In her beautiful, hard, and certain essay, “The Love of God and Affliction,” the religious philosopher Simone Weil said: “The great enigma of human life is not suffering but affliction. It is not surprising that the innocent are killed, tortured, driven from their country, made destitute or reduced to slavery, imprisoned in camps or cells, since there are criminals to perform such actions.” I am certain that Alice Neel, more than many an American artist, had a deep understanding of affliction. She did not use her work to escape it, but rather to plunge further into it—into the trauma of being despised, or forsaken. Indeed, if she had any credo as an artist, it was to show us ourselves, and herself, even when (or especially when) it was dangerous and hard to do so. Hilton Als*

ICA Boston presents the singular documentary ALICE NEEL—directed by her grandson Andrew. See link below for streaming information.


Directed by Andrew Neel.

ICA Boston

Through April 1.

*Hilton Als, “Carmen and Judy, 1972,” in Alice Neel, Uptown (New York: David Zwirner Books: London: Victoria Miro, 2017), 111.

Andrew Neel, Alice Neel (2007), from top: Alice Neel; Neel with her sons Richard (left) and Hartley. Images courtesy and © the filmmaker and SeeThink Productions.

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