Whistler to Cassatt illustrates the story of the changes in American art that took place after the Civil War. Many artists turned away from the methodology of the Hudson River School, and it became the norm for literally hundreds of them to train in Paris, with its superior art academies and the Louvres masterworks available to study and copy; the entrance to the exhibition includes a wonderfully evocative photo mural of the Eiffel Tower under construction.
In Alix Le Méléder’s current exhibition, only her second solo in New York, there are the types of big, commanding, difficult abstractions that are not so common these days. All the better to see them freshly, and this work is of the first order.
I hadn’t thought of Larry Day or his work very much in the previous fifteen years. This innocuous streetscape in the reproduction was airily peaceful, classicized; Arcadian, even. The workaday Philadelphia I had known might look that way to someone who had served in Iwo Jima (I knew he did, getting through the pauses in battle reading The Magic Mountain). It was evidence of what Day wrote in one of his notebooks: “How we dreamed of the ordinary as ideal when we were in the army.”
In one of the more instructive passages in Minima Moralia, Theodor Adorno observes that well-made texts are like spiders webs, Metaphors flitting hastily through them become their nourishing prey: When things begin to click with your subject, everything of use that gets near it gets stuck in it. One afternoon, reading The Waterfall by the English writer Margaret Drabble she described a real place in England called the Gordale Scar, a roofless cave with an interior waterfall, a lovely organic balance of shapes and curves, a wildness contained within a bodily limit. I thought of my ongoing research project on John Coplans (19202003). His life and work was very much a wildness contained within a bodily limit.
Did Liz Diller really say that? I am not sure if anyone starts out with the idea that they are going to make something that is idiosyncratic. The character of the intellect is the determining factor.