What was happening in art in New York this spring? Downtown, the Grey Art Gallery at New York University offered “Precious,” a show of whimsical, off-color, and overwhelmingly bejeweled paintings, sculptures, and in-between objects. “Precious” was about kitsch and trash; it was supposed to be a big transcendent joke at the expense of the banality of modern visual culture. But haven’t the artists noticed it’s been years since anyone with even half a brain laughed at or just thought about flocked wallpaper and Last Suppers painted on velvet? I knew my grandmother’s taste was terrible when I was five years old; nowadays I pass her neo-Venetian coffeetable with its top of fake stones embedded in lucite without a snort. It could have starred in “Precious.” Comedians know subjects have to change with the times. Why not artists?

Nothing in the “Precious” show got a rise....

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