Carnegie International

Carnegie Museum of Art

People not already briefed on the strangeness of high-ambition contemporary art must have found the 1988 Carnegie International exhibition both a bafflement and a revelation. Those who entered wondering what they were “supposed to see” confronted a wide, confusing spectrum of stylistic cues. But the semiotic static of art sophistication abated here and there. Works like Wolfgang Laib’s beeswax hut and Bill Viola’s video room had a visceral immediacy, attesting that good new art does not have to come cloaked in theory to be convincing.

The International offered unanticipated glories of color and sensuous vividness in the paintings of Anselm Kiefer and Per Kirkeby, and in the sculptures by Anish Kapoor. The show touched on the hermetic and burlesque extremes of recent art, for example in the works of Rebecca Horn and Joseph Beuys, and those of Jeff Koons and Fischli/Weiss. But to its critics,

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