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Something satisfyingly peculiar is afoot on West 20th Street: eight centuries of fantastic art tumbled together in ways that make the strange even stranger. The pictures communicate with one another more clearly than they do with the viewer. For us, it’s like trying to follow conversations in a several different languages all spoken at once where we understand just a few words and phrases. These are works of art caught up in their own imaginations. And when they speak up, they have something of the quality the ramblings and shoutings of a madman on a street corner, or of dreams mistily recounted by someone sharing your pillow. It’s a rather lonely experience going round the show since you’re left trying to understand the image-making of artists charting an internalized course between creativity and lunacy, mapping the strangeness of their dreams, myths and superstitions. I was irritated at first that the curators (congratulations @nicholashjhall @david_leiber!) tell us only the names and dates of the artists; there are no titles on the walls. But it’s a good call. What title could be reasonably applied to the higgledy-piggledy assemblages of human-animal-dwarf-giant-performers by #JeanJacquesGrandville, working in the first half of the nineteenth century (1)? His caricatures were fierce in their absurdist precision - but here he has tried to make sense of the nonsensical, turning randomly applied blobs and smears of watercolor into recognizable, but also recognizably conjured, figures. #VictorHugo’s mucky stains of drawings (2), executed during his dismal exile on Guernsey, are similarly un-pin-downable. How should we label the stuff of nightmare? But not remembering the subject of #PierodiCosimo’s Wadsworth Atheneum painting (3) turns it - purely if not simply - into an emanation of his deeply eccentric psyche, rather than the rather rarefied myth of the finding of #Vulcan. And, without a title, the seventeenth-century realist painting of #Prometheus’s creation of man (4), turns nasty, witchy, intrusive. There’s a muttered cacophony going on here. It’s enjoyable but disturbing, like an eighteenth-century visit to Bedlam. #endlessenigma @davidzwirner

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Luke Syson is the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Chairman of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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