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At the Royal Academy

Peter deBolla: Abstract Expressionism

15 December 2016
... Among​ the many fascinating questions raised by Abstract Expressionism, on show at the Royal Academy until 2 January, is this: if I renounce depiction, refuse representation and fully embrace abstraction what the hell am I going to paint? The show gives the answers arrived at by 24 painters, not all of them American but all of whom worked in the United States between 1930 (Jackson Pollock’s haunted self-portrait) and 1979 (Joan Mitchell’s joyful Salut Tom, which pulsates with fluid light ...

In the Butcher’s Shop

Peter deBolla: Deleuze on Bacon

23 September 2004
Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation 
by Gilles Deleuze, translated by Daniel Smith.
Continuum, 209 pp., £9.99, March 2004, 0 8264 7318 0
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... In the technical literature on aesthetics a distinction is often made between the empirical inquiry into beauty (what it is, which objects have it and so forth), and the investigation of sensory cognition. The former became subsumed in the 18th century into the theory of taste and has ever since been in the ascendant, while the latter (what Alexander Baumgarten called ‘the science of aesthetics’) has suffered mixed fortunes ...

Why We Weep

Peter deBolla: Looking and Feeling

6 March 2003
Pictures & Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings 
by James Elkins.
Routledge, 272 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 415 93713 2
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... How agitated should it be? Is one kind of agitation, say frustration at not being able to understand a work, equivalent to another, say a feeling of joy or wonder? Does the absence of agitation signal something of importance in respect of the artwork, or is it merely an indication that my perceptual faculties are not ...
1 June 1989
Ruin the sacred truths: Poetry and Belief from the Bible to the Present 
by Harold Bloom.
Harvard, 204 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 674 78027 2
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Harold Bloom: Towards Historical Rhetorics 
by Peter deBolla.
Routledge, 155 pp., £25, October 1988, 0 415 00899 9
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... and he has a penchant like Blake’s for system-building. Bloom would subscribe to that poet’s declaration in Jerusalem that his business isn’t to reason and compare, but to create. The characters in Blake’s cosmological fiction are named Urizen, Los, Enitharmon; in Bloom’s they inclu...

What Henry Knew

Michael Wood: Literature and the Taste of Knowledge

18 December 2003
... to be: dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free, drawn from the cold hard mouth of the world, derived from the rocky breasts forever, flowing and drawn, and since our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown. Elizabeth Bishop, ‘At the Fishhouses’ ‘Like what we imagine knowledge to be’. There are many ways of imagining knowledge – this is a ...

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