As/Is







9.09.2015


Echoes of Mannerism in Neo-Romanticism


The hinge from Neo-Romanticism to Mannerism, also, is a reasonably blatant one. Our whole approach to art— more is more, rather then less is more— features exaggerated portions and warped perspectives, even amidst the elaborate formality and architectural hi-jinx. Abby and I both share a perspective, which recurs regularly, that there is or can be something inherently funny or absurd about complexity, and that the multiplication of tangents from a work of art should include tangents the basis of which are absurdity and Dada and Duchamp. With the rejection of simplicity, of course, comes the realization that if we are not to appear too stentorian or heavy-handed, a light touch can be as effective as a sturm und drang one. The Walls Have Ears, here, has in-built the Mannerist tensions around queerness and bisexuality; behind that, the idea that sexuality itself, as both an ideal and an idea, is inherently Mannerist. It brings out in individuals, always, what is warped and/or perverse, not to mention exaggerated, in them; and because the formality of the painting is, as ever, masterful, and because queerness is a serious theme to be addressed, audiences can choose to take The Walls Have Ears as an exercise in painterly absurdism or not. Coloration issues— everything bathed in piss-yellow (Serrano?)(Piss Dykes?)— opens a vista that, when Neo-Romanticism builds into its constructs a sense of absurdity, Mannerist exaggerates aid and abet us towards a realization that the Philadelphia architecture, kitchen sink approach can yield the right dividends. Or Apparition Poem 1327:

She said, you want Sister
Lovers, you son of a bitch,
pouted on a beige couch in
Plastic City, I said, I want
Sister Lovers, but I’m not
a son of a bitch, and I can
prove it (I drooled slightly),
took it out and we made
such spectacular love that
the couch turned blue from
our intensity, but I had to
wear a mask because I’d
been warned that this girl
was, herself, a son of a bitch

Neo-Romanticism is, take it or leave it, pretty free and easy about sex and sexual intercourse. Just as Philadelphia architecture is pretty free and easy about co-opting your space and thrusting its symmetries into your brain. Not to mention that the ambiance in Aughts Philadelphia which we all lived through was largely about free and easy sex. This poem starts from a ground that the two figures in the poem appear to be either very stoned, or bimbos, possibly porn stars (or actors), and then sets the game in motion which it wants to set. It’s about straight sex too, which (to be frank) I feel might be ready to make a comeback. The Dada level is how goofy the exaggerations are, towards a sense that every conceivable imperative to aesthetic excess is served, other than the number of lines in the poem. Apparition Poems only has a handful of sonnets in it, and sonnets as a poetic form are usually the enemies of the Mannerist (sonnets think small, stay confined), but that’s part of the game here. And the fact that both The Walls Have Ears and 1327 “have game” and play games is one of the reasons Neo-Romanticism is contemporary and ready to compete right now. Because the whole twentieth century is always showing up in the paintings and poems sideways, and at odd angles, audiences won’t need to feel disappointed that they are falling into a trough of anything backwards seeming or retrograde. This is true, particularly because the free and easy approach to carnality is rather advanced, and executed with a sense of borderline-disjointed looseness. What can I say? All those years our architecture was dictating our art, it also pulled off the neat trick of freeing Philly’s bedroom antics, which were considerable in all circles, both when masks were necessary and when they were not.