Art

B. F. Kiefrich, Spam Artist, Remembered

You may wonder about my interest in this traditional American delicacy. It comes not from the interests I share with Sgr. Rossini, but from my experiences as a curator in the Cleveland Museum of Art. As my colleagues and I pushed papers and watched western civilization melt into Lake Erie, a remarkable artist from Akron came to our attention. This artist, who worked under the name B. F. Kiefrich, produced sculptures from Spam®, among them an exquisite gilt miniature Book of Hours, known as the Codex Spambergensis and a porcine version of Nefertiti’s lips.

Artist’s Books by Dan Rose; Arbitrary Pleasures-Plaisir Arbitraire, Photon Ecstasy (HD 7924) at the Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania

Dan Rose in the gallery

Arbitrary Pleasures-Plaisir Arbitraire is the most recent exhibition of artist’s books by Dan Rose with a performance by New York Composer-Performers l’Artiste ordinaire (Melissa Grey & David Moneau).

Through Dan Rose’s initiative, the Kislak Center has now acquired the collected papers of Harry Matthews the first American member of Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, or Oulipo, a group of mostly French avant-garde novelists and poets who invented or revived techniques that influenced the trajectory of 20th and 21st century literature.

Patrick Dougherty’s Stickworks Augments the Experience of Fall in Massachusetts

Patrick Dougherty, The Wild Rumpus, Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts. Photo Virginia Raguin.

Patrick Dougherty has been making popular installations over a 30-year career in the tradition of Earthworks. Raised and educated in North Carolina (he resides in Chapel Hill), he began with a hand-crafted house in the 1970’s and a decade later was showing human stick figures positioned or standing in chairs. His first works were displayed in art galleries and at art centers before he became engaged with architectural follies that are often massive structures that leap from tree to tree, cover facades of buildings, or stand as independent houses or similarly monumental forms. His output in the past decade numbers nine to ten installations a year—each occupying about three weeks of uninterrupted effort. As well as the hundreds of sculptures in the United States, his work has been enthusiastically received internationally in almost every country in Western Europe as well as Japan and South Korea.

The Life Ecstatic: Judith Schaechter at Claire Oliver Gallery, 513 West 26th Street. New York, Sept 9 – October 22.

Judith Schaechter, The Life Ecstatic, at the Claire Oliver Gallery, New York. Photo Virginia Raguin.

All artists strive to depict the human condition; Judith Schaechter does this in a series of extraordinary narratives in stained glass that address life, consciousness, and the unending richness of created form. A recipient of several National Endowment for the Arts awards as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship, Schaechter teaches in the Craft and Material Studies department at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia. Her recent show at Claire Oliver Gallery focuses on flight and space, actual or imagined in new and brilliant ways. Birds rule throughout! Schaechter admits that she has recently become a bird watcher although she always enjoyed animals, even as a teenager. She confides that a bird’s shape is appealing—a living form but without the complex appendages of arms and legs (hard to draw).

Experiments of the Ordinary: Giorgio Morandi at the Center for Italian Modern Art

Giorgio Morandi, Natura morta, 1963

All accounts suggest that the Italian painter Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) enjoyed a life of uninterrupted calm and isolation. Introverted by nature, Morandi spent his entire lifetime in Bologna, in the same apartment no less, and was dubbed il Monaco due to his almost monastic reclusiveness. He tended to paint at home, either in his bedroom or an adjoining studio, committing himself almost exclusively to the natura morta, or still life.

Danish Solitudes: Vilhelm Hammershøi at Scandinavia House, closes March 26, 2016

Vilhelm Hammershøi, The Buildings of the Asiatic Company, Seen from St. Annæ Street, Copenhagen, 1902. Oil on canvas, 57 5/8 x 55 1/3 in. (146.5 x 140.5 cm). Statens Museum for Kunst, smk.dk

Widely recognized in Europe during his lifetime and engulfed by obscurity for decades thereafter, today the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916) is primarily considered to be a “painter of tranquil rooms.” “Interior in Strandgade, Sunlight on the Floor,” one of twenty-four paintings displayed in an intimate recent exhibit at New York’s Scandinavia House, is an archetypal Hammershøi work. A solitary woman hunches over a table with her back to the viewer, her identity and activity unclear. Daylight pours through a large central window, leaving a slanted, luminous grid ghosted on the floor. While the subject matter is characteristic of the period—paintings of bourgeois women and interiors were both immensely popular in 19th century Denmark—the approach is defiantly atypical.

The New Contemporary at the Art Institute of Chicago. Reopened December 2015.

Jasper Johns. Alphabet, 1959. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Edlis/Neeson Collection. © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

For a museum that bills itself encyclopedic, the Art Institute of Chicago was long lacking a comprehensive contemporary section to complete its smorgasbord of the world’s greatest art. Last April, plastics tycoon Stefan T. Edlis and his wife Gael Neeson changed all that with a gift of forty-four pieces by such recognized names as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and several others. These works are currently on display in the Modern Wing of what TripAdvisor has dubbed “the world’s best museum.” The Institute’s pledge to display the works rather than pack them away was “an offer I could not refuse,” Edlis stated, leaving him and the general public equally happy. Edlis, although still in good health, wanted worthy homes for his extensive collection while still alive. These forty-four works now rest comfortably on the “Big Shoulders” of his adopted hometown.

Rodin: The Evolution of a Genius, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts until March 13, 2016

Rodin in his studio

Auguste Rodin is one of those institutional artists, whose last name has become synonymous with a distinctive​ kind of art, much the same as Donatello or Rembrandt, but Rodin: The Evolution of a Genius, currently on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, is as remarkable as it is unexpected. While it covers the salient points in Rodin’s oeuvre, the focus here is neither marble nor bronze, but rather the humbler medium of plaster. The underlying thesis is that Rodin was more of a modeler than a carver, a practice reflecting the nature of the art market in his day as well as the sculptor’s natural inclination. Created jointly by the Musée Rodin in Paris and the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Montreal, the exhibition showcases two hundred works that emphasize Rodin’s pivotal place in the grand tradition of sculpture, between the worlds of Michelangelo and of Brancusi.

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