5. Sweater Weather: this the country
My capacity for comprehension and analysis has been greatly hindered this week.
I don’t make figurative work. I’ve never really been interested in the figure, but that isn’t why I don’t make figurative work. In my senior year of undergrad, the art world was still having a contentious debate about Dana Schutz’s 2016 painting Open Casket, which depicted Emmett Till’s open casket, in the Whitney Biennial. Charles Gaines came to visit the sculpture department in the fall of 2016, and during his lecture he brought up the painting, saying something to the effect of “anytime anyone, no matter their race, depicts a Black figure in a modernist artistic discourse, there is a kind of violence because of the history of modernism.” I don’t think Gaines said this to say that no one can ever paint Black figures, but to bring awareness to this truism. I don’t make figurative work because I’m not interested in making figurative work, but also because I’ve never found a way to fully reconcile Gaines’s statement.
On Wednesday night, after writer Brandon Taylor “found out about the Chauvin verdict and the death of Ma’Khia Bryant at the same time,” he looked at paintings, at the work of Nicolas de Staël, which he describes here as “like watching someone tear themselves up in order to escape themselves.” Taylor considers how the de Staël’s Marathon, in particular, could be viewed as “a marathon of atrocities,” as it “captures perfectly the unrelenting, iterative element of America’s dystopia. It does feel demonic. It does feel like the exact opposite of the apocalypse. A kind of anti-apocalypse. We are together, yes, but we are in hell.”
This piece is necessary and tragic, filled with dynamic syntax and profound sentences and paragraphs trying to understand how people have normalized the state-sanctioned killings of children: “The fact that such a thing is possible is really a compound fact made up of several more insidious facts running all the way back to the idea that it was permissible for white people to steal the land of indigenous people and then import people from their home countries and enslave them for several centuries. Beckett himself could not contrive a stranger, weirder, more gruesome concept than the facts of this nation’s founding. It’s enough to drive you mad. To hold in your mind the raw facts of what it is to live in America today, what it is to be black in America today.”