Unfashionably Late

PAINTING IN THE 90’S HAS become a tightening circle, a game of diminished rewards and opportunities. Every year a “new” painting is touted; every season brings a “hot” young artist. For all these claims, little work stands out. Midcareer mediocrities receive vast retrospectives, pseudomasters reign at the Met. The few painters we can point to with confidence, we praise excessively, out of a nostalgia for better times (our endless lionizing of Gerhard Richter, for example, or our hesitancy to criticize Robert Ryman, whose process-based abstraction has finally lost its freshness). As for the current fashion favoring painting that explores identity-based content, it has become enough to inscribe a few signifiers of gender, race, or queerness to suggest a frisson of newness, a trend the market has certainly encouraged. But it remains to be seen whether this drive to pictorialize the political

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