By Ellen Levy
''Poetry used to be declining/ portray advancing/ we have been complaining/ it was once '50,'' recalled poet Frank O'Hara in 1957. Criminal Ingenuity traces a chain of associated moments within the heritage of this move of cultural strength from the field of the note to that of the picture. Ellen Levy explores the recent York literary and paintings worlds within the years that bracket O'Hara's lament via shut readings of the works and careers of poets Marianne Moore and John Ashbery and assemblage artist Joseph Cornell. during those readings, Levy discusses such themes because the American debates round surrealism, the functionality of the ''token woman'' in creative canons, and the position of the recent York urban Ballet within the improvement of mid-century modernism, and situates her critical figures in terms of such colleagues and contemporaries as O'Hara, T. S. Eliot, Clement Greenberg, Walter Benjamin, and Lincoln Kirstein.
Moore, Cornell, and Ashbery are hooked up via acquaintance and affinity-and specifically, through the ownership of what Moore calls ''criminal ingenuity,'' a expertise for situating themselves at the fault strains that fissure the geographical regions of paintings, sexuality, and politics. As we reflect on their lives and works, Levy indicates, the probably really good query of the resource and which means of the fight for energy among paintings varieties inexorably opens out to broader questions about social and creative associations and forces: the academy and the museum, professionalism and the marketplace, and that establishment of associations, marriage
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Additional info for Criminal Ingenuity: Moore, Cornell, Ashbery, and the Struggle Between the Arts
Any zoo, aquarium, library, garden or volume of letters, however, is an anthology and certain of these selected findings are highly satisfactory. The science of assorting and the art of investing an assortment with dignity are obviously not being neglected, as is manifest in “exhibitions and sales of artistic property,” and in that sometimes disparaged, most powerful phase of the anthology, the museum. (CPr 182) Through tone and emphasis the poet makes it clear that her sympathy is with the “disparaged” as against that “academic feeling” that lords it over other arts both high and low.
While modernist art as such may symbolize the possibility of disinterestedness, one art or another may have to represent art’s failure to be sufficiently disinterested. ii. Moore Between Poetry and Painting The purist may simply disregard the art that fails to meet his standards—Eliot was the only major American modernist poet not to register the challenge to his chosen art presented by painting—although to do so requires a sense of aristocratic privilege. ” Finally, twenty years after “Towards a Newer Laocoon,” we find Greenberg denying that “literature” had ever played a significant role in his argument about art’s autonomy.
The opposed pairs of commerce and disinterestedness, openness and exclusion, may give us the beginnings of a sense of what is at stake in the struggle for dominance between literature and visual art; but to grasp why this struggle should matter to anyone outside the institution of art we must zero in on those points at which the museum and the academy are most closely linked to the wider society from which they seem to stand aloof. As Moore’s unease about buying pictures and Greenberg’s remark about the umbilical cord of gold indicate, the museum’s most vulnerable point is its connection to what Steinman calls commercial culture.