Carroll Dunham

  • Georg Baselitz, Waldarbeiter (Woodsmen), 1967–68, charcoal and synthetic resin on canvas, 97 7⁄8 × 78 3⁄4".

    Georg Baselitz

    GEORG BASELITZ came to the attention of US audiences in the early 1980s as part of the cohort of German painters who seemed to appear from out of nowhere with an onslaught of exhibitions in New York’s most prestigious and cutting-edge galleries. Within the international (non) movement referred to as “neo-expressionism,” Baselitz was among the few who were actually reconsidering German Expressionist approaches to painting; he was also “the one who turns his paintings upside down.” His inversion of his subjects set him apart, but without context or a clear sense of his development it seemed like

  • Kerry James Marshall, Untitled, 2009, acrylic on PVC panel, 61 1/8 × 72 7/8".


    IT IS AS PLAIN as the nose on one’s face—and, for many, equally impossible to see—that the history of Euro-American painting has been created by and for white people. Kerry James Marshall has recounted his childhood realization of this distorted condition while wandering in museums, and as an adult he made it his stated artistic mission to create representations of the black figure that would be ratified in the halls of our institutions. With the large survey exhibition “Mastry”—which traveled this fall from Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art to the Met Breuer in New York, where

  • View of “Chris Ofili: Night and Day,” 2014–15. From left: No Woman, No Cry, 1998; The Holy Virgin Mary, 1996. Photo: Maris Hutchinson/EPW.

    Chris Ofili

    CHRIS OFILI is one of a tiny handful of living artists whose work has, however briefly, entered what passes in this country for “political discourse.” In the more than fifteen years since the tempest in a teapot initiated by Rudolph Giuliani’s “outrage” at the inclusion of Ofili’s painting The Holy Virgin Mary, 1996, in the 1999 exhibition “Sensation” at the Brooklyn Museum, no other artist has been framed for such blasphemy. Meanwhile, Ofili’s approach to painting and his philosophical agenda have been quietly evolving, encompassing both more personal and more historical areas of association.

  • Carroll Dunham

    Extreme-sports memoirs don’t interest me much, and James Nestor’s Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) would seem to be just that: a lengthy investigation of the sport known as free diving, an extreme activity if ever there was one, in which humans dive unprotected and unassisted to remarkable underwater depths and (mostly) come back to tell us about it. But this book is much more than that . . . much deeper. Woven around hair-raising tales of this sport’s elite and their psychology are the author’s fascinating ruminations

  • William Baziotes, Dwarf, 1947, oil on canvas, 42 x 36 1/8". © Estate of William Baziotes/SCALA/Art Resource, New York.


    WHEN I WALKED INTO the first gallery of the “Abstract Expressionist New York” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, I was stopped in my tracks by a green dwarf, waving to me from the back corner of the room. Actually it was a painting of a green dwarf—Dwarf, 1947, by William Baziotes (1912–1963)—looking like a bit of a freak among the various Surrealist- and automatist-inspired works that filled the gallery and that are conventionally understood to be the precursors of the New York School classics that were to follow. The museum’s long-established narrative of that period

  • “Late Renoir”

    ONE THING A FAMOUS, elderly, or dead artist’s work can never be is too late. There has been widespread interest in “late” shows lately—the mesmerizing late interiors of Bonnard, Picasso’s musketeers, Monet’s late water lilies, and the confusing last efforts of Warhol and Dalí have all recently been presented for reconsideration. Central to this trend is the exhibition “Late Renoir,” on view this summer at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which examined the surprisingly divisive output of this ubiquitous artist’s final years.

    The Philadelphia exhibition covered roughly the period from 1890 until

  • Otto Dix

    OTTO DIX IS A KEY FIGURE, but he has never been held in as high regard in America as his contemporaries, such as Max Beckmann and George Grosz. The German artist played no part in the fertilization of the New York art world by European refugees during World War II (Dix was in a French POW camp at the time), nor have we ever seen enough of his work here to understand his role in his own day. In 2006–2007, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York mounted its incredible “Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s,” which did much to contextualize Dix, suggesting he was a deeper and more

  • Pablo Picasso, Couple, 1970, oil on canvas, 763⁄4 x 511⁄4".

    Pablo Picasso

    PABLO PICASSO CAN BE EXHAUSTING to think about. He seems to occupy a slightly unnatural amount of space in the scheme of things. When he died in 1973, he had been the most famous artist in the world for well over half a century, but virtually no one was thinking seriously about what he’d been doing lately. Despite the almost eerie diversity of his output, Picasso’s part in the development of Cubism remained, for many, his most significant contribution (one that he spent the remainder of his life attempting both to own exclusively and to destroy). Many of his midlife innovations and stylistic

  • André Kertész, Portrait of Alexander Calder with the Circus, 1929, black-and-white photograph, 7 1⁄8 x 9 1⁄2".


    IT’S DIFFICULT TO KNOW WHAT TO MAKE OF ALEXANDER CALDER. He is solidly positioned within the pantheon of twentieth-century sculpture but doesn’t quite fit the conventional academic narrative that runs from Picasso’s Guitar through David Smith to Minimalism and beyond. He is arguably one of the most beloved and readily identifiable artists of his time, but it can be tough to take him completely seriously. Even if he’s given a free pass for painting Braniff airplanes (a commercial undertaking that seems almost prescient in light of the until very recently expanding appetite for spectacle in the

  • “Jasper Johns: Gray”

    JASPER JOHNS has been the subject of so many career surveys, narrowly conceived museum exhibitions, and critical/theoretical writings that one might be forgiven for some initial skepticism regarding the need for a big show focusing on his use of the color gray. The premise seemed symptomatic of a curatorial compulsion to occupy niches perhaps not crying to be filled. But the show’s reality obviated such ungenerous concerns: “Jasper Johns: Gray” operates as a kind of shadow retrospective, illuminating in a necrotic light a narrative underbelly that even his most attentive enthusiasts might have

  • Kara Walker, You Do, 1993/1994, cut paper on canvas, 55 x 49".


    Kara Walker’s work seems to have always brought out the worst in her. Sadomasochistic, drunken, sexist, child-molesting racial profiles from some dawn time of rococo premodernism mingle and cavort, locked in unaffirmative action. One wonders if even she initially grasped the range of pictorial and associative possibilities in her signature resuscitation of the eighteenth-century silhouette portrait nearly fifteen years ago. What began as a way to paint without painting evolved quickly through the reciprocal feedback of process and subject into a Rorschach typology of horrible and seductive master

  • Carroll Dunham

    Robert Rauschenberg’s career took off with a chapter of shock and awe followed by a forty-year-and-counting campaign for the hearts and minds of the largest possible audience. Perceptions of him evolved quickly, from the Oedipal assassin of his New York School elders to the Golden Lion of Venice and poster boy for a new kind of art-world success. After an extraordinarily productive decade, by 1965 he had begun to steer his work away from painting toward more technologically and socially engaged forms of art, and while the fruits of his increasingly collaborative labors may have left the jury of