Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Monday, August 8, 2016
The Devil is in the Detail
"The Garden of Earthly Delights"
Barnett Newman once said “Aesthetics is for the artist as Ornithology is for the birds.” And Pieter van Huystee’s Hieronymus Bosch: Touched By the Devilcurrently finishing a run at Film Forum is
curiously more about the aerie of art history and museum politics than it is
about the work of the great creator of "The
Garden of Earthly Delights." Bosch
was the proto master of surrealist invention and it’s no coincidence that Spain and the Prado have appropriated the majority
of his work and that one of Bosch’s legacies is obviously the output of the two
great Spanish surrealists Luis Bunuel and Savador Dali. The Netherlands/Spain
connection and the cross-pollination that resulted as a result of Phillip II
connoisseurship is one of the more interesting art historical
footnotes that the film illustrates. One of the things Hieronymus Bosch does afford is
a close up view of the microimagery of "The
Garden of Earthy Delights" not usually in the purview of the average viewer; even Dali’s most ambitious inventions are no
match for these creations. Another fact the movie reveals is that some Boschs
were created after the painter’s death—a seemingly surreal statement that can
be explained by the fact that his studio outlived him. What is however even
more interesting is the contrast between the world of the paintings and that of
those who study them. Hieronymus Bosch
falls in the category ofThe New Rijksmuseumwhich was produced by van
Huystee, and dealt with the Ibsenian politics that surrounded the renovation of
one of Amsterdam’s greatest institutions. Yet the world in which the
scholarship of Bosch takes place is a little more hermetic and the venues--amongst
them Venice’s Accademia--in which the cast of characters operate in order to
secure Bosch paintings for a 500th anniversary exhibition
at the painter’s birthplace Den Bosch is curiously removed from any of the
human iniquity that’s displayed in the artist’s own oeuvre. Here is a Europe in
which high fallutin art historians negotiate (the Prado’s proprietary treatment
of “The Garden of Earthly Delights” is explained by the fact that the work is
that museum's “Night Watch”) in an affluent, almost antiseptic world in
which there’s rivalry and jealousy but no evidence of "The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things" (actually painted by a follower of Bosch). For such a breadthy
subject the filmmaker has chosen a curiously narrow canvas.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.