Friday, November 7, 2014

the last book I ever read (Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word, excerpt three)

from The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe:

With a sigh Braque waited for his old comrade Pablo’s imminent collapse as a painter and a human being … But the damnedest thing happened instead! Picasso just kept ascending, to El Dorado, to tremendous wealth but to much more than that, to the sainted status of Picasso, to the point where by 1950 he was known at every level of opinion, from Art News to the Daily News, as the painter of the twentieth century. As for Derain and his blue serge suit and Braque and his scruples—the two old boys, both very nearly the same age as Picasso, i.e., about seventy, were remembered in 1950 chiefly as part of the pit crew during Picasso’s monumental victory.

Not to beg the question of differences in talent—but here we have the classic demonstration of the artist who knows how to double-track his way from the Boho Dance to the Consummation as opposed to the artist who gets stuck forever in the Boho Dance. This is an ever-present hazard of the art mating ritual. Truly successful double-tracking requires the artist to be a sincere and committed performer in both roles. Many artists become so dedicated to bohemian values, internalize their antibourgeois feelings so profoundly, that they are unable to cut loose, let go, with that cathartic shriek—pain! ecstasy! paff paff paff paff paff paff—and submit gracefully to good fortune; the sort of artist, and his name is Legion, who always comes to the black-tie openings at the Museum of Modern Art wearing a dinner jacket and paint-spattered Levi’s … I’m still a virgin! (Where’s the champagne?)

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