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Unmasked

french-mask

Lines that quote
the face, the hair, the
reign of years
first captured by sculpted earth.
Copy as copy copied.
Serial disguise.

I went to the Met to see Max Beckmann (excellent) and ended up drawing masks, as usual.  The one above is French, from the 1800’s, sculpted on a vessel of some sort.

twisted-face-mask-s

I drew this Mexican “twisted face mask” (dated 600-900) twice, because it looked very different from each side.  It reminded me of Jack Davis’ artistic attempts to define his relationship to his autistic brother Mike.  It must have been based on a member of the community, providing a link to the long-standing effort of humans to consider and include those who fall outside the spectrum of “normal”.

grinning-monkey

This grinning monkey from the Ivory Coast also caught my eye.

The poem uses the Secret Keeper’s prompt words this week.

I’ll be here a bit irregularly for awhile as I have some projects I need to finish…

At the Hawk’s Well

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In 1916, W. B. Yeats wrote a dance play, “At the Hawk’s Well”, inspired by Japanese Noh theatre (to which he had been introduced by Ezra Pound) and Irish folklore.

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The Japan Society recently had an exhibit of UK artist Simon Starling’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Yeats’ work, along with some of the art that inspired both him and Yeats.

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I watched the beautiful video of the hawk dancing several times

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and then I drew masks until my hand cramped up and my legs hurt from standing.

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When I looked at the drawings, it struck me how humans have always struggled to understand and live their lives well.  We are united in both sorrow and dignity, all cultures, throughout history, all over the earth.

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Baltimore Museum of Art

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Yesterday I took the train to Baltimore to see the Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art.  Wow!  but no photos allowed, so I’ll talk a bit about it at the end of the post.  But…the Cone Collection!  I had totally forgotten it was there too. The Gauguin cellist, above, stopped me in my tracks.

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The Cone sisters amassed an amazing collection of early 20th century art.  Plenty of Matisse, like the figures and dancer above.

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I loved this tiny Renoir landscape.

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And I had never seen this Van Gogh landscape either.  The brush strokes are almost like stitching.

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The museum also has many other rooms of modern art, and the painted wood relief sculptures above, by Gertrude Greene and Burgoyne Diller, reminded me of something Nina would do.

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I’m keeping in mind this portrait by Max Beckmann for my self-portrait series.

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There are also smaller collections of European and African and Asian art.  I thought this mask from Angola complemented Raphael’s luminous and also enigmatic painting.

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But my very favorite item outside the Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibit was this cabinet decorated with reverse painted glass by Richard Lee.

I was introduced to Richard Diebenkorn by Nina in 1976 when he had a retrospective at the Whitney (she was working there at the time).  You can see a selection of the work on view now in Baltimore on the website, here, but as is true with any artist that works large scale, a reproduction can’t even begin to give the experience of the actual work.  Matisse was an inspiration to Diebenkorn throughout his painting life, and the juxtapositions of the works makes that clear.  Both artists:  just wow.

Two abstract paintings sit side by side.

There are plenty of figural drawings, too, and one common element was the reworking of the page in a way that layered all the different lines of the different attempts.  An example of Matisse’s work is below, a reminder that even great artists do not achieve satisfaction or perfection even after many lines have been drawn.  They just keep working to get there.

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Unhidden: the art of Ronald Lockett

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“I feel like every time I make a piece of artwork I express myself strongly so that a person can feel something.”
–Ronald Lockett

honest layers that
witness hurt, test memory,
note the silences
of secrets, now unhidden
with forgiveness and regret

trapped-3s

Ronald Lockett’s “Trapped” series records the complex relations between humans and the living world.  How do we treat animals?  the environment? each other?

I managed to visit the retrospective of Lockett’s found art last week at the Museum of American Folk Art, right before it closed.  These are powerful works.

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Lockett felt the world deeply, as the works from his Oklahoma City bombing series, above, show.  “You try to be honest about what you are trying to say,” he said about them.  He acknowledged his debt to quilts in their construction.

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His responses to the homeless

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and the holocaust

are reminders that the importance of bearing witness has no time frame.

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Lockett also made many tributes to those he knew and admired.  Above, a work honoring Jesse Owens, intricately formed in tin.

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He painted “Instinct for Survival” when his brother went missing in the Gulf War.

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And his tin tributes to his great aunt Sarah Lockett, the woman that raised both him and his cousin, the artist Thornton Dial, reflect both her love of gardening, and her quilts.

Ronald Lockett died in 1998 at age 32 from AIDS-related pneumonia.

You can read more about him here.

My poem uses the secret keeper’s words this week
WIT – HURT – NOTE – HONEST – TEST

Portraits from the Whitney

nicole eisenman half the artist s

“I don’t get it…do I have to get it?…does the artist get it?…”
–overheard at the Whitney Museum this week

Nicole Eisenman’s  “1/2 the artist…”, above, was a favorite in the Whitney’s widely varied show containing a selection of portraits from its collection.  And the young woman’s overheard observation seems a good summary of the state of the world right now.

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Annette Lemieux’s 30 photos of raised fists.

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de Kooning’s “Woman and Bicycle”

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John Wilde painted mystery into this portrait of his wife Helen.

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Calder’s hanging wire portrait was echoed in its shadow.

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Charles Henry Alston’s “The Family”

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Jay DeFeo was represented with an enigmatic photo collage.

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This grid portrait by Byron Kim is ongoing as the artist continues to paint and rearrange squares reflecting the skin colors of his friends.

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Alice Neel’s haunting portrait of Andy Warhol was another highlight for me.

This is a wonderful show.  And Stuart Davis is at the museum now too.

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I have to say this week has left me particularly disoriented.  I will be catching up with myself and everybody else slowly I think.

Degas: A Strange Beauty Indeed

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My dentist’s office is just a few blocks from the Museum of Modern Art, so after my appointment yesterday I spent some time there before I went home.  I wanted to see the Dada exhibit, and it was fun, but the Degas exhibit overshadowed and overwhelmed it.

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The exhibit explored Degas’ process, starting with his extensive use of monotype printing.  He was able to get quite a lot of detail using copper plates.

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He also did some prints using celluloid, the photography film of the day.

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But then he started adding color to his monoprints with both pastel and watercolor.  Wow!  It’s impossible to fully control this type of printing, so maybe that’s the secret to the other-worldliness of so many of his pastel works.

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The exhibit then went on to talking about how all this work influenced his drawing and painting.  This is a good lesson for all of us perfectionists.

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A page from a sketchbook shows Degas exploring.

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And here’s a look at how a sketch became a painting.

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My favorite part of this show was the room of landscapes though.  Here Degas used oil paints when printing, in colors this time.

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He used pastels over the printing on some of these as well.

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The labeling for this exhibit was also excellent.  It’s only there a few more weeks, but if you happen to be in NYC…be prepared for the crowds, but highly recommended.

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Even the Statues are Texting…

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…or at least that’s the way it looked when we entered this room at the Met.

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I don’t know, even when I know what she’s actually got in her hand,

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it still looks like she’s checking out the screen to me.

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Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, June 2016

(More) Miriam Schapiro

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beauty of summer close up s

Doesn’t Schapiro’s “Beauty of Summer”, above, look like one of Nina’s rose pictures?  Unfortunately, Nina wasn’t able to get into the city to see the show at the National Academy Museum that closed in May, but I took some photos to share when I visited.

black heart close up s

black heart s

A few years ago, Nina and I went to a show of her works at the Flomenhaft Gallery in Chelsea.  Reproductions can’t duplicate the intricacy of her painted collages.

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This show was much more extensive and included work from beginning to end.

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One delight and inspiration after another!

silver windows s

I was excited to see a few of her window works, including the one that directly inspired a monthly grid to illustrate and e.e. cummings poem last year.

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The shrines really appeal to me too.

my history s

It’s difficult to take in all the detail in Schapiro’s “My History” from a photo.  This work in particular gives me a lot of ideas for both writing and art.

my history explanation s

I have referenced this wonderful artist, who died just about a year ago, often.  You can see other posts about Miriam Schapiro here here and here.

It’s National Library Week: Pieces of a Story

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“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.  All is riddle, and the key to a riddle is another riddle.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

tell me a riddle
pieces of a story
heckedy peg

altered environments
in the land of no right angles

among the shadows
angels demons and savages
the ear the eye and the arm
thought forms
quilt of souls

to repel ghosts
mirror
the tattooed map
prune
the given world
crush
invisible cities
blow the house down

lost in the cosmos
where you’ll find me
life after life
homegrown

riddle close up s

I finally got around to the NaPoWriMo prompt to do a book spine poem:  look on your bookshelves, write down titles of books, and arrange.  Sometimes people photo the books themselves to make the poem, which I like, but I had a long-unfinished collage that seemed appropriate to my found poem.  A good excuse to complete it.

dubuffet 1s

It’s based on a Jean Dubuffet drawing I saw at the Museum of Modern Art last year.  The show, “Soul of the Underground” contained work from MOMA’s collection:  drawings, prints, paintings, and sculptures.  Dubuffet was not only an artist of the Art Brut style, but he collected and championed what is often referred to as Outsider Art, the art of the untrained and obsessed, of those in psychiatric hospitals and prisons, people living and working outside the aesthetic and cultural norms.

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Dubuffet’s highly textured and spontaneous use of unusual materials and techniques, as well as his ambiguous subject matter, is very appealing to me.  His drawings often began as doodles with felt tip pens.  He also made a number of books.

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The Emerson quote is courtesy of day 3 of Elusive Trope’s 3-day quote challenge.

And it’s National Bookmobile Day of National Library Week (Charlie at Doodlewash is leading a celebration of the special days of April)…although in my opinion any day and any week is a good time to celebrate books!

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You can read more about Jean Dubuffet here.  And see some of the other pieces from the MOMA show here.

poetry month

Isaac!

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I actually went to the Jewish Museum with the purpose of seeing the “Unorthodox” exhibit, which closed last weekend (full of interesting things:  for a future post).  But imagine my delight as I stepped out onto the second floor and saw this:

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Having worked in the fashion industry, Isaac Mizrahi is well known to me.  But this exhibit puts his work together in a way that has both surprises and charm.  The wall of color swatches that he has collected over his career was just the start.

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There were costumes and accompanying videos of performances

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walls of sketches

isaac dresses

glamour and glitter.

glitter

I have always been fond of the totem pole dress and the native American-inspired beaded jacket.

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The visitors, young and old, fashionista or not, seemed to latch on to Mizrahi’s exuberance with smiles.  The exhibit will be on display until August.