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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Museums/Exhibits, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 19 of 19
1. Modern Styles and Methods in Maine Moderns

Paul Strand, a friend of Alfred Stieglitz and his wife, Georgia O’Keeffe, visited O’Keeffe while she was away in New Mexico. Stieglitz had written O’Keeffe on June 27, 1931 from Lake George, NY, “…Strand will add to his trophies of photography. What a chance he has. He ought to do some great work this year after the criticism I gave him.” Georgia then wrote Alfred on July 10, “Strand didn’t like the ‘paint quality’ in one of my best paintings—Made me want to knock his hat off or do something to him to muss him up—The painting certainly has no resemblance to a photograph.” Who was this friend admired by Stieglitz, considered “the founding father of American modernism,” and brazen enough to criticize O’Keeffe’s work?

Maine Moderns Strand was a member of what Libby Bischof and Susan Danly refer to as the “Stieglitz circle” in their Maine Moderns: Art in Seguinland, 1900-1940, which accompanies a show of the same name on view this summer at the Portland Museum of Art, Maine.  Seguinland, a resort area on the quiet coast of Maine, attracted this small circle of modernist artists (which was never actually joined by Stieglitz but was always encouraged by him) in the early twentieth century. These painters, sculptors, and—most “modernly”—photographers used the forests, beaches, and villages to inform and inspire their work. Strand was actually one of the last to join the summer vacationers, who included Clarence H. White, Gertrude Käsebier, Max Weber, John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Marguerite Zorach, Gaston Lachaise, and William Zorach. Stieglitz promoted the work of the artists, especially hoping to place photography firmly on the level of other art forms.

Bischof and Danly showcase a beautiful selection of the Seguinland’s modernist work, which used techniques already popular in European and American cities in an entirely new setting. A gelatin silver print by Strand, Cobweb in the Rain, belongs to his series of close-ups of natural forms including driftwood and plants on the beaches he visited during the summer. White beads of water drape across the bursts of leaves in this photograph. Seguinland proved welcoming to all the artists’ cameras, including that of F. Holland Day. His Youth in a Rocky Landscape shows a boy, arms outstretched, on a cliff, calling back the lost Arcadia. Maine Moderns brings together these pieces from a group who did not consider themselves a school of artists but friends enjoying the life of rural New England. As Strand wrote Stieglitz, “The weeks in Maine were . . . perfect days of work and play. I did much work and had much joy in doing it.”

 

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2. Rediscovering Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome

There is a certain meta quality to uncovering wayward pieces of art: it is an art itself to uncover and identify a centuries-old painting with its original artist. The sharp eyes of conservationists and scholars today help celebrate the legacy of artists past with each new discovery and identification, not to mention the effect it has on the value of individual paintings. Most recently in the news, as reported by the Guardian in London, Clovis Whitfield has uncovered an unknown portrait by Caravaggio, dating approximately to the year 1600 when the Italian artist was at his height.

Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome Very few of Caravaggio’s works survive, and yet his considerable influence on Baroque painters across Europe is the subject of a new exhibition, “Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome” at the National Gallery of Canada, traveling to the Kimbell Art Museum later this fall. The identification of the painting in question, a portrait of Saint Augustine that surfaced in a private collection, is a major addition to Caravaggio’s oeuvre and is reproduced for the first time in print in the exhibition’s accompanying catalog. The authors, David Franklin and Sebastian Schütze, have remarked that “[w]hat looked like an anonymous 17th-century painting revealed its artistic qualities after restoration,”; noteworthy because“[i]t shows a side of Caravaggio perhaps that is not as drastic and antagonistic as usual.” For those interested in the presence of books and writing in works of art, the painting “is considered the model for [a particular aesthetic] of books and pens,” writes Francesca Cappelletti in her contribution to the catalog. The lowered eyes and concentrated gaze are imitated by artists like Jusepe de Ribera and Bartolomeo Cavarozzi, both of whom worked in Spain and studied in Rome in the period shortly following Caravaggio’s untimely death in 1610. They would have seen the painting as it changed hands and homes amongst the patron Giustiniani family, and it is likely that other painters, such as Orazio Borgianni and Nicolas Régnier, were directly influenced by it as well. This new side of Caravaggio’s work gives us further insight into the world of artists he left behind, many recast in their relationship to this central figure of sixteenth-century Rome.

3. A Summertime Rush of Art Collecting

Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters The Steins were not the only Jewish American family interested in collecting the strikingly profound works of the Modernist era; in fact, they were friends with Baltimore sisters Claribel and Etta Cone, who visited the expats and were captivated by the Parisian art of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.  The art of these and other artists of the avant-garde like Gauguin, Delacroix, Renoir, and Cézanne are featured in an exhibition at the Jewish Museum, “Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore”, open until September 25 before heading to Vancouver next summer.

The Cone sisters collected 3,000 works over a period of fifty years, ending in 1949 with Etta’s death, upon which she donated the massive collection to the Baltimore Museum of Art. Rather than promoting the myth that the Cones were dilettantish or superficial in their endeavors, curator and catalog author Karen Levitov seeks to portray them as true savants, accounting for their connoisseur taste in art in this “collection of collections.” At long last, the show brings the legacy of the Cone sisters to New York, with not only a selection of prints, paintings, and sculptures of early 20th-century Europe, but uncommon Asian and African decorative arts of the period and an interactive virtual tour of their adjoining Baltimore apartments.

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4. Happy International Museum Day!

YaleLogosmallblue Around every May 18, the International Council of Museums organizes International Museum Day; this year’s theme is Museum and Memory. Because we at YUP admire our museum publishing partners and their contributions to a global society, here are some exhibitions on view now around the world, with books available from us. Some shows are closing soon, so make sure to plan quickly.

 

Art Institute of Chicago: “Kings, Queens, and Courtiers: Art in Early Renaissance France

Bard Graduate Center: “Knoll Textiles, 1945-2010

The Japan Society: “Bye Bye Kitty: “Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art

The Jewish Museum: “Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore

Kimbell Art Museum: “Picasso and Braque: The Cubist Experiment, 1910-1912”

The Menil Collection: “Ancestors of the Lake

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: “Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting

National Gallery of Art: “Gabriel Metsu

National Gallery, London: “An American Experiment: George Bellows and the Aschan Painters

Philadelphia Museum of Art: “Roberto Capucci: Art into Fashion

Princeton University Art Museum: “Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage

Whitney Museum of American Art: “Glenn Ligon: AMERICA

Yale Center for British Art:Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance

Yale University Art Gallery: “Old Javanese Gold: The Hunter Thompson Collection

 

You can also check out IMD celebrations from The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, The Phillips C

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5. Tuesday Studio: Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand

Between 1917 and 1937, Alfred Stieglitz took 331 photographs of Georgia O’Keeffe. Along with the thousands of letters the two exchanged throughout their 30-year romance, these photographs occupy a sort of middle ground between documentation and expression, between correspondence and art. They are an eloquent testament to a profound and prolific love between two creative individuals. Although a subplot in Malcolm Daniel’s new catalog Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand, accompanying an exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on view until April 10, 2011, the relationship between Stieglitz and O’Keeffe came at a critical point in the former’s artistic life, and would have serious implications for the subsequent development of American photography in the early 20th century. Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand

Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand tracks the development of American photography from the very end of the 19th century through the beginning of World War II. This chronological scope is not determined by world history, however, but by the life and collection of Alfred Stieglitz. Born in the Hudson Valley and educated in Karlsruhe and Berlin, Stieglitz spent the vast majority of his life in New York City. He was an early and vocal proponent of photography as art, a life of advocacy that reached an apex when The Metropolitan Museum of Art finally accepted his donations of photographs in 1928 and 1933 (Daniel is Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs). The two subsequent names in the title refer to Edward Steichen and Paul Strand, two of the most important photographers in American history and Stieglitz’s chief acolytes.

At their best, these two men represent a philosophical and artistic shift in Stieglitz’s conception of photography. Steichen, whom Stieglitz began working with in earnest in 1902, when the latter had founded the magazine Camera Work as well as the Manhattan gallery “291”, embodied a turn-of-the-century aesthetic greatly influenced by contemporary European painting. This style of photography, described in Karen Rosenberg’s New York Times exhibition review as a “hazy, nostalgic Pictorialism,” utilizes shadows, heavy colors and a soft focus. Steichen’s best photographs, of the Flatiron Building or of Rodin’s sculpture of Balzac, are expressive and “self-consciously artistic,” heavily indebted to such European painters as James Whistler. Paul Strand occupies the opposite end of the spectrum. Having begun his relationship with Stieglitz in 1915, Strand promoted a photography that was straight-lined, geometric, and greatly influenced by the modern art of the 1913 Armory show. He had a precise, “brutal” aesthetic, as seen in the photographs “Wall Street” and “Geometric Backyards.” Strand, with the help and support of Stieglitz, “led the way to a straightforward, modern photography, unencumbered by the allegorical themes, celebrity subjects, and painterly techniques of turn-of-the-century artistic photography,” Daniel writes. In the catalog, as well as in the life of Stieglitz, these two men represent a shift in photography from shadowy to clear, from soft to straight, from formal to abstract. Begun in 1917, Steiglitz’s artistic and romantic affair with G

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6. Tuesday Studio: Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

A special "Tuesday Studio" announcement: we have just added a new forthcoming title to our Spring 2011 list, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, published in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art and edited by The Met's Costume Institute curators, Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda.

The tragedy of McQueen's suicide in February of this year needs no retelling, but we can look forward to this volume that commemorates the work of one the most important, captivating, and awe-inspiring fashion designers of our time.  The book will accompany a retrospective exhibition at The Met from May 4 - July 31, 2011. In the meantime, look no further than the nearest department stores to enjoy the continuing spectacle of his intricate designs.

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7. For All the World to See

In September 1955, shortly after Emmett Till was murdered by white supremacists in Money, Mississippi, his grieving mother, Mamie Till Bradley, distributed to newspapers and magazines a gruesome black-and-white photograph of his mutilated corpse. Asked why she would do this, Mrs. Bradley explained that by witnessing, with their own eyes, the brutality of segregation and racism, Americans would be more likely to support the cause of racial justice and equality. “Let the world see what I’ve seen,” was her reply. The publication of the photograph transformed the modern civil rights movement, inspiring a new generation of activists to join the cause.

Organized by curator Maurice Berger of the Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture, University of Maryland Baltimore County in partnership with the National Museum of African American History Berger, For All the World to See and Culture, Smithsonian Institute, the exhibition “For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights” has traveled from the International Center of Photography in New York to its current location at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago. For those unable to see the images in person, there is an extensive website with an online exhibition, film festival, and information about the Yale University Press companion catalog.

Featuring a broad range of media including photography, television, film, magazines, newspapers, and advertising, the images narrate the struggle for civil rights with the often excluded visual history of the period: the startling footage of southern white aggression and black suffering that appeared night after night on television news programs; the photographs of black achievers and martyrs in Negro periodicals, which roused pride or activism in the African-American community; the humble snapshot, no less powerful in its ability to edify and motivate. In each case, the war against racism and segregation was waged not with brick or flesh or words but with pictures—potent weapons that forever changed a nation. It is a legacy and reminder of what was hard-fought and gained on public ground, the advancement of equal rights for all to see.

Watch the full episode. See more SundayArts.

 

 

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8. Notes from a Native New Yorker: A Visit to the Jewish Museum

Michelle Stein

Houdini From now until March 27, Harry Houdini (born Ehrich Weiss) takes the stage at the Jewish Museum on the Upper East Side with Houdini: Art and Magic.  The museum was crowded with visitors, much like Houdini’s performances. The exhibition looks both at Houdini and his craft, as well as at the art that has been created around the mythology and legacy of Houdini (the companion catalogue, edited by Brooke Kamin Rapaport, offers more detailed information while maintaining the structure of the exhibition). Houdini himself used the visual arts to promote his work.  He created lithographic posters for shows, and many of his feats were captured on film.  These works enabled Houdini to present a face to the public and fans. But just as illuminating are the works by contemporary artists which reference and appropriate Houdini to create new ideas, and their art is interspersed throughout the exhibition. It would seem that Houdini was just as important to his contemporaries as to future artists. While Houdini was performing, his works served as an escape for spectators from the troubles of their time. Houdini’s transformation from an immigrant child who moved frequently to a world famous performer also suggests that he might have served as a reference point for other Jews and immigrants working to assimilate into American society.

In the contemporary art world, Houdini has become a major reference point for a wide variety of artists in different forms.  Sometimes the reference is as clear as a depiction of Houdini, while in other pieces it is his feats that are used for new artistic purposes. The famous contemporary artist Matthew Barney has an entire installation in the exhibition, The Ehrich Weiss Suite. It includes pieces from his Cremaster cycle, a series of five films that were created from 1994 to 2002. The films cover a wide variety of themes and questions, and interweave many different cultural and historical references, including famous figures like Houdini, as played by Norman Mailer in Cremaster 2, and by Matthew Barney in Cremaster 5.  The installation at the museum, in a room that can only be entered by glass door, includes seven pigeons that roam around an acrylic coffin.

Petah Coyne Another contemporary artist, Petah Coyne, whose work “Everything That Rises Must Converge” is on display at Mass MoCA until April, created a hanging sculpture from shredded cars made while she was reading both a great deal about Houdini and World War Two.  The audio guide included Petah Coyne’s description of the links between art and magic (similarly referenced in the exhibition’s title), and both disciplines’ connections to transformation.

This only scrapes the surface of the works by contemporary artists in the show, but in honor of Women’s History Month, it is worth moving on to mentioning an exhibition upstairs, "Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World)".  Maira Ka

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9. A New Head for The Met’s Asian Art Galleries

The New York Times ran a story on the changing leadership at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Asian art galleries: the new head will be Maxwell Hearn, author of a number of YUP books on Chinese painting and calligraphy, published in association with The Met.

Watch below as Hearn talks about Chinese scroll painting and rolls out a 14th-century treasure. Or watch on NYTimes.com for more “Arts” section videos and features.  

 

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10. To London, with Love: Royal Mania!

McQueen

Ivan Lett

Only one month away from the Royal wedding, and the anticipation will only go up from here. Earlier this month, Prince William and Kate Middleton made the cover of Entertainment Weekly titled, "You are invited to a MEDIA FRENZY!", photo slideshows on websites, and this doesn’t even count all the tabloid coverage and junk news sites. And of course, everyone wanted to know about the dress, to be designed by Alexander McQueen design lead, Sarah Burton, Style List leaked earlier in March after months of speculation. There’s a rumor going around that it’s going to be red…but that shouldn’t be a stretch for the McQueen team. The dress will be a nice lead-up to the Met’s Costume Institute exhibition, “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” opening in early May, looking back on McQueen’s transformative power on fashion.

Our Sales Conference is the same day as the wedding; the Brits get a national holiday.

Still, I invoke bragging rights as a UP with an office in London because of the kinds of books acquired there and published here. (If you’re fans of ours, be sure to check out the London Yale Books blog and Facebook pages.) In one case, the author was right here on campus and I never knew until the book was nearly out: The Eagle and the Crown: Americans and the British Monarchy, by Frank Prochaska, lecturer in Yale’s History department. His book let me know that I’m not alone; quote me.

I had a poster of the monarchy from Alfred the Great to Elizabeth II, brought back from a trip to London, at age eight; it accompanied one of those classic-style Ladybird books. I hung it on the wall and memorized the lineage and successions, actually a great party trick: just give me a year and I’ll tell you the British monarch or vice versa. And there was all the American news about Diana and Fergie and Charles—somewhere around the house there was a commemorative china dish for Elizabeth’s coronation, coffee table biographies of Diana and Vicotria. I never heard others’ families talk about the Royalty, never rummaged through their belongings for the obscure trinket. People collect all kinds of this stuff!

Eagle and the Crown From the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, to Princess Diana, members of the royal family have been major players in the emergence of America’s obsession with fame, offering and exclusive and classy contrast to the instant creations of the media. Hereditary kingship also propels British ceremonial, which has dazzled the citizens of a young nation comparatively lacking in hallowed settings and traditions. American expressions of joy and sorrow at royal marriages and funerals, coronations and jubilees have been extraordinary, given the rej

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11. Sarah Scherf on 100 Dresses for Books & Culture

100 Dresses For the first time, Books & Culture has a video accompanying a review; that of Sarah Scherf on Harold Koda’s 100 Dresses from the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the video, she interviews numerous every day women, old and young, about their thoughts on the dress and why it has such an enduring and special role in women’s fashion. Even in our 21st-century thinking, she concludes: “There’s just something about a dress.”

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12. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty Now Open at The Met; Interview with curator Andrew Bolton

McQueen We’ve teased for months, but the wait is finally over: today, the exhibition “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” opens at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Organized by Costume Institute curator, Andrew Bolton, author of YUP’s accompanying catalog, the show features approximately one hundred examples will be on view, including signature designs such as the bumster trouser, the kimono jacket, and the Origami frock coat.

Earlier this year, we interviewed Bolton on his reflections on how McQueen’s designs have contributed to fashion and the most memorable aspects of his influence.

 

Yale University Press: McQueen’s designs are popular with celebrities and the public alike; what is it about his designs that make them so special/appealing?

Andrew Bolton: Much of the appeal of McQueen's fashions derives from their theatricality, often conveyed through their historicized silhouettes. McQueen was drawn to periods in which fashions were particularly extreme and exaggerated, such as the 1860s, the 1880s, the 1890s, and the 1950s. But while he looked to these epochs for inspiration, his fashions always appeared emphatically contemporary.

 

YUP: For McQueen fashion was an art form, and his runway shows were often theatrical productions. Did you have a favorite show/collection?

AB: One of my favorite runway presentations was McQueen's spring/summer 1999 collection, entitled "No. 13." The collection was inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement, and featured the athlete and model Amy Mullins in a pair of hand-carved prosthetic legs. McQueen's promotion of beauty rarely adhered to classical or platonic ideals. For him, beauty was to be found in difference, in anomalies and irregularities.

 

YUP: McQueen has been called the most influential designer of his generation; do you think his work will stand the test of time? Where would you place McQueen in the fashion pantheon?

AB: McQueen’s impact on fashion is uncontestable. You only have to think of his “bumsters” to appreciate the extent and enormity of his influence. But his legacy extends beyond specific designs to his general philosophy of fashion. For McQueen, fashion was not just about utility and practicality but also about ideas and concepts. In this respect, he was an artist whose medium of expression happened to be fashion. Like many artists, McQueen’s fashions were reflective of his personality and state of mind. They were intensely autobiographical.

 

YUP: Other than McQueen's frequent use of tartan, are there specifically "British" qualities about his work?

AB: There are many British qualities to McQueen’s fashions. The most obvious is his tailoring. McQueen trained with the Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard, and as early as his MA graduate collection in 1992 the influence of menswear tailoring could be seen in his fashions.

Typically, however, he would upend or subvert the principles of tailoring in his pursuit of modern, innovative silhouettes. He has turned suiting inside out, upside down, and back to front– ripping and tearing it apart like a demonic Edward Scissorhands. In fact, this punk attitude is typically British and typically McQueen. For McQuee

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13. Tuesday Studio: The Legend Lives On

Today, Tutankhamun is perhaps one of the most well known out of the many ancient Egyptian pharaohs – artifacts from his tomb have been displayed throughout the world. Before the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, though, archaeologists first came upon remains from his mummification and funeral.

Tutankhamun’s Funeral includes early 20th century Egyptologist Herbert E. Winlock’s classic 1941 text, which provides a thorough analysis of these burial objects and their significance. The book is balanced by both recent color photographs and historical images and drawings,Tutankhamun's Funeral with an introduction and appendix by curator Dorothea Arnold to supplement these findings with more modern discoveries. You can also read an interview with Dorothea about this exhibit here

Although most of the attention on King Tut has been focused on his tomb, the artifacts from his funeral rites and burial process are just as fascinating and important to his legend. From now until September 6, 2010, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a collection of jars, bowls, linen, floral collars and various other accoutrements associated with the young king’s burial and mummification on display. An image gallery of some of these works of art is available here

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14. Tuesday Studio: Looking at Degas and Picasso

Picasso looks at degas This summer the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is presenting the exhibition Picasso Looks at Degas.  The Clark’s website is filled with information about each aspect of the show.  They also have the checklist of works and an opportunity to download parts or all of the audio tour.  If you are looking for more blog reading, the staff at the Clark have begun a blog for the exhibition, which is an excellent complement to the catalogue, available from Yale University Press.

 

After you are done learning all about Picasso and Degas, you may have an idea about whose art you most like.  But which of the artists are you most like?  You can find out on the Clark’s site, where they have a “Picasso or Degas?” quiz.  If you’ve found yourself artistically inspired, you can also create your own Picasso style face.  Among the wealth of events being held at The Clark for the exhibition are showings of Spanish films, as well as the documentaries Picasso: Magic, Sex & Death, The Mystery of Picasso, and Degas and the Dance: The Man Behind the Easel, which of course you could watch in your own home if you can’t make it to the Clark.

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15. Tuesday Studio: For All the World to See

This summer, the International Center for Photography in New York is presenting the exhibition For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights, curated by Maurice Berger, a professor at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.  The show presents film and television clips, photography, newspapers, and other objects in order to demonstrate the role that they played in enabling civil rights changes and in establishing the character of the movement. 

For those of you unable to get to the exhibition, reviewed by Laila Pedro in Idiom magazine as “one of the most careful and engaging curatorial efforts I’ve seen in a long time,” there are a host of other ways to experience the exhibit.  There is an online version of the exhibition, which offers some of the images and written ideas behind the organization of the show, and an online film festival which matches seventeen films with short essays.  All of the films are easily available on DVD, and the corresponding essays establish their connections to and influences on the civil rights movement.Berger, For All 
the World to See

The exhibition will also be travelling to the National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. and the Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture at University of Maryland Baltimore County.  Whether or not you make it to the show, you can bring the experience home with the exhibition catalogue, which is available from the Yale Press website. 

To learn more about the exhibition, check out this video from PBS’s Sunday Arts.  They featured the exhibition in their August 1 show, and posted the piece online.


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16. Tuesday Studio: The Late Works of Salvador Dalí

“The intelligent painters,” Salvador Dalí proclaimed in 1964, “are those who will be able to integrate into classicism even the wildest experiments, the most disordered and chaotic of our time…My ambition is to incorporate, to sublimate my experiments into the great classical tradition.” Although most celebrated for his abstract and irreverent paintings while a member of the Paris Surrealist movement, epitomized by the “soft clocks” of 1931’s The Persistence of Memory, Dalí continued to make art for another half century. In Salvador Dalí: The Late Work, Elliot H. King, guest curator at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, explores the eccentric Spanish artist’s career from 1940-1983. Initiated by a strident break with the Surrealists in 1940, Dalí’s later work is defined by an interest in classicism; a self-proclaimed yearning for realism over abstraction, for Catholicism over atheism, for integration over innovation. Salvador Dali

As King and others show in the accompanying catalog to the eponymous exhibit currently on view at the High Museum of Art, Dalí’s later work is closely related in both approach and theme to the Surrealist experimentation from earlier in his career. Although his continuous use of Christs and Madonnas highlight an “unapologetic assault” on Surrealism and abstraction, Dalí maintained his interest in both science and the unconscious. Throughout his essay and his examination of the works themselves, King tracks a shift from an interest in the theory of relativity to a celebration of nuclear energy; from the explicit revelation of the unconscious in modern abstraction to its recognition as implicit in all things classical. This important catalog concludes that the latter 40 years of Dalí’s career can not simply be dismissed as irrelevant and derivative. Rather, these decades represent a modified continuation of Dalí’s previous interests and secure his influence on the next generation of American and European artists.

To read and see more of this artist’s work, the exhibition, “Salvador Dalí: The Late Work,” will be on show at the High Museum of Art until January 9, 2011, and the accompanying catalog is available here.

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17. Tuesday Studio: Eva Hesse Spectres 1960

Aspirations must either lessen and then failure will not be so great, or something must come forth to lessen the burden.” – Eva Hesse

This is the declaration of a troubled individual and a determined artist; of someone who feels a great weight on her shoulders and sees little prospect for relief. By 1960, Eva Hesse was certain of her artistic vocation. She had just graduated from the Yale School of Art and Architecture, had moved to a new studio in New York, and was ready to begin her career as a painter. From the new Eva Hesse Spectres 1960, edited by E. Luanne McKinnon, Helen Molesworth, the chief curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, includes in her introductory essay a photograph of Hesse taken in 1956. Only twenty years old, with soft brown hair, pale skin and a warm smile, Hesse is the figure of youth and beauty; a muse of subtle but erotic flirtation.

Looking at her paintings from four years later, the viewer is wrenched from this superficial complacency, and thrust instead into a world fraught with pain, fear, insecurity, and alienation. As Molesworth notes later in the same essay, these oft-overlooked paintings indicate Hesse’s confrontation not necessarily with the question, “What does it mean to be an artist?” but rather with, “What does it mean to be a person?” After examining the four dozen or so paintings from 1960, the viewer can only shudder at Hesse’s answer.  Eva Hesse Spectres 1960

The catalog accompanies the exhibition, “Eva Hesse Spectres 1960,” the first retrospective to focus exclusively on the young artist’s paintings from 1960, independently of her celebrated sculptural work from 1965-1970. Curated by McKinnon, the Director of the University of New Mexico Art Museum, the exhibit will be in residence at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles until November 30. A slideshow of images from the Hammer Museum appears here. On New Year’s Day, the collection moves to the University of New Mexico Art Museum, where it will stay until the end of April.

The exhibition itself divides Hesse’s paintings into two distinct groups. The first includes figures that are gaunt, loosely rendered, and standing in groups of two or three. These paintings seem to emerge from an intersection of the sculptures of Alberto Giacometti and the paintings of Willem de Kooning. They straddle the divide of flesh and paint, figure and ground, abstraction and line, proximity and distance. As Molesworth points out in her essay, these figures are ultimately defined by a “logic of human relations”: a system of thought that highlights an emotional (and spatial) disconnect between individuals.

The second group of paintings is oriented around a series of self-portraits. As E. Luanne McKinnon observes in her contribution to the catalog, each of these self-portraits displays “a sense of loss or displacement and pain. More directly stated, in these paintings Hesse’s real beauty was transmogrified into the ghastly.” Claustrophobia and aberrant colors abound; skin is thick and dripping with paint; eyes are sightless and reflect nothing but violence. These self-portraits, as with the paintings that comprise the first half of the collection, are embodiments of emotional turmoil and existential frustration. They are an early index of a tragic figure who would become one of the most celebrated and compelling female art

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18. Tuesday Studio: Kurt Schwitters

Even for those who speak German, the word Merz may be difficult to translate. Coined in 1919 by the avant-garde artist Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948), Merz is more of an idea than an object; more of an approach to art than art itself. A truncated version of the German word for “commerce”, Merz describes an artistic ambition to “make connections, preferably between everything in the world.” Epitomized by the collage, the art form that Schwitters helped develop in the first half of the 20th century, Merz involves appropriating supposedly meaningless everyday objects and imbuing them with artistic value. This is accomplished by wrenching them from their conventional contexts, thus stripping them of all previous functions and associations, and focusing instead on their aesthetic properties: form, texture, shape and color.

The new exhibition Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage, at the Menil Collection, is the first American retrospective since 1985 on this seminal member of the avant-garde. Including roughly 100 assemblages, reliefs, sculptures and collages, the exhibition focuses upon Schwitters’ Merz productions from the 1920s and 1940s. Organized by Isabel Schulz, editor of the accompanying Schwitters catalog, executive director of the Kurt and Ernst Schwitters collection and the curator of the Kurt Schwitters Archive at the Sprengel Museum in Hanover, this collection offers the first opportunity in 25 years for Americans to focus on the works of the man who inspired such modern greats as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. As Schulz writes in a catalog essay on Schwitters’ Merz technique, once these objects have been removed from the context of the world and replaced in the context of art, their sole remaining function becomes their color value within the picture itself. Thus newspaper clippings and advertisements are denuded of their social connotations and subsequently re-presented as a collection of colors, a compilation of different textures and materials.

One of the centerpieces of this travelling exhibition is a fully reconstructed version of the Merzbau, a free-standing structure assembled according to the Merz aesthetic. A lifelong project of Schwitters, representing the culmination of the artist’s attempts to unify the artistic and the mundane, the Merzbau is a room-size walk-in sculpture constructed of found materials. As Schwitters describes it,

I do by no means construct an interior for people to live in…I am building an abstract (cubist) sculpture into which people can go…I am building a composition without boundaries; each individual part is at the same time a frame for the neighboring parts, [and] all parts are mutually interdependent.

Although the original Merzbau was destroyed during the bombings of Hanover during World War II, this replica presents a unique opportunity to see and experience Merz art in its fullest embrace.

Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage will be at the Menil Collection until January 30, 2011. The collection will then travel to the Princeton University Art Museum for the spring of 2011 before heading out west to the Berkeley Art Museum in August.

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19. Tuesday Studio: Paul Thek: Diver

This year the Whitney Museum of Art presents a retrospective of the American artist, Paul Thek.  Seeing his wide range of work makes clear that Thek’s status as a little known artist does not befit the radicalism found in his art. The exhibition at the Whitney successfully presents the work of an artist who created many installation pieces that no longer exist in their original forms, many gone forever. The decision not to recreate these pieces in their entirety allows one to fully understand the significance of temporal art work.  Some pieces only have even a few small pictures documenting original or repeat installations and a limited number of objects from the piece.

Why feature an artist that, while American, spent years abroad, returning to the United States unable to recover the success he had achieved either in Europe or in New York prior to his departure?  A visit to the exhibition, co-organized by Elisabeth Sussman and Lynn Zelevansky, or a peak through the catalogue makes it clear that Thek’s innovative art works offer both a mirror and lens into American society.  Though he became an obscure artist, we can now return to those works and see how they connect to the past.

Thek’s rise to fame in New York began with a collection of works titled the “Technological Reliquaries,” which were inspired by his first formative trip to Europe. The shocking realism of these sculptures of muscle encased in glass offered, at the time, a counterpoint to the predominating minimalist style of the era.  His time in New York culminated with the work known as “The Tomb—Death of a Hippie,” and it became the comment on the era that never ceased.  It represented the culture of the sixties (and also its death), but Thek soon grew tired of being frequently asked to reenact the first installation; in fact, the hippie was his effigy.

Thek also painted on newspaper throughout his career.  These works often seemed sketchily  painted, but most fit into an iconographic world that Thek had developed. Paul ThekToday, though it may not have been his intention, the words behind the paint seem to hold the viewer’s attention on a similar level to the images. The pages range from the 1960s to the 1980s, and each offers a lens into the time when the painting was made. Behind one painting hid an article by Walter Kerr: “All Playwrights are Frustrated Critics.” Others hold articles about major news events. Suddenly what were fantastical images found themselves grounded in critical moments in history and statements about the time. Looking at these works in the present, it is enlightening to place the abstractions and insights into the insular world of one artist’s mind to a nation’s culture.

Entering the world of Paul Thek at the Whitney is an opportunity to look into not only his working process, including images of his studio and pages of his journals, but also his perceptions of the state of American society, from hippies to a background of world events.  To see more of the exhibit, or to learn more about Paul Thek, visit the Whitney or check out Paul Thek: Diver. The show will be up at the Whitney until January 9, 2011 before continuing to the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Hammer Museum.

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