Thursday, 31 October 2013

Sunday, 27 October 2013

THE  ARMORY  SHOWS,    NYC and Albany 

The most important event in the history of American art is the iconic 1913 Armory show which introduced the European avant-garde of Matisse, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin, Duchamp, Brancusi & Picasso to the US. Denigrated as "Ugly, vulgar, crude, irresponsible, monstrous, hideous, laughable, grotesque, indecent and corrupt" - things were never the same after this key exhibition. 
                                                          Matisse, Blue Nude, 1907
A century on, NY's Historical Society Museum,, presents its celebration of this aesthetic bombshell, a smaller, more academic affair which includes some of the paintings from the 1913 show plus other substitutes, along with good documentary panels explaining the background. 
                                                  Duchamp Nude Descending a Staircase
Meanwhile, 2 hrs north in NY State's capital, Albany, the Opalka Gallery, attatched to Sage College, presents their version, "An Armory Show: A Different Animal." 2 artists, Ken Ragsdale & Michael Oatman, invited 100 artists to riff off the Armory idea, while themselves also taking the lion's share of the space to do just that. The overall installation is terrific, and Oatman's videos of a male 'Nude Defending a Staircase" plus a female "Nude Descending a Staircase" are both witty and memorable. 

In 1913 Duchamp's 1912 painting of the same name was most controversial of all the exhibits, closely followed by Matisse's Blue Nude 1907, now on loan from the Baltimore Museum. Looking at Duchamp's dull grey/brown oil one wonders what all the fuss was about, but visitors back then dubbed his Cubist Room "the Chamber of Horrors," and called it Diagram of a Shudder, or An explosion in a Shingles Factory. Newspapers ran competitions to "find the nude" !
                                                                           poster 1913
My husband met Duchamp in the 1960s, when he often came to the Staempfli Gallery (my husband was co-director) to play chess with George Staempfli. "I met a hero! Duchamp signed 3 things to me - an original 1913 postcard of Nude Descending that I had bought years before; a cheque 'for unlimited sums' and a card of his famous Mona Lisa with a Moustache." My husband also loaned an original poster to the 50th anniversary show at the Munson Williams Proctor Institute, Utica. and went to the opening. He later gave the poster - which the current NYC show does NOT have - to Utica.

The original show featured 1400 works. 200 American artists supplied 2/3 of the artists and half of the works. The Europeans were displayed centre stage with the Americans - including leading figures like Childe Hassam, John Marin, Whistler, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove around the edge. Quite a few US women were included.
The NY organisers hoped it would "Waken up America terrificially" & provide an electric shock. It sure did. Just like the Sensation show a decade ago, the crowds rolled in. Tens of thousands were introduced to Cubism & Fauvism all at once. It was visual overload of course. But 274 works sold, 200 of them created by the Europeans. Galleries sprang up to sell the new art, and the show toured to Chicago & Boston.

The Albany Armory show was inspired by the acquisition of an actual 1913 armory building adjacent to Opalka. Surplus effects like 3 red fire boxes, blueprints and a metal table are utilised for display. The catalogue is stylish and the historical posters, books, catalogues helpful. But no labels, no prices. The invited artists are given short shift and how I hate the grid listing. Impossible to decipher or differentiate.  Tom O'Connor, Lisa Nilsson, Mike Glier, Richard Garrison, and some great b & w monoprint heads by goodness knows who.

Monday, 21 October 2013


Manolo Valdes
I first saw the work of this famous Spanish artist at the Venice Biennale years ago. I only got to know him when I moved to NY. We kept up with him till 2010 when illness prevented us from a pilgrimage to see his major outdoor sculptures: at Chambord Castle on the Loire; along the elegant Lange Voorhout in The Hague and 16 huge bronzes along Broadway, NYC. Then last year he had a remarkable exhibition at The New York Botanical Garden - 7 enormous bronze, steel and aluminium pieces, some over 5 metre tall and 20 tons. Retrospectives of his work have been at the Guggenheim Bilbao, in Madrid, Florida and Istanbul. Works also at Chatsworth. Many were female heads adorned with headdresses of leaves, flowers, ferns and butterflies. 
Now 2 of these have come to rest on Marlborough Gallery 's  Manhattan terrace on 57th St between 5th & 6th. The silver one, 'Galatea' is my favourite. 4 metres wide, she is a serene beauty crowned with a labyrinth of ferns.

Inside there are smaller sculptures, some heads with butterflies or swirling, spiral fan-like elements. Also several sculptures of an elegant lady sidesaddle on a horse, (inspired by Velazquez's royal equestrian figures,) and pictures of huge portrait heads made of collaged paper . Each is a woman's head in profile, reminiscent of Renaissance portraits. I was sorry there were no prints as I LOVE his prints!  Valdes is a master of simplification. His materials are rough-hewn, his lines often outline only, yet these eliminations create grace, harmony, beauty.  

Saturday, 19 October 2013

MATERIALIZING  THE  POSTDIGITAL  at  the Museum of Arts and Design, NY.

Trying to keep up with technological advances is not easy for the over 50s but as, since 2002, my son-in-law is director of a very successful company which is a world leader in 3D & 4D surface imaging, I try to learn.
And this show is educational to all. It looks at the way 3D digital scanning, printing and fabrication has exploded in the last 8 years. Forms, once impossible to make, can now be created. CNC (computer-numerically controlled) machining is all present.

Artists like Frank Stella, Maya Linn, Chuck Close, Anish Kapoor, Hiroshi Sugimoto and designers Marc Newson and architects Daniel Libeskind, Ron Arad & Zaha Hadid make use of it to create new work. Some of the work is amazing with new geometrics abounding: a diamond necklace, a laser-cut T shirt made of triangular polygons, a Bosch bike. The bike is the world's first 3D lightweight bike 3D printed in one piece.
But much is downright UGLY.  Ugly shoes, ugly necklaces, creepy chairs and weird nylon- looks like rubber-  Lady Gaga bodywear. However I was interested to see that many objects are entirely machine made, ("Out of Hand" is the 2nd bit of the exh title,) BUT are hand finished, hand polished, hand assembled.

There are 6 sections and "Remixing the Figure" focuses on digital manipulation and "reconceptualizing human figuration and the body."  It's good to tackle the limitless possibilities of emerging technologies. New director Glenn Adamson comes from London's V&A research dept. And the restaurant views of Columbus Circle & Central Park are the best!
This is me and an M&S cardigan translated into a circular creation frozen on screen for 3 seconds via a French interactive called KiLight.

I met a new friend in the restaurant - also former V & A, and she liked Belgian artist Wim Delvoye's Twisted Gothic Dump Truck made from laser-cut steel. Its mathematical symmetry and fine skeletal tracery is quite amazing 


The Upper East Side is like a multicultural village. Buildings themselves can be a vertical village where everyone knows everyone else. And there are more dogs and babies than people. Big guys with tiny dogs, and vice versa! Lots of designer dogs too. All adorable. And it seems if u have a baby u get a dog too!

The play park opposite is always full of buggies and black (African American to be proper) nannies, but on Saturday one can occasionally see a dad or 3. The queue from BagelWorks trails across the sidewalk with multi millionaires as eager as the Mexican delivery boys. Sam the magic & speedy shoe repair man is from the Ukraine; the helpful pharmacist Russian; the copyshop guys Coptic Egyptian, the laundry Chinese of course, the seamstress Asian, dressmaker Greek, my wonderful hairdresser Gloria is from Colombia, restaurants Persian, Italian, Jananese & French, and the local Farmer's Market star attraction foodwise, are the Amish from Pennsylvania. The market also has stalls selling everything from food, nuts, scarfs, socks, $10 orchids (normal shops 40 dollars) to wonderful jewellery: second hand, Indian, South American and new. The new is sold by a Russian lady. I get a pair of big diamond earrings. Irresistible. More fun that Bulgari.  No wonder I love the Saturday market! 
"Beautiful. I don't know much, but I know Beautiful," the orchid seller tells me. He's right, his plants are beautiful so I buy a white one.

Churches and synagogues abound. The nearby beautiful church serves the Yugoslav community and services are always full. The nice thing about a neighbourhood is that they deliver. And u are supposed to "send out" for stuff. I never do. But I should.

Fifth Avenue is always near and the famous glass cube Apple Store available 24/7 when u need a new  laptop cord. A multilevel activity extravaganza - my husband says "So many people it would almost suggest things are being given away." 
 Bergdorf Goodman windows are the best in town. Diane Vreeland's new book "Memo" is celebrated currently with lots of witty quotes along with 1960s models.

Best restaurant L'Absinthe . Best exhibitions Magritte at MoMA, Postdigital at MAD, Armory at Historical Soc, Valdes at Marlborough - and next week VERMEER at the FRICK!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

BANKSY  in  NEW YORK CITY, this Fall.  Monday 21st Oct  and front page news, 17th Oct. New York is having an art attack!

BANKSY GO HOME is the latest!  Painted on a wall by a Brookly artist. Today Tuesday, Oct 22, both the NY Post & Daily News carry Banksy stories - no longer front page but still half a page. He has so far made 21 wall spray graffiti pix - the latest in the Bronx. Recent wall owners, aware how valuable their walls now r are guarding/covering with plexiglass/roll-down gate!!  

When will it stop? Monday 21st New Yorkers are defending Banksy's work and objecting to Parks Dept officials sanding off the images. The Twin Towers pix on Brooklyn Heights even required caustic chemicals. "Why r they taking it away. It's so perfect, a beautiful tribute" said one resident. The latest is under The High Line in Chelsea. "Awesome" was the comment.

 Last week Banksy was front page NY Post. Day before  NYTimes editorial. Now the NYPD's vandal squad are hunting for Banksy to charge him with vandalism!  So far 16 installations  - called instalments by the Post. Latest is a giant size clown outside various McDonalds at lunch time - so far see in the Bronx. "Does this (McDonald) hero have feet of clay?" he asks on his website.

Only Banksy could make the New York Times editorial! I have never seen Rembrandt, Monet or Vermeer given a mention.  The US government is in shut down, but today there is no comment on that - just on Banksy. The NYT tells us that a red-heart balloon speckled with adhesive bandages appeared on a wall in Red Hook and another stencil in Brooklyn. But the NYT is behind the times. 

What the NYT missed was in Tuesday's NY Post. Over the weekend Banksy arranged a $60 each display of for sale small paintings on a pavement stand outside Central Park. The deal of a life time and very few sold. (Auction price 40,000)  Most folk just walked on by. 
Banksy's website tells us it was a once only affair.
Wednesday nite on CBS TV Mayor Bloomberg also commented on Banksy - He was in favour of art but said he didn't approve of the Banksy locations - as it was "defacing public property!" Banksy's here for a month - and only 2 weeks gone so far. How will it all end???

Monday, 14 October 2013

HUDSON  ART  WALK, Columbia County, NEW YORK 

Two hours north of Manhattan is a wonderful landscape: The Hudson Valley. The train runs north hugging the Hudson River all the way to the small town of Hudson. It's one of the most beautiful trips in America. 

Hudson was an important port in the 18th & 19th C with wealthy folk, sea merchants & great architecture. Then came economic decline. From 1980 antique dealers gradually took over the long main street and revitalised the whole place. Now art galleries also flourish: 27 according to the Hudson guide. Many are poor. Only a few are serious.
For the last 18 years the Annual Arts Walk has enlivened things, with all, (or most) of the shop windows - plumbers, electricians, food shops, bookshops, men's outfitters - displaying art. Pictures everywhere. The gallerist Carrie Haddad, organised things well.
But things aint what they they used to be! This year is very disappointing. Windows full of chairs, lamps, antiques, cheese, ..... mid-century modern. Little art. Bad art.

But there is always light if one looks. Award winning sculptor GILLIAN JAGGER is showing memorable new work at the Davis Gallery,    At 83, she has a long successful career behind her, and is Prof Emeritus of Pratt. A year ago she visited the Eyzies Caves of southern France. These prehistoric cave carvings from 17,000 years ago have inspired the current work: wonderful huge expressive drawings of animals struggling, rolling, fighting for breath, fighting for life, and one massive 3D hanging animal sculpture created from wire. "I am trying to find the life in what is decay & death.. Life & death are meshed," she says. "I want the beauty of what I saw. I have to be true to my feeling."

Jagger, who was born in the UK, (daughter of renowned war sculptor Charles Jagger ) lives a rural life among her beloved horses and cattle. Few artists get animal anatomy right. Jagger does. She knows her creatures inside out and captures their spirit with a surprising ease and economy of line. Something that only a lifetime's experience makes possible.

For more Gillian see by Whirlwind Creative.

Monday, 7 October 2013

GEORGE  RICKEY  SCULPTURE  at Marlborough Gallery, New York.

Rickey grew up in Helensburgh, Scotland. His bedroom looked over the Clyde estuary, and he learned about engineering, wind, spin and tension from the local blacksmith, Clydeside engineering and from sailing. "I'm glad I had a Scottish education in my baggage," he told me back in 1982. Thirty years ago I was lucky to be able to give him his 75 b-day party in my house in Glasgow. His wife and 2 sons were there too. Now son Philip takes care of the estate. 

Rickey showed with Staempfli Gallery in New York and Gimples in London, then was for 30 years with Maxwell Davidson Gallery, before Marlborough. He turned to sculpture late, aged 43. This show of 18 small and 9 large stainless steel sculptures benefit from Marlborough's terrace overlooking 57th St. There circles turn gently - a big piece can take half a minute to swing from side to side - and his famous blades weave and dodge in the slightest breeze: movement with the bare minimum - classic, elegant airborne continuous kinetics like no other. Rickey's pieces have a unique, distinctive genius. marlborough gallery new york

This morning I opened a packet from curators at the Rickey Estate. It contained 2 pieces written by George, one from 1956 from Art & Artist.  Rickey's is the best voice about his art. He writes so well.

"My work must have air. Outdoors the air is never quite still, the direction changes, the breeze is, for the most part, silent. Outdoor space requires large pieces and outdoor wind strong ones. They must not only survive, but behave properly in a 40 or 50-mile-an-hour wind. The weight of rain will make a difference, not to mention snow and ice. I must watch a piece outdoors for months before I can be sure of it. In moving it gives to the wind, like a sailing ship.  ....... One becomes an artist against prudence; one needs, in addition to talent and energy, a lot of luck. I have been lucky. .. David Smith gave me my first and only welding lesson and the sound advice to be extravagant with materials. ..My concern  is with Movement itself. My technology is borrowed from crafts and industry. It has more in common with clocks than with sculpture. The materials are simple: stainless-steel sheet, rods, bars, angles, pipe; lead for counterweights."

"I will drill and bend and file and solder but I will think of the African mask-maker or the faces of Van der Weyden ... I intended to become an engineer as my father had been. Though brought up in Scotland,  I expected to follow in his footsteps at M.I.T. But a surfeit of calculus and advanced algebra revolted me just in time. .. The first real artist I saw was Bill (William) Hayter. He was stooping over an enormous canvas .... 


Friday, 4 October 2013

MATISSE at Marlborough Gallery, New York 

Eighty fabulous prints spanning 50 years 1900 to 1950, make this a MUSEUM quality show! It took 3 years to assemble. Many come from Matisse Family Collections including his grandson. Prices $20,000-80,000+ each.  

An economy of line is the memorable aspect of his work. How did Matisse say so much with so little? Lithography was especially suited to his art & many lithos are similar to his drawings because they ARE drawings - a crayon on stone or transfer paper. Exotic, sensuous nude odalisques posing amid patterned curtains, cushions, rugs, fabrics, are among the most beautiful.

The show starts with a self-portrait drypoint from 1900 (loaned from MoMA) and is followed by etchings, aquatints, linocuts and, late in life, colourful pochoirs (stencils to u & me.)
ALL the images are of women. Not one male. My husband visited Matisse in Paris in 1951 and, confident as he is, dressed in blue shirt,  orange, blue and black tie, to go with a salt and pepper suit. All ready to pose and be painted. It didn't work! Wrong sex!
The show, serious & scholarly, organised by Tara Reddi, travels to London & Madrid.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Friday Frivolity 

BANKSY is at large in Manhattan in what he calls his 1 month Manhattan "artist-in-residency"! 

The now famous black silhouette stencils appear and disappear in a matter of hours. Where? That's the trick. No-one knows. Pop up art. First one of a dog pissing on an iconic NY hydrant. Now u see it; now u don't. Each graffiti is accompanied by a phone number. Call and u get an ironic description plus great upbeat music.  "All I ever wanted was a shoulder to crayon," he says. Good fun. 
You may think private views are all about the pictures. Not so. A recent trend to the young and rich has pushed - Christies for example - into private views which start at 9pm and go till midnight, when all sensible folk are in bed! Really it's all about shoes and bags - as u can see here. Another trend is for THICK invitation cards. I mean THICK CARD solid enough to be a brick. Gagosian started it - now Pace and dominique levy  are following. A bad idea. Save that tree I say.
The last trend is the After Party - usual standard admission fee 300- 500 dollars. 
                                                                  sotheby's   shoes

In Chelsea Pace is showing white on white paintings by Robert Ryman who came to NYC in the 1950s to play jazz, and worked as a guard for years at MoMA. His 2010 multi-panel piece is titled "No Title Required."
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