Sunday, 24 September 2017

RODIN at the MET, NY

NY's Met has one of the world's best RODIN collections, but for a good long while they have been located in a thro-way which links one main part of the Met with another. Used every day by hoards, it did not encourage slow looking! 
Now, to celebrate the centenary of his death, a new and thoughtful permanent display changes the dynamtic. Same place but new lighting, new colour, new hang, new juxtapositions with paintings by his friends Monet, Puvis de Chevannes, Renoir, Bastien-Lepage, etc etc etc make for a fitting sculpture gallery - and home for one of the most famous ever works of art The THINKER.  
U can buy a copy of it from Walmart for $60 and from the Met store for $225!! 
Photo of Rodin by Steichen
The one at the Met, modeled in 1880, cast in bronze in 1910, was comissioned by the Met. It epitomise Rodin's "ardent, enduring exploration of the human figure as he strove to imitate 'not only form, but life" explains curator Denise Allen. Even his toes breathe energy, coiled in tension yet ready to dream or leap.
The first Rodin show at the Met was in 1912 when Rodin was 72. 
It was also the first ever show there of a living artist - & R was so pleased he donated some work from his studio. That was the start of a large collection of around 100 marbles, bronzes, plasters, terracottas, drawings and prints of which half are on show here
             This photo from an excellent Met BLOG shows the space before - below u see it now.


The Rodin gallery, now christened  B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Gallery, in honor of their major 1980s gift, is divided into 2 - Heaven & Hell.
Hell comes first with its almost black, but sometimes greeny-black, big bold bronzes. 
 The half way point is marked by the beautiful classic Age of Bronze 1876
                                     here being removed, then re-installed to great effect.

Then heaven - with white marble lovers: Cupid & Psyche, Pygmalion & Galatea, sensuous Orpheus & Eurydice 1887, the erotic lovemaking of Eternal Spring.
140 years ago what did the pubic make of it all ?? I know my grandmother had sepia reproductions of these sculptures in her bedroom in the 1920s according to my mother, who herself went on to be a sculptor of the nude figure. The pix were still there when I was a child.
There is no defined path thro the show - explore it any way u want. Here above is Pygmalion & Galatea 1889. Marble. 
The walls are hung with related paintings. Here the Seine at Vetheuil 1880, by Monet - his friend. 
while right next door are the Monet and Impressionist rooms. How wonderful to get them to oneself!



See photos of a gallery's transformation for Rodin at The Met in this Now at The Met blog post.

          The curators responsible for this transformation are seen here.  Congratulations to all.

for more information see Rodin at The Met,
Here are lots of photos for your delight 


and - The extraordinary range of The Met's holdings of Rodin's work is highlighted in an adjacent gallery (gallery 809) with a selection of drawings, prints, letters, and illustrated books, as well as photographs of the master sculptor and his art. This focused presentation introduces visitors to the evolution of Rodin's draftsmanship and demonstrates the essential role of drawing in his practice. It also addresses Rodin's engagement with photographers, especially Edward Steichen (1879–1973), who served as a key intermediary in bringing Rodin's drawings to New York.
see more  pix of the Met and also Rodin being set up 















Thursday, 21 September 2017

MORTON KAISH, catalogue essay for The BUTLER Institute of American Art, Ohio and New York's NATIONAL ARTS CLUB, 2017

Beach Walk by Morton Kaish.
Distinguished. Professional. Admirable. Esteemed. If this makes MORTON KAISH sound like an old master, think again. His relish for blazing rapturous color, vigorous brushwork & intricate handling, produces paintings that radiate joyful exuberance; their glow and energy that of a young painter. 
Kaish loves color. "I try to surround myself with buoyant, optimistic color. "We artists sit here with a palette filled with color. For heaven's sake let's use it!" 
Sea Garden 
The results are romantic but never sentimental. He is by his own admission "a glass is half-full guy." This is especially evident in his landscape and flower pictures, 30 pictures from 30 years 1986-2016.
The flowers are not your usual formal 'arrangements' but a compression of color and texture which began in Ireland. "We went there in 1979, staying in remote Donegal to paint the emerald landscape but it rained day after day! So I ran out, picked wild flowers, put them on an old chair." 
That Irish chair has stayed with Kaish as one of his key motifs. The flowers change - he adds a passion flower here, a hollyhock there - but the chair stays. "Being an artist leaves you in charge of the world," he told me. "You can re-order it however you want!" 
Chilmark
His other love affair is the coming together of sea and sky over a coastal landscape. "For me it's magical." It began on his honeymoon in Provincetown in 1948, and continues to inspire many dramatic paintings. 

Chilmark 2001 captures loose sweeps of tumbling coastal grasses beside quivering clumps of delicious wild flowers. "I wanted it to move," he explains. And it does. A big 6 ft 'Sea Garden" shows an intense stormy sky, set beyond pale cliffs while a flood of unique blooms cluster round a triumphant red hollyhock ?  spire. This, he says "takes a Chilmark moment to extreme. Our friends had this dream house on Martha's Vineyard with the Atlantic Ocean as backdrop." Wild Irises and West Wind 2012 are instances where one can actually feel a fresh breeze off the water. 
The Seattle Arboretum inspired another series of massed fields of flowers while a Manhattan allotment awash with hollyhocks is immortalized in Hollyhock Cantata. Kaish sometimes uses a combination of acrylic & oils, as in The Visitor, 2006, a rare vase arrangement which includes star-like spiky blue flowers amid pink & yellow roses as a single bee hovers. Another close-up, Lilies and Roses 2006, celebrates his daughter's favorite flowers. 
Kaish can do big and bold too. In 1998 he began to focus on a cherry tree, but rather than elegant or fragile, he set about giving it majesty. A single Cherry Bud, with scrumbling light over dark to create transparency, makes an impressive 5ft statement. New Day enlarges a tree stem while the major eye-catching Delicate Balance 1989 is nothing short of fierce. 
Morton is an accomplished printmaker and he employs etching and collagraph to create  assertive angry plants, like Iris Bound or Steel Thistle Rising 2002. Monotypes return him to upbeat Hudson Summer or a single happy Spring anemone. 

Landscape and flowers are just once aspect of Kaish's armory. This year's beautiful photogravures of giant magnolia blooms found in California, demonstrate that he continues to live an enviable creative life of travel and adventure.  
CLARE HENRY, former art critic Financial Times & The Herald; curator 1990 Venice Biennale. 
New York, November 2016. 


WHATEVER HAPPENED TO Edinburgh FESTIVAL ART? from ArtWork's 200th edition Sept 2017

ARTWORK isssue 200, September 2017 


THE EDINBURGH Art Festival (EAF) has the opportunity, and responsibility, to make Festival visual arts better than ever before. With a reported budget of £735,969, this year's EAF presentation for the Festival's 70th anniversary was lukewarm, mundane and disappointing. Moreover, after 14 years, it has become too selective, with aesthetics getting in the way of inclusivity.

The Edinburgh Festival is above all about inclusion: an all-embracing, exciting, delicious spicey mixture.
Edinburgh's three week bonanza is no place for a narrow, clique-ridden, élitist presentation. No place for spotlighting primarily obscure, out-of-the way conceptual environments or self-indulgent videos accompanied by esoteric, art-speak text which no self-respecting visitor will ever read.
The average tourist expects and requires an easy presentation of all available exhibitions and events so they can visit easily.

Unlike the Fringe, Edinburgh's art world is not big. It is however a broad church, ranging from the traditional to the cutting edge, from painting to sculpture and installation, from national galleries to commercial galleries, small workshops or studios. This is what visitors come to explore.
Funded as it is by public money, it is not for EAF to sit as judge and jury, deciding what sort of art should be included in their bespoke guide, which reduces our National Galleries and Museums to 'partner' level while excluding the prestigious 175 year-old Scottish Gallery, the Royal Scottish Academy, the Fine Art Society (dating from 1876) plus completely omitting many galleries young and old.
EAF's charges – £1000 for a mention in their brochure – are bad enough. “Too much for little return,” one director told me. But their selection process is scandalous. Yes, decide on quality, on high standards, but not on style, on category. It's also hugely detrimental to Scotland's art world.
Once the pop-up shows and events fade away after their few days in the sun, stalwarts like the Open Eye, who provide an exceptional standard with no subsidy whatsoever, are left to help artists emerging, mature and old.
When did all this happen? Who allowed it to happen? Why no uproar?
EAF began as a homegrown, loose amalgam of unpaid volunteers who had the simple, obvious idea of tying the visual arts together via the galleries while encouraging a use of new spaces: churches, libraries, warehouses, etc. The printed programme was small, cheap. Everyone chipped in.
I have heard many and varied complaints. Costing £165,700, the EAF commissions programme (excepting Paterson's Chessels Court structure) was also especially poor.
The visual arts are slowly sinking at Festival time, crowded out by comedy and gimmicks. It was not always so. In the 1980s art exhibitions featured on the front of the official Edinburgh Festival brochure. Can someone please tackle the festival director and, as was the norm, get the National Galleries back in that brochure?
The vast majority of visual art events, unlike concerts, plays, gigs etc, are free. Tourists, visitors should throng these open, ticket-less venues. Surely it is not too much to ask for a cheap, small, easily-available-everywhere list of all exhibitions? I'm told this could be done for as little as £2k. With a total budget of £735,969 – bloody hell, as a friend said, two thousand is very small beer.
CLARE HENRY

Saturday, 19 August 2017

KATE DOWNIE at the SCOTTISH GALLERY: Anatomy of Haste


I still calculate work in feet & hands. Stables & jockeys still measure their steeds in hands. My mother could accurately measure a yard of fabric from her nose to her outstretched hand.  I can stride across the grass and give u some square yards. The human body was a useful tool and tied to the land. 
KATE DOWNIE takes this one step further, by using our body as  "a poetic metaphor and handy travel guide around this collection of paintings, drawings and prints." 
DOWNIE's catalogue for her FESTIVAL show at the SCOTTISH GALLERY contains her own explanation as to her subject. "I am inspired by the ingenious & ubiquitous acts of engineering amidst the seas, mountains, & the envelope of air: concrete, asphalt, steel, glass & plastic, the modern stuff which humans have constructed." 

Yet Downie is a landscape painter. So how does that work? In an excellent essay novelist Sue Hubbard explains Kate's use of line - all journeys are linear, whether along a road river or a drawing board!
And Downie, a superb draughtsman, has always had a superb use of line. These black lines: of bridge, tower, pole, road signs, are for me her chief characteristic marks, a skeleton structure on which to build, be it a crowded city centre in Japan or an American road network. Most of the pictures here are robust oils, with some ink drawings too. And there are also a series of very loose Chinese ink & watercolour sketches of the Lofoten islands, off the coast of Norway  
I was interested in a set of screenprints made with Ros Lawless at GPS are particularly relevant here. Their experimental graphic exuberance and calligraphic quality comes from a combination of her Chinese pen technique learned in China, plus Downie's love of long train journeys, 1000 miles in Norway (see her image (Trondheim) 
or just from Edinburgh to Oban. 
To get a "bigger bolder view" she decided to tape acetate sheets onto the train window and draw images in black line on the acetate as the scene sped by. 
These acetates were then turned into the dominant silkscreen design on top of a blurred background from slow shutter speed film of yet another journey shot in autumn on the way to Oban. Thus 2 journey overlap, their superimposed imagery playing counterpoint as in jazz. 
Downie is well known for her love affair with the FORTH Bridge & now with the Queensferry Bridge, has been following the building of the new bridge. 
Downie is a constant traveler - near & far- 
and some of my favourite images are her Cross Country pen drawing from a British train 
plus her minimal 'Kyoto Shinkansen (Spinal Cord)' which she equates with travel in Japan.