Friday, October 31, 2014

Ursula Von Rydingsvard. Galerie Lelong

I should mention how much I liked the Ursula Von Rydingsvard show of large cedar wood and bronze sculptures now on view until Dec. 13. She does amazing things to the large pieces of wood cutting into them like they were sticks of butter and creating intricate and powerful surfaces and details. There is also a large sculpture that incorporates bronze in a lace like pattern to a large piece of carved wood that is really spectacular. You don't often see this kind of work anymore, some might say it was old fashioned and not of the moment,(what no videos?) but I found her marvelous sculptures to be refreshing, bold and exciting. Also the smell of wood when you get close to the pieces is quite intoxicating.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection. The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

I’ve been spending a lot of time at the Met lately, rushing up to view the many shows of interest to me. The other day I took the long trip to the Upper East Side to view the very beautiful Cubism show from the collection of Leonard Lauder who has promised this great trove of 81 masterpieces to the Met. Lucky Met. Lucky us. This is a show to savor, to casually walk slowly through the seven galleries and not to be rushed or inconvenienced by the ladies who lunch, the tourists or the people who have those annoying listening devices attached to their heads The collection focuses on only four giants of modern art Picasso, Braque, Gris and Leger all long time favorites of mine who pretty much changed the history of art with their experiments in painting that took on abstraction, collage, drawing and assemblage with twists and turns that are still being felt today, more than a century later. Its hard to grasp that these amazing works date back to 1907 and extend only to 1918, these are for me toe curling works that still give me pause, that can still thrill and inspire. The big surprise for me were the vibrant paintings by Gris who is probably the least known (and certainly the least seen) of the group. Reason for this might be that he was only 40 when he died, which probably explains why he is not as well known as the other three who lived to creative old age with Picasso passing when he was 92. I thought he would live forever, and I guess he does still live on, it seems that there are major shows of his work every year. One of my favorite sculptures of his is in the show “Glass of Absinthe” of 1914, which I grew up seeing at the Moma, and here is presented in a later casting. This was a piece that played with me, and no doubt threw its influence all of me along with the great Max Ernst’s small combine painting “Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale”. In 1962 when I was 15 my high school art teacher gave us the assignment to do a book report on an artist we liked and I choose for some reason Braque. When I was a kid I would buy these small cheap paper books with color repros on various artists, and one that I had was on Braque. My report took the form of a little book that I made and still have along with the one I did on Modigliani. I typed out excerpts from the text, and pasted in the small reproductions from the book. I made a big hit with my art teacher who even though she knew that the text was not mine gave me a grade of 100. That’s the grade I would give to this wonderful exhibition. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Crossed Out Brooklyn, My Heels are killing me and one great artist

Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy and Beyond is a minor exhibition on a monumental scale. This is the kind of show that means well, but who cares about good intentions when most of the work shown by some 35 artists, (mostly young and unknown) is dull, and derivative, and looking like an average grad school end of semester show or a grab bag of things that can be seen and not noted in the Chelsea galleries any day of the week.
               Art history begins and stands still around 2010 in this exhibition and what the curators of this swamp of nothingness are pushing on us is the notion that artists today are mostly interested in political actions and art making that involves the interaction between the artist and his immediate environments, neighborhoods or mini societies. This is of course rubbish and one gets the idea also from the curators that no one in Brooklyn is painting or making objects any longer.
              This is what I call a walking nap show, (the recent Christopher Williams yawn at the Moma is another example). You walk and nap at the same time, waking up to take in the surrounding environment like the floors, walls and light fixtures instead of the work exhibited.  I noticed that everything looked snazzy and fabricated, how did these poor struggling young things manage to produce such smooth and perfect works. Of course I then realized that the show must have had corporate backers and foundations putting out the big bucks so that these clunkers could be expertly fabricated. And sure enough in the BKM handout folder there is the list of these big money backers.
             There is nothing wrong with this kind of support, most museum exhibitions need these backers, but the outcome in Brooklyn leaves much to be desired, and only proves that money alone can’t make wonderful exhibitions or compelling art. So what we have here is a perfectly made ice box attached to a tricycle that mimics the rougher and less attractive real life moveable stands that sell those wonderful cups of shaved ice covered with syrups in poor and Latino neighborhoods around the city. This little number has small video screens with sound imbedded in the cart along with the necessary bottles of colored syrups to pour over the shaved ices. The artist intends to go about town selling his shaved ices and recording the reactions of people, some videos are already running. There is also a pretty fabricated pigeon coop with real live homing pigeons, as if New Yorkers don’t have enough of these awful birds in our lives we now get to view them in a museum. Unclean unclean.
           There are lots of videos (naturally), survey pages about what it’s like living in Brooklyn pinned to a wall, ordinary large color photographs, 365 small paintings (the only paintings in the show) of clouds that look like photographs, handmade dresses with painted and drawn images of President Obama on them, (actually I liked these) and much more, way too much more. If this is the best that the curators could come up with then maybe this kind of show should cease to be.

I wear my high heels at night.

I tried to view the show “Killer Heels: The Art of The High-Heeled Shoe”, but after a few minutes in this very darkly lit and cramped show, which was actually about the size of a shoe box I gave up and left. Packed from what I could make out with mostly women dying for these historical, hysterical and contemporary shoes.  I got bumped and knocked into like a steel ball in a pinball machine with me ricocheting into shadowy perfumed figures too many times, and before my claustrophobia started to kick in and before I started to scream I fled. To bad because from the little I did manage to see over bodies much taller than myself it looked quite good but as I once said my days of going into small dark rooms came to an end in 1981. I should have taken my own advice.

           The third and final show I saw was the marvelous and moving “Judith Scott-Bound and Unbound” and where the shoe show was packed I was pretty much the only viewer in the gallery where these large wrapped sculptures are now residing until March. I knew about Ms. Scott for some time and had glimpses of her art and life, which was sad and daunting.
            Born with Down syndrome, deaf and mute and considered at the time to be profoundly “retarded” and without much hope. She was separated from her beloved “normal” twin sister and placed in an institution for the “mentally retarded” in 1950. All hope for her was gone and she fell into nearly complete despair, unreachable and unteachable.
           The story was terrible until her twin sister took control of her and moved them to California in 1985 and in 1987 enrolled her in the Creative Art Center where after a few months her life changed when she became intrigued and attracted to fiber art, and started to make these remarkable sculptures out of discarded materials especially colored yarns.    
                 No one knows what she was thinking when she was making these pieces, but happily for 17 years she produced this amazing and beautiful body of work before passing in 2005 at the age of 61. I spent quite a bit of time with these pieces marveling at the richness and beauty of them, at once odd and obsessive but also very sophisticated and refined. These are pieces that any artist can and should relish and embrace. I loved this show and it more than made up for any disappointments I had at the museum.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Judy Pfaff. Loretta Howard and Pavel Zoubok Galleries Spectacular! Spectacular!

So I’m sitting here at my computer looking at the many photos I took the other day at the two-gallery exhibition of Judy Pfaff’s art and coming to the conclusion that this show, this work by this artist is extraordinary. It sprawls, hangs, and climbs in vivid colors incorporating lots of great materials like wax, paper, neon, wire, twigs and other stuff. These are for the most part big abstract sculptures that talk about nature and landscapes, the beauty and mystery of the thing. And like nature it’s always showing us new things that maybe at first you didn’t see, like when you take a walk in the woods with someone who is a nature lover, and they point out things to you just beneath the surfaces of the ground, a rotting log when turned over shows maybe large green patches of moss, or the tracks of a wee animal.
Primordial. The works just ooze and heave, and although not actually moving there is a sense of animation, of life before life, and yes while these works draw you in and cast a magical spell, there is also a feeling of discomfort (certainly on my part) in these installations of unnatural nature which of course appeals to my own feelings and work about nature. Many of the pieces also have a sci-fi look to them, pods looking like they are about to explode and turn me into something that I don’t want to be. Color, texture and the use of theatricality.
Installation art has the intrinsic characteristic of theatricality and Pfaff has an amazing sense of this along with her strong and lovely use of color and her ability to mix and usually not match many different textures that are smooth, crinkly, waxy and rough. These are extravagant and generous pieces. There are also walls covered in photographic images. What are these murals I thought, are they memory reminisces, bulletin boards from her heart? There are lots of photographs of peaceful images and parts of her works with framed drawings and collages placed on top of them here and there that engulf the viewer like a movie, while sculptures hang down in front of them, and a large tree like sculpture stands guard so watch your back. This big black gnarly thing is the most intrusive and threatening piece in the show. This superb gorgeous joint exhibition will be up until November 15.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Alfred Wertheimer 1929-2014. Great photographer of Elvis Presley

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Conclave Journal has just published this Halloween photo of mine from a few years back. The journal is only available for sale at this link.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Judy Rifka

I took a trip down to the Gowanus Open Studios on Sunday to check out the new work of Judy Rifka. I usually don't like going to open studios, too crowded and most of the art that is shown is well to put it mildly average. However Rifka's new work which is packed into her small studio is strong and visually complex and I would love to see the pieces in a nice clean gallery space. Until that happens I found much to like, the swirling and dripping paint deep and rich blacks reminded me of black and white cookies, so maybe what I'm saying is that these large collaged and painted pieces on canvas are yummy. She also uses touches of color but very sparingly, a drop of red or sharp blue here and there, but its all black and white to me. I also liked what she did with the entrance to her space, making it like a doorway to a cave or a secret room, and I was delighted to take home with me a double dip small circular black and white painting on canvas.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Altoon Sultan. McKenzie Gallery

When one exits the D train at Grand Street on the lower east side, one is transported to another place. It’s like being drawn into a whirlwind of color, smells and busy human activity involving a lot of food and shopping and is mostly Asian. I feel like I am being carried away, lifted in the air and carried off to some giant Mosh pit. This is not a neighborhood that one leisurely strolls. I come here very infrequently usually to take in a gallery exhibition so I always find this part of my city always new, vivid and exciting, and a dreamscape for my camera. This is no longer the neighborhood of my Jewish ancestors, although some of this long gone history can still be found here. No now it’s a mixture of the large Chinese community spreading out from Chinatown and fast moving gentrified blocks of here today gone tomorrow galleries, trendy bars and restaurants. I have to say that I found it a relief from all the movement and collaged city streets to enter the serene and beautiful exhibition of Altoon Sultan that is now on view at the McKenzie Gallery on Orchard Street. Comprised of three intimate groupings of drawings, paintings and works in wool each group works beautifully on their own, but also work as a conversation piece. A complete set of amazing small strong works. The first group I came to were her framed drawings using egg tempera on paper that are made up of patterns circles, diamonds, triangles and spheres. All are rich in colors and line and according to the press release were influenced by a visit to the new Islamic wing at the Met. Actually all of the work shown was influenced and inspired by various art going experiences, but I would think that the artist’s life on her Vermont farm has also played an important role in her creative life. On the opposite walls are these very small paintings using egg tempera on parchment paper that are stretched on wood panels with most of them measuring a mere 6 x 8 inches. The paintings are of segments of machinery up close and tightly edited and cropped that Sultan based on photographs. One thinks of the Precisionist painters of the early 20th century especially Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth as a starting point but Sultan adds to this starting point by paring these “industrial images ”down to tight areas of abstraction with rich and beautiful colors. The final group of works are comprised of abstractions made from hand tied wool on linen and again are small in size but large in the attention that they command. These works will no doubt bring to mind for some the arts and crafts of women in their solitude making hooked rugs for their families to keep warm on those long cold winter nights. We know better because they transcend their folksy origins and sources and hang on the walls in strong tactile textures of hand dyed wool that are like kisses on the cheek. I should add that Altoon is a cherished Facebook friend of mine, along with many others who also writes about nature and cooking on her blog along with notes about her day to day life living in Vermont and the making of her wonderful works of art. This exhibitions is one of the treasures of the Fall art season and will be up until November 16th.

Crab Fat Magazine

Friday, October 17, 2014

At The Met On A Wet Day

I went back to the Met yesterday to catch up with a few shows that have recently opened and was not especially taken with the Thomas Struth photographs. They are for me big and dull. Especially tiring are his black and white images of empty New York City Streets from the late 70’s and look like the kind of photographs the city would use for zoning and real estate documentation. These are not very large and I guess they serve as some kind of timeline to the city’s recent past, but they are too cold and territorial for me. I prefer my New York City bustling at the seams, these are just dreary.  The large color cinematic photographs are strong in one or two images but mainly in the sense of surprise at how big they are. Ultimately they are just elephants in the room, and the exhibition is not large enough to really give the viewer a feeling for his work or what he is trying to do with these gigantic images. They’re like billboards in search of a wall and I can’t imagine how or why anyone would want to own of one these monsters, these conversation pieces and who has a wall big enough to hang one of these things over their couch? I know the answer of course. There are plenty of millionaires out there with the room for one of his photographs, but I come back to the question of why. His portraits are ordinary and in the give away brochure the examples illustrated include some deadly images of flowers and only add to my feeling that his is an oversized reputation, another big elephant, an emperor without his clothes that I don’t get but he certainly fits right in with the snazzy wow art world scene and showplace of the stars of which he is one of even if he glows dimly.  See it if you must.

Much more exciting and vivid and well worth a visit is Thomas Hart Benton’s tremendous 10 panel mural “America Today” that was originally done for the boardroom of the New School For Social Research. That was some boardroom. Its here now beautifully hung and restored in a wrap around gallery that recreates the original room and is epic in its strength and painting skill. Featuring ten panels made of different views and segments of American life from the 1920’s the mural features crowded scenes of different parts of the country along with day to day views of hard living and working with an acknowledgment of the coming of the great depression, along with more lighter moments in time and place. It was originally done for the New School in 1930 where it stayed for about 50 years before being sold to AXA Equitable, formerly known as Equitable Life, in 1984. The exhibition also features many of his preliminary drawings along with works by artists, who were active at the time, and not all were always friendly or sweet on him, check out the Stuart Davis painting who pretty much despised Benton. Also hanging is an early Jackson Pollock painting who was a student of Benton’s and posed for some of the figures in the mural. This is a wonderful thing to see and I know full well that some might find it old fashioned and conservative, and might have problems with Benton’s politics (I sure do) but there’s no denying the scope and magnificence of this work. 

Kimono A Modern History

This was the final exhibition I took it, and it is a dazzling display of fashion and pattern that traces the history of the kimono in Japanese history and culture from the late 18th Century up to today. There are some fifty of these robes basking in a lovely display in the Asian wing along with supplement material of  prints, books, ceramics and postcards. These postcards are small color delights showing women shopping at Takashimaya’s that was the first shop to sell kimonos and opened in Kyoto in 1831 . But it’s the kimono’s that are the stars of this show, so rich and beautiful with elaborate patterns and designs all superbly made in beautiful color and fabrics.  There are also strange and odd examples here like the children’s kimono festooned with images of Mickey Mouse and one from the war years with fighter planes. This exhibition is also a nice companion piece to the eye popping Matisee extravaganza of paper cutouts now at the Moma. Both shows offer powerful images both as art and fashion.
Site Meter