Saturday, December 29, 2012
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Friday, December 21, 2012
Monday, November 12, 2012
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
In the living room, the "Chieftain" chair’s oversized proportions and shield back seemed to reference some ancient Viking past. The one here is a pinkish leather. The diminutive "poet" settee was inviting with its high curved back that looks like it would surround the sitter in an embrace. The graceful and petite "sculptural armchair" spoke to me of Wegner. An elegant shape with a carved curved back, contoured arms and clever "V" shaped support. The design was sufficiently challenging that only 12 were ever made, making them exceedingly valuable. I couldn't like the other armchairs used in the living room and dining room. I think I saw too many of the type in cluttered Upper West Side apartments.
I think my favorite room was the dining room. Here, one wall is a two sided glass display cabinet, which allows light in from the adjoining conservatory. Opposite, tall windows afford a view of green--a curtain of vines growing up an exterior wall provide color and texture. The piece I covet most in the house is the dining room table which features Swedish coins sanded down so that they look like silver metal discs embedded in the surface. It appears to be an abstract pattern but was apparently intended to act as a guide for where to put the place setting.
There was so much to admire and emulate in this wonderful domestic interior.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Monday, September 3, 2012
I also admire their work ethic. Though most famous for their stop-action animation, featuring puppets made of doll parts and other materials, there’s nothing they haven’t seemed to have done. From the 1968 Blood, Sweat & Tears album cover (the Quays’ original headless design was altered to include the band’s heads) to T.V. ads. In fact, I loved their ads. Many of their films resemble the opening credits of the Monty Python show, which doesn’t float my boat, but the Doritos ad has a definite Brazil vibe and the ones for Slurpee and a British throat lozenge, Lockets, were terrific.
The Quays' objects have a uniformly excavated look, threadbare and covered with grime or dust. This cuts through the saccharin, but in trying to be sinister, is also trite. There are a number of references to screws and watch works, perhaps a tribute to their father, a machinist.
All I can say is it's an exhilarating experience to be high above the streets of Manhattan in the ethereal Cloud City.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Takala’s installation includes the company’s welcome letter, and a card key, workstation and computer. She even includes voicemails and emails from co-workers and bosses that discuss Takala’s conduct.
Hassan Khan’s compelling video, Jewel (2010) features two men dancing to hypnotic Middle Eastern music composed by Khan. The dancing treads a fine line between belligerence and eroticism. Adding to the tension, the men and the clothes they wear suggests different social classes. There’s something primal and out of control about their interaction; they seem ready to explode and you don’t know in which direction they will go.
Monday, March 26, 2012
I’m tired of seeing one-trick ponies that pop up in more than one booth and in show after show: the aforementioned Casebere and Kehinde Wiley—whose heroic super-realist portraits of black men on highly-patterned backgrounds I liked the first time I saw, but now they’re sameoldsameold.
Without a doubt, the most startling artist at the fair would have to be Mary Reid Kelley. There was something a little too slick about her drawings, but her video, The Syphilis of Sisyphus was jaw dropping. Reid Kelley plays Sisyphus a “grisette,” (French working class woman). The action begins with Sysyphus pondering the fate of woman as she sits at her dressing table and ends with her being dragged off by the "Morals Police," to the infamous Salpêtrière Hospital where women were “treated” for hysteria. Joining her in the performance are four Pierrots (played by Reid Kelley’s family members) who also assume other roles along the way. Reid Kelley employs antique costumes and painted set designs that look like they come from the dawn of cinematography, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligheri or Nosferatu. Her highly articulated make-up and weird black eye covers are downright creepy, evoking simultaneously a death’s head and also somehow not. It’s a wonderfully odd mix of serious, stylish and screwball. Retro and yet contemporary.
Watching the video, I felt strangely out of control, hijacked into some weird netherworld. It was like a bad acid trip in a good way. My one complaint is that I found her flat, girlish voice a little jarring and at odds with the dark intensity of her video. Reid Kelley is a recent graduate of the MFA program at Yale. She is one to watch.
Yang Jiechang’s series of paintings, Tale of the 11th Day, resemble traditional Chinese screens. On closer inspection you realize there’s a whole lot of monkey business going on between different species and between humans and animals. But the bestiality is presented in the same restrained manner as the landscape and adds a dash of spice and outlandishness to these otherwise austere works.
London-based Israeli artist, Gideon Rubin uses a subdued palette of olives, beiges and mauves with wonderful painterly brush strokes to produce curious and compelling paintings. His work has a 1940s aesthetic, recalling old sepia snap shots. What is most distinctive about his work is that he leaves the faces blank. Particularly effective was the girl on skis sitting in the snow and a whole group of small portraits hung in grid fashion, next to each other. Despite their featureless faces, Rubin successfully conveys each subject's individual character.
I think my favorite artist at the show was Mike Bayne, a photographer (Nope he's a painter see comment below.) This makes me like him even more I had never heard of. He paint incredibly realist paintings of sad-sack neighborhoods and down-at-heel commercial strips. Bayne doesn’t go for big statements; he seeks out the ordinary, everyday things anyone anywhere could see: a tawdry motel sign or rundown ranch as opposed to attention grabbing glitz or nifty visual sights. But Bayne’s little gems do grab your attention. It’s all about composition and scale. Bayne frames his work really, really well and they’re diminutive (5” x 8”?), which for me works as well as large format as far as photography’s concerned.
One entire wall in this booth was taken up by the work of the late Icelandic artist, Birgir Andrésson. Like over-scale paint chips, his paintings of pure color feature the name of the color printed across them. One series, different variations of grey, seemed to comment directly on Iceland’s potential for bleakness. But the work is much more than this, referencing a “blind reality” that Andrésson was only too familiar with having been born to blind parents.
Over on Pier 92 was the Modern section. There I saw a nifty blue slit canvas by Lucio Fontana whom I had only recently been introduced to at the Suprasensorial show at the Hirshhorn. Here, also was Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild, yours for a cool $13.5 million, and a not very good, but interesting because it was so uncharacteristic, abstract painting by Chuck Close.
I was lucky enough to meet up with a well-connected art dealer friend who had been invited to parties hosted by the consular generals of Finland, Norway and Belgium at their uniformly splendid apartments. (Not being a Nordic country, I surmise Belgium jumped on the Armory bandwagon purely because, unlike here, art is important in that country.) The work at the Finnish apartment was the most impressive with a number of interesting artists: Hanna Väisänen, Susanna Gotteberg, Margatta Palasto, Raili Tang and Robert Lucander whose triad of paintings Harmaa, Tummanvihreä, Musta (Grey, Dark Green, Black) 1993 (pictured) with their brooding, spare yet dense presence were the best thing I saw in New York.
On the Norwegian Consular’s terrace we were treated to one of the most spectacular moon rises I have ever seen: a great orange orb that matched exactly the lights on the warehouses of Queens, rising slowly above the East River. Framed by tall buildings, city lights and water, it was breathtaking.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Almost a decade before the Light and Space movement emerged in this country, in the late 1960s, Latin American artists were working with light and color in innovative ways. Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space, at the Hirshhorn in Washington presents a small gem of a show curated by Alma Ruiz, featuring the work of artists at the forefront of the movement: Carlos Cruz-Diez, Lucio Fontana, Julio Le Parc, Hélio Oiticica and Jesús Rafael Soto. Challenging the idea of art as a static experience to be looked at, these artists created work that bursts forth from the traditional confines of picture plane or 3-dimensional sculpture, and in some cases fully envelopes the viewer.
I am a sucker for light—have far too many luminaria of all kinds in my possession—so this show is a natural for me. Right off the bat, you’re greeted by Fontana’s grand squiggle of cool, white light, Neon Structure for the IX Triennial of Milan, 1951 that’s suspended over the escalators. A nice counterpoint to this expansive gesture is Le Parc’s 1962 intimate installation, Light in Movement, that uses mirrors, angled metal squares and spotlights to cast reflections around a darkened room, creating the effect of being underwater in some otherworldly, nocturnal pool.
I loved Soto's lawn-sized rectangle of blue plastic tubing, Penetrable BBL Bleu. It reminded me of a piece I saw when I was a child in New York, an entire room of ceiling-to-floor. clear plastic strips one had to make one’s way through. It really was a seminal piece for me, opening my mind up to the possibilities of what art could do: it could be visually arresting and it could also be fun! As a youngster, I was particularly taken with the notion of touching and moving through an artwork. This was a revelation. I remember it being at the location of the folk art museum on 53rd, but think there was another museum there, possibly of contemporary art?
Much like that earlier piece, you must breaststroke your way through Soto’s plastic tubes, which slap against your face and body and resist gently your forward movement. I felt like I was in some weird plastic jungle or savanna. Looking at people making their way through it produced an almost stroboscopic effect and the piece remained animated for some time after one exited, the moving tubes producing a wonderful striated pattern. It’s a fairly recent work, dating from 1999, but Soto has been exploring the idea for 30 years.
The showstopper is Cruz-Diez’s 1965 large-scale box, Chromosaturation. Walking around the front, one sees rectangles of intense colored light: red, blue, green that turn out to be windows. Around the other side, is the entrance to the box, which is divided into three zones with rows of colored fluorescent tubes in each space suspended from the ceiling. The color is not as intense as it appears looking through the windows, which must have some kind of film on them. Still, it’s plenty intense, surrounding one in a haze of color that is almost tangible, yet curiously, looking at another person, he appears normal in terms of form and colors. Standing in the corner and looking across the entire box, seeing the colors meet and bleed into one another was simply ravishing.
I gather that at the exhibition’s installation at MOCA in Los Angeles where it originated, there was an installation by Oiticica and Neville D'Almeida that featured a swimming pool ringed with blue neon and illuminated by green spotlights. On the opposing walls, slides of John Cage's 1969 book of musical notations, as well as drug imagery were projected. Visitors were allowed to swim laps in the pool—what a sensory experience that would have been, and talk about engaging with the work!
Too bad for me I was at the Hirshhorn during the day and couldn’t see the new commission by Doug Aitken Song 1, a 360° projection that at night, illuminates the museum’s entire façade.
Monday, February 6, 2012
These beauties are a natural target after my last post and given the fact I'm a shoe hound. They delight me with their Cadillac taillights and hot rod-detailing wings. A fine balance between humor and style, they’re elegant and fierce and just darn sexy unlike those goofy, faux mary jane booties from Prada’s last season. They're a breath of fresh air next to all the clunky out of scale platforms so in vogue these days.
Cars are getting uglier and uglier. Whether they’re American, Japanese or high-end German, it doesn’t matter. The worst offender may be Nissan, which a couple of years ago came up with what was the ugliest car ever: the Cube. Just because you have the technology to make a wrap around window, doesn’t mean you should. Nissan may have outdone itself this year with the perkily named Juke whose headlights extend up onto the hood. It’s an unfortunate precedent because you just know that other car companies have taken notice and this hither-to-fore expanse of plain metal will now become bedazzled and bedecked with all sorts of lighting bling.
Bling and collagen seem to be the theme here, the Juke looks plumped up like the bee-stung lips on a Bravo Housewife as does the is-it-a-sedan-or-an-SUV BMW X6 whose upwardly tilting rear end (and I’m sorry to be coarse here) reminds me of a baboon in heat presenting her ass to a courting male. I think perhaps Infiniti can be blamed for the introduction of the fubsy look to automobiles; they're no slouch in the hideous department this year with their JX and QX models.
And does anyone else see a goofy toothless grin when they pass by the front of a 2011 Mazda? It’s not an attractive look that’s only accentuated when the car is a light shade. I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want to look imbecilic driving down the road.
Don’t get me started on the SUV-pickup truck hybrids (and I’m not talking gas-electric hybrids here). The industry refers to this class of car as a crossover. I think Cadillac makes the worst version, though they’re all loathsome. These seem to be popular with pro-ball players, rap stars and recent lottery winners.
I could probably devote an entire blog to American car names, which in the past included Mirage, Charade and Caprice. Among the current line up in these macho post 9/11 times, Avalanche and Armada might be the best (i.e. worst) with special irony kudos going to GMC for co-opting the Indian name for Mt. McKinley, Denali, to bestow on its gas guzzling behemoth.
Speaking of irony have you ever noticed the disproportionately high number of SUVs out there that have the "9/11 Fight Terrorism" license plates? A friend says this is just because the drivers of such para-military vehicles are militaristic. But I believe it's more than that. On some level there’s an awareness of the ultimate toll vehicles like this have extracted from this country and it’s the owners' attempt to shift blame for the Iraq War from oil to terrorism.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Last night I watched the PBS special La Bella Princepessa on a drawing some experts believe to be a Leonardo da Vinci. A beautifully executed portrait, the pen-and-chalk drawing on vellum, features lovely rosy and golden tones. One of the highlight’s of the TV program was watching a contemporary artist recreate it using authentic materials. She began with a vellum calf-hide, which she cut to size before sketching in the figure. It was trial and error to get the colored chalk to adhere to the vellum and she eventually resorted to using her fingertips to rub it on. Interestingly, there is a partial fingerprint on the drawing, Leonardo left prints on other works, which not only supports the likelihood of finding one here, but also provides an example of the real McCoy for comparison. In the end, the print from the drawing wasn’t extensive enough and the results were inconclusive.
The drawing’s story is the kind that galvanizes the art world. Purchased for a relative pittance ($21,850) in 1998 by New York dealer, Kate Ganz (who held on to the painting for ten years) it was eventually bought by Canadian collector, Peter Silverman who suspected it might be a Leonardo and sent an image of it to eminent Leonardo scholar, Martin Kemp.
Kemp noted "uncanny vitality" in the work and says, "I experienced a kind of frisson, a feeling that this is not normal." The vellum had been carbon-dated c. 1440-c. 1650, which was within the range of Leonardo’s dates. Intrigued, Kemp embarked on his own investigation using high-resolution multispectral scans. Studying the drawing in extraordinary detail, the evidence began to mount up. Kemp discovered many areas that seemed to confirm that it was a Leonardo, most notably that the artist of the drawing was (very unusually) left-handed like the master himself. Other aspects include: the precise lines and adept modulation of colors and the enigmatic expression that is reminiscent of Leonardo’s other muses: Mona, Anne, Genevra. Lastly, the sitter’s headdress belongs to the Milanese court of the 1490s where Leonardo was.
Because there are stitch marks on the edge of the portrait and vellum was used for books, Kemp theorized that the portrait came from a book that may have commemorated a royal marriage. (This might also explain why hidden within the pages of a book it remained unknown for so long.) Armed with this clue, further research led him to theorize the sitter was Bianca Sforza (Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis (c. 1455–c. 1508) painted a strikingly similar portrait, right down to the hair net, that's positively identified as Bianca), the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Milan, who married Galeazzo Sanseverino in 1496. Her husband was not only commander of the Milanese troops, but most tantalizing, a patron of Leonardo's. Sadly Bianca, who was probably only 14, died just a few months after her wedding.
All this is very compelling, but there are experts who are not convinced that the portrait is by Leonardo and it was excluded from the blockbuster show now on view at the National Gallery in London. I have to say that while I think it is a gorgeous drawing by a consummate artist, it doesn’t look like a Leonardo to me. Now, I am no Leonardo expert, but his women are distinctly odd looking (it would be interesting to have a forensic facial reconstruction artist translate their features into “living” people to get a sense of odd they really are) and tend to look alike, probably because he used the same model. There are a couple of exceptions: The Lady with an Ermine (who kind of resembles Bianca) and his Portrait of an Unknown Woman aka La Belle Ferroniere. But even these have a stylized, almost archaic quality to their features. Not so the drawing, which not only looks like a real person, but possesses an ideal of female beauty that seems distinctly different from Leonardo’s. While there were contemporary artists who did paint beauties that look like actual people—Botticelli springs to mind—Bianca looks too pretty for Leonardo and too fleshed out, if you will, for the period. She’s more like a pre-Raphaelite glammed-up take on the Renaissance (though I’m not suggesting the drawing is from that era). Or I'll put it this way, if you asked Gustav Klimt to paint a by-the-book Renaissance portrait of a young girl, I think you'd end up with something like this.
It’s possible she was done by some other Renaissance artist or else is the product of an incredibly skilled forger. The multi-pronged expertise required to pull this off would be incredible, but with a potential $100 million payout it’s not completely inconceivable. While the evidence that points to Leonardo is manifold, for me it’s how something looks, it’s the ultimate test and all the facts in the world can’t take away from this. Just sayin’.