Dr. Downtown (David Brussat) has long deserved to be sued for malpractice, and the last few of his missives warrants this “J’accuse.” His constant attack on modernism is wearying, and not due to whining alone, but because it is unjustifiable as an intellectual stance. I recall his railing against Schoenberg, whom he’s obviously never listened to or read in depth, unaware of his carrying on traditions established by “classical” composers such as Bruckner and Mahler. Should Faulkner be deprived of his Nobel Prize because of his non-linear time-frames and polyphonic voicings? Would their equivalents in the visual arts be summarily dismissed?
All the buildings in Providence that Mr. Brussat condemns are those that offer the edgy pleasure of being harmoniously jarring within the urban context they help create: the Chace Center at RISD; Classical High School [Editor’s note: replacing the writer’s “Central” with “Classical” is the only editing change. Central High is in classical style; Classical High is modernist; I’m sure he meant that I condemn Classical High]; the recent Wheeler Gallery and Art Club additions. He has even solicited snide responses to the as yet unfinished Granoff Center at Brown, putting once again his bandwagon before the horses.
His campaign for the pretty as opposed to the beautiful (which engages and can redefine “the ugly”) coupled with his apparent fear of diversity and risk comes dangerously close to that supremacist ideal of blond blue-eyed sameness, championing the status quo at all costs. The 11/10/10 article concerning the foot-bridge contest is filled with misinformation and smug opinion. Friends differently wired than I have shared comments written on the blogosphere, mostly instructing Mr. Brussat about his business; these should be reprinted in a series of columns devoted to this important civic issue.
The column from 11/18/10, second paragraph, transposes what should be arising from your columnist’s mouth into the cry from a character enmeshed in a Reagan-era scandal. “Where do I go to get my reputation back?” could be a new beginning, unless this would be considered too modernistic a departure from entrenched mediocrity. Until this mea culpa is expressed, Mr. Brussat will be taken about as seriously as a cigar-store Indian.
Style is said by some to be the man. Mr. Brussat should be obliged to appear in public in a kind of personalized stock and pillory consisting of wide-brimmed hat and oversized buckled shoes (set off by yellow cross-gartered stocking) so he can follow his bliss undisguised, our roving Sturbridge village idiot, doomed to historical re-enactment.
Stuart Blazer has been invited to work as occasional poet/critic in the RISD Department of Architecture since the 1990s.
David Brussat’s blog post containing this letter can be seen here.
Additional unpublished letters to the editor can be found in the blog post below.