new-york

William Wilson

Allan Stone Gallery

One effect of our shopworn and frayed post-Modernity has been to inculcate a cavalier attitude toward the art of the past, ostensibly for the purpose of depriving it of oppressive and authoritarian power. The monuments of the past are commonly subjected to relentless and almost mechanical rituals of demystification. And yet this demystifying approach oddly confirms the provisional success of Modernism’s passionately wished-for break from the ruins of the past. Indeed, it is as if the Modernists actually pulled it off, as our memory sometimes seems to extend no further back than, maybe, to Manet. Perversely, the meaningful past has shrunk to a hundred-odd years.

What happens when this relation is reversed, when the “recent” past is elided in favor of more antique memories? William Wilson dwells on the authority of older images as they persist in the contemporary consciousness. In his carefully

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