Reading this catty, and bitchy review of the new Johns show by Charlie Finch, of Caluga and Most Art Sucks fame, caused me deep anger. Not only because it seemed to be homophobic, but also because it is so canonical and not very creative—below an iconoclast like Finch?who is usually a complicated and astute critic. But the assumption that from the beginning, was that johns work was queer work?that his discretion and dislike of interpretation could be viewed as being closeted?that all of his work was queer work, and that the work got worse because of his hermeticism.

Now that his newest colleges, is his most sexual, the only work that directly concerns issues of male bodies working together queerly, people are on the attack. What happens if this is the only work that is gay?what if before this and after this, johns work was about formal concerns, about repeating colours, shapes and found objects reclaimed as high art. Could we talk about it in relation to classical connections to copreality (targets), or what language recreated as painting looks like or a wry comment on hi/lo classicism (The Ballantine).? Does every man who sucks cock make every peice of art about cock sucking ? Up to this series, it was not clear at all that he sucked cock at all. (and with the subject matter, title, and ambugities—the new works called Catenary (which is the muscle that holds up both the penis and the labia) is much closer to Matthew Barney’s Cremaster (which rises the testicles), a rampantly phallicly agressive peice towards women)

It is like what Rauschenberg said about Hughes assuming the Goat in the 1959 combine Monogram was about sodomy?namely wondering why he didn?t get run over more often, suggests the wry dismissal of critical tactics that both encounter. This is because, in the case of these two, the critics take the literal and refuse either the symbolic or the formal.

What if he is shallow? Am I letting him off the hook? Is it not just banal romanticism that we assume that every work is a coded work about the author?s deep personal trauma? Maybe Johns refuses to acknowledge biography because it rewards shallowness?

The Brown Wedge