Jed Perl’s books include Magicians and Charlatans, Antoine’s Alphabet, and New Art City. He is currently working on the first full-length biography of Alexander Calder. (February 2016)

In the Sculptor’s Studio: Calder & Stella

Frank Stella: The Whiteness of the Whale (IRS-1, 2X), paint on aluminum, 149 x 121 3/4 x 45 1/4 inches, 1987
Picasso, a painter who from time to time turned to sculpture, was neither the first nor the last artist to explore the rival attractions of two very different disciplines. Five hundred years ago, Leonardo da Vinci, who mastered the art of sculpture as well as the art of painting, delighted …

In the Sculptor’s Studio

The renovated Rodin Museum in Paris, which reopened to the public on November 12, 2015, on the 175th anniversary of Rodin’s birth. At right is Rodin’s sculpture The Three Shades (before 1886).
The reopening in Paris of the Musée Rodin—all its subtleties and surprises only sharpened and freshened by a three-year renovation—is one of a series of events occurring almost simultaneously in cities on two continents that, if taken together, offer new opportunities to explore Rodin’s power and influence as they resonate through several generations. We are at a moment in the arts when historical reckonings, involving as they do considerations of precedent, genealogy, and chronology, can too easily be dismissed as reactionary gestures, canonical considerations to be tossed aside. There is all the more reason to press for a reconsideration of the tradition that begins with Rodin.

The Perils of Painting Now

Richard Diebenkorn: Studio Wall, 1963
Like the reports of the end of history that we have been hearing, the many reports of the death of painting have no basis in reality. Painting flourishes—in the studios of artists, in galleries in New York’s Chelsea, Lower East Side, Williamsburg, and Bushwick, as well as in galleries around …

Splendor in Ford’s Detroit

The north wall of Diego Rivera’s mural Detroit Industry (1932–1933) at the Detroit Institute of Arts, depicting assembly line workers at the Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge plant
Can a museum director who retired in 1945 possibly matter in 2015? The answer is yes, if we are talking about William R. Valentiner, the German art historian who came to the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1924 and during the dark days of the Great Depression transformed an undistinguished …

Midnight Movies of the Mind

“The photographer Duane Michals is a law unto himself,” writes Jed Perl in the Review’s February 19, 2015 issue. “In a career spanning more than half a century he has worked in both utilitarian black-and-white and luxuriant color, produced slapstick self-portraits, evoked erotic daydreams, pamphleteered against art world fashions, and painted whimsical abstract designs on vintage photographs. You would be in for a disappointment if you expected a sober summing up in “Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals,” the big retrospective of the eighty-two-year-old artist’s career that is currently at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. Michals remains aggressively idiosyncratic, the curator of his own overstuffed, beguiling, disorderly imagination.” Here we present a series of Michals’s photo-sequences, with commentary drawn from Perl’s piece.

The Subtle Games of Duane Michals

Duane Michals: from the series Paradise Regained, 1968
The photographer Duane Michals is a law unto himself. In a career spanning more than half a century he has worked in both utilitarian black-and-white and luxuriant color, produced slapstick self-portraits, evoked erotic daydreams, pamphleteered against art world fashions, and painted whimsical abstract designs on vintage photographs. You would be …

You Can’t Catch Picasso

Pablo Picasso: Olga Picasso, Seated, autumn 1918
No artist has ever embraced the freedom of the imagination with more fierce, hell-bent intensity than Picasso. Modernism has given way to postmodernism and posthumanism, and through it all Picasso has somehow retained his heroic standing, still the virile Nietzschean hero with the X-ray eyes.

The Connoisseur of the Uncanny

Robert Gober’s sculpture of a nearly six-foot-long cigar, shown at MoMA with one of his wallpaper installations, both from 1991
The sixty-year-old artist Robert Gober is a connoisseur of the uncanny. He dreams up discombobulating variations on ordinary objects, sights, and situations. Then he turns his disquieting visions—a playpen crisscrossed by two pipes; a wedge of cheese with a head of hair—into impeccably carpentered, cast, painted, woven, and sewn works.

The Cult of Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons: Rendering of Pluto and Proserpina, 2010–2013
Imagine the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art as the perfect storm. And at the center of the perfect storm there is a perfect vacuum. The storm is everything going on around Jeff Koons: the multimillion-dollar auction prices, the blue chip dealers, the hyperbolic claims of the critics, the adulation and the controversy. The vacuum is the work itself.