New YorkPaula Cooper Gallery
April 27 – June 2, 2017
Genesis tells of the sacred grove:
Roots soaked in cool water of astral seas, branches bathed by
Silvery moonlight. I stand firmly here on a durable plinth of earth.
The Frog Altar looms huge above the ground. Paynes grey,
Sap green, masada ocher, burnt russet, porcelain-like
Smooth skin with earthbound monumentality; no simulation.
Athens blue lifts the elevation.
He has walked the path that lies between shades of darkness
And subtle chords of light.
A thruway that earlier guided Benjamin of Tudela.
I hear small clacking sounds of the masons stacking
Creamy, mud bricks one by one with rice husks
To form the formidable pillars of capitals,
The foundations of classical order.
Like Didymus the Blind who mastered dialectics
And geometry, He, too, is ready to be gulped by the earth.
And the sea. And the stars that froze last week.
Full frontal, atmospheric, dense,
Lent Painting initiates, concrete and stationary
Elements, then feeds endless Christological debates
By medieval councils, Chalcedon …
Traces of human hands along the edges of solid posts—
Fragile below the massive tympanum, they welcome and
Enter the blind arcades in the Mosque of Kairouan.
A vast, irregular Euclidean geometry rubs against the
Trowelled spatulas, glides—ragged—across countless
Intervals of this domestic architecture, across
Interludes of the battle cry and creed.
A marvel to appeal both to emotion and the mind …
As painting in space prefigures painting in place,
Time and timelessness perpetually persist
The people he wished he’d known are here,
They’re alive indeed.
Phong H. Bui is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.