When Alice Neel got her first retrospective she was 74 years old--a Methuselah by art-world standards. The exhibit, at the Whitney, was apparently a rather slipshod affair, and Neel's paintings were wedged clumsily into an exhibit of American folk art. Last summer, when the Whitney debuted a major Neel retrospective celebrating the artist's centenary, which is visiting the Walker through September 2, those same paintings were clumped in with an installation by the decidedly unfolksy agitprop artist Barbara Kruger. Even 17 years after her death, it seems, no one has quite figured out how to shoehorn Neel into the art world: Was she a traditional portraitist in the vein of Mary Cassatt, or a feminist pathfinder who blazed a trail for artists like Kruger? Most now agree that she was some kind of American original. The... More >>>