Lucio Fontana


By its very nature, action painting is painting in the medium of difficulties.
–Harold Rosenberg, “The American Action Painters” (1952)

There exists my action, regardless of whether or not it is secured.
–Kazuo Shiraga, “Action Only” (1955)


Kazuo Shiraga
Challenging Mud (1955)


Kazuo Shiraga
painting with his feet for Life magazine
at the Nishinomiya factory of Jiro Yoshihara (1956)

Shozo Gutai

Shōzō Shimamoto
making a painting by shattering bottles (1956)


Murakami Saburō
Passing Through (1956)


Kazuo Shiraga
Work II (1958)


Shomei Tomatsu
Atomic Bomb Damage (1961)


Kazuo Shiraga
Black Sky (1990)

In our form of society, audience and understanding for advanced painting have been produced, both here and abroad, first of all by a tiny circle of poets, musicians, theoreticians, men of letters, who have sensed in their own work the presence of the new creative principle.

–Harold Rosenberg, “American Action Painters” (1952)


Frank O’Hara
(1926 – 1966)

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The experience, you will notice, the elements which enter the presence of the transforming catalyst, are of two kinds: emotions and feelings. The effect of a work of art upon the person who enjoys it is an experience different in kind from any experience not of art.

–T. S. Eliot

I wonder what anyone will make of these recordings, from the 1970s, of the very famous Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, author of the famous essay “Let’s Ban Applause!” (1962). The YouTube comments are total nonsense, of course. But perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from watching people make idiots of themselves by failing epically in their attempts to praise or blame. The same appalling spectacle can also be seen regularly over on, and I invite you all to have a look, when you get a chance, at customer reviews there. Horrifying, but instructive, and indicative of just how important it us for us to have decent critics in our culture. But enough of general issues. What’s actually going on in these specific videos? What would the author of our current readings have to say about these performances? What do you imaging Gould is trying to achieve here? Is he succeeding wonderfully, or is he yet another epic failure? Why? How?

Orlando Gibbons
“Lord Salisbury’s Pavan and Galliard”

William Byrd
Galliard No.6

But why in the world would Gould ever want to ban applause? And what might that have to do with arguments put forth in the critical writings of T. S. Eliot? Will the following piece of music offer any assistance as we attempt to answer that question?

Have A Fun Weekend!

Posted: February 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

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Ali Foreman Kline

At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act—rather than as a space in which to reproduce, re-design, analyze or “express” an object, actual or imagined. What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.

–Harold Rosenberg

Image  —  Posted: February 8, 2018 in Uncategorized

Arthur Goldhammer, translator of a volume of Camus’s Combat editorials, calls it “nonsense” to believe that “good translation requires some sort of mystical sympathy between author and translator.” While “mystical” may indeed be a bit of a stretch, it’s hard to look at Camus’s famous first sentence—whether translated by Stuart Gilbert, Joseph Laredo, Kate Griffith, or even, to a lesser degree, Matthew Ward—without thinking that a little more understanding between author and translator may have prevented the text from being colored in ways that Camus never intended.

Louise Bourgeois
Maman (Mommy)

A Taste for Rebellion

Posted: February 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

Student: How Is Addiction Related To Freedom?

The Cigarette’s Powerful Cultural Allure
January 11, 2014
NPR Weekend Edition (4 min 41 sec)

Nearly 20 percent of Americans still smoke, in spite of what we know about the dangers. Part of the reason is the allure of a cigarette, so elemental to classic scenes in movies, television shows and books. NPR’s Scott Simon speaks with Richard Klein, author of Cigarettes are Sublime, about smoking and American culture.


Klein Cigarettes Sublime

From Duke University Press

Cigarettes are bad for you; that is why they are so good. With its origins in the author’s urgent desire to stop smoking, Cigarettes Are Sublime offers a provocative look at the literary, philosophical, and cultural history of smoking. Richard Klein focuses on the dark beauty, negative pleasures, and exacting benefits attached to tobacco use and to cigarettes in particular. His appreciation of paradox and playful use of hyperbole lead the way on this aptly ambivalent romp through the cigarette in war, movies (the “Humphrey Bogart cigarette”), literature, poetry, and the reflections of Sartre to show that cigarettes are a mixed blessing, precisely sublime.

About The Author

Richard Klein is Professor of French at Cornell University and editor of Diacritics. He quit smoking while writing Cigarettes Are Sublime and has been nicotine-free ever since.

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To name a sensibility [i.e., a taste, a mode of life], to draw its contours and to recount its history, requires a deep sympathy modified by revulsion.

–Susan Sontag

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[F.W.J.] Schelling‘s parting shot, in the last paragraph of his final lecture, is a sharp reminder to the state that its quality will be judged by its contribution to public and private art.

In closing, let me say that it is a disgrace in those who have a direct or indirect part in governing the state not to have familiarity with or receptivity to art. Nothing honors princes and those in authority more than respect and encouragement of artists. It is a sad and shameful spectacle when those who have the means to promote art’s finest flowering waste their money on tasteless, barbarous, vulgar displays.

Even though the public at large may find it hard to grasp that art is a necessary, integral part of a state founded on Ideas, we should at least recall the example of antiquity, when festivals, public monuments, dramatic performances, and other communal activities together made up a single, universal, objective, and living work of art.

–F.W.J. Schelling, On University Studies (quoted from E.S. Shaffer’s “Romantic Philosophy and The University of Berlin”)

Lawmakers balk at potential cost of Trump’s military parade.

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(1919 to 1933)

Issued by Faber and Faber, the aggressively modern publishing house where T. S. Eliot worked.

Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983), Art historian and architectural scholar

Architectural historian. Born in Leipzig, Pevsner lost his post at Göttingen University on Hitler’s advent, and came to Britain in 1933. Pioneers of Modern Design (1936) and An Outline of European Architecture (1942) established his reputation and stimulated a popular interest in art and architecture. He taught at Birkbeck College, University of London (1942-69), and was Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge (1949-55). He sat on the editorial board of the Architectural Review, was art editor of Penguin Books, and in 1955 gave the Reith lectures on the ‘Englishness of English Art’. The Buildings of England (46 volumes, 1951-74) remains his monument.

This is a tremendous book about a subject that engages us all. On one level, it is simply a biography of the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, who came to England from Germany as a refugee in 1933 and wrote the magisterial Buildings of England series for Penguin. However, it is much more than the story of one man.

As befits the study of one of our greatest cultural historians, it is also a story of why architecture matters and, at a deeper level, how Europeans evolved the particular living spaces and political systems we see today.

German Design In Modern America

Posted: February 5, 2018 in Uncategorized

The Bauhaus school was the most influential art school of the 20th century, one whose approach to teaching, and understanding art’s relationship to society and technology, had a major impact both in Europe and the United States long after it closed. The Bauhaus style of looking at art and seeking new developments is seen to lay in the 19th century and in the anxieties about the soullessness of manufacturing and its products, and in fears about arts’ loss of purpose in society. The Bauhaus, a German word meaning ‘ house of building ‘, founded in 1919 in Weimer, Germany, by the architect Walter Gropius, aimed to merge the two schools of Fine Arts and Applied Arts in perfect harmony, and to reconcile the art and craft while producing the new aesthetics that we now know as design.

The closest post-medieval culture has come to synthesizing the best of folk art, high art, and industrial design may well have been three different movements from the early decades of the 20th century. I believe this is what Greenberg was hoping for when he wrote The Plight of The Public, in 1953. Though he did not say it aloud. So, what happened to the Bauhaus (Germany), De Stijl (Netherlands), and Constructivism? The were essentially derailed by WWII. Many of the artists and designers associated with this school did find there way to America, where they tried to start again. Some of the most interesting work of the later 20th century does come out o experimental schools such as the New Bauhaus, the Illinois Institute of Design, and Black Mountain College. However, the work from these schools tended either to be quickly appropriated into nascent ‘designer’ culture, or to remain so stridently avant-garde that it never found their way into everyday life. In a word, International Socialism never became a reality, and experimental art and design were compelled either to be assimilated by Capitalism or remain on the run from it. While, simultaneously, serious art, such as that produced by the New York School, ascended into the heavens. More on that topic anon. For now, enjoy these brief videos.


In some respect, impressively ahead of his time.

Industrial Revolution

Deep History

In recent decades, history as a discipline has increasingly portrayed humans as an exception in the story of life, as though all other life-forms were part of nature but humans somehow were not, or not quite. This book issues a profound and timely challenge to that implicit assumption and argues for an integration of deep and recorded human pasts. The challenge is profound, because it is at once methodological and philosophical, and it is timely in the way it resonates with concerns about our growing ecological footprint on the planet. This collaborative enterprise will appeal to students of human pasts in a variety of disciplines.

—Dipesh Chakrabarty, author of Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference

In Deep History: The Architecture of Past and Present, a multi-disciplinary team of historians, archeologists, paleontologists, primatologists, and anthropologists takes up the challenge of incorporating the past six million or so years into the record of human history. Combining open minds with scholarly rigor, the authors use linguistics and genetics, trails of bones, shells and crafted objects, dietary traditions, and kinship rules to follow our footloose species out of Africa and around the globe, along the way dismantling barriers between disciplines that have outlived their usefulness.

—Sarah B. Hrdy, author of Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection


This collection touches on a wide range of anthropological issues, including family and marriage, myths, and rites, the environment and its representation, and constraint and freedom. The essays encompass more than forty years of analysis and constrain arguments that are as relevant today as they were thirty years ago.

“Hardly a field remains untouched—sociobiology, linguistics, botany, genetics, psychiatry, esthetics, ecology, politics, neuroscience, education, morality, psychology. . . . It’s all breathtaking and alarming, some of it wonderful, some of it ridiculous. . . . At times the experience is exhilarating.”

—Richard A. Shweder, New York Times Book Review

First-Wave (European) Abstraction


Wassily Kandinsky
Composition VII (1913)


Kasimir Malevich
Suprematism (1917)


Piet Mondrian
Composition of Red, Blue, Yellow, and White: Nom II


Second-Wave (American) Abstraction


Arshile Gorky
The Leaf of The Artichoke Is An Owl (1941)

Pollock; Autumn Rhythm, 1950

Jackson Pollock
Autumn Rhythm (1950)


Willem de Kooning
Two Women in The Country (1954)

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Franz Kline
Untitled (1957)

Oskar or Snoopy? Whom to Trust?

Posted: February 5, 2018 in Uncategorized

Should big corporations own the public sphere? Can the public sphere really be public if it is considered private property? How might big corporation’s attempts to control the information we see relate to any of our assigned readings?