The Milton Avery retrospective at the Whitney Museum[1] is overhung, yet when you leave you feel that you haven’t seen enough, and that Avery himself has passed you by. You know you have been in the presence of a master, but you may leave feeling emptied-out and saddened, and confused as to why; The exhibition presents a different kind of bleakness from that encountered at the Whitney’s mammoth 1980 Edward Hopper retrospective, where the painter pulled you into his mind and made you experience the day-in-and-day-out, sundrenched pressure he lived with. Hopper’s vision was crazier and more loving than might have been expected. He appeared to crave the massive loneliness he saw in Cape Cod houses, on New York streets, and elsewhere, and that made him less of a noble Puritan and more of a modern man, more of a New Yorker on a quest. Avery’s tranquil seascapes,...


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