BENTONVILLE, Ark. — In the summer of 2016, curators at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art tried an experiment. Into their early American galleries, full of classic paintings by artists of the Hudson River School, they inserted a 1998 sculpture by Roxy Paine called “Bad Lawn.” Paine’s work looks like a crudely built low table, covered with dirt and patchy weeds, or a “bad lawn” gone to seed. The idea, says museum curator Mindy Besaw, was to mix up the classic painting galleries, full of smooth surfaces of oil paint, burnished colors and sublime vistas, with a grittier work that would raise relevant questions. In this case, it was about our relationship to nature, to things that are cultivated and things that are wild, and whether we are well-served by our sense that we have dominion over it.

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