12 may. 2005

I recommend John Yau's piece in the APR on O'Hara and Ashbery as art critics. (I don't think it's available on line). He takes issue with my friend Raphael Rubinstein, among others, who say their art criticism is not particularly great, and offers some reasons why it is. I've found some of JA's writing somewhat perfunctory, but Yau makes me want to go back for a second look.

[finishing this post a little bit later]

Ashbery's low-key prose style is criticized by one observer as not up to the level of Seamus Heaney or Derek Walcott.

Also in this piece the idea put forward by some more theoretical art historians that writing about art by such poets is "fustian." I'd rather read a fustian poet on art than Hal Foster or any other such theoretician. I don't even know what fustian means but sign me up for the fustians. I don't want to look it up in the dictionary because I'm afraid it might mean something like "vaguely poetic and unrigorous, effete and purplish, given to unreasonable flights of hyperbole, indolent and self-absorbed."

Yau makes the very good point that Frank O'Hara is erased from the present-day MOMA. You would think his work there would be advertised more prominently, promoted or memorialized in some way. They should have a Frank O'Hara room there, a Frank O'Hara floor. Frank O'Hara tee-shirts and, god forbid, BOOKS, in the gift shop.

A catalogue essay on Pollock, produced at MOMA, that doesn't so much as mention O'Hara as the author of the first monograph on the painter. Even if you disagree with everything Frank O'Hara wrote about Pollock, and think it "fustian" and irrelevant, you might at least mention it. Good point, JY.


I liked too Yau's essay on Creeley's collaborations, which accompanies a museum catalogue on these collaboration that I have left behind in Kansas for the semester (now the summer). He points to the abstract nature of Creeley's poetry. very far from WCW's insistence on concrete particulars. Creeley can be concrete as well, of course, but that abstract tone is what makes him more distinctive.

Note to self: read more of John Yau's poetry.

3 comentarios:

James dijo...

My dictionary offers three definitions of "fustian"; the first two have to do with cloth. The third is "pretentious language".

Jonathan dijo...


Yes, and it's pronounced "fuh-shun." My "fustian" rhymes with Proustian and has a much richer definition.

Tim dijo...

Yes, do read more of John Yau's poetry. His last book (Borrowed Love Poems) is quite good.