Art in NYC: Delirious Art at the Met Breuer

Art in NYC: Delirious Art at the Met Breuer

Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950-1980 on view September 13, 2017 – January 14, 2018 

Metropolitan Museum exhibition Delirious Andy Warhol Yayoi Kusama
In-Out Anthropophagy by Anna Maria Maiolino, Super-8 film 1973 / Image Courtesy of the Met Museum

The expansive show of the post-WWII art at the Met Breuer under an ambitious title Delirious: Art at the Limit of Reason promises to spin your head. And it surely does! The exhibition includes the works of such luminaries of contemporary art as Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama, Eva Hesse, and Sol LeWitt among others. In all, about 100 pieces of art primarily from Europe, Latin America, and the US are organized under 4 loose categories: Vertigo, Excess, Nonsense, and Twisted. The visitors will encounter the generous labels about the subject and countersubject depicted in a particular work. This gentle guidance by the experts helps to appreciate fully the points made by the artists with all the twists and eccentricity entailed.

Metropolitan Museum exhibition Delirious Andy Warhol Yayoi Kusama
Electric Chair by Andy Warhol, Screenprint 1971 / Image courtesy of the Met Museum

The curatorial introduction to the show gives the meaning of the word delirious in its medical sense and points to the turbulence of the post-wartime as a leading factor that either caused or led to stimulating that state of mind. As science and technology were accelerating its hold on everyday life and encroaching on one’s perception of reality, they got their place in the contemporary art as seemingly endless repetitive sequences of shapes, colors, and sounds. In fact, in some sense, the most delirious effect of the exhibition is from its soundtrack.

A review by Roberta Smith in the New York Times notes that given the pressure of the Cold War and the uncertainties of the time the “artists answered life’s absurdities with more of the same”.

It is curious to note the fluidity between the rational use of certain technical and mathematical concepts and their irrational derivations cleverly observed by the artists. Some examples of those effects are topographical representations of Steiner Surfaces by Ruth Vollmer, Study of Distortion by Agnes Denes, or Color Motion 4-64 by Edna Andrade. In other cases seemingly simple everyday actions are transformed by endless repetition to stunning visual and sound effects in Cycles of 3s and 7s by Tony Conrad and several works by Sol LeWitt.

Metropolitan Museum exhibition Delirious Andy Warhol Yayoi Kusama
Snap Roll by Dean Fleming, Acrylic on canvas 1965 / Image courtesy of the Met Museum

Another interesting aspect of the show is its focus on the influence of the writings by Samuel Beckett on the artists. It’s not a coincidence as the show had preceded by 5 years of research into the perception of Beckett’s plays by the experimental artists. The exhibition also highlights a connection between the artistic expression and the social and political environment of the moment.

While it may feel by some that the exhibition skipped some of the work that could clearly belong there, it helps to keep in mind how productive the sphere of art was in the post-war time. This carefully selected sample of works is only scratching the surface of the oeuvre in the category feeding the appetite to see more.

Metropolitan Museum exhibition Delirious Andy Warhol Yayoi Kusama
Jazzmen by Jacques Mahé de la Villeglé,Torn posters mounted on canvas,1961 / Image courtesy of the Met Museum

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Venue: The Met Breuer, 945 Madison Avenue, NY

Dates: September 13, 2017 – January 14, 2018

 

Art in NYC: World War I and the Visual Arts at The Met

Art in NYC: World War I and the Visual Arts at The Met

The horrors of war in the eyes of the witnessing artists

The Parents by Kathe Kollwitz, 1922

This rather small exhibition at The Met, Fifth Avenue museum is guaranteed to leave a strong impression on the viewers. So powerful are the dark images that one hardly brings oneself to see the rest of art splendor at the museum. The sirens of bombardments, the smelly trenches, the victims in pain tell a sad story of war and devastation as it depicted by Kathe Kollwitz, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Gino Severini and many others.

Art in NYC: World War I and the Visual Arts The Met
Plague German by Otto Dix, 1919 / not in the exhibition

The exhibition starts with the patriotic posters issued by each and every country that had participated in the military actions at the time. The mood of the posters is about the same no matter which country they belong. In loud and demanding voices they all were asking their respective compatriots to bravely participate in collective sacrifice to support the honor of the king, or emperor, or kaiser, or sultan. That heroic and brave mood changes to the cries of the wounded and the tears for the dead as the exhibition continues.

The World War I, which started with the assassination of the archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in June of 1914, lasted till November, 1918 and had resulted in the death of one million combatants and seven million civilians making it one of the deadliest conflicts in history.

The exhibition opens with the cautious works from 1914-1915 such as lithographs by Natalia Goncharova, graphics by Christopher Nevinson and Gino Severini. While not exactly endorsing the war, in those initial years of the conflict many were looking at it as redemption. As more countries entered the war and more horrors started to fall on the civilians and the soldiers, the patriotic tunes turned to the screams for help.

Art in NYC: World War I and the Visual Arts The Met
Made in Germany by George Grosz – website of the MOMAPage: http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php / image courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20544655

The last gallery in the exhibition delivers probably the most powerful message begging to remember where the war leads. In that gallery you will find The War (Der Krieg) cycle of 50 etchings by Otto Dix released in 1924 to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the war start. Dix had volunteered for the German Army in 1914, served for 4 year and was badly wounded. Being profoundly affected by the conflict, his feelings about it changed as the nightmares of destruction continued to hound him for some time.

The same gallery also presents the drawings and prints by George Grosz. A contemporary and friend of Dix, Grosz was also serving in German army at the time of WWI but not with such clear patriotic overtones. His works satirize the high ranks of the military and depict the sorry state of the soldiers.

One of the most potent entries in the show are the lithographs by Kathe Kollwitz. Having experienced firsthand the grieve and pain of the loss of her son in WWI, Kollwitz’s depiction of women in deep mourning are a mighty plea to stop any posturing towards the war. This year as the world celebrates her 150th anniversary, Kollwitz humanistic works condemning the war and oppression can be seen at various exhibitions in London, Berlin and Cologne. An expose on Artnet.com  points out that at each of these shows “there is good, hard art to be discovered”.

As for the show at The Met, its message is particularly relevant today amid the reckless threats and provocations.

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Venue: The Met Museum on Fifth Avenue   

 

Time: July 31, 2017 – January 7, 2018

 

 

Art in NYC: Modigliani Unmasked Exhibition at the Jewish Museum

Art in NYC: Modigliani Unmasked Exhibition at the Jewish Museum

Early works by Amedeo Modigliani on view from September 15, 2017 – February 4, 2018

Jewish Museum Modigliani nudes portraits sculptures
Jeanne Hébuterne with Yellow Sweater, 1918-19 / Image provided by Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation / Art Resource NY

The drawings, paintings, and sculptures by Amedeo Modigliani are easily recognized for their characteristic elongated features and warm color palette. The Jewish Museum presents the works from Dr. Paul Alexandre collection who was the artist’s close friend and first patron. The show covers Modigliani’s first years in Paris from 1906 when he arrived on the scene till primarily 1912. While many of the works look very familiar, others are exhibited in New York for the first time refreshing the visitors understanding of the artist oeuvre and getting deeper into the roots of his creative style.

Jewish Museum Modigliani nudes portraits sculptures
Kneeling Caryatid, 1911-12, Paul Alexandre Family, courtesy of Richard Nathanson, London / Image provided by Richard Nathanson, photo: Prudence Cuming Ass.

Amedeo Modigliani was born in a Sephardic Jewish family in Livorno, Italy in 1884. His father’s side came from Italian businessmen clan, while his mother’s side origins were from Marseille, France bringing a cultivated, intellectual ancestry which traced its lineage to Spinoza. The family’s fortunes collapsed at the time of Modigliani’s birth, but the family was able to maintain a flare of decent means because of his mother’s enthusiasm and resourcefulness. Modigliani had experienced multiple health crises in his childhood and youth leading eventually to tuberculosis that claimed his life at an early age of 35.

When Modigliani arrived in Paris at the turn of the twentieth century, it was an artistic hub and the center of creative expression counting in its ranks founders of every modernist artistic movement. The unprecedented vibrancy of creative scene was calling for finding new styles away from the classical determinism towards the freedom of abstract art. Modigliani, however, embraced figurative style likely because he had already experimented with Macchiaioli, en plain air painting technique which pre-dates impressionism, back in Florence, Italy when he was attending art school there. He didn’t fall in love with it and continued to work in his studio.

Jewish Museum Modigliani nudes portraits sculptures
Seated Female Nude, possibly Anna Akhmatova, 1911; Paul Alexandre Family, courtesy of Richard Nathanson, London / photo: Prudence Cuming Ass.

In Paris he was getting his inspiration from African, Egyptian and Southeast Asian art that he intensively studied at the museums rich in exotic artifacts. The current show traces the influence of these ancient cultures on Modigliani’s works and emphasizes the successful mix of forms and poses found in his portraits.

A fascination with the nonwestern representation of the faces and figures taken by the artist at the time when he met Russian poet Anna Akhmatova had resulted in numerous sketches of her as a goddess. The drawings on view have accentuated angular forms reminding of the paintings from the Ancient Egypt. Another gallery in the show is dedicated to the exploration of the caryatids and other devotional figures from the ancient world. Yet in another gallery, there is a collection of limestone sculpture heads reminiscent of the African masks. The build-up of influences and elements leads to the familiar oil paintings of nudes and portraits.

Modigliani’s short life was almost too full of all sorts of excesses. Too many lovers, too much alcohol and drugs, too many rushed ideas, too noisy parties. The latest biography by Meryle Secrest “Modigliani: A Life” tells a sympathetic story of this talented artist “putting his art at the center” in the words of the New Yorker review of the book.

One peculiar aspect of Modigliani’s oeuvre is that it attracts the imitators making Modigliani “the most faked artist in the world” according to Secrest. The seemingly easy to replicate compositions commanding sky-high prices combined with a poorly documented portfolio of works have led to the notorious number of forgeries. The fakes even found its way into acclaimed museum collections. An exhibition in Genoa, Italy in the summer of 2017 had to close early according to Artnet  because of the high number of fakes on view.

Modigliani Unmasked will surely get one think about many of the artist’s intentions and make his art even more enjoyable for the viewers!

 

Jewish Museum Modigliani nudes portraits sculptures
Amedeo Modigliani, Head of a Woman, 1910/1911, limestone, Chester Dale Collection

Dates: September 15, 2017 – February 4, 2018

Venue: Jewish Museum, 1109 5th Avenue, NY          

 

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Art in NYC: Leonardo to Matisse Drawings at the Met Museum

Art in NYC: Leonardo to Matisse Drawings at the Met Museum

Master Drawings from the Robert Lehman Collection

Leonardo to Matisse Met Museum master drawings Robert Lehman collection
Albrecht Dürer,
Self-portrait, Study of a Hand and a Pillow (recto),1493 / Image courtesy of the Met Museum

Intimate and insightful survey of European drawings from the Renaissance to Early Modernism is on view at the Met Museum on October 4, 2017 – January 7, 2018. The works are selected from the collection of Robert Lehman who spent six decades on building his fast art assemblage with 700 sheets of drawings complementing his father’s collection of paintings.  Leonardo to Matisse show comprises of 4 sections dedicated to Italian Renaissance, Dutch and German drawings from 15th to 17th centuries, the 18th and 19th century works from Italy and France, and ending with Impressionists and Early Modernists.

The exhibition is organized in the chronological progression mirroring the establishment of the medium as a fully developed form of creative expression. It begins with the pieces by Italian Renaissance masters covering the time when the medium of drawing was starting to claim its rights. From sketches and quick studies of compositions and gestures, it had progressed to the finished works prized by patrons and collectors. Giorgio Vasari, a painter, and art-historian who defined our appreciation of the drawing and its foundational place in art was among the first collectors. One of the pieces from his collection by Antonio Pollaiuolo is on view now at the Met. Vasari’s book “Live of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects” first time published in 1550 is still a great source for art-historians and history buffs. Vasari dedicated his book to Grand Duke Cosimo I De’Medici. Medici’s patronage of the arts helped to speed up the Renaissance.

Leonardo to Matisse Met Museum master drawings Robert Lehman collection
Rembrandt, The Last Supper, after Leonardo da Vinci, 1634–35 / Image courtesy of the Met Museum

An extremely detailed sketch of a bear by Leonardo is an example of the artist’s keen technique and close observation of the world around him. Leonardo kept copious notebooks full of sketches and momentous studies as well as in-depth engineering designs and scientific research. The New Yorker preview of the recently published biography “Leonardo Da Vinci” by W. Isaacson notes a point made by Isaacson about Leonardo’s tendency to rush and abandon his projects. The medium of drawing with its fast pace seems to be an ideal one for someone endlessly on the creative move.

The next section in the exhibition is dedicated to the Northern Europeans from 15th through 17th centuries. From delicate portraits to scenes from everyday life, the works on view are by Jan van Eyck and his circle, Rogier van der Weyden and his workshop with an allegorical scene used as a prep for sculptural work, and a fascinating study by Rembrandt of Leonardo’s Last Supper done in red chalk. German masters are represented by amazing pieces including a self-portrait and highly textured sketches of household items, in this case, pillows by Albrecht Durer.

Moving to 18th and 19th century Italian and French works, the show presents fine examples of new highs in using pen, ink, wash and other material to convey the story and emotions. Works by Tiepolo, Giambattista, Goya, Corot, Watteau and Fragonard introduce new techniques and highly refined skills.

Leonardo to Matisse Met Museum master drawings Robert Lehman collection
Antoine Watteau, Seated Woman, 1716–17 / Image courtesy of the Met Museum

The last section is dedicated to the Impressionists and Modernists ranging from Degas to Seurat to Matisse. The drawings on view give a window into artists’ minds letting us see how they developed the subjects of the future paintings. All alone the drawings are taking a deserved place as a form of art with all its power and thought-provoking allure.

The exhibition will delight every art lover!

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Venue: The Met Museum on Fifth Avenue       

Time: October 4, 2017 – January 7, 2018

Beyond NY: Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, PA

Beyond NY: Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, PA

Beyond NY: Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, PA
The Cathedral, Rodin Museum

As the world celebrates a centennial of Auguste Rodin death this year, its a good occasion for a visit to Rodin Museum in Philadelphia. The museum opened in 1929, has more than 140 pieces covering all stages of artist’s oeuvre.

Walking through the formal French garden where 8 sculptures are installed including The ThinkerThe Burghers of Calais  and The Gates of Hell, the visitors enter an elegant Beaux-Arts building. Inside the airy main hall and the more intimate side rooms, you will have a chance to see the famous sculptures up close and find insightful details about each piece of work with historical parallels and the stories that served as inspiration for the works.

If you are so moved by seeing the sculptures and want to sketch them for better understanding of artist’s vision, there are sketch albums and pencils on hand in every room. Follow your heart and draw what you see – after all the art is only alive when it moves us.  The museum also offers a very well designed family guide to sharpen young eyes and encourage them to see the artist’s shapes.

Read the notes, observe the sculptures, try to sketch and follow the lines to fully appreciate the artist’s ideas and the forms.

 

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Venue: Rodin Museum, Philadelphia, PA                                           See museum hours here.