Alice Neel

Whitechapel Gallery

Alice Neel’s magnificently independent art practice is remarkable for its allegiance to figuration at a time when abstraction dominated the New York world and for her intense portrayals of inner turmoil. Her work can verge on caricature, yet she is never condescending, never rushed. She can, however, be cruel, as in 1962’s mustard-colored, freakish portrait of gallerist Ellie Poindexter—one of the sixty works, painted between 1930 and 1984, in this exhilarating touring exhibition of Neel’s portraits (along with some cityscapes), curated by the Neel Estate’s Jeremy Lewison and organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The show’s title, “Painted Truths,” presumably refers to each portrait’s alleged psychologizing accuracy, but maybe the word truths implies something more stable than what Neel’s work captures. For in expressing the brief, changing relationship between subject and painter,

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