Richard Flood

  • H.C. Westermann (1922–1981)

    H.C. Westermann had a genius for making his art look like craft. The harmony that he established with his homey materials was capable of transforming the obvious and the sentimental into the sublime. The eloquent economy of his imagery suggested transcendent folk art, but the compact poetry of his vision lifted it much higher. Westermann was an unequivocally American artist who translated the cynical Duchampian monologue into a rueful Appalachian ballad.

    William Copley’s remembrance of Westermann is a bear hug of a painting. There is no “awful rowing toward God” in this memento mori, but rather

  • Hardboiled America

    It is time that the American people realized themselves. Broadway is genuine. . . . But in the drawing rooms they think it well to deprecate all this. They want to copy Europe, just as we in Russia insisted for so many years on copying Europe. . . .

    —Serge Diaghilev, quoted in Serge Diaghilev, by Richard Buckle

    From a nation of immigrants dependent on what Diaghilev saw as a mail-order heritage, America, by the ’50s, had begun to realize the competitive vitality of its own accomplishments, eventually growing so enamored of its immediate past that planned obsolescence pioneered a brand of turnover

  • Robert Delford Brown

    I don’t know exactly what to say about Robert Delford Brown’s work. I do know that it moved me, but in a funny way that had more to do with my respect for personal indomitability than with art appreciation. The show was billed as a retrospective (“survey” would, I think, have been a more accurate tag), and contained drawings, watercolors, photographic documentation of environmental/performance pieces, hand-tinted photographic enlargements, ceramic wall reliefs, and papier-mâché mobiles. All told, twenty years worth of lopsided eccentricity. For what is instantly remarkable about the work is just

  • Richard Bosman

    Richard Bosman’s new paintings are ugly like a Mickey Spillane novel is ugly. They’re mannered, gutsy, and intoxicated with the poetry of vernacular violence. Scenes of escalated mayhem are thickly painted with mean, muddy colors—lots of yucky gray and blue and red. The jagged intensity of the figures, all of which are caught in moments of impending or resolved brutality, is reminiscent of the alienated Expressionism of Edvard Munch. Bosman doesn’t have Munch’s cathartic sense of subject—he’s still thumping away on the bass where Munch fine-tuned the treble; and the work can be a little dippy

  • Jeff Way

    Elvis and Jesus: that’s electric. The King of Rock ’n’ Roll meets the Man from Galilee for a cosmic revival. Whatever Presley’s private hell may have been, his public piety never faltered; he gloried in gospel, and, when he sang to Jesus, it felt real. Even toward the end, with his melting-butter body cinched by a Bible Belt of a corset, Presley could still turn an upholstered Vegas sewer into a dusty revival tent in Tennessee.

    Jeff Way’s “Elvis and Jesus” show was an intelligent coupling of god and God. Not corny, not smartass, not easy. It could have been all of those things; instead, it was

  • Andy Warhol

    Collectively titled “Myths,” Andy Warhol’s latest series of paintings and prints is, with two exceptions, like a “knock, knock” joke with a yawning silence after “Who’s there?”. It also offers an insight into the success of his earlier portraits, which were always more about iconography than myth. Depicting figures like Mao or Marilyn or Elvis, Warhol’s genius lay in knowing how to make the leap from portrait to product. By accepting and elaborating on an extant, marketed image (a presold package), Warhol was free to traffic in cultural emblems. The wonder of it is that his emblems ultimately

  • Deborah Turbeville

    There has always been a creepy, Frenchified romanticism in Deborah Turbeville’s photographs. It’s the kind of esthetic that leads to Delphine Seyrig slinking around in Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad or vaguely contemplating suicide in Marguerite Duras’ India Song. Turbeville’s models look as if they’ve been stuffed with Quaaludes and artfully strewn around the set like so many satin throw pillows. And, lest we forget what century we’re living in, every shot is permeated with a “leprosy of the soul” angst.

    Thumbing idly through Vogue and hitting a layout by Turbeville can be amusing—a model

  • “Disney Animations And Animators”

    Walt Disney at the Whitney promised the sunniest of meetings between popular and high culture. At last, the Diaghilev of animation was getting his entrepreneurial due. Walt Disney, after all, set standards against which animation is still measured, established a formula for family entertainment that held together for the better part of 50 years, and produced a body of work that is unrivaled in its ability to transcend the cultural and political differences of a global audience. His animation is as calculated as a NASA space probe, but the embraceable reality of his characters and the sentimental


    Regardless of my own beliefs and my own doubts . . . it is my opinion that art lost its basic creative drive the moment it was separated from worship. It severed an umbilical cord and now lives its own sterile life, generating and degenerating itself. In former days the artist remained unknown and his work was to the glory of God. He lived and died without being more or less important than other artisans; “eternal values,” “immortality” and “masterpiece” were terms not applicable in his case. The ability to create was a gift. In such a world flourished invulnerable assurance and natural humility.

  • Twin Art

    I’ve never much cared for poodles and I harbor an active dislike for the topiary excess occasioned by the breed. Any grooming process that transforms dogs into animated shrubbery smacks of an esthetic malaise not unrelated to Nero’s penchant for turning Christians into flambeaux to illuminate his garden parties. As a symbol of terminal frivolity and surrogate preening, the poodle is unrivaled.

    As a desirable domestic accoutrement, the poodle reached the zenith of its American popularity during the isolationist ’50s. Replacing the sinuous Deco hounds of the ’30s and the sturdy little terriers of

  • Russ Warren

    The protagonist of Russ Warren’s new paintings is a potato-faced poppet who is sometimes bald and sometimes sports a little patch of hair atop his pink head. Wandering in asexual, “New Image” nudity through a landscape that simultaneously manages to evoke Braque and Louisa Chase, he gets caught up in a series of allegorical encounters. Imagine a Balthus coloring book based on Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and you have it.

    Pushed out from the ground by shadows which, regardless of the landscape’s undulations, break in severe right angles, this character floats in and out of tableaux with titles

  • William Schwedler

    William Schwedler’s recent paintings are done on plywood, molded into large S-shapes, or, at their simplest, into convex and concave arcs. Hung horizontally, their streamlined curves hug the wall as a good set of tires hugs the road. Indeed, there is much about the work that evokes classic automobile-ad copy: phrases such as “aerodynamic styling” feel absolutely right applied to Schwedler’s visual concerns, which manage, like the cars the copy describes, to look brand new while remaining comfortably traditional.

    Schwedler’s paintings are unquestionably abstract. They are also undeniably metropolitan;