ADAMWEINBERG: In Distinguished Air Charles Demuth portrays a group of people looking at the modernist sculpture Princess X, by Constantin Brancusi. Demuth exaggerates the unmistakably phallic form of Princess X, perhaps to draw attention to an inherent paradox in Brancusi’s (supposedly abstract) sculpture. Richard Meyer, Professor of Art History.
RICHARDMEYER: It’s almost as though Brancusi himself is playing on: Are people going to acknowledge they’re looking at a giant penis, you know, or are they going to pretend it’s just a kind of erect abstraction? You know? [Laughs]
ADAMWEINBERG: Demuth renders Princess X, originally made in bronze, in watercolor and adorns it with a face. It has become cartoon-like and fleshy. But not everyone in the painting is focused on it. The man on the left, with the woman, peers at the backside of the sailor next to him, who, in turn, is arm in arm with the “dandy” character to his right. So, it appears, that even in the presence of this artful phallus, at least one of the visitors is more interested in the real thing. And while the visitors are poised to look at the art, Demuth places us behind the men to focus on the sexual politics of the scene. Demuth takes this focus one step further in his inscription, in the lower left “for Distinguished Air.”
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