The Easel

29th September 2020

Matters Of Fact

Bechtle was one of several important realist painters to come out of 1960’s San Francisco. A meticulous photo realist, he always worked from photos. While careful to borrow photography’s “veracity”, he still played painterly tricks with perceptions of scale and depth. “Bechtle grapples with serious issues of representation, but he does so in such a laboriously off-hand way that it takes a while for a viewer to realize what the artist is up to, and just how good he is.”

22nd September 2020

The radical quilting of Rosie Lee Tompkins

A collector stumbled across Tompkins’ quilts at a Berkeley flea market. After decades of collecting her work he bequeathed his collection in 2018 to a museum. The writer’s glee at this first show is palpable. “I left in a state of shock. The sheer joy of her best quilts cannot be overstated. They come at us with the force and sophistication of so-called high art … with the power of painting. Tompkins seems to have been an artist of singular greatness.”

A museum plans to auction a crucial Jackson Pollock painting. It’s inexcusable

The deaccessioning debate grows ever more acrimonious. One curator, citing the imminent sale of a prized Jackson Pollock, declares it “an institutional and social betrayal of lasting impact”. But some museums are in financial crisis. Others question the sense of keeping rarely exhibited works when their sale could fund the acquisition of more diverse contemporary works. Fumes the writer, “when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping”.

Jacob Lawrence, Peering Through History’s Cracks

For some painters a single canvas just isn’t enough. An early series of 60 paintings about African American migration to the North made Lawrence’s name. A later series, reunited for the first time in a half century, describes the early history of the American republic. Lawrence’s “punchy modernist vignettes” tell an “integrationist history … and will come to be seen as a juggernaut among American historical documents”.