Sunday, June 04, 2017

Florine Stettheimer. The Jewish Museum

This seems like the perfect show for spring in New York. I went yesterday when the museum is free, and I think this is the best deal in the city simply because the other exhibitions on view are hardly worth the 15.00 entrance fee. But hey I went for Florine and I was not disappointed. Even though the show is small and a little cramped her paintings drawings and collages were magical and beguiling. I've always loved her quirky work. The paintings are full of busy twisty little figures, the creme de la creme of high society and artistic circles of New York City that once was. Stettheimer was rich and privileged and was known for her mix and match parties and social gatherings. She painted her mother and sisters over and over along with some noted folks of the time including her good buddy Marcel Duchamp. The textures and colors of her works are bright and flashy with built up surfaces and textures here and there. They pull you in, you stop and stare, a smile crosses your face and for a while you are happy again. For a little while that is, until you remember that there is an orange monster in the white house. She also made her own frames and the one she made for her Duchamp painting is a doosie. The paintings have a sophistication but also might be mistaken for a self taught artist living their days in a mental hospital or a prison up on the Hudson. There were many new discoveries here for me, the small works with collaged material were especially good, and all the stuff on her theatrical collaboration with Virgil Thompson for the opera 4 saints in 3 acts was also a welcomed treat. See this one, but again take advantage of the free day on Saturday. This is a pretty museum but their exhibitions can be overworked in the curatorial dept. with cramped and busy installations like the two dreadful shows up on the 2nd floor.


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