURIST painter was adding the semblance of motion to CUBISM. Celebrating urban life, often with lavish colors, he preferred portraying fragments of people, particularly human performers, over the imagery of machines. His Pan-Pan at the Monaco (1911–12) so richly celebrated the anarchic joy of Parisian nightlife that it was prominently reproduced at the time. Severini’s visual celebrations of Paris compliment what


Aside from his familiar literary achievements, credit Will with texts that have inspired a wealth of innovative moves by contemporary writers. The British OULIPOlian Philip Terry (1964) has subjected Will’s classic sonnets to a spectacular variety of changes, including in his own summary: removal of letters, permutations of word order updating, expansion, homophonic translation, subtraction, substitution, updating, “monovocalism,” “translexical translation,” and “exercises in style” in the tradition of RAYMOND QUENEAU. In my Kosti’s Sonnets (2017), I made all of Will’s 154 texts the underpinnings for increasingly obliterating typefaces that for framing depend upon deviance from the familiar text. By contrast, for his Ophelia und die Wörter (Ophelia and the Words) (1986), a radio play composed for Westdeutscher Rundfunk, the Austrian-German writer Gerhard Rühm (1930) extracted all key nouns and verbs from her speeches to rework only this limited vocabulary into a portrayal of her increasing madness, “losing her linguistic grip on the world.” Unaware of Rühm’s earlier move, Paul Griffiths, otherwise known as a prolific writer about classical music, wrote his OULIPOlian novel Let Me Tell You (2008) wholly from the 483-word vocabulary Shakespeare allotted to her in Hamlet. In her Nets (2004), Jen Bervin (1972) offers erasures leaving only a few words of every Sonnet. The Canadian writer Gary Barwin’s Servants of Dust (2015) deletes all words from the Sonnets , leaving behind only punctuation marks. In his The Others Raisd in Me (2009), another Canadian, Gregory Betts (1975), produced a book rich in ingenious erasures. While Harryette Mullen remade one sonnet as African-American, the British Canadian, Steve McCaffery (1947), in his Dark Ladies (2016), “pays homage to Shakespeare by both erasure and incorporation. Preserving the end rhymes of all 154

176 • SHERMAN, CINDY of his sonnets, in mirror-reverse order, and embedding stage directions from his comedic and tragic plays.” H. C. Artmann’s Ueberall Wo Hamlet Hinkam (1969, Wherever Hamlet Came) contains fifteen sheets in a box. Malcolm Green (1952), a British artist working mostly in BERLIN, has reworked Hamlet in several limited editions. Remember as well that ALFRED JARRY’s Ubu Roi (1896) redid Will’s MacBeth, as did Eugene Ionesco’s MacBett (1972). Though the text of Die Hamletmschine (1977, Hamletmachine) by Heiner Muller (1919–95) is only several pages long and thus open to imaginative staging and interpretation, it remains the mostoften-performed and thus best-known of the East German’s many plays. Other radical departures from Shakespeare no doubt exist. As the greatest writer provides a rich source, avant-garde artists take his writings to levels unknown before.

SHERMAN, CINDY (19 January 1954; b. Cynthia Morris S.) In Sherman’s distinctive self-portraits, she is dressed and made-up to portray scores of different women and occasionally men, but never herself. Sherman says her art deals with female stereotypes, and they are portraits not of how she sees herself but of how she sees men seeing women. Born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, she studied at the State University of New York at Buffalo (BA, 1976). As a teenager she began to wear makeup to look more glamorous and found that she could turn herself into a different person by changing her appearance. In college she started making photo narratives starring herself. Sherman moved to New York in 1977, when she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant. Early recognition came in the late 1970s with a series of black-and-white photographs called “Untitled Film Stills,” showing Sherman as a B-movie actress in various poses. When the Metro Pictures Gallery opened in 1980, Sherman had one of the first shows, of her early color photos. It was the beginning of her success based in part upon exhibiting only in established art galleries, rather than among other known photographers. Over the years her repertoire of visual impersonations has included movie stars, centerfold nudes, fairytale characters, victims of disasters, and historical figures. Some of Sherman’s portraits have produced comic or grotesque effects with plastic body parts, dolls, and her own made-up body. Decades later, her work becomes more impressive when seen as a retrospective exhibition or in a book, the sheer bulk

of her images testifying to the fertility of her imagination in fulfilling her unique style. —with Gloria S. and Fred W. McDarrah

SHORT FILMS (c. 1900) The great secret escaping canonical film criticism is that most of the greatest avant-garde films ever made are less than sixty minutes in length, some of them being shorter, often much shorter, if not as short as six minutes, which was the standard length for, say, WARNER BROTHERS classic cartoons. Some of these “shorts,” as they were commonly called, were made to be screened before the single featurelength film. This rule, also applicable to documentaries (e.g., Paul Falkenberg’s Pollock; films by the Scottish-Canadian Norman McLaren [1914–87]), is no less true now than it was a century ago, when the most inventive directors proceeded with very modest budgets and, don’t forget, a recording medium far more costly than videotape or digital video. Aside from D. W. GRIFFITH and ABLE GANCE, consider as well that several prominent directors of feature-length films did their most extraordinary work in shorter lengths. Among those noted here were STANLEY DONEN and FREDERICO FELLINI. Why this truth about the esthetic superiority of short films escapes prominent film critics and historians escapes me.

SIGNATURE This is a favorite honorific for whatever’s so unique in a work of art that the identity of its author is known, even if his or her name isn’t immediately visible. This quality is most obvious in works by the greatest painters. Consider JACKSON POLLOCK, PIET MONDRIAN, ALEXANDER CALDER, and E. E. CUMMINGS, among others. An established figure’s familiar signature is what an aspiring artist dare not imitate even if he or she can do it at all, unless to parody or to appropriate. The honorific is also useful in identifying the best classical music and literature. The realization of recognizable Signature is, simply, one sign of a mature artist. “Style” is a more common but less discriminative epithet for the same quality. Furthermore, one measure of an artist more fecund than most is the establishment of several recognizable signatures, usually in the course of a long career – e.g., PABLO PICASSO.




SMALL PRESS (c. 1970) This has become the accepted term for modestly financed book publishers that issue the sorts of titles that commercial publishers would not publish. Customarily printing less than a thousand copies of any title (in contrast to the commercial publishers’ minimum of ten thousand), they tend to base their editorial selections not upon financial prospects but love, which may be literary love, political love, esthetic love, personal love, or even self-love. Thus, compared to commercial publishers, Small Presses have been particularly open to those who are generally excluded – political or sexual radicals, avant-garde writers, black writers, or religious writers, to name a few. Nearly all BOOK-ART and nearly all books by the writers individually featured in these pages come from Small Presses. In contrast to “general publishers,” Small Presses tend to specialize in one kind of book. Many are oneperson operations wherein the “publisher” functions as editor, designer, secretary, and delivery person, if not the printer as well. As loans for this kind of venture are not easy to come by, most alternative publishers are self-financed, their founders scarcely compensating themselves for their working time. Too many are excessively dependent upon a single individual’s health and energy. Only a scant few, unlike little magazines, are currently subsidized by universities or other cultural institutions. They are culturally invaluable, simply because the best of them print serious writing that would otherwise be lost.

SMITH, DAVID (9 March 1906–23 May 1965; b. Roland D. S.) On the one hand remembering his training as a painter who had assimilated Cubist lessons of diverse planes and abstract imagery and, on the other, his experience laboring on the assembly line of an automobile plant, Smith produced sculpture that measured its distance


from the past by rejecting the traditions of modeling (carving the semblance of an extrinsic image out of a block of material) and representational space and proportion. The innovative equal of ALEXANDER CALDER, Smith assembled sculpture (which was generally welded) from contemporary industrial materials that were displayed for their own properties and identities – steel looked like steel, etc. Nonetheless, much like paintings, Smith sculptures tended to have both a front and a back and thus a preferred face for photographers. As early as the middle 1930s, Smith established artistic SIGNATUREs that he sustained for the remainder of his career: first, skeletal images in iron that he forged himself and, then, large metal abstractions with faintly representational semblances, such as Hudson River Landscape (1951). So inappropriate as a setting for his tall pieces was the enclosed space of traditional galleries that Smith himself would “house” his largest works on his own back lawn, exposed to the elements; and he was notoriously reluctant to sell them. (Nonetheless, when I visited his manor in Bolton Landing, New York, in 2006, nearly all were gone from his descending meadow.) By the 1950s, Smith had progressed beyond the Cubistic form of overlapping planes into favoring a flat and spineless sculptural field, usually circular in overall shape, populated with sparsely constructed images. Thanks for late well-earned fame, the last decade of his life was his best.

SNOW, MICHAEL (10 December 1929) A pre-eminent Canadian POLYARTIST, Snow produced major films, exhibited memorable paintings and sculpture, played JAZZ (with less distinction), and authored first rank BOOK-ART. Much as I admire individual works of his, I find it hard to discern what principles, other than a certain cool cleverness, animate Snow’s entire oeuvre. Of his films, I was especially awed by Le Région Centrale (1970–71) for which he mounted a camera on a supple revolving tripod in a barren but beautiful area of northern Quebec. As the camera spins around at various angles for three full hours, we witness the changing colors of a barren beautiful landscape. Wavelength (1966–67) is a single, attentuated, forty-five-minute long zoom shot down the length of Snow’s New York loft. For the new baseball stadium in Toronto, Snow produced a group of striking gargoyles (1989). His Cover to Cover (1975) is a two-front book, composed entirely of photographs that bleed to the edges of 360 pages, that

178 • SOHO, ARTISTS’ can be read in either direction, also requiring the reader to flip the book over somewhere in the middle. Some find significance in his cutout paintings, done throughout the 1960s, collectively titled Walking Woman because they portray a striding female. Much like his sometime wife Joyce Wieland (1930–98) and GLENN GOULD as well, Snow is a deeply Toronto artist.

SOHO, ARTISTS’ (c. 1967) Called SoHo because it lies SOuth of HOuston Street in lower Manhattan, the neighborhood became, especially in the 1970s, a center for avant-garde activities in American visual art, PERFORMANCE, music, Mixed-Means Theater, CONCEPTUAL ART, and even literature, much as Montmartre was to Parisian art nearly a century before. Though previously an industrial slum with empty open spaces called lofts, SoHo – bounded officially by West Broadway to the west, Lafayette Street to the east, and Canal Street to the south – from the late 1960s attracted artists looking for working space in empty industrial spaces. At first they rented from desperate landlords, later purchasing whole buildings that would then be divided among “coop” owners, most of whom also lived in their studios. Because this area was zoned exclusively for industrial activities, NEW YORK CITY required that artists who needed a lot of interior space to do their work (e.g., painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers, playwrights, but not writers) obtain a city-certified “variance” to also live there. Precisely because no one had resided there before and nonartists could not do so legally, SoHo became a one-industry town, so to speak, within a larger city, perhaps the first legally exclusive artists’ enclave in the history of US cities. The art galleries came in the 1970s, followed by the boutiques that exploited SoHo’s growing reputation for advanced taste. By 1979 or so, the real estate prices suddenly escalated, discouraging the entrance of newcomers unless they were considerably wealthier than the previous inhabitants. So populous did the sometime industrial slum become that it is said in the 1980s that 25 percent of all the applicants for individual grants from the Visual Arts Program at the National Endowment for the Arts resided in zip codes 10012 (which is SoHo proper) and 10013 (the contiguous neighborhood of Tribeca), both of which are considerably different in both denizens and architecture from Greenwich Village to the north, the Lower East Side to the east, and the financial district to the south.

By the late 1990s, new galleries for new art preferred Chelsea, on Manhattan’s lower West Side, which, much like SoHo was three decades before, was then an industrial slum undergoing renovation. In the wake of their departure, the spaces of SoHo got not pizza parlors or fast-food emporia, which couldn’t afford the streetlevel rents, but yet more high-end retailers exploiting its reputation for advanced taste. Stores with several thousand square feet of feminine cosmetics made it the Lipstick District. Note that this SoHo is spelled slightly but significantly differently from London’s Soho.

SOMETHING ELSE PRESS (1964–74) Though its efforts were taken too much for granted during its short lifetime, it is now clear that this SMALL PRESS was not only the most distinguished small publisher ever in America, it was the bookish equivalent of BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE in the education of avant-garde intelligence, not just in America. Quite simply, SEP issued, in well-produced editions, the more experimental works of GERTRUDE STEIN, which were not available before in the United States; BookART books by CLAES OLDENBURG, Emmett Williams, Bern Porter, MERCE CUNNINGHAM, Jackson Mac Low, Eugen Gomringer, Ruth Krauss (1901–93), Geoff Hendricks (1931–2018), and Daniel Spoerri, among others, including its founder and principal editor, Dick Higgins; and anthologies of both CONCRETE POETRY and radically alternative fiction. In its initial years, SEP also published major pamphlets, really among the best of their kind, by GEORGE BRECHT, JOHN CAGE, and Allan Kaprow, among others. These books got around, as good books do (and still do), often passed on from one admiring reader onto others. It would be disingenuous for me not to acknowledge SEP’s impact on my own education in avant-garde arts. Perhaps the simplest measure of the void caused by SEP’s demise is that most of what it did, even by individuals of the first rank, is no longer in print anywhere. Peter Frank produced an annotated bibliography with an intelligence reflecting that of his subject.

SONTAG, SUSAN (16 January 1933–28 December 2004; b. S. Rosenblatt) A sort-of minor celebrity for most of her adult life, she became an effective idiot-identifier for the discriminating


avant-garde audience, which is to say that the cognoscenti knew that people praising her were inadvertently revealing that they were probably inastute. She produced criticism, fiction, plays, and films; yet in no genre was her work significantly innovative. About no avant-garde issue or individual was she especially insightful or original. Nor did her writings have identifiable influence upon successors doing innovative work or even writing about it. Indeed, all of it was formally quite conventional and intellectually constrained, even when sometimes pretending to be avant-garde (or promoted as such), all of which is unfortunate, because her effort reflects a seriousness and ambition that, were she not misrepresented or mislaid, might have been better, if not much better, for her future status. The British analog for Sontag was the British writer Edith Sitwell (1887–1964), who was likewise tall and photogenic.


SPATIAL FORM (20th century) This is a useful critical concept, initiated in 1945 by the scholar-critic Joseph Frank (1918–2013), to identify a major formal difference between 19th-century literature and certain major modern works. Whereas the former favored linear structures, the latter offered repetitions of elements that had to be connected across space, rather than through linear time. Therefore, a narrative does not move from A to B but through, say, A1, A2, B1, A3, B2, etc., to establish intermittent connections over pages. The epitome for Joseph Frank was Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood. Like all good critical concepts, Spatial Form facilitates understanding not only the Barnes masterpiece but many other avant-garde narratives. An independent critic in 1945, Frank later earned a doctorate and became a Princeton professor who produced a prodigious multi-volumed biography of Fyodor Dostoevsky (1979, 1987, 1988, 1996, 2002) that was later abridged into a single huge book (2009).

SPECTACLES (GLASSES) (??) Credit whoever(s) invented and developed the process of grinding glass and then clear hard plastic to aid human vision, because for nearly all of us the processes


of looking at art, as well as reading about it, would be impossible without them. One later development was vision aids that could be set directly on the eyeballs and are thus called contact lenses. While enhancing appearance for some people, these fail to hide unsightly “bags” that, especially in older people, develop directly under eyes and are sometimes hidden behind lower eyeglass frames. Another change came with tinted lenses that offered protection against sunlight’s bright rays. For reading and viewing art, however, the latter’s use is limited. Nonetheless, honor Saint(s) Spectacles, whoever she or he was, daily.

SPECTACLES (PERFORMANCE) (forever) This is an honorific for extravagant live performance customarily involving many people and more than one traditional art medium. To me, grand opera at its grandest is spectacle; so are most circuses and the great outdoor sports events. Among contemporary PERFORMANCE groups few have been as consistently spectacular as the French-Canadian CIRQUE DU SOLEIL, which has long been based in Nevada’s LAS VEGAS, which is itself a unique spectacle. Include here the Oberammergau Passion Play (1634) performed for centuries in a Bavarian Village, the “symphonic dramas” that the American playwright Paul Green wrote for several southern states, and the Mormon pageant at Hill Comorah annually on Highway 21 between Manchester and Palmyra, New York. My own considered opinion holds that the greatest American theater is not literary, on the Anglo-European model, but performance epitomized by spectacle. So critically “underground” is this highly visible high art that, oddly, no American magazines or newspapers review it regularly (though I for one have more than once offered to do so).

SPEECH-SINGING (1897, aka speech-song, sprechgesang, sprechstimme) Extending the earlier use of recitative, which characterized spoken words in an operatic context, this epithet refers to vocalizations, customarily expressionistic, between speech and song. First used by Englebert Humperdinck (1854–1921) in an 1897 opera, it was strikingly developed by ARNOLD SCHOENBERG, especially in his Gurrelieder (1911), Die glückliche Hand (1910–13), Pierrot lunaire (1912), Die Jakobsleiter (1917) Moses und Aron (1932), and other pieces.

180 • STEIN, GERTRUDE For alternative musical notation, Schoenberg would use the letter X on a note stem, thus programming a uniquely modern sound. The music writer Paul Griffiths thinks Alban Berg developed the earlier departure by introducing “half sung” between Sprechgesang and song and that Pierre Boulez has refined the concept by requiring “spoken intonation at the indicated pitch” (italics mine).

STEIN, GERTRUDE (3 February 1874–27 July 1946) Stein was, simply, the Great American Person-ofAvant-Garde Letters in that she produced distinguished work in poetry as well as prose, theater as well as criticism, nearly all of it unconventional, if not decidedly avant-garde. Stein could not write ordinary sentences if she tried, for, though her diction is mundane and her vocabulary nearly always accessible, her sentence structures are not. One early development, evident in Three Lives (1909, though drafted around 1904), was the shifting of syntax, so that parts of a sentence appear in unusual places. These shifts not only repudiate the conventions of syntactical causality, but also introduce dimensions of subtlety and accuracy. Instead of saying “someone is alive,” Stein writes, “Anyone can be a living one,” the present participle literally dramatizing the process of living. It is clear that two Gertrude Steins inhabit American literature’s canon. Those who prefer Three Lives and the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas tend to dismiss as “incomprehensible junk” an oeuvre that I find the richest experimental writing ever done by an American. Several decades after Stein’s death, even generations after it was written, much of this writing is not understood, is not taught in the universities, and is not even in print. In the unabridged, 925-page The Making of Americans (1926; first drafted around 1906–08, well before the innovative novels of JAMES JOYCE and WILLIAM FAULKNER), Stein developed what subsequently became her most notorious device – linguistic repetition. To be precise, she repeats certain key words or phrases within otherwise different clauses and sentences, so that even though the repetitions are never exact, this repeated material comes to dominate the entire paragraph or section, often becoming the primary cohesive force within an otherwise diffuse passage. As Stein neglected subject, setting, anecdote, conflict, analysis, and many other conventional elements, style became the dominant factor in her writing, more important than “theme” or “character.”

Freed from conventional syntax (and the Aristotelian principles informing it), Stein was able to explore the possibilities of not just one but several kinds of alternative English. Having worked with accretion and explicitness, as well as syntactical transpositions, she then experimented with ellipses and economy; having written about experience with many more words than usual, she tried to write with far, far fewer. In Tender Buttons (1914), for instance, her aim was the creation of texts that described a thing without mentioning it by name. Other prose pieces by Stein have as their real theme, their major concern, kinds of coherence established within language itself: “Able there to ball bawl able to call and seat a tin a tin whip with a collar”; or, “Appeal, a peal, laugh, hurry merry, good in night, rest stole.” The unifying forces in such sentences are stressed sounds, rhythms, alliterations, rhymes, textures, and consistencies in diction – linguistic qualities other than subject and syntax; and, even when divorced from semantics, these dimensions of prose can affect readers. After experimenting with prolix paragraphs, Stein then made fictions out of abbreviated notations, such as these from “The King of Something” in Geography and Plays (1922): PAGE XVI. Did you say it did. PAGE XVIII. Very likely I missed it. PAGE XIX Turn turn. Not only does such compression (along with the omission of page XVII) represent a radical revision of narrative scale, but writings like these also realize the French Symbolists’ theoretical ideal of a completely autonomous language – creating a verbal reality apart from extrinsic reality. However, whereas the Symbolists regarded language as the top of the iceberg, revealing only part of the underlying meaning, Stein was primarily concerned with literature’s surfaces, asking her readers to pay particular attention to words, rather than to the content and the motives that might lie behind them. What you read is most of what there is. Stein’s plays consist primarily of prose passages that are sometimes connected to characters (and other times are not). Only occasionally are characters identified at the beginning of the text, while the customarily concise texts rarely include stage directions of any kind. Stein was not adverse to having “Act II” follow “Act III,” which had followed a previous “Act II.” There is typically nothing in her scenarios about tone, pace,


costumes, decor, or any other theatrical specifics – all of which are thus necessarily left to the interpretation of the plays’ directors. Because scripts like these are simply not conducive to conventional realistic staging, most directors have favored highly spectacular, sensorially abundant productions that incorporate music and dance, in sum exemplifying Stein’s idea of theater as an art of sight and sound. Stein’s essays were also unlike anything written before in that vein. In discussing a particular subject, she avoided the conventions of exposition, such as example and elaboration, in favor of accumulated disconnected details and miscellaneous insights, often frustrating those readers requiring accessible enlightenment. Stein’s reputation for distinguished prose has obscured her poetry, which was likewise concerned with alternative forms, beginning with acoherence, especially in her monumental “Stanzas in Meditation,” and including the horizontal MINIMALISM of oneword lines: There Why There Why There Able Idle Stein frequently boasted that in writing she was “telling what she knew,” but most of her knowledge concerned alternative writing. It is indicative that the principal theme of her essays, reiterated as much by example as by explanation, is the inventions possible to an author accepting the esthetic autonomy of English.

STELLA, FRANK (12 May 1936) Hailed before he turned 25, Stella’s early canvases consist of regularly patterned geometric shapes painted with evenly applied strokes out to the canvas’s edge, so that the viewer cannot distinguish any one figure from the background, or form from content, or one image from any larger shape. These faintly mechanical paintings depend upon the appreciation of such strictly visual virtues as the relation of one color to another, the solidity of the geometric shapes, and the potential complexity of elemental simplicity, as well as Stella’s decidedly cerebral deductive solution to certain problems in painting’s recent history. ‘Tis said decades later that their appearance in a 1959 MoMA group exhibition


prepared many minds to accept post-expressionist art. As the curator William Rubin wrote in 1970: “They seemed to many to have come virtually from nowhere, to have no stylistic heritage, and to represent a rejection of everything that painting seemed to be.” In 1960, the 24-year-old artist told an undergraduate art-school audience: I had to do something about relational painting, i.e., the balancing of the various parts of the painting with and against one another. The obvious answer was symmetry – make it the same all over. The question still remained, though, of how to do this in depth. A symmetrical image or configuration placed on an open ground is not balanced out in the illusionistic space. The solution I arrived at – and there are probably quite a few, although I know of only one other, color density – forces illusionistic space out of the painting at a constant rate by a regulated pattern. While respecting his initial achievements I didn’t notice his innovations during the 1970s as well as the critic Carter Ratcliff (1941). “With paper, felt, and painted canvas pasted to stretched canvas, he recapulated the geometries of the visionary modernists,” Ratcliff writes in his book The Fate of a Gesture (1996). “Stella exchanged canvas for wood; for paper and felt, he substituted more building materials – Masonite and Homasote. His collages were turning into low-relief sculptures.” Frank Stella’s later produce seems slighter; his activity less focused. In Klaus Honnef’s Contemporary Art (1992) is a two-page spread of works from 1986 to 1987. The earlier is an abstract Tondo painting resembling his art of two decades before, while the later incorporates different abstract patterns. Having begun as an artist who knew his one own truth, he later made work reflecting many other truths; so that Stella didn’t “sell out” as much as Sell Lots, perhaps more than any other American artist of his generation (and thus two decades older than, say, Jeff Koons [1955]).

STEPPING (1900s) This is the favored term for an African-American innovative PERFORMANCE in which virtuosic dancers produce complex rhythms, often syncopated, a cappella, so to speak – solely through their hands and feet, sometimes adding spoken words. Dating back to the early 19th century, reflecting disciplines developed in

182 • STIEGLITZ, ALFRED the slave ships coming from Africa to America, Stepping influenced Negro-College marching bands, African-American tap dancers such as the NICHOLAS BROTHERS, and such popular Rhythm & Blues groups as the Temptations (1960–) and the Four Tops (1953–). It may (or may not) be related to another innovative a cappella choreography called curiously Double Dutch in which girls, usually African-American, leap stylishly between two long simultaneously spinning jump ropes while chanting “One boppity-bop, two boppity-bop,” etc., until tripped up. Double Dutch has reportedly become popular elsewhere in the world. Neither form of dance is easily learned; both require considerable practice.

STIEGLITZ, ALFRED (1 January 1864–13 July 1946) Had Stieglitz not existed when he did, the development of more than one American art would have been retarded. As an art dealer at 291 Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan during the first two decades of the 20th century, he exhibited initially photographs and then other avant-garde visual art, first European, eventually American, incidentally elevating the esthetic status of fine photography. His gallery presented the first American exhibitions of HENRI MATISSE, Francis Picabia, and CONSTANTIN BRANCUSI, in addition to introducing GEORGIA O’KEEFFE, before she became Steiglitz’s wife, and Marsden Hartley, among many others. To the last artist/writer, 291 was “the largest small room of its kind in the world.” From his gallery Steiglitz published the periodical Camera Work (1903–17), which included not only photography and reviews of the visual arts but advanced American writing, such as one of the first appearances of GERTRUDE STEIN in print. Stieglitz also edited 291 (1915–16), which represented New York DADA. After the building at 291 Fifth (between 30th and 31st Streets) was torn down in 1917, Steiglitz’s work as cultural impresario continued in other venues to his death three decades later. As a practicing photographer, Stieglitz imitated various painterly styles, including Hudson River Impressionism (in a famous photograph of lower Manhattan behind the East River) and several kinds of abstraction. It is scarcely surprising that the “The Complete Illustrations 1903–1917” from Camera Work should come from a publisher based in Germany.

STOCKHAUSEN, KARLHEINZ (22 August 1928–5 December 2007) Stockhausen was at once the most successful and thus powerful of contemporary composers and, not surprisingly, probably the most problematic as well. His success is easy to measure – decades of support from the strongest European music publisher and the strongest German record label, not to mention the incomparably high-minded German radio stations. He received commissions from orchestras and opera houses all over the world; he had been a visiting professor in America and, as Nicolas Slonimsky put it, “a lecturer and master of ceremonies at avant-garde meetings all over the world.” No composer younger than IGOR STRAVINSKY was as successful at getting the world’s major music institutions to invest in him. As a performer, he played only his own work, which is to say that sponsors inviting him knew in advance they wouldn’t get music by anyone else. If only to keep his patrons happy, Stockhausen produced a huge amount of stuff, often accompanied by willful declarations of embarrassing pretension. He became accustomed to charging fees that were high, if not ridiculously challenging, continually on the verge of pricing himself out of a career. The history of Stockhausen-envy and Stockhausenmockery is nearly as long as his career. I remember hearing, as early as 1962, the joke that “When Karlheinz gets up in the morning, he thinks he invented the light bulb.” The problems are harder to define: Egregiously uneven, his works often fall short of Stockhausen’s announced intentions, because they were not as inventive or pioneering as he claimed. Indeed, they were often patently derivative, of old ideas as well as new, and sometimes opportunistic in combining contrary esthetics. Paul Griffiths writes that “Stockhausen increasingly found ways of mediating between polar extremes, [in] his pursuit of unity in diversity,” which may be a rationale for what strikes others as opportunism. Stockhausen composed in various distinctive ways, with a succession of governing ideas. He was initially a serial composer concerned with extending SCHOENBERG’s compositional innovation beyond pitch to duration, timbre, and dynamics, to which Stockhausen added stage directions, distributing his performers over different parts of the concert hall. Gruppen (1959), for instance, requires three chamber orchestras and three conductors beating different tempi. Stockhausen meanwhile became involved with ELECTRONIC MUSIC producing in Der Gesang der Jünglinge (1956) an early classic of vocal processing


that succeeded on disk, even though two-track stereo recording compromised its initial form of having five synchronized monophonic tapes resound through five loudspeakers surrounding the audience. By the 1960s, Stockhausen was incorporating various radical live human sounds (including screaming, stamping, whispering, whistling) that perhaps reflected new electronic possibilities. Later, with Stimmung (1967), Stockhausen appropriated ALEATORY esthetics by having dancers activate eggshells placed on the floor or piano wires strung across the stage. Kurzwellen (1969) depends upon sounds inadvertently discovered on shortwave radios at the time of the performance; in the current age of digital radio tuners, which are designed to exclude acoustic fuzz coming from unfocused reception and the static between stations, Kurzwellen must necessarily be performed “on original instruments.” With Hymnen (1967–69), Stockhausen adopted COLLAGE, producing a spectacular pastiche of national anthems that is, depending upon one’s taste and experience, either the last great musical assemblage ever or an example of how collage, the great early 20th-century innovation, has degenerated into an expired form. (I used to hold the second position on Hymnen until moving closer to the first.) By the late 1970s, the composer had appropriated Wagnerian operatic conceptions with Light: The 7 Days of the Week (1981–88), which is a cycle of seven operas, one for each day of the week (with no sabbatical). I could go on; he went on, for instance sending around the world fliers offering in the late 1990s a weeklong summer school, so to speak, on his own turf in Kürtin, outside Köln, with both performances and “courses” about his various works for 495 DM (or $330) payable to Stockhausen Stiftung fur Musik. Extravagant claims often seem a cover for an awareness of deficiencies that are identified by others. In JOHN CAGE’s classic quip: “He must have some talent. Some of his kids became musicians.” Though several books of Stockhausen’s miscellaneous writings have appeared in German, only one has been translated into English, curiously demonstrating that even careers of great success include dimensions of minor failure.

STOKOWSKI, LEOPOLD (18 April 1882–13 September 1977) Of all the famous 20th-century orchestral conductors, Stokowski, more than any other, was predisposed


not only to new music but new technologies for both the production and reproduction of music. From his earliest years, initially with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Stokowski presented avant-garde compositions, often addressing the audience about them in advance, including both ALEXANDER SCRIABIN’s Divine Poem and ARNOLD SCHOENBERG’s Chamber Symphony No. 1 in 1915–16 and Alban Berg’s Wozzeck (1917–21) in 1931. Stokowski premiered EDGARD VARÈSE’s Amériques in 1926 and Alan Hovhaness’s (1911–2000) Mysterious Mountain in 1955, among many others. One astounding figure attributed to him is nearly a hundred American or world premieres during his twenty-three years at the helm of the Philadelphians. Extravagant by nature, Stokowski once engaged 950 singers, 110 orchestral musicians, and eight soloists to play Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony (“of a Thousand”). He scheduled over five hundred performances of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder. For the American premiere of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, he required eighty preparatory rehearsals and sixty stage rehearsals. When audience noises disturbed his performance of ANTON VON WEBERN’s sole symphony, Stokowski stopped conducting, walked off the stage, and then returned to repeat the work from its beginning. He embarrassed potential coughers by having his orchestra cough on cue and mocked latecomers by having some of his musicians arrive late on stage in breathless haste. Stokowski was the first conductor to use a THEREMIN to boost the orchestra’s bass section. He starred in WALT DISNEY’s FANTASIA (1941). The only current American conductor to do as well by contemporary orchestral music is Dennis Russell Davis (1944), who has worked mostly, to no surprise, in Germany.

STRAUSS, RICHARD (11 June 1864–8 September 1949) This Strauss was a stolid German composer best known for his popular operas and symphonies; but toward the end of his life, he composed a work so original and transcendant that it alone places him in this book. Composed as World War II was coming to an end, commissioned by PAUL SACHER, Strauss’s Metamorphosen (1945) ranks among the most remarkable summas, where an older composer, then in his eighties, takes his art to higher level. Scored for a chamber orchestra of only 23 strings, typically lasting less than thirty minutes, attenuated in tempo, its tone is profoundly dark, implicitly about the evils of World War II that he spent mostly in Nazi-occupied Austria,

184 • STRAVINSKY, IGOR its title acknowledging negative changes to be overcome. Once heard, Metamorphosen asks to be reheard, which is, of course, more possible in recordings than in live performance, where it becomes the sort of piece that must close a concert because nothing can follow it.

STRAVINSKY, IGOR (17 June 1882–6 April 1971) Like the New York Armory Show of 1913, the Paris premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring; Vesna svyashchennaya in Russian) in the same year, with music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky (c. 1889–1950), became a turning point in the development of the modernist arts. Outraged public reaction at the premiere – including catcalls, hissing, and a near riot in the audience – helped rally an audience predisposed toward the avant-garde, the occasion also becoming, for critics sympathetic to the new, a standard against which subsequent avant-garde art could be measured. Fortunate to be part of SERGE DIAGHILEV’s Ballets Russes, newly established in Paris in 1910, Stravinsky scored three of the dance company’s first important works: L’Oiseau de Feu (The Firebird, 1910), Petrouchka (1911), and, of course, Sacre. Two hallmarks of Stravinsky’s ballet scores were a reliance on folk melodies and harmonies, often sounding remarkably dissonant and strange to Western ears unfamiliar with Slavic traditions, and then heavy, shifting rhythmic patterns. After working sporadically with Diaghilev through the early twenties, Stravinsky turned his back on innovation, forging a “neo-classical” style that seems in retrospect a proto-POSTMODERNISM, paralleling the return of balletic choreography in the works of GEORGE BALANCHINE and classical literary ideals in the poetry of T. S. ELIOT. Making another radical shift in the 1950s, after the death of his archcompetitor ARNOLD SCHOENBERG, Stravinsky appropriated SERIAL MUSIC, always for pieces short in duration, nevertheless depending, as in his earlier music upon involving patterns, cycles, and other SIGNATURE moves. A smugly Olympian artist, he began in his late seventies to publish in collaboration with his American acolyte, Robert Craft (1923–2015), a series of “conversations,” books from supposedly reputable publishers, in which the master is portrayed suspiciously as speaking better, wittier English than anyone else actually heard from him. (Whereas some other elderly artists have younger female muses to reinvigorate their work, Stravinsky, securely married, had Craft.) Late in his long life, Stravinsky, like his near-contemporary

PABLO PICASSO, lived off his reputation as a sometime innovator, rather than continuing to produce avant-garde work. Again much like his contemporary Picasso, Stravinsky developed the knack of earning the highest sums available during their long lifetimes, to the amusement and consternation of their colleagues. —with Richard Carlin

STROHEIM, ERICH VON (22 September 1885–12 May 1957; b. Erich Oswald S., not Erich Hans Carl Maria Stroheim von Nordenwall, as was sometimes claimed) Born in Vienna, the son of a Jewish hatter from Prussian Silesia who had settled in Vienna (and was not aristocratic), Stroheim emigrated to America sometime between 1906 and 1909 and took odd jobs before arriving around 1914 in Hollywood, where he soon began to work for and with D. W. GRIFFITH as an actor and assistant director, staring as a prototypical Prussian with a monocle highlighting his autocratic manner. Once World War I ended, as Stroheim’s acting opportunities declined, he turned to directing, beginning with Blind Husbands (1919), for which he also served as writer, art director, cinematographer, and actor. Stroheim’s great innovation as a director was the very long film. Extending the departure of D. W. GRIFFITH, whose Intolerance (1918) ran over three hours, Stroheim produced in Greed (1923–25) a film whose original version ran for several hours. Adapting Frank Norris’s brutally realistic novel McTeague (1899), Stroheim wrote at the time, I felt that after the last war [World War I], the motion picture going public had tired of the cinematographic “chocolate eclairs” which had been stuffed down their throats, and which had in a large degree figuratively ruined their stomachs with this overdose of saccharosein pictures. Now, I felt, they were ready for a large bowl of plebeian but honest “corned beef and cabbage.” As an avatar of epic-length epic films, Stroheim preceded LENI RIEFENSTAHL, ABEL GANCE, and ANDY WARHOL, among others. My hunch is that Stroheim learned from such literary examples as Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the esthetic advantages to be gained from making a book bigger (in this case, longer) than normal. Needless to say, perhaps, once Stroheim finished Greed, his backers demanded that the director reduce forty-two reels to twenty-four,


which they then felt was still too long for commercial release. When Stroheim refused to make additional cuts, the moneymen hired some hacks to reduce the footage first to eighteen reels and then to ten reels, which, when finally screened, got mixed notices. The cinema lexicographer Ephraim Katz (1932–92) writes that those “who had seen Stroheim’s forty-two-reel original version acclaimed it one of the great masterpieces of cinema art. The complete version is said to be preserved in the MGM vaults, but it hasn’t been seen by anyone in several decades.” From time to time, a threehour version of Greed appears on American television, its stark imagery, especially of people in the desert, suggesting still what must have been a much greater work. Whereas a later Stroheim film, Queen Kelly (1928), was never finished, another sequel, Walking Down Broadway (1932–33), was never released. He returned to his earlier career as an on-screen Teutonic “YouLove-to-Hate.” Given the discriminatory mechanisms of critical art history, it is scarcely surprising that his bosses are forgotten while Stroheim is remembered. More importantly, the complete shooting script of Greed survives as a book that is a kind of conceptual art suggesting through words alone an esthetic experience that is otherwise physically unavailable.

STRUCTURALISM (1900s) A kind of critical thinking, originating in continental Europe (and thus not in England or the USA), supposedly examining the “meaning of signs, to explore the rules of different sign systems,” often producing obvious results – this seemed intellectually avant-garde to some in the late mid-20th century. Among its advocates were a multilingual, multidisciplinary crew including the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908– 2009), the Russian linguistics prof Roman Jakobson (1896–1982), and the Parisian literary critic Roland Barthes (1915–80). When structuralists’ capacity for generating fresh (if any) insights declined, if not evaporated, some proposed, you guessed it, a post-structuralism that claimed that these sign systems are not closed, as previously argued, but open. A post-post never materialized; it rarely does.

SURPRISE In his classic essay “L’Esprit Nouveau et les Poëtes” (1917), GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE formulated


this simple appreciative principle for truly avantgarde art, in French: Mais le nouveau existe bien, sans être un progrès. Il est tout dans la surprise. L’esprit nouveau est également dans la surprise. C’est ce qu’il y a en lui de plus vivant, de plus neuf. La surprise est le plus grand ressort nouveau. C’est par la surprise, par la place importante qu’il fait à la surprise que l’esprit nouveau se distingue de tous les mouvements artistiques et littéraires qui l’ont precedé. Simply, this emphasis upon surprise makes the New Spirit unprecedented not just for poets but also for all artists. May, by extension, this principle also measure any book about avant-garde arts, including this one, now published a century later.

SURREALISM (c. 1920) I would be remiss if I did not confess my reluctance to write this entry, from a lack of sympathy for the esthetics, the art politics, and even the practitioners of organized Surrealism. Consider for the second issue the authoritarian structure that placed ANDRÉ BRETON as a kind of pope who was forever excommunicating those with whom he disagreed or those who disputed his authority. (Would such “grotesque parodies of Stalinist purges,” in Paul Mann’s phrase, have been as feasible in a Protestant culture?) The epithet “Surrealism” comes from GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE, who used it in passing in the preface to Les Mamelles de Tirésias (implicitly raising the question, whose answer is not obvious, of whether someone of his antiauthoritarian temper would have survived as a designated Surrealist had he lived into the 1920s). Surrealist art and writing purportedly depended upon the unconscious as the source of images not otherwise available – and by extension upon deranged mentality – on the assumption that surreality offered more truth and insight than social reality. Within the corpus of Surrealist art can be found the revelation of unconscious imagery analogous to automatic writing, extending from the amoeba forms of Joan Miró (1893–1983) to the EXPRESSIONISTIC calligraphy of Mark Tobey and JACKSON POLLOCK; neatly rendered representations of hallucinations, in Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978) and RENÉ MAGRITTE (1898–1967); and COLLAGES and ASSEMBLAGES of unrelated objects supposedly making a surreality apart from the quotidian norm.

186 • SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE Perhaps the principal index of Surrealism’s general deficiencies as a POLYARTISTIC movement is the absence of Surrealist music. After 1925, the Parisian Surrealists were forever arguing over politics, and it is perhaps an index of their general stupidity that, from 1927 through the mid-1930s, they officially supported the French Communist party. The Surrealists always got a lot more attention in the press than other artists, even of comparable presence. As the critic HENRY MCBRIDE wrote in his newspaper column in 1936, “Whatever else you may say about Surrealism it sure is a great incentive to conversation, and the choice bits you overhear are always illuminating.” Another problem is that artists unaffiliated with the group accomplished its esthetic aims better – the American Theodore Roethke (1908–63), for instance, writing dream poems far superior to those by any Surrealist, and the Greek-American Lucas Samaras epitomizing Surrealist sculpture. Though some current artists and writers profess an allegiance to Surrealism, they are rarely, if ever, of the first rank. Sexist beyond belief, they barely acknowledged women, not only among themselves but those doing similar work elsewhere, so that the American publisher/writer Penelope Rosement (1942) could long afterwards compile an anthology with 97 women from 28 countries. Enough already?

SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE (1973) Of all the great buildings epitomizing innovative architecture in the late 20th century, this is perhaps the single most extraordinary, not only in its visible design but in its curious construction history. Within its arched shells are several theaters, various in size, the Sydney Symphony’s Concert Hall being the largest with 2,679 seats. Its setting on a cliff facing the city’s harbor enhances the complex’s iconic presence as its country’s biggest city’s principal sign for itself, much as the BROOKLYN BRIDGE has long served New York’s second borough. From the Australian artist Claire Krouzecky (1986) comes this testimonial: “I am always struck by the beauty of the tiles that cover the roof. Like the shell of a weird creature that has emerged from the harbor, the opera house sits there glistening in the sun.” The incremental assembly of the whole epitomized additive architecture as the construction took sixteen years and the cost increased from the first budget of $AUS7 million to a whopping $AUS102 million. When Aussie politicians refused to pay the initial architect Jørn Utzon (1918–2008) in 1966, he returned to his

native Denmark, never to set foot in Australia again, raising the question of who (or what) should be credited with the completed masterpiece. Though no performance venue quite so sculpturally grand was ever built anywhere again, some of its departures, especially the lack of visible right angles, influenced later architecture by Frank Gehry (1929) and Zaha Hadad (1950–2016), among others. Nonetheless, it brought to Australia’s biggest city more cultural credibility than any amount of money could buy.

SYNAESTHESIA (1900s) Color associations with certain sounds or tonalities are common subjective phenomena. It is said that Newton chose to divide the visible spectrum into seven distinct colors by analogy with the seven degrees of the diatonic scale. Individual musicians differ greatly in associating a sound with a certain color. The most ambitious attempt to incorporate light into a musical composition was the inclusion of a projected color organ in ALEXANDER SCRIABIN’s score Prometheus: The Poem of Fire (1910), in which the changes of instrumental coloration were to be accompanied by changing lighting in the concert hall. The most common association between tonality and color is that of C major and whiteness. It is particularly strong for pianists, for the obvious reason that the C major scale is played on white keys. However, Scriabin, who had a very strong feeling for color associations, correlated C major with red. By all conjecture, F-sharp major should be associated with black, for it comprises all five different black keys of the piano keyboard, but Scriabin associated it with bright blue and RimskyKorsakov with dull green. Any attempt to objectivize color associations is doomed to failure, if for no other reason than the arbitrary assignment of a certain frequency to a given note. The height of pitch rose nearly a semitone in the last century, so that the color of C would now be associated with C-sharp in relation to the old standards. Some artists have dreamed of a total synaesthesia in which not only audio-visual but tactile, gustatory, and olfactory associations would be brought into a sensual synthesis. Charles Baudelaire said: “Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.” J. K. Huysmans conjured up an organ of liqueurs. He describes it in Chapter IV of his book À Rebours: Interior symphonies were played as one drank a drop of this or that liqueur creating the


sensations in the throat analogous to those that music pours into the ear. In this organ of liqueurs, Curaƙao sec corresponded to the clarinet with its somewhat astringent but velvety sound; Kɒmmel suggested the oboe with its nasal quality; menthe and anisette were like the flute, with its combination of sugar and pepper, petulance and sweetness; kirsch recalled the fury of the trumpet; gin and whiskey struck the palate with the strident explosions of cornets and trombones; vodka fulminated with deafening noise of tubas, while raki and mastic hurled thunderclaps of the cymbal and of the bass drum with full force. Huysmans continued by suggesting a string ensemble functioning in the mouth cavity, with the violin


representing vodka, the viola tasting like rum, the cello caressing the gustatory rods with exotic liqueurs, and the double-bass contributing its share of bitters. Composers in mixed media, anxious to embrace an entire universe of the senses, are seeking ultimate synaesthesia by intuitive approximation, subjective objectivization, and mystical adumbrations. ARNOLD SCHOENBERG was extremely sensitive to the correspondences between light and sound. In the score of his monodrama Die glɒckliche Hand he indicates a “crescendo of illumination” with the dark violet light in one of the two grottos quickly turning to brownish red, blue green, and then to orange yellow. —Nicolas Slonimsky


“TALENT” This epithet is something glibly attributed to people working in the arts, though hard to measure, because not as respected as it used to be, particularly in the creation of innovative art, where, for instance, many important visual artists can scarcely “draw” and others overcome normally debilitating HANDICAPS. My own sense is that imagination, likewise hard to measure, but certainly palpable in innovative work, is more crucial. So is courage, which is even harder to measure in advance, though eventually palpable as well. And so, finally, is work-work, which is to say the results of focused effort functioning at its highest imaginative level.

serious, their satire heavier (particularly in ridiculing modernization/Americanization), and less popular. Financing for subsequent projects became more problematic. “Confusion,” announced in 1977, never materialized, though it would have been only his seventh film in a career spanning three decades. Their classic qualities notwithstanding, Tati’s films have had remarkably little influence, perhaps because, even after the development of cheaper videotape, such oneperson creations are increasingly rare in feature-length filmmaking.

TATLIN, VLADIMIR (28 December 1885–31 May 1953)

TATI, JACQUES (9 October 1908–5 November 1982; b. Jacques Tatischeff, reportedly of Russian-Dutch-Italian-French descent) The most sophisticated of the modern comedy directors, Tati followed Chaplin’s precedent in both directing his films and playing the protagonist. Tati’s self-star is tall, gangling, clumsy, self-absorbed (if not oblivious) – a childlike innocent whose ignorance of social rules causes chaos around him. Because his second major film, Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot/ Mister Hulot’s Holiday (1953) did not depend upon speech, it was an international success. Indeed, the soundtrack is a brilliant mixture of noises, human grunts, snatches of distant conversation in different languages, and much else that would be dismissed as aural garbage did it not enhance the ambience of comic chaos. Tati’s first film, Jour de Fête (1949), portrays a provincial postman inspired by an American film about increasing efficiency. Mon Oncle (1958) was likewise an international success. Tati’s later films become more


Commonly regarded as a founder and principal figure in Soviet CONSTRUCTIVISM, Tatlin returned to Russia after a 1913 visit to PABLO PICASSO’s Paris studio to make abstract reliefs composed of sub-art materials such as tin, glass, and wood. Always rivaling KAZIMIR MALEVICH, Tatlin called his art Productivist (and later Constructivist), in contrast to Malevich’s Suprematism. Nonetheless, their purposes were complementary. As the Paris art historian Andrei B. Nakov (1941) succinctly put it, “Tatlin’s sculpture is really free of any connection to extra-artistic reality in the same way as Malevich’s suprematist forms are purely non-illusionistic.” Once the Soviet Revolution succeeded, the government’s Department of Fine Arts commissioned Tatlin to design a Monument to the Third International (1919), which he exhibited only as a model. With a continuous sloping line resembling that of a roller coaster, this was intended to be 2,000 feet high and to contain assembly halls, smaller spaces for executive committee meetings, all within a central Lucite cylinder that would revolve mechanically. Though his proposal was never executed, thus exemplifying CONCEPTUAL


ARCHITECTURE, the architectural historian Kenneth Frampton (1930), for one, has measured, “Few projects in the history of contemporary architecture can compare in impact or influence to Vladimir Tatlin’s 1920 design.” After the Stalinist crackdown on vanguard art, Tatlin worked mostly on more modest applied projects, such as furniture design, workers’ clothing, and the like. Beginning in the late 1920s, he spent several years designing a glider plane that he called Latatlin. Though he died from food poisoning in Moscow in relative obscurity, an exhibition mounted there in 1977 included paintings, book illustrations, and stage designs. In PONTUS HULTÉN’s mammoth ParisMoscow traveling show (1979), which I saw in Moscow in 1981, Tatlin was clearly portrayed as a lost star, the exhibition there featuring his Letatlin.

TAYLOR, CECIL (15 March 1929) A reclusive musician who rarely performs and whose few available recordings are reportedly not always authoritative, Taylor is one of those rare NEW YORK CITY artists whose reputation gains from personal absence. Active as an African-American JAZZ pianist, poet, composer, and bandleader since the late 1950s, Taylor took compositional ideas from European Impressionism, relying more on tone and texture than rhythm and melody. His improvisations often featured highly energetic articulations, jagged starts and stops, abrupt changes in mood, and ever-shifting structures often devoid of melody or beat. Eschewing harmonic landmarks, he refuses to use a bassist; and when he plays piano behind a soloist, Taylor’s improvisations are less complementary than independent. When I heard his Black Goat performed at New York’s Metropolitan Museum in 1972, I found his favorite structure to be a succession of sounds, quickly articulated and followed by a pause, so that individual instrumentalists played vertical clusters at varying speeds. He also writes and sometimes recites his own odd poetry.

TELEGRAPHIC WRITING (20th century) A major literary departure in the 20th century, reflecting a technological invention outside literature, was the development of prose whose elliptical conciseness reflected the development of telegraphy. As messages sent through the new technology, unlike those in a


letter sent through the post, had a cost per word, economics prompted senders to drop all words not deemed essential. Another mark of a telegram was containing only uppercase letters that, in turn, visually defined telegraphic style when it appeared in literary books. This style evolved in the 1990s with the invention of texting (sending short messages between computers and cell phones) that resulted in a more extreme post-telegraphic reduction because not words, but characters were limited in number. In the 21st century innumerable inventive abbreviations used in electronic messaging were joined by emoticons (punctuation marks arranged to resemble facial expressions) and emojis (small digital pictures representing feelings or concepts), thus further extending the impetus to contraction in literary communication. —with Shoshana Esther Stone

TELEVISION (c. 1930s) By adding sound to radio, television should have been hospitable to an avant-garde art; but precisely because it became so quickly a commercial medium for universal dissemination, that opportunity rapidly succumbed to the American genius for mass-merchandising a new technology that Europeans thought would belong exclusively to the elite (whether automobiles or motion pictures before television, or portable computers afterwards). Nonetheless, some imaginative early performers used television in ways radically different from the common run, exploiting capabilities unavailable in film and live performance. Before the age of videotape and thus in live time, the comedian Ernie Kovacs (1919–62) tilted his camera to create the illusion that coffee was being poured at a diagonal impossible in life; he used two cameras to situate himself inside a milk bottle; he used smoke from a Sterno can to blur focus; he put two separate images in a split screen; he composed live video accompaniments to the warhorses of classical music; and he used an electronic switch to make half the screen mirror the other, enabling him to stage interviews and even sword fights with himself, etc. Because of the small scale of the early TV monitors (compared to the much larger movie screen or later television receivers), Kovacs was able to stage close-up sight gags: His femme fatale would, in David G. Walley’s words, “slowly turn her head to an admiring camera and then catch a pie in the face,” in an image that would not work as well on a big screen (and not at all on radio).

190 • TEXT-SOUND Once videotaping was developed, producers could use such devices as instant replay for essentially MODERNIST techniques such as scrambling continuous time. Indeed, most innovations in broadcast television in the past quarter-century have come less from tinkering with the medium itself than from ingenuity with videotape and then digital storage. A further implication of the dissemination of the portable video camera and then the Internet was the possibility of circumventing television stations in the creation and distribution of VIDEO ART.

TEXT-SOUND (forever) As distinct from text-print and text-seen, text-sound refers to texts that must be sounded and thus heard to be “read,” in contrast to those that must be printed and thus seen. The term “text-sound” is preferable to “sound-text,” if only to acknowledge the initial presence of a text, which is subject to aural enhancements more typical of music. To be precise, it is by nonmelodic auditory structures that language or verbal sounds are poetically charged with meanings or resonances they would not otherwise have. An elementary example is the tongue twister, which is literally about variations on a particular consonant. This term is also preferable to “sound poetry” because several writers working in this area, including GERTRUDE STEIN and W. BLIEM KERN, produced works that, even in their emphasis on sound, are closer to prose than poetry. Only in recent times have we become aware of text-sound as a true INTERMEDIUM between language arts on the one side and musical arts on the other, drawing upon each but lying between both, and thus, as a measure of its newness, often unacceptable to purists based in each.

THARP, TWYLA (1 July 1941) Those familiar with Tharp’s later choreography, so popular in larger theaters, can hardly believe, or remember, that her dance was once avant-garde. At the beginning of her choreographic career, in the late 1960s, Tharp created a series of rigorously CONSTRUCTIVIST works that, in their constrained style, were never exceeded. Using only female dancers (and thus excluding any of the customary themes dependent upon sexual difference), she choreographed pieces such as Group Activities (1968), in which ten

dancers, including herself, perform individualized instructions, themselves derived from a numerical system, on two sets of checkerboard-like floor spaces, creating an asymmetrical field of animate patterns, all to the accompaniment of only a ticking metronome. Performed totally without sound accompaniment on an unadorned stage, Disperse (1967) depends upon the ratio of 2:3, which requires the stage lighting to turn ever darker as the dancers move progressively into the right rear corner. In The One Hundreds (1970), Tharp recruited members of the audience to execute one hundred phrases. Her credo at the time: “Dance belonged to everyone, and everyone could be a dancer if the material was appropriate to them.” Tharp around that time also choreographed dances for previously unexploited spaces, such as Manhattan’s Central Park in the late afternoon. (I remember a rugby game beginning on an adjacent field.) About Tharp’s Medley (1969), which I saw on a parade ground the size of two football fields, someone (perhaps I) wrote: With the audience seated on a slope at one end, six girls in Miss Tharp’s company were at the other end of the field, looking small and remote. Gradually they moved closer, but never close enough for the public to see the intricate detail of the choreography. The climax of the performance came when thirty students joined the group and commenced one long sequence in which each person moved at the slowest possible speed, giving the effect of a field full of statues in a continuous but imperceptible state of change. Dance in the Streets of London and Paris, Continued in Stockholm and Sometimes Madrid had its premiere on two floors of the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, Connecticut. As the critic Don McDonagh (1932) remembers it, The audience flowed in and around the performers at all levels and at times trailed them from one floor to another. There was no set position from which to view the dance . . . the nine dancers kept in touch with one another by means of verbal time checks called up the stairwell and by the use of video monitors connected to a closedcircuit television hookup between the various galleries. Composed in sections, this Tharp dance could be recreated to suit different venues. If you don’t believe my recollections of Tharp’s earlier choreography, consider this from The Performing


Arts in America (1973): “Twyla Tharp is a choreographer whose ballets have no plot, no reference to character or emotion, no scenery or props, costumes only very rarely, and, above all, no music.” In this history of Tharp’s art, that was centuries ago.

“THEORY” (1980–2010) This epithet identified a highfaluting mode of cultural explanation, not quite thinking, was during its heyday disliked by nearly everyone except its advocates, who necessarily strived for power in academic institutions. Inherently fanciful, often politically prejudiced simplistically, “theory” was more popular with professors of literature and philosophy than, say, with historians, who are by training more respectful of verifiable facts. Successful for a while, the epithet fell into disuse when its publicists retired or passed away. Art purportedly informed theoretically was short-lived, as balloons inevitably pop, to the surprise only of those clutching them. As BUCKMINSTER FULLER persuasively proclaimed as he watched the nickel he tossed into the air fall to the floor, “Nature’s 100% reliable.”


During his eleven years in America (1927–38), Léon Theremin, according to his countryman Nicolas Slonimsky, on April 29, 1930, presented a concert with an ensemble of ten of his instruments, also introducing a space-controlled synthesis of color and music. On 1 April 1932, in the same hall, he introduced the first electrical symphony orchestra, conducted by Stoessel, including Theremin fingerboard and keyboard instruments. He also invented the Rhythmicon [with Henry Cowell], for playing different rhythms simultaneously. Theremin disappeared from New York in 1938 and was thought dead until he emerged from post-Soviet Russia in 1991, by then well into his nineties, to attend European music festivals. An illuminating biography (2000) by Albert Glinsky (1952) reports that Theremin, a devout Communist, voluntarily returned to the Soviet Union where he was imprisoned but kept alive to work especially on perfecting electronics for eavesdropping (including a self-powered bug embedded in a wall sculpture given to the American embassy in Moscow!). In the 1990s, in his own nineties, Theremin returned to New York City for a visit that is memorialized in an eponymous documentary film by Stephen Martin (1993).

THEREMIN (c. 1920) One of the earliest ELECTRONIC instruments, named after its creator Léon Theremin (1896–1993; b. Lev Sergeyevich Termen), who invented it just after the First World War, this consists of two antenna emerging perpendicularly from a metal cabinet. Both poles respond not to touch, like traditional instruments, but to hand movements in the electrified air immediately around them. (Roberta Reeder and Claas Cordes write, “He created his instrument while working on an alarm system to protect the diamond collection at the Kremlin,” which seems obvious in retrospect.) One antenna controls the instrument’s pitch, the other its volume, together producing sustained, tremulous sounds that were particularly popular in horror films in the 1930s and 1940s. The principal Thereminist in America, if not the world, was Clara Rockmore (1911–98). One of Rockmore’s long-playing records was produced by Robert Moog, who, before he made the synthesizer bearing his name, manufactured Theremins. More familiarly, a Theremin accompanied a cello to produce the “Good Vibrations” in a 1966 Beach Boys recording of the same name.

THOMAS, DYLAN (27 October 1914–9 November 1953) Dylan Thomas was the first modern poet whose work was best “published,” best made public, not on the printed page or in the public auditorium but through electronic media, beginning with live radio, eventually including records and audiotape. So strongly did Thomas establish how his words should sound that it is hard not to hear his voice as you read his poetry; his interpretations put at a disadvantage anyone else who has tried to declaim his words since. Some failed to notice that he also exploited extended silences often a minute in length. It is not surprising that he also became the first prominent English-speaking poet to earn much of his income initially not from writing or teaching but from radio recitals, mostly for the British Broadcasting Corporation. (Given the American media’s lack of interest in poetry, it is indicative that Thomas’s sole peer as a reader of his own verse, Carl Sandburg [1878–1967], a quarter-century older, made his living mostly as a traveling performer of considerably less difficult poetry.)

192 • TOLSON, MELVIN In 1946, Edward Sackville-West (1901–65) gushed:


A verbal steeplejack, Mr. Thomas scales the dizziest heights of romantic eloquence. Joycean portmanteau words, toppling castles of alliteration, a virtuoso delivery which shirked no risk – this was radio at its purest and a superb justification of its right to be considered as an art in itself.


Indeed, it could be said that the principal recurring deficiency of Thomas’s prose is the pointless garrulousness, filling space with verbiage, that we associate with broadcasting at its least consequential. Thomas’s Collected Poems (1952) reportedly sold 30,000 copies within a year after its publication – a number no less spectacular then than now – so popular did his own brilliant declamation make a difficult poet.

TOLSON, MELVIN (6 February 1898–29 August 1966) A professor who spent his entire adult life teaching at historic black colleges and coaching consistently successful varsity debate teams, Tolson was also a poet who raised outrageous parody to high literary levels. He was a great American DADA poet, though scarcely recognized as such, as he ridiculed the allusive techniques of the great moderns, beginning with self-conscious obscurity, in the same breath as certain African-American myths about Africa and much else: The Höhere of God’s stepchildren is beyond the sabotaged world, is beyond das Diktat der Menschenverachtung, la muerte sobre el esqueleto de la nada, the pelican’s breast rent red to feed the young, summer’s third-class ticket, the Revue des morts, the skulls trepanned to hold ideas plucked from dung, Dives’ crumbs in the church of the unchurched, absurd life shaking its ass’s ears among the colors of vowels and Harrar blacks with Nessus shirts from Europe on their backs. Perhaps because such lines offend as they honor (and were easily misunderstood as well), they were not easily published. Though his books appeared from general publishers, it is unfortunate that most recognition of Tolson’s innovative work has appeared in special situations reserved for African-American writers.

The technique of tone clusters was demonstrated for the first time in public by Henry Cowell at the San Francisco Music Club on 12 March 1912, on the day after his fifteenth birthday. It consists of striking a pandiatonic complex of two octaves on white keys, using one’s forearm, or a panpentatonic set of black keys, as well as groups of 3 or 4 notes struck with the fists or the elbow. Cowell notated the tone clusters by a thick black line on a stem for rapid notes or a white-note rod attached to a stem for half-notes. By a remarkable coincidence, the Russian composer Vladimir Rebikov made use of the same device, with an identical notation, at about the same time, in a piano piece entitled Hymn to Inca. Still earlier, CHARLES IVES made use of tone clusters in his Concord Sonata, to be played with a wood plank to depress the keys. Béla Bartók used tone clusters to be played by the palm of the hand in his Second Piano Concerto, a device that he borrowed expressly from Cowell, by permission. —Nicolas Slonimsky

“TRANSGRESSIVE” (1980s) Not avant-garde. Just socially and morally challenging when it first appears (though probably not for long) and thus sometimes opportunistically dubbed “avant-garde.” Typically such art is not difficult, which is to say that it’s easily made and easily understood.

ˇÍ TRNKA, JIR (24 February 1912–30 December 1969) Having created a puppet theater before World War II, Trnka set up in 1945 a film studio in Prague that specialized in puppet animation, which depends not upon drawings in sequence but on the movement of threedimensional figures on a field. Unlike American animators, who were restricted to short films, Trnka founded his reputation on a feature, Špaliček/The Czech Year (1947). His principal achievement is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Sen noci svatojánské) (1959). Ruka/The Hand (1965) is a parable about the role of the artist under Communist totalitarianism.


TURRELL, JAMES (6 May 1943) The deepest truth of his most remarkable career, considering five decades of it, was that he knew from the beginning that his medium would be light. He didn’t discover light after a career of exhibiting objects or a period of theorizing. His first exhibition, in 1967, just two years after his graduation from college, consisted entirely of projections within a museum space. He then created, in his own Southern California studio, a series of light-based installations by cutting slits into the walls and ceiling to let sunlight sweep through his space in various configurations, as he used lenses to refract it strategically. The first Turrell work I saw was Laar (1980). On the far side of a darkened room appeared to be a large, gray monochromic painting. As I moved closer, it retained that identity, its surface shimmering, much as good monochromic painting sometimes does. Only when I was literally on top of the work, close enough to bump my head into it, did I discover that, surprise, what looked like a monochromic rectangle is really a hole in the wall – or, to be more precise, an open window into a three-dimensional space filled with grayish light. If only to accentuate the illusion of a palpably different world, I could feel that the air behind the aperture had a perceptually different weight – heavier to my extended hand. In a later variation, Daygo (1990), shown at the Gladstone Gallery in New York in 1990, I stuck my head through the rectangle and noticed purplish light fixtures that were otherwise hidden from me. In either case, the effect was magical, the illusion of palpable nothing, really, is an extraordinary creation. For decades, Turrell has worked in remote northern Arizona on transforming a volcanic crater into a celestial observatory. The “Roden Crater Project,” as he calls it, should be a masterpiece. However, until it is complete, as well as more popularly accessible, my Turrell nomination for the contemporary canon would be Meeting, as installed in 1986 at PS (Public School) 1 in Long Island City. Viewers are asked to come no earlier than one hour before sunset and to stay no later than an hour after sunset. They are ushered into a former classroom, perhaps 20 feet square. Most of the ceiling has been cut away into a smaller rectangle, leaving the sky exposed. (It looked like clear glass to me until I felt the temperature change.) Though benches are run along the walls, it is perhaps more comfortable to lie on the floor rug, looking skyward. Along the top of the benches runs a track, behind which is a low level of orange light, emerging from tungsten filaments of thin, clear, meter-long, 150 watt Osram bulbs. (Having no


visible function before sunset, these lamps make a crucial contribution to the subsequent illusion.) What Turrell realized in his Meeting is framing the sunsetting sky, making its slow metamorphosis visible, in an unprecedented a time-dependent visual experience, literally a nature-based theater, that proceeds apart from human intervention. The sky looks familiar until it begins to turn dark. Lying in the middle of the floor, I saw the sky pass through a deep blue reminiscent of Yves Klein. Above me developed, literally out of nowhere, the shape of a pyramid, extending into the sky; and as the sky got darker, the apex of the navy blue pyramid slowly descended down into the space. Eventually it vanished, as the square became a flat, dark gray expanse, looking like nothing else as much as a James Turrell wall “painting,” before turning a deep uninflected black that looked less like the open sky than a solid ceiling. Now, I know as well as the next New Yorker that the sky here is never black; there is too much ambient light. What made the sky appear black was the low level of internal illumination mentioned before. (You can see the same illusion at an open-air baseball night game where, because of all the lights shining down onto the field, the sky likewise looks black.) I returned on another day that was cloudier than before, to see textures different from those I remembered. On the simplest level, what Turrell does is manipulate the natural changing colors of the sky, first through the frame that requires you to look only upwards, and then with thoughtful internal illumination that redefines its hues. What is also remarkable is how much intellectual resonance the work carries to a wealth of contemporary esthetic issues, such as illusion/anti-illusion, painting/theater, unprecedentedly subtle perception, the use of “found objects” (in this case, natural light), and conceptualism (bestowing meaning on apparent nothing), all the while transcending all of them. I personally thought of John Cage’s 4′33″, his “noise piece,” in which he puts a frame around all the miscellaneous inadvertent sounds that happen to be in the concert hall for that duration, much as Turrell frames unintentional developments in the sky. Meeting is essentially theatrical in that its PERFORMANCE must be experienced over a requisite amount of time; no passing glance, as well as no single photograph, would be appropriate. Indeed, though Meeting could have been realized technically prior to the 1950s, there was no esthetic foundation for it prior to then. Another likely Turrell masterpiece I’ve not experienced firsthand is in West Cork, Ireland: The Sky Garden at Liss Art Country House Estate (1992), which reportedly has unusual acoustics as well.

194 • TUTUOLA, AMOS His work is commonly connected to that of ROBERT IRWIN, fifteen years older, likewise hailing from Southern California, as both feature light in their art. However, whereas the older artist uses objects to shape light, Turrell simply frames light. Esthetic geniuses both are.

TUTUOLA, AMOS (20 June 1920–8 June 1997) Nigeria’s most original novelist was a thinly educated war veteran who wrote English as only a Nigerian could. “I was a palm-wine drinkard since I was a boy of ten years of age,” Tutuola’s first book begins. “I had no other work more than to drink palm-wine in my life. In those days we did not know other money, except COWRIES, so that everything was very cheap, and my father was the richest man in our town.” And his language gets only more original. Because Tutuola reportedly grew up speaking Yoruba, he makes authentic errors of English grammar and spelling on every page; yet his several novels have clear plots, usually about a protagonist with (or with access to) supernatural powers, who suffers awesome hardships before accomplishing his mission. One scholar reports that educated Nigerians were extremely angry that such an unschooled author should receive so much praise and publicity abroad, for they recognized his borrowings, disapproved of his bad grammar, and suspected he was being lionized by condescending racists who had a clear political motive for choosing to continue to regard Africans as backward and childlike primitives. Even with modest success, authentically original artists will always be attacked for some purported deficiency or another.


(1964), made this classic for CINEMASCOPE projection. Because 2001 is not often publicly available in that form, we tend to forget how it filled wide, encompassing screens with memorable moving images, all of which had an otherworldly quality: the wholly abstract, richly textured, and incomparably spectacular eight-minute “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite” (as the clumsy subtitle announces the sequence); the stewardess performing her routine duties in the gravity-less spaceship; and the opening scenes in the space vehicle (which are filled with more arresting details than the eye can comfortably assimilate). Rather than focusing our attention, the movie consistently drives our eyes to the very edges of the screen (much like another CinemaScope masterpiece, David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, 1962), in the course of emphasizing the visual over the aural. Over two hours long, 2001 has only forty-six minutes of dialogue, making it in large part, paradoxically, a mostly silent film for the age of wide-screen color, incidentally placing it in the great avant-garde tradition of mixing the archaic with the new as a way of eschewing expected conventions. Indicatively, 2001 ends with several minutes of images-without-words, rather than, say, an exchange of lines. The central image of the monolith, whose initial mysteriousness is reminiscent of the whale in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, becomes a symbol whose final meaning is revealed as literally the sum of the movie itself, putting a seal of accumulated perception upon the preceding action. One is surprised to recall how many intelligent people, including prominent reviewers, disliked 2001 at the beginning, and how many parents were less enthusiastic than their children. “I ought not to have found this surprising,” wrote the physicist Freeman Dyson (1923), “for I am myself of the generation that was bowled over by Disney’s FANTASIA thirty years ago, while our sophisticated elders complained in vain about our shocking bad taste.” Even though 2001 alludes to Georges Méliès’s Trip to the Moon (1902), there has not been anything like it since, whether for small screens or large; it’s too bad that the large-screen motion-picture theaters capable of showing it best (and, say, Lawrence of Arabia) are by now nearly extinct.



TWOMBLY, CY (25 April 1928–5 July 2011; b. Edwin Parker Twomby, Jr.)

(1968) Stanley Kubrick (1928–99) was an intelligent and morally sensitive filmmaker who, in the heady wake of the success of his second-best early film, Dr Strangelove

As an eccentric American painter emerging in the wake of ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM but preceding MINIMAL art, he produced with paint, crayon, and sometimes even pencil many large visual paintings


and drawings with a scattering of delicate marks, some of them suggesting calligraphy, that at their best evoke invisible spiritual realities. His work gains from echoing ancient graffiti often found in holy places. As nobody else’s visual art looks like Twombly’s, several paintings gathered together within a single room can realize an impact greater than the sum of its parts. The British critic David Sylvester (1924–2001) once judged that their delicacies are best seen under natural light.

TYPEWRITER This 19th-century invention changed writing, not only when authors such as Henry James (1843–1916) dictated to secretaries who transcribed on the new machine, but when writers typed themselves. In the mid-20th century came electric typewriters that enabled writers to enter more words quicker, leading many to compose longer sentences. (I know; I can remember when I first got mine.)

TZARA, TRISTAN (16 April 1896–25 December 1963; b. Samuel or Sami Rosenstock) A Rumanian Jew who left his native country at nineteen, Tzara almost always wrote in French, initially as a cofounder of Zurich DADA in 1917 and then as a SURREALIST in Paris from 1920 to 34, when ANDRÉ BRETON ousted him from the club for his deviant radicalism. He remains the only poet/poet to make substantial contributions to both French movements. The critic Marc Dachy credits Tzara with giving


French poetry a new impetus, a sudden acceleration. He took unpunctuated free verse, inherited in part from GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE and BLAISE CENDRARS, and transformed it into an extraordinarily powerful instrument. By exciting the latent energies in language he created an extreme poetry filled with vertiginously polysemic meanings and the novel rhythms of substantives flashing by like telephone poles seen from a speeding car. Apart from this achievement, Tzara wrote a great long poem, L’Homme approximatif (1931, The Approximate Man), and a classic proto-CONCEPTUAL manifesto in the form of a poem: To make a Dadaist poem/ Take a newspaper./ Take a pair of scissors./ Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem./ Cut out the article./ Then cut out each of the words that make up this article & put them in a bag./ Shake it gently./ Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag./ Copy conscientiously./ The poem will be like you. In his autobiography the American composer OTTO LEUNING recalls of Tzara: “He used bells, drums, whistles, and cowbells, beating the table to punctuate his declamations and to invite the audience to participate in his performance. He would curse, sigh, yodel, and shriek when the spirit moved him.” This model of the Jewish émigré avant-garde literary activist, working in a country and language both not his own, has inspired certain later poets similarly situated.


ULYSSES (2 February 1922) Born on James Joyce’s fortieth birthday, Ulysses is the center of his oeuvre. The experiments in realism and language in Dubliners (1914) and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) are the basis of the day given in Ulysses. Beginning in Dublin at 8:00 am on the morning of 16 June 1904, the book ends early the next day, as Molly Bloom fades into sleep. Many of the characters who appear in Joyce’s early books show up during this day in Ulysses: it is a continuation of the adventures of the autobiographical Stephen Dedalus in the Dublin of Joyce’s earlier fiction. However, if this modern epic is a continuation of Joyce’s writing, it is also a radical break with his own work and that of early MODERNISM. Thus it lies at the very heart of what we now call high modernism. At the end of the novel, after Molly puts the book to sleep, there is this tag: Trieste – Zurich-Paris 1914–1921 Three cities and seven years are the geographical and temporal markers of a literary revolution. From the experiments of Ulysses-especially its later chapters – spring Joyce’s “nightbook” called FINNEGANS WAKE. But, as with everything to do with Joyce, we must begin with a city not named here – a city “named” throughout his writing. Joyce maintained that if the entire city of Dublin were burned down-a real possibility after the events of 1916 – it could have been rebuilt, brick by brick, from the pages of Ulysses. What is fascinating about Joyce’s composition of Ulysses is that his conception of the entire book changed as he wrote it. These changes did not occur on the level of plot but in the novel’s “styles” and experiments. Through the help of EZRA POUND, who aided


Joyce with almost everything during this time, including advice about good eye doctors, chapters of the novel were serialized in the pages of The Little Review in New York and, in London, in The Egoist. The serialization in The Egoist ended after only three chapters because the magazine could not find an English printer who would agree to set type for it. The Little Review had more success, as fourteen installments of the novel appeared in its pages between 1918 and 1920. But in 1920 four issues of the magazine containing excerpts from the novel were seized and burned by the US Post Office. The Little Review’s editors, Jane Heap and Margaret Anderson, were put on trial for publishing obscenity. Faced with the loss of The Little Review as an outlet for his writing, Joyce spent more time revising earlier parts of the book and expanding later ones. The opening chapters of Ulysses are marked by Joyce’s development of the interior monologue. In the second half of the book, Joyce’s experiments in technique and form are intensified. The tenth episode, called “Wandering Rocks,” depicts a simultaneous moment with many different characters moving through the streets, homes, shops, and pubs of the city. The eleventh episode, “Sirens,” is in the form of a fuga per canone (A fugue according to rule), while the twelfth episode, “Cyclops,” analyzes the violence inherent in colonialism and the Irish nationalist response to it by injecting seemingly dissociated stylistic parodies into the “realist” setting of a pub. Joyce’s experiments reach a climax in the fifteenth episode of the novel called “Circe.” Here the very form of the novel breaks apart to reveal what the French critic Helene Cixous (1937) calls an “opera-out-of-gear,” or a play “out of control” because everything that has happened in the novel up to this point recurs and impossible things happen (objects speak, ghosts emerge, Shakespeare himself appears in a mirror wearing horns, Leopold Bloom gives birth to multiple children, and Dublin itself is burned down after a Black Mass).


In a famous review of the novel, T. S. Eliot pointed to the “mythical method” in Ulysses as a technique “of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.” The description of this “method” seems to have even more relevance for that other key text of 1922, The Waste Land. The battles over Ulysses that still rage are concerned not with the novel’s subject matter but with the establishment of a definitive text. Since the first (Paris) edition was filled with errors, there have since been ten other editions that have likewise been contested by textual scholars. In 1986, Hans Walter Gabler, a professor in Germany, issued with the original American publisher what was called “the corrected text.” However, his “corrections,” along with several additions, were quickly questioned, most notably by John Kidd of Boston University. This dispute placed Random House in the odd position of keeping in print two different editions of Ulysses (Gabler’s and a 1961 text it was intended to supersede). As a high modernist text, Ulysses remains a fluid odyssey that denies “meanings” and interpretative theories at the same time that it resists textual standardization. —John Rocco

UNDERGROUND COMIX (1968–) The first question that comes to mind about underground comix (the x in the last word being the preferred spelling within its universe) is “Why are these avant-garde?” Often seen as nothing more than a grandchild of the Tijuana bibles of the 1930s through 1950s, underground comix showed their vanguard


colors by their disdain for conservative mores, their frenetic devolution of the narrative form, and sometimes by their style of drawing, which could erupt in a flow of interconnected images of sex, violence, and drug use, blowing apart across a single page the safe and easy reliability of the middle-class life most of the artists had come from. This artform may appear mainstream because of its mode of publication, but at heart underground comix presented a serious break with the traditions of the past and were an examination of the possibilities of the medium. This movement, in its narrowest form, never moved out of the 1970s – everything since that time (even the continuing work of R. CRUMB, one of its stars) being actually post-underground. This mode of expression became more varied and less underground as it evolved, even though many continued to apply the term to the underground’s successors. Primary among the latter work is the rich vein of graphic novels created in the last few decades, which includes autobiographies, coming-of-age stories, SURREALISM, horror fiction, and even reportorial comics. —Geof Huth

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE (1935) The hidden truth, which should not be forgotten, is that this government-funded economic safety net has done more for American artists, both avant-garde and traditional, in times of genuine economic need than all of the Arts Councils combined and perhaps all private patrons as well. Only when the latter become as effective as the former at fundamental support will they have earned genuine respect from the community of artists.


VAN DOESBURG, THEO (30 August 1883–7 March 1931; b. Christian Emil Marie Küpper) Theo Van Doesburg was, like his near-contemporary Moholy-Nagy, a POLYARTIST excelling at two or more nonadjacent arts – painting, architectural design, criticism, and creative literature. In the first respect, he was famous for rigorously geometric, CONSTRUCTIVIST paintings, such as Composition XI (1918) and Counter-Composition XIII (1924), and then for deviating from his fellow Dutchman PIET MONDRIAN by introducing diagonals into his art. For his second art, consider particularly his conceptual architecture in the form of spectacular models, such as the Color Construction (1922) prepared with Cornelis van Eesteren (1897–1988), which simply has planes (floors) different in size stacked upon each other without any windows or a roof. Van Doesburg’s critical essays are filled with incisive distinctions and stunning prophecies, for he had mastered the manifesto writer’s art of resonant sentences: “We are painters who think and measure”; “in the name of humanism one has tried to justify quite a lot of nonsense in art”; and “the best handicraft is the one which displays no human touch.” Van Doesburg’s contributions to more imaginative writing began with his second DE STIJL manifesto (1920), which was devoted to “literature.” If only to distinguish the DADA side of his activity from the Constructivist, he coined not one but two pseudonyms, I. K. Bonset and Aldo Camini (the former echoing a Dutch phrase for “I am crazy”), and then worked to preserve their secrecy. Whereas Bonset published poetry (reproduced in facsimile in Nieume Woordbeeldingen [1975]), Camini wrote essays. My favorite Bonset text is “VoorbijtrekkendeTroep”


(Marching Infantry, 1916), a sound poem reprinted in Carola GIEDION-Welcker’s extraordinary Anthologie der Abseitigen/Poètes à l’lcart (1965), which has never been translated, alas. In part because van Doesburg’s work was so various, his achievement remains incompletely understood, even decades after his death. Consider this special insight from his comrade MICHEL SEUPHOR: “We can see or read between the lines that for van Doesburg the terms art, spirituality, abstraction, universality, and religion were identical.”

VARÈSE, EDGARD (22 December 1883–6 November 1965) A Frenchman who studied in Italy and lived in BERLIN before emigrating to America in 1915, Varèse developed the concept of “organized sound” that eschewed precise pitch and other traditional musical structures for alternative kinds of musical coherence. His monumental lonisation (1931) is a wholly percussive piece that employs such nonmusical sound generators as sirens, sleigh bells, and brake drums that, incidentally, have indefinite pitch. To say that this short work, only several minutes in length, sounded like nothing done before it would be an understatement. Writing in 1967, only a few years after I first heard lonisation, by then more than three decades old, I was still awed by it, observing then: The interaction of such large blocks of unusual percussive material produced a chaotic sound so distinctly unlike any previous musical experience that laymen and critics condemned the piece as merely noise (that was ‘not music’) and even professional composers feared that the apocalypse – the end of music – had come.


What happened, however, was that the acceptance of lonisation, along with Varèse’s idea of “organized sound,” created a precedent for further music with imprecise pitch and alternative acoustic structuring. One measure of this change in thinking is that lonisation, a work requiring many rehearsals for its premiere, is by now frequently performed by amateurs. (Misspelling it in the American way, as “Ionization,” is an illiteracy comparable to adding an apostrophe to Finnegans Wake – something that most readers would miss and, alas, ignorant copyeditors would “fix.”) Varèse was neglected for most of his professional life; not until 1955, for instance, when he was over 70, was he elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Long alienated here (but faithful to his American wife, the literary translator Louise Norton [1891–1989]), he continued to use French titles for his compositions; for a while spelled his first name as Edgar. He frequently left New York for the American southwest, where Henry Miller found him in the early 1940s and wrote a memorable appreciation, “With Edgard Varèse in the Gobi Desert.” Indeed, because Varèse’s innovations were initially unacceptable, they remain so incompletely understood that debate over them continues among a curious diversity of admirers. JOHN CAGE always honored Varèse as a precursor of the chaotic tradition of modernist music; the sophisticated rock musician FRANK ZAPPA staged in New York at his own expense an evening-length concert of Varese’s music in 1981; and Milton Babbitt, as a serial theorist, has found complex structures in Varèse’s work more typical of his own, post-Schoenbergian kind of music. Varèse’s close colleague Nicolas Slonimsky reports: “On the centennial of his birth, in 1983, festivals of his music were staged in Strasbourg, Paris, Rome, Washington, DC, New York, and Los Angeles.” Not unlike his near-contemporary ANTON WEBERN, Varèse finished few pieces, each being remarkably different from the others; each can be admired for various reasons. My own choice for his second innovative monument would be Poème électronique (1958), which ranks among the early masterpieces of music wholly for the medium new to the post-Second World War period – magnetic tape. Commissioned for Philips Radio’s three-peaked pavilion designed by Le Corbusier at the Brussels World Exposition, this eight-minute example of organized sound was densely composed, from sound sources both human and mechanical, to emerge through four hundred separate loudspeakers, sweeping through the


space as “continuous arcs of sound.” To quote from the liner notes to the first recording: The sound itself was accompanied by a series of projected images chosen by Le Corbusier, some of them photographs, others montages, paintings, printed or written script. No synchronization between sight and sound was attempted by the two artists; part of the effect achieved was the result of a discordance between aural and visual impressions. . . . The audience, some fifteen or sixteen thousand people daily for six months, evinced reactions almost as kaleidoscopic as the sounds and images they encountered. Varèse’s widow, also known for her literary translations, published only the first volume of a promised fuller biography.

VERTOV, DZIGA (2 January 1896–12 February 1954; b. David Abelevich Kaufman) Among the greatest early films about the production and experience of film, his “documentary” Man with a Movie Camera (1929) portrays people and other moving objects filmed unaware of a camera and thus seen as never before. The recurring motif of one man with a camera on a tripod becomes the principal AFTERIMAGE, all in a silent White & Black style reflecting Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin (1927) made only slightly before. Vertov’s style of rapidly moving from one image to another, shooting subjects at different distances, sometimes splitting his screen and both speeding up and slowing down, epitomizes MONTAGE meant to reflect modern life and machinery; the aim of his KinoEye was revealing images “inaccessible to the human eye.” Influential at the time for the quality of its imagery and editing, as well as its anti-theatrical bias, Man with a Movie Camera established a standard for documentaries in general and films about film in particular. Later filmmakers outside Russia appropriated Vertov’s name to advertise their own higher ambitions. Music groups and composers such as Michael Nyman have added soundtracks to Vertov’s silent footage. Vertov himself made other films before dying young of cancer. His younger brother Mikhail Kaufman (1897–1980), who appeared as the onscreen cameraman in his older brother’s classic, later made his own films in Russia while their much younger brother Boris Kaufman (1906–80) went West, studying film in

200 • VIDEO ART Paris and later working in America where he won an Academy Award for “Best Cinematography” in On the Waterfront (1954). So richly various was the fate of these siblings.

VIDEO ART (c. 1960) The pioneer here was NAM JUNE PAIK, who realized early in the 1960s that magnets applied to points outside a live TV screen could distort its kinetic image. Paik later placed an electrified wire across a reel of recorded videotape, thereby causing erasure every few seconds. Additionally, he was among the first to assemble several monitors into unified objects called video sculptures. Once the portable video camera became commercially available, artists were among the first to purchase it. I remember Robert Whitman using one to tape his outdoor Mixed-Means piece in 1967, no doubt discovering on the small screen an image considerably different from that available on black-andwhite film. Two years later, I saw Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider’s Wipe Cycle, which exploited the new medium’s capability to produce quickly a picture of the scene before it, making video different from film, which needs to be photographically developed before being shown. Technically, video depended upon advances in the technology of magnetic tape that was previously used for sound recording (in contrast, say, to HOLOGRAPHY, which depended upon film technology). Though video producers could use switchers and other devices to combine images in live time (such as splitting the screen image into discrete parts or setting foreground images against a different background), one audio technique that at last count could not be reproduced was multitracking, which is the layering at equal strength on a single tape of separately generated video material. Once the cost of portable cameras decreased, video became a popular art medium, much like photography before it, so that one measure of artistry became the creation of work different from the very common run. Some used video to document live performances; others, such as Amy Greenfield, exploited its different scale to “film” performances that were never meant to be seen live. Stephen Beck eschewed the camera completely for synthesizers that could create images never seen before; Bill Viola (1951) and Bucky Schwartz (1932–2009), among others, realized perceptual incongruities

unique to the new medium, while Davidson Gigliotti (1939) and Mary Lucier (1944) used several monitors to portray a continuous image that ran from screen to screen. It was perhaps unfortunate that video art developed in the 1970s and 1980s, when certain content-based fads became more acceptable in critical discourse than before. By the 21st century, many prominent video artists had done work that dated, not for technical reasons (as the best early photography is still exhibited), but because of transiently fashionable content. It is indicative that the esthetics of COLLAGE, long passé in all other arts, had a currency in video art, along with literal representation, journalistic commentary disguised as Leftish agitprop, and, alas, a limited sense of what this new medium can do.

VIENNA GROUP (late 1950s) Several of the most experimental German-language poets gathered in Vienna in the late 1950s, and, in the manner of ambitious Europeans (but not comparable Americans), declared themselves a group-group: Friedrich Achleitner (1930), H. C. Artmann, Konrad Bayer (1932–64), Gerhard Rühm (1930), and Oswald Wiener. They worked with visual poetry, language games, and alternative structures, among other innovations. Gerhard Rühm’s Mann und Frau (1972), for instance, is a book approximately 8½” square with pages composed of lines, large alphabet letters drawn the hand, pages cut horizontally in half, and a few German words. The importance of the Vienna Group in Europe notwithstanding, few English translations of their work exist, none of them particularly complete. Certain discriminating German-speaking colleagues of mine consider Wiener’s Die Verbesserung von Mitteleuropa (The Improvement of Middle Europe, 1969) the most substantial experimental novel after ARNO SCHMIDT’s works. The standard German anthology of the Vienna Group suffers from the omission of another Viennese poet, Ernst Jandl (1925–2000), who in certain respects seemed more interesting (if only for his poems originally in English).

VILLA, JOSE GARCIA (5 August 1908–7 February 1997) Born in the Philippines, when it was still an American colony sort of, and educated at the universities of New Mexico and Columbia, he preferred to work not in the


languages of his home country but in English. For his Have Come, Am Here (1942), he claimed a new rhyming scheme that he called “reversed consonance”: “The last sounded consonants of the last syllable, or the last principal consonant of a word, are reversed for the corresponding rhyme. Thus, a rhyme for near would be run; or rain, green, reign.” Innovative, I suppose, but not influential. His next departure marked Villa as a typographic poet in the tradition of E. E. CUMMINGS, focusing upon expression through visible inventions. His “Sonnet in Polka Dots,” for instance, consists of fourteen lines of just the letter O, distributed horizontally as though the letters stand for words. Other Villa poems have syntactically normal sequences of words, punctuated, however, with commas that give them a different rhythm and meaning: “Moonlight’s, melody, alone, has, secrecy,/ To, make, watermelons, sweet, and, juicy.” Villa also wrote heightened prose reflecting his colonial upbringing. Perhaps because of his exotic background, his work in the 1950s was accepted by mainline magazines and commercial book publishers who wouldn’t otherwise accept such experimental writing. However, as he didn’t exploit his special background as well as, say, Joseph Brodsky (1940–96) in the next generation, Villa fell into obscurity, even while residing in Manhattan’s West Village. Sad it was that later avant-garde poets tended to forget about him, at least until Penguin published Doveglion: Collected Poems (2008).

VILLA-LOBOS, HEITOR (5 March 1887–17 November 1959) The most prominent Brazilian composer of his generation, Villa-Lobos had an illustrious career that began with his collecting of folk songs in his native country. The pianist Artur Rubinstein (1887–1982), meeting him in Brazil, asked for a composition, which VillaLobos produced as Rudepoema (1921–26), a work for solo piano that was technically so daunting that only the greatest virtuosos could play it. In 1923, VillaLobos went to Europe, where he stayed for several years establishing his reputation as a Brazilian abroad, which is to say an exotic in Europe. Returning home in 1930, he became active in music education, eventually founding a conservatory. Essentially self-taught as a composer, he developed graphic notation, using the shapes in drawings and photographs as outlines for his melodies. For instance, The New York Skyline (1939) reportedly depended upon a photograph for initial guidance. Prolific, he produced over 2,000 discrete compositions.


Villa-Lobos’s principal compositional departure, which had considerable influence, was combining Brazilian folk rhythms with J. S. BACHIAN counterpoint, producing nine numbered pieces for various instrumental and vocal ensembles. The most famous is probably Bachianas brasileiras #5 for the unusual combination of voice and eight cellos. Apart from everything else Villa-Lobos did, these “re-Bachs” have survived, initially for establishing one way of appropriating the 18th-century German master for the 20th century.

VIRTUAL REALITY (c. 1990) In 2000 I wrote: This is a technology whose artistic possibilities have scarcely been discovered. Thanks to glasses over your eyes and earphones over your ears, your eyes and ears can be infiltrated with materials that transport your head into other realms. The visual element in particular generally comes from a computer. Because firsthand experience of virtual reality is scarce, the idea of virtual reality has probably had more imaginative impact. Not untypically, the book Virtualities (1998) is less about virtual reality as such than short video installations as “undoubtedly the most complex art form in contemporary culture.” Rethinking, nearly two decades later: “Virtual” was coined around 1960 by computer developers for “not physically existing but made to appear by software.” In Ted Nelson’s classic formulation, “Reality we have to take as a given; virtuality is whatever we make it.” The epithet Virtual Reality enters art discussion in the 1990s to identify technical getups involving headphones, goggles, and electrified gloves that, once turned on, so to speak, create for the individual spectator some other worldly non-psychedelic experience. Since its commercial uses were flight simulation, automobile design, military training, and electronic games, by the middle 2010s over 200 companies were reportedly developing products exploiting VR, while other major corporations had research departments working on it. When I saw in the 1990s a presentation for artists by the sometime musician Jaron Lanier (1960), then VR’s Johnny Appleseed, I expected more VR art, which didn’t happen or at least has not happened yet.

VISUAL ART Not too long ago this epithet encompassed painting, sculpture, and perhaps prints. However, from the 1960s onwards other sub-terms became popular among

202 • VISUAL FICTION people trained in and appreciative of visual arts. Among these new monikers were environment, installation, book-art, performance, photography, video art, and, most radically, conceptual art. Individuals trained in the visual arts began to produce works falling into two or more of these new categories. Once these new sub-arts were exhibited within art galleries and discussed in magazines traditionally covering painting and sculpture, they could be taught in classrooms in art colleges (though less likely in liberalarts universities). For a while, especially in the 1970s, the new arts were portrayed as being at war with the traditional arts, which were sometimes deemed “dead.” However, even within the recognizable media of painting, sculpture, and drawing the strongest avant-garde works have survived.


VISUAL POETRY (c. 325 B.C.) This is my preferred term for minimal, customarily nonsyntactical language that is visually enhanced to a significant degree. It differs from pattern poetry, where the edges of conventionally syntactical horizontal lines define a perceptible shape; from CONCRETE POETRY, which at its purest identifies a materialist attitude toward language, wholly apart from syntax and semantics; and from whatever it was that WILLIAM BLAKE did (consider, word + image). Thus, the term “visual poetry” is applicable to the word-signs of ROBERT INDIANA, “eyeye” of Aram Saroyan (with its hint of eyeglasses), “Forsythia” of MARY ELLEN SOLT, Paul Van Ostaijen’s “Zeppelin,” and the door-high towers of JOHN FURNIVAL, among many others. It differs as well from Poesia Vivisa, which was an Italian term, popular in the 1970s, for visual art that incorporates words, usually handwritten, along with pictures, usually photographs, largely for political content, and thus formally updates the genre of William Blake. Replicas of the last appeared in the 21st century, mostly in America. An extension is Visual Fiction, which is the preferred term for narrative that depends upon changes in roughly continuous pictures, usually eschewing words. Among this art’s major practitioners are Frans Masereel, Duane Michals, Milt Gross, and Lynd Ward.

VKHUTEMAS (1920–25 or 1931) The Soviet term for Higher Technical-Artistic Studios, established first in Moscow in 1920 and then in both Petrograd and Vetebsk the following year. Independent of one another, they nonetheless became important for teaching and theoretical discussions, especially of CONSTRUCTIVISM. Among the artists on the faculties were KAZIMIR MALEVICH, WASSILY KANDINSKY, Alexandr Rodchenko, and VLADIMIR TATLIN. A sort of visiting lecturer at that time, NAUM GABO remembered seven departments: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Ceramics, Metalwork and Woodwork, Textile, and Typography, but general discussions were held and seminars conducted among the students on diverse problems where the public could participate, and artists not officially on the faculty could speak and give lessons. Gabo continues, During these seminars, as well as during the general meetings, many ideological questions between opposing artists in our abstract group were thrashed out. These gatherings had a much greater influence on the later development of constructive art than all the teaching. One sign of the quality of its education is student work that has survived, even if its artists are not remembered. For an example, consider the pastiches made in 1924 from MAYAKOVSKY poems by a student named Yuri Rozhkov, who is otherwise forgotten. (As recently as 2015 were they exhibited in New York.) Qualitatively, the Vkhutemas academies represented the Soviet equivalent of the Bauhaus, though, like so many other independent movements in Russia at the time, they fell by the early 1930s under central party control.

VORTICISM (1913–18) Perhaps the most provocative movement in the history of British visual art, Vorticism began over a quarrel between the London critic Roger Fry (1866–1934) and the writer-painter WYNDHAM LEWIS when the latter declared an allegiance to Italian Futurism,


which had just emerged on the continent. Reflecting Italian influence, the Vorticists produced visual art filled with angular lines and poetry filled with hysterical declamations, some of which appeared in Lewis’s two-shot magazine BLAST. Vorticism is sometimes characterized as the most advanced version of British abstract art. Among those joining Lewis were younger artists such as David Bomberg (1890–1957) and HENRI GAUDIER-BRZESKA, and emerging


writers, such as EZRA POUND, who coined the term “Vorticism,” and T. E. Hulme (1883–1917) who wrote the “Vortex” manifesto in 1913. Hulme’s 1914 lecture on “Modern Art and Its Philosophy” is said to be the best introduction to Vorticist esthetics. Perhaps for the same reasons that British cultural institutions ignored DADA and hardly acknowledged SURREALISM, Vorticism did not survive the end of World War I.


WAGNER, RICHARD (22 May 1813–13 February 1883) Aside from his indisputable contributions as a composer, credit him with three extraordinary departures: The first is attenuated music mostly devoid of any semblance of sprightly rhythm. Slowness became his SIGNATURE move that made his music instantly identifiable to listeners after hearing only a few bars. In part because his music is so drawn out, Wagner’s operas often run twice the length of the customary maximum of 150 minutes, incidentally disregarding the conventions of Italian operas popular elsewhere in the 19th century. That Wagner’s elongated operas have overcome this forbidding DISADVANTAGE, to be widely performed to this day, is a measure of their superior substance. With this departure, he perhaps originated the principle, more familiar in 20th century architecture, that less can be more or, in his case, slower can be faster, sort of. His second departure is the ideal of a Gesamtkunstwerk, as he called it, usually translated as a Total Work of Art, where the composer prescribes all elements within a theatrical presentation – not only its scenery and specific theatrical effects but, in a precedent rarely imitated, its libretto. Skilled at coining intimidating Teutonic words, Wagner called his last opera, Parsifal (1882), a Bühnenweihfestspiel (a stage-consecrating festival play, maybe) and Zukunftsmusik (music of the future, probably). His third extraordinary achievement was getting a government, in his case Ludwig II’s Bavaria, to top other bidders in building exclusively for him a theater north of Beyreuth, Germany, officially known as Richard-Wagner-Festspielhaus (1876), solely for showcasing his operas, as indeed it does to this day. Seating nearly two thousand people, with an orchestra pit unusually under the stage (rather than in front of it), this Festspielhaus has acoustics so fine that recordings are still made there.


Are MARK TWAIN, CHUCK JONES, and myself scarce in finding Wagner’s Teutonic extravagance to be funny? After reading Twain’s “At the Shrine of St. Wagner” (1891), see Jones’s What’s Opera, Doc? (1957), perhaps the single greatest seven-minute Hollywood cartoon ever made, that redoes Wagner so memorably the generations of younger Americans can recall Porky Pig’s “kill the wrabbit.” (Over one hundred times have I enjoyed this classic.) Nonetheless, the last time I saw a Wagner opera at New York’s Metropolitan Opera (his Parsifal, 2018), nobody else was laughing, at least not audibly. Too bad the great Twain wasn’t seated beside me to appreciate such CONCEPTUAL (ir)reverence.

WARHOL, ANDY (6 August 1928–22 February 1987; b. Andrew Warhola) Surely the most audacious of those artists initially classified as POP, Warhol created in the early 1960s representational paintings that, in retrospect, seem designed to violate several earlier rules for “high art.” Originally a commercial artist with a reputation for drawing shoes, Warhol used silkscreening processes to transfer photographs and advertising imagery to fine-art canvas. Whereas most artists create images he “found” them, mostly familiar, that were transformed – enlarged, recolored, reshaded – to emphasize pictorial qualities partly reflective of the silkscreening process, and partly reflective of Warhol’s tasteless use of flat coloring. Initially a graphic artist, Warhol repeated images interminably in grids previously unknown in representational art, audaciously drawing upon popular iconography, as in 210 Coca-Cola Bottles (1962); horrifying public events, as in Atomic Bomb (1963), Car Crash (1963), and Race Riot (1964); and the faces of either celebrities (Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor) or art collectors, who were flattered by being subjected to


the same style of repetitive portraiture as that accorded celebrities, nearly all signs of aging neatly removed. While his initial strategy was making the familiar unfamiliar, his celebrity paintings delivered the converse truth developed by commercial advertising – that reproduction in many venues can successfully make something unfamiliar very familiar. Around this time Warhol also made radically underedited films that depended upon the casual performances of eccentric, moderately compelling people (none “stars,” though some aspired to be) and then upon projection at speeds slower than the customary twenty-four frames per second, sometimes for several hours at a stretch. Of the latter, none rivaled Chelsea Girls (1966), which became less insufferable when Warhol cleverly projected two images simultaneously, side by side. In Outer and Inner Space (1966), he made ingenious use of an early video recorder, in this case to “film” a comely young woman named Edie Sedgwick (1943– 71), responding in live time to a video image of herself. The film critic J. Hoberman (1948) writes, “Becoming in a sense her own audience, the ‘live’ Sedgwick often seems startled, distracted, even sometimes distressed by the effect of having her own voice whispering in her ear.” Though Andy Warhol’s Index (Book) (1967) remains a model of inventive BOOK-ART, his other books, mostly of transcribed prose or modest collections of drawings, did not survive as well as his most famous aphorism: “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” Warhol was also one of several nouveau celebrities, the poet ALLEN GINSBERG being another, who made unashamed homosexuality more acceptable, at least to the mass media, if not to sophisticated society in general. No other possibly major modern painter learned to capitalize so well upon what was once called “selling out” (his only rival for this superlative being SALVADOR DALI), and none ever earned so much money, manufacturing thousands of images. Though the subversive point of Warhol’s esthetic strategy was obliterating the distinction between high art and graphics, the distinction nonetheless survived, while many patrons-come-lately who thought they were commissioning or purchasing high art got stuck with decoration, while certain Warhol dealers reportedly still have lots of unsold stock. Since forgeries were easy, while too much was produced by assistants before receiving Warhol’s signature, the estate shrewdly established an “Authentication Board” that, however, once its decisions were disputed, was dissolved after sixteen years.


Indeed, consider that Warhol’s most subversive achievement, whose full measure is not yet apparent, might have been getting a large number of moneyed people to overpay, not only for his art and the brica-brac of his estate but for the publication of books by and even about him. Though accurate figures are hard to come by, consider that, though Warhol probably earned more money than any other artist in history, perhaps no other artist disappointed so deeply the moneyed people investing in him. Why Warhol gave up producing experimental art remains a mystery; perhaps he thought he could do nothing else new and so feared becoming, say, another WILLEM DE KOONING, who would spend half of his adult life haunted by an inability to produce work equal to his acclaimed earlier masterpieces. Perhaps Warhol lost heart after being seriously wounded in 1968. He sought stardom because he thought it would increase the monetary value of everything he produced (and at times should have discarded), as indeed it did. As Warhol no longer made consequential art, it was no small achievement for him to remain to his death a pseudo-cultural celebrity in this fickle country, surviving the mistaken predictions of those who thought him strictly a fifteen-minute man, but also becoming an unfortunate model for aspiring younger artists who con themselves into believing that publicity – any publicity – can be more important than respect from professional peers or critics. Perhaps Warhol’s most extraordinary posthumous creation, meriting the greatest respect, was an eponymous foundation that rivals the less prosperous Pollock-Krasner for ranking as the most consequential of its kind. Rachel Bers’s slipcased three-volume report on the first twenty years of its activities (2007) is awesomely incomparable – indeed, measurably avant-garde in its own way, implicitly demonstrating the truth that private foundations can better support excellence in American art than all the government agencies combined.

WARNER BROTHER’S CARTOONS (1930–68) Collectively, they were the best; only the FLEISCHERS’ studio came close. (DISNEY became generally more skilled at merchandizing.) The artists working at Termite Terrace, as the Warner cartoon production studio was called, had a rich collection of mature characters (including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Speedy Gonzales, Porky Pig, Sylvester & Tweety, the Road Runner and his pal Wile E. Coyote), the most

206 • WEBERN, ANTON virtuosic vocal stylist of all in Mel Blanc; and the strongest music director in Carl Stalling (1891–1972), whose most memorable compositions were released in the 1990s on audio-only compact disks (sans images). Since the Warner fare was six-minute films that were meant to be screened before the feature, the Hollywood studio chiefs didn’t much care about content, let alone form. Nor did the Hollywood censors of the 1940s and 1950s oversee, enabling Warner cartoon directors to slip through certain images that would have been unacceptable in feature films. Some of the spiky quality of Warner toons comes from working for a mentally absentee unit boss who reportedly opened group screenings with “Roll the trash.” These short films might have been forgotten when Warner ceased producing them in 1969, were their handiwork not revived on television, initially for children on Saturday mornings, eventually for adults with the establishment in America of a cable television channel that initially broadcast film cartoons around the clock. (One truth that should not be forgotten is that Warner toons, unlike Disney’s, were originally made as much for adults as for children.) What continually impresses me esthetically about the best Warner cartoons is how much action and characterization is compressed into their standard six-minute form. Nearly all the Warner toons were made by four directors – Robert McKimson (1910–77), Friz Freleng (1906–95), Robert Clampett (1913–84), and CHUCK JONES. Another masterful animator, TEX AVERY, collaborated with them at the beginning in the 1930s, but left around 1940 to create his havoc elsewhere, fortunately leaving behind his most successful creation – Bugs Bunny. A second truth is that two choice characters – Bugs and Daffy Duck, different though they are – inspired the best Warner work. My own additional thesis is that the very best Warner toons involve music, usually classical music: What’s Opera, Doc (1957, dir. Chuck Jones), The Corny Concerto (1943, dir. Robert Clampett), The Rabbit of Seville (1950, dir. Charles M. Jones), all of which I’ve seen many times, and would gladly see again anytime. Though I’ve been watching Warner toons with enthusiasm for decades, I cannot tell for sure, unless I know in advance, which of the four directors is responsible for which films, so dominant was their influence upon each other and/or the studio style. Thanks to my preference for these six-minute gems, I find it almost impossible to sit through feature-length films and so rarely do. In 1985, Warner’s, not Disney’s, became the first animation studio to have a full-scale retrospective at

MoMA, which, in addition to screening their films regularly for a few months, put the animators’ drawings on its walls. Reviewers of this exhibition dubbed the Warner masters “among the century’s great humorists,” as indeed they are, “who have made an invaluable contribution to the culture that only in recent years has begun to receive the outpourings of appreciation it deserves.” In the 1990s, a much larger corporation still partly named Warner sponsored first Tiny Toon Adventures, their first animated series produced expressly for television, and then Animaniacs, a television series that seemed better than other later toons, if only for attempting with sporadic success to capture the quality of these classic Warner shorts.

WEBERN, ANTON (3 December 1883–15 September 1945; b. A. Friedrich Wilhelm von W.) It was Webern, more than any other composer born in the 19th century, who explored the possibility of less becoming more, which is to say the esthetics of MINIMALISM. Indicatively, the initial Columbia Masterworks edition of his The Complete Music fits on only four long-playing disks, with eight sides, containing less than three dozen works. Raised in Vienna, taking a doctorate in musicology (and thus perhaps becoming the first academically certified musicologist to become a distinguished composer), Webern was ARNOLD SCHOENBERG’s initial pupil, and he wrote the first critical appreciation of his master’s music. Along with Alban Berg (1885–1935), a less avant-garde composer, Webern was in almost daily contact with Schoenberg from 1906 to 1912. Meanwhile Webern earned his living as a conductor, mostly of provincial and radio orchestras (before the latter became more prestigious). Though subsequent composers admire Webern’s strict observance of SERIAL rules, the layperson tends to hear his works as spare, intricate, and nonrepresentational. Webern’s compositions are typically for small ensembles; several of them incorporate poetic (German) texts. At the premiere of his Six Pieces for Orchestra, Opus 6, on 31 March 1913, “Hissing, laughter, and applause vie[d] for prominence during and immediately after the new Webern pieces [were] performed,” according to Richard Burbank. A group of composers and musicians, mostly unknown and conservative, attend[ed] this concert


intent on causing a disturbance. Webern shout[ed] from his seat that the human baggage must be removed from the concert hall. The police arrive[ed] and [were] ineffective in securing order. I remember a week-long Webern festival at Juilliard in early 1995, when a short piece played on various instruments by three students was followed by another miniature played by, say, five different students and then yet another with four more students, and so on, apparently drawing upon an endless supply of accomplished young performers. I realized that perhaps the most appropriate performance medium for Webern is not an orchestra or even a single chamber group but, uniquely perhaps, a populous, first-rank music conservatory. Not until Opus 17 (1924), Drei geistliche Volkslieder (Three Spiritual Folksongs, sometimes translated as Three Traditional Rhymes), does Webern fully adopt the Schoenberg formulation of the SERIAL row. Of Opus 21 (1928) and Opus 22 (1930), the conductor Robert Craft (1923–2015) wrote, “Here is Webern writing small sonata-breadth pieces with expositions, developments, recapitulations, codas, and with his only material the purest of contrapuntal forms, the canon.” Opus 21, in particular, broaches subsequent multiple serialization, allowing the particular tone-row to influence other musical dimensions. The music writer Paul Griffiths contends that only in his Symphony (1928) does Webern finally realize “the potential of the new technique for creating densely patterned music.” Everything he composed thereafter was strictly serial. Unlike his mentor Schoenberg, Webern did not double back. In the early 1930s, he incidentally produced a brilliant orchestration of the Recercar from J. S. Bach’s A Musical Offering. Though his compositions were proscribed by the Nazis, Webern continued to live in Austria during World War II, working as a music publisher’s proofreader. While taking a pre-bedtime smoke outside at his son-in-law’s rural house, he was accidentally shot dead by an American soldier. To certain prominent younger European composers immediately after World War II, Webern became an influence greater than his sometime teacher Schoenberg.

WEEGEE (12 June 1899–26 December 1968; b. Usher/Arthur H. Fellig) A naturalized New Yorker of Polish birth, he adopted the name Weegee by Americanizing the orthography


of the “Ouija” board and liked to call himself “Weegee the Famous,” which would be an embarrassing claim, were it not indeed prominent, at least among photographers and newspaper readers. Essentially self-taught in photography, he worked at various times as an assistant to commercial photographers, as a darkroom helper, and as a streetwise freelance before becoming a professional employed mostly by newspapers. A serious crime photographer, Weegee lived for many years across the street from Manhattan’s police headquarters. He obtained a special radio that received emergency signals initially destined for firemen and the police; he also installed a portable darkroom in his car. Customarily sleeping fully dressed, he arrived early at New York crime scenes, eventually claiming to have photographed more than five thousand violations in ten years (or more than one every day). As a photographic artist, Weegee’s forte was distinctively realistic pictures, customarily of shocking nighttime urban scenes. Depending upon a Speed Graphic camera and a brighly intrusive flashbulb, his best pictures emphasize black and white, to the neglect of gray, which was otherwise thought to be the most subtle color in blackand-white photography. In the 1950s, more conscious of himself as an artist, Weegee began adopting mirrors and kaleidoscopic lenses, among other visual reprocessors, also producing a body of distinguished abstract and abstracting work. However, even photographs produced with these means depend upon familiar subjects: in Italian critic Daniela Palazzoli’s (1942) summary: Marilyn Monroe with her mouth stretched out in a grotesque kiss, Elizabeth Taylor with exaggerated elongated eyelashes. . . . And Charles de Gaulle, too, all nose and ears, Dwight D. Eisenhower with a smile stretching from eye to ear, Khrushchev like a Roman emperor as seen by Walt Disney. For a 1948 film usually screened as Weegee’s New York, he drew upon primitive color film to shoot Manhattan at a very slow speed early in the morning, so that moving lights become a blur, the colors of flashing signs superimpose, and the sunrise becomes a momentous event. For background music he used Leonard Bernstein’s Fancy Free (1944), which never sounded so good. In the film’s second half, depicting a crowded Coney Island on a sunny summer’s day, Weegee’s camera is insultingly nosy, watching people dress and undress, fat girls sunbathing, and so forth. Because of his favoring cheap color stock, the sand often looks like snow and beach eroticism is washed out. Its eccentricities notwithstanding, Weegee’s ranks among the great

208 • WELLES, ORSON NEW YORK CITY films. Incidentally, a Hollywood producer purchased the film rights to Weegee’s Naked City book, but had the final film directed by another. A 1997 Weegee retrospective at New York’s International Center of Photography was a rich first-rank exhibition, establishing previously unknown excellence as only a pioneering retrospective can.

WELLES, ORSON (6 May 1915–9 October 1985) By most measures, Welles was the most inspired and courageous creator of live theater ever in America; incidentally, he directed at least two great movies and was a masterful radio artist. Running away from Kenosha, Wisconsin, his birthplace, Welles made his way to Dublin, Ireland where, at the precocious age of sixteen, he joined the famed Abbey Theatre; within five years, he was back in the United States directing audacious adaptations of Shakespeare, in addition to new plays, initially for the Federal Theatre Project and then for his own Mercury Theatre. Invited to work in radio, Welles made it a medium for the adaptation of classic literary narratives, including Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and both Seventeen and The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington. His 1938 production of H. G. Wells’s novel Invasion from Mars (popularly known as War of the Worlds) was so acoustically realistic that it created a panic across the nation. Welles’s first feature-length film, Citizen Kane (1941), weaves a complex story through the memories of several narrators, using wide-angle photography that enabled him to shoot continuous scenes by moving his camera and his actors, instead of by using conventional cutting. Drawing upon his radio experience, in only the second decade of sound films, Welles made feature films based on sound, not only of speech but of silence, as in the great scene where Kane surveys his abundant collections. (It was not for nothing that the complete soundtrack of Kane was once available on two long-playing records.) My own opinion holds that The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) is the greater film, if only for its soundtrack, drawing as it did upon Welles’s radio production, made only a few years before, of the text of Booth Tarkington’s novel. Using such radio conventions as a spoken introduction and spoken closing credits (including Welles’s identifying himself under the image of a fat microphone), the film incorporates sensitive acoustic shifts between foreground and background and

overlapping conversations. As his biographer Charles Higham (1931–2012) put it, Just as we constantly see people framed in uprights, half-glimpsed through doorways, or reflected in mirrors and windows, so we hear their muffled voices through doorways or in the far distance of rooms, floating down a stairway or mingled with the measures of a dance or the hiss and clang of a factory. The tragedy of Welles’s life was that he wanted most to make additional major films that, for various reasons, not entirely his fault, were never funded. Instead he produced minor works, none of which ever equaled the first two. It is easy to say in retrospect that his last forty years could have been better spent working in those two media whose production costs are generally lower, in which his genius was already established: live theater and radio. Incidentally, though most colorized versions of black-and-white classics are embarrassingly bad, the brown-tinged Ambersons, most frequently seen on Turner Network Television, is not.

WEST, MAE (17 August 1893–22 November 1980; b. Mary Jane W.) Aside from her achievements as a film star and sometime playwright, she will always be remembered as the master of a certain kind of aphorism that depended less upon a declared statement than innuendo, customarily implying sexual activity without saying so: CLERK: Goodness, what beautiful diamonds. WEST: Goodness has nothing to do with it, dearie. MAN: Tonight, you were especially good. WEST: Well. When I’m good, I’m very

good; but when I’m bad [pause], I’m better. It’s not the men in your life that matter; it’s the life in your men. Between two evils, I generally like to pick the one I never tried before. Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me? She’s the kind of girl who climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong.

No one had written any texts like these before her; few since. Rare is the radical theme that women can control men. Curiously, she is among the few women authors included in the canonical anthologies of aphorisms.


Otherwise, consider among her extraordinary achievements that she became in the 1930s a Hollywood “sex symbol” though she was only 5 feet tall and had already passed 40.

WIKIPEDIA (2001) An extraordinary 21st-century creation, this virtual institution developed a continually revised and expanding encyclopedia of knowledge. I doubt if anyone predicted it. Transcending the BRITANNICA, which dominated the Higher Information Biz if not for decades but for whole centuries, Wikipedia depends upon volunteers around the world to initiate entries and then correct, expand, and update them. Precisely because it operates without gatekeepers, Wikipedia exemplifies leaderless anarchism without honoring that epithet. Indicatively, avant-garde arts and artists are not excluded. Not as accurate as, say, Britannica (as I know from comparing two entries on me), Wikipedia actually reflects voluntary admiration, if not someone else’s love, for the chosen subjects. Regarding entries on artists it offers some hidden truths. Simply, if a figure of some prominence lacks an individual Wikipedia biography, consider that no one loves her or him enough to have initiated one. Secondly, if an entry details an artist’s career with, say, positions and even awards without characterizing her or his work, the implicit conclusion is that little can be said about her or his work as such, even by voluntary admirers. So attractive has the Wikipedia invention become that what began in American English now has comparable (if smaller) encyclopedic repositories in many of the world’s other languages.

WILDE, OSCAR (16 October 1854–30 November 1900; b. O. Fingal O’Flahertie Wills W.) The avant-garde Wilde is less the dramatist, who worked safely within Victorian conventions, than the essayist, particularly as an aphorist whose principal protomodernist theme was that art is primarily about materials and experience indigenous to art. Few writers in any language could create so many memorable knockout lines, whether in speech or in print, especially about art, artists’ lives, and the artistic process. Among them: The artist is the creator of beautiful things. Art never expresses anything except itself.


To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim. The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things. Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital. If you are an artist at all, you will be not the mouthpiece of a century, but the master of eternity. No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist. There seems to be some curious connection between piety and poor rhymes. Good artists give everything to their art and consequently are perfectly uninteresting themselves. [Upon arriving at New York City customs immigration] I have nothing to declare except my genius. In his tragically short life, Wilde was also a successful playwright; a father whose sexual tastes were primarily homoerotic; a litigant in a monumental libel case; a jailbird; and a bankrupt. About the last his monumental quip was, “I’m dying beyond my means.” It is scarcely surprising that plays, films, and other literary works have been based on his life, his smug detractors looking ever more foolish. My admittedly alternative opinion is that none of Wilde’s other work is finally quite as memorable as his aphorisms, which is to say that their excellence establishes a measure not equaled anywhere else in his work, perhaps because, to quote Wilde against himself, his life was not “perfectly uninteresting.” Nonetheless, theater professionals tell me that his greatest play, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), can still be presented, even by amateurs, more successfully that other British plays from their time (e.g., those by George Bernard Shaw, say).

WILFRED, THOMAS (18 June 1889–10 June 1968; b. Richard Edgar Løvstrøm) Wilfred is commonly credited as the first modern artist to use electric light not for illumination but as an autonomous artistic medium. Wilfred called this art “Lumia,” which might have become more important than his own name had his contemporaries been able to do it as well. He began in 1905, he wrote, “with a cigar box, a small incandescent lamp, and some pieces of colored glass.” By the 1920s he had developed the clavilux, a keyboard controller for light projectors and optical amplifiers, such as lenses and filters, which could endlessly vary the forms and colors of projected

210 • WILLIAMS, WILLIAM CARLOS light. As the critic Donna M. Stein writes, “The simplest clavilux consists of at least four projection units, each regulating a different function. Registers permit the coupling of one or more of the projection units to any of the manuals.” While several Wilfred claviluxes were permanently installed, he made portable models for recital tours. He also accompanied classical music concerts on his clavilux and designed stage backdrops. Wilfred had his own midtown Manhattan theater, Grand Central Palace, until it became an induction center during World War II. ‘Tis said that young JACKSON POLLOCK, while a student in New York in the early 1930s, regularly visited Wilfred’s “studio (named Institute of Light), where he sat for hours watching the gradual trajectories of colored lights in Wilfred’s Lumia compositions, swinging his head around to follow as if he recognized the trajectories as Wilfred’s gestures.” Wilfred’s last successful innovation was the freestanding light box whose screen would present, thanks to cleverly complementary color wheels, a continuously original visual stream whose AFTERIMAGE would be not one or another picture but a constant, ingratiating flow. I remember one on exhibition through the 1960s in the basement (yes, basement) of the MoMA . Titled Lumia Suite (Opus 158), 6 feet high and 8 feet across, it kept the eyes of the queuers occupied while they waited to enter the adjacent movie theater. This light machine seemed at the time an image-model for the rearprojected Joshua Light Show behind rock-music performances at the legendary Fillmore East theater (1966–71). Wilfred also wrote Projected Scenery: A Technical Manual (1965) that is filled with rich suggestions. Among the younger light artists favoring projections, perhaps the most ambitious and prolific was a German woman known only as Rosalie (1953–2017, b. Gudrun Müller), who did nearly all her work with German theaters from the mid-1980s into the 21st century. Though I never saw her presentations firsthand, the large illustrations in a thick book emblazoned with her name and “light art” (2011) are suggestive and impressively dazzling.

WILLIAMS, WILLIAM CARLOS (17 September 1883–4 March 1963) The more avant-garde W. C. Williams was less the poetplaywright-fictioner than the essayist who, out of his broad and generous sympathies, coupled with his professional independence as a family doctor in suburban

working-class New Jersey, was able to appreciate many of the most radical developments of his time. (This stands in contrast to T. S. ELIOT, who ignored them, reportedly keeping Williams unpublished in England during their almost common lifetimes.) In this respect, consider not only Williams’s early appreciation of GERTRUDE STEIN and JAMES JOYCE’s Work in Progress (aka FINNEGANS WAKE), but the essays and notes posthumously published as The Embodiment of Knowledge (1974). “Pure writing is represented by all whose interest is primarily in writing as an art, of far more interest to them than what it conveys,” Williams states there. “Writing as an art is of course completely inundated by journalism, which is meant to ‘put something over.’ But all other writing is more or less in the same class with journalism.” Vehemently opposed to Eliot’s high-literary bent, deriding his The Waste Land at a time when it was almost universally regarded as the greatest achievement of American literature, Williams emphasized the search for American speech and imagery. In his rewriting of American history (in In the American Grain [1925]), Williams was perhaps the first to question the white/European bias of most other accounts. Williams’s more avant-garde creative work was largely forgotten in his lifetime. In the early 1920s, he published a series of books, including Kora in Hell: Improvisations (1920) and Spring and All (1923), which were inspired by his friendship with the DADA artists in New York. Kora in Hell has examples of automatic writing, followed by brief explications (the scientist in Williams could not let these little pieces of SURREALISM go unexplained). Spring and All features a mock critical introduction, upside-down chapter heads, and other typographical abnormalities. The unnamed poems often comment ironically on the texts that precede or follow them. (Predictably, when these poems were reprinted during Williams’s lifetime, the experimental prose sections were removed and the poems given conventional titles.) At this time, Williams also wrote his first extended work of prose, The Great American Novel (1923), which makes fun of sentimental fiction by portraying a romance between a little Ford roadster and a truck. Williams’s later, long poem, Paterson (1946–62), incorporates historical FOUND TEXTS, overheard conversations, short lyric fragments, letters from friends, including young ALLEN GINSBERG asking for advice and Williams’s sometime college buddy EZRA POUND giving it, all on the theme of one American’s search for his local roots. —with Richard Carlin


WILSON, ROBERT (4 October 1941) As an American theatrical artist trained in visual art, Wilson knew from the beginning that his theater would emphasize striking images and then peculiar movements over scripts. His early PERFORMANCE also revealed his predisposition toward thinking big – using larger theaters, more performers, and gigantic props (requiring greater funding) than his theater predecessors did. Though much more abundant in some respects, Wilson’s theater broached unprecedented slowness in the movements of the principal performers. Wilson used amateurs who were clearly amateur, as well as physically impaired “freaks” who had never before appeared on stage, let alone much in public. Some of his images, such as a chorus of “black mammies,” could be audacious beyond belief. Much like J. S. BACH, say, Wilson would incorporate portions of earlier pieces into new ones that had completely different names. He produced silent operas with nonlinear narratives, epitomizing in his performances the theatrical development of SPATIAL FORM. Wilson’s single masterpiece, of those I have seen, was The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin (1973), which ran for some twelve hours, filling the stage of the Brooklyn Academy of Music with several score performers and many props. Its first three acts incorporated much of an earlier Wilson piece, The Life and Times of Sigmund Freud (1969), while the fourth act included much of Deafman Glance (1971). In the first act, as dancers move about the stage, one performer obliquely refers to Stalin by giving an effectively concise summary of dialectical materialism, itself spoken against background music drawn from various sections of Gabriel Fauré’s Messe de Requiem (1886–87). In the last act, a chorus of ostriches danced in unison. What did not initially make sense as intellectual exposition or as a theatrical script seemed reasonably coherent as a Mixed-Means performance experience. I’d see it again any time, which is, alas, unlikely. Much of Wilson’s later theatrical work was the production of operas in collaboration with composers as various as RICHARD WAGNER and PHILIP GLASS, more often in Europe than in his native America, where few of his American admirers have seen enough of it to make any definitive generalizations. He has been particularly receptive to accepting European commissions to produce “interpretations” of historical personages or events (much like the American playwright Paul Green, who made commissioned pageants for some Southern states). Proscenium stages may be his preference or an unfortunate limitation.


Wilson also has generously exhibited videotapes, drawings, furniture, costumes, and theater props in museums both prominent and obscure around the world. His early theater inspired elaborately detailed appreciations, really a model of their exhaustive kind, by Stefan Brecht, who published them in the 1970s in English not in America, where they were written, but in Germany.

WOOD, BEATRICE (3 March 1893–12 March 1998) A legendary woman artists’ woman artist, she began as a young American preppy studying both acting and painting in Paris before World War I, when both MARCEL DUCHAMP and the French writer Henri-Pierre Roché courted her. In New York in 1916, the threesome created the early DADA magazine The Blind Man, which was initially intended to defend the artistic value of Duchamp’s Fountain (ostensibly a urinal). She became prominent in the Manhattan salon sponsored by Walter and Louise Arensberg (at 33 West 67th Street). Relocating after World War II to Ojai, CA, Wood continued working mostly in ceramics, which she produced with avant-garde distinction, until her death, a few days after her 105th birthday. “I owe it all to chocolate and young men,” she (in)famously claimed.

WOOSTER STREET (MANHATTAN) (1966–99) At the height of ARTISTS’ SOHO, West Broadway was the main commercial thoroughfare, thanks to prominent galleries; but on Wooster Street one block parallel to the east, five blocks long, were the more significant DOWNTOWN arts institutions, beginning with the Anthology Film Archives, the Drawing Center, and the Kitchen for long spells: the Performance Group/Wooster Group and the Walter De Maria Earth Room permanently, in addition to many significant avant-garde figures – among them, the theater artists Richard Foreman, Kate Manheim (1945), and Hanne Tierney (1940); the arts archivist Larry Qualls (1945); the painters Michelle Stuart (1933), Joyce Kozloff (1942), Suzanna Tanger (1943), and Christopher Wilmarth (1943–87); the kinetic sculptor James Seawright (1936) and his wife the choreographer Mimi Garrard (1937); the critics Max Kozloff (1933) and Annette Michelson (1922). George Maciunas ran and

212 • WRIGHT, FRANK LLOYD derailed FLUXUS out of the #80 coop that he organized. The sculptor Charles Ross (1937) was one of its original partners (before he moved to a larger space across the street), while the choreographer TRISHA BROWN instructed her husband Joseph Schlichter to walk from their seventh-floor LIVING LOFT perpendicularly down the outside of the building and the writer/video artist Douglas Davis (1933–2014) had his studio in its basement until he died. Edit DeAk (1948–2017) and Walter Robinson (1950) published their newsprint Art-Rite (1973–78) out of #147. Long above the Paula Cooper Gallery, itself at 155 Wooster Street for decades, George Waterman (1937) amassed the hugest personal library of books about modern art. Nomadic art gallerists such as Larry Gagosian, Brooke Alexander, Charles Cowles, Colin de Land, Barbara Gladstore, and Heiner Friedrich occupied various sometime industrial spaces for various lengths of time. The war photographer Myles Tierney, Jr. (1965–99), grew up on Wooster Street. I lived there as well from 1974 to 2010, though I did not become aware of the measure of this entry until I moved away (to a less fertile address). I’ve read here and there about certain streets in Paris as comparably hospitable to excellent artists, especially around rue de Champagne-Première in pre-World War II France; but documentation is scarce.

WRIGHT, FRANK LLOYD (8 June 1869–9 April 1959) The ideal of Wright’s architectural philosophy was organicism, which he defined as successfully relating a

building both to its intrinsic purposes and its surrounding environment, so that “inside” and “outside” blend into each other. “Thus environment and building are one,” he wrote in A Testament (1957). Planning the grounds around the building on the site as well as adorning the building take on a new importance as they become features harmonious with the space-within-to-be lived-in. Site, structure, furnishing – decoration too, planting as well – all these become one in organic architecture. That accounts for why, in his private homes, such as the legendary Falling Water (1936), Wright’s architecture melts into its landscape and looks as though it belongs precisely where it is set. On the other hand, like other megalomaniacs, Wright didn’t always follow his own rules, creating in the original Guggenheim Museum in NEW YORK CITY (1959) an awkward showcase for both works of painting and sculpture that nonetheless conquered ventilation problems, which typically plague other museums. Wright’s Guggenheim, as it is commonly called, attained sculptural qualities by climaxing earlier Wright penchants for spirals and inverted ziggurats that visually echo VLADIMIR TATLIN’s legendary monument, in addition to constantly impressing its peculiarities upon everyone entering it. Not unlike other architects with few buildings to construct, Wright produced a wealth of essays and books thanks in part to his publishing patron, Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. (1910–99), whose father had also commissioned Falling Water.


ZAPPA, FRANK (21 December 1940–4 December 1993; b. Francis Vincent Z., Jr.) Familiar from his youth with avant-garde composers such as EDGARD VARÈSE, and thus musically more sophisticated than others involved with 1960s rock, Zappa tried at various times and in various ways to introduce avant-garde elements into the formally expansive popular music of the late 1960s. Because successful pop musicians were allowed to transcend the short time limits of the 45 rpm disk to create long-playing 33 rpm records, Zappa’s group, the Mothers of Invention (1964–69; 1970–71; 1973–75), produced music in twenty-five-minute stretches; the result were “concept albums” that he released on a label appropriately named Bizarre. Some of the stronger works mocked California fads and popular music itself. Freak Out (1966) includes “Return of the Son of

Monster Magnet,” subtitled “An Unfinished Ballet in Two Tableaux,” which appropriates the techniques of MUSIQUE CONCRÈTE. I once saw Zappa in a performance when he instructed various sections of the Fillmore East audience to perform preassigned sounds in response to his hand signals from the front of the stage. Once we got going, he said to himself, audibly and with proud irony, “wouldn’t PIERRE BOULEZ like that?” Here and elsewhere, Zappa’s conceited sense of humor is refreshing to some and disaffecting to others. He produced, with less success, not only orchestral scores but eccentric motion pictures, such as 200 Motels (1971) and Baby Snakes (1980). He was to his death perhaps the only alumnus of 1960s rock still capable of generating an esthetic surprise. Innately irrepressible, Zappa also released synthesizer arrangements of an 18th-century composer authentically named Francesco Zappa.


Biographical notes

Richard Carlin, long an editor in New York book publishing, commissioning the first two editions of this Dictionary, now works for Oxford University Press, in addition to writing his own books mostly about music. Mark Daniel Cohen works as a professor of philosophy and an assistant dean at The European Graduate School. Geof Huth, is a poet and sometime small publisher around Schenectady, New York. Huth’s work is based upon linguistic invention by himself and others, as well as radically unusual formats, including semi-objects, as he calls them. Gerald Janecek, an emeritus professor at the University of Kentucky, has authored Everything Has Already Been Written: Moscow Conceptualist Poetry and Performance (2018) and other books on Russian avant-garde literature. Katy Matheson (1948–2005) was a dance writer based New York City. Gloria S. and Fred W. McDarrah together produced The Photography Encyclopedia (1998). By himself, Fred was long the staff photographer at The Village Voice.

Michael Peters lives and teaches in upstate New York. John Rocco, after interning with Richard Kostelanetz, became a professor of English at SUNY Maritime College in Throgs Neck, NY. Igor Satanovsky, born in the Ukraine in 1969, works as a designer in New York publishing, in addition to publishing the Russian-language literary journal Novaya Kozha. Nicolas Slonimsky (1894–1995) was a pioneering conductor of American avant-garde music and later became a prodigious musical lexicographer. Fred Truck, born in Iowa and where he still remains, produced a chapbook of hieroglyphic visual poetry as well as Loops!! (1978), an edition of fifteen jars, each containing a Mobius strip and other unusual literary objects. An early user of desktop computers, Truck began publishing his Catalog of the Des Moines Festival of the Avant-Garde Invites You to Show (without really being there) (1979, 1982, 1984) out of his house.