Post #776 • April 17, 2006, 10:40 AM • 23 Comments
Michael Kimmelman hadn't been doing so bad lately, approving of Bonnard and Auerbach in recent weeks.
Yesterday, he melted.
A reader wrote in with this article excerpted, and put "100% BS" in the subject line. My estimation of Kimmelman's work rises and falls. He never wields language, like Robert Hughes or Peter Schjeldahl - he rolls out simple sentences that do their job. That has honor, if not panache. He uses his eyes more than his press kit. He sees glories in certain contemporary works, especially minimalist ones, and describes them with enough conviction to make me wonder about having a second look at them.
I'm still trying to forgive him for a review of a late 2004 Raphael show at the National Gallery, London, in which he confessed his blind spot regarding the master. I admired the honesty but not the lapse of taste. He closed that review thusly, quoting Delacroix from his journals:
"Although one may prefer the note of majesty in Raphael, which echoes, as it were, the grandeur of some of his subjects, I think that without being torn to pieces by people of taste (and here I mean people whose taste is genuine and sincere), one might say that the great Dutchman was more of a natural painter than Perugino's studious pupil."
So there it is. Majesty versus naturalness. Maybe that's the heart of my own misgiving.
Except that Rembrandt bugs me, too.
It turns out that Rembrandt doesn't just bug him - Rembrandt has him scrambling for anecdotes and asserting with no good reason that a show connecting him to Caravaggio is a "ludicrous idea." What can we learn from this mishap?
1. Split right after the bit about Richard Tuttle, this one article would have made two fine blog posts.
2. Honesty saves not from errancy.
3. Faced with deficiencies in one's seeing, breaking out into a song and dance just won't do.