ISBN : 9780199746354
"Poetry was declining/ Painting advancing/ we were complaining/ it was '50," recalled poet Frank O'Hara in 1957. Ellen Levy's Criminal Ingenuity traces a series of linked moments in the history of this crucial transfer of cultural power from the sphere of the word to that of the image. Levy explores the New York literary and art worlds in the years that bracket O'Hara's lament through close readings of the works and careers of poets Marianne Moore and John Ashbery and assemblage artist Joseph Cornell. In the course of these readings Levy discusses such topics as the American debates around surrealism, the function of the "token woman" in artistic canons, and the role of the New York City Ballet in the development of mid-century modernism, and situates her central figures in relation to such colleagues and contemporaries as O'Hara, T. S. Eliot, Clement Greenberg, Walter Benjamin, and Lincoln Kirstein. Moore, Cornell, and Ashbery are connected by acquaintance and affinity-and above all, by the possession of what Moore calls "criminal ingenuity," a talent for situating themselves on the fault lines that fissure the realms of art, sexuality and politics. As we consider their lives and works, Levy shows, the seemingly specialized question of the source and meaning of the struggle for power between art forms inexorably opens out to broader questions about social and artistic institutions and forces: the academy and the museum, professionalism and the market, and that institution of institutions, marriage.
I. BORROWING PAINTS FROM A GIRL: GREENBERG, ELIOT, MOORE
AND THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE ARTS
i. "Academic feeling" vs. "the museum"
ii. Moore between poetry and painting
iii. The professional, the academic, and "the real poetry lover"
iv. What's in a name? Museum, market, art world
v. The end of Modernism As We Know It: poetry in the age of Pollock
vi. Self-critique and the struggle for dominance
II. "NO POET HAS BEEN SO CHASTE": MOORE AND THE POETICS OF AMBIVALENCE
i. "Institution" or "enterprise"?
ii. The place of the token woman
iii. "Unsheathed gesticulation": the attack of the token woman
iv. Moore's mirror phase: "Those Various Scalpels"
v. The poetics of ambivalence
vi. The case for Moore's late "love" lyrics
vii. Moore's imperishable wish: "Armor's Undermining Modesty"
III. AN INCONSEQUENTIAL PAST: JOSEPH CORNELL AFTER
i. Elephants and divas: Cornell's position, modernism's impasse
ii. The materialist and the monster: history according to Moore and
iii. Collage and class fractions
iv. Amateurs and aristocrats
v. The collector and the criminal: Cornell and Moore's imaginary economy
IV. SURREALISM IN "THE SECOND, OPEN SENSE": THE POETS OF THE
NEW YORK SCHOOL
i. "A confusion of painting with literature": Greenberg vs. the surrealists
ii. "Stupid paintings" and "old-fashioned literature": Ashbery's regressive
iii. Institutions of freedom: the coterie and the art world
iv. "Dear New York City Ballet, you are quite like a wedding yourself!":
institution as form in the poems of Frank O'Hara
V. "A MEDIUM IN WHICH IT IS POSSIBLE TO RECOGNIZE ONESELF":
ASHBERY BETWEEN POETRY AND PAINTING
i. Breathing space: Ashbery in and out of the art world
ii. The adventures of "the personality": "Definition of Blue"
iii. The case of the fairy decorator: Robert Lowell and the New York School
iv. Cornell/ Parmigianino
v. Facing pages: The Vermont Notebook