A Beautiful Mosaic of Filth

Michael Greenberg

Steven Hirsch’s photos of the Gowanus Canal are solely concerned with the surface of the water—the gonorrhea, coli, and putida bacteria that cling to one another there in a mosaic of filth. In fact, these images are a microscopic record of an ecological disaster.

The Shadow World of Alfred Kubin

Christopher Benfey

Alfred Kubin, “an artist who has yet to be truly discovered,” according to the catalog of a wide-ranging exhibition at the Shepherd Gallery, will strike some viewers as several different artists. His friend Kafka noted in 1911 that he “looks different in age, size, and strength according to whether he is sitting, standing, wearing just a suit, or an overcoat,” an observation that might be modified to describe Kubin’s varied art as well.

The Invention of the Jewish Nose

Sara Lipton

The “eternal Jew” and “the longest hatred” are equally misleading labels. Neither Jews themselves nor attitudes toward Jews were static or unchanging. Even apparently identical images can bear radically different meanings. But the history of anti-Jewish iconography does reveal one constant in western culture, well-known to Nazi propagandists—the visceral force of the visual image.

When the Greeks Ruled Egypt

James Romm

The strategies by which the Greeks—outnumbered by their subjects ten to one—maintained power in ancient Egypt are vividly illustrated in “When the Greeks Ruled Egypt: From Alexander the Great to Cleopatra,” an exhibition at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World through January 4.

Grotesque, Garish, Exuberant American Art

J. Hoberman

“What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present,” the provocatively-titled exhibit at the RISD Museum in Providence, presents a bracing alternative to one prevailing way of telling the story of postwar American art. Generally speaking, the art is grotesque, garish and exuberant, cranky, sometimes menacing, often hilarious and, in the case of the Hairy Who and Destroy All Monsters, particularly fresh.