Art

Madame Cézanne and “The Truth in Painting”

Paul Cézanne, Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair, ca. 1877. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke saw the retrospective of Paul Cézanne at the 1907 Autumn Salon in Paris. Overcome by Cézanne’s “infinitely responsive conscience,” recognizable in the painter’s shifting fragments across the canvas, he returned to the exhibition daily until its close. In his writings on the exhibition, Rilke’s most jubilant praise was lauded to Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair (ca. 1877).

Michael Mazur: Stoneham Zoo (1976-1979) at the Ryan Lee Gallery, closing November 15, 2014

Cage at Stoneham III, 1976 Pastel on paper, 40 1/2 x 64 1/2 in.

There are only two days left to view an important exhibition of oils and pastels by Michael Mazur (1935-2009) at the Ryan Lee Gallery. In 1976 Mazur, at a time when he was forty-one and his career was reaching a substantial level, found himself drawn to Stoneham Zoo, which was in a rather derelict state at the time, if I remember correctly, and decided to create a series of works in the monkey cages there. It reminded him of work he had done in mental hospitals as a student and teacher, both offering art therapy and drawing the patients, which he saw more as inmates, people in captivity. As he developed this theme in his work, he began to draw more from memory. Around 1976 and in recent years he had been working concentratedly both with narrative scenes and with landscape. He approached the monkey cages with these three pursuits in mind.

Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, the Condé Nast Years, 1923-1937

Edward Steichen, Black: Model Margaret Horan in a black dress by Jay-Thorpe. 1935, Courtesy Condé Nast Archive © 1935 Condé Nast Publications

This important exhibition of Edward Steichen’s fashion and celebrity photography for Condé Nast, which will close soon in Toronto and continue on to Fort Lauderdale and Kansas City, emerged from an earlier, ambitious survey of his entire career, Edward Steichen: Lives in Photography, also organized by Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography and the Musée de Élysée. While researching that exhibition, the curators, William Ewing and Todd Brandow, discovered two thousand vintage prints from Steichen’s years at Vogue and Vanity Fair in the Condé Nast Archive, where they were catalogued and preserved to museum standards. These had never been exhibited before and presented an opportunity not to be missed.

Judith Schaechter: Dark Matter

We are mesmerized. The polished sheen of the glass radiates colors as intensely as jewels. A myriad of forms in kaleidoscopic transformation suggest at once flowers, sea urchins, snowflakes, or bacteria. Crystalline circles like flowers or alabaster Easter eggs multiply in extravagant exuberance. Tree branches, undulating snakes (or are they veins?) spread across the profusion.

Richard Long, Heaven and Earth, at the Tate Britain, 3 June – 6 September 2009

Richard Long, Dusty Boots Line, 1988

A curious map hangs in the second room of Heaven and Earth, the new Richard Long exhibit at the Tate Britain in London, which opened on June 3. From afar, the map of Dartmoor Forest in southwest England resembles strategic battle map, with four concentric circles drawn atop a specific area, perhaps suggesting a target. The map, however, exists as a simple record, a history, of a walk Richard Long took thirty-seven years ago. “A Walk of Four Hours and Four Circles, England, 1972,” the caption reads. Each of the circles on the map represents Long’s self-imposed paths for his walk and do not necessarily symbolize dominion.

Leonard Freed, The Italians – exhibition now at The Leica Gallery, New York, until August 9, 2014

Leonard Freed, The Italians, Quantuck Lane Press, 2011, exhibition now at the Museo di Roma in Trastevere through May 27, 2012.

The great documentary art photographer’s warm-hearted, but sharply observed takes on Italian life between 1956 and 2005 appear in 190 superb duotone illustrations. With an introductory essay in English and Italian by Berkshire Review/New York Arts editor, Michael Miller.

The selection of images in the book and in the exhibition was made by Freed’s widow, Brigitte and James Mairs, editor at the Quantuck Lane Press. The Italian edition, which is also bilingual and virtually identical, is distributed by the local organizer, Admira.

George Eastman House Light & Motion Gala, May 5, 2014, at Three Sixty° in Tribeca

George Eastman House Light and Motion Gala, the Scene. Photo © Michael Miller 2014.

My direct experience with the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, to give it its full name, began with their latest major restoration project, the recently rediscovered footage Orson Welles shot for the cinematic interludes in his Mercury production of Too Much Johnson. Apart from being a tour de force of conservation, the project underscored one inspiring aspect of the institution. George Eastman House is a museum, but, unlike virtually all art museums, which pride themselves on avoiding acquisitions in compromised condition, it actively seeks out films in need of conservation—that being its primary function, both to fill in the documentation of the history of photography and cinema, and to make lost works of art available to the public. This activity justifies itself of course, but its importance is heightened by the fact that motion pictures in particular were not considered worthy of preservation.

“Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010,” April 19–August 3, 2014 at the Museum of Modern Art, with an aside on Gerhard Richter

Sigmar Polke, German, 1941–2010, Watchtower (Hochsitz). 1984. Synthetic polymer paints and dry pigment on patterned fabric, 9′ 10″ x 7′ 4 1⁄2″ (300 x 224.8 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Fractional and promised gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder. © 2014 Estate of Sigmar Polke/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild‑Kunst, Bonn.

Bluntly put: this event should not be missed. The first comprehensive overview of the multifaceted German artist Sigmar Polke (1941–2010), the exhibition dominates MoMA’s 2nd floor atrium and 10 subsequent rooms. Consisting of more than 250 works, it is one of the largest ever mounted at the museum. A rich catalogue accompanies the exhibition: Alibis: Sigmar Polke, 1963-2010, edited by Kathy Halbreich with Mark Godfrey, Lanka Tattersall, and Magnus Schaefer. To facilitate engagement, visitors are provided with a 32-page guide, containing all pertinent label information, leaving the walls purified for visual reception. Text, so much a part of Polke’s art, then is left aesthetically integral. The exhibition will travel to the Tate Modern in London from October 1, 2014 through February 8, 2015, and then to Cologne’s Museum Ludwig March 15 to July 5, 2015.

 

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