Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 5-7 times a year. New shows: "events;" hard-copy rates & how to support the online edition: "works."

THREE OLD MASTERS

February 7, 2016

Tags: Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Joaquín Torres García

Installation view of "Joaquín Torres-García: The Arcadian Modern" at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (October 25, 2015–February 15, 2016). Photo by Jonathan Muzikar. © 2015 The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Why do we look at great art of the past? First, to enjoy it. Second, to remind us how much we have forgotten about its quality and how wise it is to refresh that memory so that we can use it to evaluate the present. For both reasons, I recommend not only the surprising inspiration provided by the moving museum retrospective of Joaquín Torres García but also the fine but more familiar gallery shows of Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski. (more…)

A CRITIC'S FANTASY...

February 1, 2016

Tags: Marcia Scott, James Walsh, Stephanie Franks, Louise P. Sloane, April Hammock, Yvonne Thomas, Nikki Geula, Francine Tint, Kiyomi Baird, Joan Miller, William Beier

William Beier. White Nights (Homage to Hokusai), 2009-2013. UV Ink on canvas, 56 × 72 in (142.2 × 182.9 cm). Courtesy Walter Wickiser Gallery.
Every critic has a secret fantasy…..mine, last week, was that I could extract the few quite nice to very nice paintings that I saw while making the rounds in Chelsea from the context of the shows in which they appeared – in other words, I was fantasizing a gallery of my own…. (more…)

NOW WE HAVE PICASSO....SCULPTURE AT MOMA

January 24, 2016

Tags: Picasso

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973), Chair. Cannes, 1961. Painted sheet metal, 45 1/2 × 45 1/16 × 35 1/16 in. (115.5 × 114.5 × 89 cm). Musée national Picasso–Paris © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
“As Gertrude Stein might say, and perhaps she has, for today one picks things out of the air and she may though I cannot say she has or has not: Now we have Picasso and now that we have Picasso what are we going to do about Picasso now we have him?” (more…)

MOST FAMOUS ABSTRACTIONIST: STELLA AT THE WHITNEY

January 17, 2016

Tags: Frank Stella

Frank Stella, Plant City, 1963. Zinc chromate on canvas. 102 1/2 x 102 1/2 in. (260.4 x 260.4 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art; gift of Agnes Gund in memory of Anne d’Harnoncourt, 2008. © 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Arguably, Frank Stella is the most famous & successful abstract artist to emerge in the widespread reaction against abstract expressionism that began in the summer of 1950 (months after “ab-ex” itself had become the reigning avant-garde). In my book, neither “famous” nor "successful” automatically equates to “best,” but these two adjectives qualified Stella to become the subject of the first (more…)

APPEALING DUO: PARLATO & WALKER AT ELIZABETH HARRIS

January 10, 2016

Tags: Carolanna Parlato, Sandy Walker

Carolanna Parlato, Beckon, 2015. Acrylic and molding paste on canvas, 66 x 72 inches. Courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery.
Two appealing mid-career artists are showing at Elizabeth Harris in Chelsea. The front gallery displays eight abstract paintings on canvas (all done in 2015) in “Carolanna Parlato: A Delicate Balance,” while in the back gallery may be found fifteen representational drawings on paper (all done in 2014) in “Sandy Walker: Stehekin Poems” (both through February 14). (more…)

THE GRAVITY OF A VOLCANO: POONS AT LORETTA HOWARD

January 9, 2016

Tags: Larry Poons

Larry Poons, Loose Change, 1977. Acrylic on canvas, 94 x 43 1/2 inches. Courtesy Loretta Howard Gallery.
Entering Loretta Howard just now is like walking into the middle of Niagara Falls, or being confronted by the descending lava of a volcano—all as frozen for eternity by a modernist photographer like Brassaï, whose studies of Picasso’s sculpture from the 1930s and 40s currently grace the Picasso sculpture show at MoMA. (more…)

VENERABLE FROM AFRICA: “THE MIDDLE KINGDOM” AT THE MET

January 9, 2016

Game of Hounds and Jackals. Ivory, ebony, sycamore. Board: L. 15.6 cm (6⅛ in.), W. 10.1 cm (4 in.), H. 6.8 cm (2⅝ in.); jackal pins: H. 7 cm (2¾ in.) to 8.5 cm (3⅜ in.); hound pins: H. 6 cm (2⅜ in.) to 6.8 cm (2⅝ in.). Twelfth Dynasty, reign of Amenemhat IV (ca. 1814–1805 B.C.). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926 (26.7.1287a–k); Gift of Lord Carnarvon, 2012 (2012.508) Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is really committing itself this autumn to what Victorians called “the dark continent,” meaning that it was unexplored, and what has more recently has been recognized as “the birthplace of humanity.” Besides “Kongo,” the other big African show that the museum offers is “Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom” (through January 24). (more…)

CARPE DIEM WITH ARCHIBALD MOTLEY AT THE WHITNEY

January 2, 2016

Tags: Archibald Motley

Archibald J. Motley Jr., Hot Rhythm, 1961. Oil on canvas, 40 × 48 3/8 in. (101.6 × 122.9 cm). Collection of Mara Motley, MD, and Valerie Gerrard Browne. Image courtesy the Chicago History Museum. © Valerie Gerrard Browne
The Whitney Museum of American Art had two big shows this autumn, on Frank Stella and Archibald Motley. I expect to be writing about Stella in the not-too-distant future, but I must confess that I had a lot more fun with “Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist” (through January 17). (more…)

KELTIE, JACKIE & ANNE

January 2, 2016

Tags: Keltie Ferris, Jackie Saccoccio, Anne Truitt

Anne Truitt, Rice-Paper Drawing [9], 1965. Ink on Japanese rice paper, 12 1/4 x 9 inches; 31 x 23 cm. : © Estate of Anne Truitt / The Bridgeman Art Library / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.
Some shows I see because I’m told I should, others because I expect to like them. Here are two October exhibitions of the first type, of work by Keltie Ferris & Jackie Saccoccio; also one show of the second type, of work by Anne Truitt. (more…)

DAZZLING SOV-FOTO AT THE JEWISH MUSEUM

December 25, 2015

Tags: Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky, Sergei Eisenstein

Georgy Petrusov, Skier, early 1930s. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Alex Lachmann. Artwork © Georgy Petrusov, courtesy of Alex Lachmann Collection.
If there’s anything harder than putting a positive spin on a seedbed for fascism, it’s putting a positive spin on what Ronald Reaganin 1983 called the “evil empire” -- the Communist Soviet Union. However, the Jewish Museum has brilliantly managed such a spin with its nakedly beautiful exhibition, “The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film” (through February 7). (more…)