All you need to know about the vulgar conformity of our celebrity-driven cultural life is that the Rubin Museum feels that it must publicize its exhibition of the Holy Grail of psychology, C.G. Jung's Red Book, by pushing something called "The Red Book Dialogues," in which, to quote the Rubin, "personalities from many different walks of life are paired on stage with a psychoanalyst and invited to personally respond to the painted dreamscapes of Carl Jung's The Red Book.
So give one more ego massage, folks, to Gloria Vanderbilt, Sarah Silverman, David Byrne, Cornel West, Alice Walker, Billy Corgan, Robert Thurman and others from the ranks of the overpraised and overexposed. Oddly, this Rubinesque marketing approach to the Red Book, which was the subject of a moving New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story by Sara Corbett two weeks ago dealing with the tome's effect on Jung's family as it delayed publication for decades, underlines a critical disjunction in C.G. Jung's personality.
Jung, shaman of the collective mind games that are supposed to give healing significance to the average person’s deepysleepy land, was one of the inventors of modern intellectual celebrity and its egomaniacal constructs. The Red Book is nothing more than a projection of his giant vanity and, observing the book in the flesh, so to speak, one cannot help but view it more as a manufactured testament than the spontaneous recording of Jung's nervous breakdowns that it is purported to be.
Begin with the book itself, on view at the Rubin, a large red leather volume resembling a Medieval Bible: the concordance of Jung's self-perception and the necessity to aggrandize it must, in his mind, be "The Bible." Then take Jung's drawings (please), which are nothing more than Biblical archetypes drawn and colored in as if by a child. Here is Goliath with a club, a robed seeker resembling the prophet Samuel, a lizard with dozens of limbs devouring its own tail, you get the picture. Surely Sarah Silverman will be able to bounce her shtick off of such puerile material.
Strangely, when he occasionally rested from his vanity coloring book, Jung was a fine landscape artist, as seen in two purple and mauve lake scenes at the Rubin which recall Maxfield Parrish. Unfortunately, the Rubin also exhibits Jung's awful watercolors of flowery pudenda and his embarrassing drawings of eyes with iron crosses for the pupils, an uncomfortable reminder of Jung's lifelong fetishization of the swastika.
Finally, let me say a word about Jung's unusual penmanship in The Red Book. His upper and lower case loops are shaped like daggers, indicating a rapier like sexuality. His letter "f" is a distinct and elegant flag symbol and his letter "s" is drawn like an "8," a common symbol of money preoccupation in handwriting analysis.
Jung was a guy who was King of his own country, knew it and shamelessly promoted it. Draw your own conclusions.
"The Red Book of C.G. Jung," Oct. 7, 20089-Jan. 25, 2010, at the Rubin Museum of Art, 150 West 17th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).