Friday, September 28, 2012

Art Expo 2012

Jack Roth, 1980

There was less of everything in this scaled-back version of the annual Chicago international art fair, but still I'm finding many things to enjoy -- especially that previous generation of abstract painters who liked to spill their guts on the canvas. Jack Roth (1927-2004), a professor of mathematics, was one of them. I've later seen his work from the 60's and can't stand it. But, happily, by the 80's he was creating a delightfully measured visual world.

Claudio Bravo, 1979

It was sad to note that Claudio Bravo (1936-2011) has died since I last saw his work at the Chicago art fair back when the Marlboro Gallery still had a booth.

This piece still seems to revel in the world of human activity, but his images kept on getting more mysterious as he got older. The later paintings that I saw ten years ago represented nothing more than crumpled wrapping paper.

Here's a nice tribute to him, but I think the author has made some mistakes in chronology. Here's his own website that shows work from every decade.

Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874 – 1939)

Forum Gallery is the only gallery left in the Chicago art fair that specializes in figure painting. Usually, their tastes in contemporary realism are too dark for me - but here's a bright, sunny painting from a hundred years ago that they brought to the show. The girl looks quite pensive - despite living in such a beautiful world.

Gwynn Murrill

And here's a sculptor who does what I do -- i.e. keep the focus on the song of mass and space, while incorporating the gestures of living creatures.

She prefers cats -- I prefer people.

Regarding those cats, she has some distance to go to compete with the ancient Egyptians. But then ... an even greater distance separates me from the ancient Greeks.

David Hockney

The presence of this large pastel portrait jumped right off the wall, so I was a bit surprised that it's not a pastel at all. It's a digital print that was enlarged more than 100X the size of the computer tablet that Hockney used to draw it.

Michael Goldberg (1924-2007), 1960

One of the main delights of these fairs is the opportunity to see the work of non-iconic, but very good, ABX painters.

Here's a fascinating interview, including this quote about the heyday of ABX:

"Around that time, 1954 or 1955, everybody and his cousin was doing gestural work; a lot of wishful art was being made. People thought that if they whipped it up a lot, sooner or later they’d find something to hang a painting on, something redeeming. Those years produced some of the worst shit I’ve ever seen.

Here's a bit of self reflection:

I consider myself an old-fashioned modernist in that I think painting could change the world. And the desperation is about the fact that I know it can’t.

and finally, this little question/answer:

What is uppermost in your mind?

The burning condition of our world. 

Michael Goldberg, 1956

Joel Shapiro

Back in the early 50's, the director of the Cincinnati Art Academy asked my father to teach this kind of sculpture - he refused, and he never had a full-time job again.

But still -- I can't help liking these pieces that seem to be balletic figures even if they're chunks of construction lumber.

And more than once, I've stared at construction leftovers and felt that they were well on the way to being sculpture.

Joel Shapiro

Katsura Funakoshi

Here's a sculptor who is already featured on my web site, and I'm glad that I finally got to see his work in real space -- though it does feel kind of creepy -- like a rubber chicken.

Here's his own website.

Ted Gahl (b. 1983)

Here's a young abstract painter whose work I enjoyed.

Milton Resnick (1917-2004), 1957

And here's one of the original 10th Street ABX painters.

A few weeks ago I read this reminiscence from a student who remembered that his appearance was so shabby, he was mistaken for a homeless beggar by his students on the first day of class.

My kind of guy!

This small piece did feel grim and gritty -- but still I enjoyed it.

Pam Sheehan

This is one of the several perceptual artists that the Thiebaud Gallery brings to the Chicago international art fair every year. (and they are the only such gallery, besides Forum, in this event)

(an interesting visit to her home/studio can be seen here )

No surprise that she says Corot, Constable, and Turner are her favorite painters.

Pam Sheehan

How can anyone look at this image and not feel damp, cold, and eager to sit by the fire ?

Picasso (detail)

Here's a large Picasso that an investment-grade art gallery from Montreal brought to the show. Regretfully, I forgot to note the date it was painted - I'm guessing it was around 1960.

I haven't really been attracted to these later works. They seem to have been dashed out without a whole lot of care.

But this piece compares so well with all the other funky abstract paintings in Art Expo. It's on the other side of powerful.

News Flash: I've just found this piece on the internet

It's called 'Les Dormeurs", it was painted in 1965, it is said to have hung for several years behind the desk of the renowned art historian and dealer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler .

Its current owner has been hauling it around to art fairs at least since 2002

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wild West

Alfred Jacob Miller (1810-1874)

We motored down to Indianapolis last weekend to get our first look at the Eiteljorg Museum. (it was built 20 years ago -- but it took me a while to find it)

I haven't been a big fan of this genre. It seems to exemplify the fantasies of either the Walter Mitty's or the great tycoons of our world.

But it's never too late to change your mind!

So here's a few of my favorites from the Eiteljorg collection - beginning with the above sweet, dreamy fantasy of the noble savage. It's hard to believe that Miller actually traveled out to the Rocky Mountains in the early 19th century, and met some actual Indians.

Henry Farny (1847 - 1916)

Now this feels like real Indian - or at least how a pale-face would feel when he met one in the wilderness -- i.e. a bit uneasy.

Since Farny lived in Cincinnati, I grew up seeing this scary piece in the local museum.

Robert Henri (1865-1929)

I'm something of a fan of this painter who wrote "The Art Spirit" - but Americans do not need any more opportunities to feel sentimental.

Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)

Apparently Hartley went to New Mexico in 1918 as "an American discovering America", but came back a year later in flight from the "society of cheap artists"
(perhaps he wasn't invited over for dinner?)

You can feel his discomfort in the above painting, done after he returned.
(perhaps he was staying too close to Roswell)

Georgia O'Keefe (1887-1986)

So many of her paintings, like this one, seem to be an opportunity to ponder the intricacies of the female genitalia. Which is fine with me. This was a beautiful painting, one of my favorites in the museum.

Here's her take on the local architecture.

Victor Higgins (1884-1949)

And here's a version done by a Chicago painter who quit my art club in 1915 to move out to Taos and make scenic pictures for the folks back home.

It feels a bit more like a travel poster for the railroads.

Victor Higgins

Victor Higgins
Abiquiu Country, 1940

This scene really feels dry and hot - presumably it was done plein air.

Victor Higgins
Ancient Valley

Victor Higgins
Palo Duro, 1923

Walter Ufer
Corn and Mountain, 1916

Here's another Chicago painter who went to Taos.
Rather than creating a pleasing fantasy, he seems more intent on making a painting in response to how this world appeared to him.

Walter Ufer
Corn Picker, 1915

Walter Ufer
Going to the Water Hole, Santa Clara

E. Martin Hennings
Indians in the Sage

And here is yet another Chicagoan

E. Martin Hennings

Randall Davey (1887-1964)

Davey was a protege of Robert Henri, but he certainly developed his own, bodacious vision of contemporary life.

William Acheff is one of the leading contemporary artists in this genre -- and I can see why.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Minneapolis Institute : African

Mali, 1200-1400 AD

It turns out that the Minneapolis Institute of Art has quite a good collection of non-European art.

Nok, Nigeria, 500 BC

Bamana, Mali, 20th C.

Djenne, Mali, c. 1450

The date of this sub-Saharan wood carving is rather hard to believe -- but apparently it has been confirmed with tests.

I neglected to shoot the label - which is quite a shame, because I love this goofy piece with the torpedo breasts.

(update: I just found it online ,
it's a Satimbe mask from Dogon, 20th C. )

Asante, Ghana, comb, 20th C.

Yoruba, Nigeria, Diviner's staff, 20th C.

Ding, Congo, 19th C.

Bambana or Dogon, Mali, 20th C.

Kusu, Congo, 19th C.

Overall, I think the curators/collectors involved had a sharper eye than their colleagues in Chicago.

But for some reason they believe that world art should be displayed in a much dimmer light than that which shines on the European pieces shown on the second floor.