Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Art Expo Chicago: 2016

Willem De Kooning,  1965

Early last year, I had the unpleasant experience of being stopped at the entrance to a commercial art gallery in Chicago and being asked to pay a $20 admission fee.

Who me?  You want me to pay you $20 so I can look at your merchandise and then, possibly, write about it?

The gallerist was adamant. 

Presumably he had qualified me as a non-buyer -- and he was absolutely correct.

On the other hand -- why would I pay a fee to see the work of an artist unknown to me?


For me, art is entirely a viewing rather than a collecting experience.  I don't like to look at the same piece day after day after day.  They turn boring -- then annoying --and finally become as invisible as cracks in the wall.

I wonder what Art Expo would look like if it were entirely funded by  admission fees instead of by sales.

So much of what's shown  seems to be nothing more than Bling -- i.e. expensive baubles intended for the walls of luxury lakefront condominiums.

A very small percentage interests me -- but then, so much is on display -- I am well entertained for a few hours. It's definitely worth the $20.

The highlight of this year's show, for me, was the above oil-on-paper by Willem De Kooning.

It looks like that dedicated Abstract Expressionist just couldn't get accessible, copulating females off his mind.

Delicious in detail as well.

Here's another piece he did in the same year. (it was not at Art Expo).

I like these paintings way, way more than "Excavation", his alleged masterpiece at the Art Institute.

Perhaps it's the subject matter.

Nicholas Africano

Here's another artist who presents naked women -- but more  like how they appear, than like how it feels to be with them.

I love this guy's sculptures - as well as his amazing commercial achievement of creating a market for contemporary classical figure sculpture.

Each of the above pieces were brought to Expo by three separate galleries.
And his pieces have been appearing at these shows every year that I have blogged about them - going back to 2006.

All of his figures are young, trim, handsome, and quiet. Very quiet.

If you're  going to keep attractive young people about the house --it's good if they are quiet.

Armin Boehm, 2009

Here's a young German painter whom I like  -- or -- at least I like this painting. Looking online, he also makes multi-figure scenes that are less promising.

Betty Woodman, b. 1930

I tend to prefer minimalism in ceramics: the simple bowl with a few muted colors.

But this old woman's stuff is an exception. She's a swinging octogenarian.

I found this pot when looking her up on the internet. As my good friend, the potter John Putnam, says: it looks  Tang Dynasty.

And what complement could be more effusive?

Catherine Maize

Cluttered -- but not.

As is the rest of creation.

Catherine remains one of my favorite natural philosophers.

Franz Kline, 1958

Heroic in design, if not in size.

This small piece shows how careful he could be.


Friedel Dzubas, 1975

My first experience with this early ABX painter (born 1915 Germany)

Hans Hoffman, 1952

I'm not especially fond of this piece - it feels too much like a  tossed salad.

But it's always interesting to see what this important teacher was up to.

Harold Haydon

The more I see of this Chicago artist/teacher/critic, the more I like.

He had a theory/gimmick:  "binocularism".

It's silly -- but I like the results anyway.

While the leading Chicago painters were depicting monsters or nightmares -- he painted school children.

So I like him even more.

Andrew Holmquist

A local painter who  continues to get wilder and  crazier - if that were possible.

We just bought our first flat panel television - and experienced the incredible depth, texture, and color that it offers in comparison with the older cathode ray tube technology that we just hauled off to the trash.

It's my theory that young artists like Holmquist grew up with the new kind of television, and that accounts for the manic visual disruption of his paintings.

 Magalie Guerin

Whatever the group show, her pieces continue to jump out for me - with their own defiant and beautiful self determination.

She's Chicago's next Miyoko Ito.


Manuel Mendive (2006)

His 2012 piece in the concurrent "Drapetomania" show  of Afro-Cuban art at the DuSable Museum
did not attract me as much as this one.

Were recreational drugs involved?

Marlborough Gallery

The Marlborough Gallery has finally returned to Art Expo after a long absence (five years?)

They used to bring painters like Vincent Desiderio, Claudio Bravo, and Odd Nerdrum.

Quite a lineup!

This time they just brought sculptural bling.

Very disappointing.

Matthew Carter

Here's a few harlequin patterns so exciting -- I thought they came from a Caribbean Mardi Gras parade.

But indeed the artist came from downstate Illinois and now lives in Los Angeles where he got his MFA.

His work feels both wonderful and effortless.

Morris Barazani (1924-2015)

A fine early piece by one of Chicago's leading Abstract Expressionists.


Ralston Crawford, 1955

Another artist who was new to me.

He started out doing techno industrial landscapes -- like Sheeler -- and then kept doing the same thing in a non representational way.

This painting hung side-by-side with Stuart Davis -- which is where it belonged.

Raphael Soyer, "Melancholia", 1972

Why isn't this mood depicted any more?

Maybe people feel melancholy enough as it is -- who needs any more?

I'm  doubting that this woman will ever have the energy to get dressed.

This kind of figure painting definitely pre-dates the flat screen TV.

Stephen Coyle

A  nice use of photographic material

Steven Assael

Reminds me of the Romantic dramatics of Henry Fuseli.  I can't relate to it, but it certainly stands out as unique in our time.

Vera Klement

This early work,  from about 40 years ago, feels more autobiographic than more recent work.
So it's much more compelling.

Wayne Thiebaud, 1972

Cloud meets mound.

Very funny.

Here's another list of selections -most of which look pretty good now, but somehow escaped my notice at the show itself.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Drawings: Recently Acquired by the Art Institute


A Sunlit Path through a Wood  Thomas Gainsborough English, 1727-1788  1750/59

When paintings enter the collection of a major museum, they may, or may not, ever be seen again.

Display space is limited.

But works on paper can always be seen by members -- so every acquisition makes the museum experience a little bit better.

This selection of acquisitions made over the last 25 years is mostly focused on 19th C. French, English, and Belgian works.  Many of them were purchased, rather than received as gifts, so they give some idea of the museum's priorities.

The museum already had 13 drawings by this artist -- did they really need one more?

But this one really is delightful.

I used to wander through the parks of Cincinnati looking for vistas to sketch - though my compositions were never as triumphant as this one.  19th Century American urban parks inherited their pastoral ideals from the kind of English estates on which Gainsborough made this sketch.

Here's the image that appears on the museum website -- much better than the one taken by my camera - and about as good as looking at the original.

Georges Lemmen,  Belgian, 1865-1916 Portrait of Anna Boch, 1894

Love this pointillism.

                               Jean-Jacques Henner French, 1829-1905
Landscape with a Pond, c. 1879

This is a small (4" X 6") , but  very effective rustic scene.
This artist was new to me -- and new to the A.I.C. collection as well.

John Douglas Miller, 1889,  after Bouguereau's first whisper of love


This is a preparatory watercolor, used in the transfer of a painted image to a printed one.
The technique is astounding - and  this detail is rather breezy and enjoyable.

Kathe Kollwitz 1905 sharpening the scythe

With 28 other prints and drawings by this artist in the collection  - I'm not sure I would have purchased this one.

Though it would make good cover art for a heavy metal band.

Ludwig Meidner, self-portrait 1922


What a mug!  The museum already had one of his many self portraits -- but this drawing is so good, I could not have resisted acquiring it either.

Jean François Millet
 French, 1814-1875
Landscape - Hillside in Gruchy, Normandy, 1869/70

I like this drawing more than his many paintings that I have seen.
  It's more whimsical and less ponderous.

Peter de Wint – in Wales between Bangor and Capel Curig 1830-s


Reminds me of the watercolors that the Prince of Wales did for the covers of the Leonard Bernstein Sony recordings about 25 years ago.

Neither artist is exceptional - but they deliver a good sense of place.


Camille Pissarro, Young Peasant Drinking Her Cafe au Lait, 1879-80

This drawing is interesting because it was preparatory  to a painting in the museum's collection.

William Turner of Oxford, 1842

This artist is new to me -- as well as to the museum.

Both his name and his style resembles a canonical artist - and by contrast, demonstrates why J.M.W. is so much better known.

It's the difference between charm and power.

François Boucher  French, 1703-1770  Academic Study of a Reclining Male Nude, c. 1750

Gallery signage tells us that Boucher drew this so that copies could be distributed to art teachers around the country.

It has an academic flavor, in contrast to the soft porn for which he is best known.

Gustave Caillebotte French, 1848-1894  Self-Portrait with a Hat, c. 1879

It's fascinating to see anything associated with the Art Institute's  monumental "Paris Street, Rainy Day"(1877).

This self portrait was done two years later.  Another recent acquisition was a preparatory study for that painting.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot French, 1796-1875
Standing Male Nude, 1843

Corot found great success with  nymphs dancing in the twilight, but he was also an exceptionally good all-around artist

Corot French, 1796-1875 Venus Disarming Cupid, 1852/57

And here's another one of his dancing nymphs - probably knocked off in about ten minutes.

Honoré Fragonard (French, 1732-1806) after  Caravaggio The Supper at Emmaus, 1760/61

Not a great drawing, but a good one - delivering a sense of divine visitation without the chiaroscuro of the original.

The  original Caravaggio painting came to Chicago a few years ago.

Cocteau , 1924 – nightmare

A  very talented young man - who made Queer Art a century before it became fashionable.

Adolph Menzel 1815–1905 In a Railway Carriage (After a Night's Journey),

My friends love the realism of this scene -  but I dislike this drawing as much as I dislike having to sleep on trains or buses.