Jonathan Lethem’s Artistic Filter

Jonathan Lethem, who just a few weeks back was buried chin-deep in work with only enough time to argue that The Dark Knight is a pro-conservative fantasy, spoke last weekend at the Cleveland Museum of Art on the subject of “Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow.” The subject of plagiarism, the theme of an ingenious essay and a lousy novel, is still very much on his mind, apparently. He tells the Cleveland Free Times about how he learned about art through imitative artists:

“The preeminent American artists when I was going to museums and galleries were Warhol, Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg,” he says. “Then it was Peter Saul and all sorts of people who were grabbing onto stuff. It was second nature. I thought this is what engaging with culture consists of. I credit a lot of it to Warner Bros. cartoons and watching Daffy Duck do Edward G. Robinson before I even knew who Edward G. Robinson was. I had this voice in my head and was always encountering culture backwards, meeting half-digested chunks of interesting material inside of other artwork. That seemed exuberant to me.”

One thought on “Jonathan Lethem’s Artistic Filter

  1. I love this idea of encountering culture backwards. It takes Don Barthelme’s comment about how he only trusts fragments to a whole other level — not just fragments now, but half-digested chunks.

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