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Object Lesson

In Mary McCarthy's essay, she makes a dubious yet eloquent case that America's virtue is its lack of materialism. She argues that no self-respecting materialist could tolerate the vulgarity and bad cuisine that is the United States, things she romanticizes as proof that we come from the under classes, not the upper ones. "Should we blush," she asks, "before the visitor for this deficiency?"

"It is true that America produces and consumes more cars, soap and bathtubs than any other nation," McCarthy says, "but we live among these objects rather than by them." Fitzpatrick's paintings seem to prove this. He looks at the bells and whistles of American vulgarity and makes them seem visually rich, even elegant in a desolate kind of way. Neither romanticizing nor desiring what he sees, Fitzpatrick doesn't live by objects, but by his honest aesthetic interest in them.

"Tommy Fitzpatrick: New Paintings" is on view at Inman Gallery, 1114 Barkdull, (713)529-9676, through May 15.

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