Here’s one thing you can say about “Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist”: localism has its benefits. A retrospective of a reclusive and little-known painter has arrived in Manhattan, having originated in Phoenix and traveled to Santa Fe, and with Palm Springs set to be its final destination. Though Pelton (1881–1961) was born in Germany and educated in New York, she spent the last thirty years of her life holed up in southern California—Cathedral City, to be exact. No splashy international credentials here, thank you very much. What about auction house hoopla, ideological grandstanding, and post-modernist theorizing? Though anything can be drafted into the service of irksome trends, Pelton’s work, on the whole, proves resistant. Should we be so gauche, then, to consider matters of art? On those terms, “Desert...

 
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