Representing Mother******s


In the year 867, a new portrait mosaic of the Virgin Mary & Son was unveiled in the apse of the Hagia Sophia — the seat of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church in Istanbul (then Constantinople) — homilized by the Armenian-born soon-to-be–Patriarch Photios as a victory over Iconoclasm: the almost-century-long proscription on depiction that had rocked the ages-old Byzantine art world to its foundations. This forbearance of graven images was (and remains) one of the most profound differences between Islam and its Great Satanic neighbors. At least until the advent of modernism, and the eruption of abstract painting — just about a century ago. The craving for persuasive facsimiles of human bodies has reached a recent epitome with James Cameron’s Avatar, a realization that makes one yearn for the rigorous formalism of the Taliban — or at least Clement Greenberg. Mid-20th-century critic Greenberg’s successful championing of the abstract expressionists and insistence on the transcendental flatness of the painterly medium have just reached an epitome of their own in the most awesome sheet of U.S. postage in recent memory, including dollhouse-ready reproductions of Jackson Pollock’s Convergence (1952), Willem de Kooning’s Asheville (1948) and eight other iconic images of the New York School.

more from Doug Harvey at the LA Weekly here.