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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Meet me by the Pharaoh at 4 o'clock

Even though it's an obvious landmark near the main entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I didn't notice this piece at all during our trip to the museum last September.

But since we arranged to meet there at 4 o'clock, this time I paid more attention.  And if it felt like I was seeing it for the first time, indeed I was.

Dynasty 12. Middle Kingdom, possibly Amenemhat II (1929-1829 BC)

As announced by the Met, this piece is a temporary 10-year loan from the Berlin State Museum.

It's a few degrees more powerful than the other Egyptian statuary in the Met.

Take a look at those knees --and at the three entwining forms within the forearm.

Then take a look at how it compares with the following piece, done 500 years later:

Amenhotep III (1390-1352)

This piece doesn't look bad - until it's compared with its predecessor.

Dynasty 18, reign of Akhenaten,  fragment face of a Queen, possibly Nefertiti or Kiya, 26.7.1396

Here's my favorite fragment of all time. Or -- at least I think it is -- because I remember it being colored pink.   I searched for it in vain last September - so I prioritized its discovery on this visit.

Does the museum have two - one yellow and one pink ?

It's so wonderful, I have to doubt it -- just as I doubt the piece would be improved if the rest of the face hadn't been lost.

These are those big, crazy, sensual lips that sculptors introduced to please Akhenaten -- and then disappeared at the end of his reign.

 Goddess, 7th C. Cambodia

And then our wandering through the Met began -- focusing on the special exhibitions - but occasionally including whatever we saw when walking from one to another.

Incredibly enough, there were so many special exhibitions, we couldn't see all of them in two full days (and the gallery was open until 9 pm both Friday and Saturday)

Being a big fan of Cambodian sculpture, my first stop was "Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, 5th to 8th Century"

There's nothing more exciting, for me, than the figure sculpture of a "Lost Kingdom" -- with a style that was well developed  in a royal workshop,  but scarcely found in the museums  that I visit.

But as it turnsedout -- nothing in this show excited me enough to snap a picture of it.

(these images are taken from the Met's website -- which happily offers multiple views of every single piece in the show.  Thank you Met !!! )

These pieces are pleasant -- but just not as compelling as some things I've seen from the 12th Century (the Angkor Wat era )

 Goya, "Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga" (Boy in Red), 1787-88

Our next stop was "Goya and the Altamira Family", in which the above well-known painting was the only one worth seeing.

But it was good to see it again -- especially beside this less adept child's portrait by one of Goya's collaborators.

The cats are more engaging than the little boy in this portrait.

          Ike no Taiga  (1723–1776)   "Meng Jia Loses His Hat (left); The Chinese Poet Su Shi (right)",
 1760-71 (detail)

Recently, thanks to a large donation,  Chicago's Art Institute has been showing a lot more Japanese painting.

Now at the Met, "The Flowering of Edo Period Painting" is a similar display from the  Feinberg Collection

Ike no Taiga is an interesting character:  a peasant's son who became a scholar/artist in Kyoto.

On the internet, he's best known for his Shunga that was possibly produced for commercial reasons in his fan-painting shop.

Kohei Nawa

Here's a curious contemporary piece found amid the Japanese screens - it's a stuffed deer covered with plastic bubbles.

It's actually quite delightful - but must require a great deal of dusting on a daily basis. 

We took a little break now, beside the Noguchi fountain - to enjoy the sound of dripping water.

 (1424–54) - "Battle Scene",
 Folio from a Zafarnama (Book of Victories)
 of  Sharaf al-Din Yazdi

As I discovered last year, these paintings look better on the Met's website than they do in the darkened gallery where they hang.

It seems to a style that prefers to be back lit -- and looks better when enlarged.

So the only reason to visit that darkened gallery is to select which ones to look for online.

The apparent subject matter is middle-easterners doing terrible things -- but the visual effect is joyfully ecstatic

I didn't catch the date or origin of this carpet -- but I shot it because it seems such a better way to cover a wall than the heroically sized  paintings I saw on the fourth floor of MOMA earlier in the day.

This is the Damascus room in the Islamic Wing. It is sooooooo relaxing.

The perfect place to chat with my cousin Judy.

Then we had an exhibit of  the "Robert A. Ellison Jr. Collection of French Ceramics" - which happily included several pieces offered for comparison with earlier examples.

Initially I was puzzed - because  signage seemed to identify the pot on the right as 17th C. Japanese - and it certainly does not look that way to me.

The gourd-shaped Japanese Takatori piece is not the one above the label - it's the one shown below.

This display compares a piece from late 19th C. France (on the left) with one from 18th Century China (on the right)

I really can't see the French piece belonging anywhere but a high-rent brothel.

But the Qing vase is oh-so-luscious.


Chupicuaro 400-300 BC

This is one of the pass-through galleries on this trip

Tlatilco 1200-900 BC

Olmec 1200-900 BC, Las Bocas

The Golden Harpsichord of Michele Todini (1616 - 1690)

Here's another bizarre piece we stumbled upon - a highly ornamental musical instrument made by a brilliant musician and inventor from the age of Bernini.

And I wouldn't be surprised if the sculptors he hired worked for Bernini as well.

This is basically the same female figure that I've been modeling for 40 years

Henri Bouchard (1875-1960) , "Girl with Gazelle", 1910

Here's a 20th C. French figure sculptor that was almost left out of my image collection (though fortunately, he had been found in a book of decorative sculpture)

Despite his prolific production, his work seems to have been dismissed after he was scapegoated as a Nazi collaborator.

You can't even find good pictures of his work on the website of his now-closed studio museum.

Very gentle, classical, and naturalistic.

The Great Bieri (item # 1979.206.229), Fang People, Gabon

This is the most famous African sculpture in the Met - acquired by Nelson Rockefeller from the estate of the sculptor, Jacob Epstein

It's both decorative and expressive --but I wonder how much of its surface is the result of age and wear.

And finally -- here's a candid shot of the two travelers.

The camera had gotten stuck - so there was some anxiety on our faces as we tried to get it working again.

And anxiety is what travelling is all about.