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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. New shows: "events;" how to support the online edition: "works."



Vasily Kandinsky, Black Lines (Schwarze Linien), December 1913. Oil on canvas, 51 3/8 x 51 5/8 inches (130.5 x 131.1 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, By gift 37.241


Nowadays when you say Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, everybody thinks of Frank Lloyd Wright's wedding cake design.  But before then, it was the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, in which Peggy Guggenheim's Uncle Sol indulged the passion of his principal advisor, the Baroness Hilla Von Rebay and her sometime boyfriend, Rudolf Bauer, for the art of Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944).  In all, the Guggenheim today owns 67 paintings by that Russian-born master, plus several hundred of his works on paper. And it has put approximately 80 of his paintings, watercolors, and woodcuts, as well as a selection of his illustrated books, on long-term display in the upper reaches of its rotunda.  The show is called "Vasily Kandinsky: Around the Circle" and it offers a signal opportunity to reacquaint oneself with this most original and memorable Older Master (through September 5, 2022). Read More 

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Installation view of Labyrinth of Forms: Women and Abstraction, 1930-1950 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 9, 2021-March 2022). From left to right, top to bottom: Esphyr Slobodkina, Untitled, 1937; Marie Kennedy, Untitled, 1937; Alice Trumbull Mason, Untitled, 1937; Rosalind Bengelsdorf, Untitled, 1937; Agnes Lyall, Untitled, 1937; Gertrude Greene, Untitled, 1937; Ray Kaiser, Untitled, 1937. Photograph by Ron Amstutz


Particularly after visiting MoMA's show of Sophie Taeuber-Arp, I approached another show of women's abstracts at the Whitney Museum of American Art with caution.  Please don't let it be another overblown attempt to imitate masculine theater, I prayed to myself.  But I needn't have worried: taste and discretion rule triumphant at the Whitney's ingratiating period effort, "Labyrinths of Forms: Women and Abstraction, 1930-1950" (through March 13).  It is a most entertaining show. Read More 

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Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Vertical-Horizontal Composition. 1916. Colored pencil, gouache, and pencil on paper. 9 7/16 x 7 3/4" (23.9 x 19.6 cm). Stiftung Arp e.V., Berlin. Photo Alex Delfanne


"I do hope this show isn't all textiles," I groaned before going to the Museum of Modern Art to see "Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction" (through March 12). I said this because I am more into fine arts than applied arts. But it turns out that Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889 – 1943) was really much better as an interior designer than she was as a fine artist, so the best of the applied arts in this huge and unwieldy show are for the most part the best thing about it.


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Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1986), Study for "Brooklyn Bridge", 1949. Charcoal and black and white chalk on paper. Promised gift of Elie and Sarah Hirschfeld, Scenes of New York City. © 2021 Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York


In the immortal words of Comden & Green, "New York, New York, it's a helluva town." The city is currently being celebrated at The New-York Historical Society by "Scenes of New York City: The Elie and Sarah Hirschfeld Collection" (through February 27).  This munificent gift to The Society features 130 works by more than 100 artists. All these works are in traditional media: paintings, drawings, prints, other works on paper and sculpture. Read More 

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