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Lucian Freud when young, with Francis Bacon or is it Brendan Behan?

In London this past week, Lucian Freud died at 88.   Some years ago I commented on a retrospective seen at the Tate in London.  My views haven’t changed.

Lucian Freud, Man with rat

Freud was, for much of his life, and unfashionably so, a realist.  His range was circumscribed as his palette.  Friends, foliage, in some graphics work, images of urban London.   His life was likewise constricted – he almost never left London, and his trips were to the race track where he bet on horses and it is said lost a lot.  In the last few decades his reputation and income rose.  He drove a Bentley.

Lucian Freud lithographPainting in 2008

Passing through London, arriving directly from Korea, I was again subjected to European sticker-shock syndrome as I digested the $5 cost to step onto the Tube, or similar prices which assaulted my economic  sensibilities.  Were it not for friends willing to house me I simply could not think of a visit unless I wished to drain in short order my now somewhat fixed-for-life savings.    Moving on to Europe merely confirmed that hard reality.

The news, as usual swirls in twister fashion:  since leaving London the Murdoch case has bloomed into a Joplin-scale tornado, leveling all in its path.   While Cameron holds on for now, one senses the distant thunder of further revelations of the criminal connections between Murdoch’s media empire and the corrupted politicians of the UK; a little closer look shows this swarm of storms skipping across the Atlantic to involve his American properties: The Wall Street Journal (already evidently compromised by an editorial opinion piece of absurdist qualities) and most importantly “Fox News”, an organization which has polluted America’s politics with his gutter-press hysterias.   Meanwhile on our side of “the pond” the rumbles are about the machinations of Republicans to force Obama into endless “compromises” in order to prevent a US government default.   To me this is so much Kabuki theater, a now well-formalized matter in which Obama playing conciliator gives away the house and more, and sighs this is what politics is all about, and he had to do it to keep the whole system from collapsing.   The welcome mat for this particular act is now so thread-worn one cannot but think it is a mask for arriving at the outcome Obama preferred at the end, but with enough fraudulent theatrics to attempt to con his so-called base into believing it.  Few anymore do, hence the Kabuki aspect: so theatrical a facade that everyone knows the plot before the curtain rises.   Obama, liberal hero of 2008 is in fact more right-wing than the Republicans of the same year.   He is only “left” in the shadow of the Tea Party, Grover Norquist, and Timothy McVeigh.

UK PM David Cameron and former NoW editor Brooks at London party

Noh Drama Obama, these days appearing gnomically now and then, asserts he’s working hard to square the circle, while circling around him the jackals of the right show not the slightest sign that compromise is in their mind-scape.  The irony is that this “socialist from Kenya; Islamic two-tone guy” is in fact further to the right than any sitting President we ever had: Guantanamo is open for biz; drones drift overhead in Afghanistan and Iraq; the US Navy builds a new base on Korea’s lovely Jeju island surrounded with protests; the banks romp to new profit levels and the American middle-class (we don’t even talk anymore of the discarded 30% of the American lower class)  is battered with ever new corporatists schemes, Americans are spied on by the government in shameless defiance of that “damned piece of paper” (George Bush) called the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and Obama presides over it all pretending he’s The One.

Prosthetic smile

Arriving in Italy the news announced the death of long-time Rome resident American ex-patriot painter,  Cy Twombly.  His work always seemed to me a kind of modern art sham, the kind of things that make people say “my kid could do better than that”, but Twombly stuck around long enough so that crawling out of the wreckage of the abstract expressionists, he ended up being a major figure in the arts world, even if he clearly didn’t give a damn.  His scrawls were often given penciled labels with classical European references which I presume meant to give them a cultural weight, and seemed in contradiction to the almost primitive sprawls of paint with which he loaded his usually very large canvases.   A handful of years ago I did see some of his work, in Rome, I think at the American Academy, which had some power – giant red flowers dripping with paint dribbles down the canvas.  And I thought, perhaps it was OK to have gone through all the rest to arrive at these works.  Perhaps.   On the other hand if your kid spent 61 years scribbling, he might come up with something akin.  Cy Twombly died at age 83.

Roman wall, shot taken July 18 for revised HD version of Muri Romani

In this same time, there were other deaths, closer and far more personal, which I need time to ponder and understand.  I will try in the coming weeks to put something of it on my blog,


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