Sarah K. Rich

  • Howard Hodgkin, Home, Home on the Range, 2001–2007, oil on wood, 80 1/4 x 105 1/8".

    Howard Hodgkin

    Many postwar painters have yielded to the siren song of the big brushstroke, their efforts all too often settling into cliché or parody.

    Many postwar painters have yielded to the siren song of the big brushstroke, their efforts all too often settling into cliché or parody. The twenty paintings in this exhibition, however, just might prove that gestural abstraction can thrill us yet—without irony or apology—at least if it’s by Howard Hodgkin. In these works (all made in the past ten years, many never before publicly shown), oil paint gets to slither, voluptuously, over raw wood. Expect plays with scale to delight the mind, daring color to seduce the eyes. In Sky, 2005–2009, a broad wash of light cerulean

  • Kenneth Noland

    THERE ARE SOME PAINTERS who treat a finished canvas as a virginal thing that should remain undisturbed on the wall once placed there. When I made a trip three years ago to Kenneth Noland’s Maine studio, I was surprised to learn that he was not one of them. I was visiting the artist because I wanted to view a circle painting titled Back and Front that he had kept since making it in 1960. After I’d looked at the canvas for a while, I told him I didn’t understand why the top had to be the top. “Well, let’s see,” he said. He sprang from his seat and rotated the canvas a half turn. He talked about

  • Arshile Gorky, Painting, ca. 1944, oil on canvas, 65 3⁄4 x 70 1⁄4".

    Arshile Gorky

    THERE WERE TWO Arshile Gorkys to be found in this retrospective: Gorky the Authentic, and Gorky the Faker. As the exhibition made clear, most of Gorky’s work teeters on the fulcrum point between these two categories. The installation in Philadelphia began with Gorky’s self-portrait of circa 1937, the one with haunting eyes and lumpy, fingerless hands that barely support an insubstantial palette. Next to the portrait, a wall label shared details of Gorky’s tragic life story—of his mother’s death by starvation, his survival of the Armenian genocide, his eventual suicide. Thus was Gorky the

  • Alice Neel, Victoria and the Cat, 1980, oil on canvas, 39 3/4 x 25 1/2".

    Alice Neel: Painted Truths

    Though Alice Neel (1900–1984) could sometimes appear matronly (she played a bishop’s mother in the 1959 Beat film Pull My Daisy), she was a political radical and a bohemian whose portraits questioned social and artistic categories with enduring acumen.

    Though Alice Neel (1900–1984) could sometimes appear matronly (she played a bishop’s mother in the 1959 Beat film Pull My Daisy), she was a political radical and a bohemian whose portraits questioned social and artistic categories with enduring acumen. While she mastered the figural distortions developed by modernists before her (limbs like pulled taffy, faces with not-quite-level eyes, oversize heads heavy with psychic burdens), she rendered her subjects with a sincerity that modernists typically feared. The MFA’s sixty-eight-work retrospective spans

  • Sarah K. Rich

    THE PUNTA DELLA DOGANA is a protrusion of land that juts out at the southern entrance of Venice’s Grand Canal. Its name, which means “Customs Point,” refers to an earlier function of the spot: Serving as Venice’s chief maritime portal, it was the location of the city’s sea customs for four centuries. As a site historically given over to the task of deciding what may or may not enter, the Punta would provide any collector a powerful venue for putting his aesthetic criteria on display. The customs building is especially appropriate for François Pinault, the French billionaire whose private

  • Repartir à zéro

    IN A DARKENED AND CONFINING antechamber at Lyon’s Musée des Beaux-Arts, two videos set the tone for what was to come: On a screen to the left, a mushroom cloud silently unfurled over Nagasaki; on the right played an excerpt from Roberto Rossellini’s Germania anno zero (1948) in which a blond boy wanders in Berlin’s postwar rubble, picking up a piece of debris, distractedly pointing it like a pistol at his own head, and then throwing it like a grenade into the window of a neighboring ruin. Both clips ran as short loops (just a few minutes each) and without sound, producing a hypnotic repetitiveness

  • Roy Lichtenstein, Red Painting (Brushstroke), 1965, oil and Magna on canvas, 60 x 60".

    “Target Practice: Painting Under Attack 1949–78”

    A substantial portion of the postwar avant-garde made destroying painting its special mission. “Target Practice” presents an international array of more than eighty important works by some fifty artists who ripped, erased, burned, shot, stabbed, or otherwise molested the medium, often by wielding weapons forged in Conceptual practices, as well as in performance, video, and other media.

    No matter its content or its formal attributes, painting is a medium that reproduces bourgeois ideology all too legibly: Its emphasis on visual effects partakes in a distribution of sensory labor that disenfranchises touch and other senses; its two-dimensional retreat from real space suggests something like bourgeois decorum (unlike sculpture, which is always barging in). For these and other reasons, a substantial portion of the postwar avant-garde made destroying painting its special mission. “Target Practice” presents an international array of more than eighty important

  • Donald Sultan, White Gun, March 18, 1982 d., 1982, graphite on vinyl over wood, 12 x 12".

    “Donald Sultan: The First Decade”

    In reproductions, the subtle tactile properties of Sultan’s industrial media are lost, so this substantial exhibition of twenty-three major early works should be a revelation

    The title of Donald Sultan’s White Gun, March 18, 1982 specifies the date of the painting’s creation, but it also questions the temporality of objects in industrial culture. When does one attend to a specific day in the life of a gun—at the time of its manufacture (if it is an antique), or at the instant of its firing? What happens to these temporalities when Sultan renders the gun in flat, emblematic stillness? Many of his early paintings—often made by coating linoleum panels in viscous tar—reference ephemeral subjects of modernity (a migrant workforce, a decaying

  •  View of “Louise Bourgeois,” 2008, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Foreground: Spider Couple, 2003; Untitled, 2004; Untitled, 2004.

    Louise Bourgeois

    ROBERT PINCUS-WITTEN

    THE LOUISE BOURGEOIS RETROSPECTIVE at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York—an exhibition that premiered last year at Tate Modern in London—was a mammoth affair with some 150 works, a hundred of them large sculptures. The show began with the early “Femme Maison” (Woman House) series of the mid-1940s, opening on a modest scale that nevertheless reminded one of Bourgeois’s mythic status in art history. These quirky paintings depict different types of houses set upon female bodies—pedimented facade, clapboard colonial, gambrel barn, apartment tower—in a manner recalling

  • Amy Sillman, H, 2007, oil on canvas, 45 x 39".

    Amy Sillman

    EVERYONE HAS AT SOME TIME perched upon the lonelier, more acute angle of a love triangle. Childhood is the most brutal and famous introduction to the condition of the third wheel, when one discovers one is not a parent’s first and only love. The adolescent crush, which usually seeks the shortest route, is often directed at a sibling’s main squeeze. Less foundational, but just as traumatic, are those chaste threesomes in which a single adult might innocently accompany a couple to lunch, the loner doing her best to ignore the echoing vacancy on her side of the booth.

    Amy Sillman has condensed the

  • Joan Miró, Painting, 1933, oil and aqueous medium on canvas, 51 3/8 x 64 1/4".

    “Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting 1927–1937”

    In 1927, Joan Miró famously declared he would “assassinate painting.” His plan, as it turns out, was not to blow a hole in the medium's heart, but to infiltrate its ranks and slip slow poison in its drink. This substantial exhibition of Miró's "anti-painting,” accompanied by a scholarly catalogue, will chart the pollutant's course.

    In 1927, Joan Miró famously declared he would “assassinate painting.” His plan, as it turns out, was not to blow a hole in the medium's heart, but to infiltrate its ranks and slip slow poison in its drink. After all, Miró never relinquished painting. Rather, as this exhibition will argue, he contaminated it—namely, with strategies of collage. In some works, flat forms are painted to look as if they were cut and pasted into the picture plane. In others, parsimonious applications of pigment float against an unprimed support. Miró's “anti-painting” has been an enduring interest

  • Reginald Marsh, Tuesday Night at the Savoy Ballroom, 1930, oil on canvas, 56 x 97 5/8".

    “The Jazz Century”

    For most of the twentieth century, jazz has been the avant-garde’s sound track. From its formal developments of improvisation to its articulations of cultural hybridity, jazz catalyzed some of the most celebrated and adventurous moments in painting, photography, literature, and cinema.

    For most of the twentieth century, jazz has been the avant-garde’s sound track. From its formal developments of improvisation to its articulations of cultural hybridity, jazz catalyzed some of the most celebrated and adventurous moments in painting, photography, literature, and cinema. For this intercontinental group exhibition featuring eighty artists and some six hundred works, curator Daniel Soutif will showcase the music’s artistic dialogue by interspersing the work of modern painting’s most adoring jazz fans (Aaron Douglas, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock) with less