Edmund White

  • PHILIP TAAFFE: AL QUASBAH, 1991

    AS AN AMERICAN WHO has lived in Paris since 1983, I can readily appreciate the joys and pains of assimilation. As a novelist, however, I want to be neither an innocent abroad nor a cultural reporter; my decade in Europe is something I want to make my own, just as I hope to turn “France” into a region of my mind. Philip Taaffe has set a brilliant example of how to accomplish such a transformation.

    Taaffe’s work reminds me of something I recall Piet Mondrian said: that balance in art is life, but symmetry is death. In Al Quasbah there is a vitalizing dissymmetry between foreground and background;

  • POOL IN ROCKS BY THE SEA

    SEEING, OF COURSE, is always perceiving—an imaginative integration of memory, feeling, and anticipation, all subsumed under the aegis of style, that haphazard collection of conventions and intentions. But Don Bachardy, in his recent book Last Drawings of Christopher Isherwood, gives the appearance of seeing simply and purely more than any draftsman I know, which is especially remarkable since whathe is looking at is the man he has lived with for some thirty years. Isherwood, when the drawings were made, was in his last months of life, had for the most part stopped talking, and seemed scarcely

  • ESTHETICS AND LOSS

    I HAD A FRIEND, a painter, named Kris Johnson, who died two years ago of AIDS. He was in his early 30s. He’d shown here and there, in bookstores, arty coffee shops, that kind of thing, first in Minnesota, then in Los Angeles. He painted over color photos he’d first color-Xeroxed—images of shopping carts in parking lots, of giant palms, their small heads black as warts against the smoggy sun: California images.

    He read Artforum religiously; he would have been happy to see his name in its pages. The magazine represented for him a lien on his future, a promise of the serious work he was about to