Sunday, June 5, 2011

Gertrude Stein in the News

Two current art exhibits in the San Francisco Bay area feature Gertrude Stein. A review titled "Modern Is Modern Is ..." in today's New York Times explores her efforts to be a pop-star-hero. I find this very interesting, as it explores what it might mean for her to be a hero:
[The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas] became a best seller in the United States, the land to which Stein, after 30 years in Europe, maintained a vehemently patriotic attachment. And she became what she had long desperately wanted to be: a cultural hero, a pop star.

For better and for worse the pop-star Stein ... is the one people have an easy time loving: the funny, feisty, bohemian mover and shaker who looks like a butch Buddha and is good for a quotation or two.

But if we accept that Stein as our hero, what do lose? We lose Stein the great writer. And we lose the truth about the history of which she was a part.

The two remarkable Stein-related exhibitions, just a few blocks apart, try to restore some of that truth by approaching her from two angles: as an art patron in one case, and as a social personality in the other. Both shows seriously question Stein’s own solitary-genius account of herself in these roles.

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