14 ago. 2007

I got my copy of O'Hara's New Spanish Painting and Sculpture today. They are pretty inexpensive on the internet and justifiable I suppose as part of my collection of New York School items, though I don't really need this book for my research since I could just as easily look at it in the library. What puzzles me, though, is that peculiar "art catalogue speak." It's not ordinary language, an ordinary way of expressing ideas, but it's not technical stuff about how paint is put on canvas either. It's a rather stiff, abstract way of talking about artistic value. The terms of discussion have no referents either in everyday life or in the actual practice of creating art. Needless to say, I don't hear Frank's voice at all. Any other curator could have written that. There is nothing here to connect me to Frank O"Hara the poet, or even Frank talking about Larry Rivers. There are some insights into art there, maybe, but buried in that "art speak" prose. What's the origin of that language?

Orwell complained about this, already, in "Politics and the English Language." He said words like "plastic," 'human," "nature" had no reference. It's a code I don't understand. I could justify it as a technical language, but that's not what it is, really.

4 comentarios:

Andrew Shields dijo...

That language still exists, or at least it did a few years ago when I was translating for a lot of art catalogues. The worst thing about it was that I had the reputation of being the guy who did "literary" translations, and in the art world a "literary" contribution to a catalogue apparently means "incomprehensible."

Jordan dijo...

How much does that art monograph idiolect have in common -- structurally, I mean -- with the "showing-the-wounds" quality of so many published dissertations? Not a rhetorical question: I don't read much of either genre these days.

Jonathan dijo...

Yes, it still does exist.

I don't know what you mean by "showing the wounds."

Jordan dijo...

"Showing the wounds":

Published dissertations in which the author rails against or minimizes the importance of the presumed subject of his study, presumably to appease an advisor or committee that has allowed the study to exist in spite of their hostility to its subject.