Jan Schoonhoven’s Rigor Now Plays Nice

THE DAILY PIC: The Dutch artist's "difficult" work now has obvious appeal.

Jan Schoonhoven

MY DAILY PIC: The Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven made this piece, called 48 Squares, in 1965, and it’s now in his posthumous solo show at David Zwirner in New York. I know–I’m almost old enough to remember–that, when they first hit the scene, such pieces seemed so rigorous and austere as to barely pass as art at all, in any traditional sense. And now, of course, they seem evidently lovely and attractive and distinctly artistic, maybe even artsy. Which raises the question that haunts much of scholarly art history: Do we get closer to a work’s essence by recovering its original meaning and effects, or is it possible that, with time, we’ve gained a better sense of what’s truly at stake in a piece than its contemporaries had. The latter, ironically, is the “period attitude” that any good historian of reception will know once ruled how most viewers thought about older art. (© 2015 Jan J. Schoonhoven/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; courtesy of David Zwirner, New York/London)

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