Sunday, April 06, 2014

Dorothy Braude Edinburg Collection

Max Pechstein (1881-1955) "Three Nudes in the Forest", 1911

It looks to me more like "one nude in the studio" - but it's still a great drawing. Gallery signage tells us that it was done in a small fishing village on the Baltic coast where the artist and his friends from the Brucke retreated from the city.

John Linnell (1792-1882), "Walking through the Field", July 25, 1868

A nice, lively sketch done on one Summer's day by a 76 year old artist as he was walking about.

The A.I.C. showed this collection 8 years ago when Ms. Edinburg first promised it to the museum -- and now it's up again in recognition of it's receipt last August.

Unlike paintings and sculpture which are inaccessible unless shown in the galleries, works on paper are great gifts for museums because they can always be seen by appointment.

The above  pieces are the only two that interest me now -- though the student work of famous artists like Cezanne and Klimt is fascinating for a single viewing.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Chinese Painting at A.I.C.

Chen Daofu (1483-1544)
Pavilion of Eight Poems, 1538

Back in 2010, Gallery 108 of the Art Institute of Chicago was re-purposed as the Roger Weston Wing of Japanese Art and Chinese painting has been off-view ever since.  Until now. 

Unfortunately, no deep-pocketed donor like Weston has stepped forward to support the Chinese collection so Chinese gallery space in the museum has shrunk even as the museum's total floor space gained 33% with the addition of the Modern Wing.

 The new vitrines for Chinese scrolls are now located where Chinese ceramics used to be in a space that's more like a walk-in closet than an art gallery. But apparently, even in its diminished display area there still is not enough Chinese painting in the collection to devote that area entirely to it since proper conservation requires that pieces be off-view for 5 years after being shown for 3 months. The AIC website only lists 91 Chinese paintings in its collection.

But at least this wonderful painting was recently on view,
and here are some pictures of it.

It's on that timeless Chinese theme
of noble minds seeking refreshment
in nature.

Qian Du (1763-1844)
Xuehong Pavilion in a Scholar's Garden (1831)

Here's another depiction of the aesthetic/scholarly life.

According to gallery signage, the "Xuehong" (goose-snow) Pavilion refers to the title of a poem by Su Shi (1036-1101) , whose calligraphy I once discussed here

According to signage,  the windows of the building in front offer views of ceramic and bronze vessels, a painting rolled up for storage, and a writing desk--- but I can't see them.

This appears to be a  "scholar's rock" that was found in nature, and then re-located to a garden for aesthetic appreciation.

The Wangchuan Villa, early 13th Century, artist unknown

This is the oldest piece in this exhibit - and also the darkest and most faded. It depicts the country villa of a famous scholar/statesman/poet/painter/musician, Wang  Wei,  who lived 500 years earlier - and it depicts various features that his poetry mentions.

It also includes a spurious signature, that of Li Gonglin (1049-1106), suggesting that this may be a copy of his work.

In it's current state, it's not very attractive - and only seems to hint at qualities that may have been found in the original.

Here are some details of the attached calligraphy - much more enjoyable than the landscape.

It feels elegant, sophisticated, and sensual

TangYin (1470-1523), 'Bamboo Stove", 1509

Here's a little picnic - with what appears to be a root-wood chair

The accompanying calligraphy feels looser,  more joyous, and more energetic.

And it seems more aware of the empty space behind it.

Tang Yin is a very famous name in Chinese art history. I don't know with how much confidence this attribution was made, but apparently he is well known for his semi-cursive script.

Hsu Kuo-Huang  (. 1950) , "Poem to Zhifu by Huang Tingjian", 2010

I didn't care much for this contemporary piece - but still wish I had taken a better picture of it.

The characters are too aggressive - they feeling like they're elbowing  each other for space,  like basketball players fighting for position beneath the basket.

That's the modern world, I suppose.

Huang Tingjian (1045-1105)

It's not from this exhibit, but here's a piece by the celebrated Sung calligrapher to whom the Hsu Kuo-Huang was paying tribute.

Perhaps it's not fair to make comparisons - but this seems so much more joyful and enjoyable - and the characters are so much happier to be around each other.  No fighting here -- just the harmony of notes in a melodic phrase.

Here's more Huang Tianjian - from museums around the world

I can't get enough of him

Each individual character has more interest, quality, and internal energy  than entire paintings from this exhibit.

Li Huayi (b. 1948), "Landscape" 2002

Here's another contemporary painting,  this one done by an American my age.

This piece seems to be more about being in the  wilderness than being in a painting.  So I guess I'd rather visit that mountain myself - the painting feels boring.

But I'm glad that the museum is showing contemporary-traditional Chinese painting.  The A.I.C.  almost completely ignores contemporary painting done in the European tradition of landscape- as if it were an anathema.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Diasporal Rhythms

 Lowell Thompson

I'd never heard of a "collectors' collective" before,
though I suppose that's what you could call
all American art museums,
which are private corporations
run by  boards of wealthy collectors
who regularly use "public" museums
to showcase their own private collections.

Diasporal Rhythms
is a collective of African American collectors
who don't have deep enough pockets
to become trustees of the AIC or the MCA.

And they might not belong
in a mainstream American art institution anyway,
since they don't seem all that interested
in the familiar tropes of the contemporary artworld.

Judging from this exhibit,
what they want to see most
is  positive depictions of people,
especially human faces,
a predilection which they share with
most of art history from around the world.

And if a painting doesn't catch their eye,
a jargon filled explanation will probably not improve it for them.

You might call them unsophisticated -
while noting how frequently sophistication is celebrated
for its absence (i.e. "outsider artists").

So it's not completely surprising
 that their 10-year-anniversary exhibition
is being held in the new
Logan Center for the Arts,
a severe, neo-medieval tower built
for the propagation of high-end conceptual art
on the campus of the University of Chicago.

Lowell Thompson was
my favorite artist in their show.

He's quite a creative, outspoken character, as his
blogspot and his page on Huffington Post might attest,
though I do wish he would focus more on visual art,
 he's so talented at it.

With these feel-good scenes of American life,
perhaps you could call him a soulful Norman Rockwell.

But I like him more than Rockwell.

He swings!

There's a visual sensuality
that trumps the lucid display
of the message that he's selling.

Julian Williams

Here's the other artist that I liked,
an expressive portrait painter
in the tradition of Van Gogh or Kokoschka.

This guy also belongs in an art museum
though it might take a while.

I didn't really care for the rest of the show,
but I also had some difficulty finding
more than two pieces to really like
in several of the ancient and medieval galleries
 at the Met last weekend.

So, hats off to these collectors!

They have done an end run
around the local art galleries and museums
that don't show the kind of contemporary art they like.

I wish that other collectors
would do likewise
with whatever kind of art they love.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Balthus at the Met

Mediterranean Cat, 1949 (detail)

While visiting the Met a few weeks ago,
we chanced upon  "Cats and Girls",
a current show spanning 25 years
(c. 1935-1960)
in the career of Balthasar Klossowski.

King of Cats, 1935

He was a lonely, sensitive Polish aristocrat
who grew up in the world of art
and happened to have a great  talent for it.

Solitaire, 1943

Girl with Cat, 1937

Above, are the two pieces I know best
since they've  hung in the Art Institute for more than 20 years.
where they were the only reason
I ever visited its galleries of contemporary art.

Even though they're a bit creepy -
i.e. something is wrong
with so much attention
paid to one who is so young
and feels so vulnerable.

He doesn't paint happy or beautiful children,
which are really the only kind I want to see.

Frans Hals, 1625

I just don't think that adults
should be looking up the dresses of young girls
until they're old enough to fend for themselves.

But.... creepiness, as well as Sadism,
 is part of human nature
and it seems to be the job of 20th C.
 art and psychology
to show us our dark side.

The Victim, 1938

This painting has been something of a puzzle,
as it moves from voyeurism to tragedy.

Perhaps it's a response
to what was happening to a Europe
caught between the Soviet and Nazi empires.

Or maybe it just makes explicit
what the other paintings have been suggesting.

Obviously, he identifies with the
predatory nature of cats.

The happy girl on the boat
will become the dead fish on the plate.

The Moth, 1959

But over the years covered in this show
it does seem that the artist outgrew
his fascination with school girls' panties,
and matured into a taste
for young adults without any clothes at all.

Nude with Cat, 1949

Figure in front of a Mantel, 1955

And we've moved from a sordid darkness
into a celebration of light

Girl at the Window, 1955

This was my favorite painting in the show.

Happily, he's sharing the wonders of being young
rather than licking his lips
like a hungry cat.


there were several paintings
in every gallery of the show,
that felt like murky disasters.

But that does suggest
that he was taking risks
and painting for himself
rather than the market.