Jed Perl’s Calder: The Conquest of Space, the second and concluding 
volume of his biography of the American sculptor, has just been published. (May 2020)

IN THE REVIEW

A Rage for Clarity

Paul Signac: Opus 217. Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones, and Tints, Portrait of M. Félix Fénéon in 1890, 1890

Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde—From Signac to Matisse and Beyond

an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, through July 25, 2020
“Several friends had told me that he had died, others thought he might still be alive but hiding somewhere.” With those words John Rewald, the pioneering historian of Impressionism and Postimpressionism, opened a long essay on Félix Fénéon, an uncategorizable figure in French literary, artistic, and political circles who had …

Spirits of San Francisco

Jess: If All the World Were Paper and All the Water Sink, 1962

The Householders: Robert Duncan and Jess

by Tara McDowell

Robert Duncan: The Ambassador from Venus

by Lisa Jarnot, with a foreword by Michael Davidson
The oil paint is laid on thick, like the most scrumptious cake frosting imaginable, in the portrait of the poet Robert Duncan that his life partner, the artist known as Jess, made in 1965. Duncan, his almond-shaped eyes wide open but looking not so much at us as beyond us, …

Made in Mexico

Lola Álvarez Bravo: Landscapes of Mexico, circa 1954

In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists in Mexico at Midcentury

an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, September 6, 2019–January 12, 2020
I am looking at a little book called Spanish for Your Mexican Visit, published in Mexico in 1935 and bound in rough cloth with the title and some drawings stamped on the cover in red. Inside, amid the lessons on everything from figuring out the trains to navigating antique shops …

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.

NYR DAILY

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.

NYR CALENDAR