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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."

 

MEXICANS & YANQUIS AT THE WHITNEY: GOOD-LOOKING DISPLAY

José Clemente Orozco, Zapatistas, 1931. Oil on canvas, 45 × 55 in. (114.3 ×
139.7 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York; given anonymously. ©
2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City. Digital
image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY

 

 

At the Whitney Museum of American Art we have "Vida Americana: Mexican  Muralists Remake American Art, 1925-1945" (through January 31, 2021).  This is a large and diverse exhibition of approximately 200 works by 60 artists from Mexico and the United States. It aims to show how that curious blend of populism and modernism that developed in Mexico in the wake of its early 20th century political revolution influenced artists in the United States in the period between 1925 and 1945.

 

Visually, there is a lot to like in this show, and I recommend it for that reason.  But don't go expecting any attempt to recreate the full range of U.S. art & culture in the period under discussion. Rather, we get the usual conformity to 21st century verities.

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EDITH HALPERT AT THE JEWISH MUSEUM: COMBINING BUSINESS WITH PLEASURE

Stuart Davis, Egg Beater No. 1, 1927, oil on linen. Collection of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, 31.169. Artwork © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 

In 1906, a 6-year-old girl, Edith Gregoryevna Fivoosiovitch, migrated from Kyev (then in Russia, now in Ukraine) with her family to New York City.  She grew up to love art, study it and try to make it, but doesn't seem to have been very good at it herself. She therefore learned all about selling in Manhattan department stores and elsewhere. 

 

She married a painter, Samuel Halpert, became known as Edith Gregor Halpert, and in 1926 opened in Greenwich Village what was to become known as the Downtown Gallery.  The tale of this pioneering art dealer, the first to exclusively represent American moderns and American folk art, is told in absorbing detail by "Edith Halpert and the Rise of American Art" at The Jewish Museum (through February 9). Read More 

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JACOB LAWRENCE: THE EDUCATION ARTIST AT MOMA

Jacob Lawrence. The Migration Series. 1940-41. Panel 3: “In every town Negroes were leaving by the hundreds to go North and enter into Northern industry.” Casein tempera on hardboard, 12 x 18″ (30.5 x 45.7 cm). The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C. Acquired 1942. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph courtesy The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.
Various U.S. Presidents have claimed to be “the education President,” but none with claims to equal those of Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) to be “the education artist.” This is far less because – like so many other artists – he spent many years teaching. It is far more because his art combines art with history.

In fact, as our city's children head back to school, I can't think of a better way to show them that history need not be dull and dry than  Read More 
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"CARIBBEAN: CROSSROADS OF THE WORLD"

Agostino Brunias (Italy ca. 1730--Dominica 1796). Pacification with the maroon negroes in the island of Jamaica. Oil on canvas, 22 x 24 inches. Private Collection.
What Holland Cotter of the New York Times calls “the big event of the summer season in New York” is really three events in one. Its collective title is “Caribbean: Crossroads of the World,” but it is three separate exhibitions, being held simultaneously at El Museo del Barrio (through  Read More 
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