New York

Odd Nerdrum

Forum Gallery

If you think the long revolution of the avant-garde is a permanent one, then you’re likely to find Odd Nerdrum’s paintings quaint, somewhat bizarre narratives. Which they are—but the point is, to what end? The answer suggests the critical consciousness informing Nerdrum’s use of old-master technique. Unlike avant-gardism, which likes to think that art can be perpetually young and new, and can refresh and even refigure social life, the old masters understood that the world is always in decay and surely heading toward death; under the cover of religion, they accurately assessed life’s inadequacy.

The eschatology found in Nerdrum’s work is what gives his figures their strange edginess as well as their probity. His subjects maintain a peculiar integrity, no matter how insane, injured, and inwardly isolated they may be—and he invariably contrasts such fragile types (as seen in, e.g., Dancer with

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