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Richard Maxwell, Paradiso, 2017. Performance view, Greene Naftali, New York, January 2018. Carina Goebelbecker and Charles Reina. Photo: Sascha van Riel.

“A MAN DRIVES A PICKUP into a Chelsea gallery” could be the start of a bad joke; instead, it’s the beginning of a Richard Maxwell play. The truck is a white Chevy with a licked finish, the gallery is Greene Naftali, and the massive windows, edged in weathering steel, are vertical blades, rudders pivoted by two guys I worry about in the cold, their irradiated safety hoodies thick but perhaps not enough.

Addressed to Dante’s Divine Comedy and borrowing the title from his third canticle, Paradiso foregrounds existential questions: What is our purpose? Where will we find salvation? But Maxwell’s work—always, but here especially—is equally concerned with mechanics and calisthenics, the exquisite difficulty of physiological how. How, that is, do we live on this Earth, wretched as we are? How do we navigate the reek of our own striving?

There are other questions, no more easily

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