Resting Stag, 1916-17.

New York

Elie Nadelman

Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort Street
March 27–July 20

If there were ever an artist whose work is tuxedo urbanity disguised as bib-overalls folkiness, it’s Elie Nadelman (1882–1946). “Sophistication and primitivism collide,” says the press notice accompanying this two-hundred-work show curated by the Whitney’s Barbara Haskell. Primitivism, ha! There isn’t a scintilla of it in Nadelman’s deceptively simplified figures sculpted with right-on classical economy in wood, bronze, and plaster. Oh, sure, he went in for “vernacular” subject matter (there’s a rooster-weather-vane, Uncle Sam–penny-bank vibe to his art), but he was nothing if not coolly cerebral. “I employ no other line than the curve, which possesses freshness and force,” he said. “I compose these curves so as to bring them in accord or in opposition to one another.”