New York

Jonathan Monk

Casey Kaplan

A few years ago, Ken Johnson, reviewing a Jonathan Monk exhibition at Casey Kaplan Gallery, stated that “Conceptualism can be overbearing but it can also be sweet, wry and poetic.” Such readings—of Monk as the sensitive offspring of a band of drier forebears—abound. The word playful is often used to characterize the artist, who is generally considered to be enacting a kind of spunky homage. Indeed, Monk is most often understood to be nudging viewers into believing that conceptual tenets remain relevant by acknowledging the tendency’s contemporary potential for a “softer” side.

But Monk’s overarching project is—I hope—more complicated than this, even if unintentionally so, for it acknowledges both the desire to belong to a (it must be said, almost exclusively male) critical artistic genealogy and the ways by which one must announce both proximity and distance from any history claimed. And

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