Monday, June 13, 2016

Remembering Perimeter Gallery

As every artist knows, gallerists are blind, greedy, and backward.

But for every person who might be called a gallerist, there must be a  thousand who might be called artists.

Which might suggest that running a gallery is a much more difficult enterprise.


Perimeter Gallery was a destination for me in Chicago's River North gallery district long before I began writing reviews for New City.

It may not show figurative art in the European tradition  - but the owner has always pursued the beautiful rather than just the provocative.

Over the past eight years, I've seen many of  my favorite galleries close - and it's not as if other other galleries jump in to represent artists from their rosters.  The gallery business is based on personal taste and  relationships with collectors - and there are lots of good artists to choose from.  Very rarely has the business been handed over from one owner to another  - and when that happens - it's usually been to a family member.

Few, if any, of Perimeter's artists will ever be shown in Chicago again.  Which is sad.

But on the other hand -- new galleries -- with new groups of artists -- appear every year.

And that's a good thing.

As I once wrote about  Keiko Hara's paintings (see the link below):

"There is just nature, endlessly inventive and immortal ..... always dying, and always re-emerging as something new."

Here is a list of the Perimeter artists I have reviewed over the years:

Sunday, April 17, 2016

AIC - Van Dyke, Rembrandt, and the Portrait Print

Rembrandt, self portrait, 1648

I am grateful for this New City Review by Stephen F. Eisenman that got me to head down to the Art Institute yesterday to see whether I agreed with his conclusion:

" the battle between van Dyck and Rembrandt, which is also a contest between fixed and fluid identity -, or between tradition and modernity, is the main event."

Noting the opposition of concave to convex (window to table)  and horizonal to vertical (nose to books), he  succinctly concludes: "This rigid geometry highlights by opposition the open character of the model.

The actual print is so small, it's difficult to read to the face.  But zooming in with graphic software, the face does appear to be anxious, maybe even soul-searching.  We may or may not associate this attitude with being a professional fine-art painter.  But it would not surprise me if Rembrandt did. Many of his other self portraits offer a similar expression.

Lorenzo di Credi (?) portrait of Perugino (?) 1504 (?)

Compare it to the above piece from an earlier century. Is this geometry any less rigid? Is this character any less open? Is this identity any less fluid?  Is this portrait any  less modern?

portrait of Jan Lutma, goldsmith 1656

This print was also in the show - and the design also feels rigidly geometric as an arrangement of squares and rectangles.

But could this exemplify "fluid identity"?  The goldsmith feels withdrawn.   He has barely managed to endure the tragedies of life.

Clement de Jonghe, Printseller” (1651)

The review notes the difference between the two states of this print that are on display.

In the early one (shown above), "the seated man is relaxed, his left arm between his legs, his right arm across his chest and his eyes forward."

In the third state, "his eyes are shaded and his gaze cast to the right. Rembrandt doesn’t fix identity in one plate, as van Dyck does. He locates it through triangulation, using multiple states. Rembrandt and de Jonghe, unlike de Momper and Vorsterman, cannot be reduced to their profession or social status."

A further discussion of the states of this print is found here.

 we can see how changed in lighting between these states and state iv/vi make for a more dramatic and realistic portrait. The shadow of the hat's brim cast across de Jonghe's face makes him appear wily and wry. His eyebrows suddenly stand out, giving him more expression. His hat and cloak stand out stronger from the background, in turn giving him a stronger presence in the portrait. 

Since homo sapiens is a social creature, probably the most important thing our visual intelligence does is read the expression on another human face.  The slightest variations in detail can change friend to foe - smart to stupid - honest to sly.

The changes between these two states of the same print are many.  Even the middle- front brim of the hat is different - it no longer suggests a smile on the lips or suggests a receptive, curious attitude.

The differences between different prints of the same state can also affect perceived character.
(so can different scans of the same print)

Was Rembrandt "triangulating" the character of his model by presenting different images - or was he just adjusting - and playing with - the plate as it was inevitably modified by wear and tear.

Here's  another Rembrandt print from the show - and it's far less impressive. The artist seems more interested in displaying the model as he wishes to be known - rather than experimenting or maximizing his art.

I feel a firm - not  fluid - identity.

Anthony Van Dyck, portrait of Lucas Vorsterman,,1630-1633

The reviewer writes:  "The engraver Lucas Vorsterman  on the other hand, shown against a blank background, appears volatile. In fact, Rubens took out a protection order against him. He has unkempt hair,  wide-set eyes and a powerful right hand partly covered by his cape—we can imagine
 it hiding a dagger. Each sitter in the “Iconography” plays his part in a scripted  performance of friendship"

I see a much more dramatic presentation here -- as well as a more strongly expressed personality.

Multiple states also exist for this print -- the later ones being enhanced by studio assistants.

Once again, we might notice a change in the character being presented.  Several dark areas have congealed into black masses. The mustache no longer seems to extend the expression of the mouth. The person feels more troubled - more dangerous - less vulnerable.

Couldn't  we say that Vorstrman's personality has also been triangulated?


The development from tradition to Modernity is the primary narrative of contemporary academic art history.  It seems like every exhibit at the Art  Institute of Chicago makes that point, one way or another.  It is not surprising that Stephen  Eisenman, a professor of art history at DePaul University, would apply that established trope here as well.  That's his job.

But I am more convinced  by Georg Simmel 's argument that Rembrandt was especially concerned with the inner life of his portrait subjects -- which would stand in sharp contrast to the game-face  portraits of  Van Dyck.

And a similar contrast might be found between the psychological portraits of Oskar Kokochka with the social ambient portraits of Gustav Klimt - two contemporaries who worked  250 years later.


Albrecht Durer, portrait of Philippe Melanchthon, 1526

By the way -- here's another great portrait from the show-  so small, but so powerful.

Saturday, April 02, 2016


Milton Horn, "Travail"???, 1966, plaster

When I purchased "Who Walketh Upon the Wind" this piece was thrown in - presumably because it was not expected to sell by itself.  It's not a very pleasant subject matter - and it's just a plaster cast  - even if a unique one.

Not surprisingly, it was made - and hung - amidst a fine collection of Medieval European sculpture.

The piece is not mentioned in the 1989  Spertus exhibition catalog.  I believe it depicts the discomfort, anxiety, and even fear of an expectant mother.  I vaguely recall that it was called "Travail", but I'm not sure.

Milton Horn, "Pain", 1970 

A rather odd subject matter, isn't it?  Definitely in the tradition of Kathe Kollwitz.  Feeling  the pain of others is about as far from the post-war American mentality as one can get.

But Milton and Estelle were far removed from that mentality - even if they lived in a central Chicago neighborhood that was rapidly becoming  gentrified. They didn't even own a car.

As I recall,  Milton made a few other works on related themes, most notably "The Birth of a Poet" (1970), a bronze figure of a woman in a birthing chair and an infant emerging from her womb. Also there is "Travail"(1966) a 50" X 20" walnut relief which was probably based on the plaster piece shown at the top.

Regrettfully, a catalogue raisonné has yet to be published.

Cosmo Campoli, "The Birth of Death", 1950

Come to think of it, Chicago's Monster Roster from the 1950's were also influenced by Medieval and tribal sculpture - and the dark side of the human experience.

But, for the most part, their work belongs in a theme park's haunted house - rather than a temple, cathedral, or shrine.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Man Upstairs

Milton Horn, "Who Walketh Upon the Wings of the  Wind"
Bronze, 39.75 inches (Detail) 1958

Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.

 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:

 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:

 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:

 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.

(Psalm 104, excerpt)

Once or twice a year, I type "Milton Horn sculptor"
into a Goodle search window to see what pops up. 

 A new exhibition? A new picture online? Whatever.

When I did that two weeks ago,
 I found an image of a statue called "Moses" on an  auction site
 along with the incredible news that the auction would begin

Now I own it.

I first saw the piece when I was a teenager, about fifty years ago. My father had helped Milton build the armature for the monumental "Hymn to Water" and he drove us  up to Chicago one weekend to see the nearly finished work before it was cast.. I've written about that trip here . We spent the night in Milton's home, surrounded by his collection of Medieval, ancient, and Asian sculpture, as well as his own work - including this piece.

It was the only statue to which he gave an optional  spotlight. He clicked it on whenever I showed an interest in viewing it. . It's the only free-standing statue of Jehovah or Yahweh or the Judeo-Christian God that I have ever seen.       

But God  has also appeared in several sculptural reliefs, including his own,  In  "Hymn to Water",  God the sculptor, is modeling Man.

 Eight years earlier he represented the in-dwelling, feminine aspect of God, the Shekhinah, in a sculptural relief  on the outside wall of Temple Har Zion in River Forest, Illinois.

Looking back through art history, Michelangelo's God is the best known.

Here, God makes Man.

Here, God makes the sun and moon

This  face appears more severe and less loving that the one gazing at Adam.

Jacopo  Della  Quercia

Christian art has always been  more interested in statues of  Jesus and the Virgin Mary. They can serve as objects of devotion and supplication. God, the father,  is too distant - and dangerous..

Earthquakes, tornadoes, plagues, and tsunamis are  some of the  "acts of God".  Jesus would never harm a fly.

Here are a few more memorable representations of the Man Upstairs:

Jacopo Della Quercia

Lorenzo Ghiberti

Ghiberti's God is more like a quiet, gentle father than the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.

Lee Lawrie
Here's a 20th Century version found in Rockefeller Center - based on the painting by William Blake.
It seems to belong in a movie theater - or Disneyland.

Michelangelo's "Moses" is the statue that Milton Horn's God most closely resembles  -  in both turbulent inner energy and that fine pair of horns emerging from his scalp.

Michelangelo gave Moses his horns  because it's how the Vulgate Bible translated the Hebrew word for  "shining".

Milton Horn gave God his horns as a tribute to Michelangelo - thereby invoking art history as well as deity.

And one might note that God has turned his face away from the viewer to communicate with an attendant angel.  Perhaps the angel is dutifully awaiting a command - but as Milton once explained it to me, the angel is delivering a report - which makes more sense to me.

God was the prime mover - but He is not the continuous mover.  He put things in motion - and then keeps track of how things are turning out.

Which should let him off the hook for all the bad stuff that happens every day - especially to Jews in the early 20th Century.

The true believer cannot expect God to get him out of every jam.  But he can expect not to be alone.

(reminds me of Rembrandt's early etchings  depicting  old oriental men)

The face of God is interesting - but the important content of this piece is  turbulent, writhing power - the kind that spins out the galaxies as well as the double-helix of cellular biology.

It's as evident from the back as well as the front   --- because, of course, the universe has no front and back.

One might well think of this as an abstract sculpture -- which occasionally takes the form of recognizable human features.

The Divine Dance

Just noticed this little putto under God's foot -- just as cherubs accompanied the God of  Michelangelo.

Here is the piece currently on display in my office at the store.  God is flanked by the crown of His creation:  beautiful young women.

On the right, my father  presents "Gloria", his favorite model.

On the left, I present a Palette and Chisel model from about twenty years ago.

Showing my sculpture beside that of Milton and RJ is something of a dream-come-true for me.

Though - I might note that I am only person in the world who currently has any interest in owning these three statues.  Horn's piece cost less than half the cost of casting it. My father's piece is only worth the cost of its re-cycled bronze.  And my polyester resin piece is utterly ....... priceless.