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Peter Cain

PETER CAIN DIED on January 5, 1997, at the age of thirty-seven. He had a cerebral hemorrhage in his sleep, lingered in a coma for a few days, and was gone.

His work was widely seen but not too widely known. He’d had five one-person exhibitions in New York and California since 1990. He was in the 1993 and 1995 Whitney Biennials, so he had “respect,” and a lot of warm bodies had passed in front of his work, but his serious audience remained small—small enough that we mostly knew who each other were. His paintings and drawings are odd and special, and they’ve always polarized people.

An occasional bonus of following art is the experience of having your mind changed by something you’ve seen without your conscious involvement. When I first saw Peter’s paintings turning up in group shows in 1989, they seemed too precise and mechanical to be connected to anyone’s inner life, and I filed them away

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