Pat Steir’s title poetically implies a reckoning with an aesthetic and cultural legacy fixed in Western art. After Winslow Homer alerts viewers to the passage of time and its suspension in art. Steir observed in an interview with Anne Waldman: “I think Beauty evokes a desire to hold on to the moment; when you realize you cannot stop a moment ... everything becomes very delicate and tenuous and precious.” In her canvas (which followed a painting donated by Herbert and Dorothy Vogel to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), one perceives the crash of waves towering in a moment and collapsing in the next, the very tension that drew the work’s namesake to the sea a century earlier. So, too, does one suddenly recognize yet another dynamic at play: the relationship of the figurative to the abstract. Here Homer’s iconic seascapes atomize and reformulate themselves as pure energy—the ineluctable power of the transformation of one thing into another.
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