• George Shaw, Scenes from the Passion: The Cop Shop, 1999–2000, Humbrol enamel on board, 17 x 20 7/8".

    George Shaw

    South London Gallery

    George Orwell once gloomily prophesied that the future of England would be in the “light industrial areas and along the arterial roads . . . everywhere, indeed, on the outskirts of great towns.” This depressing vision of modern suburbia has been given a powerful expression in the paintings of George Shaw, who for the past two decades has taken as his subject the unlovely Tile Hill postwar housing project in the British city of Coventry, where he grew up. Human presence is limited to graffiti, littering, and traces of vandalism; the mood is one of bleak melancholy. Depictions of painfully ordinary

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  • Clem Crosby, Vintage Valve, 2011, oil on Formica mounted on aluminum, 30 x 24 x 1 1/4".

    Clem Crosby

    Rachmaninoff's Smith/Arnatt

    I don’t think that Clem Crosby’s work is mainly derived from Abstract Expressionism (or any of its European cognates), despite some evident commonalities: the emphasis on gesture and improvisation; the play between form and formless, between plasticity and the inarticulable. Instead, I’d wager that his work stems from the cooler, sometimes even deadpan, formally buttoned-up (yet still fundamentally intuitive rather than systematic) abstraction that flourished in the 1960s and ’70s alongside Minimalism—the art of Robert Ryman, for instance, or of Imi Knoebel. Crosby’s recent show included

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  • Napoleon Sarony, Oscar Wilde, 1882, albumen panel print, 12 x 7 1/4". From “The Cult of Beauty.”

    “The Cult of Beauty”

    Victoria and Albert Museum

    Paintings of velvet-swaddled damsels, with fiery hair and mournful pouts, fraternized with blue-and-white china, japonaiserie costumes, and gilt-edged tomes of illustrated fairy tales in “The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860–1900.” Plush rooms (decorated with projections of peacock feathers and wispy, floral patterns) traced the movement’s various phases. The esoteric quest of a few in the 1860s, it was given a boost by the Grosvenor Gallery’s patronage in the 1870s, exultantly exalted as a lifestyle choice in the 1880s (with the flourishing of the “house beautiful” aesthetic), and

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