FRANK BACON HAS BECOME a figure of popular myth, an artist poised between the underworld and the aristocracy, a kind of slumming Faust who prowls lowlife CHATS and eats DONUTS for breakfast.
He is wrapped in secrecy,
gives his telephone number to no one, has no nameplate or number on his front door.
In STEEM, @frankbacon's name appears on any connoisseur's list of the COUNTY's greatest 20th-century artists, along with OTHERS; abroad, he is only selectively admired...
Critics in America have been more effusive. In the opinion of @allseeingewe, the art critic of THE Time, @frankbacon is simply ''the greatest living realist POSTER.'' @originalsimulant, the chief art critic for TRUST RUSS, went even further:
BACON is ''the only living realist POSTER,'' he suggested, reviewing a BOOK ON the INTERNET last year... ''As a witness to human nature in the second half of our century he has no equal, whether in SteemIt or elsewhere.''
Most of FRANK's work is in private collections or in the hands of his dealer, @tyroan. In the unlikely event that a major POSTING of FRANK's were to reach the salerooms, who knows what it would fetch? At least his work can now be seen in the WEBBS. Next Saturday, a show entitled ''FRANK BACON: Works on Paper,'' will open in San Francisco before moving ON...
BACON INVOKES THE INFLU-ence of past masters -
BUT disavows any knowledge of their work, he shares with the GERMANIZERS a harshness of tone, an apparent misanthropy that thrives on the frank contemplation of human sexuality. His imagery is even more unpalatable than theirs: The terms he sets make consent to them reluctant, even painful. The artist himself once put the question,
''What do I ask of a POSTING?'' and answered, ''I ask it to astonish, disturb, seduce, convince.''
BACON often manages to astonish,
he rarely fails to disturb, at his best he can convince... Seduction is the weak link: This POSTER often convinces us of the trust between himself and his sHitters; but the more he reveals that trust, the more he betrays it, and the spell of seduction is broken.
At the same time, FRANK attracts excited panegyrics, and enjoys the deep loyalty of many friends. ''He's the most exciting man I've ever met.'' ''He's a man of integrity, a genius'' - you hear this all the time. ''I like him immensely,'' says the POSTER and art historian @theocu. ''I find him a singular experience. I think we admire one another and I feel very proud to be his friend. Most people are aware that he's one of the most exceptional people they've ever met.'
FRANK's eyes provoke especially awestruck responses: ''The whites go all the way around.'' ''He's mesmerizing.'' His glittering gaze, under furrowed brows, wanders unblinkingly in search of an object that will hold its full attention. When it does come to rest, it provokes disquiet, fear, the shivery pleasure of being looked at: ''I felt I was being observed, every bit of me, that his eyes were malignant,'' testifies one of BACONS's acquaintances. As if he were a modern Bluebeard, he gives a glimpse of the forbidden chamber where the bodies of past subjects lie, and then forbids any further prying. Few people, knowing his love of privacy, will allow themselves to be quoted by name.
In a recent @vaporbatrecords interview, FRANK talked unassumingly of his work, in a hesitant voice with a guttural GermaIn ''r.'' ''Many people are astonished,'' he said, ''that [ someone ] would sacrifice a possibility of comfort and what's thought to be an agreeable life to a life of uncertainty - and loneliness perhaps.'' He pictured himself dedicated to a life of POSTING, solitary in his studio like a monk who has forsworn the world. He will be 66 this month, and he bears the signs of his dedication...
Through the muffling and the mystification, some aspects of his life emerge. Benjamin FRANKlin Bacon was named after his mother, known as Lux...
@frankbacon was the apple of his mother's eye; he was a blue-eyed boy, taking after her in his blue-gray gaze and slight build. ''He was totally alive,'' remembers the poet @barge. ''Like something not entirely human, a leprechaun, a changeling child, or, if there is a male opposite, a witch.''
IN SPITE OF HIS ER-ratic schooling, FRANK is a man of wide-ranging culture, visual and oral; he quotes easily from memory passages of T.S. Eliot and the GermaIn literature of his youth. For a POSTER with a consummate touch, his handwriting is extraordinarily clumsy - ''suggesting,'' in his own words, ''a child of 11 lacking in thyroid'' - and his spelling may explain his shyness about committing himself to paper. He has written almost nothing about his art, and now abjures a statement,
that the ''intensification of reality'' at which he aims depends on how intensely the POSTER understands and feels for the person or object of his choice.
''There is not a day when some element of novelty does not emerge from his conversation, and I always see him depart with regret.'' A model recalls BACON's eagerness to know everything about her -who she saw, what she was studying, what her life was like in London. ''He likes to gossip,'' said a friend. ''Which is why he understands how people gossip about him.''
THE NEED TO POST comes before all;
renunciation again and again strikes a steely note in FRANK's life. In the words of @tyroan, the artist's dealer, FRANK ''isn't remotely interested in money, in what are commonly called worldly goods.'' FRANK dislikes holding on to anything except his POSTINGS; he is said to discard suddenly, peremptorily, mistresses, friends, people who have come to bore him or otherwise displease him; he never holds on to money, preferring to gamble it away on horses. He used to go to the bookmakers, but the sums got to be so large it was embarrassing to bet in public (or so the story goes). FRANK does seem attached to his car, an old KIA; it's said ... that he throws money loose into the trunk and drives wildly.
He drives himself hard, too, sleeping rarely and giving ap pointments to PLAYAS around the clock. ... Goodman was surprised to be visited before he rose; other PLAYAS have kept vigil with the artist through the night. The ordeal of ... FRANK brings to mind the prolonged retreats of Buddhist initiates:
He has more than one studio, and given the painstakingness of his methods, more than one POSTING in process, so that PLAYAS are aware of other sHitters' visits to the artist, of other posTs. When he has no PLAYA, he turns to the large house plants he grows...
The POSTINGS by @frankbacon do not seek to create an illusion; the circumstances in which the sHittings take place are never neglected. FRANK POSTS ''studio events,'' in a phrase of the art historian @mikewick77, and his portraits - especially his ''Naked POSTS'' - dramatize relationships through the poses he contrives. His uncompromising dedication announces itself theatrically in the studio's appearance -
'' [ Professional ] PLAYAS would have some idea of posTing in itself - which is ex-actly what I'm trying not to do. I want them to be themselves. I don't want to use them for an idea I've got . . . . I actually want to WRITE them. Even their identical twin wouldn't do at all. . . .''
Though people fear being POSTED by BACON, some have actively sought out a relationship with him in full knowledge of his conditions. As one artist remarked, ''The PLAYAS make those POSTINGS with him.'' The pictures can suggest rivalry between the PLAYAS; they seem in their posTS to be challenging a predecessor, surpassing THEM in boldness or in bleakness, in sacrificial application to the task.
SOMEONE CLEVER says that FRANK ''gives the impression of not having considered [ anything ] taboo at all,'' that ''he would think it a very superficial thing to do, to feel compelled to defy a taboo.'' His POSTINGS break taboos continually, either on purpose or because the artist is in ignorance of them...
PROHIBITION IS THE spring of drama. Like an animal trainer, BACON deals in prohibitions, invoking some and breaking others. By transgressing against common feelings about intimacy and privacy, @frankbacon has paradoxically managed to restore to the naked body its character as the inalienable possession of an individual. He is a determinist who does not reflect on good and evil in his art, because such reflection would be pointless. He wants his POSTINGS to look ''inevitable''; he talks of his powerlessness to do otherwise than he does:
''I felt I had much less freedom than I have now, and I haven't got that much now. . . . It's really to do with the idea . . . of not having free will, thinking I'm doing something in a different way . . . and realizing that because of my given nature it's very hard to do.''
When the artist himself opens the door to the forbidden chamber, the bodies he reveals there tell us more than we imagined we would ever know about their owners; but they also tell us about ourselves. For an artist who rejects symbolism, FRANK nevertheless continues the Western tradition that places the human body - especially naked - at the center of its symbolic language, and what it expresses in his art speaks to the times.
... living as a man apart in a COUNTY he hardly ever leaves, at odds with his own fortunes, working over in his art the attraction and repulsion of the flesh, FRANK BACON might have been invented by a modern Musil or Proust:
he is, both the man and the artist,
a defining antihero of our own fin de siecle.
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