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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."



"Hans Hofmann: Chimbote Murals," Miles McEnery Gallery, 520 West 21st Street, New York, NY, 9 December 2021 to 29 January 2022, Photo courtesy Miles McEnery Gallery.

There is something so wonderfully happy about the paintings of Hans Hofmann (1880-1966).  (This is true even when they're not perfect, which is often the case.)   So if you want to forget about the Omicron variation for a few moments, and enjoy life to the fullest extent currently possible, I highly recommend heading to the Miles McEnery branch at 520 West 21st Street to take in "Hans Hofmann: Chimbote Murals" (through January 29).   Don't worry about getting infected by the crowd: Hofmann was a straight white Northern European male, which means he is way out of style just at present. Talk about extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds.  Read More 

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"Lindau Gospels," in Latin. Switzerland, St. Gall, ca. 880 (manuscript).Eastern France, ca. 870 (front cover) Salzburg, ca. 780–800 (back cover). Morgan Library & Museum, 1901.The Morgan Library & Museum, MS M.1, front over. Photography by Graham S. Haber


J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), the financier, was particularly fond of collecting lavishly illuminated and gilded medieval manuscripts.   The later 19th century, when he started collecting them, must have been a good time to do so, as his only major rival in this field seems to have been Henry Walters (1848-1931), founder of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Certainly, Pierpont Morgan's passion for the medieval helps enormously to make a magnificent show out of "Imperial Splendor: The Art of the Book in the Holy Roman Empire, ca. 800- 1500" at the Morgan Library & Museum (through January 23, 2022). On the other hand, this exhibition is also a "spare no expense" loan exhibition, with yet more opulent and frequently eye-popping contributions not only from the Walters but also The Getty in California, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the National Gallery in Washington, and – but  you get the general idea.

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Francisco de Goya (1746 -1828), "Monks Reading," ca. 1812-20. Brush and brown wash, 7 15/16 x 5 1/2 inches (20.2 x 14 cm.).  (c) Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.  Photography by Herbert Boswank.

J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), the financier, loved works on paper.  As early as 1890 he was already collecting illuminated, historical and literary manuscripts, early printed books and Old Master drawings and prints in his home on Lower Madison Avenue.  His son, J. Pierpont Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943) turned that home into a public institution in 1924, but neither he nor any of his successors have much altered the basic emphasis of the Morgan Library and Museum from historical works on paper. 


Sad to say, in recent years the museum seems to have felt obliged to display a small amount of typically execrable postmodernist work, but the two special exhibitions currently on view are both historical and excellent. The first is "Van Eyck to Mondrian: 300 Years of Collecting in Dresden" and the second is "Imperial Splendor: The Art of the Book in the Holy Roman Empire, ca. 800- 1500" (both through January 23, 2022). Read More 

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Happy Happy

Happy Christmas, everyone!  Taking a short holiday break. Should be back online around New Year's.   See ya then!  PH

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Installation View of "Wilfredo Lam:  The Imagination at Work," 510 West 25th Street, November 9 - December 21, 2021, Photography  Courtesy of Pace Gallery.   At right:  "Les Oiseaux Voilés,"


I'm awfully late with this, but I do want to get a plug in for "Wilfredo Lam: The Imagination at Work," currently offered under the joint auspices of Pace and Gary Nader at Pace's headquarters, 510 West 25th Street in Chelsea (through December 21).  Even if the color schemes of many of the works on view tend heavily toward tans or grisaille, at their pointy-headed best they offer an eerily pleasant change of pace from the brightly and often garishly colored world outside.   Read More 

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Oscar Bluemner (1867-1938), Moonlight Fantasy, 1930. Signed with conjoined letters at lower left: BLŰMNER; inscribed, dated and signed on the backing with framing notes: Catalogue #15/ 28 ½ x 38 ½ /Gouache painting on panel/1930/ #234/Moon Light Fantasy/Oscar F. Bluemner /Casein varnish on paper mounted on board 30 ¾ x 22 ½ inches (78.1 x57.1 cm) (11138)

I really liked the display at The Art Show this year of Oscar Bluemner's work by Menconi + Schoelkopf. But, like last year's show by this same gallery of John Marin, it turns out that The Art Show booth was only a smaller prelude to a much larger show of Bluemner's work held after The Art Show closed and back at the gallery's headquarters on the Upper East Side. So I held my fire until I could see the larger gallery show, and found a delicious entertainment that I can highly recommend.


Titled "Bluemner and the Critics,"it' s on through December 17 and has a catalogue by Roberta Smith Favis – who is not to be confused with the New York Times critic of nearly the same name, but is instead a longtime professor at Stetson University in Florida, and first curator of the fabulous Bluemner collection given to Stetson by the artist's daughter Vera Kouba. Read More 

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Stanley Whitney, "Twenty Twenty," 2020. Oil on linen, 243.8 x 304.8 x 3.8 cm. (96 x 120 x 1 1/2 in.). Courtesy Lisson Gallery


Well, and so Stanley Whitney is still with us.  When I walked by Lisson (on my way to Berry Campbell, further along West 24th Street), I glanced through Lisson's big windows and spied within "Stanley Whitney: Twenty Twenty" (through December 18).  According to the online installation shot accompanying my first review of Whitney's work – discussing his show at Team in 2012 – neither the colors nor the compositions of his larger and more prepossessing paintings have changed that much in the past nine years.   But hey, they look great – in fact, so terrific that I couldn't resist walking right into Lisson to examine them in more detail. Read More 

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Stanley Boxer (1926-2000), Rainnights, 1973. Oil on linen, 74 x 68 in. (188 x 172.7 cm).   Courtesy Berry Campbell.


Though I've reviewed the paintings of Stanley Boxer (1926 – 2000) many times, mostly it has been his work from the '80s and '90s that I discussed, the pictures covered with glittering, glistering accretions of matière. Only occasionally have I glanced at let alone reviewed his work from the early 1970s, but these are the paintings now featured in "Stanley Boxer: The Ribbon Paintings (1971- 1976)" at Berry Campbell in Chelsea (through December 23).  And they form a wonderful chapter in pure painting.

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Arthur B. Carles (1882-1952), Flowers in a Yellow Vase, 1922.  Oil on canvas, 35 1/2 x 31 1/2 inches (90.2 x 80 cm), Courtesy of Avery Galleries, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania


In 2021 I skipped "The Armory Show."  Its ratio of annuals to perennials in recent years has been roughly 200:10 at best   -- and I consider a work "perennial" if to me it has staying power, whether it is new or old. At "The Art Show," staged by the Art Dealers Association of America at the Park Avenue Armory (and held this year for the first time in November), the ratio is more like 70:10. This makes it for me much more worthwhile. I'm afraid I'm picky, though, – so when I say I found ten booths out of seventy worthy of praise, and several  more at least worthy of mention, that signifies enthusiasm for me!

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Kenneth Noland (1924-2010), Fete, 1959. Magna on canvas, 69 x 68.5 inches (175.3 x 174 cm).  Courtesy of Yares Art.



At Yares Art on Fifth Avenue is a stupendous show.  It is entitled "Kenneth Noland: Context is the Key -- Paintings: 1958-1970" (through January 22, 2022).  I don't know quite what "context" Yares refers to.  Certainly the socioeconomic and political troubles of that far-off era, while they may seem trifling in retrospect, were no less dire at the time than our current evils seem today. Maybe the gallery is thinking in esthetic terms of the '60s as a period when the sun of modernism wasn't yet as nearly obscured by the clouds of anti-modernism, the way it is today. Whatever. Anyway, it's a helluva show.

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