The title Entropvisions is in homage to my mother, the poet and art critic, Harriet Zinnes. In 1990 New Directions published a collection of her poems titled Entropisms, a word she made-up combining entropy - the tendency toward disorder - and tropism - the growth towards or away from a stimulus. Similarly, my short reviews combine entropy and tropism by suggesting growth towards a vision of art from the chaos of the art world. Through the back door, my title also pays homage to my physicist father, Irving Zinnes, whose long discussions with my mom got her thinking about entropy and tropism in the first place.

Alex Katz at the Guggenheim
I love retrospectives. Even of artists I don’t really like. Retrospectives always make me reevaluate something, and that’s exactly what happened at the Alex Katz retrospective currently hanging at the Guggenheim, up through Feb. 20. Eons ago, when I was a student at Skowhegan I saw a small landscape Katz had made as a student there. I remember saying to myself, “Hmm, I didn’t know he could be sensitive. I didn’t know he understood how to use color to create light and movement.” At the current Guggenheim exhibition, his 1950s paintings and colored-paper collages reinforced my early response. These works are quite lovely, dancing in musical rhythms of color and light. In fact, the painting of his mother – the earliest painting in the show, made when Katz was about 20 – expresses true love and empathy. In the 60s he began painting the flat, well-designed but emotionally empty paintings we all know so well. He soon added repetition of the same figure to his repertoire, I suppose to suggest movement through time or the complexities of personalities, but just barely suggesting these potentially profound visual concepts. Then in the 80s he began to experiment, just a little. He is now making huge, somewhat pompous – each painting fills a large Guggenheim bay at the top of the rotunda – landscape-based paintings that look like enlargements of small oil sketches. With quick wisps of huge brushes and minimal color contrasts, he tries to capture the transient movement of light, wind and water. I’m not sure he’s successful, but it’s a noble effort, and because he’s at least brought back that innate volumetric rhythm from his 20s, I must say I’m willing to suspend belief. He is an old man, with a life’s experience (and fame) giving him the fluidity to do whatever he wants, and maybe, just maybe, he really is doing something.