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View of “Amy Sillman: one lump or two,” 2013–14. From left: Psychology Today, 2006; Untitled, 1999; A Bird in the Hand, 2006; Them, 2006. Photo: Charles Mayer.

Amy Sillman

Institute of Contemporary Art

View of “Amy Sillman: one lump or two,” 2013–14. From left: Psychology Today, 2006; Untitled, 1999; A Bird in the Hand, 2006; Them, 2006. Photo: Charles Mayer.

SO, IT TURNS OUT that Amy Sillman is indispensable. This expansive traveling survey, “one lump or two,” makes a pretty good case for her garrulous vision of painting as an elastic and ambitious pursuit. As a model of persistent picture-based engagement, it is something to account for.

But if you’re not going to buy it, that’s OK, too. Sillman can take the lumps. In fact, she happily invites them. Her work’s willingness to expose its unguarded flank is enshrined by her and others as a serious virtue. In some ways it is one. Personally, I’m not often won over by the charm of the sad sack, nor blown away by the gumption of self-deprecation, but Sillman’s vulnerability is operational as much as it is confessional: It keeps her work goofy, fluid, and inventive. There are both flinch-worthy moments and moments of grace, and neither feels more true than the other. What comes across most

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