James Ensor-Georg Baselitz

With the rather shocking news that curator Michael Darling is jumping ship to Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art after four years at SAM, his last gesture will be remembered as a small, well-chosen, but little-publicized gallery of satire and grotesquerie. The pairing—on facing walls—of James Ensor and Georg Baselitz isn’t obvious. The often postcard-sized prints of Ensor (1860-1949) lampoon the Belgian clergy, monarchy, and bourgeoisie. A proto-surrealist, his imagery bears traces of Breugel and hints of the Sgt. Pepper album cover to come. There’s an outsider’s anger to his sometimes scatological cartoons; he’s a loner mocking the groups that would never accept him. (Fellow oddballs They Might Be Giants even wrote a song about the solitary grouch.) By contrast, the octogenarian Baselitz is, in this selection, entirely intent on the individual. His heavy-lined prints and woodcuts depict faces and figures in anguished, contorted isolation. During his 19th-century prime, Ensor sought to overturn the ancien régime and liberate man. Coming of age in demolished postwar Germany, Baselitz finds no such freedom, only inner torment. BRIAN MILLER

Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Starts: April 10. Continues through Oct. 24, 2010

 
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