I am a poet who writes about art.
In 1969, my first gallery reviews appeared in Artnews. Since them I have published reviews and essays in major art journals, in the United States and abroad, including Art in America, Artforum, Art International, Flash Art, Saturday Review, Architectural Forum, The Brooklyn Rail, and Art & Antiques.
My monographic study of Fernando Boterto, published published in 1980 by Abbeville Press, was followed in 1982 by my study of John Singer Sargent. Since then I have published monographs on a number of other artists, among them Andy Warhol, Robert Longo, Fernando Botero, Pat Steir, Gilbert & George, Francis Bacon, Georgia O’Keeffe, Simon Hantai, and Alex Katz.
In The Fate of a Gesture: Jackson Pollock and Postwar American Art, 1996, I traced the impact of Pollock’s drip paintings on later generations of American artists–among them Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, the Minimalists, the NeoExpressionists of the 1980s, and others. With Out of the Box: The Reinvention of Art 1965-1975, 2000, I show how Minimalism prompted a generation of artists–earthworkers, conceptualists, process artists, performance artists, and others–to find new premises for art-making.
For a more complete list of my writings on art, click on the “Bibliography” tab in the navigation bar.
I first published my poems in The World, the magazine of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project, in New York. More recently my poems have appeared in Vanitas, Hudson River Art, The Sienese Shredder, The Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. I have been in several anthologies, among them Another World, Aerial, with images by Yvonne Jacquette, Out of This World, KGB Bar Book of Poems, and Poetry After 9-11: An Anthology of New York Poets. “The Violet Hour: An Essay on Beauty” appeared in Uncontrollable Beauty, a collection of writings on art and aesthetics.
My books of poetry include Fever Coast, Give Me Tomorrow, and Arrivederci, Modernismo. I received the Project for Innovative Poetry’s Gertrude Stein Award in 2005 and the first Annual T-Space Poetry Award in 2013.
My first novel, Tequila Mockingbird was published in June 2015 by Station Hill Press.
The following is a statement I prepared for The Project for Innovative Poetry website:
Though Ratcliff has said, “My poems are all love poems,” his poetry ranges over many themes and subjects, among them landscape and, in particular, the American sense of space; the interplay of poetry and painting; figures of ancient myth and tragedy; the characters of the commedia dell’arte; politics, with an emphasis on questions of individual agency; and the nature of narrative, as exemplified by such genres as the detective story and the political thriller.
“A quality of language brings with it an intuition of character,” says Ratcliff. “When I put my sense of another’s voice into play I am brought by a roundabout path to the full range of my own interests. This is anything but mysterious. The dramatic monologue is about as transparent as a fiction can be. To elaborate it—to speak in a variety of obviously made-up voices—is to stay alive to something we all know, that meaning is not only a work in progress but a perennial collaboration between oneself and all the others who inhabit one’s landscape.”