Thursday, November 26, 2015

In Thankgiving For Art's Giving II

Our Visual Cornucopia 
Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/30 - 1569), Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
c. 1558, oil on canvas mounted on wood, 28.9 × 44.1 in. (73.5 × 112 cm),
Painting now considered an early copy of a Brueghel original. 
Catalogued as The Fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel I on Royal Museums of fine Arts of  Belgium Web site.
Musée de Beaux Arts (1940)
by W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,

The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;

How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting

For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

What good fortune to have an interest in art.  Moreover, what good luck to respond to art.  Worlds open up.  Insights gained.  Emotions touched.  

The poet W. H. Auden particularly understood all this.  Take his poem Musée de Beaux Arts.  Here the poet reflects on the meaning of paintings by Pieter Brueghel the Elder which he saw in Brussels at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.  He wrote the poem in the winter of 1938 while visiting  Brussels.  First published in 1938 in a literary periodical, the poem did not get its present title until it appeared a year later in the poet's collected book of poems, Another Time.  Auden gets at the essence of Brueghel's works when he writes about the indifference of man to suffering.  Some catastrophe may take place, and people continue with their life.  The disaster may have gone unnoticed or ignored.

 Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/30 - 1569), Detail of Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,
c. 1558, oil on canvas mounted on wood, 28.9 × 44.1 in. (73.5 × 112 cm),
Painting now considered an early copy of a Brueghel original. 
Catalogued as The Fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel I on Royal Museums of fine Arts of  Belgium Web site.
Photo: Artstor 

Icarus, in Greek mythology, was the son of Daedalus the talented craftsman who built the labyrinth of Crete.  He and his father had been imprisoned on the island since his father helped the enemy of the Cretan King.  In order to flee the island, Daedalus created wings from feathers and wax so he and his son could escape.  Daedalus warned his son not to fly to close to the sun but the young man, excited by his new found ability, went to high.  The wax melted;  the feathers on his arms fell off; Icarus fell into the sea and drowned.

Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/30 - 1569), Detail of Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
c. 1558, oil on canvas mounted on wood, 28.9 × 44.1 in. (73.5 × 112 cm),
Painting now considered an early copy of a Brueghel original. 
Catalogued as The Fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel I on Royal Museums of fine Arts of  Belgium Web site.
Photo: Artstor 

No one takes note of the fallen boy. The ploughman looks down continuing with his work.  The shepherd looks up, his back is to the struggling Icarus whose legs flail in the water.  The herder's dog rests at his side; his flock goes on with their grazing.  

Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/30 - 1569), Detail of Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,
c. 1558, oil on canvas mounted on wood, 28.9 × 44.1 in. (73.5 × 112 cm),
Painting now considered an early copy of a Brueghel original. 
Catalogued as The Fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel I on Royal Museums of fine Arts of  Belgium Web site.
Photo: Artstor  

The galleon with somewhere to go sails on.  Sailors are busy with riggings, sails and main deck tasks.  

Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/30 - 1569), Detail of Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,
c. 1558, oil on canvas mounted on wood, 28.9 × 44.1 in. (73.5 × 112 cm),
Painting now considered an early copy of a Brueghel original. 
Catalogued as The Fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel I on Royal Museums of fine Arts of  Belgium Web site.
Photo: Artstor  

A fisherman, seated on the edge of some rocks overlooking the sea, leans forward.  His right arm extends his fishing rod further out over the swells.  His head bent down in concentration toward the place he has cast his line.  Only the bird perched on a nearby branch may be paying attention to Icarus's plight.  

There is more to explore in the painting as well as Auden's poem whose lines also refer to two other Brueghel paintings in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.  What matters for now is that the Brueghel images inspired the poet.*  Paintings often do just that and more. 

Our museums and galleries offer a cornucopia of experiences.   Choices are always varied. Visit a different time or country.  Consider new points of views.  See two-dimensional or three-dimensional objects.  

Just think about New York City.  Hundreds of public and private galleries and museums - estimates from 500 to 1,500 depending on criteria.  Difficult to count and always changing.  They are all over the city.  Take your pick - Chelsea, Lower East Side, Soho, Tribeca, 57th Street, Upper East Side, Upper West side, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island not to mention the tri-state area.  New Haven, Connecticut, just over 2 hours from mid-Manhattan,  is an example of the last-mentioned.  There, the superb Yale University art venues can easily fill a day. 

Art coupled with enthusiasm and curiosity will never produce boredom.  There will always be something new to see and the familiar things to re-see.  This gives us much to be thankful for. 

*For additional poems inspired by artworks, see The Poet Speaks of Art, a project designed by Harry Rusche, English Department, Emory University.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sometimes You Have To Go Out-Of-Town To See Something From Your Town

Édouard Manet (1832 - 1883), Two Roses on a Tablecloth, 1882 - 83,
oil on canvas, 7 5/8 x 9 1/2 in. (19.4 x 24.1 cm)

Sometimes you have to go out-of-town to see something from your town.  I was struck by this on a recent visit to the Denver Art Museum's special exhibition In Bloom: Painting Flowers in the Age Of Impressionism.  Among the works by French artists were three paintings by Édouard Manet.  One was the Museum of Modern Art's Two Roses on a Tablecloth.  Not often seen in New York, it was a delight to view.  

This still life was part of Willam S. Paley's modern art collection. Paley was founder and chief executive of Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).  An active MoMA trustee, he became president and later chairman of the museum's board.  Paley died in 1990 and left his outstanding art collection to MoMA.  The Two Roses on a Tablecloth is an example from his bequest.  

 Édouard Manet (1832 - 1883), Flowers in a Crystal Vase, c. 1882,
oil on canvas, 12 7/8 x 9 5/8 in. (32.7 x 24.5 cm),
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The work differs from the artist's other flower paintings.  These are usually vertically composed and have a lively exuberance. Manet's typical blooms are upright, fresh and energetic. This is not so with the horizontally arranged Two Roses.  Here a poignancy pervades. Why?

By 1882 Manet had been suffering from syphilis for about ten years. Left untreated, he was experiencing the disease's side effects - a degeneration of locomotive powers, intense pain and loss of a sense of bodily positions.  Rheumatism also plagued him.  The organism that caused syphilis was not discovered until 1905.  Treatment prior to the twentieth century was often worse than the sickness itself.  

Manet was quite ill during his last years yet, he produced some of his most joyous and intimate paintings.  These are the flower oils inspired by the bouquets friends would bring him.  None are large.  The Two Roses on a Tablecloth is the smallest of the group.  Some have suggested the roses, casually placed on a marble top, are an allusion to the artist's increasing immobility and upcoming demise.  No matter, the loose, fluid brushwork of this and all the late flower works attests to the artist's undiminished abilities.

  Édouard Manet (1832 - 1883), Vase of White Lilacs and Roses, 1883,
oil on canvas, 22 × 18 1⁄8 in. (55.88 × 46.04 cm),
Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, Dallas, Texas
Photo:  Art History News ReportFriday, July 31, 2015

In April 1883 Manet had to have his gangrenous left leg amputated. Less than two weeks later he succumbed to his ailments.  The Vase of White Lilacs and Roses may have been Manet's last or second to last painting.  The other work, a portrait of the model/artist's muse/actress/singer Méry Laurent, was left unfinished on his easel.   

Édouard Manet (1832 - 1883), Méry Laurent wearing a small toque, 1882, 
pastel on canvas, 21 3/4 × 13 5/8 in. (55.3 x 34.6 cm),
Clark Art Institute,  Williamstown, Massachusetts
Photo:  Artstor

This writer would like to think the Vase of White Lilacs and Roses was Manet's last work.  The lilacs and roses reach across the canvas whose width is unable to contain them.  Writers have noted that the glass vase and blooms create a crucifix configuration.  Others have seen a crucified Christ form in the floral array.  Unlike the MoMA's Two Roses, there is nothing sad about Lilacs and Roses.  These blossoms have vitality and vigor.  As such, Manet's last take on flower still lifes would deny death and misery.  The work embraces life.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

New York's Annual Archifest

Open House New York Weekend
Google's headquarters in Chelsea New York 
Photo:  ForbesLife Web site (Courtesy of Google)
New York's five boroughs become an open architectural exhibition the weekend of October 17 - 18.  This is the annual Open House New York Weekend (OHNY) when visitors get an opportunity to enter some of the city's most interesting places that are normally off-limits.  Since 2003, a weekend in October has been packed full of "open houses" with free tours, lectures, talks, programs with some that are kid-friendly. The "open houses" include buildings, interiors and spaces landmarked or significant for their design, engineering, historical or cultural history.  Many are noted for a combination of merits.  New venues become accessible each year.  This year, Google's Chelsea headquarters and LaGuardia Airport's Marine Air Terminal are among first time entries.  

William Delano's 1939 Marine Air Terminal, LaGuardia Airport, New York
Photo:  Picsant Web site
Copyright © PicsAnt 2015

The weekend was started by Open House New York, a not-for-profit organization founded in 2001 to promote awareness of the built environment. The organization is part of Open House Worldwide, an international network of open house events occurring in 30 cities around the globe.  For those who like to look at buildings and explore their surroundings, these weekends are made for them.  Keep in mind, museum or gallery architecture exhibits may be excellent but models, photographs and plans simply can not substitute for the real experience of walking through a space.

View of original studio of Edward Hopper (1882 - 1967)*,
3 Washington Square North,
New York University campus, 
OHNY weekend 2013, 
Photo:  Garret Ziegler, Flickr Web site Sunday, October 13, 2013

Here in New York, there will be enough on view to satisfy anyone's interests.  Past weekends have included some 300 sites citywide.  Thus, viewers will have to scurry to see all that they want.  Sign-up for the OHNY Weekend mailing list for e-mail updates.  Don't forget to go to OHNY Event Guide page to download your OHNY Weekend Event Guide available on October 6.

Biddle House (c. 1845 -1850), Conference House Park
Tottenville, Staten Island
OHNY Weekend 2014
Photo:  Courtesy of Frank Gesser, SILive Web site October 8, 2014

OHNY New York Weekend is just one of the highlights of Archtober, a month-long festival showcasing architecture and design.  In its fifth year, the festival's popular talks and lectures get booked up quickly. Check out the Archtober Calendar soon.  Please note, unlike OHNY New York Weekend,  numerous Archtober's events require a pre-registration and a fee.   

National Design Week at New York's Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, October 10 - 18, is another of the month's high points. This, the museum's biggest educational effort, comprises free public programs, a family festival, a teen design fair and online projects.  

Plan your October now.

October 17 - 18, 2015

and Design Month
New York City
October 2015

October 10 - 18, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Klimt's Two Adeles: The Bloch-Bauer Paintings

Gustav Klimt (1862 - 1918), Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907,
oil, silver and gold on canvas, 54 x 54 in. (138 x 138 cm),
Neue Galerie New York 
This acquisition made available in part through
 the generosity of the heirs of the 
Estates of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer and The Estée Lauder Fund
© 2015 Neue Galerie New York 
Photo:  Courtesy of Neue Galerie New York 

The film is "Woman in Gold."  The exhibition is at the Neue Galerie New York.  The loan is at the Museum of Modern Art.  They are all about Gustav Klimt's Bloch-Bauer paintings.

The painting Adele Bloch-Bauer I caused a sensation in 2006 when purchased for Neue Galerie New York by Ronald L. Lauder.   At this time, the portrait's record price of $135 million was the highest amount ever paid for a painting.  Now the work is again attracting much attention as the focus of the British-American film "Woman in Gold" and the Neue Galerie's exhibition, Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold. 

The movie, directed by Simon Curtis, recounts the restitution of Gustav Klimt paintings seized by the Nazis from the Viennese Bloch-Bauer family.  It is the story of Maria Altmann's successful quest for her family's artworks, especially the famous golden portrait of her aunt Adele, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, called the Mona Lisa of Austria.  The narrative follows Maria from her California home where she is now living to the Vienna of her youth.

Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds star in "Woman in Gold
Photo: Robert Viglasky 

Helen Mirren stars as the aged Maria who takes on the Austrian government with the help of the youthful lawyer E. Randol (Randy) Schoenberg, played by Ryan Reynolds.  Ultimately, the Bloch-Bauer heirs received five Klimt paintings:  Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907), a second portrait of Adele, Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912), and three landscapes, Birch Forest (1903), Apple Tree I (1912) and Houses at Unterach on the Attersee (1916).

Gustav Klimt (1862 - 1918), Adele Bloch-Bauer II, 1912,
oil on canvas, 75 x 47 in. (190 x 120 cm)
Private Collection
On special long-term loan to  Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2014 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. 
Photo: Jonathan Muzikar,  Museum of Modern Art Web site

Subtle visual clues introduce the Bloch-Bauer Klimt works to viewers.When Maria and Randy make their first trip to Vienna, they take a taxi from the airport to their hotel.  On route, Maria is seen deep in thought while Randy looks out the window.  He sees the Belvedere Museum which houses the Adele portrait as well as other Klimt paintings.  Their silence is broken as the taxi drives past a large kiosk covered with a larger-than-life-size poster of the second Adele portrait, Adele Bloch-Bauer II, advertising a museum exhibit of Klimt master works. At this point, Randy begins to speak about the official ministry meeting that will take place the next day.  Maria tells him, "I want to go to the Belvedere to visit my aunt."  There follows flash back scenes which bring viewers to the pre-Nazi era.   The camera scans to the Adele Bloch-Bauer I painting over the mantlepiece in the study of the Bloch-Bauer's Vienna apartment.  On the opposite wall, is the oil, Apple Tree I.  The deep, verdant greens of the latter juxtaposes the lustrous yellows of the aunt's portrait.  Each painting enhancing the other.  

Gustav Klimt (1862 - 1918), Apple Tree I, 1912,
oil on canvas, 42 7/8 x 43¼ in. (109 x 110 cm) 
Private Collection
Photo:  Christie's Web site, Sale 1722, November 8, 2006

Apple Tree I reappears in the short scene at the Belvedere.  There is a quick shot of it in the gallery leading to Adele Bloch-Bauer I.  Maria and Randy enter the gallery led by an Austrian reporter who is helping them in their undertaking.  They have come to the museum to see the Adele painting for the first time.  Behind the threesome, a female docent conducts a group tour.  She guides her visitors to Apple Tree I. When Maria, Randy and the reporter are looking at the Adele portrait, the docent is heard in the background.  She is about to point out the Adele painting by Klimt which, she says " one of our most famous paintings.  A wonderful example of Austria's heritage."  The movie's final credits appear against a black and white photograph of the Neue Galerie's 1914 landmarked building.  Thus, cinematographically, the film presents three of the Bloch-Bauer Klimt paintings as well as the final destination of the Adele I painting, the Neue Galerie, where it now is on permanent public view.

The movie premiered in New York on April 1, a day before the opening of the museum exhibition.  Undoubtedly, this peaked interest in the Adele I painting and may account for the long lines outside the Neue Galerie's entrance.  This viewer encountered several visitors who normally did not go to museums but were tempted to come because of the film.

The exhibit merits notice regardless of enticements.  It engages on several levels by presenting seven additional Klimt paintings from the museum and private collections; twenty vintage and reproduced photographs of the Bloch-Bauer family, Klimt and contemporaries; fifteen preparatory drawings for both Adele painted portraits; examples of decorative arts and jewelry of the period; and, readable wall text that clearly describes the circumstances of the Bloch-Bauer family and their artworks.  

To begin, there is the gorgeous Adele Bloch-Bauer I.  She is flanked by two George Minnes works in a recreation of an installation that took place with the Adele I painting and the Minnes works at the 1907 Mannheim International Art Show.  In the same gallery are the other Klimt paintings:  three landscapes, three small half-length portraits of women and larger-than-life The Dancer that is hung closest to the golden Adele I.  

Gustav Klimt (1862 - 1918), The Dancer, 1916 -17,
oil on canvas, 70.9 x 35.4 in. (180 x 90 cm),
Private Collection
On view in the Neue Galerie New York's
exhibition Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold
Photo:  Artstor

The Dancer was never finished at the time of Klimt's sudden death from a stroke at age 55 in February, 1918.  Yet, the work was the first Klimt painting exhibited in the United States in 1922.
The overall patterned design with oriental motifs recalls the style of the Adele Bloch-Bauer II and highly contrasts Klimt's earlier golden byzantine mosaic phase as exemplified by Adele I.  Viewers are well-advised to go to the Museum of Modern Art, gallery 4 on the fifth floor, where the Adele Bloch-Bauer II painting is on special long term loan. Adele Bloch-Bauer was the only person Klimt painted twice.  When the second portrait was sold at auction in 2006, it was the fourth highest price work of art sold at auction up to that time. The private buyer spent $88 million.

Gustav Klimt, photograph by Moritz Nähr (1859 - 1945), 1917
Photo:  Courtesy of Neue Galerie New York 

Two items need to be addressed here.  First, there has been suggestions that Adele and Klimt had an affair.  There is nothing, however, to substantiate this idea.

Adele Bloch-Bauer, ca. 1910 
Photo:  Courtesy of Neue Galerie New York

Second, one of Adele's fingers was disfigured.  I suspect it was on her right hand since drawings, paintings and photograph tend to obscure all or some of her right digits.  See for yourself.

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918),
Adele Bloch-Bauer Seated in an Armchair Facing Forward, 
Resting Her Temple on Her Right Hand, 1903,
black chalk on paper
Photo:  Courtesy of Neue Galerie New York  

A nice coda to the show is on the museum's lower level.  Here are drawings by Viennese students who were assigned to go look at the Adele Bloch-Bauer I before she left for America and imagine Adele in her new home.  The drawings were given to the Neue Galerie as a gift and a selection is presently on view.  They are a delight. 

Installation view of lower level of Neue Galerie New York 's exhibition 
Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold
Photo:  Hillary Ganton

In addition, the museum has installed a framed full-scale reproduction of its Adele portrait.  Since photographing is not allowed in the upper galleries, visitors may come here to pose before copy and get their "selfie."  A copy could be yours for $550.  Enjoy the show.

Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold*
April 2, 2015-September 7, 2015
1048 Fifth Avenue (at 86th Street), Manhattan
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday
11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Closed Tuesday and Wednesday, New Year's Day, Independence 
Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day 
Closes 3:00 p.m. New Year's Eve and 3:00 p.m. Christmas Eve
*Note: Although the exhibition "Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold" is only on view through September 7, the painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt is on permanent view at the Neue Galerie.

Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer II
11 West Fifty-third Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), Manhattan
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Yoko Ono and the Vanitas Theme

Yoko Ono (1933 - ), Cut Piece, 1964, performed by Yoko Ono in New Works of Yoko Ono, 
Carnegie Recital Hall, New York, March 21, 1965. 
Photograph by Minoru Niizuma. © Minoru Niizuma. 
Courtesy Lenono Photo Archive, New York
Photo:  Museum of Modern Art Art Web site

Give Yoko Ono a chance.  Do not miss the exhibition Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).   This art enthusiast and reviewer considers Yoko Ono the most underrated of female artists around.  Profound and way ahead of her time, Ono's talents are abundant.  Moreover, she is fun.

The MoMA show covers Ono's films, texts, performances, music and more.  The exhibit begins with one of her first two films:  Match Piece (or No. 1).  Eyeblink, the other early film, appears in a nearby gallery.   

Frame from Yoko Ono's Match Piece (or No. 1), 1966,
16mm film (black and white, silent), high speed camera 2000 fr/sec., 5:05 min.
Publisher:  Fluxus Edition
The  Museum of Modern Art, New York.  The Gilbert
and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift, 2008
Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971
May 17–September 7, 2015
The Museum of Modern Art, Manhattan, New York
Photo:  Hillary Ganton

In 1966 Ono was experimenting with a high speed camera which shot two thousand frames per second as opposed to the twenty-four frames per second of a standard camera.  She filmed the lighting of a match and an eye blink in slow motion which produced images that appear almost motionless.  

The quickly burning ignited match references the briefness of our existence and the impermanence of material things - the vanitas theme. This theme** would occupy Ono throughout her career.  See the exhibit.

 *To view the film Match Piece (or No. 1), go to Flux Film No. 14: “One” by Yoko Ono at Stendhal Gallery Online Archive.  

* *For more on the vanitas theme see ArtWithHillary June and July 2015.

Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971
May 17–September 7, 2015
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West Fifty-third Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), Manhattan
Sunday - Thursday and Saturday 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Friday 10:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
July 1 – August 31, Thursday 1o:30 - 8:00 p.m.
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Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day