Some exhibitions have a double existence. Besides revealing the art and the artist, they shed light on other matters, thus acquiring an importance beyond the normal run of “new work.” Such an exhibition was Mark Tansey’s at the Grace Borgenicht Gallery in March.

All nine paintings and all of the drawings in the exhibition were sold early on—hardly a surprise given the enormously favorable response that greeted Tansey’s first solo show only eighteen months ago. Clearly, the desire for his work continues unabated, and it would be unfair to deny him full credit for this. Yet there is something else, something outside these paintings, that accounts for their appeal. Just what is this, and how does it explain their success?

Tansey’s new paintings were similar to the previous crop. Executed in a meticulous, photographic manner, they depict...


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