Art & Antiques Magazine For Collectors of the Fine and Decorative Arts Thu, 08 Sep 2016 19:52:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Art & Antiques Magazine 32 32 A Rage for Ruins Wed, 07 Sep 2016 19:16:08 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The 18th-century French painter Hubert Robert catered to the aristocracy’s fascination with the ancient world and the eroding effects of time, with works which continue to astonish.

Hubert Robert, Le Panthéon avec le port de Ripetta, Salon of 1767

Hubert Robert, Le Panthéon avec le port de Ripetta, Salon of 1767, oil on canvas, framed: 141.5 x 168.5 x 7.5 cm (56 x 66 x 3 in.) unframed: 119 x 145 cm (47 x 57 in.).

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Hubert Robert, Studio of an Antiquities Restorer in Rome, 1783 Hubert Robert, A hermit praying in the ruins of a temple, c. 1760 Hubert Robert, The Old Temple, 1787- 1788 Hubert Robert, Le Panthéon avec le port de Ripetta, Salon of 1767 Hubert Robert, The Obelisk, 1733 -1808

If ever there was a social butterfly at the Royal Academy in France, it was Hubert Robert. During his artistic domination in and around Paris during the second half of the 18th century, Robert cultivated countless relationships with a veritable Who’s Who of ancien-régime Paris, floating through the city’s circles of intellectuals (particularly members of the fashionable Republic of Arts and Letters), antiquarians, and amateurs, as well as fully realizing his lofty aspirations as a painter of architecture, landscape, and antiquities.

His friend and eventual colleague at the Royal Academy, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Lebrun, wrote extensively not only of his talent but also of his charms, which were many. Two oft-quoted passages from her Souvenirs are worth repeating here: Robert “excelled above all at depicting ruins … It was fashionable and a great luxury to have one’s salon painted by Robert.” She went on to write that he also “cut the best figure in society, of which he was moreover very fond. Loving all pleasures, without omitting those of the table, he was generally sought out, and I doubt that he dined at home more than three times a year. Plays, balls, dinners, concerts, visits to country houses, nothing was declined by him, for all the time he did not employ working, he spent in amusements.”

Realizing his ambitions and climbing France’s social ladder were made possible no doubt thanks to his innate skill as an artist and draughtsman. The canvases of which Vigée Lebrun spoke, and which were Robert’s trademark for nearly 50 years, were known as capricci, a term denoting the decorative convention for depicting picturesque architectural ruins that had developed in baroque Rome and reached its apex among the Italian painters with Giovanni Paolo Panini, for whose work Robert felt a deep affinity. Robert’s charisma, coupled with his artistic ingenuity and his ability to create those arresting and novel capricci for which he was—and still is—amply praised, made for an ideal combination and brought him the praise for which he had hoped.

Robert was considered one of the most important painters by patrons, critics, and artists alike in the 18th century and was acclaimed well into the Belle Époque. Paeans to him peppered the writings of some of France’s most important literary figures, from Denis Diderot—who gave him the nickname “Robert of the Ruins”—to Edmond de Goncourt and Marcel Proust more than a century later. But the 20th century has been less kind to him, and more than 80 years have passed since he was the subject of a major retrospective. This year’s exhibition, “Hubert Robert, 1733–1808,” serves to remedy that. The show first graced the walls of the Louvre, the very institution where Robert himself was installed with his own studio and apartments in 1779, and is currently on view across the Atlantic at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (through October 2).

The son of the valet and the chambermaid of the Marquis de Stainville, Hubert Robert received the privilege of a trusting patron, the foundation of a master’s early education since the Renaissance (as in the legendarily celebrated cases of Leonardo and Francis I and Michelangelo and Lorenzo de’ Medici), even while in his youngest, formative years. Stainville and his son, the Comte de Stainville, had evidently had spotted talent, refinement, and social adeptness in the budding artist. In 1754, at just 21, Robert was invited to join the entourage of the Comte de Stainville in Rome, where Robert internalized as much of the Eternal City as he could, as the numerous notebooks of sketches sold at his posthumous auction attest.

His relationship with Stainville not only provided him with an opportunity for this ever-important artist’s Grand Tour, it also made possible his admission to Rome’s French Academy, a distinction generally only given to winners of the Rome Prize, which he in fact never received. He remained in the city for another 11 years, and it was during that Roman holiday that the cornerstones were laid for Robert’s career, cornerstones that would quite literally appear and reappear on the architectural ruins that populated his drawings and canvases throughout the rest of his life.

His portrayals of artists in their own dilapidated, romantic surroundings suggest that the worlds of fantasy and reality straddled a fine line for him even beyond the well-known capricci. In The Artist in His Studio, painted in 1765, during the last year of his Italian sojourn, an artist—possibly Robert himself—draws from a marble bust on his work table. On the walls, drawings and a framed painting are hung without much care, one having turned 90 degrees. The sunlight shining in from the open windows is the only illumination, while the only other living creature is his loyal dog sniffing curiously in the foreground.

This meta-narrative runs through his career, as with the somewhat romanticized chalk drawing of the sculptor Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, best known for his restoration on Roman marbles, at work in his studio in the mid-1760s, and, 20 years later, the lively and vibrant Studio of an Antiquities Restorer in Rome (circa 1783). Here, the entire workshop has become a capriccio in itself, with eroded Corinthian columns pulled from a decrepit portico in the recesses of his mind that he very likely faced in person two decades before. The structure supports a much later wooden roof sheltering sarcophagus fragments, marble statuary like the allegory of the Nile that today sits in front of the Palazzo Senatorio, and bronzes such as a larger-than-life-size Minerva. It is a clear and sunny early morning on which these men work and visitors, notably mostly women, look on in wonderment, dwarfed by the beauty and the antiquity surrounding them.

These fictitious vistas of Roman monuments, set outdoors more often than indoors, had by the 1780s become Robert’s specialty, and much of the show is devoted to the genre that he more or less singlehandedly popularized. For Diderot, painted ruins translated to poetry, and Robert’s compositions highlighted the “beautiful horror” that Diderot felt was paramount to the power of these works. Likewise, it is almost impossible to ignore the similarities between Robert’s fantastic depictions of the detrimental effects of time and nature on the creations of man and Edmund Burke’s 1757 tract on the sublime. The melancholic, idealized beauty of Robert’s compositions proves to be a perfect visualization of Diderot’s sentiments toward ruins as filtered through his own reading of Burke. In 1767, at the time of Robert’s Salon debut, Diderot famously wrote, “The ideas ruins awaken in me are big. Everything comes to nothing, everything perishes, everything passes. Only the world remains. Only time endures.”

Though he has been canonized for these almost ubiquitous ruinous views, Robert was in fact so prolific that it is easy to forget the sheer scope of his oeuvre. But one thread remains, and that is Robert’s striking understanding and interpretation of mortality and life’s fragility, from timeworn, fragmentary architecture to laundrywomen performing the labors that would mark their lives daily. This sense of looming death might well have fed into Robert’s own need for constant sociability and what Vigée Lebrun might describe today as a “fear of missing out.”

In this extensive exhibition, with over 100 artworks in total, we see in Robert’s art of the second half of the 18th century his personal trajectory and France’s as well, from his movement alongside the ranks of nobility, his academic upbringing, his reliance on Italian masters like Giovanni Paolo Panini and Giovanni Battista Piranesi, his involvement in interior and exterior artistic projects, his consideration of other media (in the form of stone folies and painted porcelain), to the effects of the Reign of Terror under Robespierre as seen through the artist’s own imprisonment at Saint-Lazare and through the post-Revolutionary destruction of châteaux and ecclesiastical monuments (and even their rehabilitation under Alexandre Lenoir with an 1801 interior of the Museum of Monuments).

One unusual example that stands out is Robert’s extant work for Jean Joseph, marquis de Laborde, the tax collector under Louis XV. In 1786, under Robert’s scrupulous supervision, his capricci were reanimated in three dimensions in the gardens at the Château de Méréville (View of Méréville in the direction of the château). Laborde acquired the property, located about 40 miles south of Paris, in 1784, hiring the architect Jean-Benoit Vincent Barré to transform the medieval structure and Robert to conceive interior painting schemes and garden follies. Surviving drawings provide us with visual evidence of the scale of the massive landscaping project, which was recently restored. The château itself, the interiors of which included six paintings by Robert installed in two rooms, is today still unvisitable, having fallen into disrepair after the building was abandoned in 1897 and its contents sold in Paris three years later.

Four of the canvases Robert painted for Méréville—The Fountains, The Landing Place, The Obelisk, and The Old Temple—are today preserved at the Art Institute of Chicago. (The location of the other two is unknown.) Each reads as yet another tribute to Robert’s Roman holiday, truncating the wonders of that city into a series of complementary paintings destined for a thoroughly northern building. In The Landing Place, the viewer must look up to a most unexpected angle to glimpse one of the Quirinal Hill’s Horse Tamers precariously perched atop the remains of an equally incredible temple-cum-portico-cum-arch. The composition is somehow still open and airy, as nearly half the canvas is given over to a cornflower-blue sky with wisps of cumulus clouds, while in the foreground, gondolas await the figures lounging on stairs that lead to nowhere. Robert’s nonchalant and unorthodox rendering of reality shines here and in the three pendant paintings specially designed for Méréville’s petit salon.

Thus the sprezzatura that clearly defined Robert’s persona also characterized his art in Rome and beyond, and he and his close friend and fellow member of the Academy Jean-Honoré Fragonard together championed a new form of painting, marked by quick, loose brushwork and a seeming effortlessness. But that rapidity and slackness later became his academic downfall. In 1796, after that style of painting had ceased to be all the rage at the Salon, one observer noted, “The weakness of fa presto is the weakness of this facile and ingenious painter.” Nearly 20 years earlier at the Salon, Diderot had been among the first to predict that Robert’s supremacy would wane due to his painterly style: “If this artist continues to sketch, he will lose the knack of finishing, his head and his hand will become wayward….he is extravagant, his wife is a woman of fashion, he has to work fast.”

Vigée Lebrun’s 1788 portrait of the painter, which opens the exhibition catalogue, gives the sense that such criticisms probably did not much discourage him. His appearance is as casual as his sometimes slapdash brushstrokes, with wild, unkempt hair; a broken-in and wrinkled woolen coat; and a self-assured expression as he leans on his left arm to casually support his palette. Vigée Lebrun painted him in the act of looking, but she also painted him in the act of painting. His wide-eyed gaze and mien even suggest the very term that literally translated into his art, and that only a close confidant like Vigée Lebrun could have captured: capricious. Here we have a man of conviction, a man who would not change his favored artistic style for anyone, even if his refined upbringing might suggest otherwise. Evidently, despite his incarceration and the deathly chill of the Terror, Robert was not deterred from continuing to create the ruinous, saturnine world that had brought him fame among the aristocracy decades earlier, from being the artist and socialite he wanted to be, and, in short, from living his life.

By Martina D’Amato

New West Wed, 07 Sep 2016 18:48:46 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Ed Ruscha’s complex vision of the Western American landscape unfolds at the de Young Museum.

Ed Ruscha, Asphalt Jungle, 1991

Ed Ruscha, Asphalt Jungle, 1991, acrylic on canvas, 82 x 104 in. (208.3 x 264.2 cm)

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas, 1962 Ed Ruscha, Pool #7, from the Pools series published in 1997 Ed Ruscha, Ed Ruscha, Asphalt Jungle, 1991 Ed Ruscha, Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas, 1963

In John Ford’s 1956 masterpiece The Searchers, the wide frame is utilized to create one of the movies’ most iconic images of existential American individualism in the West: John Wayne silhouetted in a doorway, beyond him the plains, mountains, and sky. In essence, Ford gives us the concrete and the limitless. This meeting of sleek, tightly controlled modern design and expansive poetic landscape echoes loudly in the work of Ed Ruscha, an artist who has also chronicled of the American West, its realities, its fictions, and the place he inhabits at the crossroads where they meet.

The de Young Museum in San Francisco presents Ruscha’s work with a focus on its connection to our national mythology in “Ed Ruscha and the Great American West” (July 16–October 9). The exhibition brings together 99 works and details the artist’s enduring engagement with landscape and the iconography of the West (both existing icons and his own) through multiple mediums and perspectives. The show is divided into nine sections organized according to periods of Ruscha’s career and themes found throughout it. Through these sections Ruscha’s desire to explore the West from every possible perspective becomes evident—from high above (Fashion Square, Sherman Oaks, 2000) to slightly below; from the ghostly past (Bison Study #2, 1989) to the stark present (Filthy McNasty’s, 1976); from behind the Hollywood sign (The Back of Hollywood, 1977) to the fine print (The End, 1991).

Ruscha made his way across the desert from Oklahoma to Los Angeles in 1956, at the age of 18. Along the way, traveling the legendary Route 66, he fell in love with (or at least became fascinated by) the landscape of the Western United States—lonely modern gas stations, distant orange horizons, advertising signage, endless highways, and the time to ponder it all. What Ruscha discovered in his travels was a meeting of new and old America, the counterculture yearnings of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road meeting the opportunistic and freedom-seeking ideals of westward-bound pioneers. Ruscha combined these dovetailing sentiments with a strong graphic sensibility (he worked for the Carson-Roberts Advertising Agency in Los Angeles as layout artist) and found a way to amplify the stark abstraction inherent in the desert landscape and the human perspective at the center of it all.

The history of Ruscha’s color screen print Standard Station (1966) traces the personal, technical journey of the artist through mediums and ideas. It was developed from his 1962 photograph Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas, and the casual documentary framing of the photograph is transformed into a colorful pop vision in the 1962 colored-pencil sketch Standard Study, leading to the iconic, graphically intense 1963 oil painting Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas. Three years later Ruscha arrives at the softer, yet still intense, desert glow of the 1966 screen print. The compositions of both the 1963 and 1966 versions are low-angle, evoking the idea of approach, the clean modern oasis rising up from the unforgiving smoothness of the desert through a car windshield. The windshield is the linchpin of the new subjectivity at the heart of Ruscha’s work. By allowing it to be the vantage point, Ruscha acknowledges one of America’s most commonplace symbols of personal freedom—the car. This perspective is uncompromisingly realistic and honest in its approach, dispensing with the Romantic, level, privileged view of the world in traditional landscape and substituting a contingent, partial view framed by the car window which seems to say: Let’s be honest, this is how we really experience America.

The new post-Romantic view of the West was a rich theme for works of art of the 1960s counterculture. In films such as Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider and Monte Hellman’s Two Lane Blacktop, the stark blank canvas of the desert became the open space for existential wondering and wandering and the search for “America.” In Ruscha’s work an ironic assortment of pop images becomes the stuff of personal psychology and fantasy—billboards are grafted onto our field of vision and long highway drives are journeys into the mind. During the ’80s, words begins to redefine subjectivity in Ruscha’s work; the human perspective no longer means simply vantage point but also thought and its constant presence. A Particular Kind of Heaven (1983) depicts a surrealistic desert horizon with the title phrase overlaid, floating in the sky, the moment of thinking captured. The mind and the landscape become intermingled. Words appear on top of mountains, pristine icons (the Hollywood sign, for example) crumble, and feelings take form in psychologically charged personal visions.

Ruscha’s work shifts between bringing out the essence of design in the commercial and commonplace ( as in Standard Station) and documenting the mundane and tacky with smirking detachment (Ed Ruscha and some Los Angeles Apartments, The Sunset Strip). Finding a meeting point between his artist’s books and his painting can be tricky, but the common theme is the West, the reality it presents and the dream—in a sense, still Romantic—it symbolizes. In Ruscha’s work there is a journey across the desert to “The End” of the line in Los Angeles, and it’s a grim place to arrive. Ruscha’s take on it echoes those of many of his disillusioned contemporaries. The cheap, desperate facades and apartments of Los Angeles makes one wonder if going back out into the desert, the true place of dreams, might not be the best, most humane decision.

By Chris Shields

Talking in Colors Wed, 07 Sep 2016 18:24:45 +0000 Continue reading ]]> James Havard’s lifelong infatuation with paint has yielded a diverse, absolutely individualistic body of work.

James Havard, Woman Holding Apache Doll, 1996

James Havard, Woman Holding Apache Doll, 1996, oil and wax on board, 16 x 19 3⁄4 inches

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) James Havard, Talking in Color #1 James Havard, Untitled, 1985 James Havard, Woman Holding Apache Doll, 1996 James Havard, U.S. as a Buffalo Hide with Back Fat, 1975 James Havard, Blue Hat

In a 50-year career, James Havard has painted in many styles, from realism to trompe l’oeil “abstract illusionism” to multimedia collage to his current mode, which recalls art brut. But no matter how different they may be, all these styles are unmistakably Havard, speaking eloquently in their different voices of one relentlessly creative spirit. For Havard, art and life have always been inseparable, and while his own life in art has taken him on a long journey from where he started out, in a way he has never lost touch with his foundations.

One of Havard’s most recent series of paintings is called the “Roughnecks Series.” These vividly expressionistic works all depict a central figure, rendered in solid black against a background of wild bursts and bands of color, sometimes accompanied by other figures in outline. A roughneck is an oil-refinery worker, a hazardous occupation that Havard’s father pursued up and down the Texas Gulf Coast during the Depression and after. These paintings aren’t a nostalgic homage, though; they are very immediate, very much of the present. They may, in fact, be a sort of symbolic self-portrait; Havard himself has some roughneck in him, not just through genetics but by way of practical experience—in the 1950s he worked alongside his father to put himself through college. In the paintings, the roughneck figure could just as well be an artist, and instead of the fires of a Texas oil well, the bursts of hot color could represent the primal ooze of paint itself, the raw materials for the risky endeavor of art.

Havard was born in 1937 in Galveston, Tex., and when he was six his parents bought a small farm near the town of Crosby (population 1,000), on which the family grew vegetables and raised livestock to feed itself, occasionally selling meat to supplement their income. Animal husbandry was one of Havard’s strongest interests, along with drawing; he won blue ribbons at state fairs for animals he raised. When he graduated from high school, he won a scholarship to the agricultural program at Sam Houston State College in Huntsville. During his sophomore year, though, he saw other students doing studio art and decided to take an art class. It was a life-changing moment, and he impulsively decided to change his major to art, even though it cost him his scholarship. To make up for it, he worked at many jobs, anything he could find, including at the oil refinery. After graduation, in 1958, Havard got a job in Dallas as a technical illustrator at Collins Radio, making detailed drawings of electronic components and even of the prototype of a “space toilet” for astronauts.

Determined to make his living as a fine artist, Havard, who had had a few small exhibitions in Dallas, won another scholarship—full tuition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. At this famous art school, the first and oldest in the U.S., where Thomas Eakins had taught, Havard underwent a very traditional education. His most important teachers were Ben Kamihira and Hobson Pittman, both realist painters, and among his student friends was David Lynch, the future filmmaker (and painter). While at PAFA, Havard won several awards which included travel and study abroad, and soon he was off to London. Among the people he befriended there were David Hockney, Peter Blake, and Richard Hamilton, who were rapidly becoming prominent; Blake in particular had a strong influence on the young American artist. After London, Havard traveled to Spain and Italy on a EuroPass; he arrived in Bologna hoping to meet Giorgio Morandi, only to find out that the artist had died that very day. Despite that disappointment, these adventures instilled in Havard a lifelong affection for European culture and lifestyles.

After graduation, Havard stayed in Philadelphia, a city he would remain closely associated with from then on (today he lives in Westtown, in Chester County, outside Philadelphia). He had a solo show in Dallas, at Atelier Chapman Kelly, and one in Philadelphia, at Vanderlip Gallery. Experimenting alternately with Pop Art and abstraction, he was looking for a distinctive, individual style. He soon found it. Living above an auto body shop, he started working with industrial spray paint, applying it to molded Plexiglas panels made by a commercial sign company. Instead of using these materials to evoke mass culture, as the Pop artists did, Havard went into full abstraction, applying pastel-hued paints to the inside surface of the Plexiglas and moving them around with his fingers in swirl patterns. With some of the works, he then painted geometric images on the outside of the Plexiglas. With these works—which are sometimes compared to the “finish fetish” mini-movement of California artists who reveled in the iridescent sensuality of auto-body paint—Havard made a major discovery that affected his subsequent work for a long time: He could create a 3-D illusionistic effect without disturbing the purity of his abstraction.

The next phase of Havard’s career, during the 1970s, was devoted to this “abstract illusionism,” as the dealer Allan Stone dubbed it. Havard developed a technique whereby certain of the abstract forms in his paintings would have a sort of shadow below them, as if they were floating above the picture plane. Eventually, he found ingenious ways to create several layers of abstraction within one painting. Soon, figuration started finding its way back into Havard’s work, in the form of geometric symbols from Native American iconography that he caused to float across the surfaces of his canvases.

Havard has always had a deep interest in Native American cultures, and as early as the mid-’60s he began collecting. In a way, his collecting activity is in line with similar efforts by modernist artists such as Picasso who drew inspiration from “tribal” or “primitive” art. Eventually, as his work grew more and more desirable on the art market, his American Indian collection grew to the point where Architectural Digest featured it twice during the ’80s, first when it occupied his Tribeca loft and again after he moved to Santa Fe in 1989. In light of Havard’s passion for Native American art and artifacts, it makes sense that his dealer now is John Molloy, an expert in classic Indian ethnographic material who also shows contemporary art. Molloy, whom Havard met when they both lived in Santa Fe, is now based in New York and will have a one-man show of Havard’s recent work on view this month.

In the early 1990s, Havard had two major health crises, including a near-death experience, that caused him to drastically rethink his work and alter course. In 1996, he emerged on the other side with a new, expressionistic style—still with Native American content but now with new “primitive” influences, from outsider art and children’s art. Some critics have compared Havard’s later work, with its sometimes deliberately crude, childish, or cartoonish figures and written words, to that of Basquiat, but the similarity is superficial. If anything, the work owes more to the Dubuffet tradition, but in any case it is pure Havard, channeling all the streams from his past and activated by his lifelong love of the substance of paint. Some of these works are almost like shadowboxes with collaged elements, most notably photographs of ethnographic artworks and other historical imagery on top of painted passages and lettering. Other paintings feature frames made by the artist and painted in ways that integrate them with the canvas.

In 2006 Havard moved back to the East Coast, and now, limited by some mobility problems brought on by a stroke, he has to paint on a smaller scale. The new works, some just 6 by 8 inches, are nonetheless extremely powerful, perhaps even more so because the reduced format concentrates them. One recent series Havard calls “Talking in Colors,” and that description is more or less literal—if the word could be used of such visionary images. In these paintings, enclosed in cheap Chinese frames that the artist distresses and paints over, the figures have streams of multiple colors coming out of their mouths. They might be spiritualist mediums emitting rainbow-hued ectoplasm. For an artist who has always made paint talk, nothing could be more natural.

By John Dorfman

Robert Cottingham: Signs of the Times Thu, 25 Aug 2016 01:38:45 +0000 Continue reading ]]> A new show puts decades of Robert Cottingham’s meticulously Realist and decidedly American paintings on view.

Robert Cottingham, Champagne, 1992

Robert Cottingham, Champagne, 1992, oil on canvas, 62 x 62 inches

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Robert Cottingham, Loans, 2014 Robert Cottingham, Empire IV, 2012 Robert Cottingham, Bimat, 1998 Robert Cottingham, Hot, 1992 Robert Cottingham, Champagne, 1992

To say that Robert Cottingham’s painting practice began as a hobby gives the wrong sort of impression. However, it was after the close of his workday as an art director at an advertising firm that Cottingham initially painted. He had graduated from Pratt Institute in 1963, having studied advertising and graphic design, and was working in New York at the firm of Young and Rubicam. In 1964, the artist was transferred to Los Angeles. Within four years, he had given up the advertising racket and was painting full-time.

One look at Cottingham’s work—which has been called “Photorealist,” though the artist insists otherwise (he’s a realist painter dealing with the vernacular scene, like Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, or Charles Demuth)—and it seems inseparable from his advertising career. Like Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist, who also came from an advertising background, Cottingham seems entrenched in methods of communication. This is expressed not simply by his work’s bold palette or sense of Americana, but because of its ability to convey powerful sentiments with a single word, letter, or symbol. Typeface, too, seems of paramount importance in the artist’s work, with the font in which words are written (or in this case painted) communicating just as much as the words themselves.

But in truth, Cottingham’s work takes on a different sort of advertising than what was typical of Pop Art. Rather than appropriating ad copy or images of mass-market products for sale, much of Cottingham’s paintings focus on the street-level advertising of American businesses: signage. The dazzling marquee of a movie theater, the painted insignia of a railroad boxcar, and the inviting neon signs of diners and bars all find a place in Cottingham’s work. Cottingham rendered his imagery with uncanny precision but often cropped the name on a sign to form new words (such as A.R.T., 1992) or captured a marquee from an unexpected vantage point. Though he began using photographs as initial references in the late ’60s, he wasn’t beholden to the original image and would change the words to accommodate his desired meaning. If signs were meant to easily communicate familiar messages, Cottingham’s canvases were an opportunity to see the familiar from a different, sometimes disorienting, perspective.

“Robert Cottingham: Master Realist” opens at The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, on September 18 (it runs through November 20). Along with an expansive look at work from a decades-long career (Cottingham is still painting today at the age of 80), the show will also put a slice of American visual culture on view.

Jane Eckert, the owner of Eckert Fine Art Gallery + Consulting in Kent, Conn., and the curator of “Master Realist,” says, “To me he is an all-American painter. Signage was such a big part of our country before television and the media.” In the ’70s, Eckert recounts, Cottingham won a grant that afforded him the opportunity to travel from the East Coast to the West by bus. “There were so many old theaters and stores, which he’d photograph as he went across the country,” says Eckert. “To this day he paints from those photos.” Much of Cottingham’s subject matter—the signs and businesses in these photographs—has since been torn down. “He was on the cusp of capturing this part of Americana, especially in the Midwest,” says Eckert.

With Empire, one of Cottingham’s most famous images (one example will be in “Master Realist”), the artist’s paintings serve as an inadvertent means of historical preservation. In the late ’90s, Cottingham was in Alabama for a show of his work at the Montgomery Museum of Art. The director of the museum suggested that the artist go see an old theater downtown, which was built in 1914. When Cottingham went to look at the Empire Theater it had already closed, but he learned that in 1955 Rosa Parks was actually stopped in front of it when police were called to arrest her. Today, though the Empire has been torn down, the Rosa Parks Library and Museum stands in its place. Cottingham photographed the theater, and in 2008, when he was commissioned by Lincoln Center in New York to develop an image for the anniversary of their film festival, those photographs served as his model. For the next couple of years, Cottingham rendered images of the Empire Theater marquee in oil, watercolor, gouache, and graphite.

“Master Realist” will also illuminate the artist’s process, which involves several steps. Eckert says, “Most Photorealists just took a photo and worked directly from that, but Robert starts with a drawing and captures the shading—where lights and darks are—then he plays around with cropping it. He gets close.” After the drawing and deciding on composition, Cottingham does a gouache or watercolor rendering, bringing color into the image. Only after these steps does he move on to oil. “I find his paintings are not as cold as Photorealist paintings,” says Eckert, “they are very tight, but there’s always a little bit of a softer feel to them. It’s the process that makes that happen.”

The show won’t just stop at signage. Other fascinations of the artist will be on display: a series of Arts & Crafts houses in Pasadena, Calif., Remington typewriters, Brownie cameras, and watercolors of colored perfume bottles he made early in his career. But regardless of subject matter, Cottingham’s work, as will be on view at “Master Realist,” never strays from the bold, realist presentation of the image that makes it recognizable. “He’s a graphic designer,” says Eckert, “that’s the thread that runs through it all.”

By Sarah E. Fensom

Xul Solar: Utopia, Unlimited Thu, 25 Aug 2016 01:26:02 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The polymathic Argentine visionary who called himself Xul Solar did more than just make art—he created his own universe.

Xul Solar, Otros Troncos, 1919

Xul Solar, Otros Troncos, 1919

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Xul Solar, Pan Arbol, 1954 Xul Solar, Santos Y Guardianes Xul Solar, Otros Troncos, 1919 Xul Solar, Las Cuatro, 1922 Xul Solar, Ofrenda Cuori, 1915 the Museo Xul Solar in Buenos Aires

The museum dedicated to Argentina’s foremost painter, Xul Solar (1887–1963), evokes a cabinet of curiosities befitting the eccentricities of this talented artist and polymath. Besides his paintings, often whimsical and occultist, Xul Solar invented a language he called neo-criollo that he hoped would replace Spanish and Portuguese in Latin America; he concocted an elaborate chess game and a new deck of Tarot cards; and he built a three-keyboard piano that linked musical notes to colors. All these creations are on display at the museum that occupies his former home and studio.

The Museo Xul Solar is in the upper-middle class Palermo district of Buenos Aires, on a quiet street of multi-story dwellings mostly from the second half of the 20th century. The museum was inaugurated in 1993 after a thoroughly contemporary redesign. But its façade dates back to the early part of the century and preserves its lengthy wooden window shutters and balconies with wrought-iron railing that were typical of the French-Spanish hybrid architecture of the period.

Inside, I’m greeted by several watercolors from the early 1950s of half-human, half-animal faces of zodiac figures that remind me of characters created by Maurice Sendak 40 years later. At the suggestion of my guide, Teresa Tedin Uriburu, the museum’s communication director, we view the 84-work collection in chronological order. But first, she offers a brief summary of Xul Solar’s early years.

He was born Oscar Schulz Solari on December 14, 1887, in the small town of San Fernando, now a northwest suburb of Buenos Aires. His mother, a housewife, was Italian, and his father, an immigrant from Estonia, worked in an Argentine penitentiary giving technical job training to the inmates. Their son studied architecture, painting and classical music, but never received a degree. In 1912, he set off for Europe on what would prove to be a dozen-year sojourn in France, Italy and Germany during World War I and the bitter peace that followed.

It wasn’t until 1918, while living in Florence, that he changed his name to Xul Solar: Xul is the pronunciation of the father’s last name, minus the z, and spells “light” in Latin backwards; Solar is the mother’s last name, minus the i, and means “of the sun.” Already enamored of symbols and hidden meanings, the artist became “Light of the Sun.”

In Paris during wartime, he socialized with Picasso and other cubists and in Italy with futurists. But Xul Solar’s early postwar years in Germany proved to have the most lasting influence. He was spellbound by the German Expressionist group, Der Blaue Reiter, especially works from this period by Paul Klee. Like the Swiss-born artist, Xul Solar often included deceptively child-like figures along with letters, numbers and other symbols in his paintings.

The first room at the museum contains art works, many of them watercolors on cardboard, that Xul Solar painted during his time in Europe. A repeated motif is reincarnation. His 1915 El Entierro (The Burial) depicts a funeral procession in which the fetus-shaped soul of the deceased levitates and returns to a womb-like cave.

Many of his works contain snakes, representing forbidden knowledge. The sun appears frequently in his paintings, as might be expected from the artist’s assumed name. Humor is another element in Xul Solar’s repertoire. The 1922 watercolor Las Cuatro is a playful jab at Cubism—four cartoon-like faces, with eyes attached to nose and an orifice for the mouth, glance in different directions. Ña Diáfana (Lady Diaphanous, in the neo-criollo language invented by the artist) is a 1923 semi-abstract watercolor in the style of Klee. The woman, her organs exposed, grasps a serpent that encircles her.

In 1924, Xul Solar moved back to Argentina with a missionary zeal to shake up its sleepy art scene. He joined the Martín Fierro movement. Linked to an eponymous short-lived magazine (1924-27), the movement was named after a rebellious mythical gaucho and called for cultural change in a country still heavily influenced by formalistic 19th century European notions of art and literature. Martín Fierro members included Jorge Luís Borges, the phantasmagorical novelist, who became a close friend of Xul Solar.

Perhaps the most important Xul Solar work to come out of his involvement with the movement was the 1927 pencil and watercolor, Drago (neo-criollo for Dragon). It depicts a powerful, united Latin America transformed into a giant serpent swimming across the ocean to rescue a Europe impoverished by World War I. In the reptile’s wake are the flags of the former colonial powers—Spain and Portugal—as well as the Stars and Stripes of the neo-colonial pretender. But Drago was one of the few overtly political works among Xul Solar’s varied creations. More typical of the same period is the 1925 San Dansa (neo-criollo for Saint Dances), writhing stick-like figures that invite comparison to Keith Haring’s paintings from 60 years later.

By the 1930s, the Martín Fierro movement was a dim memory. Xul Solar’s works took on an increasingly narrative and mystic quality. In the 1936 Vuel Villa (Flying Village in neo-criollo), clumsy ships carrying exotic residences and other buildings are lifted by balloons high above an earthbound village of more conventional homes. Another notable work, Santos y Guardianes (Saints and Guardians, 1942), depicts holy men of Western and Eastern faiths climbing heavenwards on shaky columns and ladders.

Some of Xul Solar’s largest paintings are from the 1940s and ’50s. He became enthralled by the links between art and music. In the 1948 Barreras Melódicas, peaks and valleys represent high and low musical notes. And he returns to the theme with a similar landscape in Cinco Melodías (1959). In between, he created his famed three-keyboard piano, which is on display on the museum’s mezzanine.

Above the mezzanine, up a winding staircase, are the modest living quarters of Xul Solar and his wife, Lita Cadenas. The apartment opens into a library of 3,000 volumes, arranged eccentrically by size rather than subject; in a corner is a wood-and-wire skeleton fashioned by the artist. This was the room where Xul Solar and Borges met frequently for hours to discuss art, literature and astrology, and to play pan-ajedrez, an expanded chess game in which each opponent had 30 pieces that not only moved across the board, but also bore alphabet letters to be shaped into words.

Earning little income from art, Xul Solar made a living as a translator of books in English, French, German and Italian, and by renting out two apartments in his Buenos Aires residence. In his last decade, he spent much of his time in Tigre, the isle-dotted delta of the River Plate a few miles north of Buenos Aires. And in the years after his death in 1963, he became an almost forgotten figure.

There was a brief spike in interest in Xul Solar when the Buenos Aires Museum of Latin American Art, known as MALBA, staged a retrospective of 130 of his art works in 2005. The exhibition traveled to São Paulo and to Houston. But Xul Solar remains largely ignored even in Argentina. His museum has tried since 2010 to fund and publish a catalogue raisonnée of his works, but the project isn’t yet nearing completion.

Perhaps his friend Borges phrased the lack of interest most poignantly when he wrote a dozen years after the artist’s death: “Xul Solar’s utopias failed, but that failure is ours, not his. We have not known how to deserve them.”

By Jonathan Kandell

Sèvres Style Thu, 25 Aug 2016 01:08:55 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The Sèvres porcelain factory started out cutting-edge and has stayed that way ever since, creating pieces that turn fantasy into gorgeous reality.

set of Sèvres plates designed by Roberto Matta

set of Sèvres plates designed by Roberto Matta

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Vase "Messaline," Sèvres orange tub with porcelain flowers pair of Vases à Oreilles Swan vase, Sèvres, 1900 set of Sèvres plates designed by Roberto Matta

Times were grim for the Sèvres porcelain factory in the 1790s. It was almost offered for sale in 1790, but King Louis XVI opened his own purse to keep its kilns lit. Three years later, the king’s angry subjects sent him to the chopping block, and the Sèvres factory nearly followed. But remarkably, the National Congress voted to spare it. While its legislators were deeply irked by the antics of Sèvres’ high-born patrons, they deemed Sèvres itself “one of the glories of France” and permitted it to carry on making its exquisite luxury goods. The revolutionaries “always understood it was wonderful stuff,” says Leon Dalva of Dalva Brothers, a Manhattan gallery that specializes in Sèvres.

We continue to talk about Sèvres porcelain today, centuries after it first appeared, because it’s still wonderful stuff—gorgeous colors, delightful shapes, expertly made. Pieces that thrilled the crowned heads of Europe in the 18th century turned the heads of Henry Clay Frick and Marjorie Merriweather Post in the 20th. The endurance of Sèvres porcelain may be linked to the reason its founders moved the factory in 1756 from its original location in Vincennes to Sèvres. The new town wasn’t near a deposit of clay or a forest of wood that could fuel the kilns, but it was convenient to Versailles and its deep-pocketed nobles. Placing its headquarters close to its customers rather than sources of raw materials was an inspired choice that planted the seeds that would sprout and grow into the modern French luxury goods market. Periodic exhibition sales of Sèvres’ latest, held within Versailles, became such a tradition that even when the revolutionaries forced the royal family back to Paris, the king was permitted to conduct Sèvres sales at the Tuileries Palace. “Everyone who wanted to be in good favor at court would buy a piece,” says Liana Paredes, director of collections and chief curator of the Hillwood Museum and Gardens in Washington, D.C.

Unlike the German porcelain factory at Meissen, which came into being as a state enterprise, Sèvres launched in 1740 as a private business (King Louis XV did not step in and raise it to a royal endeavor until 1759). The brain trust behind Sèvres knew they had to make their mark swiftly and surely if they wanted to seize part of the porcelain market from Chinese imports and from their German rivals, who were the first Europeans to figure out the formula for porcelain. “They needed to separate themselves from Meissen. They needed to be as competitive and as attractive, and they needed to do something better,” says Charlotte Vignon, curator of decorative arts at the Frick Collection in Manhattan. In its way, launching a porcelain factory in Europe in the mid-18th century was like the U.S. launching the Apollo program in the mid- 20th—it was an agonizingly expensive endeavor that recruited the finest, most talented scientists and technicians available, and it bolstered a country’s reputation as a leader, if not the leader, among nations. “Sèvres very quickly developed a French style,” Vignon says. “They employed Jean-Claude Duplessis, a talented designer who created shapes that did not exist anywhere else. Jean Hellot, their chemist, invented these colors, almost one a year. They had a bright team of very, very interesting people working for them.”

That bright team did something very, very French—they figured out how to transform their shortcomings into high style. During the factory’s early decades, the clay available to Sèvres was only fit for making soft paste porcelain; it lacked the kaolin that was in the clays used at Meissen and in China to create the more desirable hard paste porcelain. Hellot transformed soft paste’s challenges into virtues by concocting formulas for seductively candy-like hues. “It [the color] really sank into the body of the porcelain and acquired a depth and a brightness of color that was unattainable in hard paste,” says Paredes. Duplessis matched Hellot’s eye-popping colors with magnificent and daring shapes to decorate. “I think he was a genius in a way,” says Paredes, commenting on how Duplessis managed a more restrained take on the rococo style that prevailed in the 18th century. “The way he designed was about volume and plasticity and great shapes.” Sèvres’ expert marriage of color and form comes through clearly in a soup tureen and matching platter made at Vincennes in 1754 and now in Hillwood’s collection. “Duplessis was clearly looking at silver tureens,” Paredes says, pointing out the gilt-edged leaves that grace the legs of the Sèvres tureen. Its ground, or main background color, represents one of Sèvres’ inaugural achievements—a lush shade of blue that didn’t emerge from the kiln looking patchy, cloudy, or uneven.

Hillwood has another early Sèvres piece that glories in a technical achievement and shows how adept the factory was at exploiting the zeitgeist for marketing purposes. In 1757, Sèvres sold a cuvette “Mahon,” a type of flower vase that features a previously hard-to-master color: pink. Before Hellot nailed down the formula, the pink tended to drip and run and blend with the gilding on a piece, causing discoloration. To celebrate the triumph of chemistry, the powers at Sèvres named the new shade of pink after one of the factory’s best patrons, Madame du Pompadour. As it happens, she wasn’t a fan of that particular pink, but the name stuck, and she became the first person Sèvres honored by naming a color for them. (A notable exception was the bleu céleste that graces the soup tureen and tray. The moniker given to this debut color achievement of Sèvres translates to “heavenly blue.”) The name “Mahon” alludes to a 1757 French victory over the English for control of the Mediterranean island of Minorca; Mahon was and is its capital city. The new color, the color’s name, and the nod to the island triumph unite in a trifecta of cheerleading for France and the glories of its empire.

The Frick Collection includes many Sèvres pieces that Frick purchased from J. P. Morgan, among them a trio of pots-pourri with a purple ground, created in 1762. They have returned to their normal space in the Frick mansion after a year on display alongside other choice Frick Sèvres pieces in the museum’s Portico Gallery in an exhibition that ended in April. Vignon deems them among the “extraordinary, extremely rare” examples of 18th-century Sèvres that “every collector would die to have.” Frick wouldn’t have filled the pots with fragrant dried plant material, but even as far back as the time of Versailles, Sèvres customers accepted the idea that (tableware excepted) its punishingly expensive porcelain fancies were not to be used, even though they could be. “It served a different function. It served the function of decorating a home, and making a home fashionable,” says Vignon, adding, “It had a huge social function. In the close circle around the king, it [possessing choice Sèvres] showed if you were in or out.” Sèvres performed much the same role in 20th-century America, too; it was the sort of thing that Frick, as a Gilded Age titan, was expected to own, so he acquired it, paying as much or more than a French courtier would have when they were new. In 1916, he spent $100,000 on an exceptional ship-shaped pot pourri and a set of green-ground vases, all made in 1759.

Another reason that we continue to treasure Sèvres is that the factory never fell into the trap of endlessly repeating past triumphs. A stunning vase that it fashioned for the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris provides ample proof of its resistance to resting on its laurels. Though it is hard to see from our 21st-century vantage point, this unique swan-decorated porcelain confection was meant to seem futuristic to fair-goers, and it did. M.S. Rau Antiques in New Orleans currently has the vase, and Bill Rau points out that its decorative scheme features “Art Nouveau, which was up and coming, but also parts of Art Deco, which was 20 years off. They’re saying this is the future of art. They’re saying, ‘We want to have the style of the next 100 years.’” In keeping with its 18th-century forbears, the swan vase was a technical marvel, as well, boasting a never-before-seen color palette and standing 45 inches tall. It was the largest single piece of porcelain ever made at the time, and it required Sèvres to build a special oversize kiln to accommodate it. “They were innovative,” says Rau, characterizing their attitude as one that declared, “We’re going to try to make things no one else has made.”

That attitude carried through the 20th century and right up to the present. Another tactic that has helped keep Sèvres fresh and relevant is its practice of inviting top artists and designers to collaborate, a practice that dates back to the factory’s beginnings, when it commissioned drawings from the likes of François Boucher. Auguste Rodin, Roberto Matta, Jean Arp, Alexander Calder, and Yayoi Kusama have all shared their artistic visions with Sèvres, as have designers Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann and Ettore Sottass. Atelier Courbet in Manhattan, the American representative for Sèvres, currently has works by these last two, including a bracingly spare white Art Deco vase designed by Ruhlmann in 1926 and two colorful vases from Sottsass’ early 1990s series of 14 vases, each of which he named for a famous woman from history. The two Sottass vases Atelier Courbet has, Tseui and Messaline, subtly reflect Sèvres ‘s past while remaining contemporary. Both draw visual strength from large expanses of a single hue, similar to the way that 18th century Sèvres pieces sported a captivating ground color that set off its decorated white-backdrop insets. And both vases were assembled from multiple pieces and invisibly joined with a technique akin to that with which the old Sèvres artisans assembled its biscuit figures. “Sèvres has always represented the height of fashion,” says Samuel Leeds of Atelier Courbet. “They’ve always worked with people who are the tastemakers of their day.”

This long, strong history of hiring the finest, most creative minds to imagine and produce objects that transcend the mundane tasks they were nominally meant to perform has also kept Sèvres relevant over the centuries. Its no-expense-spared porcelain follies fit perfectly in a world where weathervanes are plucked from roofs and hung on walls like paintings, and the toys of children long since grown and gone are restored and placed in carefully lit display niches. “Beautiful things are beautiful things. There are things that just work aesthetically. Sèvres always tried to make phenomenal aesthetic pieces, and I think they succeeded,” Rau says. “Drinking tea might go out of style, but Sèvres never goes out of style.”

By Sheila Gibson Stoodley

The Body Eclectic Sun, 10 Jul 2016 17:53:36 +0000 Continue reading ]]> As artist and teacher, William Merritt Chase showed how American art could take its place within European tradition while breaking new ground for the future.

William Merritt Chase, Self-Portrait in 4th Avenue Studio

William Merritt Chase, Self-Portrait in 4th Avenue Studio, 1915–16, oil on canvas, 52.5 x 63.5 in.;

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) William Merritt Chase, Portrait of Dora Wheeler William Merritt Chase, At the Seaside William Merritt Chase, A Study (also known as The Artist's Wife) William Merritt Chase, Spring Flowers (Peonies) William Merritt Chase, Self-Portrait in 4th Avenue Studio

It was Johann Joachim Winckelmann who first applied the ambivalent term “eclectic” to art. In The History of the Art of Antiquity (1763), Winckelmann proposed a five-step model of stylistic development in ancient Greece, up from the archaic to the high or sublime style, and then up again to the beautiful style. The “imitative” or “eclectic” style of the Romans was the fourth stage, just before the decline and decadence.

The modern tradition, Winckelmann argued, was on the same path. The archaic preceded Raphael, and Leonardo and late Raphael were the high and sublime style. Correggio was the beautiful, and the Carracci, that industrious family firm from Bologna, the eclectics. Winckelmann identified the onset of decline with the blameless late Baroque of Carlo Maratta, who had died 50 years earlier.

We are more likely to see Maratta as an incipient Neoclassicist. This reflects not just hindsight, but also the chaotic course of the arts after Winckelmann’s day. Throughout the Romantic century, the followers of beauty, the eclectics, and the decadents are frequently the same people. Like travelers on one of Thomas Cook’s less successful tours, they jump back and forth across the chronology and the map, and usually in search of the archaic or the sublime.

In this productive confusion of styles, the meaning of “eclectic” changed, and its value reversed. Instead of denoting the implication of Classical styles into late Renaissance paintings, it came to describe a general promiscuity of influence and execution, as in the American version of the Aesthetic Movement, in which restraint in its medieval and Japanese forms disappeared in a welter of rosewood adornment. Instead of denoting taste—“eclectic” derives from the Greek eklektikos, “selective”—it denoted a lack of it.

“His mind was in the best sense eclectic,” William Ewart Gladstone wrote of Homer in 1876, “and he had a strong, ingrained repugnance to the debased.” Fifty years later, eclecticism meant debasement by mass production: elephantine Eastlake furniture, and Strawberry Thief wallpaper by Morris & Co. The Modernists kicked all of this into the lumber room in the name of fresh air and sunlight, even though the roots of Modernism lay in the overstuffed sofas and ebonized side tables. The specializations and subfields of the academy and the art market confirmed this revaluation of “eclectic.”

William Merritt Chase was the great American eclectic of his age. He remained so after he had outlived it, and refused to acknowledge that “eclecticism” had become a dirty word. “Originality,” he argued shortly before his death in 1916, “is found in the greatest composite which you can bring together.” A century later, the originality of Chase’s great composites are starting to be recognized again. So too are the range of his abilities, his centrality to a steam-powered network of trans-Atlantic friendships and influence, and his pioneering of advanced art training in the United States. In Winckelmann’s schema, he was a Roman, an energetic inheritor reworking the sublime style for an imperial age.

“William Merritt Chase: A Retrospective,” now at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. (through September 11), is the first Chase retrospective to be held in the United States since 1983. The exhibition is a great composite, too, with four curators: Elsa Smithgall of the Phillips Collection, Erica Hirshler of the MFA Boston, Katherine Bourguignon of the Terra Foundation, and Giovanna Ginex, who is affiliated with the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia. After moving on to the MFA Boston in October 2016, in February 2017 the exhibition will go to the International Gallery of Modern Art in Venice as the first Chase retrospective to travel—as Chase did so fruitfully—beyond the borders of the United States.

Chase was one of those impossibly energetic and productive Victorians. Like his eclectic English contemporary Frederic, Lord Leighton, he was as eclectic in life as in work: a traveler and a teacher, a committee man and a publicist. Unlike Leighton, Chase also found the time to marry, and father eight children, too. The son of a shoe dealer from Williamsburg, Ind., Chase studied at the National Academy of Design in New York, and then, from 1872 to 1878, at the Royal Munich Academy. There, Chase met the Liebl-Kreis (Liebl Circle), the group of young dissidents around Wilhelm Liebl.

Like their French contemporaries Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, whom Liebl had met in Paris in 1869, and like the French literary Realists of the 1850s, the Liebl Circle aspired to depict contemporary subject matter without sentimentality or idealism. The painting that made Chase’s name was “Keying Up”—The Court Jester. The influence of his idol Velázquez is everywhere in the slightly muted reds and slightly glowing browns, as well as the courtly freakishness of the subject. But the furtive toper who pours a quick glass of wine in order to force out a laugh has a Parisian desperation.

The Jester is not a joke, but a modern tragedy like the alcoholic rag-picker in Manet’s first major work, The Absinthe Drinker (1858), and Picasso’s homage to Manet, Buveuse Accoudée (Leaning Drinker, 1901). He leans over his glass like a red-nosed music hall turn. The little man is mocked by his miniature image: his life is ruled and ruined by the stick figure tucked under his arm as surely as Golyadkin is ruled by his Doppelgänger in Dostoevsky’s The Double (1846).

Manet’s Absinthe Drinker was his first submission to the Paris Salon, and it was rejected. Chase’s Jester, however, won a medal at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876, the year that Gladstone praised Homer’s eclecticism. Returning to the United States in 1878 with a teaching appointment at the Art Students’ League of New York, Chase quickly assumed the role that he would play for the rest of his life. Already a mature talent, and convinced that American art was about to take its rightful place among the inheritors of the European tradition, he became a personal and artistic link between America and Europe—a conduit both on the canvas and in the teaching studio for the experimental ideals of Aestheticism and Impressionism, as well as the traditional technical virtues of an Academic training.

Chase returned with a professional persona, the costume of a dandy maître—the sharply tailored cutaway coat, the carnation in the lapel, the jeweled stickpin in the tie—and a sharp eye for the profession. He exhibited Ready for the Ride (1878) at the newly founded Society of American Artists (SAA). He joined Winslow Homer and Arthur Quartley in the Tile Club, a group ostensibly devoted to the collective painting of tiles in the Aesthetic manner, but practically occupied with the convivial exchange of professional gossip.

In Munich, Chase had collected paintings, textiles, furniture, and bric-à-brac for what would become one of the first European-style studios in the United States. As soon as he returned to New York, he secured the best atelier in the best building in the city, Albert Bierstadt’s double-height studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building. The studio was a social and professional forum, and also a gallery for the display and sale of Chase’s work. He painted amid guests and friends, as if emulating Courbet’s L’Atelier du peintre (1855). The female figures in Studio Interior (1882) and The Tenth Street Studio (1880) are placed like stage properties, their naturalism as careful a contrivance as the drawing room comedy or the department store window.

Meanwhile, outside his studio, Chase was prolific and prodigiously energetic. In the early 1880s, he joined fellow “Tilers” in plein air explorations of upstate New York, and began working in pastels. In March 1884, he contributed to the first of four exhibitions of the Society of Painters in Pastel, of which he was a co-founder. Then, he was off on his annual summer expedition to Europe. Crossing the Atlantic, he exhibited The Young Orphan in the inaugural exhibition of the Belgian avant-garde group Les Vingt, a show that also included Sargent’s Dr. Pozzi at Home (1881) and Whistler’s Miss Cecily Alexander (1872–74). Returning to New York at the end of the summer of 1884, Chase displayed The Young Orphan and Portrait of Dora Wheeler at the SAA.

In January 1885, he became the SAA’s president, a post he was to hold for a decade. He returned to Europe in the summer. After communing with the shade of Velázquez in Madrid, he met Whistler in London; the Retrospective catalogue includes a splendid photograph of the top-hatted dandies Whistler, Chase, and the Whistler acolyte Mortimer Menpes in a London street. Next, Whistler and “The Colonel,” as Whistler had dubbed Chase, went on to Antwerp, where they admired Alfred Stevens’ contributions to an international exposition, and then Chase went on alone to Amsterdam before taking ship for New York.

Somehow, in this period Chase created the 133 works that he exhibited in late 1886, at his first one-man show at the Boston Art Club. His friendship with Whistler ended badly, like most of Whistler’s friendships, but it lasted long enough for Whistler to suggest that they paint each other’s portrait, and for both to complete the work. Chase’s Whistler (1885) is an eclectic assimilation of Whistler’s method: the elongated body, the lively brushwork, the muted palette, the ambiguous and shallow space. Whistler, in his fashion, called this a “monstrous lampoon.” His portrait of Chase is lost; he probably destroyed it in revenge.

This did not stop Chase from further experiments with Whistler’s shimmering, monochromatic color schemes, and lively but indeterminate spaces. Ready For a Walk: Beatrice Clough Bachmann (1885), Lydia Field Emmet (1892), and Portrait of Mrs C.: Lady with a White Shawl (1893) are society portraits for the Gilded Age. Chase, like John Singer Sargent, was an accomplished gilder. In the late 1880s, he moved from portraits of artistic young women to portraits of rich men and their younger wives, and domestic scenes sprung from the world of Edith Wharton and Henry James, like A Friendly Call (1895).

Chase was not just following the money. He had married Alice Gerson in 1887—the tender, subtle blues and grays of the pastel portrait Meditation (1886) testifies that the union was about more than her dowry. She and their multiplying brood of children became his subjects and models, too, notably in at their summer home in Shinnecock, Long Island. He also started painting Impressionist landscapes around this time. Perhaps Chase, like Sargent, chafed at the limitations of the commission in the grand manner, the rendering of small minds as larger-than-life personalities.

At Shinnecock, Chase launched yet another teaching venture, an incubator of American Impressionism. There was now, though, something of the Jester about the artist. He had acquired a taste for schnapps and beer as a student in Germany, and remained a heavy drinker. His liver hurt; on one of his trips to Venice, Alice sent along a bottle of good Scotch for the pain. He died of cirrhosis in 1916.

In 1899 at Shinnecock, Chase and his wife had posed their daughter Helen Velasquez Chase in 16th-century costume for My Infanta (1899). The execution, however, was modern. The artist’s explanation was quintessentially eclectic.

“I saw in a new light the sublime example of Velásquez,” Chase said in 1903. “What was so important for me was that Velásquez—with all his acquirement from the masters who had gone before him—felt the need of choosing new forms and arrangements, new schemes of color and methods of painting, to fit the time and place he was called on to depict.”

By Dominic Green

Summer in the City Sun, 10 Jul 2016 17:43:37 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Santa Fe’s art scene is now in high season, offering a plethora of fairs and exhibitions dedicated to works local, national, and international.

Dean Mabe, Edge of Time;

left: Dean Mabe, Edge of Time;

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Willard Clark, Santuario de Chimayó; Dean Mabe, Edge of Time; John Moyers, Interstate Through His World Logan Maxwell Hagege, The Settling Day, Don Stinson, The World Heading West from Zion, 2016 Assiniboine moccasins, 19th century. Western Plains pipe tomahawk

Cool things just happen in Santa Fe; it’s that kind of place. Last year, Game of Thrones author and Santa Fe resident George R.R. Martin agreed to bankroll a project by the Meow Wolf art collective to transform a defunct bowling alley into an art complex. Santa Fe is a year-round art destination, but it comes into its own during the summer, when it is alive with museum exhibitions, gallery shows, fairs, and indigenous arts markets.

At the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum throughout the summer (closing October 30) is “Georgia O’Keeffe’s Far Wide Texas,” devoted to a series of watercolors she painted while teaching in Canyon, Tex., from 1916 to 1918. The product of about two years of effort, “Far Wide Texas” represents the largest public display of these early O’Keeffe watercolors in a long time, and possibly ever. It looks at a period of the artist’s life that would later be overshadowed by her time in New Mexico, when she was fresh from Columbia University and “alive with the possibilities of abstraction,” says curator Carolyn Kastner. The watercolors on view include Evening Star No. VI, a sunset landscape from a 1917 series of eight that is rendered entirely in primary colors.

Car culture will be celebrated at The New Mexico Museum of Art with “Con Cariño: Artists Inspired by Lowriders” (through October 9), a show of photographs, paintings, sculptures, and videos by New Mexico artists, including Lawrence Baca, Ron Rodriguez, Justin Favela, Miguel Gandert, Alex Harris, Nicholas Herrera, Arthur Lopez, Norman Mauskopf, and El Moisés. Through images of the customized, hydraulically enhanced vehicles beloved by generations of Latino New Mexicans, they explore a variety of serious issues such as family, heritage, gender, and religion. “The works in the show confirm what we in New Mexico already know to be true, that lowriders are an extraordinary art form in their own right as well as being a significant cultural icon that ignites the imaginations of people all over the world,” says curator Katherine Ware. Also at the museum this summer is “Finding a Contemporary Voice: the Legacy of Lloyd Kiva New and IAIA” (through October 10). The exhibition features work by New, cofounder of Santa Fe’s Institute of American Indian Arts, as well as by faculty and alumni.

All summer long, Santa Fe is awash in gallery shows. The Addison Rowe Gallery at 229 East Marcy Street will host “Louis Catusco & Lawrence Calcagno: Not Famous, But Important” through August 19. Between 20 and 30 works appear in the show and include pieces such as Constellation of the Inner Eye No. 38, a 1977 oil on paper by Calcagno that captures a lush meditation in blue. Representing Catusco is Untitled No. 3, an undated multicolor mixed media with pen work. “The contrast between these two guys is very exciting,” says Matthew Rowe. “It’s really exciting to show an aspect of American art that people aren’t familiar with. It’s an opportunity to see something you wouldn’t expect.”

Through August 12, the Ellsworth Gallery on 215 E. Palace Ave. is showing “Form and Fruition: Introducing new works by Jeff Juhlin, Karolina Maszkiewicz, and Kim Piotrowski.” All three are American abstract artists, and Maszkiewicz and Piotrowski will make their Ellsworth Gallery debuts in this show. Barry Ellsworth says that Jangle, a mixed media on panel by Piotrowski, provides a fine introduction to the artist. “Her work, for me, is almost like pure, exuberant energy, like water splashing on a rock,” he says, adding, “All the pieces [in the three-person show] are strong and work together beautifully.”

LewAllen Galleries, located at 1613 Paseo de Peralta, will enjoy a busy summer season. On July 22, Bulgarian-born glass artist Latchezar Boyadjiev will make his LewAllen Galleries debut alongside glass sculptor Lucy Lyon, in show that continues through August 15. Tom Palmore’s intriguing portraits of animals and birds will remain on display until August 21. Especially charming is The Royal Family, a group of meerkats rendered in oil and acrylic on canvas. And contemporary landscape artist Woody Gwyn returns with a show that opens on July 29 and closes on September 5.

Nedra Matteucci Galleries, at 1075 Paseo de Peralta, welcomes the summer with “Natural Wonders: Paintings by Chris Morel and Sculpture by Dan Ostermiller,” which opened on June 25 and runs through July 16. It will be the first joint exhibition by the two artists at the galleries. Morel, a master of oils, fills the gallery walls with landscapes like St. Francis in Snow, a winter vista that radiates warmth and light, while Ostermiller delivers lively bronzes such as When Mama Calls, a scene of two baby elephants marching toward their unseen mother. Ostermiller will contribute a dozen new bronzes, including three that are on a monumental scale; Morel’s 30 paintings capture vistas in northern New Mexico and Colorado. “Their respective work explores the natural world, but they approach it from two very different perspectives in subject and medium that are a wonderful juxtaposition of nature itself,” says owner Nedra Matteucci.

On August 13, Matteucci will open “John Moyers and Terri Kelly Moyers: Time-honored Traditions in Painting.” It is the gallery’s fifth annual exhibition devoted to the husband and wife plein air painters, who embrace old-school techniques and pursue their own distinctive paths. The pair will create between 30 and 40 works for the show. Terri Kelly’s Afternoon At San Gabriel showcases her command of light, portraiture, and fine costume details; John’s Interstate Through His World testifies to his talent for portraying images of Native Americans with restrained emotion. “Terri enjoys a very classical, figurative style in her work that emphasizes women, and John, long a student of Western history, most often paints Pueblo Indian and includes Mexican cowboy subjects. Their plein air paintings complement each other as they paint together but even then, their unique palette and style is evident,” Matteucci says. The Moyers show will close on September 10.

136 Grant, at 136 Grant Ave., will have a full slate of seasonal programming. Its series of summer open houses began on June 30 with an event for the Santa Fe Opera House and continues on July 7 with an open house for the Folk Art Market and on August 13 with an open house for the Indian and Spanish markets. Its Salon Series, held on the third Friday of the month, features John Kania on collecting antique American Indian baskets in July and Mark Blackburn and Tad Dale on the collecting life in August. 136 Grant’s Meet the Artist series takes place on the third Saturday of the month and will feature Greta Ruiz on recent clay work at the Spanish Market in July and Caroline Blackburn on the fine art of jewelry design in August. In addition, 136 Grant will mount a show of 30 to 40 works from the late Santa Fe printmaker Willard Clark, spanning six decades of his output. Opening on the fourth or the fifth of August and continuing until the end of the month, it will also feature watercolors, paintings, works on paper maybe a wood block or two, and an original copy of his memoir of 1920s Santa Fe life that he printed on his own press. The show will appear at El Zaguan, a historic property on Canyon Road. Both 136 Grant and El Zaguan are administered by the Historic Santa Fe Foundation. 136 Grant will donate a portion of the profits from art sales at the August show to the foundation.

Gallery 901, located at 708 Canyon Road, will unveil “Adelita: Women Soldiers of the Mexican Revolution” on July 1 and continue it until July 26. Angel Wynn, who works with encaustic, or pigmented wax, and photographs, explores the phenomenon of the adelitas, women who followed men to the battlefields of the Mexican revolution and sometimes fought alongside them. In September, Gallery 901 will present another show by Wynn: “Greetings from New Mexico” will run from September 2 to September 27. The gallery will mount at least two shows in August. Eddy Shorty, a Navajo sculptor, stars in a show that opens on August 19 and closes on September 9. Landscape painter Dean Mabe will enjoy his debut outing at Gallery 901 with “Other Times and Places,” which will take place from August 19 through September 9.

The Gerald Peters Gallery, at 1005 Paseo de Peralta, always has intriguing summer shows, and 2016 is no exception. From July 29–August 20, the gallery will feature a two-man exhibition by painter Don Stinson and sculptor Randall Wilson. It came about after Stinson showed Evan Feldman, the gallery’s director of contemporary art, a cell-phone image of a sculpture that his old friend Wilson had recently finished. Pleased by what she saw, Feldman pursued a dual show of Stinson’s stirring Western landscapes and Wilson’s retablo-inspired wooden creations. “Their work is very different, but it complements each other in a nice way,” she says. Also making its debut on July 29 (through September 24) is “The Wild Bunch: G. Russell Case, Logan Maxwell Hagege, and Mark Maggiori,” which spotlights a younger generation of contemporary Western artists. The three complement each other in more ways than the obvious ones. “I wanted to put them together because they work together, they like each other, and their painting styles are all very different,” says Maria Hajic, director of naturalism at the gallery.

“The Art of Chris Maynard” runs through July 23, and celebrates the work of a unique artist. Maynard’s medium is bird feathers, and his preferred tools are many of the same implements found in an eye surgeon’s operating room. “He’s enamored with birds,” says Hajic. “He tries to capture the essence of birds. That’s what it’s about for him. I don’t have another artist like him. When people come into the gallery, his is the first piece they go to. They’re mesmerized.” The precision Maynard brings to his shadow boxes carries through to the identifying information for each: Red Racers is not merely comprised of feathers, but specifically a mute swan’s under-wing feather and the tail feather of a female red-tailed black cockatoo. “Because he is a birder, he wants to be as specific as possible, and he wants to educate people about birds,” Hajic says, adding that the artist stresses that he never harms birds in pursuit of his materials.

Charlotte Jackson Fine Art, located at 554 S. Guadalupe, meets the summer heat with “Jeremy Thomas: Grown Cold,” the artist’s fifth solo show with the gallery and his sixth overall. It will open on July 1 and close on August 1. The title refers to the cold inflation process Thomas relies on to shape his larger steel pieces such as Bijou Blue. On August 5, “Heiner Theil and Michael Post: Vicissitudes of Color” fills the gallery. Both artists are Germans with a penchant for creating brightly-hued wall pieces out of metal. Theil’s anodized aluminum shapes revel in light and handily withstand the Southwestern rays. “The orange ones are like burning embers,” Jackson says. Post’s acrylics on fiberglass over steel play with color in a different way, glowing from beneath when the light hits them. Jackson notes that both Theil’s and Post’s artworks sell quickly. “It’s exciting, it’s fresh, it’s new, and people love it,” she says. The Theil and Post show will close on September 5.

Ruhlen-Owen Contemporary at 225 Canyon Road will display “Flowers and Fields: Mary Long | Daniel Phill” from July 1–14. It is the gallery’s first duo show of the season, and each artist will contribute a dozen works. Long has favored the medium of encaustic for more than a decade, producing evocative works that seem like landscapes photographed from the air. Phill specializes in abstracts that have a distinctly botanical feel. “His colors in general are very vibrant,” says Tim Owen, the gallery’s owner. Ruhlen-Owen Contemporary will follow “Flowers and Fields” with another duo show of the works of Martha Rea Baker and Pauline Ziegen. It runs from September 16–29.

Starting on August 10, Morning Star Gallery at 513 Canyon Road shines a spotlight on the art of war with a show of the same name. Among its two dozen items, most of which were used by Plains Indians warriors between 1780 and 1875, is a Plains quilled bow case and quiver that utterly delighted gallery director Henry Monahan. “I’ve been doing this for 31 years and my heart stopped for a second,” he said of the case and quiver, which is embellished with porcupine quills and red cloth originally imported from England. “I’ve literally never seen anything like it in my life. It’s been a decade since I had one [a bow case and quiver set] and I never had one this fine.” The lack of beads and the technique used for the quill work (look for the white sections at the extremes of the quiver) point to a date of circa 1850. “The bottom of the bow case has a perfect usage patina,” he says. “It’s not beat to crap, but it’s lived a life.”

The show also features a tomahawk from a Western Plains tribe. Its patina, tack decorations, and unusually large head point to a circa-1860s date. The fact of the head itself—it had to have been made by a blacksmith, not a tribesman—and its magnificent details, such as a seven-point star decoration, speak to the wealth and trading prowess of its owner. “It’s a lethal weapon,” says gallery director Henry Monahan. “A lot of times [tomahawks] were a symbol of office and authority, but if they had to, they would use it.” “The Art of War” will remain on view through September 5.

Also on view in Santa Fe is the Messenger Art Collection, a 5,000-strong archive of artworks originally commissioned for advertising purposes. Much of it was acquired, starting in 1913, by Frank Messenger, who produced advertising in the Midwest during the 1940s and ’50s. Current owner Al Babbitt bought the collection in 2010 with the intention of restoring it and offering it for viewing and for sale. There will be an open house on Friday, July 8, from 5–7 p.m. at the collection’s showroom at 2538 Camino Entrada. Visitors may also contact the showroom to schedule a private viewing.

Among the marquee pieces on display is Century of Progress, a 1933 oil on canvas that served as the original art for a poster. Frank Robert Harper painted it to celebrate the Chicago World’s Fair as well as the first time electric lights blazed on the shore of Lake Michigan. A multi-year restoration effort returned the rare surviving canvas to its former glory. Other Messenger prizes include a complete set of 31 hand-colored etchings of scenes from Shakespeare plays, produced by the 18th-century English printmaker and entrepreneur John Boydell, and the centerpiece of the collection, a group of 21 original color separations that comprise the famous 1949 “Red Velvet” nude photo shoot by Tom Kelley Jr., that turned Marilyn Monroe into a superstar. Images from the session enlivened a 1953 calendar that sold eight million copies (not to mention countless knockoffs) and supplied Hugh Hefner with the inaugural centerfold in Playboy magazine.

Fairs are an essential aspect of Santa Fe’s summer art season. This summer Art Santa Fe returns to the Santa Fe Convention Center for its 16th edition, under new ownership. The fair, which takes place from July 7–10, now belongs to the Redwood Media Group, which also owns Spectrum Miami and Artexpo New York. Its 45 exhibitors will include Catenary Art Gallery of 616 ½ Canyon Road, which will bring lyrical images by Bulgarian-born photographer Rumi Vesselinova. They will enjoy a show that is literally larger, with bigger booths. The theme of this year’s Art Santa Fe is “horizon,” a notion explored by the Art Lab project of Jorge Cavalier, a series of oversized acrylics on silk and canvas hung from the ceiling. “Jorge’s work takes you on a journey. You walk physically toward a horizon,” says Linda Mariano of the Redwood Group. “You walk through the horizon to reach the horizon.” Another Art Lab project is aimed at younger visitors. Switzerland-based artist Kelly Fischer will create a 16-canvas mural based on her new children’s book, The Most Beautiful Color of All. The mural will also be rendered as a smaller wooden set of images that will allow children to make up their own story with them, and they can also avail themselves of art supplies and create their own murals. Art Santa Fe intends to offer this Art Lab program on afternoons from Friday to Sunday during the show. Art & Antiques will support Art Santa Fe by continuing to be the fair’s lead media sponsor.

The 13th annual International Folk Art Market returns to Santa Fe from July 8–10, located on Museum Hill. Almost 200 artists from more than 60 countries will attend, and 40 percent of the exhibitors will be newcomers to the market. Works on offer will include paintings, sculpture, glasswork, ceramics, carvings, basketry, beadwork, musical instruments, textiles, mixed media, jewelry, and more. Among the artists showing work will be Serge Jolimeau of Haiti, who makes recycled oil drum sculptures; Abdulaziz Alimamad Khatri of India, who makes bandhani dyed scarves and shawls; and Joy Ndungutse and Pricila Kankindi of Rwanda, who make handwoven sisal baskets, ikangara wall hangings, bracelets, and earrings.

SITE Santa Fe continues its SITElines series with its 2016 biennial, much wider than a line, an exhibition that features more than 35 artists from 11 countries exploring a range of border-transcending ideas that stem from the interconnectedness of the Americas. Aaron Dysart’s Preserve 2 (2015) pokes fun at man’s attempts to control and improve nature, taking it to an extreme by wrapping a section of a branch in aluminum foil. Juana Valdez’s Colored China Rags (2012), employs porcelain, a long-treasured luxury good, to replicate the shapes of mundane cleaning rags, painted to resemble a range of flesh tones. The SITE curators selected six Valdez porcelain rags for the show, which opens on July 16 and continues through January 8, 2017.

The Spanish Colonial Arts Society presents the 65th annual Traditional Spanish Market on Santa Fe Plaza on July 30–31. Roughly 250 masters of woodcarving, tinwork, hide painting, furniture, weaving, jewelry, and other time-honored arts will attend. Last year’s treasures included pots by Alfred Blea and One Hundred Madonnas by Marie Romero Cash, an intriguing and engaging take on the bulto, or carved and painted figures of saints.

Objects of Art Santa Fe will be held in El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe in the Railyard District from August 12–14. J. Compton of Wimberly, Tex., will offer a dozen paintings by the late Larry John Palsson, a Seattle outsider artist whom the gallery brought to prominence. Palsson was apparently autistic and self-taught, adorning whatever was on hand, be it cereal boxes or car brochures, with compelling, colorful visions done in acrylics that betray no evidence of brush strokes. Palsson never named or dated his paintings, but gallery owner Jean Compton has given them titles and has sleuthed out likely dates for some. She was able to pinpoint when he made Daisies, a bold abstract with a space-age starburst ringed by daisy-like blooms, by turning it over and discovering he had painted it on a brochure that touted the 1988 Lincoln Continental. “This is one of my most exciting finds,” she says of the 600-strong stash of works. “It’s been a huge process just to go through it and curate it.”

The H. Malcolm Grimmer gallery is preparing to unveil a stunning exhibition of Plains Indians moccasins at the Antique American Indian Art Show Santa Fe, which also takes place at El Museo, from August 17–19 (with an opening night celebration on August 16). Titled “The Path to Beauty: The Art of Plains Indian Moccasins,” Grimmer’s installation will feature as many as 40 pairs of magnificently decorated footwear fashioned by the women of 19th-century Plains Indian tribes. Most come from a single decades-old collection. “Moccasins are a unique object in Indian art. It’s two-dimensional and three-dimensional art, and we’re trying to build a show that explores that,” says gallery director Tom Cleary. Though Plains Indian men, women, and children all wore bead-decorated moccasins, high-ranking males donned the most resplendent pairs. One sharp-dressed man in the Assiniboine tribe in the Montana region, circa 1880, stood tall in moccasins decorated all over with beads—soles included. “They were probably seldom worn and used for special occasions, like a wedding dress in today’s society,” says Cleary. Almost as exquisite is a pair made by a Kiowa tribeswoman around 1870 in Oklahoma or Texas. Their beads display the colors that collectors want most in a Kiowa work of art (pink, crimson, and blue), and the flaps around the ankles, known as cuffs, are graced with beads and deerskin fringe. “To make a pair like that would have taken months,” Cleary says. “To acquire the beads alone would have taken time.” He and his gallery colleagues are understandably excited over the show. “It’s going to be fun to put them on a wall and see how they play with each other,” he says.

Also at the Antique American Indian Art Show, dealer Trotta-Bono of Shrub Oak, N.Y., will make a memorable debut. Among its offerings will be an exceptional veteran’s quilt dating to the World War II era and stitched by an unknown Cherokee in Oklahoma. Rather than a single, dominant image, the white-and-robin’s-egg-blue quilt contains several symbols, some Native American and some not—hearts, fleurs-de-lis, arrows, peyote buttons, bombs, and a thunderbird—that together suggest it was made for a veteran who fought in France during the war, perhaps with the 45th Armored Division, which took the thunderbird as its logo.

And for the third year in a row, the Antique American Indian Art Show and Objects of Art Santa Fe will share a non-selling exhibition: “Woven in Beauty: 100 Years of Navajo Master Weavers from The Toadlena/Two Grey Hills Region” brings together between 30 and 40 textiles woven by Navajos after 1900, the time when the design elements start to differentiate and coalesce around the trading posts in the area. Weavings on view includes a circa 1940 sheep’s wool rug that is typical of Toadlena/Two Grey Hills in its use of diamond motifs and undyed fibers, and atypical in that it was woven by a man. The exhibition runs August 11–19.

The great-grandfather among the arts events in the city, the Santa Fe Indian Market, fills the Downtown Plaza August 20–21. Produced by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA), the market will stage its 95th edition in 2016. More than 150,000 visitors are expected to view and purchase works by more than 1,100 Native American artists from the United States and Canada. Standouts from 2015 included Nancy Youngblood, of the Santa Clara Pueblo, who took Best in Class for pottery with her black-on-black stone-polished pot titled Horse Running through the Lightning and Rain, and Ernest Benally, a Navajo who won Best in Class for jewelry with a bolo tie fashioned from sterling silver, inlaid gemstones and shells, and handmade leather.

By Sheila Gibson Stoodley

Oskar Kokoschka Painting Sells for $425,000 Tue, 28 Jun 2016 17:17:16 +0000 Continue reading ]]> At Bonhams’ Impressionist & Modern Art Auction in New York on May 12, Seated Old Man set a record for a work on paper by the artist when it sold for $425,000, over four times its high estimate.

Oskar Kokoschka, Sitzender bärtiger Mann (Seated Old Man), 1907

Oskar Kokoschka, Sitzender bärtiger Mann (Seated Old Man), 1907

Oskar Kokoschka is considered one of the emblematic figures of the Expressionist movement in Central European art, although he hated to be called an Expressionist. This highly expressive portrait dates from the earliest part of Kokoschka’s long career, which spanned the “Vienna 1900” era through the post-Pop ’70s (he died in 1980 at the age of 93). Executed in graphite and watercolor on a piece of light brown paper measuring16 7/8 x 12 1/8 inches and signed “OK” in the lower right, it shows the old man, his hands, cheeks, and nose reddened by exposure to the elements, seemingly beaten down by a life of hard work but still possessed of reserves of strength and endurance. Kokoschka made this drawing in 1907, when he was 21, during a time when he was making his living by painting fans and postcards for the Wiener Werkstätte. The drawing style here somewhat resembles that of Egon Schiele, who at the time was only 17 and had not yet shown his work publicly. Kokoschka himself had not had a show yet; the next year, in 1908, he exhibited at the Vienna Kunstschau, and his works were so severely blasted by the critics that Kokoschka was expelled from art school.

But he was going places anyway. The mastery evident in Seated Old Man led to Kokoschka becoming an in-demand portraitist, and the influential architect Adolf Loos became his patron. Also in 1908, he started his career as a writer with a book of poems, The Dreaming Boys, illustrated with eight color lithographs. Soon Kokoschka, a multiple threat on the cultural scene, would also become a successful Expressionist playwright.

Oskar Kokoschka, Sitzender bärtiger Mann (Seated Old Man), 1907

Offered at: Bonhams, New York, May 12, 2016
Estimated at: $70,000-100,000
Sold for: $425,000

One California Painter Tue, 28 Jun 2016 17:08:57 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The Laguna Art Museum puts some 70 works by the Ukrainian-born, California-based artist Peter Krasnow.

Peter Krasnow, K.-13, 1977

Peter Krasnow, K.-13, 1977 (waterways), oil on board, 32 x 39.5 inches

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Peter Krasnow, K.-9 1953 (Life Line) Peter Krasnow, K.-13, 1977 Peter Krasnow, Untitled (Demountable), 1938 Peter Krasnow, Portrait of Olaf Olesen, oil on canvas, 1921

In 1922, Peter Krasnow had an exhibition at the Whitney Studio Club of landscapes he had painted in a rented studio outside New York City. There, supposedly, a critic asked if he had ever been to California. Krasnow had moved to New York with his wife Rose Bloom (a writer) after he graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1916. In the city, he lived in a tenement, removed from the beauty of nature, a vital source of his inspiration. Renting the studio had proven helpful to his creative output. The critic’s suggestion, too, must have made an impact on the artist: that same year, Krasnow and Bloom arrived in Southern California.

Krasnow’s relocation had an indelible influence on his art. In New York, his paintings often featured street scenes, and his palette was rich and dark. In his 1919 oil on canvas Portrait of a Woman, the sitter is adorned with a gauzy veil and fancy jewels. A heavy-looking crimson tapestry with dark accents, which serves as her backdrop, suggests the artist’s home region, the Ukraine. After his cross-country move to Los Angeles, Krasnow adopted a brighter palette. The light and landscape of the American West imprinted itself on his work. A 1925 oil-on-canvas portrait of Edward Weston (Edward Henry Weston), pictures the photographer in a dark cloak, but over his shoulder there is an expanse of land, mountains, and sky—the California landscape that begged to be painted.

Both paintings will be on view in “Peter Krasnow: Maverick Modernist,” at the Laguna Art Museum (June 26–September 25). The exhibition, which features nearly 50 paintings and 20 sculptures, will present a comprehensive look at Krasnow and his oeuvre—in fact, his first museum survey in some 40 years. In 2000 the Laguna Art Museum received a gift of 517 works by the artist—177 paintings, 54 sculptures, and 386 drawings—nearly doubling the small museum’s holdings. Selections from its collection of Krasnow’s work will be on display in all their glory, supplemented by loans from public and private collections. The museum, which is dedicated to the art history of Southern California, seems perhaps the most appropriate place in which to mount an exhibition of this pioneer of Los Angeles modernism.

Krasnow was born Feivish Reisberg in 1886 in Novohrad-Volynskyi, Ukraine. His learned to grind and blend colors through an apprenticeship with his father, an interior decorator. At the time, an appetite for art-making could not be sated in the Ukraine, and Krasnow emigrated to Boston in 1907, and later moved to Chicago, where he supported himself throughout art school as a maintenance man.

When he and Bloom arrived in California, Krasnow built a studio on land purchased from Weston. The painter and photographer remained friends until Weston’s death, and Krasnow fell in with the small but lively community of artists in Southern California, which included Henrietta Shore, Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Lorser Feitelson, Helen Lundeberg, and the architects Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra.

A Guggenheim grant took Krasnow to France in 1930. After a brief stop in Paris, he again fled the urban environment for a more naturally abundant setting and settled in the Dordogne region. There he created a series of watercolors and paintings with the French countryside as his subject. Krasnow said in a 1975 interview that the landscape “just cried out to be painted.” The paintings were exhibited in Galerie Pierre in Paris in 1934—the year Krasnow left France to return to Los Angeles.

Back in California, his work changed again. The next 10 years were devoted to making wooden sculptures he called “demountables.” Hewn from trees felled on Krasnow’s own property (such as walnut, cypress, avocado, and citrus), the sculptures incorporated interconnected geometric pieces of wood. The “demountables” celebrate the unique organic qualities of the wood—its grain and color—but also organize the wild materials in highly ordered, geometric combinations. They seem conversant with tribal objects and Mondrian paintings. Untitled (Demountable), a 1938 sculpture in “Maverick Modernist” is made from walnut, mahogany, oak, paduak, and goncalo alves, and features three interconnected vertical elements—its tallest at nearly nine feet—that stand with the majesty of obelisks. Untitled (Demountable) is so of the earth and yet so polished, it’s hard to decide whether it would best fit in a Native American camp, a 19th-century German Catholic church, or next to a Wendell Castle desk.

In 1944, in the midst of World War II, Krasnow reengaged with painting. He began creating colorful, highly geometric and structural abstract pieces, which borrowed iconography from his Jewish heritage. One 1971 oil on board painting, K.-8, seems to mimic the structure of the Tree of Life, the central mystical symbol of the Kabbalah of esoteric Judaism. K.-9 1953 (Life Line), a lively abstraction from 1953, features a large number of small shapes that seem to nod to Matisse’s cutouts, light the way for Hockney, and take the appearance of Hebrew letters all at once.

Krasnow, who after returning from France remained in Southern California for the rest of life, is closely related to Los Angeles. Yet, when looking at his work, as viewers will get to this summer at the Laguna Art Museum’s exhibition, there is the spirit of many places present at once. In a 1975 interview, Krasnow said of his paintings, “Their visible concept may ostensibly reveal characteristics of Time and Place, but the roots reach deep into ethnic strains of ancient culture through which the archetype emerges as indicator of the universal and eternal urge toward creation.”

By Sarah E. Fensom