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The Hirshhorn: Danger, Curves Ahead

NAVIGATING THROUGH THE “DIRECTIONS” show at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., I had the sense of a good news/bad news joke. The good news is that curator Miranda McClintic had the guts to organize different concerns parading under the rubrics of post-modernism, pluralism, plagiarism, etc. “Artistry,” “Myth and Metaphor” and “Social Observation” are the three parts into which she divided contemporary art. The bad news is that the art didn’t fit its pigeonholes very snugly; art that, for me, is positively formalist, appeared in “Social Observation,” while pieces that seem incontestably metaphorical were classified under “Artistry.” But of all the current new-talent exhibitions, “Directions” was the least unruly.

How new are new art’s directions? “Artistry” (or art for art’s sake) goes back at least as far as the 19th century. Maurice Denis, whom McClintic cites in the exhibition

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