hurl cyclonic pigment dressage drugged passeriform multi-dimensional splendiferous fest
impastoed lachrymal boulder-blush boucle-heaves bully the decimal
annunciation is culpable matter
time an event or a consideration
“Soutine & Modern Art” at the Cheim & Reade Gallery, NYC, Summer 2006, & Soutine
this Surge this packed voltaic scintillator leaps the wall reestablishes & invents connectivities creates worlds dwarfs adjacencies & why ... the mind-spite of “why,” the need for explanation, to penetrate the igneous mute, to volunteer rabbit fur ... what about this tortured (tortured as in tortuous with roundabouts, switchbacks, manic cyclings) intensity possesses, resists restrictions, demoniacally assaults, coagulates into ether & substance, explodes expansionist sprawl past galleries & modernists to transplant & implant, to Brand!
to impugn, to ... erode boundaries & barriers to paint past the substance of painting is all art in flight from its instrumentation? brush dabs = darts drilling into the cosmos a psychic liasoning upswelling/underwelling the soil a robust Whitman relish-cock splurge peregrinate fertilizations Rimbaud’s: “a poetic language accessible some day to all the senses” in “View of Cagnes” the tilt to the right to launch to rocket-fire, the tension in the homes that of sprinters crouched in racing start poised to uncoil, the homes at any moment set to unwind & sprint into the hills, this “unsettlement” not as disarray but as heightened preparation, Transition-Divinized, ... Mobilization
there is, here, a suggestibility (an argument?) that the thing painted, known to us as the tree, hill, house, exists in structure as a makeshift-energy-collection capable at any moment of redirecting this energy into an alterior formulation, there is a constant reminder not to get too comfortable, to appreciate form as flux, as the gratuitous designatory ...
foul flower fruit fish
the trophy wall non-bankable
entire canvases gasping
form into form the “Great Pheasant” & bed bleed into one another reds unreconciled inter-transpicuous object-flushing
the forks in “Rabbit With Forks” anthropomorphize, no, they don’t “anthropomorphize” because the human is not attributed, it’s already there, welling out of psyche, boundaries that say “this is this & that is that” blur, the fork is a human digit is a fork, the fork has hunger is enlivened with sensate, uni-Veralsal be-STirment, objects = arousal functions, vulva factions, the fork-digits tingling with appetite, poised to devour ...
breeding image hives hybridizing consequences still-dwelling in our windows-to-be-born1
in the serpentine “Still Life with Fish” the mouth gasps, we hear the gasp, a never-before-formulated other-worldly tone, life crunching out a divinely reeded exhale, departure points quivering at the border lands, “the dead forms as vigorous on the slanting table as in their wild existence under water.”2
no silence in his pictures, the table & carcasses dialogue, robustly intermingle ... blend this is a painter who expurgates dualism an optic sub-mariner a perceptual geothermal steam vent prospering hyperdimensional Godwinian politics,3
this is to say that for Soutine Agitation
“Once I saw the village butcher slice the neck of a bird & drain the blood out of it. I wanted to cry out, but his joyful expression caught the sound in my throat. This cry, I always feel it there. When, as a child, I drew a crude portrait of my professor, I tried to rid myself of this cry, but in vain. When I painted the beef carcass it was still this cry that I wanted to liberate. I have still not succeeded.”
Soutine is the Anti-Kosher pouring the blood back to the animal, the violent physicality he employed “banging” at the canvas, a child’s beseechment invigorated by the adult’s strength of limb to “let live,” that catch-in-the-throat to change the world, the butcher’s joy of slaughter obviating expression, intercession, ,, tame solutions, the errant magnanimous ...
maturity is man submitting to the condition of man Soutine never grew up, Artists never grow up, reconciliation is a password to the status quo ... who among us feels his cry, who among us has lost his swallow ...
Soutine is lousy with liveliness, turban-swirling love, death-evaporative, to paint like Soutine is to evaporate death is to call into question the very meaning & category of death, other than in its quotidianized & provincialized form death doesn’t exist, to be told that which shapes so much of our lives doesn’t exist is to experience metamorphosis, is to become pigment & light, to become lemon glow & hibiscus, canasta green & rummy incarnadine, it’s to be simultaneously aerial & marine, finger & claw, it’s to understand refrigeration as prayer meeting, it’s to be a burning ember ported on the wing of a Mongolian Eagle,
“To love is to will the self-fulfillment of the beloved, & to find, in the very activity of loving, an incidental but vitalizing increase of oneself.”4
His eye bloomed the lit-upon a roast-fest of optical opulence
a shamanic priapus invigorating matter
To remove or extinguish what his perception en-dowed was to decrease his self. It was akin to a personal assault, to nullify what his eye had emblazoned with fire ...
Death violates Soutine’s still life, for Soutine a still life is a study in the un-stilled, the non-programmable, those nuggets refusing retardation, unlike in Rilke’s requiem, Soutine is unwilling to let his models water, to unravel his making, there is no “setting it all in order is the task we have continually before us,” this this art is not an equal opportunity employer, it is fierce will, resurrecting environment to satisfy sensibility, to the extent that (according to the legend) “when the glorious colors of the flesh of the steer were hidden from the enthralled gaze of the painter by an accumulation of flies, he paid a wretched little model to sit beside it & fan them away,” Not to obscure but, to Reveal “anything in this dimension” Not as Rilke says to “transform these things, they aren’t real, they are only the reflections upon the polished surface of our being,” because “these things” are the Only Real! in fact, not real enough ‘cause not seen enough, seeing is impoverished, has been besieged with sterility, to permit the see-er to SEE, to penetrate to interior necessity, vacuitous void, porous oblong, vacuumed bedrock, to seethe with life an interior susurration gilded with imaginal radiance ...
There is a state of death so zany with eccentricity that it bullies life. It shames the life out of life with its instructions on liveliness.
Soutine pierces Death & emerges on the other side, where like the Rilkean Angel capable of unconditional feeling, there is no stifle no termination point there is the fusion of feeling & eternality, the abolishment of the shamefully temporal, the joltingly transitory & the blasphemous static ... & so objects fuse, merge into one another, as the Great Pheasant & Bed bleed together, a porous duet, spirits intermingling, corrupt with influence ...
The animals he chose, Medusa-writhing from his abdomen, bellying out of cavity pit, eatables, staples in the carnivore diet, he chose them? or they emerged, wringing through his psyche to sponge out everyman’s carnivore complex, a routing as perturbation, as the perambulatory inviolate ...
all art is a means for ordering affliction, for assigning chaos,
& “affliction,” as in stricken with, overwhelmed, invaded, impregnated with alien ...
my thesis: Soutine is an abdominal artist painting from nervous indigestion, “He always suffered from chronic nervous indigestion.”5 He went on to die on August 9, 1943 from stomach ulcers. The majority of animals he addresses are for the belly digestibles; I imagine his own body splaying open like the “Carcass of Beef” with his intestines unraveling into vacuum-like hoses like those Hollywood Alien movies where wet vile inventions concocted to revile burst from the stomach flapping & wriggling voraciously, rapacious for prey, Soutine born empty, Soutine the everyman empty, Promethean defiance, in place of empty fire, the unfailing vigor of appetite, to never know the comfort of “fill,” a convulsive refusal to dwell anywhere but in the essentially vitalistic, a SCORCH! combusting circumference ...
Why artists choose the animals they choose? Or are they chosen, by the animal, a person = an animal(s) composite, ... I propose to transmigrate the psychic-animal, paradoxically, & opposing my thesis, the one horse I see of Soutine’s is a sway-back droop of an animal, an insufficiency destined for earth swallow upon reflection I reconsider, the vitality is not absent from the horse, it is just not located in the corpus of the horse, unlike the “Carcass of Beef” swarming with visceral-colossicity, the energy system in “The Horse” forfeits the locus of vitality from the existent to the abstractly conceptual, in this case to decay, to the inevitable annulment of the temporal animal, to that magnetically powerful earth-drag commandeering the animal downward ...
I supplement Soutine’s beef & foul with Franz Marc’s horses, I invoke a quickening:
I implant Franz Marc’s “The Small Yellow Horses” these horses are nothing but liveliness & hind, a canvas of ensorcelling seductivities I loose these beauties on Soutine’s “View of Cagnes,” I place them about 8/10 down the canvas, on the road across from the bottommost house, slowly they uncoil, the two forefront horses heads on the diagonal, heads that could be magnificent emblazonings on a shamanic spear, a whinny to their right, manes flag, the third horse turns left to contact their inquisition, symbols of feline grace & celestial purr these bodies morph from Grecian-smooth to rippling delineation, sinew & muscle, rib & flesh pronounce, they rear & tuck, snort & wheeze, they are tremulous & cyclonic, I color the horses alizarin, turmeric, & gold, I paint their heads fuchsia, manganese, & goethite, I run pinstripes of turquoise, viridian, & sepia down their rumps, then scarlet, topaz, & mauve, I turn their tails umber, periwinkle, & brown, also scarlet, pumpernickel, & sage I remove all the other paintings from the wall & magnify “View of Cagnes” ten times the houses gape & agitate, reacting to the flurrying fund of hoof frenzy before them like witnessing a conductor with S. Vitus’s dance, the horses return to all fours, prance & circle, quivering with titillation & novelty, horse & house advance hide & home, skin & mortar sniff one another, manufacture airs, horse/home/road/hill, a quartet
charging for redemption
Not in any formalized sense, no laconic breakdown, no tri-partite divisions of hue/luminosity/intensity, but color as activity & contagion, as arousal mannerisms & vowel sounds percolating pigment flirtation migratory bemusement ladder, color as jealousy & lachrymose, as cereal & crust, color building chordal blocks & agricultural progressions irrigation by-ways autumnal bridle paths Ferris wheels gypsy copulatives & bulldozer, color to sleep in to love in, to frost to suck, color as intimacy & reproach, as unreliable navigator & sleuth, a lexiconic hydra, a beetle, a moth, an invitation experiencing mechanical failure, & the call of color is to color where color fails, to uncover the undercover of cover, to reset the receptors, to board phantom wavelengths & establish cherish, to remonstrate the idolatrous zigzag of supra-retinal perceptual frolic ...
You can’t know how I’ve struggled to write this, how the intimacy of our connection seems to violate conventional modes, ... so why am I writing this? for the sake of the poem? no, the poem is to consume you like the beef & foul you lay out, the poem is to hang you like a rabbit from the rafters, or stretch you on a table with the forks of my hunger lusting to sink your flesh to taste you, to swill you in my mouth. You see how content humans look when they masticate, perhaps that is one of the few times other than expellment that they flirt with satisfaction, is that why they’ve pushed us to the margins? to the outskirts where we can be manageable? so we will fail to threaten their domestic blisses, their cherished comfort stations? you know we do that, Soutine, we have to face up to our effects, the “affective imponderables,” we can’t be harsh & self-pitying when we come to terms with the discomfort we cause, pinging like black hail off their stale palates. To meet in this vector blind the way we have is to dispel men from their duck hunts, is to deprive them of their camouflage. It is to inform congregations how powerless they are to stall the invention of new universes, the advancement of hirsute guitars. Our purpose was never to hurt, but to move, to rattle them out of their stasis, we were both small & vulnerable as children, beaten by older brothers, we both knew tremendous cruelty, how the diminished went unprotected, were place mats for other’s venom, so we were pushed around & excluded, but we never caved, ... how could we, tossing with seizures, under phantom-arrest with a foreign & superior hemoglobin, we’ve developed no taste for other things, consumed as we are with the great matters we have no tolerance for golf or spectatorship, we greet our contemporaries as so many passers by, I have waited long for a friend like you, someone I could bank on ... for understanding, for the soothe of correspondence, or as I felt years ago in Paris when I wrote
In The Cimitiere De Montparnasse There Are No Dead
I go to Vallejo, to Beckett, to Baudelaire, thirteen years old & reading Les Fleurs du mal, my pube patch just forming with that soft delicacy of early curl, imagery curling through the enterprise of my imagination, & when a crowd gathers around Baudelaire I await their dispersal, I want to go one on one ... Root to Root ...
Bau-de-laire, Good friend, old buddy, I come to you, in midlife ... all of us now Sartre, Beckett, me, you, assuaged of years, galloping the prairies of free form, detachments of vigorous infuriations slapping the universe awake, what stirred us above all if not the corpses the unenlightened the daily excruciations of numbness throttling our urgency to invigorate ...
loom monolithic tombstones flame alive
more individual than the strollers walling 5th avenue the Champs Elysees Rodeo Drive, more life quivering through the rocks of the institute of death than all the human cargo freighting the freeways buses metros aircraft boulevards & avenues tired soul-slabs slopping over the high rises of the world spluttering to their decimation ...
We’re fortunate to have each other, Chaim, I first saw you in Paris, & I was excited, & certainly more than moved, but I wasn’t devoured, not as I am now, I even saw you in 1995 at the Jewish Museum in NYC & was thrilled, agitated, but not devoured ... & why is that Chaim?, you haven’t changed, & I can’t use cheap expressions & say “I’ve matured” because that will tell us nothing, if anything, it seems I’ve become more wounded, more vulnerable, existing in a state of perpetual grief, for the butcheries are daily & ever more exaggerated, with the butchers having no remorse, they gloat audibly over their latest slaughters, so that ... each day more of me is sliced open, I am a carcass that breathes a respirating corpse ... I can’t go shopping ... I’m a bit choked up now, Chaim, but more later ...
Informed that the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pa. has the largest collection of Soutines in America, &, additionally, that the Foundation is terminal & at some point in the near future will be assembled under different auspices, I make plans to witness the collection as Barnes envisioned.
Doctor Barnes put Soutine on the map; he also rescued him from penury. Soutine’s dealer, Zborowski, was despairing over carrying Soutine for so long with no pay off, that, after a quarrel with his wife, he “took a batch of Soutine’s pictures, stripped them off their sub-frames, rolled up the lot & shoved them in the kitchen stove to burn them.” &, as Zborowski related to Marevna, “The next day just listen to this suddenly I get a visit from the famous American collector, Dr. Barnes, who just happens to be passing through Paris. ‘What have you got that’s new? Show me,’ he says, & I show him Kislings, Modiglianis & so on. ‘& what’s this?’ he asks, pointing to a little Soutine on the wall. ‘Oh,’ I say, ‘it’s by some wretched Russian.’ ‘Bring it to the light,’ he says, & examines it from all angles. ‘Any more like these?’ he asks. ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘just wait a moment, I’ll run across to a friend who has some.’ Then I dash to the kitchen in a cold sweat, wondering if the cook’s burned up the pictures or not. I open the stove thank God, no! Wonderful! I heat the iron & iron out a few creases through a cloth, & then I produce a living soul for this American not my own soul, you understand, but Soutine’s.”6
Barnes bought everything & put Soutine under employment.
This precipice, the fragility of direction the canvases about to be burned versus the canvases saved & injected into the art world to go forever burning. Art to ignite & salvage, to cleanse.
I visit the Barnes Foundation. Dr. Barnes launched his financial empire by introducing a new antiseptic silver compound to the marketplace. He also launched Soutine into the market place. I see Dr. Barnes as the inter-transpicuous contiguous trans-mundane medicinal provider. A Doctor introducing antiseptic in both pharmaceutical & artistic formulations. This notion of Art as curative, as medicinal, is often overlooked, & the manner in which Art performs medicinal functions is, properly, the province of a separate study. But, while running the risk of “short shrift,” I will suggest some indicators. The mental & the physical suffer equally from clotting, arterial blockage, constriction, fattiness, & atrophy if not attended to properly, if permitted to wallow in desuetude. Strategies for bodily repair normatively fall under the headings of diet & exercise. We can apply those same categories to improve our mental health. The mind, like the body, needs to be exercised in the plastically-elongatory-ameliorative, trotted out to the training fields, & what is fed to the mind as nourishment diet (i.e. classic literature versus television soaps) will effect one’s mental hygiene. & just as one must train one’s body to achieve a superlative state of fitness, so Art can provide the “weight” training necessary to improve & tone our mental musculature. It is an invitation to participate in the sensorially procreant ecstatically perceptual perpetual tingle. In the words of Doctor Barnes, “The artist must open our eyes to what unaided we could not see...”7
My fifth visit to the Cheim & Reade gallery is on a day of rain & dark omen. This day I find myself rooted to the main gallery, unable to detach myself. Particularly I am grabbed by the landscapes, the cumulous skylight casts a devil-blue, yellowing the electric lights, the whites become more vivid, & perhaps due to a compoundment of visits, the landscapes claw into me more ferociously than ever, a rare privacy accompanies this claw, the depth of the claw annulling the gallery walkers, placing the landscapes along private places in my interior where they can’t be spotted, I triangulate between “View of Cagnes,” “Landscape at Ceret,” & “Landscape with Trees,” providentially the rain thickens, & the percussive popping upon the plastic skylight becomes Art Blakey in “Night in Tunisia,” drums, cymbals & maracas intersect the rhythms of the landscapes, the rhythms intermingle & enlarge, the main gallery sizzles in polyrhythmic glow, in bombinative surplus
I saw Blakey before he died at the Catalina Bar & Grill, as a kid I followed him, to see him live was a gift, his smile & white teeth, his teeth plastering the homes in Cagnes, him propelling the band, perpetually propulsing, he died a week after I saw him, but I don’t believe it, it’s not what I’m hearing
a whirling wailing Dolphy-esque trio body/canvases/rain whorling in newly bred intimacies, rocketed to a rarefied ether orb rotational calendrics
phantasmagoria clutch egret storms slam incunabula
& I note that each landscape has a road, a road for each landscape has landscapes road a, the road to less road, the road to more road,8 I ponder road as routing, then change my direction & understand road as rhythm, a tympanic surge chunked out of earth,
the road paces & unwinds as a top hurled from a string,
road as peristaltic bass, a dragon tail
flashing whippy geologies
caffeinated on landscape I retreat from the trilogy, pass De Kooning’s “Untitled 11” 1978 which, adjacent to “View of Cagnes,” is so quashed that it appears a flamboyant amateur guilty of overcivilized posturing floundering in an inept pugilism; I approach “Rabbit” 1918 which baffled me last visit because this was the only painting without Stir, Soutine was all about agitation & this rabbit looked peaceful, at rest, harmonious ...
but today, no, I have wised up, I see him as playing possum, in a state of “pause,” I detect a smirk around the lips, a “who are you kidding,” this rabbit no longer disputes the exhibition which declares domesticity illusionistic, the rabbit winks, nibbles the green bedding, scampers off ...
back under the skylight the percussion pounds, I can’t help but move, I dance, facing “Trees At Auxerre” I see gathering, I see cyclonic sweep-up, I see vital elements wrapping into an ancient tribal gourd rattling feverish oblations, I turn to look at “Landscape at Ceret,” the trees become spindly Ethiopian dancers charged with divinized elasticity, this isn’t just Ethiopia it’s Malaga it’s Seville it’s Mauritiana it’s Berlin it’s Sao Paolo & Pakistan it’s Columbia & Kazakhstan, it’s marimba & gong, conga & tympani, tom tom & flute, this is geology time zone genome & constitution, foreheads & abdominals, writhing in twists of circumambulatory lunge broadcast cliff syndrome, bluffs of undermine dedicated to reconstitute, arousal orthodoxies notwithstanding wrath-wringing infuriations spin infectious pleas for polite oxygen, for communal belly laughter ...
Again rain. My final visit to this exhibit. It is day sad-saturant. A displacement. A disqualification of the quotidian. Budge refusal. Herbivorous dirge. Lamentation. I dial-in on “View of Cagnes,” the attraction (attachment?) is sub-logical, pre-Saharan, it stings like a rum ocean, like a bay on fire, it is time to give back, we are not alone, ... while facing “View of Cagnes” I take a deep breath than exhale my first line,
“hurl cyclonic pigment dressage drugged passeriform multi-dimensional splendiferous fest ...”
the population recedes, encouraged by our solitude, I deliver the second line more robustly,
“impastoed lachrymal boulder-blush boucle-heaves bully the decimal ...”
hallowed sunrises warp in a sully of fruit trees, impoverishment slouches to a surly dawn, Soutine’s visage issues from the bowels of Cagnes, the grave creases in his face ease into a sturdy smile, my lines stir him, he connects, he is grateful I have come, he thanks me for the letter, we talk, two guys who didn’t hitch to any spectacle but that of their own devisement, we are comfortably complicit, hammocking in soul-drench, we chat of small matters, of shoes & weather & edibles, the large matters mushroom unannounced from our persons, from our dedications, with no need for fanfare, vibrating revolutionary tusks he advises me not to fret the maggot-fests before he departs ....
His disappearance empties me of giddy, I amble now, stroll the still-lifes, not wanting to look too intently, preferring to remain in touch with the event of Soutine’s departure than with opening fresh visual provocations ... I meander the fowl, & again observe how their mouths vibrate holler, expound abyssal recriminations, novels would fail to express the peels of vitriol & pathos orally churning ... discussing Excoriate Exhale with Victoria Ganim who directed me to the Peritoneum: “For the most part all our guts lie within this peritoneal bag. The outer peritoneum forms the real skin of the abdominal cavity. The liver, the gut, & the spleen sink into the peritoneal bags & they are all attached to the diaphragm & thus, your breathing has a direct effect on your digestive organs. So if we breathe correctly & deeply the organs are getting a therapeutic massage each time we inhale & exhale. I bet Soutine didn’t breathe correctly.”9 The breath & what conditions the breath. What breathes through the enterprise of breathing. The climate & the psychically climactic, the soma & the geo-topographical, renditions of “being-in-the world”. I consider collapse & routing, if the two congregate or displace one another, clearly the apogee of route is collapse, as conclusion is peak circumcision, routing refutes terminal circumvention, the summarily conclusive, the urge, then, to route is profound & survivalistic & bares circumference as it pertains to enhancing the vigor of exotic Lepidoptera; who can refute that a rational assessment of history spells tragic, not withstanding Bach & Clementine ...
So, it is to be my last day & I don’t feel any closer to resolving the inquiry that sparked this investigation the “why” of Soutine’s power. If anything, I feel further away, & yet more at ease, immersed in Soutine for two months, rather than feeling a need to explain his power I am enlarged from breathing his power, from Peritoneum-Washing, the need to declare & conjugate, to submit to a quantitative orchestration, no longer seems appropriate or valid, it is like trying to explain origins, the origin of the universe, the origin of myth, there will be theories & confutations of theories but there will be nothing absolute, nothing we can be certain of, this urge to seek origins is itself a subject worthy of investigation, what is the need that impels us to identify an origin? Will it serve to orient us more accurately to where we already are? Preparing to depart, I feel that my non-answer satisfies, & I wish to preserve this sense of resolution, not to poke around trying to define the power of Soutine, I am now comforted with being empowered by Soutine, the capacity of Art to empower, to invigorate & enlarge, is perhaps the appropriate area for investigation, not to disembowel an Artist in the hopes of discovering a Truth-Morsel, but to luxuriate in the ineffable in art, the effluent mystery of creation ...
I am at the portal which entrances into the main gallery & there by absentee ballot is The Page Boy at Maxim’s, he stands there with his hand outstretched, just like in the painting, & I view that painting not to be a “servile” study in the ordinary sense of demeanment, for this page boy is Soutine himself, enthroned in uniform because he serves but one master & that master is Art, the artist is a chameleon suiting up for the occasion, as Keats says, “A poet [read painter/artist] is the most unpoetical of anything in existence; because he has no Identity he is continually in for as filling some other Body The Sun, the Moon, the Sea & Men & Women who are creatures of impulse are poetical & have about them an unchangeable attribute the poet has none; no identity he is certainly the most unpoetical of all God’s Creatures.” How resonant that Soutine, uniformed in the Sartrean “in-itself,” is there to see me off, with his hand magnified, palm encircled, he is pleading for that breakthrough, that chance, unexpected tip to the insight-sweetspot that will enable him to extend his parameter, to penetrate further, the bituminous eye pits wearied & blistering, puckering from the already-performed excavations, the right shoulder raised aggressively, sharp, angulated, positioning the entire arm-hand into a shovel-complex devoted to digging up exalted divinations ... then, as my foot lifts to exit, there is a slight up-jerk to his hand & I take it, I take his cry he couldn’t get out, I take this churning aggravation, this squawking squalor scream out into the street, & with excruciating wringings, offer it here ...
(1) Riffing on lines from Clayton Eshleman’s “Soutine’s Lapis” in From Scratch, Black Sparrow Press, Santa Rosa, 1998, p. 88.
(2) Monroe Wheeler, Soutine.
(3) After William Godwin.
(4) Olaf Stapledon.
(5) Monroe Wheeler, Soutine, P.42
(6) Marevna, Life With the Painters of La Ruche, P.152.
(7) Albert C. Barnes, The Art In Painting, p. 3.
(8) See Heller Levinson’s, Smelling Mary
(9) Victoria Ganim is a Movement Therapist.