It Speaks to Me: Eleanor Antin on Fragonard’s ‘Blindman’s Bluff’ at the Timken Museum in San Diego

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This Fragonard canvas isn’t much larger than a sheet of typing paper. It shows a pastel-colored company of elegant ladies and gentlemen in a garden landscape, overhung by a blue-gray mist that either predicts a lowering storm or is simply the underpainting. The game of blindman’s bluff has been interrupted. No one is paying attention to the ‘blindman,’ who waits under a parasol in his blindfold while everyone, including a marble statue, is looking out to the left toward something we cannot see, something that is either coming or leaving. But every coming is also a leaving, as every leaving is also a coming. Is it the dark cloud of 1789 coming or the twilit glow of the ancien regime leaving? The painting is a puzzle without a solution that reminds me of my own “Last Days of Pompeii” photographs. Is the postmodern rococo or is the rococo postmodern?
— Artist Eleanor Antin, as told to Jori Finkel