Tuesday, 25 October 2016

MAX BECKMANN in New York at the Met - till Feb 20th 2017.

In 1947 the 63 year old MAX BECKMANN arrived in the States - another immigrant from war-torn Europe. Three years later, at the height of his powers, he was dead, of a heart attack on the street as he was walking from his apartment on West 69th St to Central Park on his way to the Metropolitan to see his own painting there as part of a group show.
This wonderful exhibition at the Met, of 39 key pix, is a belated bow to one of the 20th century’s artistic giants

It includes 14 oils created in his last 16 months while he lived in Manhattan, many iconic self-portraits along with 2 giant & great triptychs plus expressionist interiors, landscapes & nudes. 
There are 2 personal connections. Anyone who know John Bellany's work will know about the huge impact Beckmann had on him as a young graduate. 
And 1947-55 is a period fresh in my husband's mind and conversation. He worked with J B Neuman, Beckmann's dealer, and Morton D May, of St Louis, a key Beckmann collector & supporter, and knew well the St Regis/ Plaza Hotel of the period when commercial galleries were few & all located on 57th St between Madison & Park. Also Perry Rathbone, the enormously influential director of St Louis Museum was a friend. 
My husband, Phillip A Bruno lived on East 57th at number 67 over the Borgenicht Gallery where he worked. Neumann's gallery was originally at 35 West 57th but by 1950 Neumann was acting as a private dealer.  
And the famous Van Gogh show at the Met in October 1949 was a key event for both Beckmann & Phillip Bruno. (Bruno went on to know & visit the Van Gogh family at their home in Holland.) 
Beckmann had a tough life; lived thro a traumatic First World War as medical orderly; rose to huge success in Germany by 1933 - just as Hitler & the Nazis came to power & changed the world. Beckman was sacked from his job, his pictures confiscated & labeled 'Degenerate art.' 
Exile & poverty for a decade in Amsterdam followed. Many efforts to get a visa for the States were refused. Shortly after he arrived in the US, Abstract Expressionism became the rage in America & his complex, allegorical, narrative painting with its politically & morally charged figurative triptychs, did not appeal. 
Beckmann painted throughout everything. 
"The first impression of Beckmann was that he was different from his self-portraits, appearing unexpectedly blond, rugged in frame & even rather mild mannered in contrast to the severity with which he had presented himself in paintings. Later acquaintance proved, however, that some of the bluntness and intensity of his portraits was indeed a striking element in his character." (1950 interview)

His second wife Quappi, whom he adored, played a vital role in his life, always with him, even as he taught, translating for him. There was a 20 year gap, he 40 & she 20 when they met. After his death she was key to his archive. 
Quappi 1948, age 44.  

A well-read intellectual, he nevertheless liked low life dives in the Bowery on the Lower East Side

 - more about the show later ... + more pix 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

ROBERT ANDREW PARKER & JAMES GRASHOW, Washington Art Association Gallery, Connecticut, USA

 This show is titled "STILL AT IT..."  Fair enough as the 2 artists, Robert Andrew Parker & James Grashow, are both well over 3 score years & ten - & very active fellas. 
Friends for many years, their styles are poles apart but mesh really well. Grashow, a sculptor, works with intricate detail. 

Parker is a painter/printmaker with a fluent light touch. A new series painted this year from the New Jersey Shore exemplifies this with its lively blobby bathers & dashes of coloured umbrellas dancing, tilting & swaying across the sky.  He's like a magician conjuring up a fleeting image, a trick of the light, a turn of the head. 
Parker graduated from the Chicago Art Institute in 1952, later working at the famous Stanley William HAYTER's ATELIER 17 in New York. He had his first solo show in 1954.  
In this particular show both men, by chance or serendipity, include monkeys. Parker studies singular, individual creatures ....  Looks them in the eye, just as he does 

just as he does with his lively dogs: lovable Romeo, stately Hugo or Mrs Hinchman's Whippets running free. 
These dogs exemplify Parker's approach to almost any subject. He manages to capture, condense & simplify at speed, using loose brushwork to encapsulate his reaction to a particular scene with a swift, almost expressionist technique. 
 JAMES Grashow's hoard of monkeys balance, swing & chatter. All are made from ordinary cardboard! Amazing. And the detail he can engineer is equally impressive. 
More animals include Grashow's meticulous Rooster & a huge Crane, and shoal of giant fish all made from cardboard.  Grashow lists the vital elements of his life as "wife, children & cardboard!"

In fact all of GRASHOW's work is made from banal cardboard.  "Boxes, tubes, sheets of corrugated - everything that lives between the good stuff & the garbage becomes a perfect partner for play. Its very valuelessness liberates us. Corrugated board is the DNA of creativity. "
Grashow was born in Brooklyn, trained at Pratt. He has been creating works that address themes of man, nature, & mortality since his first sculpture show at the Allan Stone Gallery in 1966. Recent work is with birds & corrugated cardboard.
This pix demonstrates how well the show is hung, and arranged so that the 2 artists gel. Rooster by Grashow; The painting by Parker is of Mancha Pichure, in the Annapurnas Range in the Himalayas. 

Parker has always liked to walk - often getting off at 125th St & walking the 10 miles to Battery Park (that's about a 3 hr walk according to Google,) before getting a rest by sitting on the (free) ferry to Staten Island.  
In 1981 he joined a trek to the Himalayas. Ten years later, aged 64, he returned, and the 
Himalayas have provided inspiration ever since for a series of mountain landscapes like the one here of Annapurnas, near Nepal. "We only got to 19,800 ft - but that's pretty high! I loved it. I'm glad I did it."   
The first visit was he said "Chaotic. We got to hate some of our fellow trekkers!!"
The second much better but he lost 30lbs and came home with pneumonia. 
From childhood Parker was always interested in military stuff, regiments, battles, war, etc collecting toy soldiers in a big way. Remember he was 12 when the 2nd World War began. His brother & he made many model airplanes. "His were perfect, mine a bit slapdash." 
He continued his fascinated with early flight etc, & 1st & 2nd World War shipping, as you can see here, for PARKER's show includes a series of paintings of early aircraft & ships.
Parker's light touch & quirky approach to art & the art world has enabled him to produce all sorts of work in 2 and 3D including a series of about 100 illustrated books - which I just love. They range from "Insects of all Nations"  'German Humor',  'Hiking Man' and 'Randolf's Dream" to the story of the Wright Brothers  & his best seller, "Who was Einstein?" The latter is now available in 30 languages; u can get it on Amazon. "It's the only one that's made money!"

His studio is a magic place, a workshop full to the brim with ideas & objects; plans, printer & press.. 
-somewhere were he can indulge his imagination & create stunning images and evocative pen and water-color illustrations to enhance any story with drama and wit. 
"Long ago I discovered that you didn't need to do adult pictures- still lifes and stuff like that. You could make somthings up. And the books - Nothing to do with facts it can all be arbitrary. It can be what you want it to be." 

This energetic, young at heart artist, now 89, (and also a dedicated drummer) has yet more work in the Ober Gallery, Main St, in Kent, Ct.  Last year his 60 year retrospective was in Pasadena. What will tomorrow bring?!  

Wednesday, 12 October 2016



With 100s of historic buildings, Hudson has been called the "finest dictionary of American architecture in New York State”. BUT it has had its ups & downs. From the 1780s it was an active port, by 1820 the 4th largest city & coming within one vote of being named the capital of New York state. By 1900 it was famous for sex, drugs & guns.
Antique dealers revived the town in the 1980s, and now it’s the hot place to be for galleries, food, music, theatre & art - and of course the landscape! 

20 years ago LYNN DAVIS photographed all the 300 buildings along both sides of Warren St. To celebrate, her series is on show, snaking its way all around VINCENT MULFORD Antiques. Salutary it is. A great documentation, images clear & elegant, truthful & timeless. 
We arrived in 2002 and even since then much has changed, restored, gentrified etc but some parts remain dilapidated, waiting.

These images were first shown at the Haddad Gallery. 
HUDSON's main street is lined with art galleries. DAVIS ORTON & BCB ART are at the bottom near the station; Carrie HADDAD is at the top. In between are MANY big & small. 

CARRIE HADDAD GALLERYCARRIE HADDAD opened her Hudson NY gallery 25 years ago. Hudson was a totally different place then, it was a brave move. Today Hudson is the hot place to be, a weekend town for New Yorkers a mere 2 yrs along the glorious Hudson River: the most beautiful train trip in America.  

This month abstractions is to the fore. Haddad has a great, full room display of JACK WALLS emotional looking b&w linear heads, which makes a terrific design background for JOE WHEATON's large scale metal sculpture which I just love; metal arabesques - elegant, organic, very oriental.
Haddad also shows abstractions from BRUCE MURPHY created by veils of metallic gold & silver
Straight across Warren Street from Haddad a newer enterprise, GALERIE GRIS, also shows abstraction, this time geometrics from RYAN RUSSO based on, I am told, the audio/video data from VHS tapes of specific films or music albums. The results are black lines on colour. Linear again but this time formal, regimented, reductive repeats. 

Galerie Gris also shows minimalist paintings by a youngish artist: JERAMIAH ARNESON. I was impressed by the control Arneson has over these huge areas of strong hue edged by tiny coloured corners: leaf green against lavender; orange on pink. Terrific. 

Across the road JEFF BAILEY GALLERY also shows abstracts but minimal, black, white & grey, controlled, precise. Bailey had a place in Chelsea till recently. 
 Here PETE SCHULTE, an MFA from Iowa Uni, also gives us a site-specific wall drawing - which works really well! 

E.E. IKELER an MFA from Yale, uses texture together with almost hidden text, to create complex colour images in gentle, reflective tones. 
THE DAVIS ORTON GALLERY at 114 Warren St, presents a serious show inspired by the international movement, BLACK LIVES MATTER .    
NICOLE BUCHANAN's series, The Skin I’m In, addresses the basic fact of discrimination against minorities. Here are 16 head & bare shoulders. Each person emerges from darkness into a luminous setting, & stares into the camera, dignified, neither aggressive nor submissive, to defy racial presumptions. Buchanan is a recent IMPRESSIVE graduate from RISD with a BFA in photography. 

AMANDA CHESTNUT also tackles the African American issue but via her hair. “I spent years allowing myself to be defined by my hair. This, more than any other part of my body, has been used by others to measure how black I am, how white I am, how smart, how much money I have, & how much I am worth as an individual. Why should hair mean so much.”
Chestnut’s narrative of race & gender conveys the emotion & lasting impact of her personal experience. 
Meanwhile DON RUSSELL & BEN ARNON also look at issues of colour. 
DON RUSSELL's portfolio COWBOYS of COLOUR documents the rich cowboy culture of rodeos & ranching in dramatic images: posed, strong, vivid.  Women cowgirls too. Russell is white & originally knew nothing of this life but grew to love it. 

BEN ARNON is a New York City-based visual journalist whose focus is documentary reportage & street portraiture. Of the Black Lives Matter parades & protests, he says, 
"These photographs tell the truth. This is what democracy looks like. This is what America looks like.”

HUDSON is awash with art. Not all good, but well worth a trip!