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The work I found in the Instructors’ Exhibition of the Art Students League of New York was not what I expected. I had been to the exhibition in the years previous and don’t recall the work being so conservative. One one hand, the League is a venerable institution, dating back to 1875. On the other it is a boldly liberal experiment founded by students who broke away from the National Academy of Design: they have no degree programs and don’t grade student work. Judging by the list of stellar alumni — among them Milton Avery, Lee Bontecou, Romare Bearden, Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Robert Rauschenberg, and Ai Weiwei — this formula seems to have cultivated the emergence of artists very much rooted in their own particular visions and practices. I suppose that given this history I thought I would see quite unique work, but much of it was rather respectably unadventurous studio portraiture, focusing on skill rather than vision. Still, there were a few exceptions to this trend.
Bruce Dorfman took some chances with his assemblage painting “Nikkou” (2017) with its washy, yellow, painted surfaces on top of rectangles and squares arranged so that the vertical and horizontal axes of the work vie with each other for dominance, and the dark blue skirt in the middle gives away a small sweet tooth for the decorative. Leonid Brener‘s sculpture “Death of the Poet” (2013) was one of the few three-dimensional works in the show and perhaps my favorite because it is playful and lyrical, a figure walking that seems composed of white clouds and blue sky (though it seems like a small cheat that it’s being presented this year when it was made four years ago). I also really liked Arslan‘s “Standing Man” (2017), a white, male figure ravaged by a vertical wash of fire and flame and a looming darkness in the background. I found Marshall Jones‘s “Hostile Planet” (2017) frankly ridiculous, but with a good sense of humor about itself. The presentation of a naked white woman framed by an archway of rainbow balloons on a plain with a clutch of gazelle at attention facing the viewer seems like a fantasy of the earth being reborn and given a children’s party.
I do think that the show was ultimately too taken with the figure in expected ways that spoke of art as avocation as opposed to vocation. In this kind of work there was one standout: Joseph Peller‘s “Twilight Fog, East River” (no date). It has deep, contemplative blues that are more vibrant that typically used in this kind of maritime scene and has a vibrancy to the warm, caregiving lights that guide the boats, ships and cars on the distant bridge, all of them being guided toward where they need to go.
Poussin and the Dance is a valiant attempt to break into Poussin’s staunchly academic oeuvre and provide a relatable point of entry, highlighting the exciting elements of revelry and movement despite impenetrable and unemotional rendering.
Anarchist illustrator N.O. Bonzo produces decentralized media in a highly bureaucratic cultural landscape. Their illustrations, murals, and literature emerge in unexpected places, from the streets of Portland, Oregon, to the far ends of Reddit and Twitter, addressing relations of labor and identity in the workplace and on the streets. Growth and care are central themes…
This exhibition explores how images of the human body were used to provoke profound physical and emotional responses in viewers from the 15th through 18th centuries.
With scavenged materials, Amanda Maciel Antunes constructs a motherland.
Where are the directors taking the stage to acknowledge workers’ demands today?
The collaborative handmade paper- and printmaking center at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts publishes new works by Liz Collins and Sarah McEneaney.
There is a debate whether the memory of Little Syria should be seized upon to tell truthful and positive stories about Arabs in the US, or whether any conflation between its history and contemporary politics is inappropriate.
The profile includes works by Egon Schiele, Amedeo Modigliani, Peter Paul Rubens, and a prehistoric Venus of Willendorf figurine.
These horrifying dolls definitely won’t murder you in your sleep.