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Zak Smith at the Walker Art Center

‘The Expressionist Figure’ drawings at the Walker; ‘Carmen’s Tragedy’ at the U

By Pamela Espeland | 11/15/2019

A new exhibition that opens Sunday at the Walker is a look at collecting, the expressive potential of the human body, and how different artists have portrayed the body, from Max Beckmann to Andy Warhol.

Curated by Joan Rothfuss, “The Expressionist Figure: The Miriam and Erwin Kelen Collection of Drawings” features some 100 works on paper by 73 artists. Most were recently donated to the Walker by the Kelens, who are longtime patrons. Rothfuss also included related drawings and sculpture from the Walker’s collection.

The show invites us to see the body in ways both familiar and new. Spanning more than a century of experimentation by artists working in the United States and Europe – the earliest drawing dates from 1900, the latest from 2018 – works include portraits, figure studies, social satire, narrative, fantasy and erotica. Media range from crayon, ink, and graphite to watercolor, pastel and collage. Along with Beckman and Warhol, artists include Jim Denomie, Henri Matisse, Christo, Pablo Picasso, Claes Oldenburg, David Hockney, Joan Miró, Egon Schiele, Zak Smith, and Edgar Degas.

“The Expressionist Figure” will be on view in the Walker’s Burnet Gallery through April 19, 2020. If you want to bring it home, there’s an exhibition catalog in the gift shop(s) with full-page color reproductions of each drawing, an essay by Erwin Kelen, an introduction by Rothfuss, along with her short essays on 14 of the works, and a foreword by the Walker’s new ED, Mary Ceruti.

On Jan. 30 at 6 p.m., you can tour the exhibition with Walker curatorial fellow William Hernandez-Luege for free. No tickets required, just show up.