"Montage" by Raphael Rubinstein (2007)
“It’s one of those phrases that’s like a hallway with lots of doors, rooms to open up.” Jean-Luc Godard on lines 4-5 of the first Duino Elegy

Beauty is nothing, as when, in a hotel room, a woman says to a man: I’d like to know what’s behind your face. I’ve been watching it for ten minutes and I know nothing…nothing.

Beauty is nothing and it’s the beginning of a terror in which we don’t really know what the police are up to. Walking around the crowded streets driving at night from place to place it seems like we should have been in prison long ago. So, what’s going on? Is it their plan to let people like us destroy themselves?

Beauty is a terror we’re still just able to bear because it’s the terror we’ve dreamed of, the total terror that each of us carries within, the one that we secretly wanted to live.

Paper Monument, a journal on contemporary art edited by Boston University alum and faculty member Dushko Petrovich, is releasing The Miraculous, a new book by critic Raphael Rubinstein. The book presents the artistic avant-gardes of the last five decades as a tapestry of incidents as fascinating and unlikely as any collection of myths or legends.

Each of the fifty episodes in The Miraculous is a richly detailed telling of the circumstances surrounding a single work of art; only the name of the artist is withheld until the end of the book. As Michael H. Miller wrote describing the book in ARTnews, “the works take on the icy detachment of a Lydia Davis story, a floating concept with no clear context. Distilled to only an idea, the pieces bask in their more intriguing narratives and separate themselves from the heavy baggage of authorship and intention.”

The Miraculous includes writing on fifty artists such as Joseph Beuys, Yoko Ono, Marina Abramovic, Lee Lozano, Tseng Kwong Chi, Cindy Sherman, David Hammons, and R.H. Quaytman.

Raphael Rubinstein is a New York-based poet and art critic. Among his books are Polychrome Profusion: Selected Art Criticism 1990-2002, The Afterglow of Minor Pop Masterpieces, and The Cry of Unbalance. From 1997 to 2007 he was a senior editor at Art in America, where he continues to be a contributing editor. He is currently professor of critical studies at the University of Houston School of Art. In 2002, the French government presented him with the award of Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters.

The Miraculous is Paper Monument’s first single-author title.

What makes painting ‘impossible’? What makes 'great’ painting impossible? Perhaps it is a sense of belatedness, a conviction that an earlier generation or artist has left only a few scraps to be cleaned up. Or maybe, at a particular moment, in a particular life and history, nothing could seem more presumptuous or inappropriate—maybe even obscene—than to set out to create a masterpiece. Impossibility can also be the result of the artist making excessive demands on the work, demands to which current practice has no reply.
At times provisional painting overlaps with “bad painting,” a mode with roots in the 1970s that continues to offer artists means of engaging the medium without having to take on all of its unwanted trappings. … Provisional painting is not about making last paintings, nor is it about the deconstruction of painting. It’s the finished product disguised as a preliminary stage, or a body double standing in for a star/masterpiece whose value would put a stop to artistic risk. To put it another way: provisional painting is major painting masquerading as minor painting. … Faced with painting’s imposing history and the diminishment of the medium by newer art forms, recent painters may have found themselves in similarly “minor” situations; the provisionality of their work is an index of the impossibility of painting and the equally persistent impossibility of not painting.