“I try to take the long view. I think that every epoch has had its fantastical producers. I’m really interested in Manny Farber right now. He had two classifications for art: white elephant art—this huge thing, Stella, Koons, Canova, Cabanel—and termite art: Manet, Moyra Davey.
“I try to be sanguine about that quality of what’s possible with art. I do think art used to have a fantasy that it was separate from life, and we know now that it’s not.” — Helen Molesworth, PARIS LA 14 (2016)
“[White Elephant] was a term for work that made large claims of importance and was therefore burdened with all kinds of ungraceful exposition and prescriptive social thinking, as opposed to something like film noir—which is Termite Art—stuff that just burrowed into experience and ended up saying quite a lot more about American life and which Farber believed was more mysterious and lively and compressed and radiated more meaning because it didn’t bother trying to be important…
“I loved the termite position before I was old enough to have any self-conscious thoughts about what it meant.” — Jonathan Lethem, LARB, 2016
Molesworth—curator of ONE DAY AT A TIME—MANNY FARBER AND TERMITE ART, now at MOCA—will join Lethem this week to talk about Farber and his “notion of termite art—an exploration of the problems and pleasures of the everyday—as it appears within fine art, cinema, writing, and life.”*
Thursday, October 18, at 7 pm.
ONE DAY AT A TIME—MANNY FARBER AND TERMITE ART
Through March 11.
MOCA Grand Avenue, 250 Grand Avenue, downtown Los Angeles.
See Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber, ed. Robert Polito (New York: Library of America, 2009).
Lethem is a contributor to Termite Deluxe: Manny Farber Writings and Paintings, a forthcoming volume exploring Farber’s life and work.
Top: Manny Farber, undated photograph, courtesy Patricia Patterson.
Above: Manny Farber, Story of the Eye (detail), 1985; oil, graphite and masking tape on board. Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego.
Below: Manny Farber, Domestic Movies, 1985; oil on board. ResMed collection, San Diego.
Image credit: Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.