The Anxiety of Influence

curated by Alex Glauber
November 10 – December 22, 2017

Thomas Downing
Sam Gilliam
Eric N. Mack
Sigmar Polke
Jessica Stockholder
Wolfgang Tillmans
Richard Tuttle

In January of 1973 after five years of work, Yale University Professor Harold Bloom published “The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry”, which offered the scholar’s interpretation on how poets contend, engage, and, if great, overcome the daunting shadow of their predecessors’ achievements. Bloom contested that creative inspiration was not autonomous but rather resulted from a poet’s ability to successfully grapple with the weight of historical achievement. “Weaker talents idealize; figures of capable imagination appropriate for themselves.”

Over the course of the book, Bloom introduces what he calls “six revisionary ratios”: Clinamen, Tessera, Kenosis, Daemonization, Askesis, and Apophrades. Each details a different scenario by which a poet commits creative misprision, or misreading of a poetic precursor thereby allowing the past to catalyze rather than choke creativity in the present; a theory that builds as much on Nietzsche’s conceptualization of the antithetical as it does Freud’s Oedipal complex

While the validity of Bloom’s theory is debatable, what is not is the challenge presented by historical antecedents which can simultaneously inspire and intimidate. Reconciliation comes with the risk of smothering ones own originality and creative voice. Whether an artist intends to overtly engage that which has come before or not, creative contributions are annexed onto history leaving us to tease out common threads that unfold under new aesthetic and conceptual guises.

This exhibition attempts to map one such network of influence using the work of Eric N. Mack as a contemporary access point. Mack’s unique practice pulls from a diverse range of sources, including abstract painting, installation, fashion, and assemblage, culled from his close study and synthesis of earlier historical and cultural models. Articulated through a series of conversations with Mack, “The Anxiety of Influence” acts as a matrix of creative exchange across three generations, offering a case study for a wider historical practice. Within this context, Mack’s work engages in a lateral conversation across chronology, which in turn draws out alternative chains of influence. The exhibition space becomes a locus of points: each artist and work a fulcrum for history’s intersections, each imbued with a unique voice, in dialogue across time.

*Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (London: Oxford University Press, 1973).

AofI Installation 1 website

AofI stockholder tuttle website

AofI Installation 5 website

AofI Installation 4 website

AofI Installation 2 website

AofI polke Tillmans website

AofI Installation 3 website AofI Gilliam Downing website