Josephine Pryde, Scale XVI, 2012, color photograph, 41 3/4 x 31 7/8".

WALKING ALONG DÜSSELDORF’S GRABBEPLATZ toward the grim gray Brutalist building that houses the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, visitors to Josephine Pryde’s current retrospective were confronted with an image of disturbing cuteness—or, perhaps better, with a cute disturbance. An enormous poster, mounted prominently on the facade, stamps the show’s ingratiating if ultimately inexplicable title, “Miss Austen Enjoys Photography,” over a black-and-white photograph of a guinea pig, staring unblinkingly at the camera—close-up, unavoidable, irresistible in its cunning vivacity. The image, like the lowest-grade kitty porn, tugs shamelessly at one’s heartstrings; more appropriate for a pet-shop ad, a billboard coaxing parents to take their kids to the zoo, or a viral video, such pandering to the flagrantly adorable lampoons whatever elevated expectations we might

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