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Greater and Lesser Artists

The axiom “Great Artists Steal, Lesser Artists Borrow” is proved by a 3-story-high Alexander Wang poster above La Esquina (The Corner) at the southwest corner of the intersection of Kenmare St. and Centre St., looking south.

A gigantic woman, her head thrust back and her face in ecstasy, is nude except for denim pants compressed into tight wrinkles around her lower legs and the letters DENIM X ALEXANDER WANG printed across her nipples, obscuring them. Other than that, the rest of the front and side of the woman ‘s body is exposed. Her flesh is not ivory, not pink, not copper, not brown, not blue-black, but of a neutral tone without any identifiable colors, neither warm nor cool.

photo: Jordan Mejias

One might say that the overall tone of the poster is darkening rather than plain dark. An unclothed radiator behind and high to the left of the woman is visible. It evokes poverty rather than simplicity. The only relief to this dreary scene of a woman alone in a post-masturbatory twilight-zone is the expression on her face, a nearly-perfect replica of Bernini’s sculpted face of Saint Theresa in Ecstasy, her mouth open and eyes nearly closed. Bernini's face is better, a dash of agony intensifying the depiction of pleasure.

Why didn’t the designers of the Wang poster allow for one lone, naked foot to be hanging in a dangling silhouette at the bottom of the poster, instead of showing two pedestrian feet? The dangling foot of Saint Theresa proves that ecstasy levitates the body as well as the soul. Why didn’t they look more carefully at Bernini and steal the dangling foot? Was the foot cut off of the poster by accident? Even so, one foot is better than two. In art, less is more.

Photo: Chuck Connelly

Why is the denim so violently compressed, when fabric folds can be more sensual in deep and subtle ways than are body parts? Why didn’t the designers look more carefully at Bernini and steal the undulating folds, the interior passions made visible on the exterior? Why didn't they at least make the denim pants bright and important in the composition? The pants are, after all, the real subject of the poster. (Dow's fifth rule of composition: subordinate all to the main idea.)

Why is the unclothed radiator the sole source of heat other than the woman herself? Bernini gives us radiant golden beams from heaven, energies from powers beyond our puny lives, and an adorable child-angel delivering the well-aimed Godhead to Saint Theresa. Indeed, it is the woman's own right hand that points to her external genitalia, here covered by a coy thigh bending her legs to the right side?

Finally, why is she so sad and alone, forcing us into the position of voyeurs, rather than sharers of her ecstasy?

Oh, sad, new world.

copyright © 2015 Minerva Durham