Archive for the ‘Reviews and Critical Stabs’ Category

This commentary is a response to The Paintings of Julius Evola on the Aristocrats of the Soul blog.

evola_composizione_dada

Julius Evola “Composizione Dada” 1920

 THE CINNABAR’S ART

Evola intended to create jolts as a Dadaist. In support of his method he referenced  Lao Tzu whose riddles created circles in logic through which inifinity was glimpsed.  

But  Lao Tzu’s infinity was governed by the Tao.  Evola’s paintings, like Dadaism itself, leave me hanging. There is no support.  There is no evidence of a guiding Tao or omphalos or eternal spool from which temporary threads of variable color and texture flow.    

Evola’s  paintings accomplish a disorientation that lacks the toxic sweetness or foul wit of advanced decadence.  His color harmonies are  thoughtful.  They are evenly tempered while the geometries are radically agitated. One gets a sense of a man with a healthy, as opposed to a sick, imagination. If the paintings are mildly decadent, it’s  because they lack the clear organizing principle of Tao. Furthermore, there is no sense of natural and supernatural hierarchy in life’s paint!  Which isn’t to say that Evola’s paintings lack professional command of color, shape, volume, depth and moment. It’s just that they are, like the man, unfinished. 

The paintings were done at an interregnum in Evola’s life. The hyper-plasticity fits.  So do the razor lines that float or tilt or rise inside the frames. One gets a sense of a former artillery officer who really is, “… conjoined with the upsetting of all logic, ethic and aesthetic categories, in the most paradoxical and baffling ways.”  Meanwhile, Evola is yet to resolve the rupture in perception that is Dada’s battle cry.  That irresolution, if one is being very hard on oneself, is the decadence. All in all,  the paintings don’t lack beauty and/or depth; they lack a willful personal order placed upon a timeless Supernatural Order.  A combination which ultimately suits Evola’s Roman metaphysics more than the sublime sweetness of Tao.  

Personally,  Evola’s doctrine of “The Absolute Man” has been a difficult study.  I’m a little  disappointed that Evola’s paintings don’t help me see it.  They lack a dominant symbol of the singular and the many.  But it seems that the metaphysics of unity, whether in stationary meditation as a priest or in dynamic action as a warrior, were a post-painting study. The paintings, I’ll repeat, show a very healthy imagination at work during an interregnum. Their vitality is irreproachable but their mature message isn’t expressed on the canvas as a painter. It’s expressed on the page as a writer.  Evola steps into a different square.

Perhaps, like the multi-lingual Guénon who selected between languages for the one that  best described the concept at hand, Evola chose writing over painting as the form best suited to his meaning.  In this, he was the mercurial yet binding cinnabar.

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Fine-Feathered Framed

“Fine Feathered” by Lysa Provencio 

 FASCIST LINE & RAINBOW CURVE

I love this.  The haughtiness.  The clearly defined  borders.   The sight-line that’s as tense and straight as a sniper’s nerve.   

Icy.  Icy.  Icy.   I love the frosty austerity. 

I get a sense of Artemis, The Goddess of the Hunt, who was also protectress of  young animals. A paradoxical figure.  Loading the maternal aspect of her divinity, there is a plumpness within the figures. The woman.  The bird.  The cloud.   There is a swollen,  almost pregnant, softness.

Behind it all is an Egyptian ether.   Infinity and afterlife.  The narrative is traced against it and will pass into it.

The subject’s extended hand turns inward.  Which shows the artist’s sharp conceptualizing power turned against herself.  The coldness works against any kind of liberal or humanist sentiment that Artemis, twin sister of Apollo, was incapable of entertaining.  There’s a divine female grace and strict Apollonian detachment.  Futhermore, the pointed needle signifies a steely self-refinement that’s very yang. It’s yang like fascism is yang.  Not at all concerned with the quantity of blood.  Rather, concerned with the quality of blood that’s sacrificed for its own regeneration.

On the frontier of the battle between female fullness and austere male line, is the scribble in the upper left-hand corner.  A hairy contest between circle and right-angle.   It’s emphasised in black but hushed in scale like a very serious muse.  It’s a key referent where one begins to read the painting from left to right. I see it as a turbulent intercoursing  between motifs that are untangled and solved without compromise in the larger picture.  1)The clear line and 90 degree angle which is an Egyptian, Greco-Roman and fascist motif. 2)The  swollen figures, plush with tender feelings, which is a Rainbow Democracy  motif. Furthering the rainbow mentality, the thought cloud above the blue-bird is a blank. Reason is replaced by a mesmerizing swirl of feeling. Finally, teardrops rain upon the blue-bird with its wing in a noose tied to the arm of power.  

Which brings me to the kind of open-ended question that gives a painting an extended life through right-wing and left-wing revolutions.  Does the leashed bird represent the truth that all of  life is hierarchical, just as the fascists and their antecedents viewed it? Or does the leashed bird represent  the pathos of human oppression as the American Rainbow Democrats and their contemporaries view it?  Only one thing is certain: the painting has a beautiful tension. It presents a modest, and very ladylike,  synthesis of radical opposites.   

There’s a never ending war in this sublimely gentle piece between hyper-control and hyper-emotionality.  It is, I think, an accidental masterpiece.  Created with no ambition to speak to history or the gods. Yet, it does.  Softly. 

 

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Looking for Przybylski

Looking For Przybylski

or

Born Into This

This book is tops in its league: the no-checking and no-fighting hockey league for oldsters. Ex-cops.  Ex-firemen. You’ll either love or hate how the book plays out. You’ll say, “This is the Master League” or “This is the gramps’ league.”

As a bona-fide Przybylski from Detroit, I had to give it a critical reading.  My dad thoroughly enjoyed it.  As for myself, not being a member of The Greatest Generation with its coast-to-coast politeness, I have questions about the detour around “The Race Issue”. How can someone write about a Detroit Polack without a mean stink? Especially as the quality of life declines and the things that don’t cost money, like a safe neighborhood amongst the working poor, are methodically destroyed in the name of social progress.

Yet  Frederick may have more old school codes than politically correct codes governing his work: a gentleman never brings-up a problem that he can’t fix.   So Frederick has his main character, Ziggy Czarnecki, proceed on the plane of a handy-man.  The book maintains a jobber’s, one task at a time, consciousness.  Death is the only nag that isn’t shrugged-off.

Still wanting the book to be tougher, I consider the difficulty of writing about race with moral integrity.  Because the liberal vision of moral integrity demands acceptance of “the other”, while the conservative vision  of moral integrity demands ethnic and cultural self-preservation. Poles tend towards the latter. Gore Vidal said that Poles were unfit for American democracy due to their affinity for a tribal chief. Which, others say, is why Polish-Catholic polities had to be dispersed by bussing in the 1970’s. If this logic points to a timely conspiracy orchestrated by declining WASPs and ascendant Jews in the post-Kennedy era? It’s nothing compared to the timeless conspiracy orchestrated by the Gods of Fate.  A true Pole, in the bottom of his beer glass, would see the destruction of his parish by Civil Rights ideologues as a fated replay of the destruction of Poland by Nazi and Commie ideologues. The bad news is that this long view makes Poles funereal in their metaphysics. The good news is that it keeps them hushed. A Pole looking from the still depths of his beer-glass into the onrushing mirror of the bar would NOT think, “It’s the  Jews, WASPs, Blacks, Germans, Russians, Turks and Huns.”  He’d think, “It’s us.  We are,” as Bukowski’s poem says, “born into this.”

Legendary pain, legendary fatalism and legendary self-sacrifice. The Polish soul is muted in Frederick’s  book. Yet opaqueness suits  Ziggy Czarnecki who’s a retiring guy. Furthermore, it was a fellow Polack from the parish  who betrayed Ziggy’s numbers running biz in the 1950’s. In as much as it happened at the apex of Zig’s life, his obsession with the snitching Pole is  A-1 legit. The treacherous Przybylski, and not the treacherous “other”,  is the proper focus of Ziggy’s  desiderata.

Still, as Ziggy blows off the stink on his road trip to find Przybylski, there could’ve been more odors from the bowels of the race. It’s not enough to pass booze, cigarettes, kielbasa and pierogis under the reader’s nose. There could’ve been more inner-fumes released as Ziggy openned his heart, like a flower, to the Western panorama with its uplifting spaciousness. He could’ve delicately questioned the American Dream with hostile Blacks in Detroit and an all too civil cuckold son in California. At least Frederick creates  the polarities of Black deprivation and White satiation. But not enough is said about the “progress” of Ziggy’s son from an inbred  Detroit Polack to an outbred Boobus Americanus in southern California. Ziggy mourns his debased Old World lineage. Then, at the moment of resolve, he sighs with the shrug of eternity.

The good news is that Ziggy is 100% through making value judgements on others. The bad news is that he’s  forfeited his own existential criteria as a goddamn Detroit Polack for making value judgements on anything.  He’s a husk filled with human sympathy and a pater-familias with no remnant of gonads. I must admit that  it captures a type.

Frederick does a masterful job with Ziggy’s daughter-in-law. The hot-wife of his nice and soapy son.  Her brisk modern character is fueled by her lust to be the best. To live fully. To have cinematic sweep in L.A.  She’s the modern antithesis of  Ziggy’s rustic Polish wife.  Colorless and bouyant as the moon, Ziggy’s wife is his rock. She casts a merciful light across his dim soulscape. It’s a delicate view.  Frederick does a lovely job with the otherwise faithless Ziggy, post-Catholic and post-redemption, turning in desperation to his timeless bride. Ziggy reveres the always adapting but never changing woman he married. The love is raw. It’s true to his birth. It “stinks” of a residual Catholic piety and fidelity that Ziggy’s can’t escape.  All in all, homesickness is the core ferment underneath the racing quest to find Przybylski.

It’s a good book.  It’s written with a gentleman’s reserve.  But the formality that is its strength is its weakness.  As a proper liberal, Frederick writes too much as a  Universal Human Being and not enough as a goddamned  Detroit Polack.  This is my #1 complaint.

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How do you rate a friend’s book? You rate it on the jealousy meter.

On the jealousy meter, I’d rate Bloodlines of Cain a 5 Star smash. If it wasn’t excellent in its essential stamp, I wouldn’t be so damned upset. Fagiani does an excellent job plotting the plot. His execution, however, is excellent here and junky there. Shakespeare had the same problem. But I can’t forgive Fagiani’s lapses and forfeit the right to bust his balls.

The story takes place at the turn of the 19th Century. A time in which the North East and the North West were more than miles apart. The East was already settling into decadence as the West was, if not lawless, still operating under the rule of Darwin’s Law: survival of the fittest. That’s not to say that the there wasn’t blood-letting in NYC where “Cain” begins amongst the American Museum of Natural History wogs. But the blood-letting was, in contemporary terms, snarky. Death by a thousand cutting remarks, war- ranted and unwarranted character assassination, backstabbing, cut-throat, murder with a smile and all that high-class winnowing. To Fagiani’s credit as a rookie novelist, he doesn’t mark these WASP’s as hypocrites. Rather, he portrays them as sporting dudes who, after clawing to the top, prefer to minimize collateral damage as they jostle for incrementally higher-rank. Their style is to avoid dirty messes. They have, at least, an aesthetic.

Fagiani does a fine job with the transition between the increasing effete WASPs of the NYC museum/ philanthropy set and their distant mirrors: the half-civilized white-men, red-men and hybrids in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. And he also does an excellent job with his reluctant hero, Hathaway, who transitions between man’s East and mother nature’s West. This traveling poise, requiring buttery manners here and raw violence there, is the strength of his book.

Fagiani has a steady talent for examining the ways of men across the arc of the American continent and up `n down the pecking order. Furthermore, he doesn’t preen in a first novel. Consequently, there are many effortless passages. They zip along. They are entertaining and instructive. But there are junky scenes, phlegmatic characters and lazy renderings that beg an editor with a whip. All of these are reoccurring local stinkers. Which leads me to the book’s almost, but not quite, structural flaw. Because Fagiani’s foil to the reasonable men of science is well-placed and well-spaced. It’s just lacks, for all its abrupt ugliness, a necessary dearness. Maybe Fagiani didn’t love his devil enough. In the one place in “Cain” where he had not only a license to preen as a rookie writer, but a fuckin’ mandate from the inner-godzilla inside us all, he maintained a cool-hand. A modesty. A mature remove while, I’ll say for sport, his dog on a leash turned into the Beast of the Apocalypse.

But there’s no problem with Bloodlines of Cain’s story-line. It takes one from an analytical East Coast scientific culture, to a savage yet soulful American Indian culture, to a place in the “forbidden” mountains where a species of purely sinister forces rule. Untamable by science. Untamable by rite and sacrifice, too. I love the step into the beyond. Furthermore, I accept that Fagiani was grasping in the dark no more than Carl Jung when he explained the Nazis as the spirit of Wotan awakened and enraged. So, I respect Fagiani’s reach into the black-black warp. I just don’t think that, as a meta-character, his rendering of The Dark Force is rigorous and dear enough. However, as an agent of drama it works pretty darn well.

All in all, I’m jealous of Fagiani’s accomplishment. I give it 5 Stars on the jealousy meter. I’m also giving him a beginner’s handicap. As first-books go, “Cain” is excellent in its design and variable in its execu- tion. The book mirrors one of its most poignant characters: a smart and stiff-backed painter of natural scenes, a well-connected insider at the Museum of Natural History, who lapses into stupors. Opium relieved him of tension and sent him floating. In as much as fiction creates a dream world it’s extremely hard, almost impossible, for an author not to drift and blur in his own spell of creation. That’s why editors with a whip are necessary. If not pricklish friends.