Wednesday, December 30, 2015


A rare treat to see the great Imelda Staunton knock it out of the ballpark. This is probably the best Mama Rose I've ever seen. Staunton is superb. Take the time to see this.

Oddball Magazine

The final literary magazine appearance of the year for me. Oddball Press has just posted poems by Scott Laudati and Donnie Welch with two of my drawings. See them at this link.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Notebook drawing December 2015

Haskell Wexler 1922-2015

Ellsworth Kelly 1923-2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Notebook drawing December 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Gateway Review

The Gateway Review has just published their 2nd issue with a collage cover by me. You can buy the issue for only $3.50 at this link.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Botanical. 2. 2015

 8 ½” x  10 ½” x 3” Mixed.

Notebook drawing December 2015

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mad Max Fury Road 2015

             I must say that I am surprised over all the love and awards being thrown at Max this awards season,  who would have thought it possible. I saw it last night and although hardly (pun intended) terrible I would never pick it out for best picture honors. True its not been a great year in film, and somewhere I think that the carrying on the shoulders of this film might also be a backlash against the mediocre "Spotlight" that at one point seemed destined to win all the awards this year. It ain't happening and maybe I'm not the only person in the world that couldn't stand the film. I would much rather watch the sublime Tom Hardy attached to the front of a erector set like vehicle looking like a strange hood ornament then watch Michael Keaton sitting behind a desk.
            We all know the story of Mad Max and his survival among the fittest in an apocalyptic world run and ruined by ferocious bands of scavengers and mongers of all sorts. In this newly minted version Max is back and when we first see him his good looking face is masked in a iron clad mask and chained to the front of that vehicle. The world is a mess and a wasteland and the same can also be said of the movie which is basically two wild bookended chase sequences across the desert by the villain who controls the water and gas supplies and the “good” guys and gals. He also wants his women back, especially the one carrying his child who have been rescued by Charlize Theron a rebel fighter with a nice butch hair do and one arm, who does amazing things with that one limb.
                 The film itself is not that violent and gruesome, with most of the more hideous stuff happening off screen and is of the comic book cartoon variety and this might also be one of the reasons for its appeal among the award voters. It is also topical and somewhat political especially with what’s going on in the world and it shakes rattles and rolls for it’s nearly two hour running time. Boring it ain’t. I should say that there are some vivid images, a landscape in the desert is actually a man buried in the sand who slowly rises, night scenes that are inky blue and all those strange assemblages that are moving and racing vehicles not to mention all those freaky looking nasties dressed in fashions dragged from some flea market in hell. So come February we might very well see this apocalyptic sci fi thriller walk off with a best picture Oscar, hell worse films have done so in the past. Anyone for “Crash.”

Monday, December 14, 2015

The best exhibitions of 2015 Part 2


Claes Oldenburg Paula Cooper Gallery

I loved to bits was The Claes Oldenburg jam packed show at Paula Cooper. Titled “Things Around The House” with co credit given to his late partner Coosje Van Bruggen. Still this is all Claes with works going back to the early 60’s and beyond. There are great pieces here both soft and hard, large and small that  hang, lean and sprawl across tables walls and floors. What was wonderful also is how close we can get to the works. Oldenburg is another of my major influences and I’ve written about how he gave me the freedom and permission to do what I wanted and in spite of poverty and lack of attention I have. This is a grand show full of humor color and ideas and this was an exhibition that I wanted to take home with me.


Morandi at David Zwirner

Also great is the Morandi show at David Zwirner of his small landscape like paintings of simple objects such as bottles, boxes  and jugs set on tables that become pale and intimate landscapes that compel the viewer because of his use of simple objects and lush brush work using subtle color combinations. Heady stuff but also beautiful in its’very quiet  and understated way. This was a painter who gave me much trouble when I was young, maybe they were too simple and subtle for me, but I’ve since come around or perhaps matured enough to grasp their great beauty. 


Brice Marden Mathew Marks

The beautiful double dose of Brice Marden at the Mathew Marks Galleries. These are luscious panels of deep monochromatic colors, deep browns, green and reds whose surfaces are smooth and enticing like the skins of puddings along with bottom borders of thin drip like painting that hem them.  Also included are a few of his well known calligraphic paintings that consist of curvy lines against pale blue backgrounds. They bring to mind nature especially the rich earth colors and the pale blue backgrounds. There are also some terrific drawings made up of calligraphic marks that are dense and complex in their design and execution. This is a painter at the top of his game and a pleasure for us all.


Alice Neel Drawings and watercolors  David Zwirner

This is a splendid show that was especially moving and surprising for me. What I loved the most, the best of all were her small color and black and white drawings and watercolors from the 20's, 30's that line the walls in the upper gallery and that I've never seen before. Neel's life is the stuff of legends and she is generally held in high regard by many for her intense and penetrating portraits. There are also some larger drawings and portraits (mainly in black and white)  from  the 70's but for me they pale next to these intense and touching little gems of family and friends done when she was young. To be honest I was not a big fan of hers as a person, I found her difficult to be around, pushy, argumentative and self involved. Once at a Whitney opening she baited a well known realist painter for no reason I could see, and the painter bit back hard. I also was once at a small dinner party with her and Louise Bourgeois (way before Louise was famous) and Alice dominated the conversation. At one point she asked me what I did and when I told her I was an artist, she turned away and continued her monologue while me and Louise sat quietly by. That said I think she was a wonderful artist, and this show is a great testament to her art and her life.


Joyce Kozloff  D.C. Moore.

        Joyce Kozloff show “Maps + Paintings” which is now on view at DC Moore Gallery. Of course one is struck (or should be) by the vast and intricate vistas of patterns, designs and color that Kozloff offers up in these large scale works of paint and collage, and as you get deeper into them they reveal much more, signs and political points along with autobiographical notes told through bits and pieces of personal stuff and things.
                Maps can tell us where we are, where we are going and where we’ve been at the same time they document our world, how it looks now and how it looked then. There are also the fantastical fictional maps of lands that only exist in the minds and imaginations of writers and artists. Who hasn’t made maps when young, of their neighborhoods or places they would like to go.
             They are also tactile: They come folded, rolled and sometimes they are laid into books, they’re given away for free and some can be quite rare and costly. I once had a part time job working for a rare map dealer and got to touch and look at maps so old that they gave me the creeps and took my breath away with their hand colored areas of land and water.
              I’ve always been intrigued and impressed by KozIoff’s take on maps and her imaginative and dazzling art that incorporates the real world and her private vision of that world. I remember the early days of Painting and Decoration (P&D) in which Kozloff was a strong presence and along with others did battle with the many who thought there was no room in the art world for simply beautiful works especially when done by women, God forbid.


Merlin James at Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

               How perfect that this artist is named Merlin for he casts a wide and magical spell in his latest show of perfectly scaled paintings that for the most part are abstract but have dollops of landscapes, figures (including some erotic ones) and oddly shaped canvases. Yes these are magical and subtle and seductive little darlings that are mouth watering in their casualness, colors and markings. In some of the works Merlin reverses the canvas and shows us the stretchers and supports that are minimally painted with lovely shapes and incorporating small 3-D elements usually hovering on the edges and are then covered over with a transparent layer or scrim giving them a theatrical look as if we are watching a play that is about to happen.  
                            One canvas has a single flower growing out of a vase set on a table that at first I thought it was a person wearing a weird hat, another is a tangy erotic almost pornographic painting of a woman, legs spread and hunched on a table top with an detached erect penis hovering near her vagina like a space ship about to take off. There are also sublime landscapes with acidy colors, textured mountains and small marvelous abstractions so beautifully painted and composed in their small constricted spaces that they catch you off guard in their perfect splendor. As usual critics have the need to compare and line up influences when composing their reviews and articles, “they remind me of this painter and that painter” and I guess that’s their job, but it’s not mine. I look at other artist’s art for what is there in front of me (or in many cases what isn’t there) and with these terrific paintings I simply relish them for their own being.


System and Vision. David Zwirner Gallery

is a marvelous and dense group show called "System and Vision" and consists of 100's of pieces by an assortment of wild woolly and cuckoo "artists" who are now generally referred to as outsider artists. I call them self taught wonders. This is a grab your hankie eye opening extravaganza of the odd and odder and this stuff not only woke me up with a bang but also put a big smile on my face.
        Lets see there were 12 artists included with one who was completely anonymous and was known as "Type 42"  because of the polaroid film stock he used to take 100's of closeup portraits of actresses off the t.v. screen  in the 1960's. Also great were the "dirty" drawings by William Crawford whose archive of several hundred of these sexually explicit pencil drawings were found in an abandoned house in Ca. Raunchy was never more wonderful.
              There were also the 40 years worth of Polaroids by Hans Ademeit who documented those deadly cold rays that fell on himself and the environment with his minuscule writing on the white borders of the photos. If these don't make you gasp nothing will. There were also beautiful disturbing  color drawings by Prophet Royal Robertson who combined biblical Prophecies (a favorite among the outsiders) along with science fiction and futurism.
           Also great were the scrapbook pages kept by a dentist Francesco Ponte who lived n San Juan and who in the 1920's documented seances he conducted by pasting strange photographs he took on black paper along with his elegant writing in white ink.  This whole show is unsettling, brilliant and memorable with most of the work borrowed from the collections of the Delmes & Zander Gallery in Germany. I loved this show.

One Way Ticket. Jacob Lawerence’s Migration Series

Took in One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series and  Other Works today at a member's preview. Superb and rare exhibition of 60 of his great small paintings that are richly painted and potent with deep feelings and historical content. The show is beautifully installed and includes adjacent galleries of other African American artists of the period,along with books,ephemera and a gallery of great photographs plus two short film clips of Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit and Marian Anderson's Lincoln Memorial concert. Almost takes the bad taste away of the Bjork disaster and the tiresome Forever No painting show which will happily be gone in a few days. Bjork will be with us until June. Yikes.


John Singer Sargent at The Met

The most beautiful exhibition up now in the city are the 90 works many monumental in size by John Singer Sargent, but many of my favorites were not included. Sargent painted the rich and famous of his day, which some might find distasteful, after all these were very privileged people, but so what, there are many artists who to this day are painting the rich and famous and not nearly as compelling as Sargent's. Do you want a list? Then there are his paintings of children which are superb, has an artist ever painted children as breathtaking as his? There are some watercolors small and homoerotic in the last gallery and then there are those rumors about his sexuality which add a nice dose of spice to his long and magnificent career. The Metropolitan Museum through Oct. 4th.



The best exhibitions of 2015 Part 1

ira joel haber. The best art exhibitions 2015 Part 1.

This was a tough year for me, illness, profound deaths and the usual problems that come with being an aging artist. That said I did manage to get out and see a lot of art, some, great, some good and some very bad indeed. The list here is limited to what I saw in museums (mostly) and galleries (mainly in Chelsea) and I know that many good shows were unseen by me in the far reaches of the city. Sorry its just too difficult for me to see everything. I also saw lots of terrific work right here on fb, but I'm not mentioning any names because I don't want any hurt feelings here. I've edited some of the longer posts but have included links to them on my blog.

Picasso Sculpture. The Museum Of Modern Art

I went to see a show that I knew I would love and I was not wrong. In fact I loved it even more than I could have imagined, after all this was a show of work by my father and your father. For if not Picasso who then could I call my pops.

Growing up I thought of sculpture as something dull and static. The stuff you would see in parks or on on top of buildings where pigeons paraded and rested. Of course I changed my mind as I grew up and looked and saw and loved what sculpture could be. The Moma was my school my class and its where I saw my first of everything wonderful including Popa Picasso. He's now residing at this still sometimes great museum and the pulse races and the heart soars on viewing this great and memorable exhibition

One can spend time just thinking about his use of materials that still look fresh and original like they were made yesterday, how did he come up with that, or this. Twisting banging and hammering materials to fit his visions. Then there are the Boisgeloup scuptures these large heads and busts that looked deformed hurt and not easy to look at. Made of cement and plaster they haunt.

Let me stop and just say that this is the show of the year, maybe the decade and its on until Feb. The crowds will be rough and large so be prepared to be annoyed but also inspired and thrilled. Ah Popa.

Berlin-Metropolis 1918-1933. The Neue Galerie

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
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.
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
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
This great exhibition runs through January 4th 2016.

When The Curtain Never Comes Down & Art Brut In America. The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet. American Folk Art Museum.

The first thing that comes over me when I see a show of outsider art is sadness, for the terrible lives that most of these creative souls have led. Isolation, insanity, incarceration, hospitalization, homelessness poverty and more. I also feel anxiety but then I am overtaken by a serious sense of joy and exuberance for what they created and what they have (if lucky) left behind for us to treasure and love.
The wonderful American Folk Art Museum which in its original tight and small space near Lincoln Center now has on view one of the best exhibitions of outsider art that I’ve seen in a long time “When The Curtain Never Comes Down”, it’s title can also be seen as a bitter retort to the behemoth Museum Of Modern Art which after buying the building from the debt ridden Folk Art Museum criminally tore down its striking barely 12 year old building which had the misfortune to find itself next door and in the way of the constantly expanding and critically under sieged Moma.
Beautifully and intelligently curated byValerie Rousseau who by the way might be my favorite curator of the moment. The exhibition fills every nook and cranny of this intimate (some might say cramped) space with many jaw dropping and magnificent pieces made by a wide range of outsiders from the 19th century to the present.
In the show are two immense very theatrical and impressive bright red sculptures made of wood strips, one of a house and the other of a cross cut saw that were created for use in strange religious healing ceremonies by a grass roots southern spiritual church called the Saint Paul Spiritual Holy Temple that are as compelling and brilliant as anything you will see this spring in galleries or any where else.
Theatrical is also one of the themes of this show, (again the title says much) and a large group of works are comprised of superb costumes and clothes that were sometimes worn by their creators in their everyday lives or were used in personal street like performances.
Some of the great ones include clothing that work as sculptures by Vahan Poladian and the extraordinary clothes made by Giuseppe Versino while he was boarded away in an Italian Insane Asylum. Made from rags and such that he tore apart and rewove and braided to make these gray and textural clothes that a Golem or Frankenstein’s monster would love. These are arguably the most compelling and important works in the show.

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. The exhibition is on only until Jan. 10th.

Joaquin-Torres Garcia The Museum Of Modern Art

Beautifully installed in one of the awkward 6th floor galleries, Joaquin Torres Garcia at the Moma is a beguiling and intricately stunning show. 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. 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.

The New Whitney

I think the new building is a partial success, the large lobby is by and large very uninviting and way too corporate looking. What is it with museum lobbies? I always feel that I'm going to miss my plane or I'm on my way to surgery. It’s way too cold but maybe they will figure out how to make it more inviting. I also thought that the elevators are too small and don't know if the one large one will be available for patrons. However the galleries themselves are very nice, and I like that the elevators opened up in the galleries themselves, just like the old Whitney.
The views of the city from the galleries and especially the terraces are great, and the galleries themselves are spacial and well lite, and there are toilets on every floor. The art that is now up is on the whole very good, sometimes great, sometimes thrilling with many examples of unknown, or rarely seen artists. It was strange to be in this new Whitney and the choice of location was a brilliant move on their part. I can't predict the future for this place will it become a tourist magnet like the Moma or just be the good new old Whitney,spectacular but still low-keyed.

James 'Son Ford' Thomas: The Devil and His Blues 80WSE Gallery

This profoundly moving, beautiful and heartbreaking exhibition consists of about 100 unfired and mostly delicately colored small clay sculptures by James ‘Son Ford’ Thomas who passed in 1993 and who was also a noted Delta Blues Musician.. Thomas was inventive, highly imaginative and resourceful in the materials that he found and used including dentures, real and fake hair, eyeglasses and other bits and pieces, and he sometimes sold some of these heads some of which were hollowed out in the back as ashtrays and holders for paper clips. There are also many sweet and gentle small sculptures of birds, snakes, squirrels and fish along with some wonderful clay scenes of everyday life. As I said Thomas was also a musician and his music fills the galleries along with two documentaries on his life and work. One of My Favorite Shows of the year

Frank Stella At The Whitney

This is a bold impressive and beautiful retro that for many will be the show to see this Fall. Sprawling and falling all over the huge 5th floor galleries of the New Whitney it's both theatrical and industrial, aggressive and gentle . Old pieces including his great stripe and shaped canvases mix it up with newer works and sometimes the exhibition looks like the work of two artists. There's a lot here to take in, maybe too much, but sometimes too much is ok. Not every thing was to my liking; the last gallery as far as I'm concerned was a bust. The size of the works are still huge, but all the color and dazzle is gone and we are left with big grey mixtures of muck that fail to hold up especially since they share the space with wall to wall windows over looking the downtown town of Manhatttta which pretty much takes over the show, the space and us.
Still this is some show, let me tell you, and I left feeling a little dazed and dizzy by the spectacle of it all but also with an exuberance and gratitude in my heart and soul for my being an artist and for the marvelous gift of Frank Stella.

H. C/ Westermann. Venus Gallery

There is a marvelous and quite remarkable survey of H.C. Westermann’s art now on at the Venus Gallery on the upper Eastside of the city that I urge all to see. The show has the title of “See America First” which is the title of several beautiful drawings that he did after traveling cross country with his first wife in 1964 and 3 of these drawings are in the show, along with many of his great sculptures that are both large and small in size, that are beautifully crafted and made and tough and complex in concept.
One can and should of course admire and marvel at his great skill at carpentry and metal work and his use of exotic materials and the many kinds of woods he used. Also great are his drawings and watercolors and prints which are also plenty and aglow in the show. This exhibition is splendid in its look and installation and besides reminding me how much he is missed it also underlines the fact that I consider him one of the great artists of the last half of the 20th Century. This is one of the best exhibitions of 2015.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Coney Island: Visions of An American Dreamland, 1861-2008 The Brooklyn Museum

A lot of thought and work went into this by and large wonderful exhibition documenting this famous Brooklyn fun place. As someone who grew up in the 1950's going to this place I was looking forward to seeing this show. My main memories are of the beach of course but also Steeplechase which was the sprawling aged amusement park that filled my childhood with inspiration and wonder and some of this does come across in the show especially in the superb paintings of Reginald Marsh who is well represented and some of the actual artifacts that are the real stars of the show.
The show is strong with some terrific paintings that along with the great Marsh include works by Joseph and Frank Stella, Milton Avery and several artists who were unknown to me and whetted my appetite to see more of their work. As I said the show also has some stuff saved from Coney including carousel horses, side show banners and posters, and plaster of paris monsters that graced some of the facades of horror show rides and gave me nightmares for days.
There are also postcards way too many I thought and what reason possessed the curators to place a copy of "A Coney Island of the Mind" the famous collection of poetry by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in a glass case just because the cover is illustrated with a photo of Luna Park. Surely they could have used this display case for better examples of Coney Island memorabilia.
There are also film clips from a wide range of films that used Coney Island as a background (The Crowd, Speedy) or as a vivid co-star (The Little Fugitive) along with many historical photographs and stunning pieces by some of the great photographers of the 20th century Arbus, Frank, Wegee and Stock. The show for me looses it's speed and interest with the final gallery that is filled with contemporary art and photographs and except for the terrific Red Groom's did nothing for me. The best book on Coney Island is "Coney Island Lost and Found" by Charles Denson who grew up there and documented the decline and fall with his precocious camera even sneaking into Steeplechase right before it was criminally destroyed and documenting it. The book is also jam packed with historical material and surprisingly it was now where to be found in the gift store. Maybe its out of print. With all its faults (there is not one memento of Nathan's) this is still a valuable show and definitely worth the visit out to my borough. It will be on view until March 13th.

Palaver Journal

Palaver Journal has just published 3 of my notebook drawings. You can view them and the entire big issue at this link. Its a flipbook type of thing kinda nice. My drawings are on pg. 75,76 & 127.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Notebook drawing December 2015

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Marcia Haber Colton 1941-2015

Sorry to report that my sister Marcia passed away yesterday.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Holly Woodlawn 1946-2015

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Robert Loggia 1930-2015

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