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Thursday, August 15, 2013


Back in June at the “Paper” show at the Saatchi Gallery in London, I discovered several knockout artists. Chief among these was Anne Kevans. Her series of portraits of 20th century dictators as children (Hitler, Idi Amin, Bokassa etc…the whole rogues gallery) entitled Boys, hit all the right notes. 

Painted with a light touch in muddy greens and ochres, Kevans’s elegant little watercolors are appealing in and of themselves: she exercises admirable restraint both in her style and the information she imparts. The added helping of creep-out we experince recognizing in these scared little faces, the familiar features we have come to abhor, takes them over the top. While there is subtlety in Devans's approach: using a minimalist style to represent these monsters when they were children (maybe not so innocent, judging from the expression on some of their faces, but at least non-threatening), the sheer quantity of baby dictators (taking up three gallery walls) is staggering.

Anne Toebee’s bird’s eye views of rooms are odd and inventive. In these bizarro floor plans, things don’t obey the same laws of perspective with counters, chairs and appliances oriented every which way.

I love the way Toebee combines rather dry draftsmanship with painterly areas. She clearly appreciates vintage interiors and patterns. In fact, the mini brick linoleum she depicts in The Doctor’s Wife is what caught my eye in the first place being the very pattern my grandmother had in her kitchen in Maine.

Named for the daily newspapers they’re made from, Jodie Carey’s sepia colored arrangements of flowers look like dried flowers you would find under a bell jar on a mantle. There’s something Victorian and something slightly funereal about them. There’s a pleasing marriage between the humbleness of the material and the elaborateness of the execution.

Eric Manigaud’s drawings of photographs taken at the Nazi-run State Care and Medical Facility in Weilmünster, Germany where Jewish patients (mental and other) were forcibly sterilized or starved are incredibly powerful. Beautifully executed, these large-scale drawings of human suffering command attention. Portrait Clinique # 10, which shows a distraught girl, her face distorted by the rough grip of a nurse is particularly arresting. Manigaud’s drawings of bombed Cologne grab our de-sensitized attention in a way that the photograph from which they come never could. Here as well as in the hospital series, by doing the drawings and making them so large, Manigaud’s succeeded in imbuing the images with the power to shock anew.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Brion-Vega Tomb

I had pictured Carlo Scarpa’s Brion-Vega Tomb off by itself on a hill. It’s actually on a flat expanse surrounded by cornfields. Over the angled concrete wall, one can see a typical Italian view of the rosy roofline and spire of the adjoining village. Most amazing, is that the tomb, which I would say takes up about a half-acre sits smack up against the cluttered cemetery of San Vito d'Altivole.

The tomb itself is austere, tranquil and un-morbid despite the fact that there are two sarcophaguses under a curved concrete awning and several other headstones. One doesn’t really notice these though.

After passing through the gate one comes to the chapel “floating” in its reflecting pool. The structures have a vaguely Asian, vaguely Art Deco, vaguely Mayan quality. Ridged protrusions, serrations and gaps that create a dynamic interplay between negative space and positive space, light and shadow. 

In addition to the chapel pool, there is a lovely chute of descending water reminiscent of the one in the garden of the Fondazione Querini Stampalia in Venice and a lily pad-covered rectangle of water at one end.

The famous red and blue intersecting circles are as beautiful and dramatic as they appear in photographs, providing two different effects depending on which side you are on.

As usual, Scarpa’s steps are wonderful. There is a simply nifty geometric set near the beginning of the tomb and at the end, a gracious stairway accesses the rest of the cemetery.

I noted the tomb looked a little shabby in places with mold creeping up a wall and there was an interesting concrete gate that didn’t work. While Scarpa’s work can stand up to a little decrepitude, I worry that the tomb is not being taken care of.