Thursday, April 02, 2009

Dateline Oakland Homicide Squad: His Name was W.H. Auden and He Said He was a Poet

REUNION, FL - APRIL 15:  Brittany <span class=Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Great fun in arts reviewing today. The kids shone, supplying multiple definitions of art and appropriate questions about the fact art so easily, so irresistibly, contorts to fit those definitions.

I showed my Chihuly pix and followed that up with Ken Baker's furious denunciation of the Chihuly show at the DeYoung, which probably sold more tickets than a rave. Then, I talked about how much 'story' -- explicit or implicit -- is present in "pre-modern" art, which I illustrated thus:

Musee des Beaux Arts W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.


Fall of Icarus - Peter <span class=

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus Pieter Breughel c. 1558; Oil on canvas, mounted on wood, 73.5 x 112 cm; Musees royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels

This is moral work, is it not, or at least philosophical?
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