08 January 2017

medieval modernism

"Art out of time" has long intrigued me, and perhaps all of us. The way that art and culture play with and against art and culture from another moment, whether near or far in time. In a profile of Steve Reich at 80 in the New York Times (October 2, 2016), he is quoted as saying "I'm not a Luddite, but I understand the Luddites."

After I got back from paper and pancakes this morning, I was sitting at my desk and realized the stack to the left of my computer was annoyingly high and I pulled the issue of Visual Resources (first issue for 2016) since it was the fattest item. An old cataloging trick: do the fat books and your backlog shrinks in size (and generally increases in complexity). The issue was devoted to "Medieval modernity" and I'd bookmarked the article by Graham Smith on "Rauschenberg's modern infernos for Life magazine" for potential inclusion in the queer art bibliography I maintain on Zotero. It grew out of the newsletter of the Queer Caucus for Art that I co-edited for a dozen years. The article doesn't seem to have any particular queer aspect (what? you expect me to really read rather than just peruse it?) but is intriguing as are a number of other articles. cf table of contents

As I was looking through the issue, I remembered that I'd bought a book with a similar title a few years ago: Medieval Modern: Art Out of Time, by Alexander Nagel, published by Thames & Hudson, 2012. I've borrowed the subtitle for the opening of this post. The verso of the title page includes a quote from Walter Benjamin which starts "Historicism is content with establishing a casual connection between various moments of history. A fact can be a cause but it is not therefore historical." (Hmm, why did "fake news" fly through my brain?)

I also was given a start by seeing "Christian Huemer" in the list of advisors to Visual Resources. Now I'm thinking of Christina Huemer, who I met at Cornell in 1970 and who was the librarian at the American Academy in Rome for many years before her retirement and death. She loved Rome, one of those places where the medieval and modern rub up against each other, and the ancient and the whole (western) shebang.

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