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Per Kirkeby turns the Phillips into a site of restless digging

The Phillips Collection emphasizes the serious side of Danish artist Per Kirkeby in what is billed as the most comprehensive show devoted to his work so far in the United States. Although Kirkeby, who was born in 1938, has hovered around the edges of different art movements in the past century, including pop art and the contrarian, anti-art celebrants of Fluxus, he remains hard to define. Of the 26 paintings and 11 bronzes on display at the Phillips, only a handful hints at his pop flirtations. The rest are mostly large-scale works with expressionist energies, large fields of dark and vibrant colors that suggest primal things: light, land, water, sky.

There are also mysterious interior spaces, visions into the center of the Earth, forests so dense they became cathedrals of green and what seem to be fantastical architectural constructions — enormous spaces with clouds moving inside them. The work ranges from a 1967 Masonite panel that suggests a view out of the mouth of a cave to a wall-size, brilliantly red, yellow and green painting of horses from 2009...

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