Thursday, May 21

Character study

I can't explain exactly why I've always liked the work of Alice Neel. There is an awkwardness and niävete to her paintings that expresses an emotional state (of either the subject or the painter) that I'm attracted to and self-conscious about being attracted to at the same time. The impression given to me by Neel's paintings is similar to Edvard Munch, Ben Shahn or David Hockey. Social commentary in portraiture has moved much more towards photography as it's medium in the past fifty years, yet there is a quality in Neel's almost crude style and subject matter that is purely the effect of using paint. Peter Schjeldahl does a much better job than I talking about this with an audio slideshow on the New Yorker website today. If you are fortunate enough to be in the City this summer, Zwirner & Wurth and David Zwirner are both currently showing her work.

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