Matthew Barney’s Mailer Mash-Up

Matthew Barney’s new film, River of Fundament, is a work of “pharaonic immodesty” loosely based on Norman Mailer’s “universally reviled” novel, Ancient Evenings. The “scatalogical excess” will “leave moviegoers covering their eyes”. It’s a mess, particularly towards the end, but an interesting one. “Barney, like Cocteau before him, understands that an element of camp or porn can be just the thing to recharge the old myths” (1,750 words)

How To Ruin A Cultural Institution

New York’s Museum of Modern Art emerged from its last redesign in 2004 “looking more and more like a fking department store”. Now it’s being enlarged, because director Glenn Lowry wants “a bigger fking department store”. And why? “For a decade now MoMA has been locked in a marketing battle with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The goal is to see which museum can be turned into the biggest tourist trap” (1,790 words)

Don’t Bowdlerize Balthus

Balthus was “the last of the mystics who transformed twentieth-century art”, along with Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Bonnard. But the Met’s exhibition, Balthus: Cats and Girls: Paintings and Provocations, is “extraordinarily frustrating”, because it takes such a narrow view of his work. “Who would imagine, knowing Balthus only from this show, that he was one of the greatest landscape painters of modern times?” (4,360 words)

When Condé Nast Was A Force For Good

In praise of Alex Liberman: photographer, sculptor, editorial director at Condé Nast for 30 years. “At Vogue you will still occasionally find a piece of writing or a photo spread that exudes the kind of mysterious ambience or atmosphere that Alex believed the magazine owed to its most discerning readers. But Anna Wintour rarely ventures beyond her comfort zone. Nobody believes they can afford to anymore” (1,600 words)

The Rectangular Canvas Is Dead

“Painting, which for centuries reigned supreme among the visual arts, has fallen from grace. Which is not to say that painting is dead, or dying. But the painter’s basic challenge, the manipulation of colors and forms and metaphors on the flat plane with its almost inevitably rectangular shape, is no longer generally seen as the primary place in the visual arts where meaning and mystery are believed to come together” (2,500 words)

Jacques Callot’s Line Sublime

Perl is so skilled at deriding bad art that I sometimes forget how well he writes of art he loves. As here. “Rarely have life’s sweetness and bitterness been embraced with more evenhanded genius than in the work of Jacques Callot. The seventeenth-century French printmaker finds an ethics of vision—a way of grappling with whatever the world has to offer—in the indomitable force and lucidity of his line” (3,570 words)

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