07 June 2015

What's up

Ubu Gallery has a week left of one of their samplings of Weimar-era art (Piri' Miri Muli' Top Priority; pdf). George Grosz discovered the beauty of ethnic markets and Cape Cod seascapes when he came to America in 1933, but his work immediately after his attempted suicide in an army hospital during WWI reveals the ugly side of contemporary America perhaps more than anyone alive, inspired by Weimar Germany before Goebbels came up with the idea of hiding the intentions of the oligarchy behind sports and entertainment. The show contains an original offset lithograph edition of his suppressed 1923 Ecce Homo, an ink on paper, a watercolor, and an expansive display of his 1920 nine plate photo-lithograph Gott Mit Uns (God With Us), which caused Grosz and his publisher to be "tried for defamation of the military; found guilty.. fined and forced to surrender all copies of the portfolio to the army," in which the architecture of Van Gogh's "Prisoner's Round" is updated for his "Workman's Holiday"; also in the book is his military industrial group portrait "Blood is the Best Sauce" (below). Georg Scholz is much in evidence, including a hand-colored litho of his famous painting "Industrial Peasants" (the cover of the 5th & 6th ed. of Eagleton's Ideology), a mirror image of the painting with the boy's head not cut open and no vehicle seen through the window. Add to that twelve etchings by Otto Dix and two drypoints and a litho by Beckmann. Although the Gott Mit Uns set is the showstopper, the four etchings here by Eddy Smith are perhaps most rewarding from a graphic point of view.



I did get to the two Indian modern shows of which the post-independence overview at the Queens Museum remains open another three weeks. Its strength is its two-canvas-per-person presentation of the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group, with a colorful and representative Metascape by Akbar Padamsee across from the entrance blocked by wall panels featuring a abstract film by Padamsee and two other films from the Progressive roster: one by Tyeb Mehta in which bulls for slaughter and the mourning of Gandhi precede (spoiler of sorts) the image of Nandi, Shiva's bull warrior and symbol of the human soul, a Hindu mise-en-scène of the material world paradoxically spliced with the representation of the eternal:



Also here is M.F.Husain's Through the Eyes of a Painter, a journey through Rajastan which won a 1967 Berlin Golden Bear:



Not to my liking, there were no paintings in the show after 1980, giving way to Conceptual works which agree with US art school fashions. Nalini Malani's paintings (such as the one below) are more than worthy and her video art would improve on these offerings, to name one omission hot from a high profile Chelsea show and Documenta Kassel buzz.

31 May 2015

What's up

The 118 e 64th St Boesky gallery fills three creaky, atmospheric floors of vintage trim carpentry with later works by Dorothea Tanning, mostly after the death of Max Ernst, a phase of looser brush strokes (as below), an increasing O'Keefe influence from her time in Sonora with Ernst, Matta too, and, in one canvas, an upside-down head resembling Bacon's in 1944's Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. The Yale Review's J.D. McClatchy gave Tanning a copy of his American poetry anthology (displayed) in which she underlined passages, saying nice things about Charles Wright* and Louise Glück and not so nice things about Carolyn Kizer, and later produced a monograph** in cooperation with McClatchy and his friend James Merrill. This is the basis for interspersing her works with "examples of poems that were especially meaningful to the artist," as well as readings of poetry from the anthology coming from a speaker in the ground floor, completely devoid of her own poems or any Surrealist poems, including poems by Adrienne Rich and Rosanna Warren based on her works that aren't very good, but meeting the approval of Tanning. None of her own poetry is on the walls either, despite Greywolf Press recently publishing her verses. Amid all these associations and influences there is a uniquely personal, allegorical development in this period of her work and this is a show not to be missed.


A few blocks up at 32 East 69th Street is another spacious show of late works til June 20, these by Leon Golub, including early large scale war paintings in the first two floors, mostly unspecific but one from 1969 from his Napalm series.  The third floor features personal un-subtle works about death: two large scale acrylics, one called "Time's Up" and another with notes from the Egyptian Book of the Dead on it, adjacent to a gallery of cartoonish oil stick on bristols 8"x10" or less, sticking to the death theme.

Dominique Lévy offers til June 13 three dozen Calder sculptures in an enjoyable white room designed by Santiago Calatrava which requires you to cover your shoes, if you can't wait for his four billion dollar PATH station. Downstairs are collages of Korean mulberry bark paper by Park Seo-Bo at Galerie Perrotin, whose previous show was an installation by Elmgreen and Dragset that brought us the press release (pdf): "'Past Tomorrow'.. follows the life of.. an elderly, disillusioned and failed architect, after his inheritance runs out and he is forced to leave his home in London's South Kensington neighborhood, resettling in a smaller apartment in New York's Upper East Side. . An old man whose lifestyle and beliefs are grounded in the past and no longer align with contemporary culture, Swann's character can be regarded as a metaphor for 'old Europe', stubbornly refusing to face its changed position within the world," an indication that Donald Rumsfeld is eclipsing Ruskin as an influence on Upper East Side curators.  Their installation included a full length play in text form, in which the architect shows an exuberant enthusiasm for Foucault, pictured with Deleuze (right) on one of numerous glossies on the wall, not combined with any substantive discussion of any of his texts, leading to sit com-ish family interventions, with no indication that either the playwrights nor the curators understand a single point Foucault ever made.

Twombly's late paintings at Gagosian 980 Madison til June 20 are pared down on account of his physical decline, featuring the red-on-white, "funereal" "Blooming" from his "Scattering of Blossoms" series which was all the more powerful for me perhaps since I hadn't seen the more extensive 2007 show, with its press release stressing a connection to Bashō and Japanese hokku, of which this translation comes to mind:

an octopus pot -
inside, a short-lived dream
under the summer moon

Several Twombly sculptures are also featured.  In the same building is a show of Miró's Birds in Space til June 13 and works that "chronicle the cowboy’s rise to omnipresence in art" til July 11.  Across the street at 975 Madison, Burri Fontana Manzoni & Tàpies til June 6. Michael Werner has Sigmar Polke's white on white, mostly abstract Silver Paintings til June 27, made of 'silver bromide, silver sulfate and silver nitrate,' arising from his interest in alchemy.

Organized by Televisa, the people who brought you the Enrique Peña Nieto serial, is a retrospective of the cinematography and early photographs of Gabriel Figueroa at Museo del Barrio til June 27, who shot much of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema as well as Buñuel's Los Olvidados, The Young One, Nazarín, The Exterminating Angel, and Simon of the Desert plus John Huston's The Night of the Iguana and Under the Volcano (all Piri' Miri Muli' recommended).  Themes of Figueroa's shots are compared to the paintings of Mexican contemporaries, beginning with several landscapes by Dr. Atl and including Rivera, Orozco, and a Buñuel collage co-created by Alberto Gironella (not the one to the right, another one); a gallery of photos including Manuel Álvarez Bravo and two by Juan Rulfo, leading to a room for screening clips from his Mexican oeuvre.  It is well presented, taking up the entire exhibition space, with a dramatic 'video art'-style montage at the entrance, and tho some protest "the absence of specialized full-length screenings," Film Forum has you covered, devoting two weeks of repertory to highlights from his career June 5-18.

Delhi Art Gallery in Midtown has a show of modern Indian art til June 6, to go with the Queens Museum's Indian Modernism to Contemporary India, 1947/1997 til June 28, to save you the 20 hour flight to the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi - I'll try to get to both this week.

As with Twombly, Gagosian's Chelsea show of Michael Heizer (til July 2, 24th St) contains signature works familiar to those who have followed his career and is selling quite well.  It is a massive, monumental show if you're in the neighborhood. I was kinda hoping that declaring his "City" in Nevada a Basin and Range National Monument would be, as alleged by a Republican congressman, "affecting aircraft sorties from the Nevada Test and Training Range" but Harry Reid staffers have shot that possibility down in a manner of speaking.

If you're tired and you want to lie down and indulge any nostalgia for late 60's MIT computer graphics, head for Stan VanDerBeek's Poemfield series at 544 w. 24th St. Andrea Rosen also has quite a wonderful selection of Motherwell's "Opens" series at 525 24th, both til June 20.
* I had a phase in high school where I liked some of Charles Wright
** as with the subtitles for Olivier Assayas' Something in the Air there's a reference to a poet named John Ashberry.. wasn't that an Otter Pop?

25 May 2015

What's up for another week, v. VII

Speaking of CoBrA, the Western Hemisphere's largest collection of the group's works is actually at the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale, but unfortunately they don't show it.  A large section of the museum is dedicated to the paintings of William Glackens, space that could be divided up, and a vast majority of the space is for temporary exhibtions of artists that are fashionable elsewhere, despite a large number of vacationing visitors and part time residents

The museum's Kahlo/ Rivera show is still up til the 31st, showing the Gelman collection of Kahlos and Riveras, which I recall seeing in NYC a few years back but I can't recall where but here with several Kahlo drawings I hadn't seen before, I think second only to the Dolores Olmedo collection of those two artists.  Added to that is the Goodman collection of Mexican paintings including early Tamayos and Toledos, in fact a masterwork from a teen Toledo with two others, the first Mexican painting by Leonora Carrington (below), Remedios Varo's Minotaur (left), several Gerzsos.


Update 5/26: Just heard from the nice folks at NSU that a new exhibition up til October features Asger Jorn and others from that collection, so Piri' Miri Muli' readers can see 'em both this week, and it hasn't hit 90 degrees yet.  Still a permanent display would be more visible when guests like me are there at other times.

24 May 2015

What's up for one more, well, a few hours..

The Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds retrospective, the product of ten years of work by Boston College's Elizabeth Goizueta, is winding up in Atlanta, and as with her other research interest, Matta, I have difficulty summarizing my thoughts in advance of its closing. There are a few original thoughts I can quickly relate while other questions will pop around in perpetuity..

Lam is commonly named as one of the rare students of Picasso. Lam, Gilot, and...? Breton wrote "Picasso has chosen to show a greater interest in Wifredo Lam than any of the younger painters." The show includes original Lam illustrations (left) for Fata Morgana.

Why didn't Picasso take on students? 1960: "To know what we are doing cubism we should have to be acquainted with it! Actually, nobody knew what it was. And if we had known, everyone would have known... The condition of discovery is outside ourselves, but the terrifying thing is that despite all this, we can only find what we know." Two statements to Jaime Sabartes: "If you want to draw a circle and be original, don't try to give it a strange form which isn't exactly the form of circle. Try to make the circle as best you can. And since nobody has made a perfect circle, you can be sure that your circle will be completely your own. Only then will you have a chance to be original." "In the museums, for example, there are only pictures that have failed.. Those which today we consider 'masterpieces' are those which departed most from the rules laid down by the masters of the period. The best works are those which most clearly show the 'stigma' of the artist who painted them."


Why did the take on Lam? I quoted here a few years back the recently departed Galeano's quip "Pillaged by its colonial masters, Africa would never know how responsible it was for the most astonishing achievements in twentieth century European painting and sculpture" but Picasso, a political anti-imperialist, immediately and paternalistically sought to get Michael Leiris, studying African art intensively, to tutor the quarter African, half Chinese Lam on the subject, which Lam knew about but he wanted to know more and revered Picasso, Breton's explanation for the apprenticeship. Picasso's influence was crucial to Lam, crucial to Picasso, to the future of Caribbean art, the CoBrA movement, so on and so forth, and Picasso seemed to have little doubts or reserve about the opportunity. Lam reflected "I could act as a Trojan horse that would spew forth hallucinating figures with the power to surprise, to disturb the dreams of the exploiters."


Lowery Sims wrote "(Lam) decided not to follow the wishes of his godmother, Mantonica Wilson, a Santeria religious leader, that he become a babalao (high priest)." Richardson said Picasso's mother "although incapable of understanding his son's work.. always had implicit faith in his messianic aspirations." The subconscious desire to realize these lofty aspirations through unconventional means, I think, bound them. Also several years before he met Lam, Picasso completed his etching Minotauromachia, which I thought "appears to depict Marie-Thérèse Walter as a wounded, skeletal torera attached to a horse and also the bearer of the light that the bull hurls itself at. Juan Larrea remembered "hearing from (Picasso's) own lips as an obiter dictum that in pictures from a certain period of his artistic development, the horse generally represents a woman who played an exceptionally important part in his life." Sims wrote "Lam's 'horse-woman'.. personifies the devotee who is literally 'ridden' by the possessing orisha in the Santeria toque (drum rhythm)." Lam also spent his adolescence in the Prado, which may explain why it looks as if the figures in Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights are often arraigned in the manner of Las Meninas.

I loathed the High Museum building before it was renovated and, after its expansion, my loathing of it has expanded, as it is an extended joke directed at anyone who arrives with a mind to look at the art rather than regard the visit as conspicuous consumerism in a floor plan that prevents walking from one side of the building to the other, confining visitors to one area. Aside from a large section of outsider art, acquisitions have from the beginning have been minor, decorative afterthoughts, eager not to offend traditional sensibilities especially in its earlier acquisitions.

23 May 2015

Some commentary on today's beatification of Archbishop Romero over at WKMA..

17 May 2015

Actually I was offline for two weeks and when I got my account set up the other day I was happy, not because I was online again so much as I had the pleasure of being offline for two weeks.
The Apu Trilogy comprises Piri' Miri Muli's best ever adapted screenplay,* best film about being a writer,** and perhaps the best romance (for the last episode). I have vhs copies of it somewhere but it hasn't been on dvd for a while. This predicament has come to a happy end, as the Criterion restoration made from four different sources and a negative that was burned in the 1990s is out, and I got to Film Forum this week to see Aparajito (The Unvanquished). My favorite has always been no. 3, The World of Apu, but watching Subrata Mitra's tracking shots of Varanasi projected helped me get into the sad beauty of no. 2. They had a little bit of a budget after making the first on a shoestring and put it on to the screen. There are crowd scenes of the ghats but no crowd scenes in Calcutta - the Calcutta sequences happen in studios, with two scenes on architecturally interesting street corners and one scene loafing on a big lawn in front of what appears to be Victoria Memorial.


Of the novels, the childhood memoir Pather Panchali was the biggest hit in Bengal, and Ray filmed it with borrowed money on Sundays between his advertising gig not knowing he would make a sequel. Translator T.W. Clark doesn't believe an English word exists for panchali: "These poems (panchali) were transmitted from generation to generation by strangers who chanted them with musical accompaniment at the appropriate ceremonies, which often lasted for ten days or more, or by actors who produced them in popular form on the stage of the indigenous theatre. The heroes, and the episodes in which they figure, were part and parcel of the Bengali cultural inheritance, and still are." Apu's initiation in the Trilogy follows novelist Bebhutibhushan Bandopadhyay's own life very closely, a sort of diary imagined as an oral epic eventually to become the main inspriration for Akira Kurasawa's reflection "Never having seen a Satyajit Ray film is like never having seen the sun or moon." They'll be showing in rotation there for the rest of the month and are to make their way to Philly soon and then to dvd land.

* The four films on my top 15 list that would be considered for this would be Stalker, Apu, and A Passage to India. I vouch for the last as an adaptation but Lean probably wouldn't even compare it to Apu. Stalker, like Solaris, was Tarkovsky's literary reworking of a sci fi concept;
** Followed closely by La Notte by Antonioni who said "My admiration for Ray is total" with Ray's 1964 The Lonely Wife, one of many of his films in need of restoration, not far behind. 

Update 5-31: Film forum is holding over the Trilogy til June 16 and they are in rotation in Philly's Ritz at the Bourse now.