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Piero’s Problematical World

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Jed Perl questions the critical response to the exhibition Piero della Francesca in America at the Frick Collection, New York, on view through May 19, 2013.

"What troubles me isn’t that people are embracing Piero’s work," Perl writes, "I love much of it, too—it’s that they are reluctant to see that its power is inextricably bound with its limitations." Perl observes: "It is [the] skittishness about overt emotion, this desire to show what [art critic Adrian] Stokes called 'the separateness of ordered outer things,' that powers Piero’s art. Although we can probably never know what Piero’s contemporaries saw in his intricate compositions, what we see is not a perfect world but a problematical world, where form absorbs feeling, and the effort to create an ideal order is the only reasonable response to life’s everyday confusions."

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