Philip Guston, The Canvas, 1973, oil on canvas 67 x 79 inches, Zabludowicz Collection, UK
The Art Section begins the year with three texts that discuss what it means to be engaged with particular art forms, whether as an artist, interpreter, or critic. These conversations about the process, realization, and response to art intrigue me. This kind of dialogue is what sets The Art Section apart.
Art critic Peter Frank has written an appreciation of the recently deceased art critic and poet Peter Schjeldahl. Frank knew Schjeldahl and speaks of his colleague’s eloquence. I find the intertwining lineages of modern poetry and art criticism to be of great interest. There is something beautiful in the twisted paths these interrelations can take. Ada Calhoun, Schjeldahl’s daughter, discovered a cache of interviews on cassette tapes her father had made in the 1970s while working on a biography of the poet/art critic Frank O’Hara. The O’Hara biography was never completed did not come to fruition because Schjeldahl told O’Hara’s sister Maureen, the executor of O’Hara’s estate, that John Ashbery was a better poet. These remnants of an abandoned book provided the impetus for another book, Calhoun’s Also A Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father and Me.
In the previous issue of TAS, Phil Auslander dialogued with curator and writer Joey Orr about the artists who help bring the work of performance artists to life. Lyn Bentschik is a reperformer who has performed Marina Abramović’s The House with the Ocean View on numerous occasions. Auslander and Bentschik converse about the meaning and experience of performing another’s work. A note – Phil Auslander wrote on The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic for TAS in 2014, saying in “the context of (Robert) Wilson’s rigid formal framing, she (Abramović) seemed all too human. She sang in the show, as did (Willem) Dafoe. Neither of them should have, but there was something very humanizing, almost endearing (though also painful) about seeing them amateurishly plowing their way through songs.” I wonder whether a similar sense of vulnerable humanity emerges from watching a performer re-perform the work of another artist?
Art critic and historian Michaël Amy is in conversation with video and installation artist Tony Oursler. Oursler’s art bridges the gap between sculpture and video that expresses a dystopian vision. Amy’s conversation with Oursler focuses on what it means to be human now. At the end of the day, this is perhaps the essential question that the artist, poet, critic, and performer pursues in their work.
I leave you with these poems by Eugenio Montale in English and the original Italian. They speak so strikingly of time, conversation, and art. It was because of the exhibition Guston and the Poets that I first read the poems of Montale. And here we come full circle.
Wishing you the best in 2023,
The Art Section
Deanna Sirlin is an artist and writer from Brooklyn, New York currently living and working outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
Deanna Sirlin photo: Marie Thomas
20 Gennaio O 30 anni / January 20 or Age 30
Poem by Eugenio Montale