The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2019

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APR 2019 Issue

from The History of Modern Sculpture


As Rilke said,
‘sculpture is a separate thing’
a self-absorbed thing

a thing complete and apart
separated from the transitory

and inessential things
like the seed from the fruit
ripened and burst


after Carl Einstein

The optical naturalism of Western art
A complete conflation
Of the pictorial with the sculptural
The optical sensation
And mental synthesis
The most common devices
Conduits for psychological excitation
And the total defeat of sculpture

The strongest realism
Within the domain of the immediate
The undiluted sculptural vision
In dread of the god and such
No by-product of material mass
No metaphoric inscription of inner excitation
A single field of determinate vision
The African Sculptures themselves


A model headquarters
For the upward surge
Of the utopian impulse

A carpentered structure
Designed to commemorate
The new order of things

Impossibly ambitious
Mobile and transparent
Sphere upon cylinder upon pyramid upon cube

Two interlaced spirals rising toward the future
Like the voice of The Worker
A complex, open structure

MERTZBAU, 1923-37

Spiraling upward
a hallucinatory confusion
of working studio and all

encompassing inventory
of fragments and fetishes
displayed like specimens
in grottos and caves

A thick pencil
a piece of shoelace
a nail paring

Like an organism developing
in every direction forms twisting
wood planks and newspaper clippings

Layer upon layer of chaotic heap
up to six layers deep in places

The Goethe Cave and Great Grotto of Love
and everlasting flowers suspended
in a little bottle of urine

A sculpture into which people can go

The Gold Grotto and Mondrian Cave
a little world of branching and building

of broken furniture and picture frames
Destroyed one night by allied bombing


The desire to sip fur
or to communicate directly
with the bottom of the sea
reveals itself as an alien fetish
part lobster
part marvelous dream
of unaccountable sexual deformation,
inner impulse and external object fusing
strange details emerging
like the horsehair sprouting
from the cello’s neck
or the metronome growing
a solitary


From backroom storage to front room display
the rationalizing tendencies of household products
discipline culture fabulously,
mistaking reality for reality.

The rationalizing tendencies of household products
advance a kind of aesthetic misrecognition
mistaking reality for reality.
The viewer’s participation is consumption.

A kind of aesthetic misrecognition
shining in the frames of history and theory.
The viewer’s participation is consumption
of all the great modern things.

The frames of history and theory
discipline culture fabulously,
all the great modern things
from backroom storage to front room display.


A repertory of strings and ties
of links connecting only to each other

soft sculptures of knotted rice paper
braided and twisted into tangible nets

the temporal problem of transitory objects
little nothings exposed to the world

SITUATIONS……., 1969-70

from the body to the earth
the situation of human garbage
in a military dictatorship

meat   soiled napkins   excrement and bones
what appeared to be the remains of people
tortured by the military dictatorship

instead of the expected   permanent objects
of art   objects perishable and scorned
by the military dictatorship

fourteen bloody bundles   tied up in string
on a sunday morning
in the middle of the military dictatorship

five hundred plastic bags stuffed with waste
aesthetic testimony to state brutality
and military dictatorship

encountered during the daily routine
and photos to document the police observing
as agents of the dictatorship

the ephemeral situation of the decay
the years when torture became legal
for the military dictatorship of Brazil


From prehistory to the twentieth century
The triangular sign of the goddess
A merging of butterfly and democratic forms
A table forty-eight feet per side

Thirty-nine commemorative settings
Napkins forks and knives
Spoons and goblets
Carving folded layered surfaces

Needleworked tablecloth runners
Entrance banners and documentation
Porcelain floor of hand-cast tiles
Upon which are written nine-hundred

and ninety-nine names


To plant a wheatfield in Manhattan
At the foot of World Trade
Facing Liberty

A two acre wheatfield
Two blocks from wallstreet
“It was insane”

A confrontation with High-Civilization
From green to golden amber
Symbol of survival and Shangri-La

Planted on over two-hundred truckloads of dirty landfill
Full of rusty metals, rocks, boulders
Old tires and overcoats

A universal concept
Wasting valuable real estate
And the city stood still

Like a hot summer afternoon in the country
Some cried, the stock brokers and economists,
As we harvested the crop


Jean-Paul Pecqueur

Jean-Paul Pecqueur's first book, The Case Against Happiness, was published by Alice James Books. Two chapbooks, To Embrace Sea Monstersand The Imaginations, have since been published by Greying Ghost Press and Forklift, Ink. Some more recent poems have appeared in Sink Review, Locomotive, andPing Pong. Originally from the pacific northwest, Jean-Paul currently teaches composition and creative writing to fine arts students at the Pratt Institute and lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2019

All Issues