Thomas Micchelli

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The Pursuit of Art, 2014

by Thomas Micchelli on December 27, 2014

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The exhibitions that rippled through our cultural fabric over the past year, at least those occurring in and around New York, have registered the predictable number of highs and lows, though 2014 did manage to plumb one nadir unlikely to be matched for a good long time.

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Installation view of

The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, the new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, prompted thoughts of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, though I’m not sure how much acceptance there is in the end.

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Alberto Giacometti,

“What I am looking for is not happiness. I work solely because it is impossible for me to do anything else.” That’s how Alberto Giacometti summed it up, as told by James Lord in Giacometti: A Biography, published in 1997.

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Sam Lewitt,

Sam Lewitt is a young artist in a hurry. He was barely out of his twenties when he scored the 2012 Whitney Biennial, and right now he is filling both outlets of the Miguel Abreu Gallery — the modest space on Orchard Street and the immodest one on Eldridge.

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Ursula von Rydingsvard, “Bent Lace” (2014)

In a video produced by Art 21, Ursula von Rydingsvard recalls her childhood in refugee camps after World War II, living in barracks made of “raw wooden floors, raw wooden walls, and raw wooden ceilings.” Her current show at Galerie Lelong, Permeated Shield, is the first solo of her long career with a title that alludes at least indirectly to warfare.

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Hans Haacke, installation view: foreground, “Together” (1969-2013)

David H. Koch, the left’s favorite low-hanging fruit, is the subject of Hans Haacke’s latest jeremiad on the state of institutional culture, an installation called “The Business Behind Art Knows the Art of the Koch Brothers” (2014), which takes aim at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s newly unveiled and much-pilloried David H. Koch Plaza.

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Pablo Picasso,

“To a new world of gods and monsters” is the promethean pledge from one mad scientist to another in James Whale’s classic Bride of Frankenstein (1935), but it’s easy to imagine the same toast echoing from a Montmartre studio in 1909 as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque raise a glass to the fractured new reality they’d uncovered.

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Egon Schiele,

Despite its inclusion of more than 130 works on paper and canvas, the ravishing retrospective Egon Schiele: Portraits, occupying the third floor of New York’s Neue Galerie, leaves you hungry. Not for more art, because there’s plenty of that, but for something else, something to make whole an ineffable absence — a deficit attributable not to the artist, nor to the exhibition or curator, but to time and fate.

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Théodore Rousseau,

Consider “Study for The Forest in Winter at Sunset,” a work in oil and charcoal on brown paper by Théodore Rousseau, the 19th-century French painter now under scrutiny at the Morgan Library & Museum. Although it was done between 1845 and 1850, it feels like something Anselm Kiefer might come up with for a 12-foot-wide canvas: a controlled chaos of bare, twisting tree limbs in slashes of paint as dark and smoldering as charred bitumen.

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Robert Gober. “Untitled” (2005-2006)

The sprawling, high-ceilinged contemporary art gallery on the second floor of the Museum of Modern Art might have been built for Richard Serra, but Robert Gober owns it.

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