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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 2-4 times a year. New shows: "events;" hard copy rates & how to support the online edition: "works."

 

POLITICS AS MACGUFFIN: "THE MEDICI" AT THE MET

 

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art we have "The Medici: Portraits and Politics: 1512 -1570" (through October 11).  This is a show of Old "Masters" that tries to do the best it can for a period in Florentine art traditionally known as "Mannerism" but which the museum in its accompanying literature tries to dignify as "Renaissance."  The best reason it can make this claim is that for the most part the show steers clear of the spindly, rubbery bodies and overly cluttered compositions that distinguish Mannerism's religious, mythological and allegorical paintings, focusing instead of the relatively straightforward and mannerism-free subject of portraits

 

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IRIDESCENT CHAOS: CÉZANNE DRAWINGS AT MOMA

Paul Cézanne. Rocks Near the Château Noir (Rochers près des grottes au-dessus de Château Noir). 1895-1900. Watercolor on paper. 18 3/16 × 11 15/16″ (46.2 × 30.3 cm). Private collection

 

The extraordinarily great artist, Paul Cézanne (1839-1905), was somewhat odd in person.   The story goes that he yelled if somebody so much as brushed against him in the street.  He seems to have used drawing in black-and-white as discipline and drawing with color – including watercolor – to convey his joy at the world around him.  Both aspects of his oeuvre are on view at the Museum of Modern Art in "Cézanne Drawing" (through September 25). But with more than 250 works on paper in it, this mammoth show is perhaps best appreciated by skating as rapidly as possible through the rigor -- in order to arrive unfatigued at the pleasure. Read More 

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"THE DE LUXE SHOW"AT KARMA

"The De Luxe Show" at Karma, installation shot. Far right: picture by Robert Gordon; far left: picture by Peter Bradley.  Center: sculpture by Anthony Caro (foreground), (behind it,sculpture by James Wolfe); Back wall in center: picture by Al Loving.  Courtesy Karma, New York

Way back in 1971, 31-year-old Peter Bradley curated "The De Luxe Show." Held in a disused movie house in Houston's historically African-American Fifth Ward, it was one of the first, maybe even the first of the major racially-integrated exhibitions in the U.S.  Now two galleries are honoring its 50th anniversary with exhibitions.  The Los Angeles show is at Parker, 2441 Glendower Avenue (through September 18).  The New York show is at Karma, 188 East Second Street (through September 25).  I've only seen the Karma exhibition, but believe me folks, it's a wow. Read More 

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A DON'T-MISS TITIAN SHOW IN BEANTOWN

Titian (Italian, about 1488–1576), "The Rape of Europa," 1559–1562. Oil on canvas, 178 × 205 cm. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. © Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston is staging what sounds like one of the all-time great shows, at any rate for those of us who relate strongly to colore (as opposed to disegno), and who therefore revere Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488-1576) even over Vasari's favorite, Michelangelo. To give Tiziano his English name, the show is "Titian:  Women, Myth & Power," a cycle of six monumental paintings on mythological themes painted mostly in the 1550s by this quintessentially Venetian master (through January 2, 2022). Read More 

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H.F. IN LONDON

Helen Frankenthaler, "Heart of London Map," 1972. Steel, 87 x 82 1/2 x 25  inches (221 x 209.6 x 63.5 cm.) Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery.

 This column is indeed fortunate in having an overseas correspondent, David Evison, to review three shows by Helen Frankenthaler currently on view in London. Particularly this is fortunate because Evison is a sculptor, and the biggest surprise of all three shows is a sculpture by an artist far better known as a painter. Herewith Evison's report: Read More 

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"THE SECRET GARDEN" AT EQUITY

Willard Boepple, Three monoprints from "Lefts (E, H, and J)," (2014). Screenprints, 15 1/2 x 13 inches. Courtesy Equity Gallery.

 

 

One of two group shows that I saw and enjoyed on the Lower East Side was "The Secret Garden: Redux of a Year's Exhibitions at 1GAP Gallery, Brooklyn," at the Equity Gallery on Broome Street (closed August 14). This show was guest-curated by  David Cohen, editor of artcritical.com. On display were modestly-scaled samples of work by ten artists whom Cohen, in another guest-curatorial stint, had previously honored with far greater exposure over the past year in three consecutive exhibitions at the spacious 1GAP Gallery in One Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn. Read More 

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"IN FULL BLOOM" AT LICHTUNDFIRE

Philip Gerstein, "Spring Forward" (2014).  Oil stick and acrylic on birchwood panel, 24 x 24 inches. Courtesy Lichtundfire.

 

 

The second group  show I saw and enjoyed on the Lower East Side was "In Full Bloom" at Lichtundfire on Rivington Street (through August 20).  This is an exhibition that as its press release says, "addresses the depiction of floral motifs, plant life, vegetation and the rich landscape of a season indicative of growth and bloom." Read More 

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TIMELESS ART, TEMPORARY HOME: FRICK MADISON

Installation view at Frick Madison of Veronese's "Choice Between Virtue and Vice," and "Wisdom and Strength" and Francesco da Sangallo's St. John Baptizing, The Frick Collection, New York. Photo: Joseph Coscia Jr., 2021
 

 

If you ask me, the best show in New York is "The Frick Reframed." This is the name that The Frick Collection has given to the rehanging of its matchless collection of Old Masters in the Marcel Breuer building originally built for the Whitney Museum.  This collection will be there for two years while the Frick's own building undergoes extensive renovations.  But don't wait for two years to give yourselves a treat. Read More 

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BELATED REPORT: BOOKS AT CAA

"London's New Scene: Art and Culture in the 1960s," by Lisa Tickner (published in London in 2020 by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, distributed in the U.S. by Yale University Press)

 

This year, as always, the College Art Association held a Book & Trade Fair during its annual conference in February – but of course this year it was all different, i.e. everything was virtual.   Convention "goers" simply paid their entrance fees and zoomed into the book-and-trade-fair display at the CAA website on their computers. Companies with products to sell to artists and art historians set up separate "booths" and displayed their wares – or at least (in the case of artists' materials suppliers, like Golden Artist Colors) mainly reminded convention "goers" of their existence. Read More 

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NFTs & THE NY TIMES: HAS THE WORM FINALLY TURNED?

El Greco, Christ Driving the Money-Changers From the Temple, ca. 1570, Minneapolis Institute of Art

 

Ever since Marcel Duchamp mounted a bicycle wheel on a chair, and voiced his famous pronouncement that anything is art if an artist says it is, many (and in recent years, almost all) critics have followed tamely in his wake. So have galleries, museums, auction houses, and collectors – to say nothing of other artists, who in recent years have charmed in-groupers and bemused most of the larger public with every sort of "art" from pickled sharks to shattered antique vases, and from bananas festooned with duct tape to self-destructing pictures. Can the moment possibly have arrived when at least one small but prominent team of critics is willing to say hold, enough? Read More 

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