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PRINT Summer 1984

STAMPEDE TO THE FIGURE

THESE REMARKS FOLLOW from my sense that painting’s recent “return to the figure” is an important episode in the history of the medium, so important that it overwhelms vision: we talk as if we’ve witnessed the return of the figure. But the figure never went away. The lineage of figure painters extends unbroken from antiquity to the present. So the hordes of human forms in the work of young painters do not signal the sudden reappearance of a venerable subject; rather, these artist’s return to the figure is like a first pilgrimage to a sacred site, a place one knows because it is part of one’s heritage but which, for reasons of extreme youth, one has never visited. For those who became artists when Minimalism and conceptualism still had the aura of the new, the figure appeared only on the periphery of vision. Its significance was easy to overlook. A young painter “returning” now to this

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