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Andrew Ross on “Black Romantic”

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME a major art museum issued an open call for submissions to an upcoming show? Um . . . never? While open calls are the staple of a thousand regional and community art centers, the metro curator lives or dies by her own deft instincts about where to look, how to prefer, and what to embrace. So when one of the art world’s most sophisticated curators circulates an announcement that begins “Attention Artists!” and goes on to solicit work in the figurative genre of “romanticism,” irony hounds are likely to salivate at the prospect of another juicy morsel of conceptualism coming their way. Even for those with duller appetites, it may not be easy to take such a gesture at face value. Thirty years of tastemaking and art practice have made it habitual to extract conceptual merit from almost every aspect of the commonplace—the cuckoo clock on the mantelpiece, an ad for mail-order

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