Get local news delivered straight to your phone
We can't make City Paper without you
Flesh doesn’t only take the shape of a recognizable human body in the Phillips Collection’s “Paint Made Flesh”—witness Cecily Brown’s deconstructed Figures in a Landscape 2, in which the canvas, rather than the image, shoulders the responsibility of living up to the exhibition’s title. But mostly, we are presented with skin and its variations: wrinkles, hair, oil veins; and with bodies, both idealized and beautiful and cruelly rendered. For the former, look to John Currin, and the latter, to Willem de Kooning. “Flesh was the reason why paint was invented,” de Kooning once said, though his paintings of women, slashed up and monstrous, make mincemeat of the form. Both de Kooning and Currin have weathered accusations of misogyny, but Currin’s Nude With Raised Arms is luminous and captivating in its Renaissance-inspired perfection of smooth, glowing female skin. We also get a glimpse of flesh as the stuff within us rather than just the wrapping that keeps our insides in. That’s literal for Hyman Bloom, whose The Hull shows an abstracted human cadaver dissection, or for Maria Lassnig, whose Death and the Girl depicts a danse macabre, the girl held by the skeleton that her flesh will one day reveal. But skin is a vessel, and “Paint Made Flesh” is more about the sentient beings contained within—looking at them, we’ve only scratched the surface. THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY, FRIDAY, AND SATURDAY 10 A.M. TO 5 P.M.; THURSDAY 10 A.M. to 8:30 P.M.; AND SUNDAY, 11 A.M. to 6 P.M.; TO SEPT. 13 AT THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION, 1600 21ST ST. NW. $12 for adults, $10 for visitors 62 and over and students, free for members and visitors 18 and under. (202) 387-2151.