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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."



Installation view of the exhibition Modigliani Unmasked. September 15, 2017 – February 4, 2018. The Jewish Museum, NY. Photo: Jason Mandella.
I don’t have a lot to say about “Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World,” at the Whitney Museum of American Art (through January 28). Therefore I shall just fold my discussion of it into my review of a show whose sheer beauty led me to linger at it a lot longer, “Modigliani Unmasked” at The Jewish Museum (February 4). Both artists are or were outsiders within their respective time frames, though what this meant for their careers varied.  Read More 
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New Era 59FIFTY style New York Yankee Scarlet fitted cap. 1996. Size 7 ⅜. Wool cap with embroidered interlocking NY front logo. Yankees Top Hat logo rear embroidery. Made in the U.S.A (Buffalo, N.Y.) An original example of the first red cap ordered by request from Spike Lee to wear at game 3 of the 1996 world series playoffs.
One of the nice things that distinguishes the three big shows of applied arts this autumn is that in one way or another their organizers espouse formal values, as opposed to sociopolitical significance. Such was true at the media preview of the clothing—and accessories---show at the Museum of Modern Art entitled “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” (through January 28).  Read More 
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Ibis Coffin. Possibly from Tuna el-Gebel, Egypt. Ptolemaic Period, 305–30 B.C.E., with later additions. Wood, silver, gold, rock crystal, 15 1/16 x 7 15/16 x 21 15/16 in. (38.2 x 20.2 x 55.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum; Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 49.48. (Photo: Gavin Ashworth, Brooklyn Museum).
Do you like little animals, especially kitty cats? Do you groove with ancient Egyptian art & culture? And do you have (perhaps) a slight taste for the macabre? If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, you will enjoy “Soulful Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt” at the Brooklyn Museum (through January 21). Read More 
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Zhao Bandi, Young Zhang, 1992. Oil on canvas, 214 x 140 cm. Private collection, image courtesy ShangART Gallery, Shanghai.
As I’ve said before, this is a big season for politics in art, and a determined contribution in this department is “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (through January 7). At least, it’s meant to be a sociopolitical show.  Read More 
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Well, in this holiday season I have sad news and glad news. The sad news is an obituary of Charles Millard, who according to a long & loving paid notice in the New York Times for December 17 died on December 11 at his home in Chapel Hill, NC. Millard was a gifted curator with an excellent eye and the force of his convictions to back it up. He was a good friend to me, but more importantly to many artists--among those mentioned in his obituary were Helen Frankenthaler, Anthony Caro, Kenneth Noland & Jules Olitski, but I know there were others as well.  Read More 
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Paul Cezanne (1839 - 1906), The Bathers, ca. 1900. Watercolor over graphite, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2017.29. Photography by Steven H. Crossot, 2014.
Now, for the glad news, both in itself and for its gentle reminder that ars longa, vita brevis. This is “Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection," at The Morgan Library & Museum (through January 7). It’s a whale of a show, with more than 150 marvelous examples of unique masterworks on paper by dozens of artists from the Renaissance to the 20th century – though I have to confess that I didn’t respond to all of them equally. At the very least, I admired all of them, but only a limited number sent me up the wall with delight. (All of which may be another way of saying that the older I get, the more idiosyncratic I become.) Read More 
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David Smith. Origins & Innovations, Hauser & Wirth New York, 22nd Street 13 November – 23 December. Foreground: "Three Circles Related" (left), and "Agricola VIII" (right). © The Estate of David Smith Courtesy The Estate of David Smith and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Genevieve Hanson
In the home stretch for the holidays, I saw five gallery exhibitions displaying a wide range of talents – most of which I liked, but also some that I didn’t. They were 1) “Painter/Printmaker: Spirit of Collaboration,” at Freedmanart (through January 20); 2) Rudolf Stingel at Gagosian on Madison Avenue (through December 22), 3) “In the Balance,” at Gallery Gaia (through December 30, open weekends 2 to 7 pm except December 24), 4) “Ardent Nature: Arshile Gorky Landscapes, 1943 – 47” at Hauser & Wirth on East 69th Street (through December 23), and 5) “David Smith: Origins & Innovations,” at Hauser & Wirth on West 22nd Street (through December 23). Read More 
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Sam Gilliam exhibition at Mnuchin Gallery. Left, "Spread;" right, "Spring Thaw." Photography Tom Powel Imaging. Artwork © Sam Gilliam.
An exhibition that surprised me very pleasantly was “Sam Gilliam: 1967-73,” at Mnuchin (through December 16). From what little of his work that I’d seen before, I entered this show with not too high expectations. Read More 
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Kenneth Noland, Fete, 1959. Oil on canvas, 69 x 68.5 inche. Courtesy Yares Art.
The moment all the big spenders depart for Miami-Basel, New York galleries seem to blossom forth with abstracts. Or anyway, that’s how it was two years ago, and how it is again in 2017. So I have six shows to report on, three by juniors and three by seniors. The juniors are “Darcy Gerbarg” at Real + Art Chelsea (closed December 5); “Jacqueline Humphries” at Greene Naftali (through December 16); and “Louise P. Sloane: Selected Paintings 1977-2017” at Sideshow (through December 17). The seniors are “Theodoros Stamos (1922-1997)” at ACA (through December 23); Lee Krasner: The Umber Paintings, 1959-1962” at Paul Kasmin (through January 13); and Kenneth Noland: Circles, Early and Late” at Yares Art (through December 30). Read More 
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Philip Gerstein, "After the Humans," 2016. Acrylic and mixed media on wood panel, 30 x 20 in.
I am overcome with remorse. Weeks ago, I saw “Philip Gerstein: Sacred Asymmetry” at The Painting Center in Chelsea and liked it a lot. It showed a great deal of care and consideration and was decidedly touching, not least because it marked a radical departure from Gerstein’s last show, which was gestural and even a bit slapdash. Yet here I am, only now reviewing it on its last day! Shame on me! I did have personal reasons for this lateness that I won’t bore you with, but it was also because I had other shows in Chelsea that I wanted to see & mention, too—namely those featuring Maja Lisa Engelhardt at Elizabeth Harris (through December 23), Hassel Smith at Washburn (through December 22), and Neil Williams in “Friends with Pop” at Dean Borghi Fine Art (through November 30). All had their virtues, but I thought Gerstein’s show stood up very well by comparison with any or all of them. Read More 
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