The Easel

8th November 2022

Alex Katz’s Massive Guggenheim Retrospective Is the Season’s Biggest Disappointment

Some critics have misgivings about Katz. Reviewing his 1986 retrospective, one disapproved of the “prettiness” of his art and claimed that he lacked a sense of the “weight, pathos and energy of the human body”. Decades on, Katz hasn’t shaken off the doubters. Granted, the deadpan, Pop-inspired aesthetic he brought to his early portraits was innovative. Further, some think his paintings of social gatherings are “astute”. For this writer, though, Katz’s art, once “edgy, has calcified and grown stale”.

Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Misunderstood Oeuvre

After a long-running retrospective of the Bechers work, a postscript. Their hugely influential photography of industrial structures is sometimes criticized for being “aloof, impersonal”. How can it be impersonal when their work is so “immediately identifiable?” Their images reveal not just “an elemental beauty of geometry” but also the “human individuality” of these structures.  “Google “black and white industrial photograph” and nothing even remotely similar appears.”

1st November 2022

Inside Deana Lawson’s first museum survey at MoMA PS1

Since Lawson’s photography entered the MoMA collection a decade ago, the accolades have kept coming. Curators remark on her “singular” vision of Black culture and identity and an ability to “find glamour in the quotidian”. Her images, all carefully staged, have become more “theatrical” over time. Perhaps theatrical means more intricate. One critic notes “they’re images that make you think, lean in, and look. In that way, they’re not easy images.” Images are here.

A City in the ocean of time

This essay by US critic Dave Hickey illustrates why his death last year was so widely mourned. “Characterizing [Heizer’s City] as an earthwork seems redundant. It is made of earth and rocks, of course, but it is only an earthwork in the sense that a Raphael is an oil painting. There are echoes of [pyramids and Mayan buildings]. Standing there, we sense a compression of human time. The heyday of Egypt and the Yucatan don’t seem so very long ago at all.”