Los Angeles

“Enigma Variations”

ICA - Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Although it might not amount to a new paradigm, the deployment of the comparative method—a standard art-historical gambit—as a curatorial strategy occasionally allows us to look at familiar work with fresh eyes. The approach is most effective where arguably most incongruous—that is, within a modernist context, given modernism’s emphasis on autonomy for artwork and artist alike. The suggestion that the unfolding of modern art is not necessarily a matter of consecutive seismic shake-ups but is more like a slowly unfolding conversation is no longer novel, and the validity of the relational Bakhtinian mode is well accepted, serving as a critical weapon in efforts to resist the market forces that divide and conquer artists by making them into separate brands.

In the case of the “odd couple” pairing of Philip Guston and Giorgio de Chirico, cocurated by Michael Taylor of the

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