The Easel

2nd May 2023

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith Can’t Believe She’s Still the First

“Why not before?” says a Whitney curator about this first retrospective given to a Native American artist. Part of the answer is that few had thought contemporary art and indigeneity might co-exist. Smith has spent decades demonstrating such a co-existence is possible. Her work uses modernist methods – collage, oil paints, prints – to make wry commentaries on “post-genocidal existence”. “Smith is one of America’s greatest living artists, and failing to acknowledge that would be madness.”

What Uta Barth’s Images Tell Us about the Limits of Sight

To those who say her images are out of focus, Barth responds that they are perfectly focused. The camera just happens to be focused on “an unoccupied point in space”. By recording the “envelope of information” that otherwise surrounds a central object, she draws attention to how we look, what we focus on and what we miss. This sometimes “slightly hallucinatory” focus allows Barth to show sight as an experience that is “visual, perceptual, felt, lived, subjective, flawed. And yet, coherent.”

Georgia O’Keeffe before she was famous

O’Keeffe, in remote New Mexico, churned out oil paintings. They have not been immune from criticism – they “reward glances, not scrutiny”. Working on paper was her foundational expertise and these works are “spectacular”. Early watercolours show she was an “intuitive, surprising artist”. Charcoal drawings feel “rash, rough, magnetic … in a word, alive”. The time she devoted to oil painting, perhaps swayed by its prestige, is a case of “a world class sprinter [who] chose to run marathons”.