What is The New Yorker? I know it’s a great magazine and that it’s a tremendous source of pleasure in my life. But what exactly is it? This blog’s premise is that The New Yorker is a work of art, as worthy of comment and analysis as, say, Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Each week I review one or more aspects of the magazine’s latest issue. I suppose it’s possible to describe and analyze an entire issue, but I prefer to keep my reviews brief, and so I usually focus on just one or two pieces, to explore in each the signature style of its author. A piece by Nick Paumgarten is not like a piece by Dana Goodyear, and neither is like a piece by Ian Frazier. One could not mistake Finnegan for Friend, or Bilger for Lepore, or Collins for Khatchadourian. Each has found a style, and it is that style that I respond to as I read, and want to understand and describe.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Shapton's Shapes

Even though Leanne Shapton’s blue-and-cream watercolor of two “vintage clothes hangers” appeared in the magazine more than two months ago, (see "Recently Favorited," The New Yorker, September 21, 2015), I find myself still thinking about it. The images are recognizably clothes hangers; likeness hasn’t been abandoned. Yet, they’re also pure shapes, as simply and fluidly painted as Chinese calligraphy. Are clothes hangers beautiful? I didnt think so until I saw Shapton’s exquisite watercolor. I guess that’s what draws me to it. It embodies what, for me, is one of art’s main purposes – “to give the mundane its beautiful due” (John Updike).

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