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View of “The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World,” 2014–15. Floor, foreground: Paintings by Oscar Murillo, 2012–14. Left wall: Oscar Murillo, 1/2, 2014. Background: Kerstin Brätsch, Sigi’s Erben (Agate Psychics), 2012. Photo: John Wronn.

“The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World”

MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

View of “The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World,” 2014–15. Floor, foreground: Paintings by Oscar Murillo, 2012–14. Left wall: Oscar Murillo, 1/2, 2014. Background: Kerstin Brätsch, Sigi’s Erben (Agate Psychics), 2012. Photo: John Wronn.

THE PAST IS NEVER DEAD—it’s only a click away. And the artists in “The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World” immerse themselves in a networked, GIFed-up history that’s as promiscuously accessible as it is screen-deep. Contemporary culture, claims the show’s curator, Laura Hoptman, is defined by the compulsion to synthesize disparate historical tropes. Ergo, for artists today, movements such as AbEx, Minimalism, Constructivism, Fauvism, and De Stijl are no longer landmark steps along modernism’s teleological progression, but tools in a toolbar or colors in a palette. The operative approach is that of a “connoisseurship of boundless information,” per her catalogue essay, “a picking and choosing of elements of the past to resolve a problem or a task at hand.”

This is presented as a good thing—and it may very well be. Yet the preconditions for such art

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