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Vincent Desiderio, Window, 2010, Marlborough Galleries, New York
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by Donald Kuspit

Narrative, drama, the indecent human story -- all that was beside the point of pure art, the “human interest” that Greenberg dismissed as lacking “esthetic interest,” the “all too human” that had to be repressed if the artist was to come into his own as “superhuman,” an immortal among mere mortals, a “seer” among the sightless, as Rimbaud said, an √úbermensch among the masses with their herd mentality, as Nietzsche described the “healthy” artist -- returns with an ironical vengeance in Vincent Desiderio’s paintings. In Window (2010) we see, in grim flattened outline, the two figures in Goya’s Fight with Cudgels, one of his Black Paintings (1820-23). It is the oldest of human stories: the biblical story of Cain and Abel -- of brothers in violent conflict, fighting unto the death -- of ingrained aggression, hatred, envy, destructiveness. At the least, it is the story of a family tragedy -- the Bible is as full of them as Greek tragedy. More broadly, it is the story of the insane human condition -- of the war of all against all that Hobbes said was the “natural” human condition. Goya’s two figures stand knee deep in a field of wheat, supposedly an allusion to the civil war raging in Spain at the time, suggesting that is also the story of social insanity -- a social as well as psychological allegory.