The Easel

19th October 2021

A new look at Walker Evans

Evans’ crystal clear, elegant images helped establish documentary photography. Who was the person behind these “deadpan, yet astonishing” pictures? He portrayed his subjects with dignity, but seems not to have harboured any activism – one critic notes he had little of “either politics or empathy”. His interest was just the aesthetics of buildings and people. Yet that subject matter was enough for him to help “define the contours of a uniquely American culture”.

Surrealism Beyond Europe: 5 Essential Artists Getting Recognition at New Met Show

Surrealism started with a bunch of Paris bros. In time, they conceded that others (women) were involved. Now, a New York show demonstrates just how much happened outside Europe. Surrealism was never a single idea. It may be better thought of as an inclination to find the uncanny amidst the day-to-day. Or, as one critic puts it, surrealism is ideas “blowing across the globe like trade winds of the subconscious”.

What quilts mean now

Despite too much jargon, this piece covers an interesting issue. American quilts were first presented as works of art in a 1971 exhibition. What kind of art are they – objects of beauty, autobiography, symbols of exploitation? Although better scholarship has dispelled the more nostalgic interpretations, quilts remain hard to read. Given their complex history, they are “multivalent things; they speak different words to different ears”.