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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 2-4 times a year. New shows: "events;" hard copy rates & how to support the online edition: "works."



Kent Monkman, (Canadian, b. 1965). Welcoming The Newcomers, 2019. 132" x 264". Acrylic on Canvas. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Joseph Hartman


As I write, this country has been undergoing a major ordeal on two fronts.  Not only have we had four months of a pandemic making more than two million people sick, and claiming more than 200,000 lives.


On top of that, we have since had four weeks of massive protests against police brutality and in favor of better treatment for African Americans- all around the country -- initially sparked by the murder of an African American man by a white police officer in Minneapolis, a supposedly liberal community.


Tying the two together is the fact that Americans of color have been falling ill & dying of Covid-19 at a far higher rate than Caucasians. 


On the one hand, this is the sad legacy of substandard living conditions in communities where too many people are inadequately educated about diet and/or can't afford proper food and medical care -- hence a superfluity of underlying health issues (diabetes, obesity & hypertension especially) that make people especially vulnerable to the virus. 


And, on the other hand is the equally sad fact that African Americans are far more likely than are Caucasians to be employed at jobs that they cannot afford to relinquish, but that expose them to the virus at a far higher rate than is suffered by Caucasians….


Under these conditions, it may seem frivolous to write about the visual arts, unless we want to write about political art – and praise it for its passionate commitment to the issues.


But merely because art is political doesn't to me anyway necessarily make it good as art, let alone succeed in what it sets out to do.


 And although I am afraid it may make me desperately unpopular, I feel obliged to point out that the biggest single commission of this past art season, sponsored by the city's most venerated museum, and celebrated by the journal of record, may have been intended to be highly noble & political but winds up a bit silly instead. Read More 

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Eric R. Kandel, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures. New York: Columbia University Press, ©2016 Eric R. Kandel.



Dr. Eric Kandel, whose most intriguing book I am going to discuss, is a tremendously distinguished neuroscientist.  He is known in particular for his "discoveries concerning signal transduction in the nervous system," to quote his citation upon winning a Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 2000. 


When he won this award, he was already a member of a half-dozen learned societies, had won 20 other prizes and awards, and been the recipient of nine honorary degrees from universities in the U.S. and abroad.


"Reductionism in Art and Brain Science" is his seventh published book, in addition to which there must be who-knows-how-many published scientific articles. Read More 

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Installation View: The Fullness of Color; December 18, 2019–August 2020
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Photo: David Heald, © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

 It's all shut up now, but "The Fullness of Color: 1960s Painting" at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is scheduled to remain on view until August 2.  And, although it has only nine paintings, four are gold-standard quality, and the five others at least offer a pretty background to those four. Read More 

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Louise P. Sloane, Honey Moon Rising, 2019. Acrylic paint and pastes on linen, 40 x 36 inches. Signed titled and dated on the verso.  Courtesy Spanierman Modern.

One of the last shows I was able to see this spring, before the curtain dictated by COVID-19 descended on the New York art scene, was "Louise Sloane:  New Horizons" at Spanierman Modern (through March 28).  I am so glad I did.  For the formula Sloane has been employing ever since I first encountered her painting has finally altered, at least a bit!  Hurrah! Read More 

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John Marin (1870–1953), Little Fir Tree, Deer Isle, 1921. Watercolor on paper, 16¾ x 13¼ inches. Signed and dated at lower right: Marin 21. Courtesy Menconi +Schoelkopf.




Three days later, and a lot more irritated, I report that in the Big Apple, all restaurants and even fast-food outlets like Dunkin' Donuts are now no longer allowed to serve eat-in customers.  If I want to go out & do the walking my knee surgeon recommends I am hard-pressed to find someplace to sit down – even if I am toting a takeout cup of coffee.  Still, I suppose I should be grateful that I have not yet been struck down by COVID-19, and am still able to report on my visit on Friday, February 29, to "The Art Show," as sponsored by The Art Dealers Association of America and held at the Park Avenue Armory.

I always enjoy "The Art Show" more than The Armory Show, and not only because their attitude toward the press is a lot more civilized than that of the Armory Show.  From what I can tell, The Armory Show has recently decided that only sycophants are entitled to press passes, whereas "The Art Show" welcomes all members of the working media.  True, because the ADAA show is composed exclusively of U.S. dealers, it customarily displays less art by foreign artists.  On the other hand, it is far more open to "historical" art, both European and American, so the percentage of gallery displays that I really want to talk about is higher.

Finally, because this year's edition showcased only about 70 galleries, it was a lot more manageable than the Armory Show – not least, because it was far more generously supplied with seating for visitors.   All in all, it was a most pleasurable experience.


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Adolph Gottlieb, Black on White, 1967.  Oil on linen, 60 x 72 in. (152.4 x 182.9 cm.)  Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery, New York. Photo: Hadi Fallahpisheh

Well, the big news of the moment is, of course, the world-wide spread of COVID-19, and it affects everything else.  Here on a Saturday in the Big Apple, auto traffic is light and buses are nearly empty, but almost anyplace that sells reasonably-priced food, from supermarkets to coffee-and-bagel shops, is doing capacity business. For New Yorkers (and maybe all Americans) the solution to every problem, it would appear, is EAT!


As almost all museums in New York, and most of the galleries, are closed, I don't know how long I will be able to continue my reviewing activities in this column, but I did manage to visit The Armory Show, on Piers 90 and 94, and "The Art Show," at the Park Avenue Armory.  Attendance was on the light side when I was there, especially at the Armory Show, but I prefer to think that this was due to the fear of contracting COVID-19 as opposed to any lessening of interest in the art scene per se. Read More 

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Yaghjian, Edmund, 8th Avenue El, 1940. Oil on canvas,  16 x 20 in.  Courtesy ACA Galleries.


If, like me, you're a passionate New Yorker, you'll relish this latest & very worthwhile excursion into the life & times of Big Apple transport.  It's "Track Work: One Hundred Years of New York City's Subway" at ACA in Chelsea, with nearly 60 drawings, watercolors, prints, oils and images in other media, all bringing history – right up to the present – vividly alive (through March 14). Read More 

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Joan Miró, Personnage et oiseau [Personage and Bird], 1966. Bronze (sand and lost wax casting), Cast 3/5. Edition of 6 casts, Fundició Parellada, Barcelona.18 ¾ x 10 ¼ x 7 7/8 inches (47.5 x 26 x 20 cm). © 2020 Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

We all know and love the young Joan Miró (1893-1983).  He was the brightest star in the surrealist firmament that graced Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, whether it was with his wickedly witty paintings or his serenely lunatic "poetic objects." But what of his later work?  Only a few of the paintings from after World War II measure up, but I found many happy divertissements among the 20 artfully patinated bronze sculptures made between 1966 and 1974 by this versatile Catalan artist and on view in "Miró the Sculptor: Elements of Nature," at Acquavella (through February 29). Read More 

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George Hofmann, Is This the Blue of the Aegean?, 2008-09.  Acrylic on linen, 40 x 32".  Artwork © George Hofmann. Courtesy of David Richard Gallery. Photo by Yao Zu Lu

Far from the madding crowd, at 211 East 121st Street in Manhattan, one may find "George Hofmann," at David Richard (through February 28).   These eleven canvases, though done between 2008 and 2010, still have an airy freshness that renders them welcome to our jaded town. Read More 

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FYI: Carl Hazlewood & Friedel Dzubas

FYI: "Artcritical," a website which needs no introduction for my readers, has published my review of "Friedel Dzubas," a new book by Patricia Lewy.  Here's a link: Friedel Dzubas, by Patricia Lewy


And "Delicious Line," a new website edited by Franklin Einspruch, has published my review of Carl Hazlewood's show at June Kelly.   Here's a link: Carl Hazlewood at June Kelly


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