CURATOR'S CHOICE SM
Museums and Exhibitions in New York City and Vicinity
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GLENN LONEY'S MUSEUM NOTES
CONTENTS, November, 2005
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art- *
FRA ANGELICO *
CLOUET TO SEURAT: *
French Drawings from the British Museum *
DAVID MILNE WATERCOLORS: *
"Painting Toward the Light" *
SANTIAGO CALATRAVA: *
Sculpture into Architecture *
BEYOND THE VISIBLE: *
The Art of Odilon Redon *
At the Whitney Museum of American Art- *
THE ART OF RICHARD TUTTLE *
COURSE OF EMPIRE: Paintings by Ed Ruscha *
At the American Museum of Natural History- *
At the New York Public Library: Midtown & Lincoln Center- *
THE SPLENDOR OF THE WORLD *
OPT IN TO ADVERTISING'S NEW AGE *
VAUDEVILLE NATION *
At the Museum of the City of New York- *
THE MYTHIC CITY: *
Photographs of New York by Samuel Gottscho, 1925-1940 *
NEW YORK COMES BACK: *
Mayor Ed Koch and The City *
At the Neue Galerie- *
EGON SCHIELE *
At the Bard Graduate Center- *
WEARING PROPAGANDA *
At the Rubin Museum of Art- *
WHAT IS IT? HIMALAYAN ART *
At the Noguchi Museum- *
THE IMAGERY OF CHESS REVISITED *
At the Austrian Cultural Forum New York- *
KUB IN NYC: INSIDE THE WORK *
A Victorian Christmas at Clayton: *
Pittsburgh's Frick Art & Historical Center *
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art-
[Closing January 29, 2006]
Virgin and Child with Four Angels by Fra Angelico. Photo courtesy of The Detroit Institue of the Arts.
Not only did Fra Angelico paint angels divinely, but he is now on the Road to Sainthood. Pope John Paul II beatified him and named him Patron of Artists. The magnificent comprehensive exhibition of his work currently at the Met celebrates his 550th Death Day. Some 75 of his paintings, drawings, and illustrations are on view, along with 45 by assistants and followers.
Some of his greatest achievements in depicting saints, deities, and religious scenes, however, are too large-or painted in place-for them to come to the Met. In the convent of San Marco in Florence, he painted scenes in each of the monks' cells: obviously, these could not travel. [Your scribe, however-during an extended stay in Firenze long ago-photographed all of these.]
Although other major painters of his time produced radiant images of angels-especially of the Annunciation, wherein the feathers of the angel's wings are of varied soft colors-Fra Angelico's visions of God's Messengers set a glowing standard that has never been surpassed. He was also something of a subtle innovator, in a time when traditions were still taking form.
Not only did he paint for churches and convents of his own Dominican Order, but he also fulfilled private commissions, as with the panels for the Da Filicaia Family in Florence's great Santa Croce Church. Interestingly, his last commission, a Crucifixion, was painted for Spain's Grand Inquisitor, Cardinal Juan de Torquemada.
This work is now in Harvard's Fogg Museum. Despite the number of Fra Angelico's works that are still in place in Florence and elsewhere in Italy, most have been widely scattered into private collections and museum holdings. No less than fifty of these have lent masterworks to the current show!
CLOUET TO SEURAT:
French Drawings from the British Museum
[Closing January 29, 2006]
While Queen Elizabeth II has one of the world's finest collections of Master Drawings, the British Museum's holdings in varied areas of artistic achievement in drawing and sketching are considerable. Notable are the treasures of French Drawing, some hundred of which are on loan to the Met Museum for two more months.
Although the names of Clouet and Seurat bracket the four-hundred-year span of this show, there is a such an astonishing range of styles, techniques, and visions on view that a visit to these masterworks is a must for any art-lover. Clouet's Portrait of King Charles IX as a Young Boy is both delicate and charming. Georges Seurat is represented by two shadowy pointilliste studies for La Grande Jatte-an iconic painting made even more famous by Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George.
Between those painterly brackets are such talents as Victor Hugo-more noted as a novelist, Eugène Delacroix, Jacques Callot-an imposing equestrian portrait of Louis of Lorraine, Nicolas Poussin-a Holy Family, Claude Lorrain-St. Peter's Seen from the Doria-Pamphili Gardens, Charles Le Brun-Sacrifice of Isaac, Antoine Watteau-four sheets of multi-studies of portrait details, François Boucher-a study for The Birth of Venus, and so on and marvelous on.
Nearing the end of the four-century span of the show, Seurat is joined by Millet, Degas, Pissarro, Cézanne, Fantin-Latour, Redon-also on view at MoMA, Courbet, Daumier, Corot, Delacroix, and, of course, brilliant little Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
DAVID MILNE WATERCOLORS:
"Painting Toward the Light"
[Closing January 29, 2006]
At the close of the Met's current show of Van Gogh's Drawings, there are three sketches from Arles with very bold broad blue strokes to suggest the scene. Quite a technical journey from the intricate nests of tiny lines in his earliest drawings. Did Canadian artist David Milne see those late Van Goghs? Or ones like them?
Such broad bold lines of color distinguish many of his watercolors in the Met's Milne show: Painting Toward the Light. One of them-now owned by the British Museum, no less-looks almost seasonal: It appears to be something like a Christmas Tree. But it is, in fact, Dreamland Tower, Coney Island.
If the name David Milne draws a blank for you, that's hardly your fault. He was virtually unknown or acclaimed in his own time, although his experiments with Modernism in New York City should have attracted some attention. But artists, unfortunately, have to market themselves, and there was a lot of ambitious competition at that time in Manhattan.
Recording images of World War I Canadian War Memorials in Europe may have paid Milne's bills, but this commission was not designed to make him famous. Later, he retreated to Upstate New York, and after that, back to his native Canada. Landscapes occupied him in rural New York, but he veered toward the spiritual near the close of his career. Only now is Milne receiving the attention and admiration his bold, colorful watercolors deserve.
Go see for yourself!
Sculpture into Architecture
[Closing March 5, 2006]
Recently, Spain's genius-engineer-architect, Santiago Calatrava, has become almost a Household-and also a Boardroom-Name in Manhattan. His magnificent and astonishing design for a new Transportation Hub at Ground Zero has seized the Popular Imagination. Its lacey arched ribs-capable of opening and closing-by far eclipse the Freedom Tower visions of embattled architect Daniel Libeskind. Which probably will never be built anyway.
Actually, there is already an important Calatrava Design on permanent exhibition in Manhattan. Outdoors, no less! This is the fascinating undulating form he created for the Time Capsule behind the American Museum of Natural History. At last, a Time Capsule is above ground, not buried, so it will be easy to find hundreds of years hence when it is time to open it. [Who now knows where the 1939 World's Fair Time Capsule is buried? Who knows when it is supposed to be opened?]
Calatrava has also proposed a wind- and gravity-defying vertical stack of single-floor-box apartments on the East River near South Street Seaport. Whether anyone can afford such living-spaces-making it possible for the project to be realized-is another question.
Your reporter's first exposure to Calatrava's genius was at the Seville World's Fair, where he had devised a new bridge across the river from the city to the island-site. This amazing structure looked like a giant Irish Harp, its support-cables stretched like harp-strings from an inclining leading beam-rather like the Prow of a Viking Ship, in fact-to the roadway below.
My next encounter was at the next World's Fair, this time in Lisbon. The fair-site-by the River Tagus-had been a virtual junkyard of old oil-drums and cargo-containers. It required remarkable new architecture, plus surrounding new residential blocks, shops, and businesses. And there had to be a new rapid-transit station worthy of the Fair.
Calatrava's Oriente Station in Lisbon is a looming intricate fairytale fantasy of steel and glass. Even without the World's Fair, it was worth the trip just to enjoy the station. That may well prove to be the case at Ground Zero as well. His astonishing vision may turn out to be more noble and memorable than any of the Memorials for 9/11 thus far proposed...
Calatrava's new show at the Met offers photos and models of the works noted above, plus many other visionary architectural projects, built and yet unbuilt, some in his native Valencia, which he seems in the process of transforming. As he now has a town-house in Manhattan-and insists on his deep interest in New York City-there may be more astonishments in store along the Hudson and East Rivers. Maybe even Midtown?
The dual emphasis of the Met's exhibition is to show how Calatrava's interest in sculptural forms informs his architectural designs. An abstract cubical rendering of the line of a curved human body later translates into a building-form.
Indeed, the Met show is organized around just such themes: stacked cubes, wings & other bird-images, waves, and Cycladic forms. All these make Frank Lloyd Wright look positively Medieval...
But-as Calatrava noted when his sleek Time Capsule was unveiled at the American Museum-there is also a lot of engineering involved, as well as exploratory design-projections and modelings with very sophisticated computer-software.
There is a kind of pendant Calatrava Show on Park Avenue, at the Spanish Institute, where some of his varied artworks are on display. This is also worth a visit.
At the Museum of Modern Art: MoMA-
BEYOND THE VISIBLE:
The Art of Odilon Redon
[Closing January 23, 2006]
One of Odilon Redon's most potent & mythic images is the Met's painting of Oedipus confronting the Sphinx and answering its potentially Fatal Question. But Redon's fantastic imaginings ranged far beyond the World of Classical Mythology. Also beyond Religious Images, to which he was bizarrely attracted.
His Symbolist visions were occasionally linked to-or inspired by-the strange Symbolist poetic parables of such literary talents as Maurice Maeterlinck and his circle. There was an aura of Decadence about all this, and many of the images in the MoMA survey hazily hint at malign monsters and dangerous dark worlds
A grinning spider has too many legs and very big eyes: All the better to see you with, my dear! A glowing white living human head seems to be a growing fruit on a nocturnal plant. An immense hovering hot-air balloon is an enormous eye,
Black was apparently Redon's Favorite Color, for many of the sketches, pastels, paintings, and lithographs are shrouded in mysterious gloom. Haunting!
At the Whitney Museum of American Art-
THE ART OF RICHARD TUTTLE
[Closing February 5, 2006]
Your scribe almost missed one of the most important expressions of the trendy artworks of Richard Tuttle, now on view at the Whitney. Wandering past a blank white wall, he failed initially to note that the artworks were all bits of paper crumplings or constructs attached to the wall along the floor-line.
Actually, the interaction of artworks with the walls on which they are-or may be-displayed is very important to Tuttle. This is noted in the museum's press-release, but it is more readily apparent if you look down at your shoes and see those bits of paper along the wall!
Another defining instance is the wall hung with Tuttle's almost invisible wire-sculptures. The wires are so thin, the bends so Minimal, that the almost invisible shadows they cast would please a Vampire. Or is it only Reflections that concern Vampires: do they actually have shadows?
Reviewers have been ardent in their praise of Tuttle and of this show. But he is no match for the real genius and imagination of Tim Hawkinson, whose fantastic imaginings were recently in this same space.
Nonetheless, it's true that some of Tuttle's bold forms-recalling failed Alphabet Letters or Numbers-are eye-catching, even astonishing. House, for instance, looks like two overlapping green H's. Some constructions are also artful & colorful; others look like random waste-basket discards.
This show was organized at SFMoMA, where they have an even more pronounced sense of the Cutting-Edge than in New York. Possibly because San Francisco is so much smaller, with so much less going on?
But-both in SF & NYC-curators are in agreement: "Tuttle is among the most influential of the first-generation Post-Minimalists-a group that includes Eva Hesse, Bruce Nauman, and Richard Serra." Now you know! High-class company!
More Tuttle Curatorial Expertise: "Tuttle's elusive, improvisational art purposefully blurs the boundaries between painting, sculpture, and drawing, and between the artwork and its surrounding space. This exhibition reveals the fundamentally democratic attitude that informs his handmade abstractions: the openness and directness of his compositions and his use of seemingly ordinary, offhand materials is a testament to individual curiosity, experimentation, and freedom."
Well, there you have it! Tim Hawkinson, eat your heart out!
COURSE OF EMPIRE: Paintings by Ed Ruscha
[Closing January 29, 2006]
As an avant-garde painter & photographer, Ed Ruscha has a lot to say, but he has perfected the means of saying it very Economically. Or Minimally... Course of Empire was his Installation for the American Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale. Its installation at the Whitney will be its only exposure in the United States.
An entire floor of the Whitney has been blocked off for this show of ten paintings, most of them horizontal schematics of the tops of flat-roofed big-box American shops and factories, seen ad angolo. One is the top of an old Telephone Booth. Others include The Old Tool & Die Building, The Old Tech-Chem Building, & the Old Trade School Building.
These are deployed down an all-white wall-avenue, five to a side, culminating in the big Marcel Breuer Window of the Whitney. Oddly enough, it makes the window the focus of the show. If you had wanted to buy one of these, it is already too late. Major museums and private collectors have snapped them up. Indeed, the Whitney now owns two of them!
The paintings take their collective-name from Thomas Cole's magnificent visionary 19th century series of imagined American Majesty. The originals are on view at the New-York Historical Society, but the Whitney & Harvard University Art Museum have reproduced them, small-scale, on translucent plates, lit from behind. They photograph really well in this format.
At the American Museum of Natural History-
[Closing May 29, 2006]
Not only is this show very special in the way it brings together for the first time so many important documents, photos, and artifacts related to Charles Darwin, the Man & Scientist, but also in the sequential way it explores the development of his observations and analysis that led to the Theory of Evolution.
In fact, it is so handsomely designed and sensibly laid-out that it should be very easy for teachers to engage their classes' interest and help them follow the path that led to the idea of Evolution. And, of course, there's hands-on and interactivity, plus varied media treats.
Adults and kids alike can relive the adventure of Darwin's voyage on the HMS Beagle. Instead of catching a plane to the Galápagos Islands, spectators can see two live Galápagos tortoises in a glass-case environment. You can get even close to a huge green Iguana-five feet long, no less!-and some ornate Horned Frogs.
Darwin's study at Down House-his home of many years, now maintained as a museum-has been recreated in the heart of this show. Despite the tremendous importance of what Darwin discovered, he was also an interesting human-being, so it's good to learn something about his family and how he lived his life, as well.
Yes, there are fossil-skeletons. Nothing has been overlooked to provide the most comprehensive examination of both Darwin and his famous Theory ever presented. It is central to understanding who we are and where we came from. Where we are going only God and Christian Fundamentalists know...
Engaging and informing students is obviously especially important at a time when religious zealots want their child-like religious beliefs taught as "Intelligent Design," alongside-or replacing-modern concepts of how man and animals have evolved over eons of time.
[One might well ask: What is there, actually, to teach about Intelligent Design-or Creationism-that cannot be discharged by reciting the First Book of Genesis, which should take less than five minutes? It is essentially a Creation Myth, in some aspects less interesting than similar mythical explanations of the origins of Earth, Sun, Moon, and Stars of other Primitive Tribes than the pre-Covenant Jews. Of course this biblical account cannot offer any physical evidence, as the author of Genesis-whoever that might have been-was not there to observe the events described. And, as this testimony was passed on in an Oral Tradition for centuries, possibly Millennia, before it was written down, how accurate may it be? Nor does it tell us what God did on the Eighth Day, after resting on the Seventh. For that matter, if Christian Fundamentalists insist on making the teaching of Creationism into law, shouldn't that also apply to teaching their fervently sincere but fantastic Beliefs about what is to happen at the Last Judgment? What will happen to Orthodox Jews who do not instantly accept Jesus Christ as their Personal Savior? What about the Rapture? What about centuries of rotted dead bodies & dusty skeletons rising out of their coffins to ascend into Heaven in their Perfect Physical Forms, to sit on the Right Hand of God? Will there be room enough? Will there be Final Exams?]
Naturally, there is a Darwin/Evolution-Themed souvenir-shop adjoining the exit to this impressive show.
At the New York Public Library: Midtown & Lincoln Center-
THE SPLENDOR OF THE WORLD
[Closing February 12, 2006-in Gottesmann Hall of NYPL Main Library]
Page after glittering page glows with golden gothic letters and burnished backgrounds-the gold minutely overlaid with miniature checkerboards of translucent polychrome colors. These are among the priceless manuscript treasures of the New York Public Library. Many of these remarkable centuries-old volumes deal with religious themes, being made for rich patrons, churches, and monasteries as Breviaries, Devotionals, Books of Hours, Bibles, or Psalters.
Some of these are large, but most are small, the cost and time involved in lining, lettering, and illustrating so many pages being very great, even for the richest patrons and monastic foundations. A nun's Holy Book is in fact a fat but very little volume.
But not all is about the Wonders of the Visible & Invisible Worlds. There are important medical and scientific treatises, also handsomely illustrated. Some medieval methods for soldiers to attack a fortress might be useful information for a forthcoming Crusader Movie.
One of the more amusing page-openings is in a manuscript reporting the Council of Constance, one of the most important in the development of the Theology & Ritual of the Roman Catholic Church. [Others included the Council of Trent and the Synod of Whitby, where the assembled clerics established the date of Easter!]
While the author of this large volume reported on the ecclesiastical events, he also found time to depict daily life in Constance. The opened-pages feature four panels of watercolors of fishmongers & customers with tables laden with big fish, obviously caught in nearby Lake Constance!
While it is elevating to look at visions of Heaven with God Enthroned, surrounded by All His Angels, it's also very interesting to see how people in the Age Before Printing actually lived. And prayed...
OPT IN TO ADVERTISING'S NEW AGE
[Ongoing-at Madison Avenue NYPL Science/Industry/Business Library]
Madison Avenue, in the mid-Twentieth Century, was synonymous with Advertising Agencies. Currently, along its midtown blocks, vertical panels on lamp-posts celebrate memorable slogans from highly successful ad-campaigns. Including: Where's the Beef?
So it's also appropriate that the NYPL's current Advertising's New Age exhibition should be installed in the Madison Avenue lair of the Science/Industry/Business Library, in the old B. Altman Bldg.
The show's designers have created five amusing orange-hued sculptural-forms that symbolize various Media: PRINT, RADIO, TV, ONLINE, & OPT-IN. Sound and Images-some of them moving-issue from these terminals to recall the Past, highlight the Present, and suggest the Future.
Along the avenue-side wall, outstanding images of famous picture & text ads over the years form a kind of Time-Line Mural. As many of the most important magazine-ads during and before World War II had to be printed in black & white-what 5-cents-per-copy issue of The Saturday Evening Post or Liberty could afford color?-they do not look quite so stunning now, rendered in soft orange, yellow, and brownish hues for the mural.
And massing so many of them, collaged together, robs some of their real powers in their own times. Much more can be done with such images and texts. They need to be explored and explained in context, not just glossed-over.
[Closing April 1, 2006-at NYPL Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts]
No doubt you have heard more than you wanted to hear about Paris Hilton. But what do you know about Daisy & Violet Hilton? As a colorful poster in the new Vaudeville Nation show at Lincoln Center reveals, they were: "The Sensation of Vaudeville." The reason is easy to see-and not just because they look like Mary Pickford as twins, playing saxophones almost as big as they are.
The Hiltons were "BORN JOINED TOGETHER." They toured vaudeville as "San Antonios's Siamese Twins."
There are also bold posters of Sophie Tucker, "The Mary Garden of Ragtime"-playing Marcus Loew's Theatre-as well of famed Female-Impersonator, Julian Eltinge, both in Drag and dressed as a handsome leading-man. Eltinge was so famous that he had his own theatre on 42nd Street. It is still there, but it's now called the Empire, a Forest City-Ratner Cineplex that has nonetheless preserved the original façade and Julian's old auditorium as a lobby!
But these and other posters and ad-cards are only a few of the riches in this show. There are film-programs of some very popular acts, radio-transcriptions, phonograph-recordings, photos, sheet-music, costumes, scripts, set & costume designs. How about listening to Fats Waller, Eubie Blake, & Bert Williams?
Vaudeville's heyday lasted from the 1880s to the 1930s, finished off by World War II and the advent of television. Motion-pictures initially threatened it, but major movie-theatre palaces quickly adopted vaudevillians for their own stage-shows. In fact, many of the most popular performers created even more impressive careers as comics and vocalists on radio: George Burns & Gracie Allen, Jack Benny & Mary Livingstone, Fibber McGee & Molly...
Some even succeeded in movies and, later, in television.
Here's a poster for Baby June and Her Newsboys: this is the act that's the core of the Broadway Musical, Gypsy, as Mama Rose pushes June Havoc [originally Hovick] on stage, with her sister, later Gypsy Rose Lee, as a newsboy.
Serious theatre-artists such as the celebrated French actress Sarah Bernhardt and the ballerina Anna Pavlova also took their talents on the Vaudeville circuits. Magician and escape-artiste Harry Houdini was a regular. Sophisticated ball-room dancers Vernon & Irene Castle were a big draw.
Even playwright Edward Albee has a faint Vaudeville-connection. His family was involved in the Keith-Albee Circuit, no less!
At the Museum of the City of New York-
THE MYTHIC CITY:
Photographs of New York by Samuel Gottscho, 1925-1940
[Closing February 20, 2006]
Some of the most iconic images of Manhattan in the Era of Art Deco were captured on film by Samuel Gottscho, who made his own photos of the city on the side, while accepting commissions from architects and builders to document the construction of major structures and complexes such as Rockefeller Center.
Some wealthy sophisticates engaged him to photograph their handsome apartments, a valuable record of design and taste before World War II. Or perhaps these clients were only wealthy? Not sophisticated? How stylish is it to have your dining-room photographed? Even if it's today in Architectural Digest or the Sunday Times, it's still Showing-Off, and that's vulgar.
Many of the interiors and even exteriors-such as the New York 1939 World' Fair in Flushing Meadows Park-are in small-format, so it is not easy to study detail when the images are wall-mounted in a very dimly-lit chamber.
Obviously, this could not be avoided, given the necessity of low light-levels for old prints.
To give major Gottscho images an effective impact, they have been blown up, standing free in the hall. They seem striking, but the enlargement emphasizes their brown tones and makes them seem a bit fuzzy.
Gottscho's prints are much more effective in the catalogue-with the same title as the show-published by Princeton University Press. [$40-hardbound only.]
NEW YORK COMES BACK:
Mayor Ed Koch and The City
[Closing March 26, 2006]
During his unprecedented three-time Mayoralty, Ed Koch infuriated many people. Some actively hated him.
His ubiquitous tag-line-"How'm I doin"?-was especially annoying to sophisticates and intellectuals. But it made him both popular and accessible to a wide New York Public.
And it helped him to Get Things Done.
What many of his detractors, even at that time, forgot was that the City was technically Bankrupt!
Falling revenues couldn't meet city-debt and muni-payrolls. Mayor Abe Beame-a genial but diminutive political hack-had no idea how to stave off disaster. Borrowing had been the rule, but no banks would lend to NYC anymore. By 1973, things were desperate.
[Some Measure of the Economic Situation Then: Your reporter was able, in 1973, to purchase an apartment across the street from the Frick Collection for $50,000. A lot of money for a school-teacher-as the City was not paying decent wages, either-but no more than the previous owners had paid for it 20 years before. In fact, they lost money on the sale, but many people were at that time effectively abandoning New York City. Today, the apartment is worth $1 million or so. But I hadn't lost faith in the City, and neither had Ed Koch!]
The new show documents how Koch Turned NYC Around: Balancing the Budget, Saving the Parks, Supporting the Arts, Preservation, Reconstruction, New Housing & Commercial Development.
Areas of Exhibition Interest in Koch: Cheerleader, Administrator, Tough-Guy, Mayor Mouth, Citizen Koch, & Democrat?
If you go to see this show, do not be surprised if Ed turns up and asks you: "How'm I doin"?
At the Neue Galerie-
[Closing February 20, 2006]
It is not exactly a surprise that the drawings and paintings of Egon Schiele are currently on view at East 86th Street and Fifth Avenue. When are they not on display at the splendid mansion of the Neue Galerie, which features German and Austrian Expressionist artworks.
What is special this time is that the new show combines the best Schieles of the Ronald Lauder & Serge Sabarsky Collections. Lauder & Sabarsky co-founded the Galerie. [In fact, its excellent Viennese coffee-house/café is named for Sabarsky.]
There are some 150 Schiele drawings and paintings now on the walls, notably some very powerful portraits. For those unfamiliar with Schiele, his distinctive style, and his favored subjects, it may come as an unwelcome surprise to see a watercolor of a naked young girl, her legs spread wide apart. But he wasn't entirely focused on teenagers, as older women models also opened to him.
Fortunately, after some legal difficulties-including a prison-sentence-he matured somewhat. Nonetheless, he was fascinated by the nude body, both female and male. And the Sexuality of those bodies.
In his drawings, he renders them with an often tortured angularity. And his bold brush-strokes on paper look rather like scooping cuts in an intaglio wood-relief.
That's It: Sculpture in Two-Dimensions! His Self-Portrait with Arm Twisted Above Head shows this especially strongly. It also raises the technical question of how he could make this drawing when his body was so contorted. Of course, we don't see what the left hand is doing...
Landscapes along the Danube and the ancient houses of a historic city like Czesky Krumlov-Krumau, in Schiele's time there-are very powerful, even with their dark depressing palette.
Currently, Vienna's famed Albertina is also celebrating Schiele. As is another Manhattan venue, with Schiele at Galerie St. Etienne!
This latter gallery, although intimate, is always worth a visit, especially for German & Austrian Expressionists. But also for its show-brochures. The current one on Schiele lists all the works on view, preceded by a very insightful essay into the tortured artist's psyche and subject-matter. His legal problems must have sent a message about having adolescent girls pose nude for him.
Unfortunately, Schiele died young, just when he was beginning to be acclaimed.
At the Bard Graduate Center-
[Closing February 5, 2006]
This show-despite its off-putting title-is well worth a visit to 18 West 86th Street and the Bard Graduate Design Center's intimate gallery-spaces. Although its sub-title is: Textiles on the Home Front in Japan, Britain, and the United States. 1931-1945, it is not about T-shirts with images of Admiral Tojo hanging from a gallows. Wearing Brand-Names on your chest-let alone Political-Messages-was not yet Mainstream American.
In fact, there are relatively few examples of British and American World War II Propaganda screened or printed on cloth in this show. Most of the British entries are bandanas or head-cloths, with images of Winston Churchill, his quotable quotes, or "V for Victory" symbols. As it is-or used to be-bad form to reproduce the American Flag as a decoration on anything, Stars & Stripes predominated, along with slogans, in American scarves, kerchiefs, and clothes.
But those items are obviously only included to balance the content of this fascinating show, the core of which is an impressive collection primarily of Japanese boys' and mens' Kimonos. With Pearl Harbor Day fast approaching, it would have been awkward to mount an entire exhibition glorifying Japan's Military Might and its Victorious Invasions of China, Korea, Manchukuo, Taiwan, the Philippines, and many Pacific Islands. But those themes are exactly what are brilliantly-and often colorfully-depicted on Kimono fabrics.
Many of these illustrations and patterns are handsome in themselves, quite apart from what they represented to the Japanese People. As World War II began in 1939, moderns may wonder about the 1931 date. That is a marker for the beginnings of Japan's efforts to establish the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, by invading other Asian and Pacific Territories unable to defend themselves.
Considering how rapidly former Nazis and Italian Fascisti destroyed flags, banners, posters, and other symbols of the would-be Master Race when World War II was clearly lost, it's fortunate that some Japanese collectors hid these interesting artifacts away for future study.
At the Rubin Museum of Art-
WHAT IS IT? HIMALAYAN ART
A number of notable museums bear the names of wealthy patrons, but few of those have actually been established by and furnished with the collections of the donors. When Barney's moved from Chelsea to Madison Avenue, Shelley & Donald Rubin acquired the old building on West 17th & Sixth Avenue for their Rubin Museum, devoted to Tibetan and Himalayan Art.
The make-over from department-store has been remarkable. The great central spiraling staircase of Andrée Putman fills a great deal of the five-story space in such a handsome way that one hardly notices how this deftly reduces exhibition-space. Thus the often small but priceless sacred images seem much more important, arrayed around the walls of the museum.
Since the new Museum's fairly recent opening, a series of shows have effectually peopled various floors with special exhibitions focused on various aspects of life, art, belief, and culture in Central Asia. Many of the objects are very old and precious.
The new exhibition-WHAT IS IT? HIMALAYAN ART-in effect is a permanent installation that, like the earlier ones, will be augmented or altered from time to time, to meet visitors' and scholars' special interests.
In addition to brass deities, ritual objects, adornments, textiles, photographs, maps, and documents, there are even videos to flesh out the wider picture of the relidgious artworks-and the peoples and lands from which they have come.
In fact, the range of the Himalayas-or the influences of the beliefs and the arts produced below their heights-extends from Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, and Nepal to Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as north to Central Asia, Mongolia, and Siberia. Eastward to China. And southward, to India, and on to Southeast Asia. That's fairly inclusive: so there are many fine examples of Buddhist and Hindu devotionals on view.
At the Noguchi Museum-
THE IMAGERY OF CHESS REVISITED
[Closing March 5, 2006]
A visit to the Noguchi Museum in Northern Queens is always rewarding, not only for the opportunity to contemplate his own abstract stone sculptures, but also for its unique special exhibitions. Recently, Noguchi's set-pieces & costume-designs for Martha Graham's major Modernist dance-theatre works were on view.
Now the museum has recreated the 1944 Imagery of Chess show that Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst organized at the Julien Levy Gallery. The Isamu Noguchi connection is that he was involved in that show, creating his own unique designs for the chessmen and board.
Also on view are chess-sets or designs by such Modernists as Man Ray, Arshile Gorky, and Yves Tanguy. As well as the intriguing explorations of the forms of chess-pieces by Sandy Calder, Dorothea Tanning, and Robert Motherwell.
Man Ray devised magnetic chess-pieces, but he also designed three silver chess-sets for the Maharajah of Indore.
Bauhaus designer Josef Hartwig's 1924 Modernist chess-set was also in the 1944 show. It was the first of its kind to be commercially produced and marketed. It's still available worldwide!
This show reunites some forty works shown in the 1944 exhibition. Over time, however, originals were dispersed or lost, so some of the objects are reproductions from designs or photos.
It's worth noting how many Modernists reduced the traditional chess-figures to geometrics, often with distinct traces of their own styles. As the well-known chess-pieces are already symbolic reductions of human-beings-or architecture, as with the Castle-even more elemental reductions make some pieces difficult to identify.
Fortunately, most of the artists invited to participate in the original show were chess-fanatics anyway. There are even some letters detailing game-moves.
And there's some chess-music by John Cage, scored on chessboard grids. It can actually be read & played. Recordings are available for the first time ever.
Noguchi's own contribution to the original Levy show-"the most beautiful," said Newsweek-shows his genius for using sculptural forms for practical purposes in the design of the board as table, with angular shapes and inner pockets for the chess-pieces.
There was also a prior student design-competition for new ideas for chessmen and boards. From 36 original entries, seven were chosen for actual construction. These were on view at the Noguchi Museum, with artists from Pratt and Parsons leading the field.
At the Austrian Cultural Forum New York-
KUB IN NYC: INSIDE THE WORK
[Closing January 29, 2006]
Kunsthaus Bregenz is regarded by many experts in architecture and the world of museums and galleries as one of the most important-and beautiful-modern art-galleries in Europe. Indeed, some think it the most-if not the only-interesting thing in this most westerly of Austrian provincial capitals.
For your reporter, however, the annual Bregenz Festival is the most important-and interesting. Every summer a major opera or musical is staged on an immense purpose-built stage set on piles in Lake Constance. Next summer, 2006, will be my 50th year at the festival.
Where else could you see the largest productions ever of West Side Story or Porgy & Bess performed over water almost nightly for audiences of 7,000? Currently, the show is Verdi's Trovatore, played in the largest Oil-Refinery stage-set ever!
Bregenz' new Kunsthaus-which your reporter photographed during its construction and after-is essentially a glass-house, so the artworks are lit by natural light. It is a big steel-framed glass-box, with great slabs of specially hardened and buffed glass on the outside.
Oddly enough, just as one can see great American Musicals on Lake Constance in Bregenz-where the lake is called the Bodensee-one can also see major shows of such artists as Jeff Koons and Jenny Holzer. Of course, a New Yorker doesn't have to go to Vorarlberg's capital to do that, but it's a novelty for Austrians, certainly.
Last summer, 2005, the featured artist was none other than Roy Lichtenstein!
Americans are not necessarily favored, for Franz West, Gilbert & George, Daniel Buren, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Thomas Demand have had their share of exposure there.
Pboto-montages and videos of the Kunsthaus, its major shows, and the city itself are now on view at the Austrian Forum, at 11 East 52nd Street. This is also a remarkable structure, designed by the visionary Austrian architect Raimund Abraham .
Other Arts Items & Events-
Sanford Smith's MODERNISM at the Park Avenue Armory
Looking around some recent dealer-shows at the Park Avenue Armory, your reporter has been puzzled by the lack of paying visitors, especially people obviously intending to buy a rare book, a painting, a Kilim carpet, or some vintage furniture.
Dealers, however, often seem to be busy improving their own inventories from other dealers' stocks on display. As well as visiting, waiting for customers.
One would think that on weekends the floor would be thronged with metaphoric Treasure-Hunters. One dealer explained that the big sales come on the opening, or Benefit, evening. On those few occasions when I've been invited to such events, most of the Big-Spenders seem to be heading for the Free Bar or the roast-beef sandwiches.
But sales must be taking place. Otherwise, who could afford to rent booth-space? And what about taking bulky items like carpets and furniture back to your own shop if you've come all the way from London or Paris?
At Sanford Smith's annual-and recent-Modernism show, your reporter had a fairly free range to inspect the handsome booths and look closely at some splendid objects and graphics. Nobody was fighting over Netsukes or Art Deco cigarette-cases.
What was most striking, overall, was how smartly designed most of the venues were. A few looked like sad spaces with some chairs or posters on offer, but most made the varied Art Nouveau and Moderne wares look so much like an ensemble that a really wealthy and dedicated collector might well want to buy the entire booth.
R 20th Century's living & dining-room suites, designed by Brazilian Joaquin Tenreiro, certainly looked handsome enough to live and dine in on the spot.
Barry Friedman had some fine pieces: Antonio Gaudi, Ettore Sottsass, and other Modern Masters. The Macklowe Gallery offered a veritable nest of Tiffany lamps
Some truly bizarre chairs were on view in Magen H Gallery XX Century Design. One had two armchairs overlaid-with a total of six, instead of eight, legs. My favorite was an armchair completely outlined with pointed pistols-directed away from the potential sitter!
This show was a Brooklyn Museum Benefit, and the Museum honored Herman Miller for great Modernist furniture, with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
A Victorian Christmas at Clayton:
Pittsburgh's Frick Art & Historical Center
[Closing January 8, 2006]
For New Yorkers looking for a Holiday Getaway, Pittsburgh has, surprisingly, a lot to offer. Not only shows and concerts around Theatre Square, including Heinz Hall, but also fascinating exhibits at the Andrew Carnegie Art & Science Museum. Carnegie, Heinz, and Mellon cultural and architectural benefactions abound.
But the most interesting place to be during the winter season is Henry Clay Frick's Clayton Estate. The handsome old Victorian Mansion that Helen Clay Frick always called home will be specially decked out for Christmas. All sorts of period-decorations and old-time customs will be on view.
As the Fricks were not working in their own coal-mines and steel-mills, Clayton won't look like Christmas with the Cratchits. And, while Frick could certainly be a Scrooge with his employees, he never stinted on his family. Wife Adelaide, son Childs, and daughter Helen lived in the literal lap of luxury, which was only augmented when they moved to the new Frick Mansion on Fifth Avenue.
You won't be invited to sit at the lavishly laid Christmas-dinner table at Clayton, but you can have a fine holiday meal at the on-site café. There is also the Frick Art Museum, the Car & Carriage Museum, and the Children's Playhouse, all decorated for the holidays.
The Museum is showing To Observe & Imagine: British Drawings & Watercolors from the Morgan Library. After the Met's Drawings from the British Museum, this could be a good follow-up. [Late Bulletin: The New & Improved Morgan Library will open in late April!]
For more information about Clayton's Victorian Christmas, call 412-371-0600, or Fax: 412-241-5393. Phone open seven days, from 9 am to 5 pm.
Copyright © Glenn Loney 2005. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney, Curator's Choice." Reproduction rights please contact: email@example.com.
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