R.I.P. George Tooker

From today’s New York Times obituary pages:

George Tooker, Painter Capturing Modern Anxieties, Dies at 90


George Tooker, a painter whose haunting images of trapped clerical workers and forbidding government offices expressed a peculiarly 20th-century brand of anxiety and alienation, died on Sunday at his home in Hartland, Vt. He was 90.

The cause was complications of kidney failure, Edward De Luca, director of the D C Moore Gallery in Manhattan, said.

Mr. Tooker, often called a symbolic, or magic, realist, worked well outside the critical mainstream for much of his career, relegated to the margins by the rise of abstraction. As doctrinaire modernism loosened its hold in the 1980s, however, he was rediscovered by a younger generation of artists, critics and curators, who embraced him as one of the most distinctive and mysterious American painters of the 20th century.

One of those embracers was Childs Gallery in Boston, which mounted the exhibit “Cadmus, Tooker & French, and other Magic Realists” last fall.

From the e-catalogue (which – full disclosure – the Missus largely wrote):

Tooker’s works have an unsettling, often mystical quality that tends to distance the viewer. Though his seemingly airless, glass-like spaces fascinate, they are also off-putting, as in the extraordinary painting “Un Ballo en Maschera” (The Masked Ball), a compelling, yet ominous costume party scene.

From the Times obit:

“His narratives are so mysterious that viewers have to look deeply into the paintings,” said Marshall N. Price, chief curator at the National Academy Museum in New York, which organized a retrospective of Mr. Tooker’s work in 2008. “You cannot look quickly at a Tooker and then turn away. And the work is filled with so many references to Renaissance painting, there is so much mysterious iconography, that for art historians it’s just fascinating.”

If it’s the same for you, check out this Times slideshow.

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