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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."



"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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Paul Signac. Opus 217. Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones, and Tints, Portrait of M. Félix Fénéon in 1890. 1890. Oil on canvas. 29 x 36 1/2″ (73.5 x 92.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David Rockefeller, 1991. Photo by Paige Knight. © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


In 21st century America, "anarchists" is a term used by Donald Trump to attack left-leaning, often poor and especially African-American people in cities who demonstrate against him.  But in late 19th century France, the term might be a compliment: even middle-class and even affluent white people could be anarchists.   One such was Félix Fénéon (1861-1944), subject of a meandering but ultimately highly enjoyable exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art called "Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde—From Signac to Matisse and Beyond" (through January 2, 2021).The nicest part of it is that we get the politics (anarchism) over with relatively early in the show, and focus far more on the esthetics (avant-garde). Read More 

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Henri Matisse. Masque au petit nez (Mask with Small Nose), 1948. Aquatint on paper. Sheet: 25 1/2 x 19 3/4 inches (64.8 x 50.2 cm).  Image: 17 x 15 5/8 inches (43.2 x 34.6 cm). (c)2020 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of Kasmin Gallery.


In our current troubling and depressing time, I'm so glad that Kasmin has mounted "Henri Matisse: Matisse in Black and White" (through December 19).This is a modest, non-commercial show of only 23 black-and-white paintings, drawings, and prints, together with 1 color print, 2 small black sculptures and three bound volumes, but it still serves admirably to remind us all over again of just why we love Matisse. Read More 

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"Matisse and American Art" (left to right: Frankenthaler, Matisse, Rothko). Photo by Peter Jacobs/Courtesy of Montclair Art Museum
Once again, you catch me in my Goldilocks mode: I recently had three differently-sized (and differently oriented) art experiences. The biggest (and least attractive) was a trip to MoMA; the smallest (and considerably more attractive) took place in an East Village theater; and the middle-sized (altogether excellent) involves the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey. Read More 
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Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954). Two Dancers (Deux danseurs), 1937-38. Stage curtain design for the ballet Rouge et Noir. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, notebook papers, pencil, and thumbtacks. 31 9/16 x 25 3/8” (80.2 x 64.5 cm). Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de création industrielle, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Dation, 1991. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Undoubtedly the biggest crowd-pleaser of the autumn is “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs” at The Museum of Modern Art (extended through February 10, 2015).

Billed as “the most extensive presentation of Matisse’s cut-outs ever mounted,” this mammoth exhibition offers about 100 unique examples of this distinctive form of expression that occupied the major part  Read More 
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Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954), Blue Nude, 1907. Oil on canvas, 36 ¼ x 55 ¼ in. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.228. © 2013 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photography by Mitro Hood.
Nobody could recreate the 1913 Armory Show as it originally existed, with approximately 1300 works of art by over 300 European and American artists. Two museums have recently tried to stage an evocation of it, in honor of its centenary, and although I liked the first show a lot, I like the second even better.

Furthermore,  Read More 
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Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954). Notre-Dame. 1914. Oil on canvas, 58 x 37 1/8 in. (147.3 x 94.3 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest, and the Henry Ittleson, A. Conger Goodyear, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Sinclair Funds, and the Anna Erickson Levene Bequest given in memory of her husband, Dr. Phoebus Aaron Theodor Levene, 1975. (c)2012 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Another show at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, even more worthy of visiting than that of George Bellows, gives us a master beloved by modernists for his sheer mastery of the art of painting, and for the enormous pleasure he has already given so many of them over the years. He is also popular with postmodernists because he is figurative enough to enjoy crowd appeal Read More 
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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  Read More 
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Room 18, east wall, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. (c)2012 The Barnes Foundation.
“The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention” is the title of one of my favorite short stories, by Dorothy L. Sayers, but it might just as well be the title of the tumultuous history of the Barnes Foundation, which this spring opened its doors to visitors at its new home in center city Philadelphia. That history begins  Read More 
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View from 21st Street. The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. (March 2012). (c) Tom Crane 2012.

I blush to admit that I never responded to the mystique of the old Barnes Foundation in Merion, not at least in the way its most fervent partisans did, though naturally I greatly admired the many virtues of its memorable collection. Maybe that's because I share what Greenberg called  Read More 
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