Friday, May 04, 2007

Strolling through Artopolis: Part Two

William Bailey (b. 1930) "Migianella del sogno" 2003

This enormous still life was really an eye-catching anomaly.
I mean, something this large, and reverentially designed,
ought to have a sacred subject matter,
something like "Saint Spyridon in the ceramic studio"

But it's just a table of big, clean , simple pots.
How Protestant-Puritan !
And what an appropriate expression for
modern academia with its out-sized materialism.

And that was William Bailey's adult life:
entirely spent - as student and then professor
at Yale University.

Yes, it's beautiful,
and yes, I'm glad I saw it,
but as with the monumental ancient sculpture of Assyria,
I'm glad it's a world I don't live in.

(BTW - at $175,000, it's also the most
expensive painting on my tour)

Harriet Frishmuth (1880-1980) "The Star"
1918, 19" high

I've been something of a fan of Frishmuth
for a long time -- since she had a piece in
the courtyard garden of the Cincinnati Art Museum.

She's very sensual,
but maybe just a little effete
which offends my proper sense of masculinity

She coaxes --rather than asserts
her way into space.

I think we share an interest
in lithe, nubile,
athletic young females

She lived a full hundred years,
but from what I've seen,
didn't sculpt during the last fifty --

apparently the depression killed the
market for bronze garden sculpture,
and Modernism made her style
appear old fashioned.

George Raab (1866-1943) 1917

What a joy to discover this elegant Midwestern painting,
but also this Wisconsin artist
and the eventful narrative of his life.

Back in the good old days,
the curatorial staff of American art museums
consisted of prominent local artists and collectors,
and for many years Raab was the
curator of the Layton Art Gallery,
(now the Milwaukee Art Museum),
and as you might see from the above link,
I admire that collection.

This portrait was made during his years at the Gallery,
and soon after his marriage to a
beautiful, wealthy young woman half his age
(one of the perks of being a cultural big-shot).

Well, things didn't turn out as he might have hoped,
and he lost both the job and the girl,
and ended up being the big fish in Decatur, Illinois
(a rather small pond)

But the story of his ex-wife interests me,
because she went on to pursue a career as a developer
of the Wisconsin Dells recreational area,
and after the Second World War,
she was vice-president of the enterprise
that bought some military
amphibious vehicles and turned them
into a (godawful) tourist attraction.

BTW - not to sound too much like "Antiques Road Show",
but the above painting was listing for $143,000,
presumably on the basis of its impressive design
(since elsewhere on the internet,
his paintings can be bought for 1/20th that price)

And might I suggest that the power of this
portrait is the possible consequence of
an artist spending his life
in an art museum ?

Adam Straus - "Country Road turning to the left ", 2004
(presumably -- it will begin turning left somewhere up ahead!)

I can't find out very much about this artist,
so I'm guessing he's quite young.

Most of his paintings
are less conventional than this,
but this is the only one that appealed to me,
because I've been down that road many times,
and well I know that it will begin turning left
... eventually


I can smell the air,
I can hear the insects

Richard Diebenkorn 1922-1993

The tragedy of Art Chicago
is that the best (or only?) live-figure drawing
in the show
was made by an Abstract Expressionist.

So yes -- it's got tonal color,
and yes -- it's got spatial design,
( a strong, pleasing design)
but no -- it's got no volumes,
and no -- it's got no figure worth looking at.

I.e. -- it's the depiction of a bored, tired model

"when's my next break ?" she whines

Which makes it so profound,
an apologist (Arthur Danto) of Contemporary Art might say.

Ralph Mayer (1895-1979) Forsyth St. , 1940-1968

Did he really spend 28 years working on this ?

I love this large (48" ) painting -- so I think it was worth it --
a kind of epiphany of outdoor advertising,
as a 14th. C. Italian might have done
with angels, instead of billboards, floating up above.

But it turns out that Ralph Mayer
is far better known as the author
of one of the most successful "How to Art" books
ever published:

"Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques"

William Bailey "Reflection" 2000

Here's a large (60" X 50") figurative piece done by
the same man who painted all that large crockery
in the picture shown earlier.

What's that nice, clean, rational coed
doing buck naked in the parlor ?

Alright - Puritans like sex too,
but shouldn't she be
studying for an exam or something ?

Nadelman "Woman with dog" 1930

I've always been a big fan of Nadelman -- and this was one of his paper mache pieces -- a laudable attempt to offer a more affordable, but not mass produced, art object.

And I like how she, and her goofy little dog,
fit in so well
with the modern people in this gallery

Kathe Kollwitz "Rest in the peace of his hands" (1867-1945) 1935-6

A lot more will have to written later
about these wonderful little reliefs,
that, as I recall,
addressed specific events
in the artist's personal life.

Something about a deep relief
really grabs me
more than either a full-round sculpture
or an illusionistic painting.

"Lament" self portrait 1938-40

(note: these pieces are about 10.5 " high)



Blogger Robert said...

Is "The Star" really only 19 inches high? Photos can be so deceptive. She seems to have done quite a lot of this sort of subject. Not much for Conrad to "fill in"! But then he would have to re-do Nadelman not just "fill in"! I find some of Nadelman's work worthy of an office entrance hall, sort of puts one in the right frame of mind to deal with the people inside the offices. Beneath it all, many of them have rather odd shapes which they would rather not have! But "The Star" really is a star in this post, even a 19 inches.

May 05, 2007  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Kollwitz. Gosh, I love her work, and had never seen these bas-reliefs.

Here I am, sitting in a hotel in San Jose, in as controlled and synthetic an environment as one could imagine, and the heart and soul in her work just made me tear right up.

Thanks, Chris.

Of course, I love Nadelman too, find him most witty, but Kollwitz's Lament broke my heart open as I sit between business-y things here in technoland.

May 05, 2007  
Blogger chris miller said...

What a contrast between these two 20th C. women: Frishmuth and Kollwitz!

lite vs. heavy ?
sweetness vs. power ?
youth vs. age ?
Joy vs. sorrow ?

Kollwitz was never young -- and when Frishmuth reached middle age, she stopped sculpting.

I like both -- and especially work that seems to have both (like the Gerhard Marcks piece I'll show in the Stroll Part. 3)

And I like the idea of Nadelman in the foyer of an office building -- as in "be prepared for some very slick jokes"

And I'm sorry that Lori had to look at these things in a hotel room -- god, I hate hotel rooms ! where every feeling is reflected back like the sun off a chrome fender.

May 06, 2007  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

"Kollwitz was never young"--that is an interesting thing to say and feels true, just as it feels true that she already knew the grief that would come to her through her son and grandson. Or more accurately, through 20th-century war.

Everything about those two pieces denies the bustling material world of 2007.


Lori likes chrome in the hot Texas sun!

May 25, 2007  

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