Irving Petlin
The Entry of Christ into Washington
2005
Oil on Belgian linen
65 x 147 5/8 in.; 165 x 375 cm.

Spent three days in Washington, DC where Nicole was doing research on the sculptor Saint Gaudens. I’d been to DC maybe half a dozen times over the years, but always only to do a poetry reading or an MLA conference, and had in fact never had/taken the time to visit the sights. What a treat! A vast array of superb museums with very few people (only the last day of the marvelous Hokusai retrospective was crammed) and free! (New York, you got to improve…) We also had long discussions of the SPACE (“I write it large…) of the city, specifically the mall, so absolutely different from the similar places in Paris, or London or Berlin, which are tightly controlled, manicured, off-limits, hierarchized. In DC we had the feel of a wide open American — democratic, in fact — space, somewhat dilapidated or laissez-faire, where near the monument on saturday morning there was a installation/demonstration of army boots (one for each US soldier fallen in Iraq) with an official platform from which the names of the fallen soldiers & of the Iraqis killed in the war were read — while a silent march starting from that site moved toward the Capitol building. Later in the day a very Unamerican sports event (a soccer match with players clearly from every part of the world) went down right next to the boot installation, while the usual families, tourists, local joggers, etcetera crisscrossed the space (& its mangy lawn) as the spirit or their toddlers moved them. An odd feeling of what that most american thing of all, space, could be. A pleasure to walk through, feel at ease in — sadness at other moments, at the Vietnam memorial, for example. On Monday morning, on our way out of town, we stopped at the Cemetery with the funeral monument by Saint Gaudens for Clover Adams (& where Henry also is buried). A fascinating meditative space — you have to find it, & know who is there, as the monument has no name and no inscription.
Got back to New York & first thing I did was to go to the Kent Gallery to catch the exhibition of Irving Petlin’s latest paintings. Very strong work, one, of not the most political of our painters. Core to the show in the large three panel work, “The entry of Christ into Washington,” playing off James Ensor’s 1888 painting “Christ’s entry into Bruxelles” (which features a banner asking for socialist communality). The whole show is a profound meditation on war — with a superb painting dedicated to Leon Golub, and other smaller drawings of soldier figures. If you are in New York, try to catch.
Would love to write in more detail on the Petlins, but I’m just about out of New York myhself, writing this in terminal 4 at JFK, waiting for my plane to Amsterdam & a poetry fest in Luxembourg. Back sunday night — but hope to be able to blog from ye Olde Grand Duchy, if family, friends, food and wine don’t keep me too busy.

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2 Responses

  1. poet CAConrad says:

    AH! Can’t wait to read about your poetry festival, and Amsterdam!

    CAConrad
    DEVIANT PROPULSION

  2. mIEKAL aND says:

    Do you have any photos of the cemetary momument you mention?

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