New York

Human Concern, Personal Torment

Whitney Museum of American Art

Curator Robert Doty’s mass demonstration—subtitled “The Grotesque in American Art,” an act of presumption in keeping with the ineptitudes of the exhibition—is a disaster. If a death wish were made manifest then Doty’s puerile powers of selectivity, desultory catalog and insensitive installation would generously satisfy this compulsion. I can scarcely recall, at least not at the Whitney, when so much work of quality was dragged down by such mounds of cloacal glut. Not that the ideas or sentiments which inspired most of the work in this exhibition are trivial—but noble conceptions executed by trivial hands inevitably leads to trivial art. At first one is merely embarrassed and then outraged that Diane Arbus, Willem de Kooning, Sidney Goodman, Edward Kienholz, Lucas Samaras, Peter Saul, David Smith, Paul Thek, H. C. Westermann and others, should have been exploited to such paltry ends.

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