Apr 15, 2009, 10:21AM

More John Ashbery Criticism Than You Can Shake a Stick At

And my favorite Ashbery poem: Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape.

This portfolio of works addresses the Created Spaces2 concept to the domestic worlds Ashbery inhabits. As developed by The Flow Chart Foundation, Created Spaces is a mode of examining the deliberately shaped environments of artists and writers. It requires that the physical spaces an artist has chosen and molded in the course of quotidian existence be rendered the same quality or intensity of appreciation and attention as the artist’s poems, fictions, musical compositions, visual artworks, or so on. It also suggests that comparisons between the artist’s two (or more) created environments may lead to fruitful critical conclusions.

Ashbery is an ideal candidate for such a dissection. His domestic environments are the result of a protracted, minutely considered, wildly imaginative process of previsioning, selecting, populating, arranging, and glossing. The applicability of Created Spaces to his Chelsea apartment is the subject of interesting debate; on the other hand, his Hudson house is overwhelmingly theatrical, esoteric, sumptuous, even alarming, and the aesthetic that has governed its evolution is strikingly similar to that which has informed his poetry. Ashbery’s audience is accustomed to seeing him trip merrily between disciplines—as an actor, playwright, art critic, translator, painter and collagist, and a collaborator in every vein; as a famous enthusiast and as a still more famous source of inspiration to other artists; as a poet who not only references every possible branch of the arts overtly in his work but who also adapts the techniques of musical composition, of abstract expressionism, and of cinema in the structure of the poems themselves—and we are primed to accept that the democracy and universality of his interests and talents may extend to the domestic arts.


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