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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. New shows: "events;" how to support the online edition: "works."



Charles Hewlings. "She Is Love and The Angel's Ear." 2011. Wood, steel, acrylic. Installation photograph, "Charles Hewlings: New Sculpture," The New Cut Art Centre, Halesworth, Suffolk . March 13 - April 21.
Winding up the season in Chelsea on Friday before the long weekend, I visited eight galleries, finding two with art I liked well enough to discuss. Neither was as enjoyable to contemplate as a UK catalogue that has also come my way – or even a book I saw in a bookstore. Read More 
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"Nostalgia (For a While It Was Good to Have Been the Word 'Man')". Poem by Peter Viereck. Etchings by Esteban Vicente. Courtesy Woodward Gallery.
Over the winter, I also got around to a handful of gallery shows that I'd been notified about, and found something -- though not necessarily an awful lot ---to recommend them. One was the relatively new gallery of Bernard Jacobson, the Brit who also has a London gallery. So far, its New York outpost has concerned itself largely with British artists who don’t do an awful lot for me, but this winter’s group show, “Discursive Abstraction” (closed February 25) had several pieces which,  Read More 
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Installation shot, "Stanley Whitney: Left to Right," at Team Gallery (center & right-hand painting shown). Image courtesy of the artist and Team Gallery, New York
Although some readers may feel that this column’s reviews are exclusively concerned with what a onetime fan has referred to as “the usual suspects,” I do try to get around and see what else is going on. I’m not four people, as the New York Times is, so  Read More 
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Henry Ossawa Tanner, Rainbow Lake, New York. ca. 1878-82. Oil on canvas, 17 3/8 "x 11 1/4". Courtesy Wilmer Jennings Gallery.
A squib in the NY Times told me that the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia was planning to stage “Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit” (closed April 15, but going on to the Cincinnati Art Museum, May 26 to September 9, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, October 21 to January 13, 2013). This squib revived memories for me of 1969, the last year I worked on Time, and specifically of the story I wrote in the spring of that year for the magazine on Tanner (1859-1937), America’s first African-American artist to gain international renown.  Read More 
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Installation view of "Adolph Gottlieb: Gravity, Suspension, Motion: Paintings 1954 - 1972." (c) Estate of Adolph and Esther Gottlieb/licensed by VAGA, New York NY. Photo by Kerry Ryan McFate/Courtesy The Pace Gallery. Left to right: "One, Two, Three," 1964. Oil on canvas, 11' x 6'6". "Foursquare," (1964). Oil on canvas, 6'6" x 11'.
Even in the present trough, we still have some representatives of the peaks to enjoy. High among them is one of the giants of abstract expressionism, as seen at Pace in “Adolph Gottlieb: Gravity, Suspension, Motion: Paintings 1954-1972" (closed April 28). Gottlieb (1903-1974) has always presented problems for those who like their art easily pigeonholed. In the days when so many of the young abstract  Read More 
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Andrew Masullo (b. 1957). 5030, 2008-10. Oil on canvas, 24 x 30 in. (61 x 76.2 cm). Collection of the artist. (c) Andrew Masullo; courtesy Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles.
My third & last big overrated show is the “2012 Whitney Biennial,” organized by Elisabeth Sussman and Jay Sanders and exhibiting work by 51 artists (through May 27). Whatever else I may say about it, it has prompted me to a few fresh thoughts about art history, the notion of "peaks & troughs". These Biennials often attract negative reviews, but this year,  Read More 
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Grinch-time #2

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). La Promenade, 1875-76. Oil on canvas, 67 x 42 5/8 inches. The Frick Collection, New York. Photo: Michael Bodycomb
Here is my second candidate for an overrated show. Which is not to say that a lot of it wasn't very fine. Just not all of it, and specifically not the part that everybody else elected to rave about.

The show I am talking about is “Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting,” at The Frick Collection  Read More 
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John Chamberlain, Whirled Peas, 1991. Painted, chromium-plated, and stainless steel. 139 1/2 x 75 x 48 1/2 inches. Private Collection. Installation view: "John Chamberlain: Choices," Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, February 24 - May 13, 2012. (c) 2011 John Chamberlain/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: David Heald (c) Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
For the past 8 or 9 entries, I've been all sweetness & light. Now it's time for some negativity. No other website is going to set up a link to this review, but in my twisted way, I feel it's important to survey the whole scene or at least a representative cross-section of it, and in this & my next 2 entries I shall be reviewing 3 museum shows that I feel have been OVERRATED. So go ahead, call me the Grinch that stole Christmas.

First on my list is “John Chamberlain: Choices,” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, organized by Susan Davidson, and including approximately 100 works, predominantly sculpture made from Read More 
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