Peter Plagens

Peter Plagens (born 1941) is an American artist, art critic, and novelist based in New York City. He is most widely known for his longstanding contributions to Artforum and Newsweek (senior writer and art critic, 1989–2003), and for what critics have called a remarkably consistent, five-decade-long body of abstract formalist painting. Plagens has written three books upon art, Bruce Nauman: The True Artist (2014), Moonlight Blues: An Artist's Art Criticism (1986) and Sunshine Muse: Modern Art on the West Coast, 1945-70 (1974), and two novels, The Art Critic (2008) and Time for Robo (1999). He has been awarded major fellowships for both his painting (John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts) and his writing (Andy Warhol Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts). Plagens's function has been featured in surveys at the Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Whitney Museum, and PS1, and in solo exhibitions at the Hirshhorn Museum and Las Vegas Art Museum. In 2004, the USC Fisher Gallery organized and held a 30-year traveling retrospective of his work. Critics have contrasted the purely visual dialogue his art creates—often generating more questions than answers—with the directness of his writing; they next contend that the visibility of his bylines as a critic has sometimes overshadowed his artmaking—unduly. Los Angeles Times critic David Pagel described Plagens's painting as a "fusion of high-flying refinement and unexceptional awkwardness" with an intellectual savvy, disdain for snobbery and ungainliness he likened to Willem de Kooning's work. Reviewing Plagens's 2018 exhibition, New York Times critic Roberta Smith called the performance an "eye-teasing sandwich of contrasting formalist strategies," the hard-won outcome of a decade of focused experimentation.

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