The Easel

17th September 2019

The American realism of painter Amy Sherald

Having painted Michelle Obama’s portrait, some things follow – notably higher expectations. Sherald doesn’t seem fazed, holding fast to the idea of painting people like herself “just being themselves … [not] about identity necessarily”. The Obama portrait is about a specific person but her other portraits are less about individuals and more conceptual, ““archetypes” of black experience”.

The Disturbing Greatness of Hyman Bloom

With admirers like Pollock and de Kooning, Bloom seemed destined for fame. It didn’t happen. One reason was his choice of still life painting with an odd subject – bodies and body parts. Bloom’s “autopsy paintings”, executed with beautiful colours and technique, are “paradoxes of sensuality and repulsion”. Great they may be but they were never going to be competitive with the exuberance of abstract expressionism.

11th September 2019

How Kenyan-Born Artist Wangechi Mutu Is Taking Over the Met

The façade of New York’s Met has four niches intended for sculptures. Empty for over a century they are about to be filled with part African, part futuristic female figures, cast in bronze. This is a signal gesture for an august institution attempting to connect with “the new and the global”. With a forgivable touch of exaggeration, the writer declares “an institution founded on … a Eurocentric view of culture is being turned on its head.”