New York

Henry Darger, Sacred Heart, date unknown, watercolor on paper, 19 x 49“. Henry Darger, Battle of Marcocino, date unknown, watercolor on paper, 19 x 49”. From “Disasters of War.”

Henry Darger, Sacred Heart, date unknown, watercolor on paper, 19 x 49“. Henry Darger, Battle of Marcocino, date unknown, watercolor on paper, 19 x 49”. From “Disasters of War.”

“Almost Warm and Fuzzy” and “Disasters of War”

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Child’s play or warfare? Among the recent offerings at MoMA’s Long Island City affiliate for contemporary art was a pair of exhibitions that queried familiar models for understanding where art comes from, what it can represent, and where it might be headed. Despite their very different subjects—childhood and war—the shows shared features emblematic of recent trends in curatorial practice. Avoid historicism, the new supposedly unconventional wisdom goes, eschew difficulty, and steer clear of critical theory; promote jarring visual oppositions, encourage outreach to a wider audience, and tear down boundaries between a museum and its “outside.” Problem is, what’s left after such avoidances and promotions tend to be baggy productions whose organizing principles are so diffuse they verge on dissolution.

“Almost Warm and Fuzzy: Childhood and Contemporary Art,” a traveling exhibition organized by

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