Thirteen years ago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art held a serious retrospective of Paul Cézanne’s work, featuring 100 paintings and 80 of his drawings and watercolors in a huge blockbuster show that took Philadelphia by storm.
This time around, “Cézanne and Beyond” is like a collection of ghost stories, cobbled together with Cézanne at the center as 18 artists attempt to both reconcile and embrace the impact of the master Impressionist’s work on their own.
To enter a room filled with George Tooker’s work is to expose oneself to the odd sensation of being neither here nor there, suspended in an uncomfortable half-life conjured up by the artist. For Mr. Tooker’s best-known works specialize in evoking the feeling that one’s most private thoughts are on display under the garish light of day, stopped in time for viewers to gawk at in a state of frozen animation.
“George Tooker: A Retrospective,” at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts through April 5, is the first museum retrospective of his work in three decades. The show exhibits many of his best-known pieces of social protest, such as the paranoid-inducing “Subway” (1950), mathematically engineered to capture a sense of being spied upon from every vantage point, and “Government Bureau” (1956), which explores the mass fears of the Cold War era. Simply put, the works inspire feelings of great discomfort and distrust.