Lately, figurative painting has become a much stronger presence on the art scene—and in the art market—than it’s been in living memory. About a decade ago, the hot thing was a certain kind of post-minimal but decorator-friendly abstraction, usually exemplifying what John Yau called, at the time, a “well-produced scruffiness” via “ironic variations of the artistic canon,” as exemplified by such honored precursors as Agnes Martin, Robert Ryman, and Frank Stella. Critics got all bent out of shape over the market frenzy over a few of these young neotraditional abstractionists, for instance Jacob Kassay and Lucien Smith, and their fate was sealed when Walter Robinson coined the term “zombie formalism” to describe the formulaic nature of their production and its indebtedness to the color field and minimalist painting of the 1960s. No one could ever take that cohort seriously again, and collectors started looking elsewhere for new finds. Figurative painting seemed like a fresher field. The push in that direction has only taken on greater momentum, partly because figurative painting seemed to offer artists a way to communicate more directly their passionate beliefs, and to focus on human stories rather than on abstruse aesthetic concerns. And it offered curators and collectors a way to display their sympathies right there on the wall—like wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve.