Magazine article Artforum International

Alice Neel

Magazine article Artforum International

Alice Neel

Article excerpt

ROBERT MILLER GALLERY

Without being doctrinaire, Alice Neel always acted on the principle, insisted upon by some feminist theoreticians, that a woman artist should emphasize the personal. This emphasis in her work derives not so much from an autobiographical subtext as from the work's persistent emphasis on specific subjects: it is grounded in the concrete, and imbued with the authenticity of things seen in her daily life.

The works in this show, "The Years in Spanish Harlem 1938-1961," are from a period that followed a suicidal depression in Neel's life, and, perhaps became of this they demonstrate an uncanny sense of sympathy and directness. Upon near-monochrome grounds made slightly turbulent by expressive brushwork, stand or sit Neel's neighbors and friends in Spanish Harlem, to which she retreated to escape white American culture. Neel objected to depersonalizing a human subject, using it merely as grist for the artistic mill, treating it simply as one element in a composition. Rather, she tried to remain true to the subjects themselves; her figures clearly represent particular and unique individuals.

Four portraits of the Latino boy Georgie Arce seem to show an incredible amount of affection and openness between the eccentric white woman and her young friend met in the street. …

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