previews

New York

Oscar Bluemner

Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort Street
October 7 - February 12

Curated by Barbara Haskell

There are probably as few people around these days who remember Al Capp’s cartoon character Joe Btfsplk—so dogged by misfortune that he had his own personal raincloud hovering over him—as there are contemporary art scenesters who know who Oscar Bluemner was. Actually Btfsplk and Bluemner (1867–1938) could have been the same guy. The artist fled Germany (no, the Kaiser) in 1892; practiced as an architect but had credit for his best design snatched from him; saw his wife die from the effects of chronic poverty; and, crippled, blind, and insomniac after a car crash, committed suicide in 1938. But he painted luminous if heartbreaking semiabstract landscapes, and they—not his star-crossed life—are the attraction of this eighty-work retrospective, Bluemner’s first in nearly two decades.