The cultures that took part in the complex trade network between major civilizations during the Iron Age, and the traces the traders themselves left behind in shipwrecks and foreign settlements, are the focus of the vast and impressive exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, “Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age.”
Is David Lynch a celebrity painter? Or, put another way: Would the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) be exhibiting four decades of his work, were he not 1) a world-famous movie director and 2) the most famous PAFA alum since Mad magazine cartoonist Don Martin or Thomas Eakins or maybe ever? Impossible to answer and pretty much irrelevant, as Lynch’s paintings and assemblages place his movies in the setting of his art work and not vice versa.
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.
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 “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.