Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Exhibitions in SKYE,  HUDSON,  MANHATTAN
Large shows, small exhibitions? All necessary. Studios can be 1 person on a hillside on Skye; another with 160 assistants in London or a photography gallery in upstate New York. Creators big & small.
The Cooper Hewitt design museum in Manhattan was recently remodelled after 3 years at a cost of many millions.  We went to see the new Pixar display on the ground floor but found it very disappointing. Gimmicks mostly. 

So up to the top to see an astoundingly impressive full floor installation of provocative, imaginative, inventive work by British London-based designer THOMAS HEATHERWICK. 
 Born 1970, he established his workshop in 1994, & designer Sir Terence Conran has called him ‘the Leonardo da Vinci of our times’ for his complex ideas and keen sense of construction.No wonder! I was quite bowled over by the panache, beauty & elegance of his creations. In the UK we all saw his graceful copper shaped torches for the Olympics in London, one on show here.  
It's his first museum exhibition in the US. Heatherwick is known for his unique design concepts for all sorts of structures, (organised on his website as small, medium & large!) as well as huge architectural projects frequently combining novel engineering with new materials & technology. His forms are very sculptural. He created the famous & visually thrilling U.K. Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, (made by 66,000 illuminated clear acrylic tubes - like a porcupine -)  plus many provocative projects - like 

the Learning Hub at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological Universitythe 2014 Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Laverstoke, Englandthe 2012 redesign of London’s double-decker buses.;the cauldron for the London 2012 Olympic Games torch. Now he is working in NY on Pier55, a public park performance space to be constructed sitting on mushroom-shape columns in the Hudson River on Manhattan’s West Side.

London Olympic Cauldron 2012 He likes bridges and - one - a Garden Bridge - will span the Thames soon. 
The show includes an old fashioned cranking machine which spits out a length of card - one side full of info on his projects, the other asking questions, questions. Is it possible to make a bridge out of glass? Can a student make a real building? How can a building represent a nation? How do u turn the back door of a hospital into a front door? Can u make objects out of long of zipper?? (Yes he proves u can.)
 He is also working on Google's Mountain View Campus in California. Keen on landscape, & extensive greenery, fun + a winsome way with things, plus an astonishing range of wild creations, he is a wonderful addition to far too sober architecture! 
The Cooper Hewitt is housed in the Andrew Carnegie Mansion. Built 1899-1901 by Scottish industrial magnate - a 13 yr old immigrant from near Dundee - the house is a fascinating study in innovative design, the first private residence in the US to have a structural steel frame & one of first in New York with an Otis elevator, also both central heating a precursor to air-conditioning. It became US National design museum in 1976.
This week its revamped garden features new terrace & transformed northwest garden opens to the public. Free from 8 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends. This marks the final phase of Cooper Hewitt’s renovation of the Carnegie Mansion. 

In the USA, The Davis Orton Gallery, established August, 2009, is located not far from our country house, on historic Warren Street in Hudson, NY. Specialising in photography & artist-published photobooks, it sits on an architecturally rich street famous for its antique shops, many art galleries and restaurants.
The goal of the gallery's director Karen Davis, herself a photographer, is to present a wide range of contemporary artists, from emerging to mid-career to established. She succeeds amazingly well with a wide range of top standard work. 
Gallery view - toward warren st

gallery view towards prison alleyThe space is small but recently housed a couple of fascinating displays. I was especially intrigued by portraits from GAIL SAMUELSON.
 Her show, All Dresssed Up, riffs on Cindy Sherman of course, but she uses her mother's & aunts clothes - kept for luck. Both worked in the rag trade in NY and Samuelson celebrates their lives in quietly determined fashion, with cool restraint but definite emotion. I guess we all feel that pull to things from our youth, especially fond family clothes. It's hard to let go. Samuelson has found a clever way to hang on. 

.                       Currently the gallery shows Photobook 2015 – Sixth Annual International Juried Exhibition – Twenty Photobooks & Photographs by Best of Show artistsJuried by Paula TognarelliCurator, Griffin Museum of Photography, & DavisMeanwhile on a hill top of Skye near Ardvasar, with a breathtaking view, Patricia SHONE makes lovely hand-made ceramics inspired by, she says "the powerful landscape around me on the Isle of Skye & to a feeling of connection with the passage across the land of its past inhabitants. I make mostly functional forms, boxes, bowls, jars, rather direct representation of the landscape, because they are innately human vessels of containment."

I recognised an elegance & restraint that seems Oriental, Japanese in origin; maybe influenced by her monochromatic palette? 

On Skye the surfaces of the land are eroded by forces of climate with traces of the past scratched all over the hills, remaining as monuments to the communities who worked the land. 
Shone's clay techniques reflect these processes. The pieces are made by throwing, texturing or beating, stretching & carving. Colours come from slips, oxides & glazes but most of all by the firing processes."As society advances technologically the surfaces we touch become increasingly synthetic and machine finished. What challenges us now is the reality of landscape & nature: wild, uncomfortable, dirty, unpackaged, visceral experience.“
 Lovely pots. She shows in London & in UK - but visit her mountain top kiln if u can. 

Thursday, 19 November 2015


We are lucky to live near the Frick which is at 1, East 70th St and 5th opposite Central Park with a lovely small garden and magnolia trees in Spring. It is my husband's favourite museum.
 Wonderful pictures: Bellini, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Goya, and lots of Whistlers.  

Period setting and Small-ish compared to the rest of NY's galleries. Intimate, Quiet - mostly. This month is it's 80th B-day. 
The Frick doesn't really need 'special shows' - & the basement space is a bit cramped (they plan a small extension soon) but the current ANDREA DEL SARTO is, as usual with Frick, a gem.

50 gorgeous drawings are on show, red and black chalk figures, expressive heads, and compositional studies — and 3 beautiful related oil paintings in the oval room upstairs explore draughtsmanship's important role, offering an unprecedented display

From about 1515 until his death, Andrea del Sarto (1486–1530) ran the most successful and productive workshop in Florence, leaving his native city richly decorated with his art. He was very influential. But -very surprisingly, he fell out of favour till the 1960s. 
sketch for oil below

Yet his work  represents the essence of Florentine High Renaissance creativity. The beauty of his drawings is well known to scholars and collectors; he is less known to the general public. This is his first major solo exhibition ever in the US (and the first in nearly 30 years anywhere. 
This is the wife! 
As an artist, Vasari wrote, he was “free from errors, and absolutely perfect in every respect.” But in life he was a loser, humble to a fault, devoted to a bossy wife and — most damning — a sloppy dresser! 
Assembled from the Getty Museum, Louvre, Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti, National Gallery of Art, British Museum, & others.
Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action, organized by The Frick Collection & the Getty, opened in Los Angeles in summer, prior to NYC.  There is a richly illustrated catalogue written by an international team of Renaissance scholars plus  a very useful short uTube link! 


Thursday, 12 November 2015

FRANK STELLA, at the Whitney, New York

I had been a fan ever since I first met Frank Stella at Edinburgh's Dovecot Studios back in 1985 -when he was working on the Pepsi Cola tapestries. (They were based on this black & white image) 
Stella was famous for his geometric Day-glo pictures, - 
So I was looking forward to seeing his major retrospective at the new Whitney in Manhattan. 
But I was not prepared for its extravagance, its ebullience, vivid colour & dynamic energy, its total joie de vivre! What a delight to wander shell-shocked among over 100 works from almost 60 years.
  For once not chronological or academic in display, & ranging from 1959 to today, huge paintings & giant 3D structures rampage across the entire 18,000 sq feet 5th floor gallery from window to window, Hudson River to High Line.  It is an invigorating sight. 
Stella maintains he's a painter but many, maybe most, of the works on show are so 3 dimensional as to be almost sculptures.  
What started out as collage ends up as cut steel and aluminium - huge sheets curved and bent into baroque flying shapes which protrude from every surface.

Diversity is the name of Stella's game.
Born Massachusetts in 1936, Stella studied art history painting at Princeton. Graduating 1958, Stella moved to New York achieved immediate fame with his Black Paintings which were included in MoMA's seminal exhibition Sixteen Americans in 1959. 
Leo Castelli gave him his first solo show in 1962. He had a retrospective at MoMA in 1970, aged 34
Or as my friend David Ebony puts it, "Frank Stella burst onto the New York art scene in the late 1950s. 
Barely 23, he held his first solo show in 1960. It is something of an understatement to say that the exhibition caused a stir."
A second retrospective was held at MoMA in 1987. This is the first career survey since then!
It includes the famous Black Paintings plus red stripes. These pix executed with enamel house paint were a critical step in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Minimalism. 
A selection of the artist’s Aluminum and Copper Paintings of 1960–61, featuring metallic paint and shaped canvases, further establish Stella’s key role in the development of American Minimalism.

Then come his Benjamin Moore series and Concentric Square Paintings of the early 1960s and 70s— Stella combines often shocking colour with complex shaped canvases that mirror the increasingly dynamic movement of his painted bands. 
These were followed by the even more radically shaped Irregular Polygon Paintings with internally contrasting geometric forms painted in vibrant fluorescent hues; + the monumental Protractor Paintings, such as Harran II (1967) from the Guggenheim, composed of curvilinear forms with complex chromatic variations. We all love these & they look fabulous here. 
Stella's kind of abstraction knows no boundaries. From the mid 1980s on his works takes off from the wall in various ways. Stella said, “what painting wants more than anything else is working space—space to grow with and expand into, pictorial space that is capable of direction and movement, pictorial space that encourages unlimited orientation and extension. Painting does not want to be confined by boundaries of edge and surface.” 
You can experience & enjoy this aspect right thro this show as pictures leap and bound, as sheets of cut metal project out from the picture plane, creating gestures further activated with swirling paint & reflective materials. All radical physical statements. 
He also turns to printmaking like u have never seen before - large scale with one extraordinary piece measuring in yards across an entire wall with 67 different plates on it: wood, etched, inked, collages, - amazing. 

In the last thirty years, much of Stella’s work has been related in spirit to literature & music. His extensive Moby Dick series (1985–97) includes visual elements, such as waves & fins, which recur in Melville’s story.
My favourite tho is a black & white etching. Boy - would I love to own that! 

 The most recent works are more & more like sculptures - almost free standing. 
Recently Stella has used computer generated images & modelling to extend the complexity, layers & allusions of his material process well beyond traditional media for painting and sculpture.
All in all it's a show that must be seen!!  At 79 Stella - what an appropriate name - is still as vigorous & as exciting as ever.  What next Mr Stella?