greatness is only another name for total directness


If you turn from reading Tim Clark’s The Painting of Modern Life to looking at contemporary art in the galleries, you cannot but be a little disappointed. Who is our Degas, our Manet or our Pissarro- who, that is, displays the hidden political and social dimensions of our public spaces, revealing how our private desires are externalized there? Modernist high art turned inward, leaving this task to mass art. Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain (1952) shows, by comparison, how confined were the explicit social references of Abstract Expressionism. Last Fall Dara Friedman hired sixty people, children, tourists, and workers of all ages, to sing in public without accompaniment. They sang in daylight and at night, in coffee shops, on Manhattan street corners, in museums, and in Grand Central Station. Mostly they did popular songs, with a little opera, mostly lyrics about longing. Some of the performers are very good, a few sound great, but they wouldn’t attract attention in concert. Musical, a sixty-minute large screen, high definition digital video presents these performances.

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