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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."

 

DARBY BANNARD'S ANNUS MIRABILIS: "SEE FIRST, NAME LATER" AT BERRY-CAMPBELL

Walter Darby Bannard (1934 - 2016), "Glass Mountain Fireball," 1975. Alkyd resin on canvas, 49 5/8 x 35 3/4 in. (126 x 90.8 cm), © Estate of Walter Darby Bannard. Courtesy Berry Campbell, New York

Here I am, back in the land of the living. Still not sure whether or not I'll be able to maintain my previous pace, but meanwhile here's a review of the current & frankly beautiful show at Berry Campbell – which is "Walter Darby Bannard: See First, Name Later: Paintings 1972-1976" (through July 1).

 

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FOREVER FRESH: KANDINSKY AT THE GUGGENHEIM

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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"INTIMATE, CONSIDERED:" WOMEN'S ABSTRACTS AT THE WHITNEY

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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DISTAFF DADA: TAEUBER-ARP AT MOMA

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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A HELLUVA TOWN AT THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY

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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AT THE MET, MORE ABOUT SURREALISM THAN YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW

Koga Harue (Kurume, Japan 1895–1933 Tokyo), Umi (The Sea), 1929. Oil on canvas, 51 3/16 × 64 in. (130 × 162.5 cm). The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

 

 

At The Metropolitan Museum of Art we have "Surrealism beyond Borders" (through January 30).   This mammoth exhibition, with work from 45 countries in all six inhabited continents, has nearly 300 items in it. God forbid anybody should say that surrealism – as defined by André Breton -- not only started in Paris in 1924, but also reached its acme there in the later 1930s. The good people who put together this show proceed instead on the assumption that surrealism went on for eight decades and could be defined all over the world and in all sorts of ways.  Read More 

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EBULLIENT HOFMANN AT MILES McENERY

"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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DRESDEN & IMPERIAL SPLENDOR AT THE MORGAN (PART TWO)

"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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DRESDEN & IMPERIAL SPLENDOR AT THE MORGAN (PART ONE)

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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