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.
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.
“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.
Shomei Tomatsu was fifteen when Japan was defeated and the US troops arrived, casually tossing sticks of gum and chocolates at the children running after their jeeps. The rampant conquerors, who could often buy the favors of local women with a pair of silk stockings or a Hershey bar, were for young Japanese men a source of deep humiliation. But they also came with jazz music, easy manners, cool clothes, a promise of democracy, and what seemed then like vast wealth.