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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."



Detail of "Kalila and Dimna," in Arabic. Syria? 1354. Bodleian Librarires. University of Oxford, MS. Pococke 400, fol. 75b.

In June, I was up in Connecticut, and had a delicious scone with Stacie Weiner, friend & subscriber to the print edition of FMD. She asked what big shows would be coming to New York in the autumn, so here is the beginning of a list. It’s primarily of museums, as they announce their plans earlier and in more detail, but at the end are four galleries whose September exhibitions I’ve heard about one way or another.


1) is favoring Western art this autumn more than it did last autumn. I’m not sure that’s an always a good idea, to judge from their initial offering. This is “Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years,” and will explore the influence of the Divine Andy through approximately 45 examples of his own work alongside 100 works that supposedly display a kinship with him by some 60 other artists. I am sure that this is one that will attract much media exposure and an enthusiastic public . (September 18–December 31, 2012)

2) Speaking strictly for myself, I am looking forward much more to “Bernini: Sculpting in Clay.” This show will feature some 50 small clay models made by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), great master of the baroque, as preliminaries to life-size or colossal sculptures in other media. These small, preliminary bozzetti and modelli have been fired into terra cotta, and most probably will indicate the ideas of Bernini more freely & accurately than the larger, finished sculptures, which more often than not, I believe, were realized with the aid of assistants (Bernini was famous for having almost as many assistants as Frank Stella does today). The show will also include 30 chalk or pen sketches, and four finished sculptures, 3 of them bronze and one of them marble. (October 3 – January 6, 2013)

3) Americanists and lovers of good, sound, traditional & representational painting will welcome “George Bellows," the first retrospective in more than 30 years of an artist (1882-1925) best known for his pictures of urban life in the early years of the 20th century, work which led him to be called a founding member of “the Ashcan School.” This show, which was seen this summer at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, has been co-organized by the Met, the National Gallery, and the Royal Academy in London. It includes about 140 paintings, drawings and lithographs. (November 15 - February 18, 2013)

4) Lovers of African art and fanciers of the early American avant-garde should like “African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde,” which will display some 40 wood sculptures made in Central and West Africa and subsequently owned by key American individuals throughout the 15 years or so following the 1913 Armory Show. Among these most influential collectors will be Stieglitz, John Quinn, Louise and Walter Annenberg. Juxtaposed with the African art will be 20 photographs, sculptures, paintings by Stieglitz, Sheeler, Picasso, Matisse, Picabia, Diego Rivera and Brancusi, which will demonstrate the interrelationships between African art and its European and American admirers. (November 27 – April 14, 2013)

5) As a Matissophile, I will go to almost any show with the immortal Henri in it, so I’m looking forward to “Matisse: In Search of True Painting,” an exhibition that will explore the artist’s lifelong practice of repeating painted images. He used pairs, trios and series of somewhat similar or nearly identical images to conduct an ongoing dialogue between earlier and later versions and, as he put it, “push further and deeper into true painting.” Organized by the Met, in collaboration with the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the show will consist of 28 paintings. (December 4 –March 17, 2013)


which lists the shows at PS 1, its ultra-ultra wing out in Queens, alongside its own shows, is presenting three exhibitions that sound quite ambitious at its 53rd Street HQ, as well as a fourth of comparable size at PS 1. All of them pretty much explain their content in their titles, leaving me with not a lot to add in my capacity as reporter here.

6) The biggie at PS 1 is “Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960-1980.” This survey of art by African American artists in the land of the lotus eaters will include 100 artworks, some of them by artists who – like David Hammons and Betye Saar – came East and/or found other ways to rack up national reputations. (October through February 2013)

7)A Polish artist will be honored at 53rd Street in “Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone, 1955-1972.” This lady, who died in 1973 at only 47, will be represented by 100 works, including sculpture, painting, drawings and photographs, but especially “provocative objects that evoke surrealism, nouveau réalisme and Pop. ” (October 7 through January 28, 2013)

8) One of the two big shows that will grace MoMA’s extensive 6th floor special exhibition galleries is “Tokyo 1955-1970.” Featuring 300 works by 60 artists, it will employ painting, sculpture, photographs, prints, video and film to document a period “when Tokyo transformed itself from the capital of a war-torn nation into an international center of arts, culture and commerce.” In 1994, I saw a show of Japanese art at the short-lived SoHo Guggenheim. It covered much the same period as this show (though as best I recall, it also continued right up into the 90s). The feeling I had about it was that it was navel-gazing, by which I mean the show’s organizer went looking for Japanese art that would look good to Western eyes, and got Japanese art that was very similar to what could be seen all over SoHo. I don’t know whether or not the same thing will happen with MoMA’s show, so I will withhold further comment until I see what the show is actually like. (November 18–February 25, 2013)

9) The other show big enough to rate MoMA’s 6th floor’s exhibition space is “Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925.” This is billed as commemorating the centenary of abstraction, which is a little confusing. A centenary would normally, in 2012, be commemorating an event that took place in 1912. However, according to this show’s title, MoMA dates the arrival of abstraction two years earlier, in 1910, and what is really meant by "abstraction" is what I would call "pure abstraction," and what others sometimes refer to as "the non-objective." The press release indicates that Analytic Cubism therefore won't qualify for inclusion, regardless of the fact that Picasso and Braque, between 1910 and 1912, were s0 magnificently busy creating semi-abstract work remarkably rich in multireferential imagery. Still, there will be much else to see, for the show will include about 400 works, borrowed from 80 lenders in the US and abroad, that range across the whole range of the arts -- not just visual art, that is to say, but also including music, poetry, theater and dance. Among the "art" works to be included are not only paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography & spatial constructions, but also printed matter, books, film, sound recordings and dance footage. Among artists to be included are Mondrian, Malevich, Kandinsky, Kupka, Robert Delaunay & his wife, Sonia Delaunay-Terk. Also there will be calligramme poems by Guillaume Apollinaire, and musical scores by Arnold Schoenberg. (December 23 through April 15, 2013).


10) Picassophiles should delight in this museum’s major fall show, which is “Picasso Black and White,” and has been organized by the much-admired Carmen Giménez, the Guggenheim’s curator of twentieth-century art, with the assistance of Karole Vail, Guggenheim associate curator. As its title suggests, the show focuses on Picasso’s exploration of a black-and-white palette through approximately 115 paintings and a selection of sculptures and works on paper. When one says “black and white” in relation to Picasso, I tend to think mainly of later (and, to me, less interesting ) paintings, but this exhibition will survey its theme in works dating from 1904 to 1971 – in other words, also including early monochromatic blue and rose paintings, and grey-toned cubist canvases along with lots of later work. Many people think that Picasso’s weak point was his command of color. They in particular should appreciate this show. As for me, I consider his command of color in Analytical Cubism second to none, but would agree that the color in a lot of the later work – how shall I say it?–borders on the vulgar, so I am particularly eager to tromp down the Guggenheim’s ramp. (October 5 through January 23, 2013)


11) What sounds like another beautiful exhibition will come from across the ocean in its entirety to this museum. “Crossing Borders: Manuscripts from the Bodleian Library” will display over 60 works – Hebrew, Arabic and Latin manuscripts dating from the 6th through the 16th centuries. Although they’re predominantly religious, they’re not exclusively Jewish, for the show is intended to illustrate the cross-cultural currents that flourished in Europe during the Middle Ages and on up to through the Renaissance. Typical of what we may expect, therefore, is the enchanting little Arabic illustration, possibly from Syria, which depicts four animals of an indeterminate species (rabbits???) facing up against a regular pussy-cat of a leopard. This show is based upon one held in 2009 at The Bodleian Library of Oxford University in England, which is renowned for its great collection of treasures. (September 14 through February 3, 2012)


12) This museum is also benefitting from the English passion for acquisition, as it will present “Mantegna to Matisse: Master Drawings from the Courtauld Gallery.” “Courtauld” is a name renowned not only for the quality of its small museum but also for its scholarship – the museum itself is only part of The Courtauld Institute of Art, which is a celebrated place to study art history and conservation. This show from the Courtauld Gallery will include 58 drawings executed in a range of techniques, and with a range of purposes–all the way from preliminary sketches for larger paintings to finished pictures meant to be appreciated as independent works of art. Among the other artists represented are Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Rubens, Watteau, Goya, Degas, Cézanne & Picasso. (October 2 through January 27, 2013)


Obviously, there are hundreds of galleries in the Big Apple, so the four I’m listing below are only a tiny percentage of them. I mention these four because, one way or another, they have come to my attention. At the time when I was putting this list together, most of the galleries are not yet ready to announce their September or October plans (after all, we were still in the dog days of summer).

13) "Sandi Slone: Quick Mettle Rich Blood" will be Allegra LaViola, on the Lower East Side, from September 5 to October 6. Opening reception September 5, 6 to 8.

14) Elizabeth Harris, in Chelsea, will show “Carolanna Parlato, behind the sun: new paintings” September 6 to October 6. Opening reception, September 6, 6 to 8.

15) Loretta Howard, in Chelsea, is organizing “The Lure of Paris,” a historical group show that will explore the milieu of postwar Paris for “ex-pats” from across the Atlantic, including painters, sculptors, writers & film-makers. Drawn by the reputation that Paris still had as art capital of the world (to say nothing of a highly favorable exchange rate for the dollar), and funded largely by the GI Bill of Rights, quite a number of American artists (including their wives and notably many African Americans) went to Paris in the decade or so after World War II to study and/or practice their craft. Partial working artist list for this show has, among others, Norman Bluhm, Ed Clark, Harold Cousins, Sam Francis, Cleve Gray, Joan Mitchell, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski & Jean-Paul Riopelle (among writers especially there was a sizeable Canadian contingent in Paris as well as a US one). Opens September 6.

16) "George Hofmann: 2012" will be at Show Room, Lower East Side, September 9 through October 7. Opening reception, September 9, 6 to 8.
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