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.

For museum hours and more click here.

Venue: The Met Museum on Fifth Avenue        Time: July 31, 2017 – January 7, 2018

 

 

Art in NYC: Anselm Kiefer at Gagosian Gallery on West 21 Street

Art in NYC: Anselm Kiefer at Gagosian Gallery on West 21 Street

Transition from Cool to Warm

Art in NYC Anselm Kiefer Gagosian Gallery paintings watercolors books
Anselm Kiefer Les extases féminines (The Feminine Ecstasies), 2013 Watercolor on paper 65 3/4 × 60 5/8 inches (167 × 154 cm) © Anselm Kiefer. Photo © Georges Poncet. Courtesy Gagosian

Anselm Kiefer is known for digging deep into historical consciousness and renewal for people and land devastated by war and destruction. His usually large-scale, heavy paintings done in multiplayer of media are well-recognized precisely for portraying the secrets of the forgotten landscapes with metal or concrete chunks looking menacingly in your face. With the exhibition at Gagosian gallery , which in addition to the paintings includes a collection of watercolors showing women, flowers and their erotic interplay, the author moves closer to the stage of rebirth.

Being born in Germany two month before the end of Wold War II, Kiefer’s oeuvre confronts Germany’s dark past and the horrors of Holocaust. Another very distinguished element of his work is an intermix of various forms of artistic expression. As such, in his earlier works he used a reference to Romanian Jewish writer Paul Celan‘s poem “Todesfuge” (“Death Fugue”). And later he created a series of tributes to futuristic Russian poet Velimir Khlebnikov. His latest works are full of Wagnerian references. Last year exhibition at the White Cube Bermondsey gallery in London titled Walhalla had an explicit theme of final destruction. Some pieces looked like “a set for Wagner’s Götterdämmerung” in the words of The Guardian review by Jonathan Jones.

Art in NYC Anselm Kiefer Gagosian Gallery paintings watercolors books
Anselm Kiefer Ignis sacer, 2016 Oil, acrylic, and emulsion on canvas 110 1/4 × 149 5/8 × 3 5/8 inches (280 × 380 × 9 cm) © Anselm Kiefer. Photo © Georges Poncet. Courtesy Gagosian

This conversation between literature and art continues at Gagosian gallery with a collection of more than forty artist created books exhibited in glass cases. The gallery stresses the importance of these books to author’s body of work as they carry “the sequences of narrative information and visual effect”. The viewers are free to make up the rest of the storyline using their personal experience and interpretation of cues on the pages. This is not the first time in his career that the author turns to the watercolors. In fact, the title of the exhibition refers to his celebrated book from mid-70s full of sea-blues,warms and nudes.

Kiefer is often likened to Rodin in the depiction of emotions invoking historical dilemmas and human relationships. As this year the world celebrates a centennial of Rodin death, Rodin Museum in Paris and Barnes Foundation have Kiefer Rodin exhibition ongoing. It will be on view at Rodin Museum in Paris until October 22, 2017 then move to the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, PA from November 17, 2017 – March 12, 2018.

Art in NYC Anselm Kiefer Gagosian Gallery paintings watercolors books
“Anselm Kiefer: Transition from Cool to Warm”
Installation view © Anselm Kiefer. Photography by Rob McKeever. Courtesy Gagosian

In November Anselm Kiefer will receive J. Paul Getty Medal. Getty Board of Trustees explained to Artnews that the medal recognizes Kiefer’s engagement “in big ideas and historic moments, and sharing with the Getty a passionate commitment to global culture.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venue: Gagosian Gallery 522 West 21st Street, New York, NY                     Time: May 5 – September 1, 2017

Centennial Celebrations: Klimt and Rodin – An Artistic Encounter

Centennial Celebrations: Klimt and Rodin – An Artistic Encounter

A dialog between grand masters on grace, beauty and sensuality 

The year 2017 is rich with the anniversaries. Centennial of the Russian Revolutions (March – November 1917), 150 years of the Alaska Purchase (March, 1867), 500 years since a publication of 95 Theses by Martin Luther that started the Protestant Reformation are just a few to mention. The art world is commemorating centenaries of two great admirers of female beauty, Auguste Rodin who lived until November 17, 1917 and Gustav Klimt, who died shortly after in February, 1918.

Klimt and Rodin artistic encounter at Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
The Maiden, 1913 (oil on canvas) by Klimt, Gustav (1862-1918); 190×200 cm; Narodni Galerie, Prague, Czech Republic; Austrian, out of copyright / Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco is mounting an exhibition Klimt & Rodin: An Artistic Encounter which will be  on view in October 14, 2017 – January 28, 2018  to celebrate the centenaries of the grand masters. The show which will be held at the Legion of Honor is marking the first time the works of Klimt will be shown on the West Coast. The Legion of Honor had celebrated Rodin centenary with an installation which had officially ended in April of this year but the works had remained in place and will be jointed by the works of Klimt for an artistic dialog between the masters on their beloved and deeply explored topic of love, beauty and eroticism.

Centennial Celebrations: Klimt and Rodin - An Artistic Encounter
Gustav Klimt, “The Black Feathered Hat (Der Schwarze Federhut,” 1910. Oil on canvas, 79 x 63 cm. Private collection, courtesy of the Neue Galerie, New York / Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Klimt and Rodin artistic encounter at Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
A. Rodin, The Kiss; shot in situ / Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Auguste Rodin had only one in person meeting with Gustav Klimt when he traveled to Prague via Vienna in 1902. Rodin had accepted an invitation to visit an exhibition of Vienna Secession movement Beethoven Frieze by Klimt. The story of the encounter, as described by The Telegraph art critic, has a confession by Rodin that he had “never before experienced such an atmosphere – your tragic and magnificent Beethoven fresco, your unforgettable, temple-like exhibition, and now this garden, these women, this music.” In the words of art historian Berta Zuckerkandl, Klimt suggested that the reason for all of that is in one word: Austria. That insight had clearly worked for the Modernists and their circle in Vienna. The interplay between art, music and the beauties will be the main object of the exhibition in San Francisco.

If you are not planning to travel to San Francisco, you can still see all major works by Rodin at Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, PA . As for Klimt, Neue Galerie would be your fist stop to see modernists’ masterworks including Klimt’s. The Met has 2 paintings at Gallery 829 and several drawings which are not currently on view. There are also 2 paintings and several drawings at MoMA available to view online.

 

Venue: Legion of Honors, San Francisco, CA                             Time: October 14, 2017 – January 28, 2018