D.F. Wallace, The Post-Post-Modernist

Anybody who has experienced post-modern art has felt the urge to say, “I bet I could do that.” The epitome of this feeling comes from the infamous $15 million dollar sale of a white canvas. Now let’s just sit with that for a minute…

To be fair, when actually visiting a museum with an open mind and seeing the deconstructed, rule breaking, irreverence of post-modern art, a feeling of depth arises. We may not be sure why this white canvas looks different from any other white canvas, but for some reason it does.

Robert Ryman Est. $15/20 million. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s


No matter how many times I find a way to sympathize with the new state of art, nothing ever moves me like the romantic works of the past. The detail, the color, the drama of renaissance art will always be more special to me. I am not saying the post-modernists are not as talented, but they are certainly not as detailed.

This brings me to my interpretation of David Foster Wallace (DFW) and his work Infinite Jest. What gives me the most joy when reading his seminal work is the total rebellion against post-modern minimalism. His writing is thick with redundancies, repetition, and needless elaboration. Constant references to even more elaborate, or meaningless, footnotes, yet somehow, within all of his gratuity, something beautiful is born. 

                             Lada Alekseychuk – Italian Opera Courtesy of


Even in the title we see an expression of maximalist thought. Infinite Jest is taking mass and matter to the literal max, the never ending infinite. Most often that is exactly how DFW’s book feels, never ending, not always at the pleasure of the reader however. The text is tedious to the point that reading the book sometimes feels like the joke is on the reader for picking up the book in the first place.

Although I have only put a dent in the massive tome that is Infinite Jest, I can already tell DFW has done something incredibly important. In a time when art has been rendered meaningless and its expressions dull and plane, DFW comes from nowhere to splash cold water on our faces. If you are looking to appreciate art but are tired of reductionist minimalism, then pick up Infinite Jest and prepare for the total refutation of the white canvas.


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