• NYC’s Chain Theater: Everlasting Love’s “2 ½ BREATHS”

    What is it to become a word? To become or even create an emotion that doesn’t exist…at least not yet. How much power does the artist have to convince and make believe? The awesome power to make one believe. How much potential does movement theatre actually have? In this world? Now. These questions have been the driving force in writing this piece – Playwright Bridgette Loriaux

    Every once in a while, a little-known theater company, usually from a distant city, mounts an amazing ground-breaking theatrical production, brings it to New York City for a limited run, and then returns to their home base leaving us all lusting for more.

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  • DARIO ZUCCHI’S JOYFUL PHOTOGRAPHS: “The Unexpected Smile” at Washington’s Stanford Gallery

    The Art Gallery of Stanford in Washington, D.C., is currently hosting a photographic exhibition aptly named “The Unexpected Smile, 2022: Selected Photographs of Dario Zucchi.” Stanford Gallery Director Adrienne M. Jameson writes in the catalogue’s Preface, “Imagine our good fortune in encountering Dario Zucchi’s work at the precise moment we needed to experience it! His photographs not only draw us back into the museum after a seemingly endless hiatus, but also enable us to revel in what makes an afternoon in a gallery distinctive, the intertwining of art and viewer.” (Catalogue, 4)

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  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: “Guston Now”

    The long overdue retrospective Philip Guston Now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston originally was scheduled to open at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC in June 2020 and then travel to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tate Modern, London.   It is useful to recall the heated controversial history surrounding this exhibition. Initially postponed due to the pandemic in 2020, it was rescheduled for July 2021 at the National Gallery.  However, it was again delayed because of aesthetic panic about Guston’s use of Ku Klux Klan imagery in the drawings and paintings of hooded figures riding in cars, working at easels and smoking.


    On 21 September 2020 the directors of the exhibiting museums put out a statement on the NGA website: “After a great deal of reflection and extensive consultation, our four institutions have jointly made the decision to delay our successive presentations of Philip Guston Now. We are postponing the exhibition until a time at which we think that the powerful message of social and racial justice that is at the center of Philip Guston’s work can be more clearly interpreted. We recognize that the world we live in is very different from the one in which we first began to collaborate on this project five years ago. The racial justice movements that started in the U.S. and radiated to countries around the world, in addition to challenges of a global health crisis, have led us to pause.” 


    Musa Mayer, Guston’s daughter, opposed the delay stating that the images “unveil white culpability, our shared role in allowing the racist terror that [Guston] had witnessed since boyhood, when the Klan marched openly by the thousands in the streets of Los Angeles.” An additional scathing response to this postponement appeared in a letter in the online Brooklyn Rail site by artists old and young, White and Black including Matthew Barney, Nicole Eiseman, Charles Gaines, Ellen Gallagher, Joan Jonas, Julie Mehretu, Andrian Piper, Martin Puryer, Amy Sillman, and Lorna Simpson.  Over 2,600 individuals signed this letter opposing the delay including the choreographer Bill T. Jones, performance artist Laurie Anderson, and Agnes Gund, President Emerita and Life Trustee of the Museum of Modern Art. Some believe that the outcry in this letter influenced the rescheduling of the exhibit and pushing forward the opening of the show at the MFA in 2022 from 2024.


    Tate Modern suspended Mark Godfrey, its senior curator, after he criticized the decision to postpone the Philip Guston show.  Godfrey wrote on Instagram, “Cancelling or delaying the exhibition is probably motivated by the wish to be sensitive to the imagined reactions of particular viewers, and the fear of protest. However, it is actually extremely patronizing to viewers, who are assumed not to be able to appreciate the nuance and politics of Guston’s works.” 

    Philip Guston, The Gladiators (1940), oil and pencil on canvas. Museum of Modern Art. NY. Gift of Edward R. Broida © 2022 The Estate of Philip Guston, courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Image copyright Museum of Modern Art, licensed by SCALA/Art Resources, NY


    “At the time, the museum and Godfrey both declined to discuss the disciplinary action, but Robert Storr, professor of painting at Yale School of Art and author of a recent Guston monograph, noted that: ‘Museums are forums where people come together to discuss ideas and to agree and disagree. If Tate can’t even do this internally, then the whole thing breaks down…Tate is going to need curators of Godfrey’s caliber to steer itself out of the mess it is in. The museum should embrace such people, not ostracize them,’ he told The Art Newspaper.” [1]

    Let us recall that the abrupt halt of the exhibition was only months after George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis by a 44-year-old white police officer that sparked a global protest movement against historic racism and police brutality.  Kaywin Feldman, the director of the National Gallery of Art, in DC was a leading voice in this postponement.  It is assumed that fear was an underlying force to stop the tour of the exhibition because of Feldman’s unease with Guston’s cartoonish portrayals of Ku Klux Klan figures. In a heated election year and the furor of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, she and other directors likely thought the paintings could offend some visitors and could spark protests and demonstrations in the ever-political Washington, DC.

    “The [MFA] went so far as to hire a trauma specialist for viewers who might be upset by this work as well as an EXIT door to escape the exhibition before entering gallery holding the majority of KKK paintings!”

    Philip Guston, Dial (1956), oil on linen. Whitney Museum of American Art. Purchase 56.44 copyright The Estate of Philip Guston, courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

    Roiled by panic, the four institutions chose to avoid controversy and declined to showcase Guston’s poignant work during a critical time in the USA history. They could have used this exhibition to educate the public about Guston’s complex but socially charged imagery as well as grapple with their own establishments’ history of prejudice and profound bias.  Philip Guston’s exquisite work is open-ended, leaving much room for interpretation.  Instead, the museums decided that the Guston show needed to be re-examined and could not be presented as planned by the original curatorial team.  Worried by media headlines, they felt the original Guston exhibition failed to reflect the kind of embedded racism shown by the uproar of the George Floyd tragedy.  Distrusting curatorial scholarship, they turned instead to non-curatorial committees of interpretation.  As Matthew Teitelbaum, The Ann and Graham Gund Director at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, said in a statement announcing the exhibition “The exhibition has significantly evolved over the last year with a more diversified approach to interpretation, more historical references, and inclusion of more artists’ perspectives, led by an expanded curatorial team and guided by many voices—all of whom have helped us to create a fuller understanding of this great artist’s work.” 

    Philip Guston, Painting, Smoking, Eating (1973), oil on canvas, collection the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Copyright The Estate of Philip Guston, courtesy Hauser & Wirth.


    Furthermore “ The curatorial team additionally engaged regularly over the past year with a staff advisory group–unprecedented for the MFA–comprised of four MFA employees from Learning and Community Engagement and Communications and Protective Services.  Input from this staff, who are not typically involved in exhibition-making decisions, powered key decisions about gallery design and interpretation.”[2] Beyond the curatorial team they hired John Moors Cabot, Chair Art of the Americas, as reported in Forbes.com and Megan Bernard, the MFA’s director of membership, not a curator, was brought into the team to address safe audience experiences. 


    All of this ensued because of Guston satirical KKK paintings that postponed the original showing. The presentation of the MFA’s exhibit discloses a staff working zealously to demonstrate that Guston was not a racist—they went so far as to hire a trauma specialist for viewers who might be upset by this work as well as an EXIT door to escape the exhibition before entering gallery holding the majority of KKK paintings!  Originally there were fifteen Klan related paintings however five were removed because of “space consideration” and another work titled the The Deluge was added.

    Philip Guston, Book and Charcoal Sticks (1968). Private Collection. The Estate of Philip Guston courtesy Hauser & Wirth.


    As for the exhibition itself, after the restructuring of the show it includes 73 painting and 27 drawings.  The MFA’s exhibition is smaller than the other three venues.  The resulting display discloses a preachy, apologetic attitude. The Curatorial Team was trying so hard to do everything RIGHT and not to OFFEND anyone and in doing so bungled a great artist’s work by including strange objects and time line wall cards throughout the show that are irrelevant to Guston’s art. 

    Entering the exhibition the visitor is put on alert that something is wrong here. On entry one sees a wall with pink takeaway cards titled “EMOTIONAL PREPAREDNESS FOR PHILIP GUSTON NOW.”  “The reverse side has a statement by Ginger Klee, Consultant to the Guston show, who writes: “The content of this exhibition is challenging. The Museum offers these words in a spirit of care and invitation…it’s important to identify your boundaries and take care of yourself. Critical to the fight for equality, equity, and justice is self care… ” [see flyer, above left]

    Philip Guston, Head I (1965), The Tate. Copyright The Estate of Philip Guston, courtesy Hauser & Wirth; photo: Tate.


    Further to the point in several of the galleries are black vitrines, with ribbed sliding lids—on the open side viewers are warned about the contextual materials inside; “This case contains a contextual photograph with challenging graphic imagery. Please slide the cover to the left and close when finished.”  Inside one cabinet is a picture of a KKK gathering however, nothing appears outlandish and many of the images have been printed in numerous tabloids or history books.  In another image of a clipping from the Los-Angeles Daily News, about the destruction of a Guston painting that depicted the flogging of a black woman by the KKK. “The work he created focused on the Scottsboro Boys, nine Black teenagers who were falsely accused of raping two white women in Alabama in 1931. In one of Guston’s panels, a Klansman whips a nearly nude figure tied to a stake that looks like the Washington Monument.”[3] Guston was ahead of not behind the times with his racism concern in the USA.  The bizarre black boxes throughout the galleries are only a distraction from Guston’s art.

    Phulip Guston (1913-1980). Photo credit unknown. Coll. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington. D.C.


    What is shameful is that the curators provide little information about that Guston’s life that was full of bigotry and tragedy. He came from Russian-Jewish parents, who had fled Europe in the early 1900s in order to escape anti-Semitic persecution.  Guston was born in Montreal, Canada, the youngest of seven children and his family moved to Los Angeles because the severe winters. These were the years when the KKK flourished in Los Angeles, fearlessly spouting their hatred of all things Jewish.  His father was a mechanic working for the Canadian National Railroad however in L. A. he could only get a job of working in a junkyard.  This along with permeating reverberations of Anti-Semitism, as well as feeling he couldn’t adequately support his family, led to extreme depression and ultimately his suicide.  Philip Guston at age 10 discovered his father’s hung body.   It is not at all surprising that this trauma would continue to influence Guston’s paintings in innumerable ways. Frequently ropes and bare light bulbs appear in his figurative paintings. Additionally the single light bulb goes back to his boyhood when he would draw in a closet lit by a sole bulb.


    The exhibition  “Philip Guston Now” traces an oeuvre that underwent twists and turns before it settled out into its own indelible logic.  Guston originally was first a figurative painter who in the 1930s at the of seventeen made the potent drawing Conspirators.  Growing up in Los Angeles, he had seen Ku Klux Klan members and probably those experiences influenced him. Throughout the 1940s he continued his figurative style however advanced to create a unique style of abstract expressionism in the 1950s.  He found in abstraction freedom, impulsiveness, and a language to engage his creative imagination.  Nonetheless, in the 1960s he returned to representation induced by the violence and civil unrest in the late 60s as well as the Vietnam War.  He felt obligated to tell a story of an America “run afoul of its democratic promise”. “When the 1960s came along,” he later said, “I was feeling split. The war, what was happening in America, the brutality of the world.  What kind of man am I, sitting at home, reading magazines, going into frustrated fury about everything … and then going into my studio to adjust a red to a blue.”[4] Guston’s artistic evolution led to his most creative body of work.

    Philip Guston, Aegean (1978), oil on canvas, private collection. Copyright The Estate of Philip Guston, courtesy Hauser & Wirth.


    During this time he produced his Klan paintings.  As one critic has written, “There is difficulty in approaching this subject in art. But in his images, Guston is showing the banal mundanity of white supremacy. In the midst of the Vietnam War, the black power and civil rights movements, Guston’s paintings didn’t jive with Clement Greenberg’s definition of modernism, which called for “purity” and “eluctable flatness” but they jived with the times. If it is art of the current day you’re after, that will move and shake you; this is it.”[5]


    Guston throughout his life confronted painting as a method to self-discovery.  Personal paradox was a core in his work ensuing from an endless dialogue with himself.   He was intensely aware of the history of art. Early on he became aware of the paintings of Georgio de Chirico and Picasso and for nearly a decade he studied Renaissance art especially the paintings by Andrea Mantegna, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, and Paolo Uccello as well as the architectural structures within these compositions.  What we are witness to in this significant retrospective is the work of a highly intelligent artist whose iconography is filled with quirky characters and symbolism. Strange juxtapositions pervade his compositions filled with ordinary objects such as light bulbs, books, clocks, cities, cigarettes, shoes and nails in wood.  

    The Studio Philip Guston (American, 1913–1980)1969Oil on canvas* Private Collection* © The Estate of Philip Guston, courtesy Hauser & Wirth* Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


    A distinguished painting is ‘The Studio’, 1969, as a self-portrait he depicted himself as a Klan’s member. It hangs within a freestanding room in the larger gallery housing the other Ku Klux Klan works, as well as drawings related to the painting. Photos of Guston’s studio in Woodstock, New York are included and as well a reproduction of Piero della Francesca’s The Flagellation of Christ (1455–60), that Guston lived with his entire life. The installation of this “room within a room” acts as a type of stage to view the puzzlingly unpolished and multifaceted The Studio. This is a key painting in Guston’s change from abstract expressionism to his late figurative style and his shift from modernism to grappling with personal and public injustice.  Many pieces from this period address thought-provoking themes, including white supremacy, racism, anti-Semitism, and violence with hooded Ku Klux Klansmen, cut body parts, and mysterious incidents of struggles.   His mockery in the images places him as critic by depicting likenesses of the Klan.

    “It is a pity that Philip Guston, one of the great artist’s of the 20th century, has had his art processed through a type of censorial “meat-grinder,” as a fear-laden response to current events.”

    Beginning in the late 1960s until his death in June 1980, Guston’s art became more consciously autobiographical, depicting a reclining figure of him as a hood or bean-like head with a huge open eye. Moreover he painted portraits of himself with his wife Musa, depicted in both, ‘Couple in Bed’ and ‘Source.’ An outstanding painting from this period is ‘Painting, Smoking, Eating,’ 1969 that portrays Guston lying in bed, smoking, with a plate of French fries poised on his chest. The red, pink and grey pallet intensifies the strange mood of this composition.  The figure is missing a nose and mouth, has only one huge eyeball and a head shaped like a bean.  It is an uncanny composition drawing personal references to his life—Guston was aware his health was in danger because of excessive smoking, poor eating habits and an unhealthy lifestyle. 

    Philip Guston, The Deluge (1969), oil on canvas, Bequest of Musa Guston. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. copyright The Estate of Philip Guston, courtesy Hauser & Wirth.


    ‘The Deluge’ (1969) another notable work is assumed a political statement against racism and white supremacy. The top of this odd image is a reddish-pink surface resembling a sky ablaze with strange objects across its horizon while the darker gray larger lower section depicts a flooded oceanic scene. In the foreground of the painting barely visible are Ku Klux Klan hoods that can be seen only in specialized light.  The covering up of the hoods was perhaps Guston’s way of addressing the pervasiveness of the KKK in the United States and the concealed identity of its members.   According to Ethan Lasser “It really brought home everything we thought Guston was trying to say: that these things are hidden in plain sight,” he went on. “White supremacy is always lurking, always under the water. And here it was, right in our own institution.”[6]


    It is a pity that Philip Guston, one of the great artist’s of the 20th century, has had his art processed through a type of censorial “meat-grinder,” as a fear-laden response to current events.  Guston himself was never afraid, and it was his work that inspired a new generation of artists to return to painting in 1980. He inspired the Neo-Expressionist artists who made subjects in a raw and rough manner and the rejuvenated symbolic imagery.  Guston, an accomplished abstract artist, paved the way back to figurative painting after the long dominance of abstraction and the dictates of narrow Modernist theory.  Museums should be places fostering open debate, showcasing difficult and stimulating work as well that allows its audience to see, interpret and experience, without didactic guidance from non-curators!  My advice to visitors, just look at the paintings!

    By Elaine A. King, Contributing Editor

    _________________________________

    1 . Cristina Ruiz, “Tate curator Mark Godfrey, who was disciplined for questioning the decision to postpone a Philip Guston show, parts ways with institution,” The Art Newspaper, March 11, 2021.
    2 Chadd Scott, “America’s Most Controversial Exhibitions, ‘Philip Guston No,” Debuts at MFA, Now,” online Forbes, May 1, 2022, 08:47am EDT.

    3. Alex Greenberger, Philip Guston’s KKK Paintings: Why An Abstract Painter Returned to Figuration to
    Confront Racisim, Artnews, September 30,2020, 10:02 am.

    4. Sean O’ Hagan, Philip Guston’s daughter on his Klan paintings: ‘They’re about white culpability –
    including his own’”, The Observer Painting, The Guardian, Sun 21 Feb 2021 07.00 EST.

    5. Aindrea Emelife, “Philip Guston’s KKK images force us to stare evil in the face—we need art like this,”
    The Guardian, Mon 28 Sep 2020 12.23 EDT.
    6 . Taylor Dafoe, “An off-Ramp, a Trauma Specialist, and Preparedness Pamphlets: How MFA Boston
    Reworked and Its Philip Guston Retrospective,” artnet news, May 5, 2022.

  • Baryshnikov Arts Center with, “The Orchard”: A Holographic Circus

    I seem to remember reading, in all of the hoopla surrounding the Baryshnikov Art Center’s Production of Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard, somebody saying “Unlike anything that you ever saw before.”
    This talking head could also have said, as audiences were soon to find out, that this production, adapted, created, reimagined, and directed by Kiev born Igor Golyak, and starring Mikhail Baryshnikov is a work of genius. Obviously, the great Chekov is embedded deeply in their bones.


    Titled “The Orchard,” Golyak’s two-version production (both live and virtual), presented as a limited run, opened on June 16 and closed on July 3rd. Way too soon if you ask me. Hopefully, it will be brought back somehow, somewhere by a theater-loving angel.


    To ensure that the audience’s eyes and ears were glued to the stage throughout, director Golyak cleverly chose to use what some critics deemed the star of the play, an imposing vertical 12-foot metal crane-like arm placed center stage on an all-blue set (Anna Fedora). It serves coffee, sweeps the floor, acts as a tree, a person, a bookcase, a place to hide from danger, and a beeping camera that films the play’s goings on. More importantly, it serves to direct our eyes to the play’s imminent action.

    Darya Denisova, Jessica Hecht, Juliet Brett, Mark. Photo: Maria Baranova.


    Brilliantly encasing the entire production is Carol Rocamora’s translation of Chekov’s last play, The Cherry Orchard (1904). Though most of the play’s original language was kept, a few scenes, though barely noticeable, were cut and rearranged. Eliminated was Dunyasha. the maid, and her would-be lover.
    Added to the play’s mix, quite effectively was a giant stage-covering scrim which intermittently featured on its surface live text, video, and close-ups of the actors in real time. Equally absorbing were several speeches delivered in ALS sign language, as well as in French, Russian, and German. Also, slipped into the play’s text, adding a touch of twenty-first century was mention of the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Kharkiv.

    Trofimov played by John McGinty takes center stage in The Orchard. Photo: Maria Baranova


    Another beguiling addition to the stage was a robotic silver metal dog that could be seen playfully scampering about the stage. Able to do tricks, as well as play dead, it was an audience favorite.
    Aside from Firs’ (Baryshnikov), the long-time estate’s keeper appearing to open up the house, the play truly begins with the arrival of Lyobov Andreevna Ranevskaya (Jessica Hecht) to the family’s estate in the Russian countryside. Ranevskaya had run off to Paris with her lover to escape the grief she felt over the loss of her young son. And now she is back.


    Following in her fashionable entrance, we meet her brother Gaev (Mark Nelson), her adopted daughter Varya (Elise Kibble), her natural daughter Anya (Juliet Brett), and their servants. They are there to try and save the beloved home and cherry orchard from being auctioned off due to an unpaid mortgage.
    Rounding out the cast, each with their own intricate story which links them closely to the family, is Darya (Charlotta Ivanova, also Golyak’s wife), Pyotr (John McGinty, hearing- challenged in real life), a frightening Russian-speaking, Passerby (Llia Volak) in black military dress, another Golyak nod to the ongoing Ukrainian war, and Lopakhin (Nael Nacer), the now rich, former peasant who ends up buying the Orchard.

    L to R – Darya Denisova, Nael Nacer, Jessica Hecht, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Mark Nelson. Photo:Maria Baranova


    Lopakhin’s idea to save the orchard which unfortunately falls on deaf ears, is to turn the estate into a tourist attraction by creating rent-paying summer houses on the property. We realize that times are a-changing – the Russian revolution of 1917 which marked the end of the Romanov dynasty is only 11 years away – when Lopakhin gloats, after he buys the estate that he and his father were never allowed into the family’s home. His only regret is that the beautiful Ranevskaya does not come along with his purchase of the estate.


    The virtual live production, with the same 2 hour running time, features the play’s most dramatic scenes, punctuated by performances by Baryshnikov as Anton Chekov, and Hecht as his wife and mistress. Here the viewer follows Chekov into a virtual replica of the Baryshnikov Arts Center building where we could enter various rooms where we hear both Chekhov speaking in Russian with subtitles, and his wife and mistress, often quoting letters, talking about their lives.

    L to R – Darya Denisova, Nael Nacer, Mark Nelson, Elise Kibler, Jessica Hecht, John McGinty, Juliet Brett, Mikhail Baryshnikov. Photo: Pavel Antonov.


    Happening at the same time we get to see the audience sitting in the theater, some who are participating in the estate’s sale, flashed on the scrim. The virtual performance ends outside the now sold arts center with Baryshnikov, this time as Firs, slowly walking away with his belongings. In the live theatre production, after everybody leaves, and Firs forgotten by the family he has served all his life is alone. Firs, hearing the sounds of the cherry orchard’s trees being chopped down in the background just before everything vanishes, he sadly comments to himself that, “Life has slipped by as though I hadn’t lived.”


    For those lucky enough to catch either version of the play, both magnified by an army of design wizards and technical geniuses, from Scenic Design (Anna Fedorova), Costume Design (Oana Botez), Lighting Design (Yuki Nakase Link), Projection Design (Alex Basco Koch), Sound Design (Tei Blow), Robotic Design (Tom Sepe), Emerging Technology design (Adam Paikowsky). Interactivity Design (Anna Hrustaleva), to a ASL sign language expert (Alexey Prosvirnin), and a clowning coach (Alita West), the experience, hypnotic to say the least, was not unlike watching a giant aquarium filled with a frenzy of tropical fish. This, primarily due to the effect of the giant scrim which ironically both distanced ourselves, as well as brought us a lot closer to the play’s action.

    By Edward Rubin, Senior Contributing Editor

    Note: Masks required in building and theatre, along with proof of a vaccination, and a valid government issued photo ID.


    Cast: Mikhail Baryshnikov (Anton Chekov/Firs Nikolaevich), Jessica Hecht (Lyobov Andreevna Ranevskaya), Elise Kibler (Varya Mikhailovna), Juliet Brett (Anya), Nael Nacer (Yermolai Alekseevich Lopakhin), Darya Denisova (Charlotta Ivanovna), Mark Nelson (Leonid Andreevich Gaev), John McGinty (Pyotr Sergevich), LLia Volak (Passerby)

    Technical: Scenic Design: Anna Fedora, Costume Design: Oana Botez, Lighting Design: Yuki Nakase Link, Projection Design: Alex Basco Koch, Sound Design: Tei Blow, Clowning Coach: Aelita West, Music Composition: Jakov Jakoulov, Emerging Technologies: Adam Paikowsky, Robotics Design: Tom Sepe, Hair/Makeup: Anna Hrustaleva, Interactivity Design: Alexander Huh, Virtual Sound Design: Alexey Prosvirnin, Director of ASL: Seth Gore, Director of Photography: Leanna Keyes, Production Manager: Jason Reis, Associate Producer Virtual: Zachary Meicher-Buzzi, Production Stage Manager: Jennifer Rogers

    The Orchard conceived, adapted, directed, and reimaged by Igor Golyak and based on Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard as translated by Carol Rocamora, opened on Thursday, May 16, 2022 for a limited run through Sunday 3rd at the Baryshnikov Arts Center at 459 275 West 37th Street in Manhattan. Running time is just under 2 hours with no intermission. For more info or to buy tickets call 617-942- 0022 x 1 or log on www.theorchardoffbroadway.com

  • Washington D.C.’s National Gallery: “Symphony for Whistler’s Muse”

    The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has just opened an exhibition co-organized with the Royal Academy of Arts, London, entitled The Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan and James McNeil Whistler. Featuring 60 paintings, drawings, and prints, the exhibition brings together nearly all of Whistler’s depictions of his longtime partner and model Joanna Hiffernan. The exhibit is curated by Margaret F. MacDonald, professor emerita of art History, University of Glasgow, in collaboration with Ann Dumas, curator at the Royal Academy of Arts, and Charles Brock, associate curator of American and British paintings at the National Gallery of Art. The curatorial intention, as the catalogue’s “Foreword” explains, is to delve into “the pair’s professional and personal relationship, the iconic works of art resulting from that relationship, and the influence and resonance of those works for artists into the twenty-first century.” The exhibition is the first to “fully acknowledge the role Hiffernan played in Whistler’s career and the first to consider their creations as collaborations.” (7)

    James McNeill Whistler,
    Jo, 1861, drypoint on ivory laid paper sheet: 17 3/4 x 12 1/4″.
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection. ID: 5158-080

    Whistler was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1834, and went to West Point briefly before moving to Paris to study art. In 1859, he moved to London and soon met Joanna Hiffernan. Born in Limerick in 1839, she was among thousands of Irish who, devastated by the famine, had immigrated to London. She was working as an artist’s model when discovered by Whistler. He was overwhelmed, and in a letter to fellow artist Henri Fantin-Latour raved, “She has the most beautiful hair that you have ever seen! A red not golden but copper–as Venetian as a dream!” Hiffernan quickly became Whistler’s primary model and for several years was his domestic partner. She helped bring order to his chaotic personal affairs; in 1866, the artist recognized her importance by giving her power of attorney and making her the sole heir in his will.

    Whistler and Hiffernan lived together in Rotherhithe, and in 1861 she began sitting for the portrait that became “The White Girl.” In this painting, she’s placed in front of a white damask curtain: wearing a white muslin dress, she holds a white lily in one hand and stands on a white animal skin rug. She has an enigmatic expression, and her long red hair cascades down her shoulders to blare against the portrait’s whiteness. Whistler submitted “The White Girl” to the Royal Academy for its annual exhibition in 1862, but lacking any moral message, the portrait caused only harrumphing. It was rejected both by the Academy and by the Salon in Paris, though in 1863 it was accepted by the Salon des Refuses, a protest exhibition organized by Gustave Courbet.

    Whistler wanted “The White Girl” to proclaim his presence as an important artist. White paint was a notoriously difficult medium, and he created a seven-foot-high portrait in various shades of white to declare his fabulous mastery. As British artist Ian McKeever has written, Whistler’s use of white was meant to be impressive. The whites on his palette were “Flake White,” “Titaniaum White,” “Permanent White,” and “Zinc White”—all were “furtive, there but never quite there…shying away from whiteness, preferring the shadows….The painter works with the flat surface of colour, yet paradoxically desires…to give colour a full body.” In “The White Girl” Whistler used whites with a flourish, reveling in the textures he created. (Ian McKeever RA, “Whistler’s Whites: Creating Presence with a Pared Down Palette,” in Royal Academy Magazine 6 May 2022.)

    Left: James McNeill Whistler, Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl, 1861–1863, 1872, oil on canvas, overall: 83 7/8 x 42 1/2″.
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, Harris Whittemore Collection. ID: 5158-001

    The bigness of the canvas also broadcast Whistler’s rejection of portraiture in the grand manner. “The White Girl” was not a major commission by an important patron, nor was Hiffernan a subject of high standing. Instead, as National Gallery co-curator Charles Brock explains in his catalogue essay, this portrait “was the freelance work of a struggling, insecure young painter without clear national identity–a rascal,” and the model was “a striking, red-haired woman, unidentified, and with little or no social standing.” (177)

    “White paint was a notoriously difficult medium, and [Whistler] created a seven-foot-high portrait in various shades of white to declare his fabulous mastery.”

    At the same time, Whistler was proclaiming his leadership in the Aesthetic Movement. Instead of art as a morality play, he helped publicize the concept of “art for art’s sake”—the idea that aesthetic values like brushwork and color were much more important than uplifiting narratives. As Elaine King has written, Whistler and other artists of the Aesthetic Movement “argued that the primary quality of a work of art resided in its beauty, which translated into its formal elements of line, shape, and color.” (Elaine A. King, “Whistler’s Mother,” in AMERICAN ICONS, 2006)

    Whistler painted two more portraits of Hiffernan in white—one placed her standing by a fireplace holding a Japanese fan and glancing at her reflection in the mirror (1864); the other had her reclining on a sofa and staring straight at the viewer (1865). His passion for Asian art is evident in these works, and show how Whistler helped generate the late 19th century European vogue for Japaese and Chinese art. He also embraced the use of musical terminology to describe his works, believing that art, like music, provoked the senses and evoked feeling. He named his “white” paintings of Hiffernan “symphonies,” and–at the suggestion of his patron Frederick Leyland–later called his Thames-side paintings “Nocturnes.”

    Right: James McNeill Whistler, Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl, 1864, oil on canvas, overall: 30 1/8 x 20 1/8″.
    Tate, London, Bequeathed by Arthur Studd 1919 © Tate, London 2017. ID: 5158-010

    The “Woman in White” exhibition brings together all three white “symphonies” for the first time in the United States. The opening gallery showcases the National Gallery-owned “Symphony in White No.1: The White Girl” (1861-63), and unites it with the second and third of Whistler’s “Symphony in White” paintings. In addition to these visual “symphonies,” this section features Hiffernan in other settings, including the dockside “Wapping” (1860-64), and “Purple and Rose: The Lange Leizen of the Six Marks”(1864), where she’s dressed in a silk kimono and holds a Chinese vase.

    In the second gallery, Whistler and Hiffernan are shown in etchings and drawings that convey their everyday life in the apartment where they lived, and in Whistler’s studio. Two notable works are the drypoints “Jo” (1861) and “Weary” (1863).

    Gustave Courbet, Jo, the Irish Woman, c. 1866/1868, oil on canvas, unframed: 21 3/8 x 25″. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri (Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust) 32-30. ID: 5158-043

    Whistler and Hiffernan joined Gustave Courbet on a working vacation in 1865, and Courbet convinced Hiffernan to pose for him as well. In addition to examples of her modeling for Courbet, the exhibition’s third gallery displays paintings of women dressed in white by other artists who were inspired by Whistler’s symphonies. Among the artists who chimed in on “The White Girl’s” popularity–and whose works are exhibited here–were John SInger Sargent, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John Everett Millais.

    Along with paintings and other art works, the last gallery of the exhibition features letters and documents that portray the complex relationship between Whistler and Hiffernan. Whistler was an eccentric egoist and made his own rules. He was never monogamous, and in 1870 fathered a child with Louisa Fanny Hanson. Hiffernan, who no longer lived with Whistler, nevertheless raised the boy with her sister. Whistler’s son “Charlie” became the primary connection between the artist and his erstwhile muse until Hiffernan’s death of bronchitis in 1886.

    The exhibition’s intention–to establish Joanna Hiffernan as Whistler’s creative collaborator–is hampered by the absence of evidence. Although she apparently drew and painted herself, none of her art survives. The exhibition press release argues that, despite the lack of records or proof of her own art, it is enough to invite visitors “to participate in covering Hiffernan’s humanity by considering the essential mystery of who she was.”

    Right: James McNeill Whistler, Letter, Whistler to Fantin-Latour with sketch of “Symphony in White, No. 3”, August 16, 1865, pen and brown ink on cream laid paper, overall: 8 1/4 x 5 3/8 in”. Pennell-Whistler Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. ID: 5158-084

    This assumption indicates that the organizing museums are motivated by the current redefinition of a “muse’s significance.” The idea of a creative male artist and his passive female model is detritus from days when art-speak was dominated by “the male gaze.” Recent art history scholarship has focused on women’s importance, notably in such works as Margaret Gabriel’s NINTH STREET WOMEN (2018), and Ruth Millington’s MUSE: UNCOVERING THE HIDDEN FIGURES BEHIND ART HISTORY’S MASTERPIECES (2022). Millington describes how many “muses” were female artists themselves –Edouard Manet’s favorite muse Victorine Meurent showed her work at the Paris Salon; Picasso’s “muses” included Dora Maar and Francoise Gilot, both of whom were important artists. Maar introduced Picasso to black and white photography, and Gilot contributed to “Guernica.” Lee Miller sat for Man Ray, but was no passive muse to his male artistry–rather, she and Ray fueled each other’s creativity. Miller was an accomplished photographer in her own right, and became known especially for her World War II combat photography.

    James McNeill Whistler, Symphony in White, No. 3, 1865–1867, oil on canvas, overall: 20 1/16 x 30 1/8″. The Henry Barber Trust, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, Bridgeman Images. ID 5158-001.

    What about Joanna Hiffernan? Was she an active artistic collaborator for Whistler? How do we judge her contribution? The evidence exists that she was a domestic partner whose beauty inspired his creativity for nearly twenty years, and this serves as the crux of the exhibition’s rationale to “foreground Hiffernan in relation to the making, reception, and cultural context of the many images of her.” (Catalogue, 9)

    The organizing museums seek “to contribute to ongoing discussions concerning gender and identity in the history of art.” (ibid.) But unlike the roles played by such muse/artist/collaborators as Meurent, Maar, Gilot, or Miller, the evidence of Joanna Hiffernan’s creative participation is murky. Curator Charles Brock sums up why he believes showcasing Hiffernan is nevertheless worthwhile: “The exhibition and catalogue bring together all the works featuring Hiffernan and everything that is currently known about her while encouraging viewers to come to their own conclusions about the nature of her relationship to Whistler and who she was. Depending on how they understand the terms, some may see her as an active collaborator, others as a more distant muse, or something in between. This searching, elusive quality is in many was part and parcel of the works Hiffernan and Whistler created together.” (Brock to AH, 7/8/22)

    After James McNeill Whistler, The Relief Fund in Lancashire, The Major’s Daughter, The Morning Before the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, and The Nun in “Count Burkhardt” (Once a Week), 1862, wood engraving; proofs, sheet: 8 3/4 x 22 9/16″. Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1922, 22.112.2-.5. ID: 5158-077.

    The exhibition has wonderful art, and Joanna Hiffernan’s presence in Whistler’s life and art is undeniable. But was she Whistler’s creative collaborator? The National Gallery in Washington and London’s Royal Academy suggest that she was. The good news is that we’re learning more and more about such women—we’ve learned that Degas’ “Little Dancer” was 14-year-old Marie van Goethem, the daughter of a Belgian tailor and a laundress who was a student dancer in the Paris Opera Ballet. And thanks to this exhibition, more is known about Joanna Hiffernan. But a veil of mystery remains. Despite the models/muses/mistresses/children captured in his wake, Whistler remained surprisingly detached about real life connections. What mattered was the painting that appeared with his brushstrokes—the magic that happened when he pursued “art for art’s sake.”

    By Amy Henderson, Contributing Editor

    THE WOMAN IN WHITE: Joanna Hiffernan and James MacNeil Whistler, will be at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., through October 3,2022. There is an accompanying catalogue of the same title edited by Margaret. F. MacDonald. www.nga.gov.

  • Pittsburg’s Frick Museum, “Romare Bearden: Artist as Activist & Visionary”

    The Romare Bearden Foundation in New York organized the traveling exhibition Romare Bearden: Artist as Activist and Visionary currently on view at the Frick Museum in Pittsburgh. For over fifty years Bearden portrayed and commemorated in his art the life that surrounded him. New York, Charlotte, NC [where he was born] and Pittsburgh were the cities of Bearden’s childhood and each made an indelible impression on him that influenced his art for decades. He benefited from living in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance.  Bearden’s family’s apartment on West 131st Street in Harlem was a hub where such cultural giants as W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and Countee Cullen, as well as artists Aaron Douglas and Charles Alston, and jazz musicians Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, and Andy Razaf frequently gathered.  As an adolescent Bearden became immersed in jazz and blues—this was convenient given his home was only a few blocks from The Lincoln Theatre, Savoy Ballroom and other music venues.

    The Frick Art Museum, part of the Frick Art & Historical Center at “Clayton” in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    What is distinct to the Frick’s presentation is Bearden’s connection to Pittsburgh.  Melanie Groves, curator of the Frick’s presentation of this exhibition, expressed, “The opportunity to present Romare Bearden: Artist as Activist and Visionary, not far from where the artist first took up drawing in his early years, and in a city that inspired and informed much of his work, is an honor for the Frick.” In 1925, he moved to Pittsburgh to live with his maternal grandmother and graduated from Peabody High School in 1929. She operated a boarding house that provided rooms for black steel mill workers, many of whom had recently migrated from the South.  Seeing and hearing the workers stories impacted Bearden perspective about the life of these workingmen, especially their dissatisfaction with working conditions and pervasive racial discrimination.  Moreover Bearden’s artistic interests were developed in Pittsburgh when his boyhood friend, Eugene Bailey, taught him how to draw; though his interest in art waned for a while after Bailey’s premature death. Another connection of Bearden to Pittsburgh is an expansive tile mural bursting with color, “Pittsburgh Recollections” that he created it in 1984 for the original Gateway Center T station and reinstalled in 2012 the Gateway Center light-rail station downtown.  It was water damaged in 2011 however was saved after its estimated worth was $15 million.  A collage of this mural is on view at the Frick.

    Although he graduated from New York University in 1935 with a B.S. degree in science (with thoughts of going on to medical school) Bearden persisted drawing as a cartoonist for the university’s magazine Medley, depicting humor from the 1930’s and made editorial drawings for the Saturday Evening Post as well as for the Baltimore Afro-American

    Romare Bearden, in his army uniform, a photograph taken by Carl Van Vechten, 1944

    In 1935 he decided to become a visual artist after meeting a group of people who later founded the Harlem Artists Guild.  African-American artists including Augusta Savage, Charles Alston, Elba Lightfoot, Louise E. Jefferson and Arthur Schomburg created the organization.  By 1936 Bearden was a member of the 306 Group, named after the studio lofts at 306 West 141st Street, where colleagues frequently met to share ideas. Additionally Bearden enrolled at the Art Students League and it was here that he studied under the German artist George Grosz, known for his caricatural drawings and biting paintings of Berlin life in the 1920s.  Grosz played a significant in Bearden’s artistic growth, introducing him to the works of Daumier, Goya, Breughel, and Köllwitz and such old masters as Ingres, Dürer, Holbein, and Poussin.

    After his military service in the US Army during WWII, Bearden decided to go to Paris in 1950 to study philosophy at the Sorbonne on the G.I. Bill.  In the ‘City of Light’ Bearden met Georges Braque, Constantin Brâncuși and other French and American artists and writers.  Unsurprisingly, he spent time studying works in museums and galleries as well as travelling to Nice, Florence, Rome, and Venice.

    It is this multifaceted exposure to the past that formed the core of Bearden’s understanding about the formal qualities of art in addition to how to meld his unique message into the rich vibrant paintings, drawings, collages, and photomontages where he beatified Afro-American experience in the United States.  

    The Frick exhibition begins with Bearden’s early work from the 1930s including the editorial cartoons previously mentioned as well as a painting titled “Soup Kitchen”, and several pieces of his commercial work. In these works one can see his early ability as a draftsman and a compassion for politics, race and social injustice.

    Romare Bearden, Baptism (1975). Screenprint. © 2022 Romare Bearden Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

    A large section of this show titled Visualizing the African American Landscape highlights Bearden’s endeavors to portray a layered image of Black America, interconnected by social history, ritual, and a pursuit of justice.  Bearden produced some of his largest and most innovative works between 1967 and 1969 though he continued to experiment formally and to engage in social issues throughout his career.  Although many refer to his art as collages, Romare Bearden insisted his works were “paintings, not collages”, because he used the techniques and materials of collage to create the rhythms, surfaces, tones, and moods associated with painting.  The civil rights movement also influenced his art prompting him to become more representational and socially conscious. Even though his collage work evinces inspiration from abstract art, it also displays traces of African American enslaved crafts, especially patchwork quilts, and the use of found materials.

    “Throughout many of the pieces Bearden’s knowledge of Cubism is apparent. This is evident in his use of flattened space and angular forms with areas of bright color framed by black outline.”

    Romare Bearden, Homage to Mary Lou (The Piano Lesson), (detail), 1983. Lithograph. © 2022 Romare Bearden Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Courtesy DC Moore Gallery, NY.

    Memories of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, abound in his art confirming Bearden’s roots in the rural South.  Inspired by improvisational jazz music, Bearden started creating collages in 1964 depicting African-American life in the rural South and Harlem. Bearden’s piece “The Piano Lesson”, 1983 inspired August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “The Piano Lesson”.  Also from this series is Bearden’s lithograph “Homage to Mary Lou” (The Piano Lesson), 1984 in which he depicts a music teacher and her student in a Southern parlor.  He dedicated this image to Williams a great jazz pianist, who, like Bearden, moved from the South to Pittsburgh.  Both work are similar in color, composition and structure and were inspired by two Henri Matisse paintings “The Piano Lesson” (1916) and “The Music Lesson” (1917).

    Another section titled Bearden and Women depicts strong images of women, who he portrays as healers, protectors, and goddesses. Black Women throughout the ages have played a vital role in the fight to cure many social injustices in American society.  This includes the abolition of slavery; voting rights; education for all and the end of segregation. Resilient women in his life undoubtedly inspired Bearden.  “Falling Star,” 1980 a vivid colorful image is an exceptional lithograph layered with meaning.  Perhaps Bearden was inspired by John Donne’s poem, “To Catch a Falling Star” implies the impossibility of finding a truly good woman.  The falling star against the vibrant blue sky outside the window may perhaps signify such a woman. A tall black woman, dressed in colorful attire confidently stands while sipping tea. She fills a large portion of this composition yet appears oblivious to the scene outside her window.  Another striking work in this section is “The Woman”, 1985; collage and pigment on board.   The frontal portrayal of a hefty, anonymous woman fills the frame in this colorful work.  The strong woman is engaged in her own thoughts somewhat akin to Mary Cassatt’s portrayal of her mother, “Reading Le Figaro”. Throughout many of the pieces Bearden’s knowledge of Cubism is apparent. This is evident in his use of flattened space and angular forms with areas of bright color framed by black outline.

    The final segment of this exhibition, “Li’l Dan: the drummer boy, A Civil War Story”, contains collages and watercolors from the only children’s book Romare Bearden illustrated and wrote. It is believed he wrote the manuscript and made the illustrations some time in the 1970s although, it was never printed.  Simon & Schuster published the manuscript in 2003 along with the original paintings and collages that were found among Bearden’s papers. Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote the introduction.  It is a memorable tale about a slave boy who loved to play his drum and used his music to save a company of Union soldiers.  According to Robin Kelly who was married to Bearden’s niece, “At the time, there were a slew of books on African American history, an increasing number written for children. Bearden was hardly joining the bandwagon, but he must have seen a need for a book that resists the story of how oppressed we were under slavery but rather focused on how important African Americans were in bringing liberty and freedom to the entire country. The fact that black music and black people, in this sweet tale, quite literally save America, is precisely one of those metaphors that have driven much of his visual art.”  The imagery in this historical fiction illustrates Bearden’s acute talent as an illustrator who tells a compelling story filled with compassion and optimism.

    This exhibition provides viewers with only the tip of the iceberg of Romare Bearden’s in-depth oeuvre.  He was immensely prolific yet not recognized as a major American artist because the art world in the United States maintained the same prejudices and segregation of society. Fortunately “the times they are a’ changin” for Afro-American artists as more people recognize the major contributions these artists have made. Moreover Sam Gilliam, a pioneering abstractionist, who has made work for six decades is finally getting the respect and exposure that is also long overdue. Artists as Bearden and Sam Gilliam are dissimilar from many black artists today who put social justice ideology above their final art product.  The earlier Afro-American artists had an ability to captivate and experiment with the cultural history that interested and shaped them.  Jed Perl has written, “The erosion of art’s imaginative ground, often blamed on demagogues of the left and the right, is taking place in the very heart of the liberal, educated, cultivated audience—the audience that arts professionals always imagined they could count on. The whole question is so painful and so difficult that I have frankly hesitated to tackle it. It is relatively easy to point to the deformations of art at the hands of politically correct left-wingers and cheap-shot moralists on the right, as the late Robert Hughes did in the fast-paced, witty series of lectures that he published as Culture of Complaint in 1993…The challenge for everybody who is involved with the arts—with opera, dance, and theater companies, museums, symphony orchestras, newspapers, magazines, and publishing houses—is how to make the case for the arts without condemning the arts to the hyphenated existence that violates their freestanding significance.”

    By Elaine A. King, Contributing Editor

    Romare Bearden: Artist as Activist and Visionary

    Frick Museum, Pittsburgh

    April 30, 2022 – September 18, 2022

  • NYC’s Irish Rep- “Belfast Girls”: Three Months on a Slow Boat to Australia 

     

    Playwright’s Note: Between the years 1848 and 1851 over four thousand Irish females took passage on ships from Ireland to Australia under the Orphan Emigration Scheme, established by Earl Grey. This action had the effect of relieving many of the workhouses and poorhouses of Ireland (already full to the brim with people seeking respite from the ravages of the ‘Great Famine’), and of providing ‘new blood’ for the Colonies – wives, servants, farm-workers. The women who left were more generally known as ‘orphan girls’, though many were neither orphans or, strictly speaking, girls. The most notorious and riotous amongst these – both in transit and on arrival in Australia – were known as the Belfast girls.

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  • D.C.’s Renwick Gallery Celebrates Its 50th

    Centrally-located across from the White House, the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery (part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum) is the nation’s flagship museum of American craft and decorative arts. Opened in 1972, the museum is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year by showcasing widely-diverse perspectives of craft and design with the exhibition THIS PRESENT MOMENT: CRAFTING A BETTER WORLD. The museum launched an acquisitions campaign in 2020 to enlarge the number of Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, and women artists represented in its permanent collection. More than 200 craft objects were collected, and over 130 of these newly-acquired works are among the 171 artworks on display in THIS PRESENT MOMENT. Nora Atkinson, the Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge for the Renwick helped organize the exhibition with Mary Savig, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft, and Anya Montiel, curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

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  • Which Way To The Stage: An Ode To The Theater, On and Off Stage


    MCC Theater’s production of Which Way To The Stage running through Saturday, May 28, at Robert W. Wilson Theater Space at 511 West 52 nd Street in Manhattan, is one of the most enjoyable plays that I saw this season. Not only has the play been extended a week – my very hope while watching the play – but the audience, a heavy contingent of yeah-saying youngsters, many obviously actors most likely seduced by word-of-mouth, not only continued to clap after the actors left the stage, but gathered in the theater’s lobby to continue the conversation. And why not, as playwright Ana Nogueira, an actress herself, had just fed them the unvarnished story of life in the theater…the ups, and downs, and sideways.

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  • The National Gallery of Art Showcases ‘Afro-Atlantic Histories’

    This Spring, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has opened AFRO-ATLANTIC HISTORIES — an enormous exhibition that visually explores the far-flung diaspora of the Western slave trade.  Organized in 2018 by the Sao Paulo Museum of Art, the show originally had a Brazilian focus. But NGA Curator Kanitra Fletcher has reconfigured it now as an exhibition with a vast canvas that conveys the impact and legacy of the African Diaspora across four continents–Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, and Europe. 

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  • The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Uncovers Picasso’s ‘Blue Period’

    Another Picasso exhibition? Yes, he was brilliant and there are new generations waiting to discover his significance—but is there really anything new to say? The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, and the Art Gallery of Ontario think there is, and have co-curated a new exhibition whose ambitious purpose is revelation.  To achieve this goal, PICASSO: PAINTING THE BLUE PERIOD showcases how X-Ray imaging reveals young Picasso’s emergence as a distinctive painter in his early career in Paris and Barcelona. There is always room for new ideas in art history, and Phillips Head of Conservation Elizabeth Steele believes that since much conservation work is done behind the scenes, sharing their work with the public “is a unique chance to spotlight the science of preserving art.”

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  • NYC’s Almine Rech Gallery with Sarah Cunningham: “In Its Daybreak, Rising”

     Almine Rech presents “In Its Daybreak Rising,” an exhibition of eighteen new abstract oil paintings by Sarah Cunningham. The exhibition is unusually focused and pure in its means. The semi-abstract works with representational underpinnings speak for themselves; their surprising immediacy quickly engages the viewer. One is not asked to read long texts pertaining to the show, or to contend with convoluted explanations of current trends that abound from the Metropolitan Museum to galleries in every art district in New York.  Abstract painting comes in many guises; the works are often visually attractive, but ultimately fail to convey meaningful content, which would make them matter more authentically.  Beauty is never wrong if it is authentic, but without an in-depth foothold, it can tilt toward the decorative, Sarah Cunningham’s works have no link to decoration. The psychologically complex works present configurations of thick worked media that create depth, movement, and inner space.  

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  • Washington, DC’s Hillwood Museum: “The Luxury of Clay- Porcelain Past and Present”

    Today ceramic objects are taken for granted, including earthenware, brick or even fine porcelain because of their omnipresence. We eat from plates, drink from cups and mugs and decorate our dwellings with vases filled with flowers. The ceramic industry is one of the oldest that goes back thousands of years, perhaps because clay was plentiful, the process basic and people figured out how to make useful and decorative things with it.  One of the earliest pieces ever created using fired clay dates back to the late Paleolithic period 28,000 BC.  A female statue of a nude woman, known as the Venus of Dolní Věstonice, was discovered in the Paleolithic site Dolní Věstonice in the Moravian area south of Brno in the Czech Republic.  Also found at this same site in a horseshoe shaped kiln were hundreds of clay figurines representing Ice Age animals ––bear, lion, fox, horse and owl along with over 2000 balls of burnt clay.

    In China pot fragments dating back to 18,000-17,000 BCE have been found. Historians believe that China’s use of pottery successively spread to Japan and the Russian Far East region where archeologists have recovered shards of ceramic artifacts dating to 14,000 BCE.  However, progress toward porcelain making evolved very slowly in China since its production is far more challenging than that for earthenware or stoneware. Porcelain is the most prestigious kind of pottery because of its delicacy, strength, and radiant translucent, white color and was finally produced about 2,000 to 1,200 years ago in China. 

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  • Picasso and the Guitar: Memory and Metaphor

    Inspired by, ‘Picasso: Guitars (1912-14)’- At the Museum of Modern Art, New York City

    Though living in France most of his life, Picasso was a Spaniard, through-and-through, remaining proud of his birthright, cultural heritage and sun-drenched memories of childhood, over his lifetime.  Any retrospective of his work as a painter and sculptor reveals that he was continually informed by the iconic images of Spain, at both conscious and unconscious levels: the raven-haired, large-eyed female figures, matadors and bull-fighting motifs, the open-balcony studio settings of his imagination, replete with palm-strewn vistas of warm seas, mythic creatures from Greco-Roman legend and seductive naked sylphs, all belie his enduring visceral attachment to las cosas de españa.

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  • New York City Opera & Museum of Jewish Heritage: ‘The Garden of the Finzi-Continis’

    Despite countless closings, postponements, cancellations, empty seats, Covid interventions, and the annoying requirement of having to wear a mask, present proof of a vaccination with a valid government issued photo ID, and go through a security check, even before you enter the theatre, New York City’s theater scene appears to be chugging along, surprisingly so, with an abundance of better than- usual fare. 

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  • Two Rivers, Worlds Apart: Linked by Opium and American Ambition

    The Connecticut River cradles the city of Middletown (f. 1653), at a modest bend in its course, a place originally called Mattabesset, Algonquin for “end of the carrying place.” Tranquility now prevails over the city’s waterfront park, with its east-facing view of neighboring Portland (once called Chatham), and expansive southerly vista toward Haddam’s broad navigable channel.

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  • Maryland’s Glenstone with Charles Ray: An Ongoing Series of Rotating Exhibitions

    Charles Ray is known for his uncanny realistic sculptures of cars, plants, and humans. He has been making art for nearly five decades.  He was born in Chicago and moved to L.A. in 1981 where he continues to reside. Ray has had a flourishing international career; exhibiting his work in numerous prestigious venues as three Venice Biennales, Kunst Museum Basel, five Whitney Biennials, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago and Documenta to mention only a few. Although he is known for such iconic figurative works as the Family Romance, 1993; Boy with Frog, 2009 and his experimental statues.  Ray’s work does not lend itself to specific categorization since it is ever evolving and rooted in the time and place of its conception

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  • NYC’s Atlantic Theater Co.- Kimberly Akimbo: A Young Soul In An Old Body

    Kimberly Akimbo the newly penned musical with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole, Shrek the Musical) and music by Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home, Caroline, or Change) is the most loving, loveliest, and poignant theatrical experience of the year. Starring the invincible Victoria Clark whose every performance is pure gold (she won the Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for The Light in the Piazza 2005), Kimberly Akimbo is currently gracing the stage at NYC’s Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater through Saturday, January 15. 

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  • IN THE HEIGHTS, BELFAST, and WEST SIDE STORY: Capturing a Sense of Place

    A pandemic life of semi-isolation has given me a renewed appreciation for living in a community. In between Covid surges this past year, three movies struck me as more relevant than they perhaps originally intended. IN THE HEIGHTS, BELFAST, and the new version of WEST SIDE STORY each showcased neighborhood communities and the generations that fostered them. Each also conveyed how new generations had their own dreams, and how fulfilling their new hopes demanded escaping the place that had originally nurtured them. Life is complicated.

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  • In Memorium: Stephen Sondheim

    There will be hundreds of “appreciation” pieces published in print and online during the next few days memorializing the life and work of Stephen Sondheim who died Friday at the age on 91. There will be tens of thousands of mourning Facebook posts and emails spun around the globe. But this one may be slightly different from the majority, although thousands and thousands of devotees feel the same way.

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  • A Guest Editorial: “Beauty in Things that Pass – what dogs can teach us”

    It wasn’t planned. And that’s perhaps what made it all the more magical. But this past Christmas morning, Vlad and his best friend Malibu were the only dogs in the baseball field (the one we pretend is a dog park). I’m not sure why they were the only dogs there. It might have been the holiday, of course, or the hour (7am). Or it could have been the mud left from the previous day’s snow flurries. And HERE is what ensued:

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  • Manhattan Theatre Club’s ‘Morning Sun’: No Heart Untouched

    Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of British Playwright Simon Stephen’s three-generation memory play Morning Sun ran through Sunday, December 19th at New York City Center.For the discerning theatergoers who live and die theater, and perhaps still remember the dazzling effectiveness of Stephen’s Tony winning play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night (2015) it was a must see. I kid you not.

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  • NGA & A WIDER ANGLE: “THE NEW WOMAN BEHIND THE CAMERA”

    The National Gallery in Washington, D.C., has recently opened a major exhibition celebrating significant 20th century women photographers.  As curator Andrea Nelson explains, The New Woman Behind the Camera is intended to explore how photography became “a global symbol of female empowerment based on real women making revolutionary changes in life and art.”

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  • New York’s Gagosian Shows Nathaniel Mary Quinn: Not Far From Home: Still Far Away

    Nathaniel Mary Quinn, “Not Far From Home; Still Far Away,” on view at Gagosian, presents an exploration of Quinn’s relationships in fourteen intense portraits, created in a range of media that includes oil paint, gouache, charcoal, oil stick and pastel.  Distortion is the keynote of Quinn’s inner-based perception, expressed in a vision that transforms the artist, his friends and his female subject, apparently his mother.  He disregards visually perceivable features, boldly executing truncated, layered, re-imagined, and spliced images that exude a sense of deep emotional anguish.  Quinn’s impeccable inventive paintings compare with the visceral images Francis Bacon created in his portraits, and Picasso’s Synthetic Cubist women. 

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  • Boston’s Gardner Museum with, ‘Titian: Women, Myth & Power’

    Tiziano Vecellio, known as Titian, was a Venetian painter during the Renaissance, and is considered to be the most significant artist of the 16th century.  The Venetian school began in the 1400s under the leadership of Giovanni and Gentile Bellini who emphasized using color to create dramatic forms.  The range of Titian’s oeuvre was extensive including subjects from landscapes, portraiture, spiritual and mythological stories.  Throughout his career his style changed noticeably however is art always displayed his mastery of color and tone. He excelled in painting vigorous compositions filled with supreme richness and distinct psychological expression. As an artist Titian is generally viewed as only second in greatness and success to Michelangelo.

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  • Denver’s Arvada Center for Arts and Humanities with ‘Text in Art’

    Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Ed Ruscha, and Christopher Wool are just a few of the most renowned artists who have very successfully used words as key elements in their art. After all, visual art is a form of communication, and the addition or focus on text in the creative process can be a very powerful tool. Currently, the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities in Arvada, Colorado is presenting two excellent exhibitions curated by Emily Grace King and Collin Parson that focus on a number of contemporary artists who too address the import and range of text in art. 

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  • HUNG LIU: ‘A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY,’ AT NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY, WASHINGTON, D.C.

    In August, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., opened HUNG LIU: PORTRAITS OF PROMISED LANDS.  An immigrant herself, the Chinese American artist Hung Liu is best-known for creating large-scale portraits that transform refugees and other marginalized figures into “dignified, even mythic figures on the grand scale of history painting” (Hung Liu quote). Dorothy Moss, the museum’s Curator of Painting and Sculpture, worked with Liu for the past three years to develop this exhibition. “We spoke at length about her engagement of history through her use of photographic archives,” Moss told me, explaining that Liu used photographic images “to create portraiture that positions ‘history as a verb.'” The artist believed her art was a way to connect past with present — to use the constant flow of history to create a visual narrative about how “things of the spirit stay with us much longer than things of the past” (Hung Liu quote).

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  • On My Bucket List

    If it’s September, it’s réttir, or sheep round up time in Iceland. Some 800,000 of the Norwegian-Icelandic variety (short legged and densely coated) are let out to pasture in late spring to freely roam, untended and unfenced, in the pastures and hillsides of the verdant Icelandic landscape. There, they graze for months on an abundant diet of sheep’s sorel, mountain avens, blueberries and broad leaf grasses. Nurturing, fresh water mountain streams crisscross virtually every open field. Sure-footed and affable, they can be seen, clustered in small groups—almost always a ram and 3-5 ewes—beside the country’s roadways or spotted in the distance as minuscule white dots, high on the sloping mountain ranges. A motorist is more likely to encounter a sheep crossing the highway, than any other kind of wildlife. Such unwarranted encounters are rare, though, because in the vast, open landscape, highway visibility can extend for miles.

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  • A Wild Note of Longing: Albert Pinkham Ryder, Century of American Art

    Even though Albert Pinkham Ryder is an established American painter best known for his rhythmical and brooding allegorical scenes and seascapes he is not recognized as much as fellow painters Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, Edward Hopper, Thomas Cole or Albert Bierstadt. Ryder was born in New Bedford in 1847 though, moved to New York in 1868 with his family where he spent most of life except for several trips to Europe and North Africa.  There is something special about seeing Ryder’s work at the New Bedford Whaling Museum because of the importance of this sea town as the historical center of whaling and fishing.  The ocean and its moody environment were deeply entrenched in Ryder’s psyche and profoundly influenced his expressive paintings of the sea in spite of living in New York City most of his life.

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  • Massachusetts’ Peabody Essex Museum with Three Diverse Exhibitions

    The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem Massachusetts is a jewel in the crown of cultural institutions on the East Coast.  It is one of the oldest museums in the United States and is only a 30-minute drive from Boston.  Not only are its objects exquisite and the architecture magnificent and but also the PEM offers visitors a diverse collection ranging from the 18th century to today including: paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, textiles, architecture and decorative objects.  Its superb collections of African, American, Asian, Maritime, Korean, Japanese, Native American and Oceanic art provides visitors with insights into cultural diversity across time. It continuously assembles changing thematic exhibitions and displays of work by individual artists.

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  • D.C’s Hillwood Estate with ‘A Garden of Dancing Delights’

    This summer, Washington, D.C.’s Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens has opened “Rich Soil,” an exhibition of life-size wire sculptures installed all over the estate’s 13 acres of formal gardens. The cavorting wire sculptures should feel right at home. Hillwood was the home of General Foods CEO Marjorie Merriweather Post, who had a lifelong love of dance. Her party guests–always notable and famous–were often expected to partake in after-dinner square-dancing. But she was also a serious dance patron of the American Ballet Theater and the Washington Ballet.  So, Hillwood hosting “Rich Soil” seems a highly-appropriate partnership for the dancing wire sculptures.

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  • Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams

    The night I attended a live production of Jacob Storm’s one man show, Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams,held at the Cell Theater in New City, it was raining lightly. Though the playwright actor was protected by a small overhang which covered the staging area, the umbrella holding, stage-facing audience, seated outside in the theater’s lovely garden was not. Ironically, this being a second rain date, it was touch and go as to whether this play would go on at all. I reminded the nervously pacing Storms — who was performing this night for an audience of 18 (composed chiefly of theater critics — how scary can things get?) – about Diana Ross’ 1983 Central Park concert in which, drenched to the bone she continued to sing throughout half a murderous storm.  

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  • History Captured: Protests, War, Sacrifice, & Hope

    As a cultural historian, I’m always fascinated by how a nation’s creative spirit shapes an age.  For ARTES Magazine this Spring, I described how Helen Frankenthaler and other Abstract Expressionists created works that captured the cataclysmic potential of America’s Atomic Age. (AH, ‘Fierce Poise,’ ARTES Magazine)  Recently, New York Times critic-at-large Jason Farago has described how the art of Berthe Morisot and other Impressionists reflected France’s transformation into modernity. “The world she observes,” Farago writes, “seems to be dissolving. All that is solid melts into brushstrokes” (Farago, “The Impressionist Art of Seeing and Being Seen,”  NYT, 6/4/21).

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  • NYC’s George Street Playhouse with, “Tiny Beautiful Things”

    Tiny Beautiful Things, George Street Playhouse’s filmed play, based on Cheryl Strayed’s book, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar (2012), a collection of Strayed’s columns is beautifully brought to life by actress Laiona Michelle, who as Sugar, plays a down-to-earth, expletive-spouting advice-giving columnist.  While the play’s three accompanying actors, John Bolger, Kally Duling. and Ryan George, each playing a wide range of advice-seeking letter writers, occupy their supporting cameos quite nicely, it is Laiona Michelle’s emotionally absorbing, take no prisoners star-turn that commands our fullest attention.

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  • ‘Fierce Poise’: A NEW LOOK AT HELEN FRANKENTHALER

    The end of World War II signaled a vast new beginning. Life pulsed with hope as people eagerly embraced change. French couturier Christian Dior tossed aside the war’s strictures against using fabric for fashion and premiered his extravagent “New Look” in 1947–a retro salute to “radical femininity” that featured tight-fitting jackets, padded hips, and yards of flowing A-line skirts. Carmel Snow, editor of America’s HARPER’S BAZAAR, tagged Dior’s fashion by exclaiming “It’s quite a revolution…Your dresses have such a new look!”

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  • “Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood” at National Museum of Women in the Arts

    Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay were a driving energy behind the National Museum of Women in the Arts both financially and contributing to its success in becoming a vital institution. Since opening its doors in 1987, at the renovated historic former Masonic temple on New York Avenue in Washington, DC the NMWA for over three decades has dedicated itself to showcasing works solely by women in its exhibitions and to the collecting of art by women across time.

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  • ‘Acts of Erasure’: Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Toronto

    Acts of Erasure at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Toronto is a stunning installation that brings two prominent artistic practises together into a dialog. Fatma Bucak and Krista Belle Stewart come from different geographical areas and heritages. Bucak was born in Iskenderun, on the Turkish-Syrian border and identifies as both Kurdish and Turkish. She now resides in London, UK. Stewart is a member of the Okanagan Nation in British Columbia. Their thoughtful work integrates interlocking layers of the historical, the political and the emotional.

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  • WASHINGTON, DC’s PHILLIPS COLLECTION TURNS 100

    In 1921, Duncan Phillips founded America’s “first museum of modern art” in Washington, D.C.  He believed that art was a universal language, and that in the years following the ravages of the First World War, art could be a unifying force inspiring people to “see beautifully. To mark its centennial, the Phillips has opened SEEING DIFFERENTLY: THE PHILLIPS COLLECTS FOR A NEW CENTURY, drawing from the museum’s permanent collection of nearly 6,000 works. The exhibition, on view from March 6th through September 12, 2021, highlights 200 paintings, works on paper, prints, photographs, sculpture, quilts, and video.

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  • ‘Safe House’-Sarasota’s Innovative Theater In the Age of Covid

    After Fletcher leaves his cybersecurity job with a powerful corporation, he and his wife, Ava, hide with damning company secrets. Then Ava mysteriously disappears. But where did she go? Fletcher turns to strangers to find out.

    Without a doubt, Safe House , which does not include live actors, is hardly typical live theater. And “audience members” are anything but passive viewers. Instead, they are the strangers to whom Fletcher turns to find his wife.

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  • Bad Dates: A Dazzling Array Of Shoes, Clothes, Men, Police, and the Roumanian Mafia

    For great fun, and a breathless romp through one woman’s topsy-turvy life, Bad Dates , George Street Playhouses’ filmed version of Theresa Rebeck’s 2003 zany one-woman play starring Broadway actress Andréa Burns ( In The Heights, On Your Feet, The Nance ), is the hip place to be.

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  • The Melancholy Soul of Tchaikovsky: A Cinematic Journey

    Canadian born Hershey Felder, writer, actor, playwright, composer, and musician – piano is his forte – with some 5,000 one-man solos shows performed around the world since 1999, ­is known for creating historically accurate and exquisitely nuanced portrayals of world-famous composers. Among his extensive composers’ repertoire—each of which he brings gloriously alive—are musical greats Chopin, Beethoven, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Puccini, Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin, and Tchaikovsky. Many of these productions are available for purchase at www.HersheyFelder.net.

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  • The Uncommon Path of Ronald Weintraub: Kaleidoscopic Abstraction

    “Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent, with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.” ~Henri Matisse

    Ronald Weintraub became an artist by an uncommon path.  He was a prominent entrepreneur with multiple careers including leading a family business, the founder and CEO of Harmon, the largest publisher of real estate photo magazines in the United States and the publisher of the New York Sun newspaper.  Earlier he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California studying Political Science.  Although he was pressured by his father to join the family business after graduation, he opted in 1956 to enter the Army and spent two years in Camp Zama, Japan, during the Post-American Occupation.  Weintraub refers to this “as a significant transformative time of my life!”[1]  This was a critical turning point because of his involvement in army life with a wide range of US and Japanese.  On returning in 1958, he attended Harvard’s Business School learning from the pragmatic case method.  This applied philosophical approach to problem solving would shape and influence all of his future participations both in business and art.

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  • ‘Merchants of Deceit’: A work of historical fiction due in spring `21

     “Opium has a harm. Opium is a poison, undermining our good customs and morality. Its use is prohibited by law…However, recently the purchasers, eaters, and consumers of opium have become numerous. Deceitful merchants buy and sell it to gain profit.”                        ~ ~Qainlong Emperor (known as Hongli), 6th in Succession, Qing Dynasty (1793)

    The Samuel Russell House occupies a prominent place on the Wesleyan University campus, a neoclassical ‘wedding cake’ located on the corner of Washington and High Streets. Its prominence speaks to the career legacy of the man who planned and coordinated the 1827-28 construction of architect, Ithiel Town’s design for the home. But, many are not aware of the fact that Russell’s rise to prominence in Middletown derived from his accrued fortune in the sale of opium, tied to the early 19th century China Trade. The detailed historical records left behind by Samuel Russell speak volumes about his skills as a fastidious financial record-keeper and prescient businessman, but little about the heart and soul of the man who accomplished so much for himself, his family and the busy trading hub of his birthright, Middletown, CT.

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  • The ‘Big Lie’: A Cautionary Note

    It is a mistake to believe that the long nightmare is over. Over the last five years, Donald T**** has injected a slow-acting venom into the American consciousness, the effects of which will continue to manifest, even after he micro-manages his ’emperor has no clothes’ exit on the 20th of January. On this eve of a new administration, it is useful to remember some history, recognizing that while events may not repeat themselves, ithey often rhyme (thank you, Mark Twain). I’ve been recalling a Wesleyan University seminar I chaired in 2017, just months after the last election. Entitled: Rise of the Right: Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and the Age of Extremism, the day- long event was intended to alert conference goers to the through-line betwween past and present and–at that particular time–our uncertain and perilous future with a known autocratic despot at the controls. I dug into my files, to find the attached handout, which I had prepared for that event (a scan of the original).

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  • Washington, D.C.’s Nat’l Portrait Gallery: ‘Remember the Ladies”

    In a March 31, 1776 letter to her husband John, Abigail Adams urged him and other members of the Continental Congress to “remember the ladies…all men would be tyrants if they could.”  It would take until 1920 for women to achieve Suffrage, but the indomitable Abigail–despite her inability to vote or hold property–would be a powerful First Lady in John Adams’ Presidency (1797-1801).

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  • 217 Films: Considering Kenneth Clark’s ‘Civilisation’ and America

    “Civilisation has been a series of rebirths. Surely this should give us confidence in ourselves.”  ~Lord Kenneth Clark

    In the latest in their series entitled, ‘Essays in Film,’ documentary film makers, Michael Maglaras and Terri Templeton (217 Films) have once again shed light on a complex historical theme, placing it in the context of our vast American cultural narrative. After tackling topics like, Art in the Gilded Age, Arts of the Works Progress Administration, and the 1913 Armory Show, among others, this time their sights came to rest on British art historian and BBC star, Lord Kenneth Clark, and his much-touted 1970’s TV series, “Civilisation.” The video’s late-2020 release celebrates the 50th anniversary (1970-2020) of the American public television premiere of Lord Clark’s ground-breaking, thirteen-part BBC documentary series. Featuring archival footage from the original programs, as well as contemporaneous interviews with Sir David Attenborough and James Stourton (Clark’s definitive biographer), this documentary, entitled, “Civilisation and America,” focuses on the ways in which the series, airing in American homes in the midst of a time of great political and social upheaval, was received on this side of the Atlantic.

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  • A serendipitous opportunity to read ‘Enraptured by Raptors’!

    The newly published work by photographer/author, Jennifer Packard, Enraptured by Raptors, offers a most welcome, positively uplifting saga. In an unlikely stroke, its action centers around the recent real life of a family of red- shouldered hawks; it is replete with wonders of discovery, raptors’ behavior and activities that we can actually relate to, and an encouragingly heartwarming response to it all, by an urban Wahington, D.C. community.

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  • NYC’s Pace Gallery- “Adrian Ghenie: The Hooligans”

    Pace presents “Adrian Ghenie:  The Hooligans,” an exhibition of nine large-scale semi-abstract oil paintings and three charcoal drawings rendered on paper.  The term “hooligans” refers to an underground group of individuals who ignore the limitations of polite society, shaping their lives to be free of constraints.  In his powerful new works, Ghenie explores the artists who formed movements that rocked established academies, challenging the status quo of their times with new visions of transformed realities, reinvigorating art in the process.  Ghenie has identified J.M.W. Turner, the Impressionists, especially Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin as the artist “hooligans” whose activities he chooses to emulate.  His focus is on the primacy of oil paint in a semi-abstract approach which downplays figurative imagery.  This daring exhibition is beautifully installed, presenting bold monumental paintings and intriguing charcoal drawings, but it is unfortunate that it is located on the second floor, where it is possible that the public may overlook it.  

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  • 14-Year old Musician/Actor Joshua Turchin Takes the Stage by Storm

    Joshua Turchin wrote the book and lyrics, and composed the music, to an original, award-winning, Broadway-bound musical which wowed New York critics. Not bad for a 14-year-old, huh? But the New York-based youngster, who is also an actor, would rather you not dwell on his age. Instead, he wants people to focus on his accomplishments. And there are many. For instance, Joshua recently released the cast EP of his Broadway-bound musical, The Perfect Fit. The EP, or extended playlist, is available on platforms such as Amazon, iTunes, and Apple Music.

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  • Streaming: Jessica Sherr’s ‘Bette Davis Ain’t For Sissies’

    Of all the celebs channeled by drag queens and female impersonators, Bette Davis, like flies to honey, has always been at the top of every performers list. Her mannerisms, her clipped New England cadences, her famous lines like “fasten your seatbelt this is going to be a bumpy ride,” and the forever dangling cigarette in her airborne hand, like the actress herself, are legendary.

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  • ABE: A MASKED LINCOLN PORTRAIT

    George Washington may be revered as the tradition-setting first President, but Abraham Lincoln remains the President we turn to in dire times. His words and understanding have a timeless human sensibility–his accessibility makes him “present” when we need national reassurance.
    Lincoln’s ability to remain high on our radar is reflected in how often he’s been showcased. In 1922, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on the National Mall. Architect Henry Bacon created a neoclassical temple, and Daniel Chester French designed the remarkable interior Lincoln sculpture that looms over the Mall.

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  • NYC’s Mnuchin Gallery—Church and Rothko: Sublime

    “Church and Rothko: Sublime,” an exhibition of twenty-seven oil paintings on canvas, brings into focus, in the context of the ‘Sublime,’ the similarities and divergences of two deeply contrasting artists who extended the art of painting to suit their overriding visions, separated by a span of nearly 100 years.  Michael Altman Fine Art and Christopher Rothko collaborated with Robert Mnuchin and the Mnuchin team to present this respectful, comprehensive and deeply appreciative journey through the pictorial language of a 19th and a 20th Century master, who succeeded in transmuting their art to the level of the emotional and psychological sublime, through purely visual means.  The show adheres to an expanded, unconventional definition of the ‘Sublime,’ which includes not only the contemporary sense of the ‘majestic,’ but the Romantic era version, as well, of a frightening, perilous dark side. There are ten abstract Rothko works and seventeen Frederic Church oil paintings on view.

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  • HBO’s ‘Coastal Elites’- Grappling with Politics, Culture and the Pandemic

    Ever since Covid-19 shut down our theatres, movie houses, museums, concert halls, opera houses, jazz clubs, and stadiums – in short, our entire country’s entertainment industry – thus robbing thousands upon thousands of singers, actors, writers, producers, directors, musicians, athletes and countless others, of their livelihood, not to mention their raison d’etre, there has been a marked increase in entertainment offerings on TV, cable, online, blogs, websites and streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney. Some are free, some are for pay, and all are being eagerly snapped up by pleasure seeking audiences.  

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  • Expressions of Artistic Freedom Proven in Film, ‘Married to Math’

    “Married to Math” is a film made as if it were a mathematical equation with unknown expressions of value being moved towards a solution. Created by Nina Zaretskaya, founding director, Art Media Center, ‘TV Gallery,’ this documentary presents three mathematicians from the former Soviet Union who released the artistic expression of their youth after the distraction of their training in formal mathematics.

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  • Artist, Julia Arriola, in Conversation with Elaine A. King

    Julia Arriola is an artist living in Tucson, Arizona.  Her art is interdisciplinary and she works across materials.  Underlying much of her work is a unique perspective of Native Americans symbolism, social awareness as well as an intertwined interest in the mechanical age that comprised the late 19th century.  This conversation took place from September 22-28, 2020.  After the first introductory exchange Elaine A King will be EAK and Julia Arriola will be JA.

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  • Nature’s Empire: The Roots of a ‘More Perfect Union’

    Now that the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., has reopened, visitors can once again enjoy an extraordinary exhibition–ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT AND THE UNITED STATES:  ART, NATURE, AND CULTURE.
    You are forgiven for raising your eyebrows and asking, “Who?”

    The answer is fascinating.  Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), right, was recognized as the most important naturalist of the 19th century. Born in Prussia, he pioneered the idea that the planet was connected by a “unity of nature” that wove the globe into a living world-wide web.  Throughout the 19th century, this idea evolved into a formative concept that natural history shaped national destiny.  Humboldt’s ideas about nature were a prelude to environmentalism today– the impact of climate change on the environment is clear in the devastating wildfires, hurricanes, and rising sea levels that are transforming everyday life.

    Above, right: Friedrich Georg Weitsch, Portrait of Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), 1806, oil on canvas, 49 5/8 x 36 3/8”. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Photo: bpk Bildagentur / Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany / Klaus Goeken / Art Resource, NY.

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  • Flappers, Film Stars and Fast-witted Women: Why the Twenties Roared


    The 1920s were corset-free. Victorian remnants were thrown aside as modernism celebrated ‘the new.’ Cole Porter got it right when he wrote, “In olden days,/ a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking./ But now, God knows, anything goes!”
    The ratification of Suffrage in 1920 launched the new decade with an exclamation point. Times had changed, and women embraced freedom from a past that was as belittling as their garments had been. Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald tagged the decade “the Jazz Age,” and women flung themselves into an exhilarating and untraveled future of possibilities.

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  • GATHERINGS: The National Mall as America’s Stage

    Hemmed in by Covid19 strictures that keep us apart, creative people have discovered imaginative new ways to connect.  Drive-in movies (remember those, Boomers?) are enjoying new popularity, providing safe social distancing along with the community experience movie fans crave.  The Metropolitan Opera’s recent “Gala” featured its major artists—singers, orchestra, chorus—in Zoom performances that gave opera lovers fascinating glimpses into the talents and personalities of favorite performers. Dance wizard Mark Morris has been conducting Zoom rehearsals with his troupe, and a piece he originally choreographed for this summer’s Tanglewood Festival has now been reimagined as a video entitled “Lonely Waltz” that streams on his website. (markmorrisdancegroup.org)

    Artists have also joined the virtual fray. In partnership with the Art Production Fund, artist Nancy Baker Cahill launched an “Augmented Reality” animation entitled Liberty Bell on July 4th.  The Fund’s Executive Director, Casey Fremont, explained that the idea was to give viewers “the opportunity to reflect upon their personal experiences of liberty, injustice, and inequality” by displaying this prime symbol of American Independence.

    “Liberty Bell,” AR drawing geolocated at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
    Photo by Joy Asico/BFA.com courtesy of Art Production Fund, Washington D.C.

    The work is accessible by Baker’s free “4th Wall” app, and a viewer simply aims a cell phone at the intended site for the bell to appear. There are six Liberty Bell sites: in Boston where the Tea Party occurred, at Fort Tilden in Queens, Fort Sumter in Charleston, the “Rocky Steps” leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, and the Lincoln Memorial’s Reflecting Pool in the nation’s capital. In Washington, the bell animation takes up 37,000 square feet and is composed of red, white, and blue ribbons that seem to be unraveling. A soundtrack accompanying the AR features a bell ringing from a lulling sound to something much more urgent.  (https://nancybakercahill.com/4th-wall-ar-app)

    The appearance of Liberty Bell on the National Mall made me think about how the Mall serves as a platform for all kinds of expression—for national celebrations, for protests, and as a canvas for art.

    When George Washington instructed Pierre L’Enfant to design the Federal City in 1791, L’Enfant envisioned a “grand avenue” lined by gardens and stretching from the proposed Capitol to an equestrian statue of George Washington that would be placed south of the President’s House.  In 1802, a map described the grand avenue as “the Mall”—a tip-of-the-hat to London’s Mall, where people promenaded fashionably near Buckingham Palace.

    America’s Mall had a haphazard look until the 1902 “McMillan Plan” (left).  Inspired by the “city beautiful movement” of the late nineteenth century, McMillan extended L’Enfant’s Mall further west and removed a conglomeration of unrelated structures—including greenhouses, a railroad station, and a Central Market—and replaced the clutter with an open expanse of grass lined by four rows of American elm trees. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the Mall has been  festooned by Smithsonian museums, the National Gallery of Art, and a growing armada of memorials commemorating iconic national figures (Lincoln, Jefferson, FDR, Martin Luther King), and wars (Korea, Vietnam, World War II).

    Civil Rights Movement: The March on Washington, August 28, 1963. Colourized from a black and white, 35mm film negative. Jordan J Lloyd/Dynamichrome image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

    The Mall is the site for celebrations like presidential inaugurations, Fourth of July fireworks, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival. It has also served as the rallying platform for such major national events as Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert, Dr. King’s March on Washington in 1963, and a major anti-Vietnam protest in 1972.

    But the National Mall has also emerged as a stage for creative expression. There are permanent art installations in both the Hirshhorn Museum and National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Gardens, but there have also been several temporary artworks showcased. In 1987, the AIDS Memorial Quilt (left. Photo: Richard Latoff), was displayed in a massive showcase of 2,000 panels created by family and friends of those who had died of AIDS.

    In 2012, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden commissioned Doug Aitken to create a video work that illuminated the entire façade of the building, transforming it into “liquid architecture” by using eleven high-definition video projectors that splayed across the museum’s curved exterior.  Entitled “SONG 1,” the video was accompanied by an “urban soundscape” that featured the 1934 Harry Warren-Al Dubin song “I Only Have Eyes for You,” originally composed for the Warner Bros. film Dames.  The Aitken projection was visible on the Mall from sunset to midnight, March 22 to May 20, 2012.

    In October 2014, the National Portrait Gallery contributed the next major work of Mall art. Nik Apostolides, then Associate Director of the Gallery, persuaded Cuban American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada to create one his enormous “facescapes” on the Mall (right). Rodriguez-Gerada photographed 30 anonymous young men of all races and blended them into an enormous composite portrait that stretched over six acres at the base of the Washington Monument. Calling his portrait “Out of Many, One,” the artist required 2,500 tons of sand and 800 tons of topsoil to create a vast face that was viewed from the top of the Washington Monument. He explained, “My art aims to create a dialogue about the concept of identity, and it questions the role models who are chosen to represent us in the public sphere. These works have no negative environmental impact and are created to poetically blend back into the land.”

    In July 2019, the National Air & Space Museum celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission by projecting a 363-foot image of the Saturn V rocket onto the Washington Monument (left). On two nights, a 17-minute projection called “Apollo 50: Go for the Moon” recreated the launch of the Apollo 11 mission that took astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon.

    Sponsored by the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, Nancy Baker Cahill’s Liberty Bell (below, with hands of the artist pictured), continues the idea of using the National Mall as a canvas for artistic expression.  Unbound by a museum’s four walls, her AR animation evokes freedom in its identity as ‘virtual.’ Yet the artist has described her intention as conveying the essence of American identity. “What I’m trying to do with this piece,” she has said, “is asking people to consider, ‘What is liberty?’”

    It’s a potent question for our times. Will the pandemic affect our ideas about liberty and freedom? A recent New Yorker article by Lawrence Wright (2020 article illustration, below, left) describes how earlier pandemics—notably, the plague that ravaged Fourteenth Century Italy—pointed people to new directions that remarkably led to the Renaissance.

    The social tumult caused by the Black Death helped lead to the Renaissance. Illustration by Bianca Bagnarelli

    Wright wonders, as we all do, if our “new normal” will lead us to reimagine the old and create something wonderful–or will the worst and most irrational ways of thinking produce cesspools of unreason? He writes, “Like wars and depressions, a pandemic offers an X-ray of society, allowing us to see all the broken places….the racial inequities, the poisonous partisanship, the governmental incompetence, the disrespect for science, the fraying of community bonds.” Wright ends on a hopeful note—“when people confront their failures, they have the opportunity to mend them.” (Lawrence Wright, “How Pandemics Wreak Havoc—And Open Minds,” THE NEW YORKER,  July 20, 2020.)

    The question is, will we? Are we still “one,” or have we become intractably “many”?

    By Amy Henderson, Contributing Writer

    Liberty Bell will be accessible on all six city sites through July 4, 2021.

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  • Jak Katalan: Painting in a Time of Corona

    Most painting in the European tradition was painting the mask. Modern art rejected all that. Our subject matter was the person behind the mask.             ~Robert Motherwell

    In 1984 John Caldwell, a curator at the Carnegie Museum of Art who organized two Carnegie Internationals, introduced me to Jak Katalan.  I was impressed with the quality of his ingenuous art, with its roots in Cubism, Constructivism and Minimalism.  Upon seeing his work, it was obvious he is an artist who understands the complex language of abstraction. He maintains an interest in creating non-representation in which the illusion of nature is completely eliminated.  Abstract art uses visual language of shape, form, color and line to produce a composition that may exist with a degree of independence from actual world visual references.  The end purpose of Katalan’s work was in its organization, experimentation and expressive potential.

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  • A Virtual Vernissage: ‘Google Arts & Culture’ Unveiled

    When a friend raved about Google Arts & Culture, I nodded evasively. The awful truth was I only vaguely knew about this platform—I had heard of it, but had never used it. I wasn’t alone. As I began to explore, I came across a recent piece by Washington POST chief art critic Philip Kennicott where he admitted, “Before the pandemic shut down, I almost never visited the vast trove compiled by Google’s Art & Culture platform. I wrote about it when … it was announced in 2011 and then never paid it a second thought. Today, I find myself slinking back and enjoying parts of it thoroughly.”  (Kennicott, WashPOST, 5/29/2020)

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  • Tucson Arizona Yun Gee Park Gallery, with Contemporary Art Exhibition

    Artists for decades have been interested in exploring the sculptural and reflective properties of light and how it affects an object within the space it occupies.  Larry Bell, one of the artists associated with the West Coast group, “Light and Space,” best known for his glass boxes and large-scaled illusionistic sculptures, created a wide range of work based on the theme of light and reflection beginning in the 1960s.  Throughout his oeuvre Bell used the language of minimalism and geometric abstraction to construct his illusionist fabrications where the existing space became part of sculptures.  The exhibition Transparent, Translucent, Reflective, Refractive” at Yun Gee Park Gallery, in Tucson, Arizona, displays the work by Collen Quigley, Zak Timan and Moira M. Geoffrion who continue along this path of investigation.

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  • Editor’s Letter: June, 2020

    “Art is the reasoned derangement of the senses.”

    ~Kenneth Rexroth

    Left: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Roman Widow (1874)

    WWWWD?

    It’s the silly season again in American politics. Wide-ranging intolerable rants, invectives and urgent pleas are being aimed at the most vulnerable members of our community, marginalizing and vilifying many for simply for not being “one of us,” while seemingly animating others to demand accountability for the actions of the “one-percent.” This Age of Exclusion seems to strike a chord with alarmingly large numbers of people on both sides of the aisle—those fed up with the system, with died-in-the-wool politicians and with a feeling of powerlessness—who then, historically, act on a sense of disempowerment and disenfranchisement to take notice, rise up and agitate for change. This particular essay is not a call for some ill-defined new world order, or even for an upending of our historically-stable republican (small-‘r’) system. Yet, this current state of affairs is all too reminiscent of a passage by William Butler Yeats, who fretted in his 1919 post-apocalyptic poem, The Second Coming, “Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer / Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.”

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  • Remains of the Day at MOCA Toronto / Sarah Sze: ‘Images in Debris’

    Entering the back room of the 2nd floor at MOCA from the brightly lit exhibition of Carlos Bunga’s A Sudden Beginning with its network of boxes, the darkness envelops us, a darkness that blinds. Is what we see real or just a mirage that gives the illusion of an installation? The eye and the mind both have to adjust to the magic world of Sarah Sze’s work, a universe in itself.

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  • On Film & Stage: A Legacy of Madness among Us

    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily “updates” have become must-see TV these days.  Cuomo gives factual descriptions of coronavirus developments in his state with straight-forward clarity.  Like a favorite teacher, he reminds us often that the pandemic brings out both the best and the worst in us.  Our best are the medical, rescue, grocery, and delivery people—they are our heroes.  The worst are those spewing rage-Tweets and flinging responsibility to others. Witnessing angry tantrums on the national stage made me think of famous mad scenes I’ve seen over the years.  Donald Trump can’t hold a candle to Maria Callas!

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  • Tucson Museum of Art-Southwest Rising: Contemporary Art and the Legacy of Elaine Horwitch

    The monumental exhibition, Southwest Rising: Contemporary Art and the Legacy of Elaine Horwitch, is organized by the Tucson Museum of Art and curated by its Chief Curator, Dr. Julie Sasse.  This captivating display not only provides viewers with an intriguing overview of diverse Southwestern art but also is a compelling presentation about a visionary gallery dealer who altered the perception about fine art of this area of the United States.

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  • PANDEMIC DIARY: April 2020

    Freud believed that humor and artistic expression are really displaced anger.  The New Yorker cover showing Trump wearing his face mask as a blindfold gives me a chuckle. COVID-19 has unleashed a deluge of internet humor offering a micro-blip of relief.  For the cynically inclined, go to You Tube for “Social Distance” set to “Sound of Music,” or “We Must Fight the Virus,” to the tune of “The Sounds of Silence.” I send and receive them from family and friends. The other day, I noticed that my laughter had acquired a hollow undertone.

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  • What to Read Now: Three Novels About Plagues

    It’s the year of the big virus. We’ve had weeks of #StayTheFHome or sheltering in place, depending on where you live. And in some states, you’re not doing that. You’re going about your regular daily business, going to parties, bars and beaches and getting infected or infecting others.But enough with the happy talk. Let’s talk about death—or at least, about plagues.

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  • Art of Leadership: Erik Larson’s ‘The Splendid and the Vile’

    In 2014, amidst complex machinations over Britain’s role in the European Union, Boris Johnson (in his pre-Prime Minister days) was prompted to write a biography of Winston Churchill. He wanted people to be reminded how a singular figure—in this case, the wartime British leader Churchill—could play an essential role in the life of a nation. When Churchill took office in 1940, appeasement of Hitler was still a popular idea, but Churchill fought to ditch such rubbish and instead led Britain to war. In Johnson’s words, Churchill’s leadership “saved our civilization.” (Johnson, Winston Churchill, p. 5)

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  • D.C.’s Phillips Collection with “Riffs and Relations: Af-Am Artists & European Modernism”

    The Phillips Collection along with Dr. Adrienne L. Childs, an independent scholar, art historian and curator, organized the exhibition “Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition”.  It presents 72 works by 53 artists, leaning heavily on contemporary work juxtaposed with distinguished early 20th century European Modernists such as George Braque, Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and noteworthy African-Americans as Romare Bearden, Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence and Alma Thomas.

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  • Provincetown’s 14th Annual Tennessee Williams Theater Festival

    Each year, for the past fourteen, David Kaplan, the curator and co-founder of the annual Tennessee Williams Theater Festival in Provincetown, has had the daunting and, as he might say,’ blessed’ task of mounting a high-wattage festival that shines an incandescent light onto Williams’ fantastical multi-storied life and works.  Guided by Kaplan’s fertile imagination, a large staff, and a healthy parade of donors, organizations, volunteers, businesses, and theater companies from around the world – it does take a small army – the Festival has grown every year since its inception in quality, content, and audience attendance. Nowhere, other than the cities of New Orleans and St Louis – both of which have their own annual Williams Festivals – can audiences get to grandly feast on a never-ending cornucopia of all things Tennessee.    

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  • Washington’s National Gallery Showcases ‘Degas at the Opera’

    For today’s audiences entranced by cell phone entertainments, the idea of going to a grand communal event is a rarity if not a total unknown. But there was a time when entertainment aimed at conveying a larger national character.  For nineteenth century France, the Paris Opera declaimed itself the grandest of the grand—it was the nation’s cultural and social center, and people dressed in high foppery to showcase the importance of being French. It was all about unabashed spectacle.

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  • NYC’s The New Group: ‘Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice’

    Surprise of all surprises, the 1969 movie “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” thanks to The New Group and Pershing Square Signature Center, is back in the news again—this time, not as a film but as a play with music. Cleverly directed by Scott Elliott, from a book by Jonathan Marc Sherman, the musical has dialogue and locations nearly identical to those in the film.

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  • NYC’s Cherry Lane with ‘The Confession of Lily Dare’

    In or out of drag, whether on stage or page, the 65-year-old actor playwright Charles Busch, with some forty years of show business under his belt, is a force to be reckoned with. His signature calling card is in his allover inventiveness, his humorous tongue-in-cheek playfulness, looking outrageously spectacular in a gown and wig, and most importantly, a straightforward honesty in everything he touches. In short, Busch is entirely believable even when he is not.

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  • NYC’s Baryshnikov Arts Center: Tú Amarás (You Shall Love)

    After performing around the world, Bonobo, the internationally acclaimed Chilean experimental theater company finally made its way to New York City’s Baryshnikov Arts Center, with Tú Amarás (You Shall Love), a socio-political offering with a surreal touch that examines what is an enemy, how do we create one, and how do we connect to others?

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  • Toronto’s New, Sleepover Gallery: An Interview with Founder, Apollonia Vanova

    Emese Krunák-Hajagos (EKH): As you’ve said, Darren Gallery is reopening with a new concept, Sleepover Art Gallery, after a long and painful renovation. Where did this idea come from?

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  • A Stunning Exhibition (and Quagmire) at The Mattress Factory,“Factory Installed 2019”

    The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh is internationally acclaimed for showcasing some of the most innovative and divergent selections of installation art in the United States.  Its co-founders, the late Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk, very early recognized the importance of Installation art that celebrates a shift in focus from object-hood and what art visually represents to what site-specific work could communicate about a place while providing unique experiences for viewers.  Since 1977, this institution has given over 600 artists the opportunity to experiment, take risks, and explore the creative process while engaging with the community through its residency program.

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  • Money, Matrimony & Madness, at Irish Rep’s ‘London Assurance’

    First things first. Before I delve into the Irish Repertory Theater’s marvelous production of London Assurance by Dublin-born playwright Dion Boucicault (1820-1890) – extended now through Sunday, February 9 – I must say that the award-winning Irish Rep is a gift from heaven.

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  • Make It Mine! Washington Theaters Update Classics for Today 

    The current passion for reinventing ‘classics’ to fit today is replete with both good intentions and overbearing ego. The core idea of a ‘classic’ is that it has something significant to convey over time. Updating ideas of significance for contemporary audiences can work wonderfully, but there are also huge opportunities to create flops.

    The movie Little Women opened to popular and critical cheers this past Christmas. Director Greta Gerwig has explained that she loved the Louisa May Alcott classic as a child, but that it conveyed such new relevance when she re-read it in her 30s that she had to make it into a film. There have been earlier movie versions—notably the 1933 movie directed by George Cukor and starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo—but Gerwig thought a new movie could beautifully encapsulate the book’s core ideas intersecting women with ambition, art, and money.  Meryl Streep’s Auntie March gives an iron-fisted definition of how women in the 19th century had to marry unless they had their own economic independence—unless, as Auntie chortles, they were rich like she was.

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  • J. M. W. Turner: Watercolors from London’s Tate, at Mystic Seaport, CT

    The exhibition J. M. W. Turner: Watercolors from Tate, presented at the Mystic Seaport Museum in partnership with Tate, London, offers the largest number of this master’s watercolors to be seen in the USA in decades and it is the only North American venue.  David Blayney Brown, the Tate’s Manton Senior Curator of British Art 1790-1850, curated this superb display that provides viewers with an extraordinary chance to see key watercolors spanning the entire career of this prominent artist.  The distinct assortment of 97 works were chosen from the legacy known as the “Turner Bequest,” comprised of more than 30,000 works on paper, 300 oil paintings, and 280 sketchbooks.  The vast collection was bequeathed to Great Britain after the artist’s death in 1851 (b. (1775).  According to Brown, “Here we see not the public Turner, whose large oil paintings hung prominently in the Royal Academy, but the private artist who continually tested compositions, color, and tactile effect.”

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  • Philanthropy Today: Murky Waters, Quirky Consequences, and the Joys of Public Art

    Philanthropists may fancy themselves the Medici of today’s art world. Demanding or endearing, they control the money that shapes public access to contemporary art and culture. The Sackler family has earned the consequences of outraged headlines, with the Louvre the latest museum to scrub “Sackler” from its walls. Other major museums like the Met, the Guggenheim, and the Tate have stopped accepting Sackler money.

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  • How Many Tears Are Enough? An Installation by June Ahrens

    June Ahrens’ installation How Many Tears Are Enough? is a contemplative work that slowly reveals its intricate symbolic, emotional content. It is comprised of various types of shape defining wires and ropes suspended from the ceiling, all hovering just above long sheets of highly reflective silver Mylar. While the main expression of three-dimensional lines dominates most of the space of the University of Connecticut’s Stamford Art Gallery, there is also a back wall covered with unadorned black, knotted rope that creates a waterfall-like backdrop. When seen together, these two works give gallery visitors a basis for establishing personal links that may be viewed by some, as a dramatic field of ascending souls.

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  • Heroes of the Fourth Turning; a Conservative Christian Fugue

    Will Arbery’s latest play, Heroes of the Fourth Turning, having been extended two times by popular demand, is now running Off-Broadway through Sunday, November 17, at New York’s Playwrights Horizons.  With more religious, personal, and political exposition (read talk) than many a mind can absorb at one sitting, Heroes of the Fourth Turning is essentially a snapshot of the current divisive state of affairs in this country. It is a play that not only digs deep but demands one’s fullest attention. In short, this is not a play that one can sit back, relax, and let it gently waft over you.

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  • Harold Pinter’s ‘Betrayal,’ on Broadway: From the End to the Beginning

    “I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.”~Harold Pinter, taken from his 2005 Nobel Prize Lecture

    When I first heard that Harold Pinter’s Betrayal was coming to Broadway I was thrilled. I was long craving for something above and beyond the usual Broadway fare: something challenging that would set my brain to thinking, and my heart to feeling.  On the other hand, having seen Betrayal a number of years ago and remembering virtually nothing about it, I was of the mind that this play, based on Pinter’s own seven-year extra-marital affair during the 1960s, and written in reverse chronological order, was a one-trick pony.

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  • Washington’s Folger Theatre with Henry IV, Part 1: The Art of Falstaff

    The Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., has opened its 2019-20 season with a production of Henry IV, Part 1. The theater describes the play as a “layered coming-of-age tale of power, rebellion, honor, and redemption.” It’s actually much more worthwhile than this pro forma statement.

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  • Sculptor, Patrick Dougherty and ‘A Passing Fancy’ in Falmouth, MA

    Patrick Dougherty is motivated to work with stick materials because of increased massive urbanization and the destruction of forests all over the United States.  Knowing that sticks have been a foundation for human survival across cultures and throughout time –being used for building shelters, ladders, and tools for hunting in addition to keeping warm and cooking—he finds them a universal material for his work.  Since the early 1980s Dougherty has been fabricating huge environmental installations that he calls Stickworks.  The majority of his large, quirky and temporary pieces take approximately three weeks to construct and each monumental sculpture is distinctly unique.  Prior to starting a work he takes time getting to know the milieu in which it will be created, oft visiting the place several times prior to its actual construction. The installation’s final shape results from Dougherty’s observations about the overall locale, the interaction of the volunteers in the community who help build the work, as well as the specificity of the site where it is erected.

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  • The Art of D. Dominick Lombardi: Deciphering the Unconscious

    In the late fifties my parents purchased a 1956 edition of the American Peoples Encyclopedia. I vaguely remember their being stressed about affording the encyclopedias, since my family had just moved into a home my father built himself, and we didn’t have much money left over, even for furniture. Despite his trepidations over the purchase price, my father carefully measured and built a bookcase for the encyclopedias so they would be safely stored until their future use. One day, when I was about three or four years old, I pulled down one of the books, opened it, and saw an image of Picasso’s anti-war masterpiece, Guernica (1939).


    Whistling Bird, 1998, Wood, acrylic and plastic laundry soap bottle, 16.5 x 17 x 13.5 inches 

    At that time I had no idea what I was looking at, but when I saw the image, a painting that expressed the collateral damage of the Spanish Civil War in one Basque town as an abstracted event, I was mesmerized. Right then and there, I knew on some deep level that I was face to face with a most significant and meaningful picture, not only based on the feeling I got from it, but that it was found in one of those very important books that seemed to both disturb and enhance my family’s lives. Later, I must have visited that painting, then located at the Museum of Modern Art, at least twenty times before it was sent back to Spain in 1981. I cherished every moment I spent with that painting, as it taught me so much about the power of art. 

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  • New York Gallery, Elga Wimmer PCC, with: ‘Pink Dreams in a Land with No Name’

    On view at Elga Wimmer PCC, the exhibition “Pink Dreams in a Land with No Name,” curated by Roya Khadjavi, presents nineteen visual art works comprised of twelve mixed media pieces and nine laser cut canvas collages, created by Iranian born artists Sara Madandar and Shahram Karimi, who both currently reside in the U.S.   The show explores the strategies the artists have conjured in order to come to terms with their experiences as immigrants living a demanding cross-cultural existence, intensified by the anti-immigration political climate in the U.S. and the social constraints inherent in Iran.  Through the creative process of confronting, sorting, and clarifying painful memories and impulses, elucidating notions of place, nation, gender and self, the artists forge the essence of their inner identities and current personas, in works that speak to the feelings and difficulties of displaced people worldwide.

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  • Broadway’s Sea Wall/A Life: Love and Loss on a Bare Stage

    Sea Wall/A Life, two extraordinarily, powerful, one-act plays, presented in monologue form, are holding court at the Hudson Theatre on Broadway. Fueled by strong reviews, and the star power of film and stage actors, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Strurridge, it is one of the most deeply moving productions currently gracing the stage here in New York City. With word-of-mouth religiously shouting hosannas! this starry-eyed production is already being touted (by those that tout) as a Tony contender in several categories, acting and direction (Carrie Cracknell) among them. Closing night is Thursday, September 26 and tickets are tight. Just Saying!   

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  • Smithsonian AAM’s “Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975,”

    In a time when exhibitions about gender, race and politics have become repetitive, one is habituated to seeing political art in museums and galleries.  Despite the prevalence of such shows, few offer much depth beyond routine media coverage or reveal substantive significant works of art. The poignant survey titled “Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975,” organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum is an exception to political shows not only because of the extraordinary selection of 115 works by 58 visionary artists of the time but also because of the diversity of the art and artists.  The inclusion of African-Americans, Asian American, Latinos and many women artists is admirable!  

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  • ‘Love, Noël: The Songs and Letters of Noël Coward’—Elegance of Yesteryear

    “There are probably greater painters than Noël. Greater novelists than Noël, greater librettists, greater composers of music, greater singers, greater dancers, greater comedians, greater tragedians, greater stage producers, greater film directors, greater cabaret artists, greater TV stars, and so on. If they are, they are fourteen different people. Only one man combines all fourteen different talents The Master,  Noël Coward”— Lord Louis Mountbatten’s toast to Noël Coward on his 70th birthday.

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  • Three Washington, D.C. exhibits: Women’s Suffrage at 100—Equal Rights Delayed

    In a letter written to her husband John on March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams enjoined him to “remember the ladies” as the Founding Fathers defined the rights of Americans under independence. “Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands,” she continued, for women did not want to be “bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

    Adams and his cohort didn’t abide by Abigail’s words, and even as we currently celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment’s passage this year—and ratification next summer—Suffrage remains but a landmark in the ongoing fight for equal pay and equal rights for women.

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  • New York’s Lincoln Theater with ‘The Rolling Stone’: Deadly Plight of Uganda’s Gays

    While New York City recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising with much hoopla and an enormous traffic-stopping Gay Pride parade that went on well into the night, New York’s Lincoln Center Theater chose to feature the other side of the coin by mounting the American premiere of playwright Chris Urch’s The Rolling Stone. Sensitively directed by Saheem Ali – the play, an import from London – is scheduled to run through Sunday, August 25th.

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  • D.C.’s Smithsonian with David Levinthal Photos: “American Myth & Memory”

    The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s exhibition “American Myth & Memory, curated by Joanna Marsh features the uncanny fictional photographs by American photographer David Levinthal.  Born in San Francisco, California, in 1949 he was shaped by the United States ‘Golden Age’ of television and the proliferation of commercial advertising during the prosperous economy of the 1950s and 1960s. 

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  • New York’s Playwrights Horizons: ‘A Strange Loop’—Revealing!

    In the past year or three there have been a healthy number of beautifully  crafted, wonderfully acted, and solidly produced black-centric plays both on Broadway and Off that have examined from every conceivable angle – historically, sociologically, and psychologically – what it means to be black in the United Sates, both past and present.

    To joggle my mind as well as yours New York theatres have hosted Father Come Home From The Wars, Choir Boy, The House That Will Not Stand, Fabulation, The Color Purple, An Octoroon, American Son, Daddy, The Secret Life of Bees, The Slave Play (previewing on Broadway this coming September), and the still running The Rolling Stone, and Pulitzer Prize winning Fairview. Most all were favorably reviewed.  However, not since A Strange Loop which is currently running thru July 28th at Playwrights Horizons have we come across a many faceted in your face gay male character like Usher (the extremely talented Larry Owens) who spares no detail, however raw, intimate, personal, scatological and sordid–and it is all of those and more–in the telling and showing of his life.

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  • New York’s Laura Pels Theatre: ‘Toni Stone’ Knocks It Out of the Ballpark

    April Matthis, as Toni Stone (1921-1996) the first woman to play professional baseball in the Negro League, is knocking it out of the ballpark every night at the Laura Pels Theatre through August 11, 2019.The play, lightly based on Martha Ackmann’s book “Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone,” is overwhelmingly inspirational, deeply humane, and totally moving.With Toni Stone, the bases are loaded with the crème de la crème of the theatrical world – from Lydia R. Diamond’s poetically crafted play to Tony Award-winning director Pam MacKinnon’s direction and the inventive choreography by Camille A. Brown – all of whose finely calibrated work radiate a deeply ingrained brilliance.

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  • Celebrating Fame in Black and White: Alfred Eisenstaedt and LIFE Magazine

    Alfred Eisenstaedt was one of the four original photographers Henry Luce hired to launch LIFE Magazine in 1936. Born in Poland in 1898, Eisenstaedt became a professional photographer in the 1920s and ‘30s, working for the Associated Press to document the transformation of Europe. With the rise of Hitler, he immigrated to the United States in 1935, and would work for LIFE Magazine from its inception until its final publication in 1972. More than 90 of his photographs were LIFE covers, and over 2,500 of his photo essays were published by the magazine.

    The November 5, 1965 LIFE featured Eisenstaedt’s elaborate photo essay on businesswoman/socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post, an occasion that has now inspired the Hillwood Museum to organize an exhibition centered both on that article and on Eisenstaedt’s work at LIFE–Mid-Century Master: The Photography of Alfred Eisenstaedt.   

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  • Sins of the Father

    THE MINUTE I SAW HIM IN THE WAITING ROOM I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy case. Stefan was wearing sunglasses; he was slow to put down his magazine. Trudging several paces behind me, he hesitated at the threshold of my office, where he insisted that I choose which chair he should sit in. He waited to be interviewed.

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  • Editor’s Letter, June 2019: Towards a Critical Insurgency

    Editor’s Note: Recently, a number of young art critics were asked to discuss the particular challenges contemporary art writers face, including student debt, material precariousness, an oversaturated job market, a general lack of editorial attention or guidance, the prevalence of online publishing, and more. Panelists presented in partnership with the School of Visual Arts (SVA), their BFA in Visual & Critical Studies and MFA in Art Writing. Among the presenters was, Will Fenstermaker, an editor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and an associate editor at the Brooklyn Rail. His comments at that New York City event, presented here as a Guest Editorial, consider what possibilities exist for art criticism in our moment.

    A few weeks ago, we were given prompts for our opening remarks. One was the question, “Do you think there is a crisis in the field of art criticism?” I first learned that criticism was in crisis when I was enrolled at the MFA Art Criticism & Writing program at SVA (School of Visual Arts) in New York City.

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  • Washington’s Freer Gallery with Whistler’s Watercolors: a Rare Look

    Gilded Age industrialist Charles Lang Freer met artist James McNeill Whistler in London in 1890. Whistler was an American expatriate artist who had reinvented himself in the previous decade after suffering a serious fallout with his chief patron, Frederick Leyland, over Whistler’s resplendent but over-the-top design for Leyland’s “Peacock Room.”

    The Peacock Room, designed by James McNeill Whistler for shipping magnate Frederick Leyland in 1876
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  • Geva Theatre Center’s ‘The Royale’: A Simple but Stunning Production

    Virtually all of our leading contemporary repertory theaters now include non-traditional experimental techniques in staging not only original new work but also – even especially – to perform and reconsider revivals of historic classics. Canada’s great Stratford Festival now regularly gives us Shakespeare revivals with actors playing characters of the opposite sex, six or seven actors performing plays written to have a cast of more than 30 characters, and realistic people and animals played by puppets. Understandably, their audiences are sharply divided in response.

    Stratford’s recent very popular and admired version of Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” not only presented the required characters of the two sets of twin-brother masters and servants who confuse everyone they meet about which twin brother is which, but also cast women as male twins and men as women in most of the main roles. The multiple mix-ups got much amused approval; but I thought them to be just wrong and not confusing enough to have fooled Helen Keller. But I have to admit that my local theater is currently turning abstraction into a knockout punch.

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  • Book Review: Walter Gropius, Visionary Founder of the Bauhaus

    Award-winning author and critic Fiona MacCarthy is out to change wrong-headed perceptions of Walter Gropius in her biography. And she succeeds.

    His first (and angry) wife Alma Mahler, also Gustav’s first wife, described Walter Gropius bitterly and unflatteringly in her memoir on their combative marriage. Evelyn Waugh satires him in his novel Decline and Fall as the stiff and doctrinaire Otto Silenus. In his book Bauhaus to Our House, author Tom Wolfe uses him as a human swizzle stick in a sour cocktail raised to modernist architecture as little more than soulless functionalism. Frank Lloyd Wright admirers championed the latter’s “nature” inspired approach to design over Gropius’ purely rational and functional use of glass and steel. For them, Wright was warmly organic; Gropius was dismissed as all angles, coolly geometric. Over the years, he was often described by architectural critics and historians as humorless. However, in truth, though certainly ‘Germanic courtly’ in demeanor, Gropius could be quite charismatic and socially adroit.

    Thankfully, award-winning author and critic Fiona MacCarthy is out to change wrong-headed perceptions in her biography. And she succeeds in challenging too long held notions that Gropius, the founder of Bauhaus, one of the fathers of modern architecture, was austere, cold, and withdrawn. Rather than giving us a portrait of a mechanical architectural rationalist, she underscores Gropius’ humanity, and how that inspired his visionary philosophy as well as the consummate aesthetic courage he showed in through an extremely volatile, even dangerous, political age.

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  • AIPAD’s NYC Photography Show: ‘Eight Photographs Out Of Thousands’

    Earlier this month (April 4-7), the Association of International Photography Art Dealers, widely known as AIPAD, celebrated its 39th edition of The Photography Show.  Situated at Pier 94 on the Hudson River in New York City it featured nearly 100 fine art photography galleries and project spaces from around the world. Also on premises were numerous talks, and some two dozen plus booths populated by book dealers, publishers, and photography related organizations.

    Roughly speaking, 57% of the galleries represented came from the US, with the majority from New York City (29) and California (13). Twenty galleries came from Europe (France 7, London 6), 2 from Asia, 2 from South America, and one – the Stephen Bulger Gallery from Toronto, Canada.  I specifically mention Bulger, as I have seen a number of wonderful exhibitions there, and I have long loved the city of Toronto.  

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  • National Museum of Women in the Arts: Ursula von Rydingsvard, ‘The Contour of Feeling’

    Ursula von Rydingsvard, ‘For Natasha,’ 2015; Cedar and graphite, 9 ft. 1 in. x 6 ft. 7 in. x 3 ft. 6 in.; © Ursula von Rydingsvard, Courtesy of Galerie Lelong & Co.; Photo by Michael Bodycomb.

    Ursula von Rydingsvard is a notable sculptor whose work ranks high among women artists of her generation including Jackie Winsor, Mary Miss and Alice Aycock.  Rydingsvard was born in Deensen, Germany of a Polish mother and Ukrainian father.  During the German occupation of Poland, she along with her six siblings underwent the suffering of World War II, and lived in German refugee camps for banished Poles.  In 1959, because of the U.S. Marshall Plan and the assistance of Catholic agencies, her family came to the United States where they re-located to Plainville, Connecticut.  Her early tumultuous history persists to inform her immense work resulting in an intimidating beauty.  Resembling landscapes ravaged by external forces, von Rydingsvard’s art evokes the abstraction of Cubism and possesses an irresistible magnetism. (more…)

  • D.C.’s  Smithsonian Freer/Sackler & National Geographic Museum with ‘Empresses’ and ‘Pharoahs’’

    The Smithsonian’s Freer/Sackler Museum has opened a stunning exhibition that showcases the Empresses of China’s long-lived Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).  A collaboration with the Peabody Museum and Beijing’s Palace Museum, “Empresses of China’s Forbidden City” is intended to address the neglected history of these women: the press release argues that “male officials who wrote Qing court history recorded very little” about the Empresses’ activities, and this exhibit is meant to tell the little known stories of how these women lived and how they influenced politics and international diplomacy.

    Above, left: Empress Dowager Chongqing at the Age of Eighty, Ignatius Sichelbarth (Ai Qimeng, 1708–1780), Yi Lantai
    (act. ca. 1748–86), and Wang Ruxue (act. 18th century) China, Beijing, Qianlong period (1736–95), 1771 Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
    Palace Museum, Gu6453 © The Palace Museum. (more…)

  • Toronto’s Kananaj Gallery with Emmanuel Monzon: Urban Sprawl Emptiness

    All mages are 30 x 30″, Digital print on Canson Arches Infinity Watercolor Paper (acid free), framed, Limited edition (1/3 ed of 3 +1AP), 2018. Courtesy of Robert Kananaj Gallery and the artist.

    Solitude surrounds the guest when entering Emmanuel Monzon’s exhibition at Robert Kananaj Gallery. All the photographs seem similar at first glance in their quiet compositions and monochrome colours. Taking a closer look, one recognizes their nuances – and becomes mesmerised by their magical beauty. They radiate an ephemeral, almost surreal tension that captivates the viewer. (more…)

  • New York City’s Elga Wimmer PCC with Group Show: ‘Material Culture’

    Aida Izadpanah, Alignment series, Handmade, fired, painted porcelain on wooden board, 12 x 12,” 2019

    Elga Wimmer PCC presents “Material Culture,” an exhibition of five Iranian artists, curated by Roya Khadjavi that includes staged photographs, installation photography, porcelain sculptural reliefs, minimalist abstract art and abstract porcelain landscape paintings. The term “material culture” implies that the artists do not visualize their outcomes in advance, but rather their art emerges through the working process, by means of intuitive experimentation in which clues for resolution ensue from the materials. The show includes works by Massy Nasser-Ghandi, Aida Izadpanah, Maryam Khosrovani, Dana Nehdaran and Maryam Palizgir. (more…)

  • Broadway’s Imperial Theater- ‘Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations’

    Ephraim Sykes, Jeremy Pope, Jawan M. Jackson, James Harkness, and Derrick Baskin in AIN’T TOO PROUD (all photos by Matthew Murphy)

    There are few examples of jukebox musicals – a denigrating term if ever – that have blown me away. In fact, without over taxing my brain, Jersey Boys, which dramatizes the formation, success and eventual break-up of the 1960s rock ‘n’roll group The Four Seasons is the only jukebox musical of import that immediately comes to mind.

    Directed by Des McAnuff, and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, Jersey Boys opened on Broadway at the August Wilson Theatre to rave reviews in November 2005. Winning four Tony Awards, one for Best Musical, after 4642 performances it closed in January 2017. (more…)

  • A Creative Camelot: The Bauhaus and Harvard University

    Founded shortly after World War I in Germany, the Bauhaus was the most famous and influential avant-garde art and design school in the 20th Century. Its artists, architects, designers  craftpersons and students generated a creative, all-encompassing conversation about the nature of architecture, art and design in the modern era. Over the course of its relatively short, 14-year history, Bauhaus was at first located at Weimar, then Dessau, and finally Berlin (closed by order of Nazi Party, 1932).

    Above, left: The Gropius House, c. 1937-8. Photo: Mark Favermann

    (more…)

  • Washington, D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Theater’s “Nell Gwynn”: Vibrant

    Alison Luff as “Nell Gwynn,” in an Olivier Award-winning comedy at the Folger Theatre. All photos: Brittany Diliberto

    This winter, Washington, D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Theater is giving audiences a glorious celebration of why theater matters.  Nell Gwynn is a boisterous, riotous romp that conveys theater’s sheer delight.

    The play is recent—written by Jessica Swale in 2015—but focuses on the Restoration actor-ess (as we learn) who transformed theater into an arena where women began to be cast to play women’s roles, rather than the tradition of men-playing-women. (more…)

  • New York’s Petzel Gallery with Dana Schutz: “Imagine Me and You”

    Dana Scutz, Beat Out the Sun, oil on canvas, 94 x 87.5,” 2018

    Petzel Gallery presents “Dana Schutz, “Imagine Me and You,” an exhibition of twelve new large-scale oil paintings and five bronze sculptures that makes visual commentary in multilayered social, personal and political tableaux.  Schutz confidently confront the viewer directly, with breathtakingly fierce, even brutal images. They are not “pretty”; the artist is not overly preoccupied with aesthetics, or with traditional “good taste.”  Her assertive art is instead utterly honest, prepped to seize the awareness of a media-saturated public for whom art, film and television supply an overload of daily visual sustenance. (more…)

  • A Theatrical Double-header on Washington, D.C.’s Stages

    ‘Anything Goes’ at Washington’s Arena Stage

    One of the pure joys of America’s classic musical theater was to create worlds filled with singing, dancing, and topicality.  No one did this better than Cole Porter, and his iconic 1934 Anything Goes fits the bill in Trumpian America as well as it did in the Great Depression.

    Left: Soara-Joye Ross (Reno Sweeney) and Corbin Bleu (Billy Crocker) in Anything Goes. All photos this story: Maria Baranova.

    Washington’s Arena Stage puts on one major American musical each year, and this year’s selection of Anything Goes had audiences on their feet with joyful celebration. The show was presented on Arena’s in-the-round stage, and the boisterous tapping flowed seamlessly to every vantage point. (more…)

  • New York’s Pershing Square Signature Center: ‘Clueless, The Musical’

    L-R: Dove Cameron, Zurin Villanueva in “Clueless, The Musical,” a world premiere Off-Broadway production, from The New Group, at The Pershing Square Signature Center. All Photo credits: Monique Carboni.

    For those that loved Clueless, the 1995 cult movie starring Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd, watched the TV series (1996-99) based on the film, and perhaps read all twenty-one of the Cher young adult books, well, Clueless is back, this time as a two and a half hour, acrobatically dance-heavy, in-your-face, over the top, teenage hormonal-exploding, fun-filled, six-piece band-backed musical. And that’s saying a mouthful!

    Produced by the ever-adventurous The New Group (Sweet Charity, The Jerry Springer Show), and adapted for the stage by Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982) from her original film script, and directed by Kristine Hanggi, Clueless, The Musical is currently running Off Broadway at Pershing Square Signature Center’s smallest theater, through January 12, 2018. (more…)

  • Touring the Galleries of Knoxville: Diversity, Energy and Creativity

    Artist Joseph Delaney stands with his painting ‘VJ Day’ (all images Courtesy of the Ewing Gallery unless otherwise noted)

    As someone who has kept a sharp eye on the New York City art scene since the early 1970s, I must admit that some of my most memorable experiences have occurred in Tennessee. In 2012, it was the Tennessee State Museum where I saw and reviewed an exhibition of the politically charged, multi-media works of John Mellencamp. Later that same year it was the powerful and moving retrospective of the photography and videos of Carrie Mae Weems at The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, both in Nashville. (more…)

  • The Cove Pop-Up Exhibition, Providence, R.I.

    Untitled, Raymond J., color pencil on paper

    Once in a while I stumble upon an exhibition that really opens my eyes and reorients my thinking and understanding of the creative process. The Cove Pop Up exhibition here in Providence, RI, which includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics and utilitarian objects, offers a great number of art works by talented individuals who are dealing with varying degrees of debilitating issues. The exhibition theme is one that should enlighten many, revealing how creative and honest one can be as an individual when unencumbered by thoughts of High Art or fashionable trends. These free-thinking and enlightening individuals are working with the very successful programs offered through The Cove, RHD-RI, Flying Shuttle Studios and edge+end where “adults with developmental disabilities reach their goals” with the creation of some pretty amazing and illuminating works of art. (more…)

  • Brecht’s ‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui,’ at NYC’s Classic Stage Company

    Raúl Esparza (Arturo Ui) , Elizabeth A. Davis (Girl) in Classic Stage production of ‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui’. All photos: Joan Marcus.

    “Every day I read the play, I think, I hear the words these words on CNN as I read them on the page. The play will be falling right around the midterm elections, and it is fitting that it reminds us of the choices that are available to us in relation to the way the world can go. That really is the foundation of what classical theater says. Classic plays have politics at their heart-you take a play like Richard III or the Scottish Play—they’re warnings. And there’s a warning in Arturo Ui. This is a time for theater to say something; if we’re not screaming and shouting now, when are we ever going to do it?”

    — John Doyle, Artistic Director of Classic Stage Company

    For those who love the work being done at the Classic Stage Company and Bertolt Brecht, both of which I do, you had better run to see The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, as its curtain goes down on Saturday, December 22, 2018. Written in 1941, when Brecht was living in exile in Helsinki, Finland, just before he decamped to Hollywood, the play chronicles the rise of Arturo Ui a fictional 1930s Capone-like Chicago mobster and his ruthless attempts to control the cauliflower market by forcefully selling protection to business owners, ironically from his own men. (more…)

  • New York’s Public Theater: Glenn Close in ‘The Mother of the Maid’

    Grace Van Patten (Joan Arc), Glenn Close (Isabelle Arc), in Public Theater’s production of ‘Mother of the Maid.’ All photos, unless otherwise noted, Joan Marcus.

    People on trial, especially women that end up being executed, make good theatre and film, as well as subjects of art. The two reigning queens whose lives still continue to resonate long after their deaths are Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), the last Queen of France, who literally lost her head, and Jeanne d’Arc (1412-1431) who went up in flames nearly seven centuries ago. Done in by politics, both were captured, jailed, put on trial, dragged through the streets and summarily executed, as a kind of entertainment before a boisterous crowd of unruly citizens. And ever since their demise each continue to be resuscitated, again and again, in both fictive and non-fictive modes, for the viewing, listening, and reading pleasure of those of us still alive. (more…)

  • New York Gallery, Elga Wimmer PCC: ‘The Safarani Sisters: Reincarnation’

    Bahareh and Farzandeh Safarani, “5:30 a.m. In the Basement,” Oil paintings on canvas overlaid with video projection, 60×36 inches, 2018.

    Roya Khadjavi Projects presents “The Safarani Sisters: Reincarnation,” a series of fourteen new video-paintings in which the identical-twin Iranian sisters, Bahareh and Farzandeh Safarani, create a plausible world of visual intrigue.  The exhibit features the artists in a performance-based genre of photography, painting and video. Reincarnation refers to the rebirth of one’s psyche into a new body, but here it is the twins’ inner life that undergoes a process of transformation. The Safaranis incorporate the ambient play of shadow, light and reflection to stress interior versus exterior reality in their psychologically potent episodic narratives.  The video projections create convincing atmospheric visual and kinesthetic effects.  Windows play an important role as metaphoric unconscious portals that signify each twin’s quest for self-revelation. (more…)

  • George Shaw: ‘Corner of a Foreign Field’ at Yale Center For British Art

    George Shaw, “Ash Wednesday: 7.00am,” 2004–5, Humbrol enamel on board, Private Collection, courtesy of the artist and the Anthony Wilkinson Gallery, London, © George Shaw 2018.

    In his complex exhibition “A Corner of a Foreign Field, realist English painter George Shaw undertakes a time traveling odyssey to investigate the flourishing forested environs and the remains of Tile Hill, the post war council estate in England where he grew up. From 1996 to 2018, Shaw produced 70 paintings, prints, sketchbooks and 60 drawings that poignantly capture, in a “before” and “after” sequel, images of what a relatively short time ago was a vibrant neighborhood as it atrophies from neglect. The show is subdivided into ten themes that evolve through the course of the exhibition: there is “Recording a World,” “Landmarks and Memorials,” “Graffiti and Abstraction,” “Ash Wednesday,” and “The End of Time,” to name but a few.  The artist blends references to art history, personal memory, popular culture and 70s political realities to create a convincing amalgam of visual art whose reminiscent energy can be viscerally felt. (more…)

  • Washington, D.C.’s Ford Theatre with ‘Born Yesterday’: Delicious!

    Kimberly Gilbert (Billy Dawn), in the Ford’s Theatre production of ‘Born Yesterday.’ All photos: Carol Rosegg.

    Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., has just opened a delicious revival of Garson Kanin’s 1946 play, Born Yesterday. The original Broadway production starred Judy Holliday as showgirl Billie Dawn, and she won a Best Actress Oscar for that role in the 1950 movie.

    Ford’s has kept Kanin’s script intact, and director Aaron Posner explained that they believed this comedy about personal transformation and “the complex underbelly of politics” would resonate with today’s audiences (Ford’s press release). (more…)

  • Three Exhibitions at New York’s Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden

    Sam Bartman, Majestic Waters (2001), mixed media on reflective plastic sheet, 17 x 17″.

    With three exhibitions opening at the Hammond Museum, the big surprise is the work of Sam Bartman. Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1922, Bartman has spent the last 60 years of his life creating stirring paintings that combine some of the most the incompatible materials. In experimenting with what he calls his “special sauce”, Bartman has somehow tamed a mix of resins, varnishes, motor oil, glitter and automotive paints with oils and acrylics that results in everything from endlessly crackling surfaces to minute swirling storms of color. There are even the occasional brushstrokes that push the variously drying materials around, leaving fossil-like impressions of battered brush hairs sorrowfully spent in a furious wake of swished paint. (more…)

  • Arendt-Heidegger: A Love Story Brought to the Stage

    “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e. the reality of experience) and the distinction between the true and the false (i.e. the standards of thought) no longer exist.” – Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), left.

    Thinking is not merely l’engagement dans l’action [engagement in the action] for and by beings, in the sense of the actuality of the present situation. Thinking is l’engagement by and for the truth of Being. The history of Being is never past but stands ever before; it sustains and defines every condition et situation humaine – Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), above, right

    In bringing the lives of political theorist and philosophical thinker Hannah Arendt and philosopher Martin Heidegger to the stage at The Theatre for the New City – the play ran through October 14 – playwright Douglas Lackey, known for his historically grounded, highly-researched, and deeply thought out plays (Kaddish in East Jerusalem, Daylight Precision, A Garroting in Toulouse), has now tackled an historical subject more directly related to his so-called ‘other life’, that of a practicing professor of philosophy.

    Through a series of 23 trenchantly sketched scenes in two acts, the Arendt-Heidegger play billed as a love story, covers the years 1924 when the brilliant, and wide-eyed, 18-year-old Hannah Arendt – some forty years before she coined the eponymous term ‘banality of evil’ which brought her world-wide fame – first meets her teacher,  the 35-year-old, the philosopher Martin Heidegger, soon to be lionized for his book Being and Time (1927), and ends in 1964 in a dramatic confrontation between both parties. (more…)

  • Lunch with Georgia O’Keeffe (at the New York Botanical Garden)

    New York Botanical Gardens, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory

    The most magical ‘back to nature’ attraction for out-of-town-tourists, as well as native dwellers, is New York’s City’s Botanical Garden, situated in the Bronx. With over 250 acres, containing unique tropical and desert habitats, rose and rock gardens, a lily pond filled with goldfish that come to the surface to talk to you, the county’s largest Victorian-era glass house, and miles of lushly planted paths to both walk or tram, this National Historic Landmark preserve is a wonderful way to spend a glorious day.  And most astonishing is a 50 acre old-growth forest of massive maples, oaks, and chestnuts that has stood, blessedly so, unmoved since the American Revolution. I might add for those that love to shop and eat, there are two eateries, two picnic areas if you prefer to bring your own lunch which I and three friends did, and a wonder-filled gift shop, offering Botanical Garden-raised plants of all kinds for sale. One of those is currently gracing my living room. (more…)

  • ‘Hair’ at Rochester, NY’s Shakespeare Festival Theatre: Stirring & Effective

    Joe Chisholm (Berger), Joshua Carey (Woof,) in Geva Theatre Center’s production of ‘Hair.’ All Photos: Ron Heerkens Jr // Goat Factory Media Entertainment

    I wondered how the old love-rock musical would play these days for an audience of younger folk unfamiliar with Hippie rebellion , flower children,‘60s rock music, and a more feminine long-hair style and slovenly tie-dyed clothes-styles. For that matter, I wasn’t so sure how the now-rather-old folks, mostly more establishment, would regard it.  I saw its original New York Public Theatre production and Broadway Premiere, and loved most of the many others I saw in many places; so I knew that all they had to do was start singing “Let the Sun Shine In”, and I’d be in tears. (more…)

  • SRO Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, with ‘Photo-A-GoGo’: It’s Elementary

    Photo-A-GoGo presents art that has photography as an element, whether it is predominant or used as a minor accent, to show how the creative process now parallels or responds to the ubiquitous social digital/exchange mentality. We have the MIME, Instagram, Snapchat, all the ways we express or project our ideas or self-image – so the photograph, instead of being “worth a thousand words” is now as common as a mosquito in July. However, that does not mean that art or the intention behind it or the imagery utilized is, in the end, benign.

    Left: Don Doe, Fille Sans Dot, Fille Avec Dot (2017), giclee, 22 x 15″ (more…)

  • National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., has a ‘Sense of Humor’

    The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has opened a new exhibition that celebrates “the rich, yet often overlooked, tradition of humor on paper.” Reminding us that humans are capable of laughter, Sense of Humor chronicles how the graphic arts have captured our fundamental desire to be amused.

    Left: Robert Crumb, Zap, no. 1, 1968, paperback with half-tone and offset lithographic illustrations, Gift of William and Abigail Gerdts, 2014.

    Popular culture has cheerfully tapped into this desire. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) perhaps said it best in the song, “Make ‘Em Laugh/Don’t you know ev’ryone wants to laugh?” (Words & lyrics by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed) While “high arts” like painting and sculpture have rarely considered humor a worthy subject, popular culture has never felt such restraint and has always reached out to far wider audiences than one-off paintings or sculpture. (more…)

  • Conserving Cultural Heritage—the Tangible and Intangible

    Columbia’s Cartagena, is a 500-year old urban jewel in the Caribbean. But climate change and rising sea levels threaten its heritage.

    Urban planning is the formulating of a strategy for design and regulation of the uses of space in a city, town, or metropolitan region. The profession focuses on the physical form, economic functions, and social impacts of the urban environment, as well as on the specific location of different activities within the city space. Urban planning draws on engineering, architecture, and landscape architecture, as well as economic, social, and political concerns. Thus it is a technical profession that depends on political will and public participation — in order for it to succeed development must be regulated. (more…)

  • Where to Draw the Line, at Rhode Island’s OneWay Gallery

     

    Stephen Cook, My Disease My Infection (2017), charcoal, oil stick and aluminum paint on paper, 77 ¾ x 61 ½”.

    It was one year ago that I first became acquainted with the work of Stephen Cook, and OneWay Gallery. Being in Narragansett, I was not expecting to see much beyond the stereotypical sails and sunsets in any ‘art gallery’, so I was completely taken aback by Cook’s versatility and vigor as a contemporary painter. His one-person exhibition featured a number of varied principles and directions, and I instantly read his art as having been created by an energetic and reactive young mind inundated with expressions of socio-cultural information and imagery. So I began to take notes for a review seeing that moment as a great opportunity to get to know the artist and his work. (more…)

  • New York Theatre: Renee Taylor Returns, ‘My Life on a Diet’

    Renee Taylor, in “My Life on a Diet” Photo by Edward Rubin

    Most famous people who are long in the tooth–if they are not dead, quietly retired, or resting on their well-earned laurels–tend keep a very low profile. You rarely hear about them. But not the indefatigable, 85-year- old Renee Taylor, an Energizer bunny, whose funny and bittersweet autobiographical, one-woman-show, My Life on a Diet, is currently playing to full houses at St. Clement’s Theatre, here in New York City. (more…)

  • New York’s Laura Pels Theatre, ‘Skintight’: Love, Lust, Beauty, and Idina Menzel

    Eli Gelb (Benjamin) and Idina Menzel (Jodi). Unless noted, all photos by Joan Marcus (2018)

    Idid not see Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews which by general consensus is said to be his best play to date. But the last three Harmon plays that I did see, Significant Other, Admissions, and the still running Skintight – it closes on August 26th – each, a familiar mixture of comedy and drama containing everything and the kitchen sink, come across less a play, more a TV sitcom in which the playwright’s comedic hand overrides most everything important that is being said. (more…)

  • Tarzan, Singing and Swinging at Atlanta’s Lyric Theatre

    Commodore Primous (Terk) and Vinny Montague (Young Tarzan) in recent Atlanta Lyric Theatre production of ‘Tarzan.’ All photos courtesy of Atlanta Lyric Theatre

    Edgar Rice Burroughs’s fictional character Tarzan was a cultural sensation when it was first appeared on the scene in magazine form in 1912, and then as a popular novel in 1914, both titled “Tarzan of the Apes.” Becoming a big hit with the public, the Chicago-born Burroughs (1875-1950) went on to write an additional twenty-five Tarzan sequels over the next half century. On a frantically productive, life-long roll, Burroughs’ also penned some fifty Sci-Fi and Western novels. When he died, he was believed to have been the writer who had made the most money from films, earning over $2 million in royalties from 27 Tarzan pictures. (more…)

  • ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’ at Ontario’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival

    The intensity of tortured love between the four Tyrones in Eugene O’Neill’s tenderly intimate and brutally heart-wrenching autobiographical tragedy Long Day’s Journey Into Night would be repulsive if it were not so humane, bizarrely and sometimes even comically self-aware, and so believably eloquent and poetic. It is a supreme challenge for actors and directors, and a modern masterpiece. This revival perhaps lacks some of the grandeur of Stratford’s superb two earlier productions, and does some judicious trimming of the text, but it is reasonably faithful to O‘Neill, truly moving, and a welcome return of a classic.

    Above, left: Scott Wentworth as James Tyrone and Seana McKenna as Mary Cavan Tyrone in ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night.’ All Photos: Emily Cooper.
    (more…)

  • Editor’s Letter: July, 2018

     

    “Art is here to prove, and to help one bear, the fact that all safety is an illusion.”
                                        ~James Baldwin

     

    Left: Marino Marini, Man on a Horse (1959)

     

    Picasso is a Fake! Believe Me.

    I’m wondering about something I’ve heard a lot of people talking about. This isn’t coming from me. I’ve just heard a lot of people talking about Picasso and what he might have been up to. Look at the facts: have you ever seen him make a painting? He stands beside something he says he’s done. But have you ever seen him actually painting? All that coverage and I never have. The press, they try to make it seem like he’s legitimate, but the failing press gets it wrong about me all the time, so why not him? Think about it…if they’re wrong so many times, why should they be telling the truth about Picasso? (more…)

  • Washington’s Hillwood Museum: ‘Fabergé Rediscovered’

    Why do people collect? What drives someone’s passion? Collectors are a fascinating species, perpetually both hunting-and-gathering and then showcasing their accumulated treasures.

    Left: Catherine the Great, 1914, Fabergé Easter Egg.

    Businesswoman and philanthropist Marjorie Merriwether Post is a prime example of a highly-dedicated collector. When her father C.W. Post, founder of the Postum Cereal Company, died in 1914, Marjorie became one of the wealthiest women in the world. She lived in New York City and began collecting to furnish her vast Fifth Avenue apartment, focusing on fine and decorative arts. She was an early patron of Cartier when he opened his business in Manhattan, and she became interested in Russian Imperial art when she began meeting emigres fleeing Russia after the 1917 revolution. According to Malcolm Forbes, Mrs. Post “pioneered Faberge collecting” (Malcolm Forbes, 7/30/1973, quoted in Fabergé Rediscovered catalogue, p. 163). (more…)

  • Manhattan’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Presents “Giacometti”

    The meticulously curated Giacometti exhibition on view at the Guggenheim Museum spans the artist’s early years during his involvement with the Surrealist group (1920s) through his later period when he became associated with the French Existentialist movement in the 1940’s. The exhibition is organized by Megan Fontanella, Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Catherine Grenier, Director, Fondation Giacometti, Mathilde Lecuyer-Maillé, Associate Curator, Fondation Giacometti, and Samantha Small, Curatorial Assistant, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

    Above: Alberto Giacometti – Walking Man I (Homme qui marche I), 1960. Bronze, 180.5 x 27 x 97 cm. Fondation Giacometti, Paris © 2018 Alberto Giacometti Estate/Licensed by VAGA and ARS, New York.
    (more…)

  • Parallel Fields: Three Artists at Manhattan’s Lichtundfire Gallery

    Processing information, data and imagery that accumulates or is set aside from our dominant thinking forms our beliefs, opinions and behaviors. You stub your toe and for the next few hours or so you tread more carefully. You get a speeding ticket and the next time you’re on that particular road you drive more carefully. You stargaze one evening and experience one of the century’s greatest meteor showers, so you continue to look skyward every chance you get. Those very specific lessons both short term and long become bigger, more life changing if you fixate over them. That tendency to obsess, that hyper focus on the mundane to the miraculous is what leads to exceptional thought, creative foretelling and compelling art of modern and contemporary times. (more…)

  • Louise Bourgeois: To Unravel a Torment” at Maryland’s Glenstone Museum

    Mitchell Rales, the science and technology billionaire, and his art historian-wife, Emily Wei Rales, are co-founders and directors of Glenstone Museum (left). The Rales foresee Glenstone Museum as being the “21st century version of New York’s Frick Collection.” The founders aim “to create a seamless integration of art, architecture, and landscape and make it available free of charge to all who wish to visit.” It initially opened in 2006 with a 30,000-square-foot pavilion designed by the late New York architect Charles Gwathmey. The newest pavilion by Thomas Phifer and Partners will open in October 2018, adding 50,000 square feet of new indoor display space to the 9,000 square feet of existing exhibit space, known as the Gallery. Glenstone will become one of the largest private museums in the world, comprised of an arrival hall, entry pavilion, bookstore and two cafés along with 130 acres of designed landscape with newly installed outdoor sculptures. (more…)

  • A Kind of Portrait: “Scenes from the Collection” at the Jewish Museum, NY

    In January, the Jewish Museum in New York opened a major new exhibition, “Scenes from the Collection.” In a series of linked galleries, the Museum presents elements of its distinguished collection, aspiring to draw out “the many strands of Jewish tradition, spirituality, and history brought into expression through artistic creativity” and to create “a mirror of Jewish identities and a guide for the formation of new ones.” In effect, as the exhibition text notes, “Scenes” might be considered “a kind of self-portrait of the Jewish Museum.”

    Left, above: View of the “Constellations” Gallery. Photo by Jason Mandella. Courtesy of the Jewish Museum, NY. (more…)

  • The Art of St Petersburg, Florida

    My trip to St Petersburg, Florida, was as much a success as I could have hoped for. The show I co-curated with Amanda Cooper, Water Over The Bridge: Contemporary Seascapes, is a timely and topical exhibition. Its subject matter, which in large part includes thoughts of climate change and the rising water levels strikes a loud cord here following the wrath of the area’s fall storms. But before I get into the specifics of that exhibition and the exhibition at Leslie Curran Gallery nearby, I want to give you my thoughts on the newest exhibition at St. Pete’s MFA (Museum of Fine Art).

    Above, left: Selena Roman, Untitled (Tube) (2013), Archival inkjet print, Photo: Courtesy of the artist 
    (more…)

  • ‘Nana’ and ‘Hitler versus Picasso and the Others’: A Holocaust Memoir and Nazi Art Theft Explored in Two New Documentaries

    Serena Dykman, director of, ‘Nana,’ a documentary about her grandmother, a concentration camp survivor.

    Two recent documentaries, both directorial feature film debuts, approach the memory and history of World War II from distinctly different and refreshing perspectives.

    Serena Dykman’s “Nana” is a eulogy, not only for her grandmother, Maryla Michalowski-Dyamant, a survivor of Auschwitz who died when Serena was 11, but for all victims of the Holocaust. “I remember a lot of people attending her funeral,” director Dykman recalls. “I remember that she was a very important person, a public person.” And Dykman remembers hearing the vocabulary of her grandmother’s mission – words like “Auschwitz,” “Birkenau,” “ghetto,” “Mengele,” “gas chambers” – “and not understanding them, but knowing they were bad words.” (more…)

  • Sir Moses Jacob Ezekiel: The Jew Who Sculpted Confederate Monuments

    Author’s Note: The ultimately fatal “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia began on Friday night, August 11, 2017 at the Rotunda, the iconic building at the heart of the University of Virginia campus. The ralliers were there to protest the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a public park named for him in downtown Charlottesville. The protesters gathered under a statue of the university’s founder, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s outsized figure stands on an inverted Liberty Bell at the Rotunda’s entrance. Milling at Jefferson’s feet, the protesters shouted neo-Nazi and white supremacist slogans like “Blood and Soil!” “White Lives Matter!” and, in a pointed reference to removing Lee’s monument, “You/Jews will not replace us.” Most likely, not one of them knew that a Jew sculpted that Jefferson image (left). That Jew was Moses Jacob Ezekiel—the very same Jew who sculpted the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

    The Confederate Memorial is one of the tallest and most elaborate structures in Arlington National Cemetery. Erected in 1914, nearly a half-century after the war Civil War ended, the monument was designed and executed by Moses Jacob Ezekiel, an expatriate, gay, American Jewish southerner. The Confederate Memorial is one of several monuments Ezekiel executed glorifying the “Lost Cause” of the Confederacy. The full corpus of Ezekiel’s work reflects his identity as an artist, a southerner, and a Jew. (more…)

  • This Imagined Life: Faith & Romance in a Modern America

    “Into the mystery of this heart which beats / So wild, so deep in us—to know/ Whence our lives come and where they go.” ~ Matthew Arnold, The Buried Life (1852)

    “Of the last two lines, it is probably the last that is obscure to you. Life is as fugitive as dew upon the feet of men dancing in dew. Men do not either come from any direction or disappear in any direction. Life is as meaningless as dew.
    Now these ideas are not bad in a poem. But they are a frightful bore when converted as above.”
    ~Letter to L. W. Payne, March 31, 1928 [Stevens, H.: 250]

    Édouard Manet, Young Woman in 1866 (1866). Met Museum, NY

    It was not until the age of thirty-five that Wallace Stevens published his first body of poetry. The collection was entitled Harmonium (1923), and the inclusion of the poem ‘Sunday Morning’ (1915) by an otherwise cerebral, contemplative young Connecticut poet was, in retrospect, a watershed event. While initially panned by critics, it has gained traction over decades as a particularly luminous example of a nascent, itinerant poet’s work, and is often considered a classic example of the early modernist American genre. But, by undertaking an analysis of an early effort like Sunday Morning, the opportunity to benefit from a more comprehensive understanding of Stevens’s later, more mature poetical aesthetic is missed. In exchange, however, this exemplary work stands on the cusp of an emerging avant-garde style in American poetry—stripped down and clear-eyed in its narrative intent—and prepared, at least in spirit, to leave European literary traditions far behind.
    (more…)

  • A Match Made: Jim St Clair at New York’s Waterfront Museum

    The Waterfront Museum is located afloat, on the waterfront in Red Hook, NY, aboard the landmark-designated, Lehigh Valley Barge #79.

    For the past twenty years the Waterfront Museum, which floats on the edge of New York Harbor about a mile south east of the Statue of Liberty, has featured numerous exhibitions that concern our waterways and coastline. The current exhibition, Derelicts: Oil Paintings by Jim St. Clair, is thanks to the film, theater and television production designer, Dean Taucher who met the museum’s president, David Sharps, and quickly organized the exhibition matching St. Clair’s gritty and highly tactile paintings with this unique and wonderful institution. (more…)

  • Yangyang Pan: ‘The Unveiling,’ at Madelyn Jordon Fine Art

    Yangyang Pan, ‘In Between the Blossom,’ 2018, Oil on linen, 42 x 72 in.

    Yangyang Pan, who was born in 1976, spent the first 30 years of her life in Central China where the meanderings of the Yangtze River, traditional Chinese art and art education shaped her thinking. She even taught art where she studied, at the Sichuan Fine Art Institute, but never realized her full potential as a painter until she moved west to Canada in 2006. At that time, Pan quickly found new inspiration in the work of Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell and Philip Guston, opening up her eyes, mind and emotions through the freedom of Abstract Expressionism. (more…)

  • Editor’s Letter, May 2018

    “Everything that deceives may be said to enchant.”  ~Plato

     

    Left: Pere Borrell del Caso: Escaping Criticism (1874), oil on linen. Banco de España, Madrid.

     

    Artistic Wasteland: The Arts in America in the Age of Military Parades

    On Monday, February 8th, 2016, candidate Donald Trump spoke at a Rotary Club gathering in Manchester, New Hampshire, where several Arts Action Fund members were present and attempted to ask Trump about his position on the arts. While he answered few questions, he did remark on his aesthetic goals for his proposed border wall with Mexico. To paraphrase Trump, he said “And I am going to have to add some designs to the wall because someday they might name it after me and I want it to look real nice” (Source: Americans for the Arts Action Fund). (more…)

  • ‘Hugo Fontela: Nowhere Island’ at New York’s Marlborough Gallery

    Hugo Fontela, ‘Nowhere Island XIII’ (2018), mixed media on canvas, 39 1/4” sq.

    Marlborough Gallery recently presented, ‘Hugo Fontela: Nowhere Island,’ an exhibition of new mixed media paintings whose enigmatic title conveys an air of mystery that stirs curiosity on the metaphysical issues inherent in the unusual leitmotif.  In an era in the art world when individuality has long been depleted by appropriation, when trends devised with no evident antecedents rule, and cronyism perpetuates outdated art modes, a fresh voice is a lifeline.  As the art market is increasingly distorted by inflated commercialism, and only the top of the highest end art stars flourish, it is noteworthy that with clarity and cogency, Hugo Fontela offers a symbolic vision that explores associations which lead to speculation on the very essence of being and existence, in pared down pristine environmental formats. (more…)

  • Footprints in History: Penn Museum with New Middle East Galleries Exhibit

    Clay paving brick, walls of Ur-Nammu (c. 2500 BCE). 37.5 cm sq, 9.5 cm deep. Credit: British Museum/University Museum Expedition to Ur, Iraq, 1926.

    “Without the city, there can be no civilization” ~Ibn Khaldun, 14th–century, CE philosopher and historian

    If ever there were clear evidence of the adage that ‘past is prologue,’ it can surely be found in the newly installed Middle East galleries exhibit at Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Extraordinary artifacts dating back up to 5,000 years Before the Common Era (BCE) are displayed in ways that build on the narrative of an expanding culture, sited principally in the once water and sun-drenched Fertile Crescent (likely site of the Biblical Garden of Eden)—and today’s Iran, Iraq, portions of Syria and Turkey. The preservation of artifacts and the ways in which they can represent the story of everyday life in a Bronze Age community, and thus through five millennia, to their emergence as elegant, highly-organized urban societies is breathtaking and spellbinding.  Curatorial excellence, wedded with extraordinary scholarship were the keys to bringing this exhibition to life—and life’s presence can be felt and seen in what is placed on dynamic interactive display here. (more…)

  • ‘Modern Times: American Art, 1910-1950,’ at Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Marcel Duchamp, ‘Nude Descending a Staircase, No 2’ (1912), first appeared at the Armory Show (1913). Version #3, painted for a patron/collector is part of the “Modern Times” exhibition.

    The ragged shores of America received a wakeup call one day in April, 1913. Shock waves reverberated through a complacent art world on this side of the Atlantic with the opening of the ‘International Exhibition of Modern Art,’ otherwise known as the Armory Show. Three Americans, Walt Kuhn, Walter Pach, and Arthur B. Davies set out to “lead the public taste in art, rather than follow it,” with a three-city tour (New York, Chicago and Boston). The show became an important event in the history of American art, introducing astonished Americans, who were accustomed to realistic art, to the experimental styles of the European avant garde, including Fauvism, Cubism, and Futurism. And while many pieces selected for viewing by European artists, like Matisse, Gauguin, Pissarro and others were already many years old by that time, their worked electrified public opinion, serving as a catalyst for American artists, sending them scrambling for a new, independent narrative style aimed at creating their own “American artistic language.” (more…)

  • ‘Do Ho Suh: Almost Home’ at Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian American Art Museum

    Screen Capture: Installation Artist, Do Ho Suh

    During this era of transience, migration and social technological transformation, the art of Do Ho Suh’s focusing on the importance of home is noteworthy.  Born in Korea in 1962, he came to the United States in 1991 to continue his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University.  He is a highly accomplished artist who spends time between several cities—New York, Seoul and London. Britain currently is his place of residence even though he continues to travel internationally.  He feels his art is inspired by his transient existence and his entrenched memory of homes. (more…)

  • Is Art Obliged to Engage the Viewer?

    Bansky, guerilla street art, Undated

    And by obligation, of course, I mean the artist’s motivation to deliver a work of art to the world that represents a highly individualized statement about a relevant theme or subject. In doing so, should the impact, legitimacy and enduring success of that creative effort be measured by the response of the viewer, alone? Is art only deemed ‘important’ or ‘timeless’ if it resonates with the consciousness of the public? Or is it ultimately a private exercise in expression by the artist, requiring no moral or didactic justification, wherein capturing the attention and interest of the viewer is merely incidental? Is it true, as French artist and critic, Théophile Gauthier, argued in the 19th century, that the artist’s embrace of, “Art for art’s sake” would protect him from the purely utilitarian and pragmatic demands of public taste and other external influences? And must art remain aloof from the currents of public taste to remain cogent today? This polemic is at the heart and soul of the long-standing debate about the creative forces that have shaped the artistic arena in the post-modern era. (more…)

  • Art Gallery Ontario, with Artists Mitchell/Riopelle: ‘Nothing in Moderation’

    Joan Mitchell in her studio, c. 1960

    On my way to this exhibition I was thinking of Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) and Jean-Paul Riopelle (1923-2002), as a golden couple in a post-war, Golden Age. Paris retained its charm and New York was newly ascendant after World War II. Riopelle seemed a ‘golden boy,’ irresistible and charming with his expensive race cars — including Bugattis — boats, properties and artistic success. Mitchell brimmed with athletic confidence, and was not at all shy about her body. Looking at photographs with her lovers, we can’t miss seeing the sexual magnetism she radiated. Theirs was a good match in many ways—but on careful examination, they were anything but a golden couple. (more…)

  • ‘No Spectators’ for Smithsonian American Art Museum’s BURNING MAN

    Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti, ‘Totem of Confessions’ (2015), Photo by Daniel L. Hayes.

    What happens when you plunk large-scale craft installations into a pop-up desert city of 75,000 partying campers?

    Sex, drugs, rave culture, steampunk, and sand bugs all flourish in the 100-degree heat, but Burning Man insists that the major draw is the fantastical art—the wildly mutant vehicles, psychedelic art, and electronic dance music.

    (more…)

  • ‘Cézanne Portraits’ at National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

    Paul Cézanne, Self-Portrait (1883-1887), 44 × 36 cm. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark.

    The landmark exhibition Cézanne Portraits is a collaborative endeavor co-organized by London’s National Portrait Gallery, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC— for this, the final stop of its tour.  Even though modified to some extent, due to loan restrictions, it reveals a remarkable selection of portrayals, disclosing the distinct qualities of this extraordinary artist, a forerunner to Cubism whose work became the essence for abstract art of the 20th century. Both Matisse and Picasso have said that Cézanne “is the father of us all.” Yet Cézanne stands alone between his Impressionist and Post-Impressionist peers for his deep respect for the art of the past.  Throughout his career Cézanne continuously went to the Louvre to consult the Old Masters. (more…)

  • Concordia College’s OSilas Gallery with Serdar Arat: ‘Departing Skies’ (1987-2017)

     

    Serdar Arat, ‘Departing Skies’ (2004), acrylic on wood, 20 x 47 x 2”.

    I believe the first time I had the opportunity to write about the work of Serdar Arat was in 1999. I was with The New York Times a little over a year back then when and I discovered this little gem of an exhibition program in the lower level of the Concordia College’s library. At that time, I wrote his painting was “somewhere between peaceful and puzzling.” I saw his work as representations of “tomorrows vistas”, and in fact, one of the works in that exhibition, his hauntingly beautiful The Island (1998), which is an homage to Isle of the Dead (1880) by Arnold Böcklin, has another, even more recent and beautiful version in Shadow of the Island (2011) in this wonderful exhibition titled Departing Skies: Serdar Arat 1987-2017. (more…)

  • From Nature: An Interview with Val Kilmer, by D. Dominick Lombardi

    Val Kilmer, Photo by Hank O’Neal (all images courtesy of Woodward Gallery, NYC)

    Val Kilmer, well-known actor, director and producer is also an accomplished poet and visual artist. In all instances, the diversely and abundantly talented Kilmer must manage his creative energies in many different ways, but for him it is in the visual arts, like poetry, where there is more of a need or want for experimentation, chance and enlightenment, as poetry and the visual arts are the ultimate internal process.

    Kilmer brings everything to the table, even the very core of our being, as thoughts of God and the origins of the universe vie for his and our attention in his art. I recently had the pleasure of asking Kilmer a few questions to help clarify his process and intent in the following Q & A. (more…)

  • Contemporary Artist, Michael Zansky and ‘The Saturn Paintings’

    What’s attractive to artists about quantum science is that on the subatomic level, matter is in flux. Art is the imitation or the distortion of a thing in another substance. It imagines that all its elements can, if they want, change, swap and mutate characteristics constantly.

    Michael Zansky began making art in the late 70s. He showed in Boston while he was at college at For 40 Years his paintings, drawings and models have addressed the protean character of the human condition. From then to his recent show at the Herron Gallery, University of Indiana, Michael Zansky has been mutating. (more…)

  • Connecticut’s Housatonic Museum of Art with Eclectic Landscape Exhibition: New Perspectives

    Martin Weinstein, Sun Dogs, 3x, (2011), acrylic paint on acrylic sheets.

    In the United States, landscape painting has long served as a metaphor for other themes: symbols of our terrestrial treasures (in the case of the Hudson River School); a post-Civil War “return to order” (in the example of American Luminist painters); our complex national heritage portrayed by Regionalist artists in the Roosevelt era; or the broad, flat expanses of the natural and built environment manipulated by installation artists in the contemporary period. Whether it’s the view out our bedroom window, or from a high summit vantage point, landscapes speak to issues of identity, emotion, inclusion and alienation. (more…)

  • Penny Arcade at New York’s, Joe’s Pub: ‘The Girl Who Knew Too Much’

    Every time I have sex I get into a relationship. Every time I get into a relationship I stop having sex. I found the Bermuda Triangle. It is between my legs. Everyone who goes there disappears out of my life. – Penny Arcade from Longing Lasts Longer

    After three years of touring her one woman show, Longing Lasts Longer around the world, the eminently quotable performance artist Penny Arcade, an uncanny in-your-face, truth-telling Cassandra is back at Joe’s Pub at NYC’s Public Theatre. (more…)

  • Washington’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: ‘Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s’

    Krzysztof Wodiczko, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC, 1988. Public projection at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC, February 13-15, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Lelong, New York. Photo: Joshua Jest

    The 1980s was a tempestuous decade of global political shifts: the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989; along with the demise of Communism; a soaring stock market until the Crash of 1987; and the rise of U.S. right-wing conservatism under President Reagan.  Moreover extensive technological advancement led to Cable Television, with its multiple channels, MTV and CNN allowing viewers greater viewing options, along with late night television and personal computers all contributed to altered visual viewing and the way we received information.[i]   The change in the art canon shifted in the 1970s toward Post-modernism inspired by the rapid spread of Critical and Revisionist Theory.  Additionally the AIDS crisis surfaced in the 80s, the rise of multiculturalism, Feminism theory and the intensive product branding demonstrated by Nike and Calvin Klein advertising on cable TV.  This snap shot of a decade is noteworthy when viewing the Hirshhorn Museum’s exhibition Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s. (more…)

  • New York’s Cavalier Gallery shows Contemporary Artist, Francine Tint: ‘Explorations’

    Francine Tint, ‘Paris Red’ (2017), acrylic on unprimed canvas 51 x 65″ (all images courtesy of the artist). Now at Cavalier Gallery, New York City

    The illustrious forty-plus year career of Francine Tint, established with works in over two dozen museum collections and a number of prestigious grants, continues to amaze. Her latest paintings currently on view at Cavalier Gallery, in New York City, are a whirlwind of subconscious thoughts and responses that quickly take shape in distinctive colors and tantalizing textures. They represent an intuitive and animated journey that emerges from the delicately watermarked and stained unprimed canvas to a weightier, more expressive vocabulary of distinct effortless lines, thick swathes of imposing color and darting detail, to create a wholly visceral sense of atmosphere and depth. (more…)

  • Editor’s Letter: March, 2018

    “Memory is more indelible than ink.” 
                                              ~Anita Loos

     

    Left: Helen Levitt, Untitled, New York City (1939)

    Eight

    When the bronze bell in the hallway clanged to life at three each day, it was our signal to head to the door. “That bell is for my purposes, not yours,” crowed Miss Sweeny, that wattle of skin under her chin now fully animated. But to no avail. A classroom full of eight-year olds was already out of their seats, ready to encounter the warm spring afternoon burgeoning just beyond the school windows, and in the streets of our small New England town. Any semblance of an orderly dismissal—boys on one side, girls on the other—was undone by incessant pushing and shoving in line and the energizing, shared vision of escape to a broader world of possibilities. (more…)

  • Washington’s Round House Theatre with ‘Handbagged’: Power Tools for Powerful Women

    Kate Fahy (Thatcher), Jennifer Mendenhall (Queen Elizabeth) in Round House Theatre production of ‘Handbagged.’

    The title of Moira Buffini’s play says it all:  Handbagged is about women, imagery, and the iconic accessory that symbolizes their status and power. The handbag was a power prop much like FDR’s jauntily-poised cigarette or Churchill’s homburg, but uniquely different because it signified power that wasn’t dependent on men.

    Handbagged focuses on the interaction of two late-20th century women who played major roles on the international stage. Both Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher have used “handbags” as conspicuous signifiers of their status. (more…)

  • Toronto Contemporary Artist, Nicole Collins, Interviewed by Critic, Emese Krunák-Hajagos

    Nicole Collins, ‘Furthest Boundless,’ Koffler Gallery opening reception, 2018, Photo: Dahlia Katz

    Nicole Collins has been exhibiting simultaneously around town, with ‘One Shot,’ at General Hardware and ‘Furthest Boundless’ at Koffler Gallery. I interviewed her about her work.

    EKH: For One Shot at General Hardware you wrote, “The final marks are black (for bile, melancholy), the very first time I used black on a painting, an indicator of an obsession that has played out over the ensuing 24 years and found its’ zenith in Furthest Boundless.” What came first: the theme of death or the color of black? (more…)

  • Broadway’s ‘The Band’s Visit’: Whimsical and Touching

    Katrina Lenk (Dina), Tony Shalhoub (Tewfig) in the award-winning Broadway production of ‘The Band’s Visit.’ All photos: Matthew Murphy

    I knew I had to attend the show. The American Theatre Critics Association’s mini-conference had splendid panels with this gorgeous musical’s creators and performers.

    In my 4th row seat I saw the sold-out matinee and tried not to disturb with my fast-growing lung infection. Then I left Manhattan and flew home. The Broadway opening didn’t occur until five days later. My angry doctor didn’t let me get out of bed, but by then my writing about this haunting, heart-lifting artwork was important only to me. (more…)

  • ‘In the Body of the World’: a Glorious Rebirth for Eve Ensler

    Eva Ensler in One-woman Show, The Body of the World.” All photos: Joan Marcus

    The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking play first came to the attention of New York audiences when it opened Off-Off Broadway in 1996. Since then it has been published in 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Fashioned from some 200 interviews that Ensler conducted among woman in all walks of life and ethnicities, the play openly deals with sex, sex work, body image, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation, masturbation, birth and orgasms, all subjects that the playwright, performer, and activist is still involved with. A recurring theme throughout the monologues is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment, and the ultimate embodiment of individuality. Originally performed by Ensler herself The Vagina Monologues eventually morphed into the lives of many actresses, both unknown and famous, each telling the story of one woman. (more…)

  • Artist, Peter Liashkov’s Lifelong Investigations of Post-Physical Being

    Peter Liashkov, Shall (1967), acrylic, oil, spray enamel on canvas, 51 x 81”, Courtesy of the artist

    Over the course of five decades, Peter Liashkov has produced a significant body of works that he calls  “Sidelife,” a term appropriated from a collection of poems by the Romanian-born poet Paul Celan.  Comprised of paintings and drawings of the human figure, the series posits one of the most basic questions about human existence:  What happens when we die? (more…)

  • Jennifer Lantzas and New York’s Arsenal Gallery Experience—’Natural Impact’

    The Arsenal Building. (Daniel Avila/NYC Parks). Located at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue in Central Park, the Arsenal is the NYC Parks headquarters, and one of two buildings within the park’s borders that predate the park itself. (image: NYC Parks)

    Jennifer Lantzas is one of those very important people you never hear enough about, someone who helps to fulfill our cultural and aesthetic needs at a time when urban living can be a bit challenging and at times overwhelming. As the Deputy Director of Public Art for NYC Parks. Ms. Lantzas is responsible for managing temporary public art exhibitions in city parks throughout the five boroughs, which includes such events as artist workshops, lectures and film screenings. Parks are our most important city refuge. They bring us back to a place of calm, when we can experience a slice of nature amidst the calamity of city life. By adding art carefully and selectively in our many beautiful parks, we can achieve a further enhancement of the spirit at a time when we need it most. (more…)

  • David Hockney at The Met 5th Avenue: “Intoxicating Exuberance”

    David Hockney, A Bigger Splash (detail), 1967. Acrylic on canvas. Tate, purchased 1981. © David Hockney. Photo © Tate, London, 2017

    While described as a retrospective in eight galleries with just 60 paintings, 21 portrait drawings and five of his ground-breaking “Joiner” photo collages the David Hockney exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met 5th Ave.) is a bit of a tease.

    It has been installed by Ian Alteveer, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Met, which collaborated on the exhibition with Tate Britain and the Pompidou Center in Paris. Through February 25 it remains on view in New York. (more…)

  • John Lithgow, Showing and Telling “Stories by Heart” on Broadway

    John Lithgow. Photo: Robert Zuckerman

    For many a theatergoer, John Lithgow, the much-loved 72 year-old actor could read from the phone book and his legion of stalwart fans would gift him with countless oohs, ahs, and a standing ovation. In fact, given his four decades long award-winning Film and TV appearances—6 Tonys, six Emmys, two Golden Globes, Four Grammys, and two Academy Award nominations for The World According To Garp (1982) and Terms of Endearment (1983)—all Lithgow would have to do is walk across the stage and he would be greeted with a tsunami of applause. This is exactly what is happening every night at Broadway’s American Airlines Theatre where he is performing his one man show Stories By Heart through March 25th. (more…)

  • New York’s Belasco Theatre with ‘Farinelli and the King’: Rylance back on Broadway

    Lestyn Davies in Farinelli and the King. App photos: Joan Marcus

    Even before Farinelli and the King, starring Mark Rylance, opened on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre, I was chomping at the bit in anticipation of seeing the ever brilliant Rylance unleash his incandescent magic once again. Winner of three well-deserved Tony’s, Boeing-Boeing (2008), Jerusalem (2011), and Twelfth Night (2014), an Oscar for best supporting actor in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies (2015), not to mention a number of Olivier awards, was enough to have me drooling. (more…)

  • Book Review: Matthew Hahn, ‘The Animated Marx Brothers’—A Look at Humor’s Social Value

    Immersed in wintery gloom and headlines of doom, perhaps it’s time for us to take a deep breath and remind ourselves to laugh!   Humor –remember that?!–is the perfect prescription for sanity.

    From slapstick to Seinfeld, America’s popular culture has always embraced humor. Composers of the classic American songbook extolled happiness in such songs as “Make ‘Em Laugh”, which Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed wrote for Singin’ in the Rain. Who can forget Donald O’Connor’s romp (left) while singing, “You start off by pretending you’re a dancer with grace,/You wiggle till they’re giggling all over the place,/And then you get a great big custard pie in the face,/Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh!” (more…)

  • Editor’s Letter, January, 2018

    “What is honored by a country is cultivated there”    ~Plato

     

    Left: Artist Unknown, The “Cobbe” Portrait of Wm. Shakespeare (early 1700s), owned by Charles Cobbe, Archbishop of Dublin (1686–1765). Undiscovered until 2009.

    Greatness with Grace

    Editor’s Note: It is not ordinary policy at ARTES Magazine to take a political stance on matters, but given the emotionally charged environment in our cherished ‘house divided,’ we must occasionally speak out. Circumstances sometimes necessitate that we reflect on the dire cultural climate in which we, as artists, musicians and writers now find ourselves working. Common ground for those concerned with the arts can often be found in public gatherings, where shared values of open social critique, expository expression and challenged cultural boundaries are the common currency. These moments are rare and when they occur, we should rightly expect our nation’s leaders to lend credence to events honoring those who have devoted their lifetime to giving voice to our values as a People. The 2017 Kennedy Center Honors is just such an event; and while the awards ceremony occurred in early December, the proceedings were only just recently aired on network television. In response to the decision on the part of President Trump not to attend, Playwright Sarah Rule wrote an editorial that appeared in the New York Times on December 25th. It follows here, in its entirety, for your consideration.

    By Sarah Ruhl (for The New York Times Editorial Page)

    Dec. 25, 2017

    On Tuesday night CBS [aired] the Kennedy Center Honors, and President Trump [was] not be on the screen, because he declined to attend the event when it was held on Dec. 3 in Washington. What does it mean that Mr. Trump didn’t have the nerve, for a single night, to be in a room with artists who have criticized him?

    The president’s team claimed that he did not attend so that the artists could celebrate in peace rather than having a political distraction. But the president votes, as we all do, with his feet.

    Though the arts have never been neutral politically, the honoring of artists is a bipartisan ritual. The Kennedy Center was a place where the left and the right could agree that the arts occupy a central place in our culture, worthy of our attention and respect. Artists chosen for the Kennedy Center awards generally have fans on the left and the right and everywhere in between. The checkbooks of art patrons are not marked with their party affiliations.

    I came of age in the culture wars of the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan planned to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, and, instead, ended up whittling down its budget by a small percentage. Still, in 1984, before putting medals on Arthur Miller and Lena Horne among other luminaries, he reflected on the way Americans had developed “a culture that was as fertile as this new land” and had continued to innovate in arts and entertainment.

    “And today our nation has crowned her greatness with grace, and we gather this evening to honor five artists who have helped her to do so,” he said. I never thought I would be quoting Ronald Reagan to make an argument for the centrality of the arts in American life — but his phrase struck me, during the bizarre cultural moment we are living through: “Our nation has crowned her greatness with grace.” Mr. Trump wants “to make America great again” without dissent and without the arts; but can one truly have greatness without grace?

    When President George W. Bush presided over the Kennedy Center awards for the final time, in 2008, one of the honorees was Barbra Streisand, a vocal critic of his policies. After Mr. Bush read her biography, he added, “She’s also been known to speak her mind.” The audience laughed, then applauded. Ms. Streisand later wrote: “President Bush gave me his signature wink and mouthed, ‘We showed ’em.’ I guess in some small way, he and I proved that we could agree to disagree, and, for that weekend, art transcended politics.” The wink and the joke were actually profound — they signaled a functional democracy.

    During his eight years in office, President Barack Obama could be seen one minute on Broadway with Michelle Obama, at August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” or at “Hamilton,” and the cast of “Hamilton”could also be seen at the White House.

    I remember the Obamas appearing on a video feed at the Tony Awards to introduce and exalt “Hamilton,” and thinking: We are living in the golden age of theater. An age in which a poet-politician was at home with the great Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was himself at home with the sonnet form in an acceptance speech. This cultural flowering and embrace of an artist by a ruler made me think of the synergy between Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare. If “Hamilton” represented a national renaissance and a broadening of our democracy, where are we now?

    Shortly after the election, Mike Pence went to see “Hamilton.” Brandon Victor Dixon, who played Aaron Burr, addressed the vice president-elect after the show: “We truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, we truly thank you truly for seeing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.”

    Does it get more Shakespearean than this? The actors speaking an epilogue directly to a ruler? Mr. Trump wanted the cast to apologize. Because, he tweeted, the theater must be a “safe and special place.”

    “Safe and special?” For whom? In an “us” versus “them” culture — when most artists have become a “them” to the ruler, what hope is there for gentleness in civil discourse, a welcome difference of opinions, multiplicity, empathy and grace?

    In dictatorships, the artists are often the first to go. Or maybe they are the third to go, after the press and the intellectuals. The refusal of the president to celebrate them is a chilling and clear departure from American values. Perhaps the Trumps didn’t want to compete with the Obamas, who at the 2016 Kennedy Center awards received the longest standing ovation of the evening.

    Mr. Obama met with Marilynne Robinson, a writer he admired, to interview her for The New York Review of Books in the fall of 2015. I think of a president with enough humility and curiosity to interview her — a politician-writer meeting a fellow writer on equal ground, discussing the virtues of the yellow notepad — and I want to weep.
    * * *
    Sarah Ruhl is an American playwright, professor, and essayist. Among her most popular plays are Eurydice (2003), The Clean House (2004), and In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) (2009). She has been the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for a distinguished American playwright in mid-career. Two of her plays have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and she received a nomination for Tony Award for Best Play.

    In 2015, she published a collection of essays, 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write. Her most recent play, For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday(2017), premiered Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. She currently serves on the faculty of the Yale School of Drama.

  • Cézanne’s Realms of Inner Space (fantasy on a chance meeting with Friedrich Nietzsche) 

    “We philosophers are never more delighted than when we are taken for artists.”  ~F. Nietzsche

    “Painting from Nature is not copying the object: it is realizing one’s sensations.”  ~P. Cézanne

    “The living is merely a type of what is dead, and a very rare type.”  ~F. Nietzsche

    Chapter 1. La Recontre

    Pämierlieutenant Friedrich Nietzsche walked down the gangway into the bright Mediterranean sun, a battered valise in hand. The year was 1869. Scanning the busy dockside, he saw a sign over the customs house door announcing, ‘Marseille,’ along with a fingerpost directing travelers ‘ à droite’ for public transport to his next destination, L’Estaque. Conscription into the Prussian army two years earlier meant a brief return to active service as international tensions mounted, with a duty station assignment in Lucerne.  But in spite of his military responsibilities and ongoing squabbles among diplomats far removed to the north, Nietzsche intended to use his short military leave to seek the warmth and intellectual stimulation of this azure-drenched, palm-fringed coastal retreat.

    Above: Friedrich Nietzsche as a Prussian military officer (1868-69). 

    (more…)

  • Washington Stage Guild with ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Other Stories’

    Many of our earliest memories of Christmas are rooted in stories that made sugar plums dance in our heads. I remember being enthralled by having “’Twas the Night before Christmas” read to me, and later relishing Dr. Seuss’s tale of the Grinch (voiced by Boris Karloff) trying to steal Christmas.

    Left: Thomas Nast, Merry Old Santa (1863).

    Storytelling is essential to the spirit of Christmas, and the Washington Stage Guild decided this year to celebrate that spirit with a show that cobbles together several favorite Christmas stories in a holiday production called A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Other Stories. Dylan Thomas’s story takes center stage, but Artistic Director Bill Largess has also included Louisa May Alcott’s short “Merry Christmas,” Charles Dickens’s “What Christmas Is as We Grow Older,” “A Medieval Puzzle,” and A.A. Milne’s “King John’s Christmas.” (more…)

  • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: Mark Bradford’s ‘Pickett’s Charge’

    Mark Bradford at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden with details of Pickett’s Charge, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Cathy Carver.

    Mark Bradford uses the language of abstraction in his texturally layered paintings in which he combines collaged commonplace materials with paint. This celebrated African-American artist from Los Angeles since the early 2000’s continues to fuse his interests of cultural identity with abstract forms tackling a full spectrum of subjects including race, class, gender, aestheticism, or everyday life. (more…)

  • Washington’s Arena Stage- The Pajama Game: Warm Embrace for Cold Times

    Britney Coleman (Babe)and Tim Rogan (Sid) in Arena Theater’s ‘Pajama Game.’ All photos: Margot Schulman

    Arena Stage is a stellar Washington, D.C. theater that regularly presents new productions of classic Broadway musicals. For the holidays this year, Arena is producing The Pajama Game. A smash hit when it was first staged on Broadway in 1954, The Pajama Game won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical, and Best Choreography. (more…)

  • Washington, D.C.’s Hirshhorn with, ‘Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: The Utopian Projects’

    Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, ‘The Ship of Tolerance, Zug,’ 2016. Courtesy of the artists and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in London, Paris, Salzburg and Pace Gallery, New York. Photo by Luis Eduardo Martinez Fuentes.

    In May 1988 the New York Times critic John Russell wrote, “Ilya Kabakov is many things in one – a poet, a reporter, a storyteller in prose, a portraitist who never shows us his sitters directly, an environmental sculptor and an understated magician.” Having witnessed Ilya Kabakov’s ”Ten Characters,” at the Ronald Feldman Gallery, in 1988 and other constructions in Europe including the famed “Toliet” at Documenta, and “The Ship of Tolerance” at the Venice Biennale, I am in full agreement, that Kabakov is perhaps one of the most creative artists who continually expresses his humanist concerns through architectural quixotic realism, suggestive of the 19th century French utopian architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux. (more…)

  • David Hockney at Eighty: Everything Old Is New Again

    David Hockney, ‘A Bigger Splash’ (1967), acrylic on canvas. David Hockney Collection, Tate, London

    For a number of decades both the name and work of English-born, Californian by adoption, David Hockney, has been quietly flying under the art world’s radar, breaking all attendance records, despite a major exhibition at the Royal Academy in 2012 which included a gallery of works he had composed on an iPad. More than likely, the gently reserved Hockney was outshouted by the manufactured spectacles of circus artists’ billionaire Damian Hirst and half billionaire Jeff Koons, unarguably the two richest artists on the planet. (more…)

  • Washington Stage Guild: Onstage with George Bernard Shaw’s Widowers’ House

    Scott Harrison (Dr. Harry Trench), Madeleine Farrington as Blanche, in G B Shaw’s ‘Widowers’ House’ at Washington Stage Guild. All photos: C. Stanley Photography

    Washington Stage Guild is a long-standing gem in the national capital’s sparkling theater scene. The repertory company was founded in 1986 in a derelict area of downtown Washington near the National Portrait Gallery. Traumatized by riots that swept through in 1968, the area was still dominated by empty spaces, boarded-up windows, and porn shops. Ford’s Theatre was nearby, but the Gaiety Burlesque house was a highpoint. Few tour buses lingered. (more…)

  • Washington, D.C.’s Renovated Freer/Sackler Galleries Unveiled

    Detail, The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room for the Alice S. Kandell Collection Photograph: 2010. Objects: Tibet, Chine, and Mongolia, 13th-20th century Mixed media. Gifts and promised gifts from the Alice S. Kandell Collection

    The Freer Gallery of Art was the first Smithsonian museum to showcase art. It opened in 1923 to house the Asian collections of Detroit industrialist Charles Lang Freer, and in 1987 it was joined on the National Mall by its sibling museum, the Sackler Gallery. Closed the past eighteen months for renovation, their re-opening on October 14-15th was headlined as “Where Asia Meets America”—two galleries, one destination. (F/S press release, 10/11/17) (more…)

  • New York’s Friedman Theater ‘Prince of Broadway’: Lightly Skimming Legendary 7-Decade Career

    Michael Xavier (center) and Cast in Company. All photos (unless noted): Matthew Murphy © 2017

    One might think after winning a record 21 Tony Awards for producing or directing (and sometimes both simultaneously) many of Broadway’s most popular and critically acclaimed musicals of the past 70 years, that the return of Hal Prince to The Great White Way with his latest venture, Prince of Broadway, would have been a shoo-in.

    The show is unabashedly a compendium of popular songs culled from his greatest hits like West Side Story (1957), Fiddler on the Roof (1964), Cabaret (1966), Company (1970), Follies (1971), Sweeney Todd (1979), Evita (1979) and The Phantom of the Opera (1986), – the last still up and running after 30 years and the longest running musical in history.

    But a shoo-in? Not so! (more…)

  • Washington D.C.’s Hillwood Museum, ‘SPECTACULAR’: A Jewel of a Show

    Ruby and Diamond Hummingbird Brooch. All photos by Square Moose, courtesy of Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens (2017)

    Hillwood Museum’s new exhibition stopped me in my tracks. It had me at the title wall, which proclaimed Spectacular with elegant clarity. Would this exhibition live up to its title?

    Nestled in Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, Hillwood was the last residence of Post Cereal heir and General Foods founder Marjorie Merriweather Post. When she died in 1973, she endowed her mansion, collections, and gardens to “future generations,” and Hillwood opened as a public institution in 1977. In addition to her comprehensive collections of Russian imperial art and 18th-century French decorative arts, Mrs. Post created one of the most extraordinary private jewelry collections in the world. Hillwood’s exhibition Spectacular now provides a showcase for the iconic “grand pieces” she acquired over a 50-year period. (more…)

  • Stratford Festival of Canada with the Bard’s ‘Timon of Athens’

    Joseph Ziegler as Timon, and cast in Timon of Athens

    Timon of Athens has not been a popular Shakespeare classic: in fact, it has not been revived so often as most of his others. Its horrors are more melodramatic than tragic; and its comic elements are more bizarre satire than familiar foolishness. There’s a self-indulgent quality to Simon’s obvious pleasure in the abject worship he receives for his generosity when giving away his treasures to his grateful followers that undercuts our admiration. Then, as he loses his fortune and must ask for help from those he’d lavished gifts upon, we can smirk at their ingratitude and hypocrisy but are not filled with sympathy for the smug and vengeful Simon. Lord Bountiful becomes vengeful victim, and Shakespeare’s drama starts to resemble Moliere’s later The Misanthrope. (more…)

  • Silent Opera Over Venice: Richard Humann’s Augmented Reality at Venice Biennale

    The connection between the potential of augmented reality (AR), and art is a simple one to make—sometimes it only takes a ‘T.’ Yet as Richard Humann settles back into his Brooklyn studio after his nine-hour return flight, he can’t help but smile knowing he’s onto something considerably more complex.

    Left: Richard Humann, The Dogs of War (2017), Augmented Reality, variable dimensions

    “I don’t remember leaving it this way,” Richard says, setting down his laptop bag, “It’s remarkable how much mess it takes to get artists to their exhibitions.” However, this mess brought more than Richard Humann to the sun soaked waterways of Venice, it likewise brought “Ascension”, the first AR installation to premier during the Venice Biennale, in conjunction with the European Cultural Center and the GAA Foundation. (more…)

  • Now at Beers London: ‘Concrete Forest/Paintings of Kim Dorland’

    Bay Blanket 3, 2014, oil and acrylic on linen over wood panel, 72×96″. All images courtesy of Angell Gallery, Toronto, Canada

    The artist, Kim Dorland caught my attention with his painting, Bay Blanket #3, in his 2014 exhibition at Toronto’s Angell Gallery. In this work, a young woman—the artist’s wife Lori—kneels on a bed in front of a wall covered with family paraphernalia, holding a Bay blanket to cover her nakedness. Her face and arms are created from thick paint that the artist has partly removed, so it looks cratered. There are heavy patches of paint on the blanket as well as the images on the wall. It is very physical, very energetic, and you can see the movements of the artist’s hand throughout as he layered and manipulated the paint. Somehow it is still able to capture that intimate moment, as the figure hugs her body and looks out from her surroundings. The multi-coloured, striped ‘Bay’ blanket is emblematic of the Canadian North and the other walls are bare, as a cabin might be. (more…)

  • Choreography as Portrayal: Dana Tai Soon Burgess at Washington’s National Portrait Gallery

     

    Gobsmacked by an age enthralled with the immediate, “tradition” has lost its footing. Institutions built as permanent bulwarks of common purpose have been fissured by an appetite for what is happening in the moment:  NOW is desirable because it is instantly accessible and gratifying. Yesterday is not on the social media radar, and building old walls higher won’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. It is the age of Elon Musk’s Tesla, not Henry Ford’s Model T.

    Left: Choreographer, Dana Tai Soon Burgess, has been appointed the Smithsonian’s first choreographer in residence.

    (more…)

  • Two Cheers for the Revolution: Telling Difficult Stories at Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution

    This exterior view of MOAR is about as inviting as its stolid massing gets. The architecture conceals rather than reveals the building’s subject. All photos courtesy of the Museum of the American Revolution.

    The United States was birthed in resistance, rebellion, and war. The story of the American Revolution, repeated, refined, and simplified over many generations, has become an iconic element of our national fable: our patriot “ancestors” resisted the tyranny of the greatest empire of its day, preserved American liberties, and established a novel kind of egalitarian republic. The catch-phrases of “the times that try men’s souls”–“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” “all men are created equal,” and “the consent of the governed”–still resonate in our political and cultural discourse. And yet the story of the Revolution is complex and messy, full of sharp elbows and glaring contradictions, including the persistence of slavery, the dispossession of Native Americans, tensions within the states, among the states, and between state and federal governments, and a tendency to advantage our elites over our masses.  If ever there was a difficult, challenging story to tell, it is the story of our Revolution and its impact on subsequent generations, right up to the contemporary moment. In a sense, the story of the American Revolution, which is also the story of our first civil war, has always been contested and fraught. (more…)

  • Canada’s Stratford Festival’s ‘Guys and Dolls’: A Production Knockout

    Evan Buliung (centre) as Sky Masterson with members of the company in Guys and Dolls. All photos: Cylla von Tiedemann.

    Director/choreographer Donna Feore seems to have solidified Canada’s Stratford Festival’s standing as not only the largest and finest classical repertory theater in this hemisphere but also Canada’s greatest musical theater. This season’s superb Guys and Dolls may not be the astoundingly perfect production that her 2013 recreation of Fiddler on the Roof became, nor so daring a restaging as her A Chorus Line last season, but it may be more pleasing than either, and is certainly the all-around best version I’ve seen to date (and that includes the Broadway original). Following and completing the late Brian Macdonald’s transformation of Stratford’s masterful Shakespearean repertory artists into first-rate, Broadway-level singers and dancers, also, Feore has now demonstrated a repertory of Stratford musicals worthy of filming, touring, or reproducing worldwide. (more…)

  • Ai Weiwei: ‘Trace’ at Washington’s Hirshhorn

    Ai Weiwei is a riveting artistic presence who raises hackles and hell wherever he can.  Born in Beijing in 1957, he studied at the Beijing Film Academy before moving to the United States in 1981. He soaked up the colorful life of New York’s East village, and when he returned to China in 1993 he became a major and disruptive figure in the contemporary art scene there. Ai relished antagonizing the repressive Chinese authorities, and the government in turn targeted his political activism, ultimately arresting him 2011. He was imprisoned for three months and forbidden to leave China until 2015. (more…)

  • Editor’s Letter: July, 2017

    “We must first look, before we can see.” ~Henry David Thoreau

     

    Left: Isamu Noguchi, Mother and Child (1944-1947), Onyx, 19 3/8 × 12 3/4 × 8 5/8″. Noguchi Museum, NY.

     

    On Being Taught Not to Fly

    Another essay by art and theater critic, world traveler and ARTES contributing editor, Edward Rubin…

    It wasn’t until I visited the Doge’s Palace in Venice (below, left and right [detail]) and came face to face with “Paradise,” Tintoretto’s large painting that hangs majestically in the Ducal Hall that I discovered that Tintoretto was still alive. Here he was, some 400 years later, looking down at me looking up at him. I didn’t have to read the painting’s label which no doubt listed the artist’s name, the title of the painting, and the date it was executed. I didn’t have time. I was pulled right past the words into the heart of the matter. Communication was instantaneous. I knew immediately that this seething mass of humanity, posing as saints and angels on canvas, all 23 by 72 feet of it, was transmogrified flesh…Tintoretto’s. (more…)

  • New York Gallery, Lichtundfire with ‘Counterpoints to the Narrative’

    Martin Weinstein, “Kenoten, October Evenings,” 2016, acrylic on multiple acrylic sheets, 27 x 20 3/4″.

    Counterpoints to the Narrative is on view until the end of this month at Lichtundfire.  It provides a thoughtful exploration of contemporary mediums, color theory, and depth of field, featuring three artists who engage unique materials to bring an idiosyncrasy of observation in traditional approaches to balance and color.  The exhibition is a revelation on more than one level from its curator Dominick Lombardi; and Lichtundfire, a gallery I have come to admire as sage to the world of objective theory through its exploration of new approaches in the rapport of material to expression. (more…)

  • Addison Gallery of American Art with Stella Prime: Prints from an American Master

    Frank Stella, ‘Steller’s Albatross from Exotic Bird Series,’ 1977, lithograph, screenprint on white Arches 88 paper mould-made paper, 33 7/8 x 44 7/8 in., National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1979. © 2017 Frank Stella / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    ‘Frank Stella Prints’ offers an unusually illuminating perspective on the career of virtuoso artist, Frank Stella, who helped define the perimeters of American art over the past five decades. The show focuses on his printmaking, and its over 100 works on paper suggest the ways his highly experimental approach transformed our understanding of the traditional print.

    This elegant and comprehensive exhibition, the artist’s first major print retrospective since 1982, also offers up a clear view of Stella’s stylistic evolution — a series of reinventions that morphed from the minimalist geometric abstraction of his early years to an effervescent complexity of his later gestural work. (more…)

  • ‘The School For Lies’ at Shakespeare Theatre, Washington, D.C: “Rippingly Appropriate” for 2017

    l to r: Gregory Wooddell as Frank, Cameron Folmar as Clitander, Liam Craig as Acast and Tom Story as Oronte. All photos by Scott Suchman, unless otherwise noted.

    Egad–imagine life riven by “fake news,” “alternate facts,” and boorish behavior?! Playwright David Ives has, and he has now wickedly transformed this thought into a gleeful roast. His new play, The School for Lies, is loosely based on Moliere’s mid-seventeenth century caricature of French oafishness, The Misanthrope, and it is one of the funniest productions ever concocted. It is the perfect antidote for our dreary times. (more…)

  • “Markus Lüpertz, Threads of History” Jointly at Washington’s Hirshhorn & Phillips

    Seldom do museums in Washington, D.C. engage in collective undertakings, in spite of their eminence and professional staff.  Unexpectedly, the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and The Phillips Collection have chosen to work in partnership on complimentary exhibitions showcasing the works by the German painter Markus Lüpertz.  This is the first official alliance between the two venues.  The Hirshhorn’s exhibition titled “Markus Lüpertz: Threads of History,” curated by Evelyn Hankins, focuses on Lüpertz’s early work from 1962 to 1975, in the context of post-war Germany; while Dorothy Kosinski, director of the Phillips Collection, curated “Markus Lüpertz,” offers a retrospective of the artist’s five-decade oeuvre.

    Above, left: Markus Lüpertz, Stil: Eins-Zehn VII—große Form mit Linie 2 (Style:  One-Ten VII—Large Shape with Line 2), 1977. Oiland distemper on canvas, 63 3/4 x 51 1/4 in. Private collection © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York /VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

    (more…)

  • Roman Ruins: Update on a Once Great Beauty

    On a recent sunny September afternoon, I stood on one of the hills of Rome with a group of Italians, looking across the brown Tiber (below) to the old orange buildings of Trastevere. A bright green bird, maybe some sort of parrot, swooped over the river toward a row of darker green umbrella pines. Modern Rome has few birds, except for sparrows and pigeons, and precious little quiet, so we stood for a while and drank it in. (more…)

  • ‘Matisse in the Studio,’ at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts: Vibrant Beauty

    French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was a seminal influence on 20th Century Art, a creative spirit who helped define the century’s revolutionary approach to the visual. The MFA’s Matisse in the Studio – the only venue in North America where this exhibition will be shown – is the first major international show to examine how the objects in the artist’s personal collection played in powerful role in shaping his art. It is a fascinating look at how the objects he regarded with affection effected a great artist’s oeuvre. (more…)

  • Editor’s Letter: May, 2017

     

    “History never really says goodbye. History says, ‘See you later.’” 
                        ~Eduardo Galeano

    Left: Frank Duveneck, study for, Guard at the Harem (1888). Collection Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

    Art Preserves the Historical Record: Muslim Slaves in 19th Century America

    First, a little background…

    Slavery is as old as civilization. The capture, sale and exploitation of slave labor had been a burgeoning business for the nations of Europe and Africa—then the center of the known world—and beyond, throughout recorded history.

    So when slavery arrived on the shores of the American colonies, it was merely a natural progression of a widely recognized and accepted practice. It is important to note, at this point, a detail about exploration and settlement of the North American continent in the 400 years since its “discovery”, up until the Civil War. After the vast landfall’s presence was known for certain, this “New World” was invaded by three principle groups—each with its own agenda. (more…)

  • 217 Films Releases “America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age”—Brilliantly Conceived

    Caricature of Mark Twain, soon after the publication of ‘The Gilded Age- A Tale of Today’ (1873), co-authored with Charles Dudley Warner.

    Mark Twain wasted little affection on the extravagances of Victorian America. Boisterous lifestyles and conspicuous consumption followed hard on the heels of a dreadfully protracted Civil War. In its aftermath, industrial innovation, commercial and urban expansion fueled both a new, burgeoning middle and astronomically-rich industrial class. Across the Atlantic during the same period (1870-90s), the French had their own term for these times: La Belle Epoch. Soured by its implications for our own societal values, Twain disparagingly referred to it as the “Gilded Age.”  The good news, of course, was that American exceptionalism was coming into its own, as a nation and its inchoate culture began to emerge from under the dominant shadow of its mentor—Western Europe. But, that shift toward cultural autonomy and global dominance was a trend that only historical perspective now confirms. For cultural observers of the time, like Twain, the old world order was slipping away, life moving at breakneck and confusing speed toward an ill-defined future and an ebullient new century. (more…)

  • “Other Than Honorable” at Rochester’s Geva Theatre: A Lasting Impression

    Jessiee Datino with Jason Kolotouros in “Other Than Honorable” at Geva Theatre Center. (All photos by Huth Photography)

    I think this is an important play. It has won acclaim in development around the country, clearly knocked out the opening night audience on its world premiere at Rochester, New York’s Geva Theater Center, and is most certainly headed for a Broadway debut.  Some of award-winning, fearless Jamie Pachino’s hard-hitting script and trail-blazing director Kimberly Senior’s showy, theatrical second act may get more subtly tuned-up first, but ‘Other Than Honorable’ is sure to make a lasting impression and win awards. (more…)

  • Washington’s Ford’s Theater with “Ragtime”: Resonates with Our Time

    Cast of the musical “Ragtime” at Ford’s Theatre, directed by Peter Flynn. All photos by Carol Rosegg.

    From the opening notes of its come-hither “Prologue,” the new Ford’s Theatre production of Ragtime is an immersive experience. This historic Washington, D.C., theater is intimate: the stage sits close to the audience, and actors at times run back-and-forth along the aisles. Ford’s also has a unique identity no other theater can offer, because hovering over all the action is the Presidential Box where Lincoln was shot. The legacy of his injunction to find “the better angels of our nature” gives this production of Ragtime a particular poignancy. (more…)

  • Broadway’s LuPone and Ebersole in “War Paint”: Double Display of Delicious Divadom

    Patti LuPone (Helena Rubenstein)and Christine Ebersole (Elizabeth Arden) in ‘War Paint.’ Photos by Joan Marcus.

    It’s no surprise that Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, two of Broadway’s most beloved Tony-winning performers, each with their own cadre of diehard followers, are filling the seats at Broadway’s Nederlander Theater. It is equally unsurprising that the audience goes over the moon after each Scott Frankel (music) and Michael Korie (lyrics) War Paint song that they sing. And there are some twenty of them. They must realize that this is History in the Making, heaven-sent if you will, for having two knock ‘em dead Broadway stars singing their hearts out for the price of one, is a treat of great and rare proportion. (more…)

  • Award-winning WW II Drama, ‘Land of Mine’: Boy Soldiers and the Allies’ Revenge

    “All wars are waged against children.” Eglantyne Jebb, British social reformer and author of “Declaration of the Rights of the Child” (1876-1928)

    Two of the finest World War II films ever made are Austrian filmmaker Bernhard Wicki’s “The Bridge” (“Die Brücke”) and Soviet Russian filmmaker Elem Klimov’s “Come and See.” Wicki’s film, based on Gregor Dorfmeister’s 1958 novel of the same name and based on actual events, was released in 1959, a mere 15 years after World War II ended, when the experiences of war would have been fresh in the German memory. (more…)

  • Yale Center for British Art’s, ‘Enlightened Princesses’: The Power of Human Endeavor

    Jean-Baptiste van Loo, Augusta, Princess of Wales, 1742, oil on canvas, 94 1/2 x 62″. Royal Collection Trust.

    Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the Modern World offers a visceral, multi-faceted and interdisciplinary look at the eighteenth century told through the passions and activities of three women—German aristocracy by birth, British royalty by marriage. Among their shared interests were natural philosophy (we moderns might call it “science”), literature, theater, music, fine art, religion, architecture, collecting, exploration, patronage, botany, charity, medicine, education, politics, crafts, horticulture, and gardening; and the list could go much, much further on. All three women demonstrated a deep-rooted and persistent interest in the limits and possibilities of human endeavor, both in terms of the interior developments of creative genius and in the external interaction of humanity with the world around them. They used all available resources to encourage the arts and sciences to blossom under their charge as Queen Consorts and senior women at court. (more…)

  • New York Artist, Mary Hrbacek’s ‘Fierce Affection’ for a Miracle of Nature

    Mary Hrbacek, Fierce Affection (2014) Acrylic on Linen, 40 x 40″

    You pass by them each day, a world replete with these silent sentinels, looming and swaying in breezes high overhead. They cleanse our air, shade our backyards, grace our hillsides, and even sacrifice themselves to set our campfires aglow, or frame a roof over our heads. Trees are a ubiquitous part of our lives in all but the most barren or harshly urbanized parts of our lives. Their beauty and utility go largely unheralded, unless you take the time to explore the wonder of both their form and function in our everyday existence. One artist in particular has taken the time to carefully examine this deeply-rooted, but often ignored feature of our landscape—dramatically expressive living organisms that overspread approximately 9.6 billion acres or 30% of the world’s land surface—trees. (more…)

  • ‘The Object Lesson’ at the New York Theatre Workshop

    Solo performer Geoff Sobelle, in ‘Object Lessons.’ Photos: Joan Marcus

    The New York Theatre Workshop, one of the most audacious theaters in New York City, never fails to astonish its audience in the wide-ranging fare that it chooses to present, the directors and actors that tread its stage, and its stunning production designs.

    I’m talking about set, lighting, sound, costume, and film. In fact, in can be said that visual and audio surprises – you never know what is going to hit you between your eyes and ears upon entering the theatre – is one of the NYTW’S major calling cards (more…)

  • Yayoi Kusama: “Infinity Mirrors” at Washington’s Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden

    Yayoi Kusama with recent works in Tokyo, 2016. Photo by Tomoaki Makino Courtesy of the artist © Yayoi Kusama. NOTE: detailed image captions can be found at end of review

    Childlike simplicity and frankness along with infinite universes brim throughout the “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” exhibition currently on view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.  Kusama’s unique visual language of recurrent patterns of dots, vibrant colors, wondrous-mirrored rooms and pumpkins evoke an atmosphere of positive joyfulness that invite viewers to participate in her unique visual world. This display is a welcomed relief in Washington, DC’s current gloom and doom milieu! (more…)

  • ‘Sunset Boulevard’: Close Encounters at the Palace, Broadway

    Glenn Close as Norma Desmond in ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ All photos: Joan Marcus

    To say that Glenn Close brings down the house during the musical Sunset Boulevard is almost an understatement, as the hoots, hollers, and applause – I even heard a bravo or two– offered by her admirers, shook the very rafters of the Palace Theatre after every number she sang. And that was not the end of it. At curtain call, the now-standing audience celebrating Close’s return to the iconic role of silent screen star Norma Desmond after a twenty- two year Broadway absence – both the musical and Close won a Tony in 1995 – just about refused to let Close leave the stage. (more…)

  • Theaster Gates: The Minor Arts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

    Artist, Theaster Gates. Photo courtesy of hypocritedesign.com

    Theaster Gates is a 21st century Renaissance man whose art practice comprises painting, sculpture, installation, music, design, performance and urban planning.  Gates is, as are L.A. artists Mark Bradford and Richard Lowe, an extraordinary social practice artist who can sees potential beyond the surface of a situation despite its outwardly decrepit state. He was born in Chicago in 1973 on Chicago’s run-down South Side, known as Greater Grand Crossing, where he continues to work and live. This visionary raises money, collaborates with urban planners/architects/policy makers and has been supported by Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel who made Gates an off-the-record commissioner of renewal for the city’s South Side. (more…)

  • Philadelphia Museum of Art Features Watercolors by Homer and Sargent

    John William Hill, American (born England), 1812-1879, Apples and Plums, 1874. Watercolor on paper, 7 7/8 × 11 3/8 inches. Collection of Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr.
    John William Hill, American (born England), 1812-1879, Apples and Plums, 1874. Watercolor on paper, 7 7/8 × 11 3/8 inches. Collection of Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr.

    Is it appropriate to define watercolor as “the medium” in American art?  That’s the contention curator Kathleen A. Foster sets forth in her new Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibition and catalogue, American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent.

    Establishing watercolor’s significance has been the driving force of Foster’s career, beginning with her 1982 Yale dissertation, “Makers of the American Watercolor Movement, 1860-1890.”  While the medium has often been called “quaint” and sniffed at as something women toyed with on Sunday afternoons, Foster has made it her career crusade to show that the medium launched a vital aesthetic movement in America after the Civil War. Instead of imitating French Impressionism, artists embraced watercolor and catalyzed the creation of a uniquely American art–one whose vibrant identity suited the rise of America’s modern national identity in the late 19th century. (more…)

  • Editor’s Letter: March, 2017

    matisse woman with hat

    Vanity, Thy Name Is…

    “I don’t control painting, painting controls me.” ~ Hubert Roestenburg, German Expressionist

    Left: Henri Matisse, Woman in a Hat (1920) Private Collection.

    What can art teach us about human motivation? It is in our nature to surround ourselves with the people and things that reinforce our self-image and belief systems, as evidenced in the case of the current president? Take notice of the ‘new’ oval office and the change in art work that now hangs within sight of the chief executive, and all those who care to notice in photographs of proceedings there. To the right of the desk, from a viewer’s perspective, is a large portrait of Andrew Jackson (c. 1834), by then-Nashville colleague and White House resident artist, Ralph E.W. Earl. Jackson lost a bitterly contested election to John Quincy Adams in `24.  His next campaign—characterized by his rough-hewn style and unconventional Tennessee country ways—was aimed at earning the vote of the ordinary man. This carried him to victory in 1828. In order to manage his public image, it is said that Jackson kept the artist close by in the years that followed, requiring that multiple portraits be produced to reinforce the perception of the man as a heroic and statesman-like figure. (more…)

  • Contemporary Sculptor Boaz Vaadia: Figures Keep Silent Vigil in Complex World

    Vaadia_003_sm

    Editor’s Note: We recently learned of the untimely death of sculptor, Boaz Vaadia, at age 65. This piece ran in ARTES in 2013, after a wonderful visit to his studio in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. Our time together on that and other occasions always felt more like a reunion of friends than a series of interviews. Boaz’s warmth and congenial style will always be remembered. His talent and devotion to his medium were remarkable, as was his love of family. His towering bluestone figures will stand for all time as a memoriam to his craft and the lasting impression he made on those lucky enough to know him during his brief time among us.

    The narrow metal door is just a step up from the narrow street, one of many in the matrix that is the Williamsburg neighborhood, a quaint section of New York City’s Brooklyn borough. A small hand-lettered name appears above the mailbox beside the entrance—Vaadia—alerting me to the fact that I’ve reached my destination, the studio of well-known sculptor, Boaz Vaadia (left). artes fine arts magazin (more…)

  • Penny Arcade’s ‘Longing Lasts Longer’ at Brooklyn’s St Anne’s Warehouse

    penny arcade
    Solo performer, Penny Arcade

    I have always appreciated the bravery, as well as the chutzpah, of those performers who choose to go it alone in a one man or one woman show. Not unlike comedians who stand totally exposed before an audience hoping to avoid the slings and arrows, or for that matter the stink of rotten tomatoes, these are all but naked performers. Ultimately, they rely on the shear force of their god-given personality, and well-honed talents to wow their audience; and in the best case, bring them to their feet amidst thunderous applause. (more…)

  • “Stuart Davis: In Full Swing” at Washington’s National Gallery of Art

    Davis, Stuart
    Cover image for NGA exhibition: ‘Stuart Davis: In Full Swing,’ Owh! on San Pao (1951). Detailed caption info for all images at end of review

    Stuart Davis (1892-1964) is considered to be one of America’s first modern artists and a precursor of Pop Art.  He was an enthused colorist whose bright, well-developed paintings translated French Cubism into an unquestionably American art expression. Stuart Davis: In Full Swing, currently on view at Washington’s National Gallery of Art, considers his work from 1921 and his breakthrough paintings of tobacco packages. It then moves through five decades to his final canvas, demonstrating through the chronology Davis’s habit of recycling earlier work for new compositions. With more than one hundred of his most important, visually complex compositions on view, the exhibition highlights Davis’s ability to assimilate the imagery of popular culture, the aesthetics of advertising, the lessons of cubism, and the sounds and rhythms of jazz into works that hum with intelligence and energy. (more…)

  • Washington D.C.’s Phillips Collection: ‘Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Epoque’

    Mademoiselle Églantine’s Troupe 1
    Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Mademoiselle Églantine’s Troupe, 1895–96. Ed. Note: For detailed captions on all images, see story end.

    The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. has recently opened an exhibition that showcases an extraordinary collection of Toulouse-Lautrec lithographs. Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the ‘Belle Epoque’  focuses on about 100 “defining images” that embrace the artist’s entire lithographic career (1891-1899) and provide a fascinating window into Montmartre’s fin de siècle  café and cabaret society. (more…)

  • Editor’s Letter: January, 2017

    paul-delaroche-two_heads_camaldolese_monks-1844

    “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

    Left: Paul Delaroche, Two Heads, Camaldolese Monks (1844).

    Sweeping up the Heart

    Every singer, every actor, every dancer considers themselves artists. The world of expression and those who give form to our emotions through lyrics and movement, is poorer in these fresh days of a New Year, a result of the loss of several talented performers in recent weeks. While my head was still spinning with each new, sad announcement, I received an email from cherished, long-time friend and contributing editor to ARTES, Ed Rubin. Eddy is a New Yorker, through-and-through, and as a result, has ‘theater’ coursing through his veins. The performing arts come alive for those, like Ed, who can casually encounter a star or a cultural icon on the streets of the City, at a restaurant or party. You quickly learn that celebrities are just people, as their vulnerability and untimely deaths so often painfully demonstrate. (more…)

  • Gallery 100 New York: International Artists Draw ‘A Fine Line’                          

    Alan Sonfist, “Leaves Frozen in Time: Spring,” Mix Media on Canvas, 4 x 4 ft. (122 x 122 cm.) no date provided

    A Fine Line, the inaugural exhibition for the newly launched Gallery 100 New York, presents an amalgamation of the varied but related works of four international artists, who use straightforward natural materials with telling effect.  The show curated by gallery director Michelle Loh, features Wang Huangsheng, Oliver Catté, Mahmoud Hamadani, and Alan Sonfist.  An express emphasis on paper unites the installation; there is an aura of purity emanating from the white paper of the drawings on view that permeates the space.  Color plays an important tandem role; hues glitter in conjunction with the brown cardboard works, and in the nature-based leaf piece entitled “Leaves Frozen in Time: Spring.”  The abstract drawings explore the essential delicacy of paper as it comingles with ink flowing irregularly over the surfaces, while the creative potential and durability of cardboard come sharply into focus in cityscapes that radiate urban exuberance. Traditional underpinnings resound through the exhibition; the use of ink, which is made from tree bark, is a medium used for millennia in Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. (more…)

  • Editor’s Letter: December, 2016

     

    bartolomeo_veneto_woman_playing_a_lute

    “To perceive Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult with every year.”

    ~E. B. White

    Right: Bartelomeo Veneto, Lady Playing a Lute (c. 1520). Pinacoteca di Brera (Milan, Italy)

     

    Rebirth and Resilience

    Dear Reader- In May of this year, the ebb and flow of ARTES articles and opinion—so much a part of my life and that of our writers and online visitors since launching in 2009—came crashing down. The diagnosis: the accumulated content of 27 Gb of words and images, supported by WordPress code that in some cases dated to our inception, caused it to collapse under its own virtual weight. As explained, it was an aging sand castle foundation, eroded by a relentless tide of new material being heaped on top. Our repeated and best efforts to keep the site ‘live’ were to no avail. In thecaspar_david_friedrich_-_wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog-1818 weeks that followed, shock, sadness and a genuine sense of loss permeated my emotions.

    Right: Casper David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818).

    My dismay was only reinforced by conversations with tech experts who offered little hope for an easy fix; or a complex rehabilitation effort at great expense, with no guarantees at the other end. Weeks turned to months as I contemplated life without ARTES as a daily project. I taught more classes, began writing a long-planned book, and roamed the many book stores and libraries in my area looking for solace. It was an emotional summer for me as various strategies for restoring ARTES churned in the back of my mind. Events were further complicated by added responsibilities related to my aging mother at one end of life’s spectrum, and the imminent arrival of a grandchild at the other. (more…)