Jed Perl’s latest book is the first volume of his biography of ­Alexander Calder, The Conquest of Time. (October 2019)


Hell-Bent Idealists

The Tower of Satellite City, designed by Mathias Goertiz and Luis Barragán, Naucalpan de Juárez, Mexico, 1957; photograph by Hans Namuth, circa 1964

Mathias Goeritz: Modernist Art and Architecture in Cold War Mexico

by Jennifer Josten

Gyorgy Kepes: Undreaming the Bauhaus

by John R. Blakinger
Among the many artists, architects, and designers who embraced modernism’s utopian hopes, the ravages of World War II precipitated a reevaluation that led as often to retreat as to reengagement. Mathias Goeritz and Gyorgy Kepes, creative spirits born in the Old World who made names for themselves in the New …

Yearning for the Absolute

Lucian Freud: Portrait of Lincoln Kirstein, 19 3/4 x 15 1/2 inches, 1950

Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern

an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, March 17–June 15, 2019

The Young and Evil

an exhibition at the David Zwirner Gallery, New York City, February 21–April 13, 2019
You cannot take the full measure of American culture in the twentieth century until you have carefully considered the achievement of Lincoln Kirstein. This is no easy task, for Kirstein was a polymath whose activities—as institution builder, advocate for artists, and literary figure in his own right—were so various as to defy quick or easy definition.

A Master of Mute Forms

Sophie Taeuber-Arp with her Dada Head, 1920

Sophie Taeuber-Arp and the Avant-Garde: A Biography

by Roswitha Mair, translated from the German by Damion Searls
The story of twentieth-century art is crowded with chastened and disabused idealists. How could it be otherwise? Each of the great movements—Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism—began with its own kind of evangelical fervor. These artists were rejecting quotidian experience as they pursued emotional states so unfamiliar or so overpowering as to call into question the fundamentally empirical and materialistic nature of a work of art. Painters and sculptors were raising hopes for artistic catharsis that no painting or sculpture, not even a masterpiece, could ever be expected to fulfill.

Romanticism’s Unruly Hero

Eugène Delacroix: Ovid Among the Scythians, 1859


an exhibition at the Musée du Louvre, Paris, March 29–July 23, 2018; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, September 17, 2018–January 6, 2019

Devotion to Drawing: The Karen B. Cohen Collection of Eugène Delacroix

an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, July 17–November 12, 2018
Color is Eugène Delacroix’s hero. He fights for color. He lives for color. His oil paintings are luxurious orchestrations of feverish reds, velvety blues, dusky purples, astringent oranges, and shimmering greens. In his works on paper, some of the same colors, presented as isolated elements, become refreshingly austere. There is nothing that this giant of nineteenth-century French painting cannot do with color. If his art is uneasy, it’s because his color is never easy. He flirts with chromatic chaos. He yearns for chromatic catharsis. “The very sight of my palette,” he once wrote, “freshly set out with the colors in their contrasts is enough to fire my enthusiasm.” However alien we may find some of his gaudy fantasies and megalomaniacal ambitions, there is no question that he is an artist who knows how to fill our eyes.

The Universal Eye

Pablo Picasso: Three Bathers by the Shore, 1920

Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection

an exhibition at the Met Breuer, New York City, July 3–October 7, 2018

The Psychology of an Art Writer

by Vernon Lee
The English writer Clive Bell called it “significant form.” Later generations of artists, critics, and historians, rejecting Bell’s elegant coinage, favored “formalism,” a more clinical term for more clinical times. Whatever the nomenclature, a conviction that the power of the visual arts is grounded in lines, shapes, colors, and compositions …

The Art of Elsewhere

Edward Gorey: Haunted America, 1990

Gorey’s Worlds

an exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, February 10–May 6, 2018; and the Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington, June 23–September 30, 2018
Edward Gorey’s art is one of disjuncture. His narratives are often closer to prose poems than to short stories, much less novels. For nearly fifty years Gorey sent dispatches from a dream world where Edwardian grandees cross paths with temptresses in flapper dresses, children confront animals nobody has ever seen before, and eerily depopulated interiors and landscapes leave us feeling that calamity is just around the corner.

Peter and His Kind

Peter Hujar: Daniel Schook Sucking Toe, 1981

Peter Hujar: Speed of Life

an exhibition at the Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona, January 27–April 30, 2017; Fotomuseum The Hague, June 17–October 15, 2017; the Morgan Library and Museum, New York City, January 26–May 20, 2018; and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, July 11–October 7, 2018
This is what the great photographer Brassaï, who spent a lifetime recording the merry-go-round of twentieth-century Paris, had to say about his work: “I hunt for what is permanent.” Peter Hujar, who photographed New York and died in the city in 1987, could have said the same thing. Hujar’s achievement, …


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.