doing battle with the muse: not a-mused

Is it intrinsic to modern art in general, a kind of withdrawal into a space, a locus of narcissistic preoccupation and obligation? A space where fear of the object leads to mistreatment of it. The aggressive and destructive impulses, which when taken with Picasso’s dictum that his art “is the sum of destructions,” confirms a certain denial of life principle; the minotaur in the hunt for new sacrifices that can be shred to pieces that must invoke some obscure Greek god that posited nihilism as the highest standard of human conduct. Artistically, it means that sadism, the mutilating process and the effect of the chaotic cabn be expressed in the brushwork of a picture even if absent in the subject. That is, the grossly distorted and sledgehammered into fragments, a few shards, to take attention away from the artificial poses and empty gesture. The cynical playfulness of a Duchamp opened the door down the slippery slope to the monkey shines of poseurs like Koons and Hirst.

—Willem de Kooning
Woman V
Richard Grey Gallery—Read More:

The woman as object: split, twisted, bent out of recognizable form and shape; is the point to make the dirty, ugly qualities revealed even surrealistically or realistically? Is it post-primitive as a regressive form, to the grunt and belch stage before there was feelings in this make believe fantasm of sexual de-evolution where idealization of the object is used to magnify degradation of the dignity. It would have been too much of a shock for the Nazis to see themselves in this type of modern art so they called it “degenerate” and burned it, the woman as pure “joy division” melded into the same zeitgeist of nihilism where degradation of the object was the norm. The object being reduced to mere “stimulus.”

( see link at end) …The later images are full of murderous hatred, as their battered, perversely distorted bodies — sadistically slashed and hacked and finally torn to pieces, their skin shredded so that it can no longer contain its flesh, which spills and spins out of control, leaving their bodies barely recognizable — strongly suggest. De Kooning’s woman is certainly a far cry from the classical beautiful Venus, not only because she’s ugly and repulsive, but because she’s hateful and malicious….

—This looks stressful. In fact, most of Melanie’s works look a little stressful. We call this ‘collage in real time.’—

Like Picasso, De Kooning was a kind of minotaur, and like the minotaur both sacrificed human victims — as ideally beautiful as he was monstrously ugly, and so whom he had to hate and defile — on the altar of their art, feeding on them to keep it alive, until it lost its way in a labyrinth of its own making, and became a dull brutality feeding on itself. De Kooning’s figure loses its boundaries and form, and we are left in the gestural haze of the abstract landscapes, finally dissipating into fastidious patches of color, a sort of petrified painterliness — an outward show of energy with no inner dynamic and necessity, a barren, sterile landscape of forced gestures each pretending to be an oasis — showing that de Kooning has become heavy-handed, not to say lost his touch, suggesting that modernist painterliness has played its last strong hand….

—There are of course a few sharp, disorienting turns thrown in to be sure that the viewer, if he comes to the right conclusion, arrives there giddy. The medieval-looking door, heavy and dilapidated as European art tradition, yet aesthetically neutral as a readymade. The female figure whose slightly displaced genitalia evade the pornographic pleasures of realism by the virtual fig-leaf of deformity. The bed of twigs is there to make the spectator uncomfortable. The whole composition is a sendup on the order of Euripides’ Bacchae. It parodies the aesthetic ideals cherished from the Renaissance on. (Women are beautiful. Painting should be beautiful. The most beautiful painting should show a beautiful woman.) At the same time it makes fun of the aesthetic dogmas of the twentieth century. (The world is ugly. Painting should be ugly. The most meaningful painting should show a hideous woman.)—Read More:

Why is woman the target of de Kooning’s hatred? Why does he have to destroy her? Why does he skin her alive — the bodies of Woman, Sag Harbor, 1964, and Woman, 1964-65, are no more than strips of skin, pink animal hides — disembowel her, and smash her face, as though wanting to knock her teeth out, tear her body apart like a wild beast (crazed Fauve, as it were)? Each painterly gesture is a like a cutting wound — a cutting edge indeed, leaving disfigured flesh in its wake. The remnants of her body are scattered in various abstractions, from the black paintings which first established his reputation to the later white paintings. They may be esthetically edifying — formally ingenious, as it were — but they putrify into surreal morbidity. De Kooning, like Picasso, had an “attitude” to woman and to beautiful art. Read More:

—Jeff Koons, Woman in Tub, 1988. The Art Institute of Chicago, Stefan T. Edlis Collection, partial Gift to the Art Institute of
Chicago 2005.472. © Jeff Koons, Courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Read More:

Maybe its just boredom that creates the melodrama of vulgarity, as byproduct of a consumer society of relative wealth. For men, this means not being able to live without a woman; and artistically, this means to mess around with her body, to carry the ambivalent attitude to intercourse is not enough; they have to fuck her over continually and perpetually in the art; the minotaur has to gouge and dismember. The paradox is that even great art can be emotionally backward; anally obnoxious fisticuffs from doing battle with the muse.

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