Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Artopolis 2008 - The Sculpture

What was this thing made for?

It would seem so perfect for a hotel lounge -
or anywhere travelers can be found.

And what's with those strange, fat dreadlocks?
Was Manzu just goofing around with rolls of clay
and -- whoops -- that looks good--- let's keep it ??

I find it so thrilling

even in the details.
It's got:
"the force that through the green fuse
drives the flower"

I'm less excited
about Antonucci Volti ,
but still, I'm glad I've finally seen a piece
in real space.

This is my kind of thing:
heavy female body,
kind of mythic,
kind of dreamy.

But it lacks that spark.

Masahiko Hatori (1899 - 1988)

Every year,
the Antiques Fair has a dealer
in 20th C. Japanese collectables,
giving us the chance to admire
those clean, fresh lines of Japanese design.

This piece is both strong and cute,
not an obvious combination.

Hakuro (1926-1989)

More from the Japanese booth.
Doesn't his antelope seem fashionable?

These are not ordinary beasts--
but seem to be the pets of
some kind of sacred grove.

I think this is Franz Klimsch , though I'm not sure.

Whatever it is,
it's still the official style
of the Third Reich

There seems to be an endless supply
of great ceramics from the Tang Dynasty.

Why is that period so good?

and, of course,
more Tang women.

The proportions of her
just seem so perfect

In my last 10 years
of going to these shows,
Nicholas Africano
seems to be the only sculptor,
local or otherwise,
who can sell a straight-ahead figure.

Casting them in glass is kind of risky,
many pieces are disappointing,
but when it hits,
the occasional translucency
makes it's delightful.

And what upscale home
wouldn't want to have
such an elegant but wayward son?

It appears that he got a little drunk
and fell in the pool.

Is this the same Armando Romero who's known for his cartoonish paintings?

I can't tell -- nor can I imagine why anyone who put the effort into carving this
marble figure would dump a cup of yellow paint over it.

But the results are certainly striking.
(and it reminds me of this Chinese figure with the dripping green paint.)

Maybe figure statues need to be painted
like glazed ceramic pots
to keep them from being seen
as toy action figures.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Artopolis 2008 - The Drawings

Giacomo Manzu (1908-1991)

Here are my favorite drawings from the show,
and I guess it's no surprise
that the people who drew them
were born around a hundred years ago.

The above is a very large drawing,
by a very great sculptor,
and it made me shout when I saw it.

Georg Kolbe (?)

Max Beckmann (1884-1950)

Rather explicit,
but can sex between old people
ever be pornographic?

more like endearing.

Hong Purme

I found very little Asian brush painting
in this show
(apparently there was a gallery of it,
but I missed it)

I sure liked the work of this
young Korean woman, though.

Hong Purume

even down to the detail areas,
everything feels majestic - cosmic.

More of her work
can be found

Wilhelm Lehmbruck (1881-1918)

Here's another great sculptor.

I've never seen his drawings before,
but I think I've been trying to imitate his style
for many years.

Artopolis 2008 - The Cincinnati Painters

Robert Herrmann (1922-1966)

The Artopolis shows at the Chicago Merchandise Mart
are getting larger -- as they are also getting worse.

Which meant, for me,
that I had to walk more
to find less.

But one of my happy moments was
the Cincinnati Art Galleries booth,
which introduced me to three
hometown painters
I'd never seen before.

I especially enjoyed these
urban landscapes by Robert Herrmann.

And I like his story.

He got a degree in Art History
(about the time I was born)
and wrote a dissertation on
Charles Demuth
but then, instead of
spending his life writing about art,
he spent his life making it

(or, actually, he only spent weekends painting,
and there doesn't seem to be any information
about his work-a-day career)

When he died, his sister took
a few paintings to a dealer,
and now, like Eva Cassidy
in the world of music,
he's had a distinguished posthumous career.

I'm sure that every American city
offers these kinds of views,
but these paintings feel
just like
Cincinnati to me,
a city big enough to really be urban,
and small enough to feel quaint.

(With that bright, clean
Teutonic sense of order
also found in Milwaukee)

Dixie Selden

seems to have been a swinging young Cincy socialite
who traveled around the world
making paintings a hundred years ago.

Above is a view of Tokyo.

Louis Vogt

(along with Dixie,
was also a student of Cincinnati's art hero,
Frank Duveneck.)

My This Old Palette
project has gotten me immersed
in Chicago painting c. 1900-1940,
but I'm kind of liking these Cincinnati painters a bit more.

They seem to have a lighter touch.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

General Logan in Grant Park

How did I manage to miss this great equestrian
by America's greatest public sculptor
in Grant Park?

The sculptor is Augustus Saint Gaudens (1848-1907)
and the piece was completed in 1897

(note: the gentlemen in the foreground
were recording a reminiscence of
their glory days during the protests
and riot that accompanied the
1968 Democratic Convention )

Wow -- what a statue,
really a picture of masculine vigor
as imagined in
1895 America.

It's a bit cartoonish,
sacrificing everything for dramatic effect --
but what an effect !

and it makes for so many
dramatic views

dramatic views from all sides

John A. Logan
was the most celebrated
citizen soldier from that era.
(he became an officer -- because he recruited a company
from his home town)

Could it get any more dramatic?

and it's strong in the details, too

did not know how to make a weak shape,
everything is coiled like a spring.

(and how sad that contemporary
military leaders cannot be presented
on a horse)

Shinjo Ito

A chance encounter
with a half-page ad
in the Chicago Tribune

led me to this exhibit

in an upscale private exhibition hall
about a mile south of the Chicago Loop
(a perfect location, BTW, for art exhibits
that don't get accepted into
the public venues)

and why wasn't his exhibit
held at the Art Institute of Chicago
or the Cultural Center
or the Field Museum?

Why is religious art
only acceptable to these institutions
if it's hundreds of years old ?


But getting back to this exhibit...

These small, seated, Bodhisattvas
were the kind of pieces I liked the most,
and would compare nicely
with the hundreds on display
in the Tibetan room at the Field Museum.

This was my favorite standing figure,
but once
he made the poses more complicated
or the pieces larger,
he lost me.

The large pieces get cartoonish,
and the really large piece,
his Parinirvana ,
looks like a float
in a Mardi Gras parade.

"I am no professional, So when I think about it, I feel uneasy as to how much of the loving kindness, compassion, and virtue of the Buddha the images I create with my amateur skills can express. But I do pour my soul into the job, with sincere heart, as if offering three bows for every cut of the chisel. The only thing clearly showing in my work may be that."
- Shinjo Ito (1906-1989)

And no -- he was not a sculptor
so much as an aeronautical engineer
who founded a religious order,
Shinnyo-En ,
in 1936

(and BTW -- this is where
Wikipedia really shines,
because it's the most accessible
location on the web to find information
about a contemporary religious sect
that hasn't been presented
by itself

Here's the leader himself,
enthroned in a nice cushy chair

And here's his wife,
who was also a spiritual leader of group
in life as well as death

And here's one of their children
who died young,
but still communicates
with initiates
from his home in a distant paradise.

All of which is,
of course,
more important to followers of the sect
than it is to artsy types like myself,
for whom all these liturgical
but self-referential details
are as goofy as anything
found in museums of contemporary art.
(so why wouldn't the MCA host the exhibit?)

what really bothers me,
is why Shinjo Ito
didn't hire some real sculptors.

Not everyone is born to found a religious order --
but, neither, is everyone born to
to design magnificent sculpture
like the ones in Nara

But like many Asian gentlemen
Shinjo Ito had quite a hand for calligraphy
and I really enjoyed his
"Eternal is the Dharma Stream"

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Getting close to Hopper

Amazingly coincident
with the exhaustive exhibit
of Winslow Homer at the Art Institute

is this exhausting exhibit of Edward Hopper
encouraging the intrepid viewer
to see both in one day
and speculate on comparisons

And first, we can notice
that Hopper liked trains
while Homer liked boats.

(the above was done early in his life
and it's so lively-
and isn't travel especially exciting
when you haven't done much yet?)

another early painting.
Those calligraphic yellow stripes
are so enjoyable -- they feel like
they're the last marks he made on the canvas.

And the whole setting has a feeling of excitement.
She's not alone in this room,
and this is another kind of trip
that still feels new to him

Looking into the neighbor's windows.

Should we really be doing this ?

Another nude woman in a bedroom,
but this time she's alone,
really alone,
and I remember staring out
the early morning windows of Manhattan,
wondering what kind of day will happen
in that big bustling city

I also recall this kind of scene,
of getting to the auditorium early,
and sharing those moments of utter boredom
that precede even the best performances.

(and look, up close, at that guys eyes,
they're solid black - like the demons
in a certain genre of contemporary television )

This was my favorite painting in the show,
I suppose because I too
have stared with wonder at this island in the middle
of the East River -- so dark, quiet and imposing.
A place that I'm sure is more enjoyable to look at
than to be in.
(certainly - back in Hopper's day
when Blackwell's Island had some kind of
penitentiary on it.)

This is a large painting,
and the blue swirls in the foreground
are very delightful

I like Hopper more when takes us outside
to stand in the sun,
and these jpgs do no justice
to the lively excitement of the actual paintings.

He did a whole series of light houses,
and Captain Upton's was my favorite.

Here's another of my favorite house paintings.
Maybe they're kind of forbidding from a distance,
but as you stand very close,
there's a delightful attention to the detail,
not of boards and windows,
but of paint -- applied thick or applied thin,
ever so carefully
wherever it's applied

The interior scenes all seem a bit creepy to me,
and who would ever paint their apartments green ?

And why is Hopper still looking into people's windows?

But yes -- this is a wonderful vignette

I'm much happier when Hopper takes us outside,
and here I have to guess
that he's remembering Homer's paintings
of the Bahamas.
(and maybe Turner, too)

And I love to go on the road with him.
(when have telephone poles ever looked so good?)

Apparently Hopper loved to drive around the country,
from coast to coast,
and I'm glad he's taken us along.

(and again --when you get up real close
the surface is delicious)

Here he is ...
a fine American man,
looking you straight in the eye.

But there's not much time to talk,
he's got to get back in his car
and head down the road.


Whoops, I almost forgot to compare him to Winslow Homer.

They're certainly both the poets of loneliness, aren't they ?

But Homer liked to seek it out in the lonely places
out in the wilds,
while Hopper found it right next door in the big city.

And though Homer just seemed to get better and better
as he got older --all obsessed with painting as he was,
Hopper seems to have peaked just as he was getting famous
around 1940,
and after that he kept looking for the creepy/edgy
and finding it too.

(he probably needed to forget about the museums,
galleries and critics --
and just head off to the mountain streams and distant shores
like Homer did.)