Art: Private Chinese

The worst criticism against Aristotle is still this: that he was definitively Aristotle. Before dying, one becomes all bone.

—Henri Michaux

Beatniks, Zen Buddhists, jazz musicians and most modern poets and painters are alike in fearing the bony tyrannies of logic and commitment. They prefer the dark, exuberant "wisdom of the blood," although blood must coil in confinement. To outsiders, the result of this preference is often heady obscurity.

Abstract expressionist painting, for example, remains an impressive enigma, a Venus entirely hidden in furs. Its most revered practitioners, such as Karel Appel, speak boomingly...

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