After Tuesday’s announcement that L.A.’s Exposition Park would become home to the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “People will visit from around the world to see the original Darth Vader mask and Norman Rockwell paintings.” But what else from filmmaker George Lucas
I am looking forward to this but it is one of the more curious concepts to come out in a bit for the art world. The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be a first-of-its kind institution: an anthropological museum of visual storytelling.
Currently, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has an exhibition called Pop, Minimal, and Figurative Art, The Fisher Collection (May 14, 2016-ongoing). The entire exhibition is based around the art of famous Pop Artists, such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. I had the pleasure of viewing Roy Lichtenstein’s Figures with Sunset while visiting the SF MoMA.
Figures with Sunset is a very large piece of art. It is 107 inches x 167 inches and takes up an entire wall in the exhibition hall. It was constructed in 1978 and is oil and Magna on canvas.
This piece was part of a two decade study Lichtenstein did where he “reinterpreted great works of modern art in a Pop Art style” (Met Museum). Another example of a piece in this study is Stepping Out.
The piece exhibits Lichtenstein’s typical style of using uniform dots to add color and dimension, but…
What role did art play in the quest for equality and the affirmation of black identity in segregated America? The exhibition pays tribute to the African-American artists and thinkers who contributed, during a century and a half-long struggle, to blurring this discriminatory “color line”.
As record numbers of visitors’ flock to the new African-American history museum in Washington, another landmark exhibit has opened across the Atlantic, offering a stark and sometimes brutal take on racism in the United States through the lenses of black artists.
An exhibition at Paris’s Quai Branly Museum has come under fire for its descriptions of slavery in the United States. In a booklet that accompanied the exhibition, which is titled “The Color Line,” the lifestyle of certain slaves was described as “pleasant.” Elsewhere there were claims that discrimination based on skin color ended in the US in 1964.
Running until mid-January 2017 at the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac Museum in Paris, “The Color Line” spans post-Civil War America through a stunning trove of 600 books, posters, paintings and video clips. They document the struggles and gradual empowerment of African-Americans through art.
“French people know jazz music and some black movie stars and literature. They know words like ‘Ferguson,’ ” said the show’s curator, Daniel Soutif, referring to the 2014 race riots and protests in the U.S. state of Missouri, touched off by the fatal shooting of a black youth by a white police officer. “So one aspect of the show is to complete their culture, to show black people aren’t only those killed on the streets, but also very important artists.”
The show traces the origins of the “color line,” a term referring to racial segregation in America after the abolition of slavery in 1865. It explores how blacks were ridiculed in vaudeville shows and movies, faced discrimination through Jim Crow laws in the southern United States and elsewhere, and fought for their country during the World Wars in a segregated military.
Expressions of brutality
Perhaps the most chilling part of the show deals with the brutal practice of lynching’s. One painting shows hooded members of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan erecting a cross, lit up by a bloody moon; another, by Lois Mailou Jones, shows the anguish of a shackled man minutes before his death.
“We try to present the context,” Soutif said. “Words like Reconstruction or Jim Crow — they mean nothing to French people.”
In some ways, the exhibit seems a given for the French capital, long a magnet for legions of African-American writers, artists and musicians who found the liberation they were denied at home.
An untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat broke the artist’s world auction record, selling for $57.3 million at Christie’s on May 10.
Christie’s major sale of postwar and contemporary art at Rockefeller Center in New York scored $318.4 million on Tuesday evening, near the low end of the presale estimate of $285.6 million to $398.2 million. Of 60 lots on offer (one was withdrawn), 52, or 87 percent, were sold.
Even considering the addition of Loic Gouzer’s $78 million hybrid “Bound to Fail” sale on May 8, totals to date—total current Christie’s sales of about $400 million—are a fraction of what they were last year.
In comparison, last year’s “Looking Forward to the Past” sale raked in $705.9 million, followed several nights later by a dedicated Christie’s postwar and contemporary sale that was not far behind, with $658.5 million. The two-sale total amounted to a mind-boggling $1.4 billion.
The Basquiat buyer was revealed by the house to be 40-year-old Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa, founder of the online fashion retailer Zozotown and the Tokyo-based organization Contemporary Art Foundation. Mr. Maezawa is valued at $2.7 billion and currently ranked Japan’s 17th richest person, according to Forbes.
“When I encountered the work at the Christie’s New York preview, I had an immediate visceral connection it. Generationally, I relate to Basquiat’s culture and the essence of his life story,” said Mr. Maezawa in a statement. “Rather than monetary or investment value, I felt I had a personal responsibility to take care of this masterpiece and preserve it for the next generation.”
Mr. Maezawa also purchased four other works at the sale—Richard Prince’s Runaway Nurse ($9.6 million), Jeff Koons’ Lobster ($6.8 million), Alexander Calder’s Sumac 17 ($5.7 million) and Bruce Nauman’s Eat War ($1.7 million)—spending a total of $81.3 million. He plans to exhibit the Basquiat publicly through his art foundation.
Where The Space Buffalo Roam is a mixed media by Surj LA which was uploaded on March 31st, 2016. The mixed media has colors ranging from ultramarine to gamboge and incorporates starry night, modern starry night, and gold foil design themes. Where the “Space” Buffalo Roam. A new vision on an infinite classic Van Gogh’s Masterpiece…
Where the “Space” Buffalo Roam. A new vision on an infinite classic Van Gogh’s Masterpiece “Starry Night.” In this painting, we have a couple of Buffalo roaming to their destination “unknown.” An empty road, leading to the furthest reaches of the universe. A multi-layer stencil with plentiful colors. This is a nice addition for the serious and the adventurous collector! Hope you enjoy!
Bentley has commissioned British pop art legend, Sir Peter Blake, to create the world’s first pop art Bentley. Using a Continental GT V8 S as his canvas, Sir Peter’s trademark heart motif and use of collage features striking, but clearly defined, colors. St. Luke’s Blue adorns the doors, boot lid and rear haunches. The hood is finished in Continental Yellow and British Racing Green was used for the lower body and Fuchsia pink was applied to the radiator shell.
Another creation from Peter Blake on a Rolls Royce? Is this art or trash?
The Carlyle Hotel is having a Surrealist moment. Two art galleries on the premises have mounted sumptuous shows on the subject, and they play off each other beautifully.
“Fields of Dream: The Surrealist Landscape,” open through Saturday, blankets the walls at Di Donna, a gallery one flight up from the Carlyle Room, with 68 works by 31 artists, from the movement’s best-known practitioners to acolytes. Most of the material on view has never been exhibited in the United States.
Encyclopedic in scope, the exhibition opens chronologically with a 17th century anthropomorphic landscape after Matthäus Merian the Elder, and unravels into the fertile territory of how the Surrealists expanded upon the genre of landscape. Similarly, Salvador Dalí’s Mysterious Mouth Appearing in the Back of my Nurse, 1941, presents figures in a landscape oddly composing a female head. Greek born, Italian artist, Giorgio de Chirico’s Méditation matinale, painted in Paris in 1911-12, is a melancholic cityscape whose vantage point looks out onto the sea, echoing with mysterious nods to antiquity. His metaphysical works became exemplary for the Surrealist movement, rekindling an interest in deep pictorial space. In his Thébes,1928, a classical Greek temple and ruins sit upon a rocky landscape, uncannily staged in a domestic interior replete with wood parquetry.
The Helly Nahmad Gallery, at street level, has mounted the equally profuse “Mnemosyne: de Chirico and Antiquity,” through Jan. 30, built around 22 paintings from the 1920s by Giorgio de Chirico, whose haunting canvases from the 1910s spawned Surrealism. Also here are 40 examples of Greek and Roman antiquities, whose forms, themes and poses echo across the artist’s canvases. The objects range greatly in terms of time, place and material; all are from Phoenix Ancient Art, an antiquities dealer with an office in New York and a gallery in Geneva, which organized the show with Mr. Nahmad. Both of these galleries have faced more than their share of legal problems in recent years.
The Surrealists, led by their gatekeeper, André Breton, savagely denounced de Chirico’s work after 1918, establishing an attitude that lasted for decades. The Museum of Modern Art’s 1982 de Chirico survey barely made it to the late 1920s, or a half-century before his death, in 1978, at age 90.
Interestingly, one gem of the Di Donna effort is de Chirico’s “The Two Suns,” a wonderful late painting from 1969 in which art triumphs over life: A vivid sun blazes from the artist’s easel while a black one sets over the city beyond. Another curiosity: a tender little 1939 rendering in crayon and pencil of a 1914 de Chirico painting by none other than Breton.
The Di Donna show confirms that landscape gave greatest range to the Surrealist imagination, its deviations from reality and flirtations with abstraction. As expected, there are impressive works by Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Yves Tanguy and especially Max Ernst, whose inventive versatility shines here, for example, in a rocky outcropping rendered in hallucinatory striations of brash color and a page-size gouache that might almost be a photograph of geological strata.
But the unfamiliar holds sway, including a 1948 nocturne, “À la Lumière Luniere” by Man Ray, achieved by darkening the grain of a plywood panel and adding a moon, along with works by Oscar Domìnguez, Wolfgang Paalen, Enrico Donati and Antoni Tàpies. Victor Brauner is represented by a stark erupting volcano and the Surrealist women are out in force: Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, Jacqueline Lamba and Leonor Fini. A 1961 relief by Kay Sage is made of actual wood and stones that at first reads as painted trompe l’eoil, a nice play on the many forms of illusionism here.
White marble sculptures of melancholy, reclining goddesses often preside over de Chirico’s deep-shadowed piazzas of the 1910s. But as the Nahmad show indicates, in the 1920s, the artist, who was born in Greece and spent some of his childhood there, turned to figures of flesh and bone. Rosy-skinned gladiators, wrestlers and soldiers in togas and occasionally helmets prevail here, along with bearded philosophers. The young men are in pairs and groups fighting, hanging out in classical settings or promenading with horses whose opulent tails and manes evoke both Delacroix and My Pretty Ponies. There’s often a homoerotic buzz in the air, and a comic-heroic one, too. These dismayed the Surrealists, along with de Chirico’s fluctuating, exploratory paint-handling, an array of feathery or squiggly strokes that merge Impressionism, Rococo and cartooning.
The Phoenix antiquities give de Chirico fierce competition. Stretching from Geometric Period bronze horses to Roman mosaics, they include several impressive Hellenistic statuettes. They reflect the ebb and flow across the Greco-Roman world of the real and the ideal, the sophisticated and the provincial. But the best de Chirico, from 1927, tiptoes into the present with an easy chair, cabinet, bed board and a scrap of a marble post and lintel. It would be great to have a clearer idea of what happened to his art between this painting and “The Two Suns.”
Scholar Claims Van Gogh Hid Secret Homage to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper In His Café Terrace at Night
The latest Dan Brown-style conspiracy theory to hit the art world suggests that Vincent van Gogh might have hidden a homage to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper (1495-98) within his masterpiece Café Terrace at Night (1888). Indeed, a close study of the painting reveals that the main characters include one central figure with long hair surrounded by 12 individuals, plus a figure departing in the shadows. Does it sound like a familiar scenario?
For independent researcher Jared Baxter, it does, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg of a number of religious symbols concealed in van Gogh’s late works.
Baxter, who recently gave a lecture on the topic at the Dutch Association of Aesthetics, believes that the composition echoes the portraits of Jesus, the Apostles, and Judas in a number of historical depictions of The Last Supper, particularly in Da Vinci’s version. (See Da Vinci Restoration Project Reignites Conspiracy Theories.)
According to Baxter, around the time that van Gogh crafted Café Terrace at Night, he wrote to his brother Theo, referencing the painting and claiming that he had a “tremendous need for, shall I say the word—for religion.”
Furthermore, Baxter—whose theory is backed by a number of experts, including the art historian Bill Kloss—adds that a number of crosses feature in the painting, most crucially one formed by the muntin of a window above the central, longhaired figure, who is wearing what appears to be a white tunic (is it Jesus, or is it the café’s waitress?).
As far-fetched as this might seem, Baxter is not the first one to suggest that van Gogh’s religious leanings featured heavily in his artistic production.
In the 1990s, Japanese art historian Tsukasa Kodera published a number of books studying van Gogh’s use of Christian symbols, referencing, among others, the painting The Sower (1888), where the setting sun sits behind the painting’s subject as a halo.
Vincent van Gogh’s The Sower (1888)
Photo via: WGA
In 2004, UCLA professor Debora Silverman published the book Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Search for Sacred Art, where she wrote that: “van Gogh’s art had evolved by 1888 into a symbolist project that can be called ‘sacred realism’.”
Baxter was compelled to dig into the work of the revered Impressionist after hearing of a string of discoveries about van Gogh, which are reshaping the way we see both the Dutch master and his oeuvre.
The most surprising of these revelations came courtesy of Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, who, in their biography Van Gogh: The Life, claim that the painter didn’t commit suicide, as was previously thought, but that he was killed in the fields of Auvers by accident, by a group of youths brandishing a pistol (see Was van Gogh Killed? New Research Says He Was Shot).
Other controversies include the publication in 2009 of the study Van Gogh’s Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence, by Hamburg-based academics Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans, in which they argue that it was Gaugin who severed van Gogh’s ear during a heated argument. An accident the artists decided to silence.
Also, in 2011, Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum announced that a 1887 portrait from its collection thought to be a self-portrait, was in fact a portrait of the artist’s brother Theo.
Not a phrase you hear a lot in an industry where the stereotype is of jet setting and high living.
But veteran art dealers report that some big things have changed to make it more difficult, and less profitable, to run an art gallery—even in what’s been, at least for the past few years, a booming market for Contemporary art. Basic expenses are way up, from the proliferation of far-flung art fairs (a slew begin this week in Miami) and rising rent, to climbing insurance and storage costs. A lot else is different, too: Of-the-moment installation and performance pieces are pricier to mount and to move than paintings. Global price databases for art let buyers comparison shop, and bargain. Partnerships with international galleries are increasingly common, and give dealers much less control over an artist’s pricing than they used to have.
Monuments and landmarks around the world were illuminated in red, white, and blue—the Tricolore—this weekend, in solidarity with Paris after the city was targeted in an unprecedented attack that claimed at least 129 innocent lives and left 352 injured.
In the wake of the tragic events, French President Francois Hollande declared three days of national mourning. Under the order of the ministry of culture and the prime minister, all museums and cultural institutions in Ille-de-France remained closed over the weekend. The doors of the Grand Palais, where the photography art fair Paris Photo was due to run until Sunday, remained shut.
Soon after the events unfolded, artists and cartoonists around the world grabbed their pencils and brushes to create tributes to the victims of the attacks. An illustration by Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Joann Sfar, calling for the hashtag #ParisIsAboutLife, was shared widely, while Jean Jullien‘s Peace for Paris composition quickly went viral online.
In response to the massacre during a concert by the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal at the Bataclan theater, musicians around the world canceled gigs to pay tribute to the victims of the attack.
Marina Picasso, Pablo Picasso’s Granddaughter, has decided to go direct and eliminate the Art Dealer, thinking she can get higher prices without the aid of knowledgeable Art Dealers who yes, need a piece of the action, usually known as a commission.
Since Marina Picasso was a child, living on the edge of poverty and lingering at the gates of a French villa with her father to plead for an allowance from her grandfather, Pablo Picasso, she has struggled with the burden of that artist’s towering legacy.
When she was in her 20s and inherited the 19th-century villa, La Californie, as well as a vast trove of Picasso’s art treasures, she turned the paintings to face the walls in resentment. Through 15 years of therapy, she dissected bitter family memories of her grandfather’s perceived indifference and her brother’s suicide. In her 2001 memoir, “Picasso: My Grandfather,” she bared her pain and anger at the Picasso clan.
Now 64, Ms. Picasso acknowledges that she is expanding her rebellion by preparing to sell off many of his artworks to finance and broaden her philanthropy — aid for a pediatric hospital in Vietnam and projects in France and Switzerland benefiting the elderly and troubled teenagers.
And her unconventional sales approach is reverberating through international art markets, worrying dealers and auctioneers accustomed to playing key — and lucrative — roles in the sale of renowned art. In an interview, Ms. Picasso said she would sell works privately and would judge “one by one, based on need,” how many, and which, of the remaining Picasso works, of about 10,000 that she inherited, she would put up for sale.
In keeping with an old showbiz tradition, Steve Martin is using his star power to vouch for a little-known talent he thinks the public should know and love — Lawren Harris, a Canadian landscape painter who died in 1970, famed in his homeland but all but unheard of in the United States.
Martin, a longtime fan of Harris, is curator of “The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris,” opening Sunday at the Hammer Museum. The actor-musician-writer and the museum professionals allied with him aim to give Harris his belated American due.
The painter’s only other solo museum show in the U.S. was a little-noticed display in 2000 at the Americas Society in New York City, curated by Andrew Harris, one of the two professional curators riding shotgun for Martin on “The Idea of North.”
By anointing Martin as curator, the Hammer joins a number of museums that have bestowed curatorial laurels on pop-culture celebrities and reaped the attendant publicity. It also reopens a long-running art world debate over whether people who collect a given artist’s work — as Martin does with Harris — should have a hand in curating nonprofit museum exhibitions that have the potential to increase the value of their own art holdings.
“It was never on my radar” to be a curator, Martin said in a public talk this week at the Hammer. “I think [curatorial work] is best left to scholars.”
That changed after Ann Philbin, the Hammer’s director, visited Martin’s home in Los Angeles and was intrigued by a Harris landscape painting. Philbin, who hadn’t known about the artist, said she delved further into his oeuvre in the ensuing months, then invited an initially hesitant Martin to curate the exhibition. It will be seen next year at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
“Here was an opportunity to pull the curtain back,” Martin said at his public talk. “I wouldn’t have said ‘yes’ if [Harris] was known. Here, I feel I’m part of a good deed.”
Even so, “eyebrows will be raised” any time a museum’s imprimatur can be seen as potentially moving the market in favor of a private collector who’s been given a voice in planning an exhibition, noted Bruce Altshuler, head of New York University’s museum studies program.
“If what comes out of it is a very strong show, that’s good, but the museum should be aware it’s raising some questions and should be prepared to answer them,” Altshuler said.
Martin owns three Harris paintings, none of which are included in the Hammer show. He declined to be interviewed but responded to some questions in writing.
In his written response, Martin noted that the exhibition “would have never come to be” if he didn’t collect Harris’ work, and “the quality of the show speaks for itself.”
Museum Director Philbin defended the selection of Martin, saying his motives clearly were not selfish. Philbin said she asked Martin whether he planned to sell any of his works by Harris, and he said he did not.
“The word ‘curator’ carries an assumption of scholarship, intellectual rigor and connoisseur-ship, and Steve has all those things even though he is not a trained curator,” Philbin said.
Martin is no stranger to the commercial implications of museum exhibitions for art collectors. In 2006, after he’d loaned Edward Hopper’s painting “Hotel Window” to a 21/2- year touring retrospective on Hopper that ended at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, Martin sold it for $26.9 million at a Sotheby’s auction, about double the presale estimate.
“It did not need the imprimatur of the Whitney show to make it collectible or enhance its value,” Martin said in his written response, adding that he didn’t decide to sell the painting until after the Whitney’s show had opened and notified the museum immediately. “The painting was sold for personal reasons,” he said.
Auctioneers in Canada who sell Harris’ work think that the L.A. show will boost prices, which regularly top $1 million for prime pieces, with an auction high of $3.5 million.
It “could prove a watershed moment for Lawren Harris,” said David Heffel, president of Heffel Fine Art Auction House in Toronto. Already, he said, the L.A. show has sparked queries from new potential buyers interested in three Harris paintings he’ll be auctioning Nov. 26.
Linda Rodeck, head of the Canadian art department at Waddington’s auction house in Toronto, said that the lower-profile Harris exhibition seen in New York in 2000 and in 2001 at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario, cemented Harris as a million-dollar artist in Canada.
Martin’s show promises to give another boost, she said. “It’s good for people in my business, and it’s nice to have attention paid to someone of whom we’re so proud. Being the little brother, we like that affirmation” from Americans.
The Hammer’s exhibition covers the most esteemed period and style of Harris’ career — the landscapes he painted in the 1920s and early 1930s. The stark, stylized, geometrically patterned pictures of wintry mountains and glaciers are devoid of life but suffused with majesty.
Martin said in his talk this week at the Hammer that he wanted to give the public “a great first date” with the prolific Harris, who veered into abstract painting after his landscape period.
Asking celebrities from pop culture out on curatorial dates seems to be a growing phenomenon for museums in the 21st century.
The roster includes film director David Cronenberg curating a 2006 show on Andy Warhol at the Art Gallery of Ontario, basketball star Shaquille O’Neal picking art for “Size Does Matter,” a 2010 show on huge and tiny artworks at the Flag Art Foundation in New York City, rock singer Marianne Faithfull choosing favorite works from the Tate museum’s collection for a 2012 show at the Tate Liverpool and pop star Pharrell Williams co-curating an exhibition on the art of toys last year at the Design Exchange museum in Toronto.
Novelist Julian Barnes recently was tapped by the Royal Academy of Arts in London to curate a 2019 exhibition that, like Martin’s show in L.A., will focus on a long-dead figure, Swiss painter Felix Vallotton, who Barnes feels has been overlooked.
This phenomenon “is pretty easy to explain,” said David Balzer, a Canadian art journalist whose 2014 book, “Curationism: How Curating Took Over the Art World and Everything Else,” examines how the title of “curator” has lost its former loftiness and exclusivity.
“This is a way to supercharge a brand,” Balzer said. “If the Hammer didn’t have Steve Martin on the marquee, people obviously wouldn’t pay as much attention as they are.”
The Hammer and other museum-world insiders are quick to point out that Martin is not just a performer who’s beloved for cracking people up but a polymath who for decades has paid serious attention to 20th century paintings.
One of his three novels is about the New York City art world, and his 1993 play, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” is a widely staged comedy about the dawn of 20th century modernism in art and science. He served on the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 1984 to 2002, donating eight works to its collection, and since 2001 his Steve Martin Charitable Foundation has given more than $2 million to museums and other visual art nonprofits.
Melody Kanschat, a former LACMA administrator who’s director of a leadership training program at Claremont Graduate University, said she isn’t troubled as long as shows curated by pop celebrities meet a museum’s standards and are balanced by exhibitions organized by bona fide art scholars.
“We’re in a society that values the role of tastemakers as much as it values the role of actual art makers,” Kanschat said. “I have full faith that this doesn’t represent a trend that is going to throw our industry into the hands of nonprofessionals.”
The incursion of celebrity into what was once a lofty priesthood of art curation is “sort of a necessary evil in a post-recession economy,” Balzer said. “The high modernist remove, the idea of the museum as a temple with the object itself as the supreme subject and the viewer as secondary to the art on display — those days are over.”
In 1874, a group of artists called the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Printmakers, etc. organized an exhibition in Paris that launched the movement called Impressionism. Its founding members included Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Camille Pissarro, among others. The group was unified only by its independence from the official annual Salon, for which a jury of artists from the Académie des Beaux-Arts selected artworks and awarded medals. The independent artists, despite their diverse approaches to painting, appeared to contemporaries as a group. While conservative critics panned their work for its unfinished, sketchlike appearance, more progressive writers praised it for its depiction of modern life. Edmond Duranty, for example, in his 1876 essay La Nouvelle Peinture (The New Painting), wrote of their depiction of contemporary subject matter in a suitably innovative style as a revolution in painting. The exhibiting collective avoided choosing a title that would imply a unified movement or school, although some of them subsequently adopted the name by which they would eventually be known, the Impressionists. Their work is recognized today for its modernity, embodied in its rejection of established styles, its incorporation of new technology and ideas, and its depiction of modern life.
Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris) exhibited in 1874, gave the Impressionist movement its name when the critic Louis Leroy accused it of being a sketch or “impression,” not a finished painting. It demonstrates the techniques many of the independent artists adopted: short, broken brushstrokes that barely convey forms, pure unblended colors, and an emphasis on the effects of light. Rather than neutral white, grays, and blacks, Impressionists often rendered shadows and highlights in color. The artists’ loose brushwork gives an effect of spontaneity and effortlessness that masks their often carefully constructed compositions, such as in Alfred Sisley’s 1878 Allée of Chestnut Trees (1975.1.211). This seemingly casual style became widely accepted, even in the official Salon, as the new language with which to depict modern life.
In addition to their radical technique, the bright colors of Impressionist canvases were shocking for eyes accustomed to the more sober colors of Academic painting. Many of the independent artists chose not to apply the thick golden varnish that painters customarily used to tone down their works. The paints themselves were more vivid as well. The nineteenth century saw the development of synthetic pigments for artists’ paints, providing vibrant shades of blue, green, and yellow that painters had never used before. Édouard Manet’s 1874 Boating (29.100.115), for example, features an expanse of the new Cerulean blue and synthetic ultramarine. Depicted in a radically cropped, Japanese-inspired composition, the fashionable boater and his companion embody modernity in their form, their subject matter, and the very materials used to paint them.
Such images of suburban and rural leisure outside of Paris were a popular subject for the Impressionists, notably Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Several of them lived in the country for part or all of the year. New railway lines radiating out from the city made travel so convenient that Parisians virtually flooded into the countryside every weekend. While some of the Impressionists, such as Pissarro, focused on the daily life of local villagers in Pontoise, most preferred to depict the vacationers’ rural pastimes. The boating and bathing establishments that flourished in these regions became favorite motifs. In his 1869 La Grenouillère (29.100.112), for example, Monet’s characteristically loose painting style complements the leisure activities he portrays. Landscapes, which figure prominently in Impressionist art, were also brought up to date with innovative compositions, light effects, and use of color. Monet in particular emphasized the modernization of the landscape by including railways and factories, signs of encroaching industrialization that would have seemed inappropriate to the Barbizon artists of the previous generation.
Perhaps the prime site of modernity in the late nineteenth century was the city of Paris itself, renovated between 1853 and 1870 under Emperor Napoleon III. His prefect, Baron Haussmann, laid the plans, tearing down old buildings to create more open space for a cleaner, safer city. Also contributing to its new look was the Siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), which required reconstructing the parts of the city that had been destroyed. Impressionists such as Pissarro and Gustave Caillebotte enthusiastically painted the renovated city, employing their new style to depict its wide boulevards, public gardens, and grand buildings. While some focused on the cityscapes, others turned their sights to the city’s inhabitants. The Paris population explosion after the Franco-Prussian War gave them a tremendous amount of material for their scenes of urban life. Characteristic of these scenes was the mixing of social classes that took place in public settings. Degas and Caillebotte focused on working people, including singers and dancers, as well as workmen. Others, including Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt, depicted the privileged classes. The Impressionists also painted new forms of leisure, including theatrical entertainment (such as Cassatt’s 1878 In the Loge [Museum of Fine Arts, Boston]), cafés, popular concerts, and dances. Taking an approach similar to Naturalist writers such as Émile Zola, the painters of urban scenes depicted fleeting yet typical moments in the lives of characters they observed. Caillebotte’s 1877 Paris Street, Rainy Day (Art Institute, Chicago) exemplifies how these artists abandoned sentimental depictions and explicit narratives, adopting instead a detached, objective view that merely suggests what is going on.
The independent collective had a fluid membership over the course of the eight exhibitions it organized between 1874 and 1886, with the number of participating artists ranging from nine to thirty. Pissarro, the eldest, was the only artist who exhibited in all eight shows, while Morisot participated in seven. Ideas for an independent exhibition had been discussed as early as 1867, but the Franco-Prussian War intervened. The painter Frédéric Bazille, who had been leading the efforts, was killed in the war. Subsequent exhibitions were headed by different artists. Philosophical and political differences among the artists led to heated disputes and fractures, causing fluctuations in the contributors. The exhibitions even included the works of more conservative artists who simply refused to submit their work to the Salon jury. Also participating in the independent exhibitions were Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin, whose later styles grew out of their early work with the Impressionists.
The last of the independent exhibitions in 1886 also saw the beginning of a new phase in avant-garde painting. By this time, few of the participants were working in a recognizably Impressionist manner. Most of the core members were developing new, individual styles that caused ruptures in the group’s tenuous unity. Pissarro promoted the participation of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, in addition to adopting their new technique based on points of pure color, known as Neo-Impressionism. The young Gauguin was making forays into Primitivism. The nascent Symbolist Odilon Redon also contributed, though his style was unlike that of any other participant. Because of the group’s stylistic and philosophical fragmentation, and because of the need for assured income, some of the core members such as Monet and Renoir exhibited in venues where their works were more likely to sell.
Its many facets and varied participants make the Impressionist movement difficult to define. Indeed, its life seems as fleeting as the light effects it sought to capture. Even so, Impressionism was a movement of enduring consequence, as its embrace of modernity made it the springboard for later avant-garde art in Europe.
TATE MODERN in London has made a concerted effort in recent years to give international modern female artists the recognition they have long been denied. None was a greater pioneer of abstraction, nor more overshadowed by a famous husband, than Sonia Delaunay. A dazzling new retrospective now restores the Ukrainian-Russian artist to her rightful place at the centre of the 20th century’s avant-garde.
From the early 20th century until her death in 1979, Sonia Delaunay painted, designed fabrics and clothing, ran shops as well as a textile design company, and collaborated with poets Guillaume Apollinaire, Blaise Cendrars and Tristan Tzara. She played gender games, was a polyglot, danced the tango, translated Kandinsky, and was a thoroughly modern woman artist in a man’s world. She was indomitable.
Born Sara Stern to a Jewish family in Odessa, Ukraine, in 1885, the artist lived with her well-to-do aunt and uncle in St Petersburg from the age of five. Intellectually well-versed, she studied painting in Germany and, by 1907, was working through the influences of Gauguin, German expressionism and the Fauves, whom she had seen in Paris. Her early paintings look as if they want to break free.
Her marriage to the gay German art critic and dealer Wilhelm Uhde in 1908 allowed her to settle in Paris. Uhde had visited Picasso’s studio in Montmartre and had seen his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. He also showed the work of Henri Rousseau and gave Delaunay her first exhibition the following year, where she showed a tense, sexualised and confrontational reclining Yellow Nude, with coruscating blue shadows, the sinuous body offset against a background of juddering angular patterns.
n 1910, she divorced, to marry the aristocratic, avant-garde (the term meant something then) painter Robert Delaunay. She stopped painting, turning to needlework and embroidery instead. In 1912, she gave birth to a son. This might look like the typical story of the talented wife subsumed by the sovereign demands of the male genius. It isn’t.
Sonia Delaunay is now rightly seen as a stronger and more complex artist than her husband, who died in 1941. Although the Delaunays were regarded as collaborators in a single artistic project, the truth was never so simple. The major retrospective at London’s Tate Modern, which comes here from Paris, is wonderful – and something of a relevation. Far from retreating into the applied arts and stereotypical “women’s work”, Delaunay sought instead to extend art into the everyday and the broader material culture.
Her first purely abstract work seems to have been a sewn patchwork quilt, designed as a cradle cover, whose wonky rectangles and triangles of clear colour recall both cubism and Russian folk art. She made abstract book bindings and decorated a wooden box for her son’s toys. She also started making clothes and adapting the fashionable garments of the day into what she called “simultaneous dresses”, whose geometric shapes and slivers of coloured fabric accentuated the sway and movement of the body. These were paintings to be worn.
She made clothing for Robert and the two of them would step out to such burgeoning Paris nightclubs as Le Bal Bullier, quintessentially modern places alive not just with music but with electric light. Delaunay’s clothing subsumed their wearers in the overall atmosphere. Just like clubbers today, they could get lost in the music, the light, the rhythms and atmosphere. Tango and foxtrot were the grooves.
By 1913, she was painting again and her Electric Prism works – along with a frieze-like, four-metre-wide canvas depicting Le Bal Bollier – syncopated modern life. The dancers dance and your eye dances, too, caught up in the painting’s stop-start, relentless tango rhythms. That same year, she collaborated with Cendrars on the publication of a poem describing a trip from Moscow to Paris on the Trans-Siberian railway, in which Cendrars’s text is shifted this way and that by Delaunay’s colour. Her rhythmic, abstract images and patches of colour sway like the train, and give us flashes of the world hurtling by the windows. The whole thing is a delight. Typeset text and painted words vie with one another, and Delaunay used the optical effect of simultaneous contrast (by which the juxtaposition of different colours affects how we perceive them) with great energy, subtlety and vitality. She grasped the constant disruption and speed of modern life and gave it form.
Walker’s “International Pop” shows links between art, advertising and society.
Within the Walker Art Center’s spectacular “International Pop” exhibit, which opens Saturday, are several works directly reflecting the impact that images from commercial culture had on the Pop movement. Most notable is Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Can,” but the influence was international, as seen in art like “Special K,” a Pop take on the cereal box from Brit Derek Boshier, and Japan’s Ushio Shinohara’s “Drink More,” which incorporates a Coke bottle.
There are many more examples, including “Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project” from Brazilian-born Cildo Meireles, in which the iconic image of American commercialism is used subversively in response to Brazilian politics and U.S. hegemony.
American hegemony was political, as seen in the “Pop and Politics” portion of the exhibit. But it was also cultural and commercial, and had a symbiotic relationship with advertising. “Many artists in the show were influenced by visual culture that came through advertising, but there was also this inversion along the way where artists’ occupation of advertising culture then becomes something of fascination to the advertising industry, and goes in this feedback loop,” said Bartholomew Ryan, who co-curated the exhibit along with Darsie Alexander.
This feedback loop is sometimes seen in “Mad Men,” which has recently roped fans into its final season. The show’s narrative nearly mirrors the Pop era, and beyond the character plots is the drama of the creative process itself, and how it both reflects and shapes the times.
“Mad Men,” Ryan said, is told from the perspective of men “for whom society has been set up. ‘Mad Men’ problematizes that and shows how they were buffeted by changing socioeconomic, cultural conditions, which in a paradoxical way they were partly responsible for creating.” Aspects of this underlying discontent can be seen in several works, including Paul Thek’s “Meat Piece with Warhol Brillo Box,” a dark take on Warhol’s “Yellow Brillo Box,” which is also seen in the show, as well as the striking “Still Life #35” from Tom Wesselmann, which features huge images of Royal Crown Cola, Maid-Rite white bread, a can of Libby’s Beef Stew, a Pan Am jet, a pack of cigarettes and two lemons.
Interpreting some of the works can be perplexing even for Ryan: “It’s still hard to say whether they’re being satirical or actually embracing it.” The same could be said for Icelandic artist Erró’s “Foodscape,” an overwhelmingly crowded cornucopia on canvas capturing (or questioning?) postwar abundance.
“John Fitzgerald Kennedy” by Italian artist Sergio Lombardo is echoed in the iconic silhouette of Don Draper in an image from TV’s “Mad Men.”
“A consumer tsunami” coincided with the Pop era, said Brian Horrigan, curator of “The 1968 Exhibit” that started at the Minnesota History Center in 2011 and is still touring the country. This mass affluence was joined by other 1960s hallmarks, said Horrigan, including a “youthquake,” which led to “breaking rules, defying convention and a generation gap” as well as, especially, “Vietnam and violence in general,” including assassinations, graphic war reports and even the stylized violence of “Bonnie and Clyde.”
Indeed, politics pulls the self-absorbed ad men away from Madison Avenue in “Mad Men,” and was a driving influence internationally in the Pop movement, too, as seen in several works like “Mao,” from Germany’s Thomas Bayrle, and “Mao-Hope March” from Sweden’s Öyvind Fahlström, a four-minute film in which marchers carry large placards of Mao — and Bob Hope.
Most work is less lighthearted, however, and its global nature reminds us that it wasn’t just our country that was convulsing. Warhol’s “Sixteen Jackies,” for instance, shows the first lady before and after the assassination. And the president himself is depicted in “John Fitzgerald Kennedy” from Italian artist Sergio Lombardo.
It’s a silhouette of a man in a black suit, white shirt and black tie. No need for a face, or even the painting’s title: The iconic image is instantly recognizable. JFK, after all, was one of the Pop (and “Mad Men”) era’s predominant political and cultural figures.
It’s also quite similar to the silhouette of Don Draper, the enigmatic ad man depicted in “Mad Men’s” iconography. It’s not known if the connection was intentional, but it is clear that the links between Pop Art, advertising and the 1960s continue to compel today.
John Rash is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist. The Rash Report can be heard at 8:20 a.m. Fridays on WCCO Radio, 830-AM. On Twitter: @rashreport.
In my humble opinion, one of the greatest discoveries of the past 25 years. Please, take a little moment and read the following story, you will not regret it.
Inside the heavily protected Chauvet cave in France
IT IS a cave so closely guarded that only three people know the code to the half-tonne reinforced door that seals its entrance, where cameras keep watch 24 hours a day.
For tens of thousands of years, time stopped in the cave nestled deep in a limestone cliff that hangs over the lush, meandering Ardeche River ( southern France), until it was discovered in 1994 by a group of cave experts.
This is one of my favorite pieces of all time. It feels like a scene from a play. Secluded but well prepared. It is Hopper’s most famous work and is one of the most recognizable paintings in American art. The man in the suit may have represented the original title of the piece, “Night Hawks,” due to his nose shape. The curved glass is my favorite part of the painting. Very technical in nature. Who are these people at a late night diner?
“Gravitant” is a living exhibition: the paintings will be rotated each week, showing all possible orientations, giving the opportunity to each sub-world to be the protagonist.
With this work, the artist wants to show that we live in one world, but we live in it in very different ways, playing with everyday objects and spaces, placed in impossible ways to express that many times, the inner dimension of each one of us does not match the mental structures of those around us.
The architectural space, day-to-day objects, are part of a metaphor of how difficult is to fit everything that shapes our daily space: our relationships, work, ambitions and dreams…
The technique that Cinta uses helps the viewer to recognise the quotidian space that we all inhabit, assisting them to understand the ordered maze that is this proposal.
The exhibition is completed by three mirrors that the viewer can use to discover the hidden worlds in each work. (A mirror placed horizontally inverts reality).
Speak to modern representational painters, and there are three artists whose names repeatedly crop up among their favourites: John Singer Sargent, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, and Anders Zorn. All three were active in the final years of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and all three had distinctive styles which were in the broadest sense impressionist.
Anders Leonard Zorn (1860-1920)
Born in Mora, south-central Sweden, in 1860 he was brought up on the family farm, but was never seen by his father, a Bavarian brewer. In 1875 he started his studies at the Royal Swedish Academy in Stockholm, where he distinguished himself painting folk studies in watercolour. In 1880 he started professional portraiture, and was quickly in demand in Stockholm.
In 1881 he left the Academy following a dispute with its Director, then travelled to London, Paris, and Spain. The following year he continued his tour through Gibraltar, Rome, Paris…
Andy Warhol might have made a career out of “photographing depravity and calling it truth,” according to TIME’s 1968 assessment, but even he had his limits — and Valerie Solanas’ brand of depravity was too far out even for this “blond guru of a nightmare world.”
Solanas, a writer and women’s rights activist, pushed feminism to radical new heights in 1967, when she founded the Society for Cutting Up Men (she was its only member) and self-published the SCUM Manifesto, which begins:
“Life in this society being at best an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex.”
She’d crossed paths with Warhol two years earlier, badgering him to produce a play she had written. He passed, later saying that he had skimmed the satirical and highly scatological script and found it so obscene that he “suspected Ms. Solanas was working for the police on ‘some kind of entrapment,’” per the New York Times.
Solanas occupied a place so far on the fringes of the avant-garde scene at Warhol’s Factory that the pair probably wouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath today — except that she forced herself into the historical record on this day, June 3, in 1968, when she shot and critically wounded Warhol, apparently outraged by his rejection and the fact that he had lost his copy of her play.
The shooting brought Solanas the attention she craved, although mainstream feminist organizations, including the National Organization for Women, distanced themselves and disavowed her agenda. Solanas pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to three years in prison after being found competent to stand trial. She was later diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Warhol, meanwhile, spent two months in the hospital recuperating from surgeries to repair his damaged lungs, esophagus, spleen, liver and stomach, and in some ways he never fully recovered. His injuries were so severe that he had to wear a surgical corset for the rest of his life, according to the Andy Warhol Museum.
The mental anguish lingered as well. “Since I was shot, everything is such a dream to me. I don’t know what anything is about,” he told the New York Times near the end of 1968. “Like I don’t even know whether or not I’m really alive or—whether I died. It’s sad.”
His experience left him so afraid of hospitals that he refused surgery after being diagnosed with a gallstone in 1973, his doctor told the Times.
“He was convinced if he was hospitalized, he would die,” the doctor said.
Unable to put off treatment after his gallbladder became infected, he finally underwent surgery on Feb. 21, 1987. He died the next day, of a heart attack.
Read more about the shooting, from 1968, here in the TIME archives: Felled by Scum
He’s the city’s best-known nightclub doorman and a sometimes actor who once battered a man with the “business-end of a velvet rope.”
Getty Images/Jamie McCarthy
“I could be living [on] those little drawings,” Stevens told Page Six.
Now that you have an idea of who we’re dealing with, here’s the latest news from Wass: He recently revealed to Page Six that he threw away a bunch of drawings given to him by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.
“Every time I would see him, he would draw me a little picture on a napkin or a VIP ticket, which I, of course, threw away, thinking it wouldn’t be of any worth,” said Stevens.
Apparently, back when Stevens was working the door at Palladium — a haunt of artists like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring — he’d blocked Basquiat from entering the VIP room.
“I told him he was a crackhead and to get the hell away from me,” he recalled. But, at the behest of Warhol, he changed his mind and let Basquiat through. Stevens assumes the drawings were a kind of thank-you.
Though we don’t know exactly what this type of casual napkin drawings would be worth today, seven lots of Basquiat’s drawings on paper recently sold for prices ranging from $25,000 to $125,000.
When Christie’s puts Pablo Picasso‘s storied 1955 painting Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) on the auction block with an estimate of $140 million next week, it may make history in more ways than one.
With that canvas, the auction house aims to set an auction record not only for the artist (Picasso’s high stands at $106.5 million, set at Christie’s in May 2010 with the painting Nude, Green Leaves and Bust), but also for any work of art at auction. That high water mark stands at $142 million for a triptych, Three Studies of Lucian Freud, by Francis Bacon, sold at Christie’s in 2013.
“It’s one of the great Picassos, period,” Derek Gillman, the new chairman of Christie’s Impressionist and modern art department, told ABC Australia, “and it’s one of the last great Picassos that has been in private hands.”
But while Picasso is a modern icon, this masterpiece is being offered not in the May 13 Impressionist and modern art evening sale, but rather on May 11, as part of a “curated” event the house is calling “Looking Forward to the Past.” Titled like a James Bond film, the sale will offer “a distinct and dynamic perspective on some of the greatest and most revolutionary artists of the 20th century,” Christie’s touts on its website—purportedly by showing how the artists looked to art history for inspiration.
Getting the works for the auction has been a team effort, according to the house, but it’s billed as being conceptualized by postwar and contemporary art specialist Loic Gouzer, who has fronted headline-grabbing sales before, notably a May 2014 sale that set a dozen artist records (see Christie’s New Contemporary Sale a $135 Million Thumping Success). That blockbuster followed a 2013 sale he organized with Leonardo DiCaprio that benefited the movie star’s foundation, which aims to support efforts of environmental preservation. That sale set 13 artist records.
After all the very best modern works have been sold off and the buzz from the 20th-century auction dies down, the Impressionist and modern art sale will quietly kick off. The sale’s low total—it’s expected to bring in just $160 million—raises the question, is that sale getting phased out? And if so, what will move into its place?
The house has been making other surprising moves lately. For one, it recently shook up its calendar. While the houses have for many years held their Impressionist and modern sales in the first week of May, Christie’s moved this month’s sale to the following Thursday, without so much as announcing this seismic shift with a press release (see Why Is Christie’s Shaking Up Its Spring Auction Schedule?).
Leonardo DiCaprio Donates Banksy To Charity and Raises $1 Million for AIDS Research
An artwork by mysterious British street artist Banksy, donated by film star and philanthropist Leonardo DiCaprio, raised a million bucks at an auction to raise money for AIDS research Thursday night, the Daily Mail reports.
The stars were out in force at the 22nd Cinema Against AIDS Gala on Thursday night, held at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Cannes, France, and organized by amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research.
While DiCaprio’s donation raised a substantial sum, the night’s highest price went to Jeff Koons, according to Sky News.Russian billionaire Leonard Blavatnik plunked down $12 million for an oversized Coloring Book sculpture that the artist donated from his “Celebration” series.
Eva Longoria, the former star of the hit TV show Desperate Housewives, also excitedly participated in the bidding. She spent $550,000 to take home a beautiful portrait of Elizabeth Taylor by Andy Warhol.
New York art dealer David Benrimon, who donated a Pablo Picassosketch that raised $800,000 and a Fernando Botero sculpture that hammered at $2.2 million, reminded guests about the auction’s noble purpose.
“Elizabeth Taylor started the foundation,” he said, “and it’s saved millions of lives.”
Founded in 1983 and with offices in New York, Washington, D.C., and Bangkok, Thailand, amfAR has set the ambitious target of finding a cure for AIDS by 2020.
At amfAR’s Cinema Against AIDS gala in Cannes today, which drew celebrity guests like Mary J. Blige, Jake Gyllenhaal and Sienna Miller, a Coloring Book sculpture by Jeff Koons was auctioned off and sold for 12 million euros (or $13.3 million).
In March—amidst controversy over various issues, including the hefty price tag—the Sacramento City Council voted unanimously to approve spending $8 million in private and public funds for a new Coloring Book sculpture to be erected at the Kings arena next fall.
“When you purchase a piece of public art, you never think about selling it. But obviously seeing that the value has gone up this much since ours was purchased is pretty extraordinary,” says Shelly Willis, executive director of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission. “Timing is everything. It’s really surprising that it sold at such a big increase.”
Sacramento’s Coloring Book—the fifth and latest in the series of 18-foot-tall chrome sculptures by Koons that were inspired by the character Piglet from Winnie the Pooh—will be the first in the collection to be permanently displayed in a public space.
The poppiest of Pop art has finally arrived — though not for the first time — at Gallery1988. “Idiot Box 2,” the Los Angeles gallery’s second exhibit of that name, once again spotlights art created about TV shows.
Better Call Saul by Robert Bruno
At a time when “flatscreen TV” sounds redundant and prestige TV shows are studied in college seminars, “the idiot box” no longer holds much currency as a pejorative for the television. Most of us have heard it at one point, however, from a stern grandmother who wished we’d just go outside and play, or a snobby hipster roommate who read Baruch Spinoza instead of watching “Seinfeld.”
For Jensen Karp, the co-owner and curator of Gallery1988, the grumbler was his third-grade teacher. “She’d yell at us if we didn’t do our homework, accusing us of watching ‘the idiot box’ all night,” he told The Huffington Post. “She was right.”
Broad City by Nan Lawson
But the idiot box isn’t looking so dumb these days, and Karp thinks it’s about time artistic tastemakers took notice. “[TV] is clearly becoming one of the strongest forms of American art around,” he said. By showcasing art that turns television into subject matter, he’s hoping “we can show the connection between these two art forms and sort of break down any preconceived notion that one is more important than the other.”
The pieces, from different artists, show different takes on how TV shows infiltrate our culture and acquire outsize significance. Saul, from “Better Call Saul,” takes the quotidian form of a real attorney, drumming up business through one of those omnipresent magazine ads. Rust Cohle, from “True Detective,” looms imposingly, a bruised, be-antlered god. Abbi and Ilana of “Broad City,” two apple-cheeked, pink-nosed cherubs, peer in opposite directions, but their transparent bodies and hair overlap like a Venn diagram.
“We want it to … show that everyone could be watching the same exact TV and get something totally different out of it,” explained Karp. “That’s really the beauty of art, isn’t it?”
“Idiot Box 2” is on view at Gallery1988 West until May 16, 2015.
Gelett Burgess, a draftsman and illustrator by trade, is probably best known for the poetry he left behind. Though even this is somewhat lost to history, perhaps because his most famous books are volumes of nonsense poetry. Take, for example, this, probably his most famous single poem:
I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one,
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one!
It is probably safe to say that the above is less than pure genius, coming from a man who was a contemporary of T.S. Eliot. But Burgess’s writing came from his experience working as an illustrator for magazines, and he was always more of a humorist than a philosopher.
Less well known than “The Purple Cow” is an essay Burgess wrote in 1910, after his visit to the Salon des Indépendants, the by then well-established anti-establishment exhibition of art in Paris. In 1910, Cubism was beginning to make itself known, though some of the artists that Burgess writes of, such as Picasso, had already made something of a mark (the “Blue Period” was several years in the past). But this essay, which Burgess shopped around before having it purchased by ARCHITECTURAL RECORD, has become known as a seminal work on this group, even though it is not taken entirely seriously. Burgess’s aim, after all, was as much comic as anything (he even manages to slip in a Limerick). But it marked the first time that many of these paintings, such as a study for Les Démoiselles d’Avignon, appeared in print, and even if Burgess’s art criticism isn’t up to par, his writing is hilarious.
“The Wild Men of Paris” is reproduced here exactly as it appeared in RECORD, with archaic spellings and strange copyediting mistakes (Debusy instead of Debussy?) intact.
I had scarcely entered the Salon des Indépendants when I heard shrieks of laughter coming from an adjoining wing. I hurried along from room to room under the huge canvas roof, crunching the gravel underfoot as I went, until I came upon a party of well-dressed Parisians in a paroxysm of merriment, gazing, through weeping eyes, at a picture. Even in my haste I had noticed other spectators lurching in and out of the galleries; I had caught sight of paintings that made me gasp. But here I stopped in amazement. It was a thing to startle even Paris. I realized for the first time that my views on art needed a radical reconstruction. Suddenly I had entered a new world, a universe of ugliness. And, ever since, I have been mentally standing on my head in the endeavor to get a new point of view on beauty so as to understand and appreciate this new movement in art.
“Une Soirée dans le Désert” was a fearful initiation. It was a painting of a nude female seated on a stretch of sand, devouring her own knee. The gore dripped into a wineglass. A palm tree and two cacti furnished the environment. Two large snakes with target-shaped eyes assisted at the debauch, while two small giraffes hurried away from the scene.
What did it all mean? The drawing was crude past all belief; the color was as atrocious as the subject. Had a new era of art begun? Was ugliness to supersede beauty, technique to give way to naivété, and vibrant, discordant color, a very patchwork of horrid hues, take the place of subtle, studied nuances of tonality? Was nothing sacred, not even beauty?
If this example of the new art was shocking, there were other paintings at the Salon that were almost as dire. If you can imagine what a particularly sanguinary little girl of eight, half-crazed with gin, would do to a whitewashed wall, if left alone with a box of crayons, then you will come near to fancying what most of this work was like. Or you might take a red-hot poker in your left hand, shut your eyes and etch a landscape upon a door. There were no limits to the audacity and the ugliness of the canvasses. Still-life sketches of round, round apples and yellow, yellow oranges, on square, square tables, seen in impossible perspective; landscapes of squirming trees, with blobs of virgin color gone wrong, fierce greens and coruscating yellows, violent purples, sickening reds and shuddering blues.
But the nudes! They looked like flayed Martians, like pathological charts—hideous old women, patched with gruesome hues, lopsided, with arms like the arms of a Swastika, sprawling on vivid backgrounds, or frozen stiffly upright, glaring through misshapen eyes, with noses or fingers missing. They defied anatomy, physiology, almost geometry itself! They could be likened only to the Lady of the Limerick:
“There was a young girl of Lahore,
The same shape behind as before;
And as no one knew where
To offer a chair,
She had to sit down on the floor!”
Soireé Dans Le Désert.
Le Moulin de la Galette – Czobel.
But it’s no use going on; you will, I am sure, refuse to take me seriously. You will merely think I am trying to be funny. Wherefore, I hired a man, a brave one too, to photograph a few of these miracles. In line and composition the reproductions will bear me out, perhaps; but unfortunately (or is it fortunately?), the savagery of color escapes the camera. That color is indescribable. You must believe that such artists as paint such pictures will dare any discord. They have robbed sunsets and rainbows, chopped them up into squares and circles, and hurled them, raw and bleeding, upon their canvases.
Surely, one cannot view such an exhibition calmly. One must inevitably take sides for or against such work. The revolt is too virulent, too frenzied to be ignored. Long ago my father said: “When you see a fool, don’t laugh at him, but try to find out why he does so. You may learn something.” And so I began to investigate these lunatics. Had they attempted to invent a new form of humor? Were they merely practical jokers? Or must we attempt anew to solve the old question: “What is art?”
It was an affording quest, analyzing such madness as this. I had studied the gargoyles of Oxford and Notre Dame, I had mused over the art of the Niger and of Dahomey, I had gazed at Hindu monstrosities, Aztec mysteries and many other primitive grotesques; and it had come over me that there was a rationale of ugliness as there was a rationale of beauty; that, perhaps, one was but the negative of the other, an image reversed, which might have its own value and esoteric meaning. Men had painted and carved grim and obscene things when the world was young. Was this revival a sign of some second childhood of the race, or a true rebirth of art?
And so I sought to trace it back to its meaning and to its authors. I quested for the men who dared such Gargantuan jests. Though the school was new to me, it was already an old story in Paris. It had been a nine-days’ wonder. Violent discussions had raged over it; it had taken its place as a revolt and held it, despite the fulmination of critics and the contempt of academicians. The school was increasing in numbers, in importance. By many it was taken seriously. At first, the beginners had been called “The Invertebrates.” In the Salon of 1905 they were named “The Incoherents.” But by 1906, when they grew more perfervid, more audacious, more crazed with theories, they received their present appellation of “Les Fauves”—the Wild Beasts. And so, and so, a-hunting I would go!
Who were the beginners of the movement? Monet, Manet and Cézanne, say most, though their influence is now barely traceable. Cézanne, no doubt; Cézanne the pathetic bourgeois painter, whose greatest ambition was to wear the ribbon of the Legion of Honor, and to have his pictures exhibited in the old Salon, and who, because his maiden sister disapproved of the use of female models, painted nude women from nude men! Truly, he deserved the red ribbon. But Cézanne, though he experimented with pure color, was still concerned with tonalities. He was but the point of departure for these mad explorers. It was Matisse who took the first step into the undiscovered land of the ugly.
Matisse himself, serious, plaintive, a conscientious experimenter, whose works are but studies in expression, who is concerned at present with but the working out of the theory of simplicity, denies all responsibility for the excesses of his unwelcome disciples. Poor, patient Matisse, breaking his way through this jungle of art, sees his followers go whooping off in vagrom paths to right and left. He hears his own speculative words distorted, misinterpreted, inciting innumerable vagaries. He may say, perhaps: “To my mind, the equilateral triangle is a symbol and manifestation of the absolute. If one could get that absolute quality into a painting, it would be a work of art.” Whereat, little madcap Picasso, keen as a whip, spirited as a devil, mad as a hatter, runs to his studio and contrives a huge nude woman composed entirely of triangles, and presents it in triumph. What wonder Matisse shakes his head and does not smile! He chats thoughtfully of the “Harmony and volume” and “architectural values,” and wild Braque climbs to his attic and builds an architectural monster which he names Woman, with balanced masses and parts, with openings and columnar legs and cornices. Matisse praises the direct appeal to instinct of the African wood images, and even a sober Dérain, a co-experimenter, loses his head, moulds a neolithic man into a solid cube, creates a woman of spheres, stretches a cat out into a cylinder, and paints it red and yellow!
Maître Matisse, if I understand him, which, with my imperfect facility with French, and my slighter knowledge of art, I am afraid I didn’t, quite, stands primarily for the solid existence of things. He paints weight, volume, roundness, color, and all the intrinsic physical attributes of the thing itself, and then imbues the whole with sentiment. Oh, yes, his paintings do have life! One can’t deny that. They are not merely models posed against a background, like thousands of canvases in the Salons, they are human beings with souls. You turn from his pictures, which have so shockingly defied you, and you demand of other artists at least as much vitality and originality—and you don’t find it! He paints with emotion, and inspires you with it. But, alas! When he paints his wife with a broad stripe of green down her nose, though it startlingly suggests her, it is his punishment to have made her appear so to you always. He teaches you to see her in a strange and terrible aspect. He has taught you her body. But, fearful as it is, it is alive—awfully alive!
“Who’s the Man with the Master Plan. . . ” – Leonardo DiCaprio from “Romeo and Juliet” in a punchy,, Jean Michel-Basquiat homage style. Color abounds in a bit of cock-eyed, albeit fun, unique style! The copyright symbol punctuates this piece. Boom!