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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."



Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910), The Veteran in a New Field, 1865. Oil on canvas. 24 1/8
x 38 1/8in. (61.3 x 96.8cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton
de Groot (1876-1967), 1967 (67.187.131). Photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.



My problem is that I came in on Winslow Homer (1836-1910) when the sun of modernism still shined.  My guide was Barbara Novak, and her widely-admired "American Painting of the Nineteenth Century" (1969). But if anybody wants a primer on how postmodernist clouds have rolled in over the artistic landscape, they have only to compare her treatment of Homer with the current retrospective "Winslow Homer:  Crosscurrents" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through July 31).


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I should be writing about Winslow Homer at the Met, and I'll get to it soon, but meanwhile I can't resist announcing another possible viewing pleasure, the summer show of "Leslie Feely: Hamptons," now on view through August 7, Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 5 pm. This is not a review.  It is only an announcement.   However, I can't get out to Long Island at present, and this show is said to have work by Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Helen Frankenthaler, Larry Poons, Friedel Dzubas, Robert Motherwell, and many others – so much of it that the gallery had to find a small house to display it all  (see photo).  This house is located in Wainscott at 372 Montauk Highway – for more information and/or a map, email Dakota Sica, Feely's loyal lieutenant, at dakota@lesliefeely.com  or call (917) 288-8120.

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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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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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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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"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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"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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