Monday, October 24, 2011

Charles Demuth's Sailors And Flowers

One of my favorite American artists of the Twentieth Century was Charles Demuth. I'm not going to go into an intricate biography of the man here. There are plenty of accounts, both exaggerated and more respectful, which detail his supposedly lonely and pathetic existence. He was not a healthy guy by any stretch of the imagination; but he was extremely productive, and he had a good many friends who supported him and appreciated his exceptional gifts, not least among them Marcel Duchamp. In connection with Demuth's Pissing Sailors, it should be pointed out that Demuth was one of the most vocal defenders of Duchamp's appropriated sculpture, Fountain, which is of course a urinal repositioned, laid down on a pedestal. Like Duchamp with the Étant Donnés, Demuth was making his most important art, not for contemporary public viewing, but for a public thirty or forty years hence. As for the flowers, as organs of regeneration, I believe they do very well juxtaposed with these hefty dicks. Some scholars assume that Demuth painted his friendly working class gobs as he did because he was himself incapable of achieving erection. They go too far with their assumptions and conjecture. There are even some academic fools who would claim that Demuth wasn't Queer. Such stupidity is insulting. Why must blind men try to write about visual Art, even if their blindness is only metaphoric?

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