Sanford Schwartz is the author of Christen Købke and William Nicholson, and some of his reviews have been collected in The Art Presence and Artists & Writers. (February 2020)

IN THE REVIEW

Vallotton’s Demons

Félix Vallotton: Dinner by Lamplight, 22 1/2 x 35 1/4 inches, 1899

Félix Vallotton: Painter of Disquiet

an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, June 30–September 29, 2019; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, October 29, 2019–January 26, 2020
Félix Vallotton was talked about as a highly individual, even anomalous, figure already in the 1890s, when he was in his late twenties and early thirties—and when his work was actually most aligned with that of his contemporaries—and the sense that he is an unclassifiable artist has remained to this …

Band of Outsiders

Martín Ramírez: Untitled, 45 1/2 x 31 inches, circa 1948–1952

Memory Palaces: Inside the Collection of Audrey B. Heckler

an exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum, New York City, September 17, 2019–January 26, 2020

The Hidden Art: 20th- and 21st-Century Self-Taught Artists from the Audrey B. Heckler Collection

by Valérie Rousseau with Jane Kallir, Anne-Imelda Radice, and others
There are two stories, one might say, being told at the American Folk Art Museum’s current show “Memory Palaces: Inside the Collection of Audrey B. Heckler.” The first and more clear-cut is that the exhibition gives us a chance to see what must be one of the most discerning and wide-ranging collections of self-taught, or outsider, art in this country. There are top-notch works here by artists of varying degrees of recognition, many of whom were active in the middle and later years of the last century. The second and somewhat buried story in “Memory Palaces” revolves around the nature of the artists we are seeing. They come from notably different places, both geographically and in the kind of work they make.

The Pure Portraitist

Giovanni Battista Moroni: The Tailor, 39 1/8 x 30 1/4 inches, circa 1570

Moroni: The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture

an exhibition at the Frick Collection, New York City, February 21–June 2, 2019
The Frick has chosen a somewhat wrongheaded way of presenting the sixteenth-century Italian painter Giovanni Battista Moroni. The exhibition’s subtitle is “The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture,” which can be taken in two ways. The irrefutable meaning is that Moroni significantly added to the body of portraits that we have from …

Impossible Pictures

Dana Schutz: The Visible World, 108 x 140 inches, 2018

Dana Schutz: Imagine Me and You

an exhibition at the Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York City, January 10–February 23, 2019
Many of the paintings in Dana Schutz’s extraordinary recent exhibition of new work are on the face of it preposterous, even grotesque. In The Visible World, which like most of the other canvases and the bronze sculptures in the show is dated 2018, a nude woman with big, flat, gargoyle …

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Quiet, Sensuous Piero

Piero della Francesca: Saint Jerome in the Wilderness, 20 1/8 x 15 inches, 1450

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Piero della Francesca: Personal Encounters,” is the first ever exhibition about Piero’s devotional works. They are small-size paintings created for bedrooms or set-apart areas in the home. In spirit they take us to much the same austere and bare-bones realm as his more public pictures. Yet they present more directly and pleasurably the qualities that make Piero such a special figure, even by the heady standards of the fifteenth century, when so many Italian and Flemish artists, were finding one personal way after another to portray the actual, corporeal world they lived in.

Anselm Kiefer, in Love with Loss

A still from Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow showing Anselm Kiefer's 'tottering, bunker-like' structures

Over the years, Kiefer’s work, continually summoning up Bible stories, wartime legends, and mystical awarenesses, has become woozily grandiloquent. He is an extraordinary showman, however. His pictures, where model ships or women’s frocks are often placed atop images of endless fields, the sea, or forests, can have a phenomenal physical presence. He is a master transformer of materials. From the first he made lead, steel, straw, glass, or crumbly clumps of cement with rebar sticking out bespeak fragility and delicacy.

Otto Dix, Our Contemporary

This summer, the Neue Galerie in New York is offering the first large-scale American exhibition of the gleefully provocative German painter Otto Dix (1891–1969)—providing a rare opportunity, as New York Review contributor Sanford Schwartz says, “to appreciate an artist who could almost be our contemporary.” Here are a selection of images from the show, together with comments taken from Schwartz’s piece on Dix, which will appear in the Review‘s August 19 issue. The exhibition closes August 30. (Images provided by Neue Galerie New York.)

Innocuous Items Gone Creepily Wrong: Taking the Pulse of Art in New York

New Yorkers currently have two large exhibitions with which to take the pulse of contemporary art, and neither shows the patient feeling altogether well. At the Whitney Biennial, this time around presenting many videos along with paintings, installations, and artists’ collaboratives performing music, the spirit is retiring, docile, and a little like spending an afternoon at some lackluster shows in Chelsea.

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