Malcolm Morley
The Art of the Superreal, the Rough, the Neo-Classical, and the Incommensurable

by Richard Milazzo

Malcolm Morley
ISBN-13: 978-1-893207-10-3
ISBN-10: 1-893207-10-2
PRICE: $19.95

>>EAN 3: RICHARD MILAZZO’s essay, MALCOLM MORLEY: THE ART OF THE SUPERREAL, THE ROUGH, THE NEO-CLASSICAL, AND THE INCOMMENSURABLE, analyzes many of the most seminal paintings the artist executed from 1958 to 1998, as well as all of the sculptures and several of the watercolors and drawings. Written in the spirit of a monograph, it closely scrutinizes the relation between the artist’s life and work. He examines the two post-World War II art movements that Malcolm Morley founded — the Superrealism of the 1960’s and 1970’s and the Neo-Expressionism of the 1980’s —, as well as the most recent work of the 1990’s, which the author contends is a synthesis of the first two bodies of work and identifies as ‘Neo-Classical’.

The author scrutinizes these three periods through his theory of the incommensurable which attempts to locate and explain — and which reflects Malcolm Morley’s own efforts to explore — the discrepancies that exist between the artist’s subconscious and his well-known grid technique. He shows that it is precisely the ‘mistakes’ or ‘slip-ups’ generated by the libido of the individual in conflict with the ‘superego’ or overriding rational systems of art and history which result in the visionary blindness of the artist. He writes: “What all the phases of Malcolm Morley’s life and work have in common are the boats — whether the giant ocean liners of his Superrealist paintings or the more modest sail and ‘life’ boats of his Neo-Expressionist works; and, in a sense, they can all be related to the toy model, H.M.S. Nelson, he lost as a child in World War II. All the subsequent boats can be viewed as a reenactment of the painful loss of innocence or as an excruciating separation and ultimate loss of the beloved mother ship or object of desire. Combined with the adulterations of later life, it can be seen that the artist has spent his whole life recuperating from the trauma of this symbolic loss.” Traveling timelessly and relentlessly through a Cézanne-like space — which “becomes more dimensional the more it is flattened” — to salvage his symbolic, beloved ‘Rosebud’ from the wreck of History, Malcolm Morley rediscovers at the end what he already knew at the beginning: that this ‘object’ is lodged ultimately, deeply, and forever in the port soul of his art.

According to the author, Malcolm Morley tried from the very beginning to fill symbolically the ‘holes’ of his existence — from the bombed-out wall in his bedroom during the war (which destroyed his toy boat) to the hole literally under the kitchen sink which he could not repair or fill during his first job after he got out of prison, to the break-ins and prison cells (that were his first ‘studios’), to the portholes, fissures, and folds in his paintings. In the spirit of Cézanne (and Barnett Newman), Malcolm Morley becomes perversely a defender of the illusionism of painting through its materic values (flatness, as well as facture), even as he battles against personal and social disillusionment and struggles for the mythic or primitive and the tragic or ‘slip-up’ over the binding superstructural ideas and ideologies of art and society, among which he counts the ‘grid’ both as a technique in his work that he favors and as the preeminent symbolic mode of rationality that he persistently questions. Where family, religion, ideology, and even beauty are found to be wanting, or even corrupt, as values, Malcolm Morley asserts instead the experience of transformation as a mode of outer and inner transcendence or “deeper unexpectedness.” The artist, as a blindman, can he as such perhaps dream in colors and forms never before glimpsed?

At the end of the book, the author asks and answers the following questions: “Is the figure with blank, green eyes or sunglasses who dominates the scene [in Aegean Crime], Oedipus, who unknowingly kills his father, sleeps with his mother, and then plucks out his own eyes in retribution? Or is he the blindman Malcolm Morley encountered as a young boy of five or six long ago along the boardwalk in a seaside town on the English Channel in 1930’s? Is the crime blindness — the artist’s, ours, the universe’s? Do the green eyes or sunglasses reflect the enormous incommensurability of the cosmos itself or are they transparent to the cosmos as a rhetorical figure, waiting to be re-invented at the drop of a coin in a blindman’s tin cup? Where civilization could once transform the blindman into a prophet or a visionary, can culture now only convert vision into blindness, tragedy into bathos, and the unconscious itself into a form of kitsch? So what is it in the end that blocks our view, and makes us see only what we want to see — murder or some other unspeakable crime — in the heart of man? I think people subconsciously want to see this dark thing in Malcolm Morley because of what they actually see there — a radically uncompromised practice that will stop at nothing, that will acknowledge no boundary, to achieve its end. They want to see Caravaggio’s misdeeds in Malcolm Morley because what they really want to see is a form or level of painting that is as defiant and definite in our time as Caravaggio’s was in his. And this is just another way to get to it.” In the end, this is precisely what Richard Milazzo, in MALCOLM MORLEY: THE ART OF THE SUPERREAL, THE ROUGH, THE NEO-CLASSICAL, AND THE INCOMMENSURABLE, argues they get in the artist’s work.

First edition paperback, May 2000, 128 pp., sewn, 33 color and 7 black and white illustrations.