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

    Amy Henderson

    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

    Stephen Bank

    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

    Will Fenstermaker

    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

    Amy Henderson

    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

    Herbert Simpson

    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

    Mark Favermann

    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’

    Edward Rubin

    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’

    Elaine A. King

    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’’

    Amy Henderson
    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

    Emese Krunak-Hajagos

    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…)