The Easel

26th May 2020

The Provocations of Kent Monkman

Kent Monkman, a Cree Nation / Canadian citizen, has had two of his paintings hung in New York’s Met. Good, one might think – recognition of an artist and of the terrible treatment of indigenous peoples. Some think otherwise, worrying that mainstream artworld success compromises art advocacy of indigenous causes. Frets this writer, can indigenous art avoid being “overwhelmed by the historical context”?

Susan Rothenberg’s Rugged Paintings Made Her One of Today’s Most Fearless Artists

For her first show in 1975 Rothenberg produced figurative works … of horses. It caused a sensation in abstraction–obsessed New York and launched her career. But why horses? They didn’t come from an art theory idea, just her intuition. A reviewer of Rothenberg’s just-finished show comments that her horses are like cave art, “fundamentally ambiguous”. Ascribing meaning is the viewer’s task and as Rothenberg noted, “they getcha or they don’t.”

Why the Association of Art Museum Directors’s move on deaccessioning matters so much

Should museums sell (deaccession) artworks to fund operations? Some see this as a museum neglecting its duty of care toward its collection. Now an American museum body has dropped its long-standing opposition to the practice because many museums are in financial crisis. No-one seems ready to lay down arms on this debate; the writers pointedly suggesting that museum professionals “put down their cups of Kool-Aid”.

19th May 2020

The greats outdoors: How Thomas Cole shaped the American landscape

1830’s America was slowly evolving into a distinct society. Cole, founder of the Hudson River School, is now seen as the first identifiably American landscapist. His masterpiece, The Oxbow, expresses a young nation’s optimism. It’s panoramic valley and sunlit plains, unmarked by “old” European civilisations, shows “an American Arcadia, all neatly tended fields, careful husbandry, peace and prosperity”.

Luchita Hurtado’s Persistent Perspective

This show, acclaimed in London, has been cut short in Los Angeles. It gives the reviewer space to considering Hurtado’s own arduous story. She was in her 50’s before identifying as an artist and yet more decades before any acknowledgement from the art establishment. Has being female cursed her art career? “[Its been] an obstacle but also a source of insight and even artistic liberation … seclusion allowed Hurtado to create art unencumbered.”