Sunday, August 31, 2014

Chinese Painting AIC September 2014

 Chen Daofu, (1483-1544), Flowering Lotus, 1543

It looks like lotus will be the theme of  the September installation in the alcove of Chinese painting - but so far only two pieces have been installed.  The museum showed another painting by this artist last winter.

My friend, John Putnam, has own lotus pond that recently came under attack by a local raccoon.

But these lotus are better protected -and I could look at them all day

It's a subject matter  that seems to offer the opportunity to express hilarity.


Li Huasheng (b. 1944), "Ten Thousand Acres of Lotus", 1991

This contemporary piece also feels hilarious - as hilarious as a small child's birthday party.

An artist of the Peoples Republic,  Li seems to looking at contemporary ABX artists like Cy Twombly as much as he's followed traditional Chinese brush painting.

Li Huasheng, 2001 (not on view)

In the 1990's, he stopped painting recognizable imagery, and began compulsively putting marks on the paper.

Hopefully, he'll eventually find this kind of work as tedious as I do, and will return to a more lyrical practice.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Reginald Mars at the Oak Park Public Library

 In 1963, the Village of Oak Park commissioned Reginald Mars (1901 - 1973) to depict 10 seasonal recreational activities to adorn a newly built fieldhouse.  They went into storage twenty years later, and now have been cleaned and put on temporary display in the library.

This scene,  appearing in the Chicago Tribune last week,  caught my attention.   First, because it  reminded me that if you want to see lots of attractive, half-dressed young women, just go to a public swimming pool in the morning when they bring their young children to play.

Second, because it was obviously done by a talented, experienced illustrator who could draw figures and design with them too.

Unfortunately, these surfaces got pretty dirty in their public location, and the cleaning left them feeling as thin and faded as a fresco from the 14th Century.

But the drawing and basic design has survived -- to effectively depict happy, prosperous, suburban American life in the early 1960's  (back when I might have been a kid in the pool)

Though you might notice one thing that's missing: ethnic diversity -- which would have been a sensitive issue back in the 50's- especially regarding public swimming pools. (in Cincinnati, where I grew up, they were segregated )

 Here's my favorite -- I think the artist may have spent some time in the Buckingham Japanese print gallery at the Art Institute.


 As often happens with the work of professional illustrators, these pieces look better in reproduction than they do in the original.

 Another nice composition.

 I'm sure that every village has a storeroom containing dark,old, forgotten paintings.

Some art lover must have stumbled upon  these and correctly guessed how good they once looked.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chinese Painting at AIC - June 2014

Chen Wu,  Orchids, 1832

With such a common name, it's impossible to  find this artist on the internet.

Which is another reason the museum should re-consider devoting an informational  website to its rotating exhibitions of Chinese painting.

This quarterly iteration of the small gallery is devoted to botanicals.

I wouldn't mind seeing an exhibit of just orchid paintings,
but there might not be enough in the museum's collection.

Chen Jiayan (born 1539),  1625

Obviously this 86 year old artist had aged quite well - still putting out a fresh green sprout every day

Xia Chang (1388-1470), Bamboo covered stream in spring rain, 1441

This is but one small section of a 50-foot scroll
painted in honor of a friend's bamboo grove.

According to the Met's website,
he was a high court official and  the leading bamboo painter of his time

Unfortunately, the museum's cases cannot accommodate a scroll that long.
We'll have to wait another three or four years to see another six-foot section.

I get a strong feeling of water rushing past
in this area of detail

Ni Zan (1301 - 1374)
"Poetic thoughts in a Forest Pavilion", 1371

The inscription reads:

In a forest pavilion, bamboo and trees give thickly overlapping shade.
Seeking friends crying "ying" - I too am fond of music.

Reciting to strings  (of the qin zither), scholars
are gathered and  seated from time to time.
In this district, Master Fu had only to play the qin.

On the 23rd day of the seventh month,
 I sketched this painting of Poetic Thoughts in a Forest Pavilion
and wrote the poem in
order to leave it behind for the multi-talented Youxin.

Extensive biographies on the internet would lead me to believe that this is one of the Art Institute's most important Chinese paintings, done in the early years of the Ming Dynasty by an artist who grew up in the Yuan (Mongolian) Dynasty.

Apparently his wealthy family gave him a good education, but civil unrest made him flee his home district and wander throughout southern China earning a living by selling his unconventional paintings.


I found the painting as a whole to be just too weird.
The sizes of the tree and rock are somewhat disturbing.
But as the artist wrote:

“I use bamboo painting to write out the exhilaration in my breast, that is all.
Why should I worry whether it shows likeness or not?”

On the other hand,
I love some areas of detail.




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Brooklyn Museum 2014

 Albert Bierstadt  (1830-1902), "Storm in the Rocky Mountains", 1866
The Brooklyn Museum is currently running a special exhibit of the celebrated Chinese artist,
Ai WeiWei, but I just couldn't muster the $30 admission fee to see conceptual art.  
So instead, we visited the rest of the museum - or actually - since time was limited - we just viewed one or two rooms of the American collection.
After seeing all the wall-size paintings on the fourth floor of MOMA the day before, I continued to wonder how anyone could prefer them to something more enjoyable - like the above.
There are artists who still paint the world as wonderful, scenic,  and glorious, but their work never makes it out of exhibitions of  "Western" art.
 John Koch (1909-1978),"The Sculptor", 1964
 Here's a curious painter about whom I knew very little.
Time will reveal many more artists who did not join the trends of mid-century American painting.
This style seems to come from an earlier era, , but the coy, chaotic  sexual ambivalence of this piece is definitely connected to the sixties. .
"Light my Fire"
(the Doors first recorded  song with that title in 1966)
The luminosity here is so enjoyable--
and it's exciting to experience such visual complexity,
 even if it's not completely satisfying.
Maurice Stern (1878-1957), "The Awakening", 1926 
Here's a 20th Century American figure sculptor who was completely new to me.

I like modern classicism - and this kind of reminds me of Gaston Lachaise.

But it did feel closer to an academic exercise
than a heart-felt expression.
Which may be why Wikipedia notes that  the artist is remembered today as
 the husband of a famous philanthropist.
 Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), portrait of Creifelds, 1876

"They are all portraits of very  ugly men... they have little grace, little finish, little elegance... their great quality is their extreme naturalness, their unmixed, unredeemed reality"... Henry James, 1875, discussing other recent portraits by Duveneck.

The above comment seems to relate more to the gritty subject than to the painted design that presents it -- which appears quite elegant and finished to me.

It's an early portrait by the dean of Cincinnati painters.


 William Glackens (1870-1938),  East River Park, 1902

This small park reminded me of the one about 6 miles north that I used to walk through  every morning when we visited my grandparents on the upper east side.

So many nice contrasts of sharp with blurry

William L. Hawkins (1895-1990), "Nineteenth Century Houses"

This was another exuberant large size painting that seems so preferable to what high end art galleries were showing at the time.

It seems to scream "I love my life!"

Unfortunately, my photos  of it were blurry -- and the museum only offers a thumbnail in deference to the image rights of someone (though the artist himself has been dead for almost 25 years)

 Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1998),
 Dans Un Café a Paris (Leigh Whipper), 1939

A curious painting that owes more to Cezanne than most other American paintings of that decade.

It came one year after the artist painted this more Afro-centric image.

 Robert Laurent (1890-1970), The Wave, 1926

A beautiful little art deco carving - it's more like decorative netsuke 
 than narrative figure sculpture

(image from the museum website)

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988), My Uncle, 1934

Noguchi was quite an expressive  portrait sculptor before he went totally abstract.

Seymour Lipton (1903-1986), "Earth Forge II", 1955

There a certain grinding aggressiveness about this piece that reminds me of the sculpture of another New York sculptor/dentist from the 1950's.

 George Lovett Kingsland Morris (1905-1975),
Indian Composition #6, 1938
Quite a contrast to both the social realism of his decade - and the ABX that followed.
It seems to be a psychological self portrait.
Pleasant - but not earth shaking.