By Ellen Levy

''Poetry used to be declining/ portray advancing/ we have been complaining/ it used to be '50,'' recalled poet Frank O'Hara in 1957. Criminal Ingenuity traces a chain of associated moments within the background of this move of cultural energy from the sector of the be aware to that of the picture. Ellen Levy explores the hot York literary and paintings worlds within the years that bracket O'Hara's lament via shut readings of the works and careers of poets Marianne Moore and John Ashbery and assemblage artist Joseph Cornell. during those readings, Levy discusses such themes because the American debates round surrealism, the functionality of the ''token woman'' in inventive canons, and the position of the recent York urban Ballet within the improvement of mid-century modernism, and situates her principal figures when it comes to such colleagues and contemporaries as O'Hara, T. S. Eliot, Clement Greenberg, Walter Benjamin, and Lincoln Kirstein.

Moore, Cornell, and Ashbery are hooked up through acquaintance and affinity-and specially, through the ownership of what Moore calls ''criminal ingenuity,'' a expertise for situating themselves at the fault strains that fissure the geographical regions of artwork, sexuality, and politics. As we reflect on their lives and works, Levy indicates, the possible really expert query of the resource and that means of the fight for energy among paintings kinds inexorably opens out to broader questions on social and creative associations and forces: the academy and the museum, professionalism and the marketplace, and that establishment of associations, marriage

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Extra info for Criminal Ingenuity: Moore, Cornell, Ashbery, and the Struggle Between the Arts

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Then, in section 3, Greenberg marks the point in his historical narrative when literature’s dominance is challenged with a crucial shift in terms: the rise of visual art to a position of cultural dominance, he says, “can be best traced in painting” (CE 1:28; my emphasis). Painting’s advantage over literature, on one hand, and sculpture, on the other, B ORROWING PAINTS FROM A GIRL 7 derives from its greater potential for realizing what Greenberg will call, in section 5, “the opacity of its medium” (CE 1:32).

In the title of “When I Buy Pictures” Moore draws the connection between the visual arts and “commerce” with unaccustomed clarity. Then, as if frightened by her own explicitness, she immediately complicates matters: the poem’s first lines, which, as so often in Moore’s work, complete the thought begun by the title, read, “or what is closer to the truth, / when I look at that of which I may regard myself as the imaginary possessor” (BMM 101). Interested and disinterested attitudes here are uneasily juxtaposed; the disinterested position may be “closer to the truth” as Moore conceives it, yet in the gap between the title and the caveat of the poem’s first lines, she remains suspended between actual and imaginary possession.

She is drawn to “the museum” and to “pictures” both because they are weak relative to their literary counterparts and because they are in their way “most powerful” and so have the potential to oppose the repressive elements in literary culture. Yet she sees that this is a dangerous game, that to draw on the power of “pictures” also may be to open the gate to the forces of “savage” capitalism. Literature’s relative detachment from economic interests may bring it “closer to the truth,” which is to say, to the sort of disinterested stance that would enable one to resist the desire for actual, as opposed 16 CRIMINAL INGENUITY to merely imaginary, possession.

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