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Carter Ratcliff

Carter Ratcliff is a poet and art critic who lives and works in Hudson, New York.

Guest Critic

What is Art—and Why Even Ask?

Long ago, Willem de Kooning and John Cage were sitting in one of the downtown cafeterias that New York artists used to frequent. Throwing a couple of packets of sugar on the table, Cage said, “This could be art.” De Kooning’s reply: “No it couldn’t.”

Society as Cosmos

Ariane Lopez-Huici is a photographer. Alain Kirili is a sculptor. Whether he makes them from solid chunks of iron or airy swirls of wire, his works are volumetric. Hers, of course, are flat. His are abstract, hers are figurative. As artists, then, they have nothing in common—nothing but their subject, which is the human body, and that gives them everything in common.

In Conversation

ARIANE LOPEZ-HUICI with Carter Ratcliff

Ariane Lopez-Huici takes many of her photographs in the studio, yet it wouldn’t be quite right to call her a studio photographer. Her oeuvre includes photographs taken on trips to Mali with her husband, the sculptor Alain Kirili, and a new series of images that emerged from their recent trip to Angkor Wat, in Cambodia.

A LETTER TO MARTIN MULLIN from Carter Ratcliff

Thanks for having me over the other day to look at your new paintings. It’s a great place! Not very many painters have an oblique view of the river to the west and in other directions a sky filled with high-rise buildings.

A Panorama Considered as a Conversation (or the Other Way Around)

Floating in this blue panorama are forms that look like chunks of limestone, though some look more like clouds hit hard by sunlight. Of course, this is just a first impression. The second impression is of forms that are neither clouds nor stones but unique to this setting and, for all their differences, united by a family resemblance.

Robert Mapplethorpe: Obsession and Mastery

In 1993, Robert Mapplethorpe gave the Guggenheim nearly 200 of his photographs, a gift the museum credits with launching its photography program. Last January, it opened Implicit Tensions, a survey of Mapplethorpe’s career. Part Two of the exhibition opened half a year later with a small selection of his prints and work by half a dozen artists who have, in various ways, responded to his imagery.

Pamphlet Architecture: Visions and Experiments in Architecture

How does architecture bring us closer to utopia? Most architects don’t address this question. They’re too busy being professional. Yet the question nags some architects, or so I gathered from Pamphlet Architecture: Visions and Experiments in Architecture, an exhibition on view last October at ‘T’ Space, a building in the wooded hills near Rhinebeck, New York.

Ad Reinhardt and the Whiteness of the Whale

In Chapter 42 of Moby Dick, Ishmael arrives by apprehensive steps at a disquieting thought: “the whiteness of the whale” makes tangible the deathly void that lurks beneath the world’s appearances.

To Plow the Sea: A Note on the Unconscious

Simón Bolívar once said that all who serve the revolution plow the sea. The Surrealists, who presumed to teach the unconscious to be revolutionary, sailed the surface of a placid lake. For they had no sense of the unconscious, no feel for it.

In Conversation


Both Vincent Katz and Carter Ratcliff have recently published new books: Katz’s Swimming Home (Nightboat Books) in May, and Ratcliff’s Tequila Mockingbird (Barrytown/Station Hill Press) in June. The two interviewed one another for the Rail on the subjects of poetry, novels, the audience, and the point of writing in the first place.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

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