Saturday, October 31, 2015

Last notebook drawing of October 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Art Brut In America. The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet. American Folk Art Museum.

A critic who knew me well, once wrote about my art in which she said that if she didn’t know how sophisticated and knowledgeable I was about art, I could be taken for an outsider artist. I’m recalling this quote from memory and I think she used the now politically incorrect art term “primitive” instead of the nicer “outsider artist.” At the time I was not pleased, I mean who wants to be called primitive, but I’ve come to take it as a compliment, for I relish the fact of my being an outsider.
This brings me to the superb new exhibition that just opened at the great American Folk Art Museum. The show’s historical trail is long and involved, and I’ll make it short. The many works included were once part of Jean Dubuffet’s private collection of art done by the untrained, the criminal and the insane, and he gave them the name of Art Brut which is still being used today and is indeed the title of the show. The work wound up for a time on display at the estate of the artist Alfonso Ossorsio (who by the way has some of his own art in the show and is long overdue for a major retrospective) but after a time, Dubuffet took it back and gifted it to Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland, where it resides today. On view is nearly 200 examples from this remarkable collection and it gave me great pleasure along with some shocks, (at times it was like sticking my finger in an electrical socket) along with the usual sadness that comes over me when viewing this kind of work.
I can’t really come up with any pieces that I didn’t like, each piece for me was intense and obsessive (basic traits of this kind of art making) and outrageously beautiful. I did love A Carlo Zinelli’s work of bold and simple animal like shapes and silhouettes that were surround by graffiti like inscriptions and writings, Heinrich Anton Muller’s bold drawings of large and distorted heads, Aloise Corbaz’s large expressionistic colorful pencil portraits and the great and probably the best known artist in the exhibition Adolf Wolfli’s intricate and intense colored pencil drawings. Colored pencils seem to to a favorite medium for these Bruts, maybe because they were easy to come by and inexpensive. I also flipped for Juliette Elisa Bataille’s small and almost too beautiful (can anything ever be too beautiful?) wool embroideries that are placed in vitrines along with some anonymous children’s drawings that also are breathtaking. There are also some brilliant sculptures, the best being the large carved busts and heads made from volcanic rocks by Barbus Muller who for years remained “anonymous”. Notebooks and journals are also plenty here and is also a common approach to art making by the Bruts, probably because of the small scale and the secretive aspects of this mode of expression. There is much more to cherish and wow over, and I’ll leave that up to each visitor to find their own favorite Bruts. The exhibition is on only until Jan. 10th.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

If and Only If

"If and Only If a Journal Of Body Image and Eating Disorders" has just published this drawing that I did as a teenager.

notebook drawing October 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Joaquin Torres-Garcia: The Arcadian Modern." The Museum Of Modern Art

            Maybe it’s me but lately I’ve not been getting much joy or pleasure from what I’ve been seeing in the galleries. When I start admiring the floors instead of the art, then I know something is wrong. True these galleries are limited to Chelsea, and because of my own personal trials and tribulations, It’s difficult for me to get to the more hip areas of the city where many galleries are located. My bad.
            Oh occasionally for old times sake I’ll travel up to 57th street and take in a few shows in the remaining few galleries on that once beautiful street that is now scared and vicious with ugly tall cylinders that have ruined the scale of block, but I have to make do with what I can do so my complaints are indeed focused on Chelsea.
            This is a neighborhood that you might say I grew up in, having moved to an 6th floor walkup apartment on 8th avenue when I was barely 19 years old and I stayed  in the neighborhood here and there  for over 30 years.  Part of the problem is the slick, slack and commercial texture that this area has become. To some degree everything looks shiny, new, expensive and fake and this includes much of the art and the spaces that show it.
                  Take the other day, what I saw to a large extent was all gloss and superficial.  Everything looked like Tiffany windows full of bubbles bangles and beads, and everything was on the same low level both in energy and artistic chops. Whether they were paintings or objects it all looked the same and left me feeling drained, uninterested and somewhat depressed.  
              Happily though I have been getting my kicks in art viewing at the great museums that fill this Gotham of mine and I can now without haste or hesitation say that the newly installed retrospective of the great and mostly unknown (in this country anyway) Joaquin Torres Garcia at the Moma is a beguiling and intricately  stunning show. 
              Beautifully installed in one of the awkward 6th floor galleries,  the exhibition covers his entire career of art making and I left the show feeling that this was an art life well lived. This feeling doesn’t happen that often for me, especially at this place. Born in Uruguay   he straddled  both the late 19th century and the 20th dying at mid-century in 1949 at 75, not very old by today’s standard of old age.  
           His most famous and best known works are probably his grid like picto paintings that are here in force, delicate and mostly grey and minimal but lively and magical because of what he put in these landscapes of ups and downs, of lines and cubes. These are the works that do doubt gave inspiration to Adolph Gottlieb and others with their tight complicated little spaces filled with tiny hearts and faces. Boats  and suns, fish and clocks. He took cubism and made it personal mixing the abstract with representation. He came to New York City and loved it so much that he stayed for three years absorbing the energy and the artists living and working here and taking the shapes lines and colors for his paintings. Also great and well represented in the exhibition are many of his small (and a few big ones) wood constructions that are rough but elegant at the same time, and these pieces were really of interest to me, how could they not be? Also marvelous are his simple wooden toys that I remember seeing when I was a very young artist maybe at the Guggenheim. Here they are exhibited mainly in a large wall display hung in a way that brings to mind a toy store window. This show will hold me with hope and excitement until I get to see something wonderful elsewhere which will most likely be in my own small art making room in my small apartment in Brooklyn. The exhibition is on display until February.    

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Maureen O'Hara 1920-2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

notebook drawing October 2015

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Postcard October 2015

Saturday, October 17, 2015

October 2015

This piece is the 3rd in a series and is made from the "shell" of a notebook after I used up all the paper. The pieces are closed like a book and when you open it this is what you see.

Friday, October 16, 2015


While I'm at it you can view two of my drawings at this link. Its the latest from Sediments Literary Magazine. Those too lazy I've put them up right here.

Oddball Magazine

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Joan Leslie. January 26, 1925 – October 12, 2015

postcard October 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Alberto Burri: The Trauma Of Painting. The Guggenheim Museum

Well I made it up to the GuMu today to see the Burri show, and I thought it quite good. Its full of textures and vivid abstraction that some might find too elegant and too planned but I took it all in and was delighted with his work which I didn't know all that well, so there were lots of surprises for me and the work looks great in this sometime difficult space. Being surprised by an artist is always a good thing. His use of materials was also exciting, I love materials and textures also so there were al ots of things for me to ponder and at times these "paintings" verge into sculptures that hang on the wall. Listen this guy was ahead of his time, giving up medicine to take up art, spending time in Texas in a prisoner of war camp (spending time in Texas is bad enough for any reason let alone in a prisoner of war camp). The paintings are perfect also for the period late 40's early 50's and would look great in a room with Danish modern furniture, and thats not meant as an insult. So I think you would enjoy this show, and if not so who cares.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Berlin Metropolis 1918-1933. Neue Galerie

          I was on my way to the Guggenheim on Sunday to see the Alberto Burri show, when I came upon the Neue Galerie where the exhibition Berlin Metropolis 1918-1933 is now on view. Since it was a few minutes before it opened for the day, and there was no line, I decided to jump at the chance to see this show and save the Burri for another day. It is a wonderful show in a very uncomfortable space. Think of being in a stalled crowded subway car or a guest filled living room of your rich aunt Yetta and you should get an idea of what it’s like visiting and viewing art in this elegant but claustrophobic space.
              That said as I said it is a marvelous show rich and full of great works including lots of goodies by some of my favorite all time artists including but not limited to George Grosz, who has a few untypical paintings (They’re softer and gentler in technique) along with several paintings done in his more familiar style.  Hannah the great Hoch gives us her haunting and imaginative collages along with several  paintings never before shown in this country that surprise and show us that she just wasn’t a femme collagist,  a maker of little “things”.  Strong meat  and potatoes are served on her plate. In fact women come off strong here and are even given their own gallery titled ‘The Neue Frau” or New Women and it’s here that many of the sexually exciting and erotic works by both female and male artists (including Hoch) are displayed including some small drawings that look like they are about to morph into pornography and  Christian Schad’s  sexually explicit and beautiful painting “Two Girls” painted in 1926. Its also in this gallery that bits and pieces of fashion and jewelry are displayed along with some nice publicity portraits of  the Jewish actress and cabaret performer Valeska Gert who of course was banned from performing when the Nazi’s came to power.
            Also in the show is a beautiful suite of lithographs titled “Trip to Berlin” by the great Max Beckmann in which he shows us the city from day to night as does Walther Ruttmann in his superb 1927 film “Berlin Symphony of a Metropolis” which is screening in one of the galleries. I saw it a few years back at the Small theatre in Carnegie Hall with music supplied by a live orchestra and it was thrilling. Along with the film the original striking poster is also on display. 
                Film and photography play a big part in the exhibition. There are film sequences from  “Metropolis” and “M” two films that I have seen many times along with original color drawings for the costumes from “Metropolis” that look like they were done yesterday and wonderful original stills and a poster from “M” along with sketches for sets and stills from less known films which should thrill movie lovers. Also on view are photographs and drawings of the beautiful movie theatres that once were part of the Berlin landscape. I also was delighted  to see many works by  László Moholy-Nagy  which should wet your appetite (it did mine)  for his retrospective due at the Guggenheim next year, and the political collages of the great John Heartfield who bravely took on the fascists in his still potent collages and graphic works.  I’ve used the adjective great quite a bit here, but there is no getting around the fact that this is a show of great things.
              There were several artists I had not known before like Oskar Nerlinger and some that I knew but was pretty much in the fog about their work like Heinrich Heckroth. The show is broken up into themes 6 to be exact that fill the small galleries and even the corridors with work installed salon style that forces you to move back to see some of the higher placed pieces and if you’re not careful knocking into someone also trying to get a better view.  I did like and appreciated their use of labeling which uses small photo images of the works along with information about each piece that  are placed on the wall at the beginning of each display and not next to each piece, maybe other institutions and galleries should pick up on this use of labeling instead of those awful pieces of paper they hand out  with diagrams and outlines of the works (the Picasso show at the Moma is guilty of this) that are confusing and confounding but seem to be all the rage these days.
            And then there’s Hitler. Always Hitler.  The final heartbreaking gallery is titled “Into The Abyss” and we all know what happened to this once glorious city. I have always been fascinated by Berlin before the 2nd world war and my shock and despair over the destruction of this once beautiful city always saddens and unnerves me especially when seen in newsreel footage. There are no photos of the final outcome for Berlin, after all it’s a show celebrating what it was and not what it became and stops at 1933, but the outcome is there in our minds and visions. I went to Germany once in 1971 for an exhibition of mine in Cologne but didn’t travel anywhere else in the country, because to be honest about it, I didn’t like being there, and I wanted out asap. You can read about my experience there on my blog at this link.
This great exhibition runs through January 4th 2016.

Notebook drawing October 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Mother's Day

Found this letter to my mother on Mother's Day 1957 in an old folder. I had just turned 10. The things one finds.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Otis Nebula

This is very nice. The on line literary magazine Otis Nebula has used my art for their entire issue. Simply click on each entry to see my art. Also you can view 78 pieces of my art from my teen years to the present if you click on the Learn More about Ira Joel Haber link on the bottom of the page, you can view the work as a slide show or each one individually.

Friday, October 02, 2015

I did very little art in September

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