Caravaggio on the Beach
Essays on Art in the 1990s

by Richard Milazzo

ISBN-13: 978-1-893207-06-6
ISBN-10: 1-893207-06-4
PRICE: $29.95

>>EAN 2: RICHARD MILAZZO’s selection of essays, CARAVAGGIO ON THE BEACH: ESSAYS ON ART IN THE 1990s, adapts a variety of forms — travelogue, exhibition and symposium statement, letter, obituary, meditation, as well as the formal essay — to document equally the phenomenon of abstraction as the basis of the groundlessness of all values and as a viable mode in our culture, and the noumenon of the soul as a possible threshold moment of meaning in art and as an incontrovertible void. The author analyzes from this diastolic point of view the work of the artists from his generation in the 1980’s — Ross Bleckner, Allan McCollum, Peter Halley, Jonathan Lasker, Jeff Koons, Philip Taaffe, Robert Gober, Annette Lemieux, and Saint Clair Cemin — and also the work of Frank Stella, William Anastasi, Richard Serra, Malcolm Morley, Bill Rice, and that of a younger generation in the 1990’s, such as Vik Muniz, Fabian Marcaccio, Jessica Stockholder, Elliot Schwartz, Michel Frère, and Alessandro Twombly.

He examines also the devastating effect political correctness has had on art in the last decade, and tries to determine, in the spirit of Goya, what the sleep of monsters (rather than that of reason) has produced in the 1990s. While some artists, in his view, dangerously condense the threshold of an undifferentiated figure/ground relation, others continue problematically to widen it to create the New Plasticity in abstract painting. He asks: “Do the ‘disasters of war’ — the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, AIDS, a bloated, unrealistic economy with its very real Third World complement of rampant, seemingly inextinguishable poverty, and environmental apocalypse — promote the ‘disasters of painting’, i.e., a kind of exaggerated glorification of the material and ideological values of art without a true formal or spiritual dimension? And conversely, can the anguish of a Francis Bacon figure be related to the anxiety generated by the incompleteness of a Sol LeWitt cube?” The author also looks at the critical methodology of exhibition-making; the trajectory from the disorder of the real to the liberation of form in Sandro Chia; Ross Bleckner’s underexpressionism; and Abraham David Christian’s abstract sculpture, with its Third World architectonic exploiting “the libidinal disorders of an ungraspable universe.”

While speculating about the new body art generated by the rhetorical moralism of the New York art world in the 1990s, the author postulates in a perambulatory way the undifferentiated truth of art, which would return world to (the mirror of) representation as the synthetic experience of abstraction and soul. Commentaries on Jacques-Louis David’s Madame Récamier, the cemeteries of Cairo, Jackson Pollock’s studio floor, Velasquez’s dwarfs, Lorenzo Ghiberti’s bronze doors for the Baptistry in Florence, and Freud’s apartment in Vienna fuel the book’s post-Postmodernist atteggiamento. There are more private ruminations on the author’s Sicilian heritage; the destruction of the Barceloneta (the old port) by reason of the 1996 Olympics; and the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy’s apartment rooms at No. 4, Sharia Sharm el-Sheikh in Alexandria (Egypt), as well as reflections on the “green nights” or impenetrable images that were used to transmit anesthetically to us the bombings of Belgrade conducted under the cover of night and on the Plaça Reial in Barcelona, with its elegant syntax of tall palm trees and engorged street lamps designed by Antonio Gaudí. In the end, CARAVAGGIO ON THE BEACH is not unlike the boat that Michel Frère left behind at Chelsea Pier on the Hudson River after his recent death or the vessel at Port’Ercole (near Rome), itself afflicted by pun and apocrypha, which ultimately precipitated Caravaggio’s death from sun stroke as he (already debilitated by previous wounds and misfortunes) ran up and down the beach trying desperately to retrieve his effects under a hot July sun: it is an inconsolable abstraction that impossibly and ironically carries with it like death itself the soul of a fragment of earth destined for no known port of call.

CARAVAGGIO ON THE BEACH includes analyses of the works of Brice Marden, Alessandro Twombly, Russell Scarpulla, Frank Stella, Willem de Kooning, Bill Rice, Fabian Marcaccio, Jessica Stockholder, Jonathan Lasker, Francisco Goya, Andy Warhol, Saint Clair Cemin, Ross Bleckner, Abraham David Christian, Philip Taaffe, Allan McCollum, Michel Frère, Sol LeWitt, Jackson Pollock, Caravaggio, Peter Halley, Donald Baechler, Jeff Koons, Francis Bacon, Robert Gober, Fairfield Porter, Joseph Beuys, Velázquez, Jacques-Louis David, Vik Muniz, Richard Serra, Mel Bockner, Barry Le Va, Lynda Benglis, Kiki Smith, Annette Lemeiux, Not Vital, Meg Webster, Sal Scarpitta, Mike Kelley, Elliot Schwartz, William Rand, William Anastasi, Antonio Gaudí, Alfred Jarry, Vittore Carpaccio, Barney Rosset, Joan Mitchell, Jean-Auguste Ingres, Lorenzo Ghiberti.

First edition paperback, January 2001, 192 pp., sewn, with 33 black and white illustrations printed on patinated paper, and a black and white photograph of the author on the frontispiece.