(An Appropriate Distance)


By Piri Halasz


Report from the Front

Art criticism, art comment, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 5-7 times a year. For new shows, see "events;" for hard-copy rates and ways to support the online edition, see "works."


January 21, 2015

Tags: Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde

V. S. Gaitonde, Untitled, 1977. Oil on canvas, 70 x 40 inches (177.8 x 101.6 cm). Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai. © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York. Photo: Anil Rane.
Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, runs the old recapitulation theory – meaning that the history of the individual recapitulates the history of the genus or species. While no longer favored in discussions of biology, it continues to find applications in other fields ranging from anthropology to music criticism.

It’s remarkably applicable to the life story of Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde (1924-2001), the Indian abstractionist whose serenely lovely mini-retrospective (of 45 paintings and works on paper) is currently on view in one level of the carefully delineated space of the annex at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (through February 14).

Gaitonde’s modestly-scaled abstractions are quite unlike any of the works that I normally recommend, not least because the paint in the best of them is spread almost as thinly as air. But I like to think that my readers are not so narrow-minded that they automatically tune out when confronted by art that doesn't resemble what they already know. (more…)


January 14, 2015

Tags: Cézanne

Paul Cézanne (French, Aix-en-Provence 1839–1906 Aix-en-Provence). Madame Cézanne (Hortense Fiquet, 1850–1922) in the Conservatory, 1891. Oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 28 3/4 in. (92.1 x 73 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Stephen C. Clark, 1960.
At first I wasn’t eager to see “Madame Cézanne” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (through March 15). I revere the Master of Aix-en-Provence as nearly a deity, but it’s his landscapes (especially the latest ones) that really set my nerve ends quivering.

Next on my list of most-favorite Cézannes are the still lifes (especially the simplest ones). Last come the figure studies, especially the portraits--which, when you see them individually, all appear very similar.

Add to that the fact that this show consists of 24 oils, 17 pages of drawings and three watercolors, all portraits of the same person—and I began to fear for my faith. (more…)


January 7, 2015

Tags: Renzo Piano, Goya

Francisco Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828). Witches' Sabbath, 1797-1798. Oil on canvas, 43.5 x 30.5 cm (17 x 12 in.). Lent by Fundación Lázaro, Galdiano, Madrid.
In December, I visited Boston for two good reasons: to see the Goya exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, and to see what Renzo Piano hath wrought, in his redesign of three Harvard museums. I’m sorry that I’m not reporting on my visit earlier, because the Goya show will only be (more…)


December 30, 2014

Tags: Matisse

Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954). Two Dancers (Deux danseurs), 1937-38. Stage curtain design for the ballet Rouge et Noir. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, notebook papers, pencil, and thumbtacks. 31 9/16 x 25 3/8” (80.2 x 64.5 cm). Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de création industrielle, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Dation, 1991. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Undoubtedly the biggest crowd-pleaser of the autumn is “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs” at The Museum of Modern Art (extended through February 10, 2015).

Billed as “the most extensive presentation of Matisse’s cut-outs ever mounted,” this mammoth exhibition offers about 100 unique examples of this distinctive form of expression that occupied the major part (more…)


December 22, 2014

Tags: Braque, Gris, Léger, Picasso

Georges Braque, Mandolin and Fruit Dish. Paris, early 1909. Oil on canvas, 15 1/8 × 18 1/8 in. / 38.4 × 46 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Not even The Metropolitan Museum of Art has within my memory received a gift as generous as the promised gift that is presently displayed there as “Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection” (through February 16, 2015). And it’s not just the size of the gift that makes it so generous, although it's a whale of a lot of art. (more…)


December 12, 2014

Tags: Pollock

Jackson Pollock Painting "Autumn Rhythm." Photo by Hans Namuth, (c) Hans Namuth Ltd.
Maybe you have a friend with a five-foot shelf of every book about Jackson Pollock ever written. Or maybe you have a friend who doesn’t know much about Pollock but seems to be interested and would like to know more.

Or maybe you have a friend who falls somewhere between these two extremes, (more…)


December 8, 2014

Tags: Théodore Rousseau, Willard Boepple

Willard Boepple, "Bed," 2014. Wood, 64 x 92 x 45 inches. Photo: Étienne Frossard. Courtesy Lori Bookstein Fine Art, New York.
Over on the east side of town, we have The Morgan Library and Museum, to which I was drawn by “The Untamed Landscape: Théodore Rousseau and the Path to Barbizon” (through January 18, 2015).

As anybody who has had to read up for orals in 19th century European painting knows, Rousseau, (more…)


November 29, 2014

Happy (if slightly belated) Thanksgiving! Hope all of my readers are enjoying this little holiday break as much as I am!


November 22, 2014

Tags: Richard Estes, Susan Roth

Susan Roth, North Country Girl, 2013. Powder coated steel, acrylic paint. 29" x 24" x 12". Private Collection. Courtesy S&D Studios and Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, The George Washington University. Photo: Darryl Hughto.
Washington DC has a number of worthwhile shows this autumn: Neo-Impressionism at the Phillips Collection, Richard Estes at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and – most provocatively – Susan Roth at the Luther W. Brady Gallery. It made for a busy day for me, but I got them all in.


Moving in (more…)


November 14, 2014

Tags: Hofmann, Sholto Ainslie, Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889-1975). Midwest from America Today (1930–31), mural cycle consisting of ten panels. Egg tempera with oil glazing over Permalba on a gesso ground on linen mounted to wood panels with a honeycomb interior. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of AXA Equitable, 2012
I feel guilty at not getting to Chelsea more often, or wherever this new recrudescence of abstraction is supposedly taking place. Abstract artist-friends have been telling me how much more new abstract painting there is than there used to be, but I haven’t seen anything recently I could recommend.

Imagine my delight, then, (more…)

Selected Works

A journalist tells how she developed a radical theory of abstract painting through varied experience.
The go-go mini-guide telling where ‘60s swingers hung out, and how they went about swinging.

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