Art & Antiques Magazine For Collectors of the Fine and Decorative Arts Sun, 10 Jul 2016 17:53:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Art & Antiques Magazine 32 32 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

Half Animal, Half Symbolic Tue, 28 Jun 2016 16:57:23 +0000 Continue reading ]]> A Karel Appel exhibition opens at the Phillips Collection.

Karel Appel, Floating like the Wind, 1975

Karel Appel, Floating like the Wind, 1975, oil on canvas 79 x 103 in.

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Karel Appel, Woman with Flowers No.1, 1963 Karel Appel, Floating like the Wind, 1975 Karel Appel, Landscape with Wheel, 1980 Karel Appel, Roman Infantryman, 2000 Karel Appel, The Elephant, 1950

In Jan Vrijman’s 1962 film The Reality of Karel Appel, Appel is seen vigorously—if not violently—slapping paint onto a large canvas in his Paris studio. He hurriedly mixes his paints directly on a nearby tabletop, as if scrambling eggs or whisking a complicated French sauce. The Dutch painter scoops a gob of paint with his palette knife and pivots on his heels. His arm winds back and then hits the canvas, marking it with thick streaks of color. Tubes of paint are hastily squeezed in a jagged, intermittent motion onto the canvas, as well. Appel’s breathing is heavy; he is working hard but intuitively.

In a voiceover the artist says, “I paint like a barbarian in a barbaric age.” (“Barbaric” here seems less in line with the Greek barbaros, which referred pejoratively to non-Greeks, but closer to the philosopher and Marxist theorist Rosa Luxemburg’s usage in 1916, which pronounced society at the crossroads of a “regression into Barbarism,” meaning the “annihilation of civilization” in light of world war and imperialism.) Vrijman cuts to shots of the city buzzing with activity, set to a soundtrack of Dizzy Gillespie. Back in the studio, Appel continues to paint as before, now with an experimental composition of his own playing in the background. His actions come to an apex, the painting is finished, and then everything is calm; Appel is pictured sipping tea from a teacup. After creation there is a period of rest—God rested on the seventh day after six days of creating the world; the alchemist rests his materials after they have been placed under intense heat so that they might congeal into precious metal; the artist pours himself a cup of tea after battering his canvas with paint and exhausting himself.

Appel was raised in Amsterdam. He began painting in his teens and eventually studied at the Rijksakademie in the early 1940s. He was a founding member of CoBrA (an acronym for Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam), which was formed in 1948 and, though short-lived (it disbanded in 1951), proved to be a highly influential avant-garde art movement in Europe in the wake of World War II. Experimentation, spontaneity, and disassociation from all other art movements—naturalism and “sterile” abstraction chief among them—were the tenets of CoBrA. The group’s output primarily consisted of highly colorful semi-abstract canvases with energetic brushwork. Their figures were so primitively simple that their humans, like de Kooning’s women, seemed perverted and their animals seemed sacred. On his own, Appel went on to create work in various media—painting, sculpture, photography, dance—until 2004, two years before his death. Throughout his life, he lived and worked around the world: Paris, Monaco, New York, Zurich, Florence.

Appel, who achieved a great amount of notoriety in Europe during his 60-year career, is not as big a name stateside. In general, postwar European art is not nearly as well known in America as it is in Europe. Americans tend to be more familiar with art made in Europe before World War II. However, museums and galleries in the U.S. are beginning to promote more awareness of European artists who were making art in the wake of war and destruction. The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., will mount “Karel Appel: A Gesture of Color” this summer (June 18–September 18), bringing the artist’s exuberant style to an American audience. The show comes on the heels of a gift of seven works by the artist—five paintings and two sculptures—from the Karel Appel Foundation in Amsterdam. The pieces will not only stand out in the museum’s collection as dazzling accomplishments in their own right but will also resonate with the Phillips’ works by Bonnard, Picasso, and van Gogh—names that American viewers are at home with.

“Gesture of Color” is one of a flurry of international exhibitions of Appel’s work. Blum & Poe, a gallery with locations in New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo, staged “Karel Appel” in the fall of 2014—the first overview of Appel’s work in New York in over 40 years. A drawing retrospective opened at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 2015 and traveled to the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich; an exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Netherlands, closed in May; and a retrospective is planned for 2017 at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

The Phillips exhibition will consist of 22 works. Klaus Ottmann, the deputy director for curatorial and academic affairs at the Phillips Collection and the curator of the exhibition, says, “Many of the works in the exhibition are quite large-scale, so it will not actually feel like a small show.” The museum, which is simultaneously opening a large William Merritt Chase exhibition on its third floor (it’s rare that the museum runs two special exhibitions at the same time), will stage “A Gesture of Color” on its second floor, across from the famed “Rothko Room.”

The Elephant (1950, cast in 1989), a theatrical painted-bronze sculpture, will take pride of place in the museum’s outdoor sculpture area. The piece, which stands nearly nine feet tall, looks like it belongs in a utopian playground. Sometimes, as with The Elephant, Appel’s work is so colorful and organic that it’s humorous. Woman with Flowers No. 1, a 1962 oil on canvas that punctuates a woman’s body with plastic flowers, shares this sentiment but also shows how innovative Appel could be. He was at the forefront of breaking boundaries between painting and sculpture, as well as found objects. In the ’80s he created the “Titan Series,” a group of paintings and wooden sculptures that used ropes and life-sized Polaroid photos. At the same time, Appel collaborated with the Vietnamese composer Nguyen Thien Dao on the ballet Peut-on danser le paysage? (Can We Dance a Landscape?), which premiered at the Opéra Comique in Paris in 1987 and was later performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Ottmann says, “There is a primeval movement in Appel’s painting that relates to dance really well; his painterly gestures have a kind of choreography—not that of the refined conceptual dance of 1970s New York but something very primal that looks back to the roots of humanity.”

Vrijman depicts Appel’s “reality” as one of extremes—the wild man and then the European gentleman. Ottmann describes Appel as an “enfant terrible.” The curator says, “He was very provocative and very much about making a spectacle.” Yet there was another side to Appel, who also composed music and poetry. “He seemed like this primitive madman, but he was also this very sensitive, poetic artist,” says Ottmann.

Primitive, madman, child, animal—these words are frequently used in descriptions of Appel and his work. The artist was influenced by the artwork of children, and at the beginning stages of his career, when he traveled to Paris in 1947, he discovered Jean Dubuffet’s work, as well as Dubuffet’s presentation of outsider art, Le Foyer de l’art brut at Galerie René Drouin. CoBrA, as a group, was influenced by self-taught art, children’s drawings, and the work of Paul Klee. Marcel Duchamp wrote about Klee in 1949, “The first reaction in front of a Klee painting is the very pleasant discovery, what everyone of us could or could have done, to try drawing like in our childhood. Most of his compositions show at the first glance a plain, naive expression, found in children’s drawings.” Klee himself wrote in his diary in 1902: “I will be like a newborn child, knowing nothing about Europe, nothing at all.”

Appel was drawn to the notion of starting from zero, from a point before influence, experience, and education, a point at which instinct guided the body and usurped the mind. Appel’s process of painting, as shown in The Reality of Karel Appel, recalls a child throwing a tantrum or someone in the throes of psychosis. Like a pagan healer who puts him- or herself in a trance-like state while performing a ritual, Appel has one goal: to use his body to let the paint express itself. In 1972 interview the artist said, “Sometimes my works look very childish, or childlike, schizophrenic or stupid, you know. But that was the good thing for me. Because, for me, the material is the paint itself. The paint expresses itself. In the mass of paint, I find my imagination and go on to paint it. I paint the imagination I find in the material I paint.”

By Sarah E. Fensom

Making Waves Tue, 28 Jun 2016 16:48:54 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Marine painting enshrines the love of ships and the sea, and in the best examples one can almost feel the salt spray and hear the snap of the sails.

James E. Buttersworth, Clipper Ship Black Warrior, circa 1853

James E. Buttersworth, Clipper Ship Black Warrior, circa 1853, oil on canvas, 29 x 36 inches.

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) James E. Buttersworth, Clipper Ship Black Warrior, circa 1853 Mary Blood Mellen, Ship at Anchor on a Lee Shore, circa 1858 William Trost Richards, Sunrise, New Jersey Shore, 1881 Guy C. Wiggins, Morning, Gloucester 1915 Irving Ramsey Wiles, White Sloop, Peconic Bay, 1907

The field of marine painting, in theory, is as vast as the ocean itself. Ships and the sea have been favorite themes of artists since ancient times. Greek vases and Roman murals depicted boats bearing men and gods on errands historical or mythological. Renaissance painters such as Pieter Bruegel the Elder loved to paint panoramic views of naval battles, such as his 1598 view of the engagement in the Gulf of Naples. Even Rembrandt, usually a landlubber, couldn’t resist painting a dramatic Storm on the Sea of Galilee (now sadly lost, a victim of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist in Boston in 1990). Romantics such as Turner or the Hudson River School painters loved the way water interacts with the sky at the horizon, the atmospheric effects of moisture, and the reflection of a setting sun in a lake or sea.

But when collectors in this country speak of “marine painting” or “maritime painting” they are most likely referring to an American tradition of art originating in the early 19th century and continuing today, in which boats—whether yachts, merchant vessels, or battleships—take center stage. While collectors of marine painting also relish the aquatic beauty of nature, they tend to be involved in the world of sailing and to have a strong interest in its history. “Marine art never goes away,” says Howard Godel, a New York dealer who has long specialized in the genre. “There are always sailors and yachtsmen who have major-league boats and want to collect these paintings. Some will actually display the art on the boats; some won’t. The demand never disappears. Certain artists may cycle in and out, but as for the genre itself, it’s a forever thing.”

One of the biggest names among classic marine artists is James E. Buttersworth (1819–94). Born in England, the son of a marine painter, Thomas Buttersworth, James emigrated to the U.S. in about 1847. He worked for the firm of Currier & Ives—a reminder that marine art in those days was not just for the elite collector but was disseminated to the population via inexpensive reproductive prints made from paintings. Buttersworth specialized in portraying clipper ships, then the fastest vessels in existence. His Clipper Ship Black Warrior (circa 1853), available from Godel, skillfully depicts this medium-sized ship, which was launched in 1853 from the shipyard of Austin & Company of Damariscotta, Me., and sailed to Australia and South America. Buttersworth chose a low vantage point to paint the Black Warrior, in order to bring the viewer alongside it in the water, so to speak, and also took care to also devote some bravura brushwork to the dark, whitecapped ocean itself as well as the pink-tinged clouds. Nature and the works of man get equal time in the best marine paintings.

As the clipper-ship era came to an end in the 1860s and ’70s and the less romantic steamship came to dominate, Buttersworth turned his attention to the graceful yachts of the leisure class. He documented many America’s Cup races in the course of his career. Collectors wanting a top Buttersworth painting will have to get in line. “Buttersworth is always in demand,” says Godel, “but finding large, important ones in great condition is getting to be like finding a rare colored diamond. They were plenty around 20 or 30 years ago; now far fewer.”

Another mainstay of the 19th-century American school of marine painters is Antonio Jacobsen (1850–1921). He emigrated from Denmark to Hoboken, N.J., right off New York Harbor, and unlike Buttersworth he embraced the new technology as a subject, to the point where he was called “the Audubon of Steam Vessels.” Unlike Buttersworth, he was willing to take a volume approach; he is said to have completed some 6,000 paintings. Sea captains were his preferred clients. “Jacobsen never goes away because he’s a household name and was so prolific,” says Godel. “You really want to try and get him before 1905, when the water is crisp and the skies are really well done, painted on canvas rather than on board. The early period is worth double and triple what the later ones bring.”

Another sub-genre of American painting that falls within the category of marine art is the Luminist School. A later iteration of the Hudson River School, the Luminists (not called that at the time, only by 20th-century art historians) concentrated on still, mirror-like waters, sunsets, and ships at anchor in harbors, all with the goal of conveying a deep and glowing light and a profound sense of peaceful stillness. The top Luminist is generally considered to be Fitz Henry Lane (1804–65), whose works are now extremely scarce on the market. Lane had a female student, Mary Blood Mellen, who collaborated with him (some paintings are signed with both their names) and carried on painting in his style after his death. Her Ship at Anchor on a Lee Shore (circa 1858) is very similar to a Lane painting from about four years earlier, A Rough Sea.

William Trost Richards (1833–1905) was a Philadelphian disciple of the Hudson River School who painted many seascapes. His Sunrise, New Jersey Shore (1881), for example, is a sublime celebration of the interpenetration of sea and land at the beach. Water-soaked sands glisten as an almost moon-like sun glows just above the horizon. The only ships visible are some near-microscopic white sails in the far distance. Elizabeth Stallman, principal of MME Fine Art in New York, which handled the painting, points out that paintings inspired by a sheer love of the beauty of seascapes do very well in the market, as do those made in the service of various maritime pursuits. “We have found the market for our American marine paintings to be sound,” says Stallman, “and one of our biggest sales last year was a gorgeous William Trost Richards seascape. Thankfully, our love of the sea is a universally shared affection, and when depicted with wonderful skill, the results delight every level of astute collectors as well as public institutions.”

Paintings from the early to mid-20th century, executed in a more Impressionistic style, are also popular. Irving Ramsey Wiles’ White Sloop, Peconic Bay (1907), for example, shows off the artist’s brushy style, which has often been compared to that of John Singer Sargent. Another East Coast Impressionist who painted many marine subjects is Guy Wiggins, a student of William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri. In his Morning, Gloucester (1915), the dappled reflections off the water steal the scene, and the overall effect resembles that of Childe Hassam. Some prefer the looser painting of the American Impressionists, but in general the current marine market seems to favor the crisper style and more descriptive approach of the 19th-century masters.

Another reason these painting are so cherished, according to Godel, is that they are now irreplaceable records of times past. “It’s really good that we have artists like Buttersworth and Jacobsen,” he says, “who painted enough works that we have recordings of so many American ships. Many were burned or wrecked, but there’s an image of almost every one. So these paintings are not only beautiful, they’re documents of American history.”

By John Dorfman

From Harlem to the New York School Mon, 13 Jun 2016 17:24:12 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Once overlooked, the painter Norman Lewis’ contributions to the New York School have come into the spotlight.

Norman Lewis, Title Unknown (March on Washington), 1965

Norman Lewis, Title Unknown (March on Washington), 1965, oil on fiberboard.

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Norman Lewis, Seachange, 1975 Norman Lewis, Aurora Borealis, 1972–76 Norman Lewis, Afternoon, 1969 Norman Lewis, Title Unknown (March on Washington), 1965 Norman Lewis, Hep Cats, 1943 Norman Lewis, Girl with Yellow Hat, 1936

It appears that the American artist Norman Lewis (1909–79) is having what is known as “a moment.” In Lewis’ case, the attention he has been receiving lately from the art establishment and, more precisely, from the art market, one of its biggest and most influential components, seems to be something more substantive than a mere “trending” blip on the radar screens of fickle social media. Instead, it seems to be the stuff of evolving cultural history, fueled by a recent series of high-profile exhibitions of the artist’s intriguing but still not very well-known oeuvre. Together these shows have prompted serious critical reassessment of Lewis’ contributions to modern art’s development in the post-World War II era, especially during the heyday of Abstract Expressionism from the 1940s through the early ’60s.

“Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis,” a comprehensive retrospective, was organized by and first presented at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts starting late last year. It will be on view again at the Amon Carter Museum in Forth Worth, Tex., from June 4–August 21. Earlier this year in New York, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, which represents Lewis’ estate, offered a fine selection of the artist’s paintings and drawings; that show coincided with a two-artist exhibition of works by Lewis and Lee Krasner at the Jewish Museum, which is also located in Manhattan. Last December, seven Lewis pieces appeared in an auction at Swann Galleries in New York, in which one of the artist’s untitled abstractions, a beige-colored, oil-on-canvas painting dating from around 1958, set a new record price for his work of almost $1 million.

Various factors may help explain why Lewis’ art has been attracting more attention from museums, collectors and the market. In recent decades, buoyed by postmodernist critical thinking, younger art historians, critics and curators—many of whom are not white and male—have looked beyond canonical art history’s pantheon and drawn attention to other innovative artists who were overlooked in the past.

As it turns out, in past decades, many of those inventive, fresh-thinking artists were female, homosexual, or black. Some came from Asian or other non-European ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Some were overlooked because they created their art in places where the mass media and mainstream institutions were less likely to become aware of them. Others, like Lewis, were well known to, friendly with, and active among their white-artist peers. Often, prominent curators, critics, and other art-world figures were aware of their activities, too.

Still, due to the prejudices that prevailed in the past, many of these artists did not earn significant critical recognition in their time as their careers were actually unfolding. Another reason why substantial bodies of work like Lewis’ are being appreciated anew is that, although many collectors might covet a painting, drawing, or sculpture by such heroic-historic figures of Abstract Expressionism as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, for all but the world’s wealthiest buyers, such works have become prohibitively expensive. Thus, a door has opened in the market for the appreciation and active handling of works of high quality by less well-known makers of abstract art from the same period.

Born in Harlem in 1909 to parents from Bermuda, Lewis grew up at a time when the New York neighborhood’s population was dominated by Italian and Jewish immigrants. (Harlem’s population changed dramatically following the so-called first Great Migration, which lasted roughly from 1916 to 1930, during which masses of Americans of African descent left the rural South and headed to urban centers in the Northeast, Midwest and West.) Even as a young boy, Lewis enjoyed making art. In high school, he studied drawing and commercial art. As a young man, after working as a cook and elevator operator, he became a merchant seaman and sailed throughout the Caribbean and to South America.

The long, tough years of the Great Depression had begun. After returning to New York, while still in his early 20s, Lewis approached the Harlem-based sculptor Augusta Savage and asked her to become his teacher. He worked in her basement studio, which she called “Savage’s Uptown Art Laboratory,” but was more interested in painting than in sculpture and eventually left. In time, Lewis taught himself to paint. Through his association with Savage, he had come into contact with such figures of the era’s Harlem Renaissance as the Jamaican-American writer and poet Claude McKay, the singer Roland Hayes, and the white writer and photographer Carl van Vechten, who became a champion of Harlem’s cultural movers and shakers.

In an interview in 1968 with Henri Ghent, who at the time served as the head of the Brooklyn Museum’s Community Gallery, Lewis recalled his childhood: “I always wanted to be an artist. […] I remember coming home and I said to my father that I wanted to be an artist, and he said this is a white man’s profession. It is a starving profession.” His parents, Lewis said, encouraged his brother to become a violinist but “couldn’t understand” his own “desire to be a painter.” He added: “I pursued [it] on my own…feeling as I did very inferior about becoming an artist, despite the fact that I eventually got a scholarship to the John Reed [Club Art] School, which I didn’t attend. I taught myself, which is a hell of a long way of going about it, because there are shorter ways of discovering what you are.”

In the early 1930s, Lewis became interested in the ideas of the Philadelphia-born philosopher Alain LeRoy Locke, one of the rare black men of his generation who had earned degrees at both Harvard University and the University of Oxford and whose vision of “the New Negro” helped fuel the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ’30s. In 1934, Lewis founded the Harlem Artists Guild along with Romare Bearden and others; that organization helped create professional opportunities for black art-makers while focusing on political and social issues affecting their community. During the ’30s in New York, Lewis also took classes at Columbia University, saw an exhibition of African art at the Museum of Modern Art that deeply moved him, taught at the Harlem Community Arts Center (where the young Jacob Lawrence was a student), and worked for the WPA as an art instructor.

As “Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis” makes clear, during the ’30s Lewis produced his own version of social-realist art. He created images like Dispossessed (1938), which showed a black couple with their belongings, stranded on a sidewalk. This picture expressed with more quiet exasperation than overt anger the artist’s awareness of the effects on his people of such abiding, pernicious forces as poverty, injustice and, of course, racism. But in such paintings as Meeting Place (1941) or Hep Cats (1943), Lewis celebrated life’s everyday pleasures and the personalities that gave his community its distinctive character, too.

In the 1940s, Lewis’ social-realist works gave way to an exploration of the language of abstraction as he found that his earlier, more explicitly political mode of making art would not vanquish racism. Still, however subtly, Lewis continued to fold references to his people’s aspirations and hardships into even his most abstract expressions, either through their titles or through certain colors and forms, which he employed symbolically. He continued refining this approach to his art, technically and thematically, throughout the rest of his career. Thus, many of his dense compositions or those in which clusters of vertical forms appear to be parading across an image’s pictorial space may be read as processions—sometimes he used the word “procession” in their titles—of human figures, evoking the marches of jobless men or of racism-weary black Americans who in hard times took to the streets to call attention to their plight and demand relief and social justice.

Lewis elaborated his abstract visual language in everything from wiry, lace-like drawings like Too Much Aspiration (1947), in opaque watercolor, ink, and graphite on paper, and luminous essays in vibrant color and form, such as the oil-on-canvas paintings Five Phases (1949) and Ritual (1962), to such atmospheric images as Study in Blue and White (1954), an oil on canvas in which a thicket of black and blue vertical shapes lumbers mysteriously through a bleached-out fog.

In the late 1940s, Lewis began a long-lasting relationship with Willard Gallery of New York; his first solo exhibition there took place in 1949. His artist friends included the abstract painter, teacher, and art theorist Ad Reinhardt, who was white, and like him and many other prominent white modern artists of the time, Lewis was a member of American Abstract Artists, a professional association that had been founded in 1936. Still, both because of his race and, ironically, probably because the abstractions Lewis was creating were not visibly “black” enough—they did not explicitly depict subject matter associated with the contemporary lives of black Americans—over time his work was overlooked. Still, Lewis embraced abstract art with gusto, reveling in the creative freedom and possibilities for personal discovery and expression it allowed. He went on to co-found SPIRAL, a group of black artists who supported the civil rights movement of the 1960s through their art, to teach at the Art Students League, and to win prestigious awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts grant and the Guggenheim Fellowship.

Jeffrey C. Stewart, a professor of Black Studies at the University of California in Santa Barbara, has contributed one of the more provocative and illuminating essays to the catalogue of “Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis.” In it, he observes that, given the nature of Lewis’ later work and the perceptions surrounding the kind of art it represented, the painter might have “seemed like an oxymoron to most people—a Negro abstract expressionist.” Stewart regards Lewis as having used “African and African-American aesthetic forms in his paintings to enact a spiritual message,” and that the artist continued to convey it, even when he “venture[d] into pure abstraction,” for his art consistently expressed the idea “that spiritual transcendence is always possible.” Indeed, Lewis’ abstract art, like that of many now-classic examples of the genre, which, critics and historians have long argued, may reflect their creators’ existential anguish or their search for soul-lifting transcendence, probably expresses and embodies more of the latter theme than the former.

About his art, in typewritten notes Lewis once observed, “It is my misfortune and probably my delight to use things as my passions tell me…. Not necessary for spectator to analyze. The ideal is when the spectator allows himself without knowing it to be engaged by the mechanism of the picture. The real function of art is to express feeling and understanding.” Unabashedly motivated by such concerns, which it still inevitably conveys, Lewis’ art may well be finding an appreciative new audience precisely because it offers some kind of antidote to the conflicted spirit of a cynical age. If so, it has earned its deserved moment in the spotlight—right now.

By Edward M. Gómez

Mothers of Abstraction Tue, 07 Jun 2016 17:49:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> A current exhibition at the Denver Art Museum gives 12 female Abstract Expressionists the show they should have had during the art movement’s heyday.

Lee Krasner, Untitled, 1942

Lee Krasner, Untitled, 1942, oil paint on linen, 21 x 27 in.

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Sonia Getchoff, The Beginning, 1969 Perle Fine, Early Morning Garden, 1957 Mary Abbott, All Green, about 1954 Joan Mitchell, Hudson River Day Line, 1955 Elaine de Kooning, Bullfight, 1959 Deborah Remington, Apropos or Untitled, 1953 Lee Krasner, Untitled, 1942

That any exhibition centering around one half of the population is necessary, can be illuminated by Linda Nochlin’s famous 1971 essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” Nochlin wrote, “The question ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’ has led us to the conclusion, so far, that art is not a free, autonomous activity of a super-endowed individual, ‘influenced’ by previous artists, and, more vaguely and superficially, by ‘social forces,’ but rather, that the total situation of art making, both in terms of the development of the art maker and in the nature and quality of the work of art itself, occur in a social situation, are integral elements of this social structure, and are mediated and determined by specific and definable social institutions, be they art academies, systems of patronage, mythologies of the divine creator, artist as he-man or social outcast.”

The “social situation” for women during the rise of Abstract Expressionism in America in the 1940s, was such that breaking out as a representative figure of the movement was unlikely or even impossible. This phenomenon is not particular to this movement or time period, but rather, as Nochlin notes, to the plight of women throughout art history and human history in general. Women working in abstraction took the same classes as men—be they summer courses with Hans Hofmann in Provincetown, or with Esteban Vicente or Clyfford Still—ruminated over ideas at the Cedar Street Tavern, attended meetings at The Club, and showed work at Betty Parsons and, on occasion, in notable MoMA exhibitions. Many of the most prominent female abstractionists socialized with their male counterparts, or were involved in relationships with male artists. Yet they were seen as supporting characters rather than stars because of their role as women in society rather than their levels of artistry. And thus, though female-centric museum and gallery exhibitions can be frustrating because they serve as reminders that all other shows are “male-centric,” they also create opportunities to celebrate art that was always equal, even if its creators weren’t treated equally.

“Women of Abstract Expressionism” opens at the Denver Art Museum on June 12, where it will be up through September 25, later traveling to the Mint Museum in October and to the Palm Springs Art Museum in February 2017. The show, which is the first full-scale museum exhibition of its kind, focuses solely on female artists working in the Abstract-Expressionist movement in mid-20th-century America. Over 50 paintings will be on view, by a select group of 12 artists: Mary Abbott, Jay DeFeo, Perle Fine, Helen Frankenthaler, Sonia Gechtoff, Judith Godwin, Grace Hartigan, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Deborah Remington, and Ethel Schwabacher.

Gwen Chanzit, the DAM’s curator of modern and contemporary art, began thinking about the show in 2008—though she says she never set out to do a “women’s show.” She had seen an exhibition in New York that included men of color and women—people whose works are rarely seen in Ab-Ex exhibitions. “This particular movement is very male-centric,” says Chanzit. “The textbooks are all about the paint-splattered man. When I started to think about who had been left out of the history of Abstract Expressionism, I realized that it was this whole group of women.” Chanzit surveyed well over 100 artists, and the exhibition’s catalogue includes over 40, but the curator chose to limit the presentation to 12 women. “The exhibition is divided into 12 spaces, and each artist has her own space,” says Chanzit. “Each one will be seen as an individual with a grouping of her own works; if we were to have 18 to 20 we couldn’t do that.” Each artist’s section has at least three major works; Krasner’s boasts seven.

Krasner, like Elaine de Kooning, is among the best-known artists in the show due in part to matrimony. Aside from being Jackson Pollock’s wife, Krasner has been widely shown at many of the most important museums in the world. Yet even in her retrospectives, which have largely been posthumous, the art-historical narrative has struggled to allow Krasner an individual identity. In the present exhibition, the seven painting on view provide a glimpse into the evolution of her work. Untitled (1942), a highly geometric oil painting on linen, nods to Cubism’s influence on the artist, while The Seasons, a 1957 oil and house paint on canvas piece that is nearly 8 feet wide and 17 feet long, is dramatically looser and more corporeal. Its pink shapes, which bring to mind the pinks in Willem de Kooning’s Woman paintings, resemble fruits swollen and heavy with ripeness.

Painted not long after Pollock’s death, The Seasons finds Krasner trying to forge her own identity—not only apart from Pollock but within a landscape of artists who were beginning to adopt signature imagery. In this painting, as well as others of the same year such as Listen and Sun Woman I, Krasner’s actual signature, scribbled in umber, is woven throughout the body of the painting. The desire to assert her individuality is not surprising. She had frequently exhibited with her husband—notably in the 1949 “Artists: Husband and Wife” show at the Sidney Janis Gallery—and recalled a studio visit from Betty Parsons in which the dealer largely ignored her in favor of Pollock.

For most of the female abstractionists working in New York—even Krasner, who seemingly had all the right connections—it was difficult to gain lasting support. Perle Fine, who was one of the only women asked to join The Club—a meeting place for artists on East Eighth Street—began showing with Parsons in 1949. Fine moved to Springs, East Hampton, N.Y., in the mid-’50s, around the same time she was dropped by Parsons for poor sales. Outside the city, Fine’s, who was heavily inspired by Mondrian’s Neo-Plasticism, had a breakthrough. Early Morning Garden (1957), an explosive oil paint and collage piece that will be on view at the DAM, substitutes natural forms for purely abstract ones. Grace Hartigan, whose bold 1960 oil on canvas New York City Rhapsody will also be on view, gained early support from the influential critic Clement Greenberg, who featured her work in a 1950 show at the Samuel Kootz Gallery. However, Greenberg withdrew his support after Hartigan introduced figuration into her canvases (which led Hartigan to call Greenberg a coward in one particularly pointed letter). Hartigan, who later received attention for her work seeming to resemble Willem de Kooning’s figurative compositions, was the only woman in MoMA’s 1958 “New American Paintings” exhibition among 16 male artists.

In San Francisco, which is the other geographical focus of the DAM’s exhibition besides New York, consistent support for female abstractionists seemed more tangible. Sonia Gechtoff—the exhibition’s bi-coastal Tiresias—enjoyed a lot of praise in the Bay Area, but after moving to New York in 1958 found that there was much less support there for female artists. Gechtoff’s richly colored 1960 oil painting The Beginning, in the exhibition, is so textural and blurred that it nearly seems like it was drawn with pastel, its composition so energetic that it seems like a shaking rendering of a cosmic explosion.

Gechtoff’s mother opened the East and West Gallery on Fillmore Street in San Francisco in 1954. Across the street was the Six Gallery, a prominent exhibition space co-founded by Deborah Remington and five men, which happened to hold Allen Ginsberg’s first public reading of Howl. Remington, who traveled extensively around Asia from 1956–58, imbued many of her subsequent canvases with influences from Chinese and Japanese brush painting. Exodus, a 1960 oil on canvas that will be in the DAM show, bears qualities of a sumi-e chrysanthemum, while Apropos or Untitled (1953), though painted before the artist’s trip, somehow suggests images of the East.

Abstract Expressionism shares several qualities with jazz. For one, its gestural spontaneity—which can be wrongly perceived as disorderly or simple—sits firmly on the bedrock of practice and honed skill. Like the musical genre, Ab-Ex is considered to be the first purely American art movement, and—as jazz did with music—shifted the art world’s center of gravity to the States. And both Ab-Ex and jazz promoted the image of the roguishly masculine freak of nature as the brilliant master of his craft. To the abstractionist or trumpet player physicality and stamina were part of the job, bad behavior an accepted occupational hazard. Pollock, who had affairs, bad moods, too many drinks, and (perhaps with the exception of his “black paintings”) a mountain of praise and recognition, was Ab-Ex’s man of action and genius. In response to Hans Hofmann suggesting he should paint from nature, Pollock is famously said to have responded, “I am nature.” But it was, in fact, Krasner who said it, or at the least recounted it, in a 1967 interview about her husband.

In a 1959 essay, the representational painter and critic Fairfield Porter wrote, “The Impressionists taught us to look at nature very carefully; the Americans teach us to look very carefully at the painting. Paint is as real as nature and the means for a painting can contain its ends.” The Abstract Expressionist artist takes on the role of nature—nature’s processes, movements, and creative powers are channeled into the act of painting and then into the painting itself. Though there may be a physical referent or memory on which an abstract painting is based—as for instance with Elaine de Kooning’s Bullfight (1959), which is inspired by bullfights the artist saw in Mexico—the gestural and corporeal nature of abstraction ensures that the image is inextricably tied to the artist’s hand, body, and mind. No other painter can create the same thing.

Barnett Newman said, “The first man was an artist.” Yet there is a group of people that is accustomed to creating something that without them couldn’t exist, a group that is born with the ability to take on the role of nature—women.

By Sarah E. Fensom

City on a Hill Tue, 07 Jun 2016 17:38:04 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Thanks to a historic collaboration between the Met and the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, an almost unbelievably rich trove of Hellenistic antiquities has come to New York.

Small Statue of Alexander the Great astride Bucephalos, Roman

Small Statue of Alexander the Great astride Bucephalos, Roman, Late Republican or Early Imperial period, second half of the 1st century B.C.; copy of a Greek original of circa 320–300 B.C., bronze, 48.6 x 47 cm. Opposite

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) Triton Acroterion from the Great Altar, Greek Stater of Mithridates VI Eupator Dionysos, Greek Rhyton in the form of a Centaur, Greek Fragmentary Colossal Head of a Youth, Greek, Hellenistic period Small Statue of Alexander the Great astride Bucephalos, Roman Friedrich (von) Thiersch, The Akropolis of Pergamon, 1882

The death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. marks the moment when Greek culture jumped the borders of Greece and became a world culture. Alexander’s rapid conquests had pushed the borders of the Macedonian Empire as far east as what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan, and when he died without naming a successor, his generals fought each other for control. After several civil wars, the empire broke up into political units known as the Hellenistic kingdoms, which for the next three centuries ruled most of Greece, parts of Southern Italy, Asia Minor, Egypt, and the Near East. During that time, they made Greek an international language, and with the language went Greek art. The art of the so-called Hellenistic period (a modern coinage; it was never called that at the time) broke new ground in terms of realism, eroticism, and the development of new media.

One of those Hellenistic dynasties was the Attalid Kingdom, which ruled from the city of Pergamon near the west coast of what is now Turkey. Under Attalid and then (starting in 133 B.C.) Roman rule, Pergamon grew into a wealthy and cultured city, distinguished by its massive acropolis (hill city) bearing a monumental altar—the famous Great Altar—with elaborate friezes. In the mid-1860s, a German engineer and amateur archeologist, Carl Humann, stumbled on the site of ancient Pergamon while excavating for an Ottoman Turkish road construction project. Noticing that exposed portions of marble from the partially buried city were being cut into fragments to be burned in a lime kiln, Humann used his influence with the Ottoman authorities to stop the destruction and get a permit to excavate the site.

Actual digging, though, needed to wait until 1879, when Humann was able to get financial support from the Berlin Museums, a branch of the German royal state. Thus began the historic connection between the Hellenistic city and the German city, which eventually constructed an entire structure, the Pergamon Museum, to house its negotiated portion of artifacts from the site (the balance was claimed by the Ottoman government). To Berlin went the friezes from the Great Altar, which were touted as worthy rivals to the British Museum’s “Elgin Marbles” (sculptures from the frieze of the Parthenon in Athens) in the geopolitical game of archeological one-upmanship. Today, under the auspices of the Pergamon Museum, excavation of the site continues.

In 2013, the Pergamon Museum closed for major renovations, providing the occasion for pieces from the collection to travel to New York, where they are now on view at the Metropolitan Museum in “Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World,” an exhibition on view through July 17. About a third of the 265 objects in the Met show are from the Pergamon Museum; the show also features loans from some 50 public and private collections from around the world. Together, the astonishing assemblage of objects showcases not only the achievement of Pergamon but of Hellenistic high culture in general, in many ancient states.

The Met’s chief curator of antiquities, Carlos Picón, describes the exhibition as “unabashedly an ‘objects show’” that “does not pretend to offer a straightforward art-historical survey.” In any case, he writes in the exhibition catalogue, “there is no single approach to the study of most branches of Hellenistic art. One can only examine the artistic trends and attempt to discover avenues that either lead to further study or, at the very least, allow us to look at this rich material with fresh eyes.”

For many visitors to the Met, “Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World” will be their first look at the material, but even to those familiar with the period, the works on view are likely to be visually and even emotionally overwhelming. While the Great Altar itself cannot travel (since it is literally embedded in the walls of the Pergamon Museum itself), some elements from the friezes are in the New York show, along with a striking architectural model that conveys what the altar must have looked like when it was new. A huge 1882 pen-and-ink-and-watercolor rendering of the whole acropolis of Pergamon by Friedrich von Tiersch, situated near the entrance to the exhibition, also helps visualize the ancient site in its heyday. An assortment of documents and sketchbooks immerses the viewer in the thrill of the German discovery of Pergamon, when Humann was able to exult, “We have found an entire artistic epoch!”

From the north and east sides of the Sanctuary of Athena at Pergamon, a set of large marble balustrade reliefs, discovered in 1878–86, are in the exhibition. These very imposing and compositionally bold designs, made around 180 B.C., depict spoils of war—shields, a ship’s standard and rudder, a helmet with mask—that commemorate battles won by the kings of Pergamon against the Seleucids of Asia Minor. The haphazard, tumbled-looking arrangement of the trophies suggests a still life turned vertically, almost Cubistic in its overall effect. The dedication of such an important structure as this sanctuary to the goddess Athena reminds us that Pergamon, as a foreign city, had to a particular effort to tie itself to the sources of Greek religion and integrate itself into the mythology.

Actual arms and armor are on view right near the frieze fragments: A 32-inch-diameter bronze shield with relief decoration, discovered at Pontos in present-day Turkey, is one of the very few surviving Hellenistic pieces of its kind in the world. The Greek inscription running in a circle between two concentric decorative bands reads, “Of King Pharnakes,” referring to Pharnakes I, who ruled Pontos in the 2nd century B.C. The shield, which has a six-pointed star design in the middle, would originally have a wooden or leather support mounted behind the brass front.

Images of Alexander, the progenitor of the Hellenistic world, are appropriately displayed at the beginning of the Met’s installation. One particularly impressive piece—though small, about 20 inches high—is a bronze sculpture of the ruler mounted on his favorite horse, Bucephalos, who is rearing up as his rider, dressed in typical Macedonian style, prepares to strike a blow against an unseen enemy. The weapon he would have been using is also unseen, at least by us, because it has been lost to time. Alexander is shown with no helmet, an allusion to a famous incident in 334 B.C. when the king was attacked and nearly killed by the satrap (provincial governor) Spithridates during a battle. This sculpture, which was found at Herculaneum, is a late Republican or early Imperial Roman copy of a Greek original that is believed to have been created not very long after the event itself, circa 320–300 B.C.

Another object on view that is likely a portrait of Alexander, on a very different scale, is the fragmentary colossal marble head of a youth discovered at Pergamon. Probably carved in the 2nd century B.C., the head is twice life size (almost 23 inches high) and is believed to have been mounted on the wall in the Pergamon gymnasium. The expressive, slightly open mouth; the nose; and the curly locks of hair are all that remain to conjure the visage of the young king; the rest of the head has been dramatically sheared off, creating an unintentional but nonetheless beautiful and strange effect.

A Late Hellenistic bronze portrait of an unknown man, excavated on the Greek island of Delos in 1912, is vividly lifelike. Every feature seems like that of a real person, not an idealized archetype. The eyes, with the whites modeled in inlaid white stone and the irises in a dark gray stone, are particularly expressive, full of pathos or even anguish. The pupils, too, were once inlaid, and the eyelashes were rendered with fringed strips of copper, though those pieces, unfortunately, have been lost. This kind of intense dedication to naturalistic detail, coupled with a desire to convey the true personality and character of the sitter, is typical of Late Hellenistic portraiture. The man shown here may have been a public official, a man of letters, or some other prominent citizen, but what the artist gives us is not the public façade but the inner man.

Another trait of Hellenistic art is frank eroticism. A beautiful example in the Met show is Sleeping Hermaphrodite, a 2nd century A.D. Roman Imperial copy of a Greek original from 2nd century B.C. Asia Minor, found in Rome in the late 19th century during the construction of a theater. According to myth, Hermaphroditos, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, rejected the advances of a nymph, who then appealed to the gods for assistance. They obliged by fusing her with her beloved forever, creating a bisexual being. In this marble depiction, the figure is sensuously abandoned to sleep, partially wrapped in a sheet, one leg crossed over the other, the face supported on the arms. Though still, it looks as if it might stir at any time. The body and face as we see them from the side to which the face is turned are more or less gender-neutral, though they skew feminine. But on the other side, the sculptor has depicted both a breast and a penis, graphic reminders of the androgynous nature of this hybrid entity.

Naturalistic painting was a signal achievement of Hellenistic art, though sadly, very few paintings have survived. Mosaic pictures, however, give some sense of what Hellenistic painting must have been like. A late Republican Roman emblema (inset illustration from a floor) from the 2nd–1st century B.C. and excavated at Pompeii, shows a group of busking musicians dedicated to the cult of the goddess Cybele. All three wear theatrical masks. One blows a double flute, one plays a large tambourine, and the third snaps a pair of small hand cymbals. Off to the side is a small figure that may be a child or a dwarf. The image, signed in Greek by the artist, Dioskourides of Samos, is most likely an illustration of a scene from Menander’s comedy The Possessed Girl, which is lost except for a few scattered verses. The composition is believed to be a copy of a painting from a century or two earlier. Even though it is mosaic, the colorful piece uses chiaroscuro and shows a command of three-dimensional space.

An especially impressive multi-figure composition can be seen carved in relief around the outside of a marble calyx krater, called the Borghese Krater. Even in a show consisting mainly of high spots, this one really stands out. Discovered in the Gardens of Sallust in Rome in 1569 and now in the Louvre, this gigantic, monumental vase was made in Greece around 40–30 B.C. Its frieze depicts a procession of Dionysos, god of wine and ecstasy—quite fitting, since the type of ceramic kraters on which this showpiece is modeled would have been used to dispense wine at a banquet. Running under the lip of the krater is a grape vine, also symbolizing Dionysos. The figures in the frieze are the god himself, depicted semi-nude, three maenads or female worshippers, and five fauns or satyrs, all dancing and playing musical instruments. One of the fauns seems to have had too much to drink and is being supported by another. Evidence from an ancient shipwreck discovered just before World War I indicates that this vase was made in Attica for export to a wealthy Roman client. Important contributions to the development of the so-called neo-Attic style of art were made in the city of Pergamon.

“Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World” contains many examples of the decorative arts, including numismatics and jewelry. One of the most eye-catching pieces in that category is known as the Vienna Cameo. This large double portrait, made of 10-layered onyx, dates from the Early Hellenistic period in Ptolemaic Egypt, circa 278–270/269 B.C. It depicts the Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphos and his sister-wife Arsinoe II (Philadelphos means “sibling-lover” in Greek), in profile. The white layers of the stone have been used for the faces—which, unsurprisingly, are exceptionally similar—while the brown layers have been used for the king’s helmet and crest and the surrounding negative space. The technique of cameo carving, shown here with such mastery, is an innovation of the Hellenistic period.

In Barry Unsworth’s 1988 novel Pascali’s Island, an English amateur archaeologist named Anthony Bowles makes a fantastic discovery on a Greek island, a Hellenistic bronze figure of a youth, possibly Dionysos, unseen for over 2,000 years. Like Carl Humann, Bowles has cultivated the local Ottoman authorities in order to get permission to dig—although things are about to get complicated for him. By way of explaining the sculpture’s particular beauty, Bowles says, “He is just at the point of decline. … At the brink. That is why he is so marvellous.” Immersion in “Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World” will make it clear to anyone that there is nothing decadent about Hellenistic art, no need for invidious comparison with Classical art, and that its particular beauty is due both to advances in technique and to an increased desire to observe and depict the world as actually seen and lived.

By John Dorfman

American Art By Mail Thu, 26 May 2016 17:18:02 +0000 Continue reading ]]> How one company brought fine art into homes across the country.

James Chapin, Boy, That’s Tobacco, 1942

James Chapin, Boy, That’s Tobacco, 1942, oil on canvas, 36 x 44 in.

Featured Images:(Click to Enlarge) A Treasury of Fine Art Masterpieces Created by Famous American Artists to Bring Beauty and Better Living into Your Home. Signature Fabrics advertisement showing Vogue dress pattern James Chapin, Boy, That’s Tobacco, 1942 Irwin Hoffman, El Jibaro, Puerto Rico, 1940 Jackson Lee Nesbitt, Farm Auction, Jackson County, 1947 Berta Margoulies, Pioneer, 1950

Grant Wood’s oil on masonite painting The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (1931) can be seen in Gallery 900 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Further downtown, however, at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, the picture is also on view—that is, printed on a vintage piece of fabric (1952). The textile hangs in the downstairs room of the gallery’s current show “Art for Every Home: Associated American Artists, 1934–2000” (through July 9). On it, the painting is reproduced over and over in undelineated row and column. When turned into a pattern, Wood’s characteristically exaggerated perspectives become almost cartoonish, and here his colonial Town Square appears to form multiple blocks of one larger, steeple-dotted city. The effect is almost dizzying—and Revere’s route seems to wind like the Alps-traversing legs of the Tour de France. No fabric seems better suited to dress the bedroom windows of a kid growing up in 1950s America—the type who watched Lassie and played cowboys with a holster and toy gun.

Shortly before his death in 1942, Wood was commissioned by Reeves Lewenthal, the founder and president of Associated American Artists (AAA), to create fabric designs for The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and Spring Plowing (1932), but Lewenthal couldn’t find a fabric manufacturer interested in making them. However, after the rationing of World War II, consumers were thirsty to spend, and well-known artists—such as Alexander Calder, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso—began to produce high-end artist-designed home furnishings, including fabrics, wall panels, china, and ceramics. Lewenthal struck a deal with Riverdale Fabrics and released a line of fabrics and drapery in 1952 with coordinating Stonelain ceramics designed by “America’s Famous Artists”—among them, of course. was Wood, who as a recognized name, was a great selling point. The line, titled “Pioneer Pathways,” included seven other designs, all with motifs connected to American folklore and culture. Named after a design produced by Russian-born muralist and painter Anton Rifrigier, the line offered multiple colorways of readymade draperies, bedspreads, pillows, and lampshades or fabric available by the yardage. The collection was given a weeklong debut at Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square, after which it was available at over 100 stores nationwide—a cross-country ride for Paul Revere.

Lewenthal began AAA as an art print publishing company in 1934. In July of that year he met with a group of 23 American artists, including Doris Lee, John Steuart Curry, and Thomas Hart Benton in Benton’s Manhattan studio and developed a plan to commission prints directly from artists and sell them to a wide audience. The company, which effectively did just that until 2000, started selling prints by Benton, Curry, and Wood, who at that time were well established in the art world and known by those outside of it. The prints were priced at $5 (approximately $88 today) and published in limited editions of 250, with the artist getting $200 when an edition sold out.

Early on, Lewenthal’s company benefited from a lack of competition. Artists, whose ability to make money from their work suffered during the Depression, profited from AAA’s production and promotion of their prints. To the middle-class consumer, Lewenthal offered a slice of the American Dream—making it possible to hang a piece of fine art in even the humblest of abodes. Regionalism and the etching revival, which were all the rage at the time, formed the bedrock of AAA’s inventory. Prints like Curry’s John Brown (1939, published 1940) and Benton’s Frankie and Johnnie (1936), which were wildly popular, cemented the idea that AAA was selling the American scene to the American people.
AAA used a direct-to-consumer model, much like the e-commerce businesses of today. The company produced a mail-order catalogue with reproductions of the prints alongside descriptions. The catalogues often teased that print runs had sold out or were about to, hoping to invoke a “better act now” mentality in the consumer. AAA also took out advertisements in periodicals and on the radio and set up displays in
department stores.

All of AAA’s materials promoted the idea that collectors were buying “Fine Art,” and strove to help collectors enjoy their budding collections. The catalogues even ran instructions on the right way to hang art. “AAA promoted its patrons, too,” says Gail Windisch, a California-based collector of AAA catalogues and ephemera who was instrumental in organizing “Art for Every Home.” “There’s a catalogue from 1946 that features a woman from North Carolina on the cover. She’s sitting in her living room reading, and she’s saying to the world ‘I’m sophisticated and educated—I’m reading a book and I have fine art on my wall.’” The photograph was sent in by the woman herself, an AAA collector, and the company, smartly highlighting their prints in action, chose to run it on the catalogue’s cover.

In 1936, AAA opened its eponymous gallery on Madison Avenue (it moved to Fifth Avenue in 1956). There, gallery goers could view museum-quality exhibitions and also buy prints. Says Windisch, “It was the largest public gallery in New York City at the time—it was more akin to a museum even though it was a commercial enterprise. They even had living room furniture set up, and prints on a pulley system, so you could see what they would look like on your wall.” The gallery would also provide framing services and boxes to store purchased works.

Lewenthal, a skilled marketer, used various devices to sell and promote prints. Benton’s mural in the Missouri State Capitol, A Social History of the State of Missouri (completed in 1936), which featured 235 individual portraits, captured the state’s people living and working, suffering hardships and enjoying simple pleasures. Benton received harsh criticism for his depiction of the Midwest, which Lewenthal used to his advantage when selling prints of the mural. “The mural had some images that weren’t positive,” says Elizabeth Seaton, the show’s curator and a curator at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art at Kansas State University (where the exhibition was first installed), “and AAA promoted their editions as ‘the controversial prints from the mural.’” Wood’s Sultry Night (1939), which pictured a farmer in the buff bathing after a long day of work, was banned by the United States Post Office for sale by mail order. AAA had 100 impressions of the image made and sold them at their gallery.

Lewethal also worked with corporations throughout the ’40s. Companies such as Maxwell House and Standard Oil commissioned AAA artists to create imagery for their ads. The American Tobacco Company commissioned 19 AAA artists to produce art for them, including James Chapin, whose painting Boy, That’s Tobacco (1942) was featured in an ad for Lucky Strike. The painting, which features a burly, denim-clad farmer holding a large tobacco leaf, creates an idealized picture of American agriculture.

Acknowledging that Regionalism wouldn’t be in vogue forever, the company began courting international artists after World War II. In 1946, AAA established the Department of Latin American Art, and in 1947 it released Mexican People, a portfolio of 12 lithographs by 10 members of the Taller de Grafica Popular, a group from Mexico City that promoted social change. Around this time, Lewenthal began making deals with consumer goods companies, as with the Riverdale Fabrics and the “Pioneer Pathways” collection. AAA released its first ceramics collection with Stonelain in September 1950. In 1953, M. Lowenstein & Sons produced a line of clothing fabrics with patterns designed by AAA artists. The following year, United Wallpaper did the same thing with wallpaper patterns. Other collaborations, with companies like Steuben Glass and Castleton China, came and went over the years.
By the time AAA closed in 2000, it had published some 2,600 prints by 600 artists. However, its legacy was not well tended. According to Seaton, who eventually borrowed prints from over 25 museums for the “Art for Every Home” exhibition, many museums have AAA prints in their collections without even knowing it. The Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art was gifted a collection of about 200 AAA prints from the widow of an insurance salesman who lived in a small town in Kansas. Seaton became interested in putting together a show about AAA.

In 1999, Windisch found a print that came with an AAA biography card (AAA prints often came with cards that provided information on the artist and the piece). Curious about the company, she started purchasing AAA catalogues on Ebay. Later, with the help of print dealers and Sylvan Cole Jr. (Lewenthal’s successor at AAA), she began the arduous task of putting together a catalogue raisonné of AAA prints. Seaton was given Windisch’s name at a print fair in 2007, and in 2008 the two got in contact.

Around the same time, Karen Herbaugh, the curator of the exhibition’s textile component and the curator at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Mass., began researching AAA textiles. “A textile dealer brought us a couple of pieces that were AAA in the late ’90s,” says Herbaugh, “and on the selvage, it actually said ‘Associated American Artists, designer, title of piece.’ This was unheard of—designers, typically unsung heroes, rarely get individual credit.” Finding no information online, Herbaugh, used the sparse holdings she could find in the Archives of American Art and in the Syracuse University library, pieced together a presentation on AAA textiles. “When you Google AAA textiles, you see my early presentation,” says Herbaugh. Seaton did just that, and the two curators connected. Slowly, over time, the exhibition began to come together.

When walking through the presentation at the Grey Art Gallery, the viewer is confronted not only by a cache of incredible prints but also by a picture of 20th-century American life: its imagery, its consumerism, and its industry. Lewenthal, an enthusiastic proponent of contemporary American art, was also an incredible businessman. He used all available resources to support his artists or wares. When asked whether Lewenthal would have used the Internet to promote his business, Seaton, who relied heavily on the connecting power of the web to put together the show, said without hesitation, “absolutely.”

By Sarah E. Fensom