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EYES IN THE HEAT: JEAN DUBUFFET, CATHY WILKES, AND JOSH SMITH

Cathy Wilkes, Non Verbal (detail), 2005, oil on canvas, mannequins, aluminum tray, corn oil, LCD screen, stroller, mixed media. Installation view, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. Photo: Ruth Clark.

IT IS 1946. The war has just ended, and Henri Michaux, an avant-garde poet turned painter, finds himself haunted by faces: “As soon as I pick up a pencil or a brush, ten, fifteen, twenty of them surge up to me on the paper one after the other. And most of them wild. Are all those faces me? Are they other people? From what depths?” In Michaux’s works of the period, these questions are redoubled on the page, where the human face is reduced to a zero-point of legibility. A year earlier, Michaux had started on a series of faces using thin washes of gouache, watercolor, and ink to evoke the eerie cohort. Fugitive, tortured, these small works on paper distill the basic attributes of the face: the ghostly outline of a head and the bare, and occasionally grotesque, indications of eyes and a mouth. The faces came to him from within, Michaux claimed, each with its own persona: horror,

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