When the new is exhausted or bankrupt what do we have left?

Like Winston Smith in “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” we search among the scraps of the past to try to reconnect with what we hope were better times. And thus, for example, in the beaux arts we have Wendy Artin painting watercolors of Roman ruins or of naked twenty-first century models as if they were sculptural remains. We have painters like Balthus using Renaissance techniques, and, in the case, say, of John Currin, doing pastiches of Renaissance works. In the works of artists as diverse as Mark Tansey, Kara Walker, and the Indian artist Indian artist K.P. Reji we have a renewed interest in history painting. At the latest Whitney Biennial we even had young American artists quoting not so ancient predecessors such as Robert Rauschenberg and Ed Ruscha.

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Poem mixed with drawing

James Joyce called attention to our “epiphanies,” but some of us live through days upon days filled with epiphanies and storms and wild hopes and dullness . . . Et “Quand c’est fini, N-i, ni, ni, Ça recommence” (Léo Ferré). Which leads to a poem overlaid on a drawing, and accompanied by another drawing, done in the café of the Rubin Museum. Vita longa, ars brevis?

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