Terry Atkinson

Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA)

“‘No poetry after Auschwitz and Hiroshima,’ Adorno is reputed to have written! Who is he trying to kid? The statement itself is poetic.” So writes Terry Atkinson in a short essay justifying his continued interest in historical and political representation and Modernism. But Atkinson’s sense of the quote is slightly askew. Theodor Adorno did not mean that poetry could not or should not exist but that poetry could no longer be thought of as a humanizing force. As far as Adorno is concerned, the concept of civilization embodied in the Enlightenment ideal of Reason ended definitively one day in August, 1945.

As bleak as that sounds, this terminus is, nevertheless a beginning for all of us of the post–World War II generation. Atkinson places a decal—at times so miniscule it is barely visible—of Enola Gay against a lurid monochrome and calls these pictures “Mutes” as if to needle us about our

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the March 1993 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.