Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Picasso's Sculptures:

The Unconstrained Id
View of Sculpture Garden, Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 2015 
with Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973), Monument,1972, Cor-Ten steel, 
12' 11 5/8" x 58 3/4" x 10' 5 3/4" (395.3 x 149.2 x 319.3 cm) including base,
Photo:  Hillary Ganton
The Museum of Modern Art's exhibition Picasso Sculpture makes you rethink the hierarchy of modern sculptors. Making great leaps in technique, iconography and artistry, Picasso's scupltural inventiveness leaves viewers breathless.  The show is not to be missed.

More to come.

Picasso Sculpture
September 14, 2015 - February 7, 2016
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Sunday - Thursday and Saturday 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.  
Friday 10:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. 
Member Early Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. daily
Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day

Thursday, November 26, 2015

In Thankgiving For Art's Giving

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 may be an early copy of a lost Brueghel original. 
Catalogued as The Fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel I on the 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.  

Take a look at W. H. Auden's poem, Musée de Beaux Arts.  The poet was moved by the old master paintings he viewed in Brussels's Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.   Auden was particularly drawn to the works by 
Pieter Brueghel the Elder.
  His reflections on their meaning resulted in this poem.  

The poem was completed while Auden was in Brussels in the winter of 1938.  First published in 1939 in a literary periodical, the piece did not get its present title until a year later when it appeared in the poet's collection of 1936 -1939 poems, Another Time.

Auden gets at the essence of Brueghel's paintings.  He writes about the indifference of man to suffering.  Although a catastrophe takes place, people continue with their life and daily routines.  The  misfortune 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 

The poem's third verse centers on Brueghel's Fall of Icarus.  The Greek mythological Icarus was the son of Daedalus the talented craftsman who built the labyrinth of Crete.  Father and son had been imprisoned on the island since Daedalus helped the Cretan King's enemy.  In order to escape, Daedalus created wings from feathers and wax so he and his son could fly away.  Icarus was warned by his father not to travel close to the sun. Excited by his new found ability, the young man did not heed his parent's advice.  He soared way too 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 

The poet observes.  No one takes note of the fallen boy.  The ploughman looks down continuing with his work.  The shepherd looks up, his back to the struggling Icarus whose legs flail in the water.  The herder's leashed dog sits calmly at his master's side; the 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  

On the water, ships and sailboats with somewhere to go move on.  Sails billow out in the wind.  Seamen busy themselves with seafaring tasks. Spot them on the near galleon's top sails, riggings and decks. 

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 extended aiming his fishing rod out over the swells.  Head bent down, the angler concentrates no doubt on his cast line.  Only a 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 which also refers to two other Brueghel works in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.  What matters for now is that the  artworks inspired the poet.*  Paintings often do just that and more. 

Like the poet, seek out museums and galleries.  They provide a cornucopia of visual experiences.  Choices are varied.  Visit a different time or country.  Consider new points of views.  Look at two-dimensional or three-dimensional objects.  

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 - Chelsea, Lower East Side, Soho, Tribeca, 57th Street, Upper East Side, Upper West side, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Include the easily accessible tri-state area and the numbers increase. New Haven, Connecticut is an example of the latter.  Just over 2 hours from mid-Manhattan, the superb Yale University art venues can easily fill a day.  The plenitude of art gives much to be thankful for.  Go enjoy.

*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
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*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
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