PRINT Summer 1994


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; they are out of phase with one another, though they suggest one geometrically satisfying series perceived through another (a mosque’s marble floor seen through a metal grille, for instance). The tones in the foreground are binary, an unvarying alternation of white and black, whereas the background

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