Monday, May 24, 2010

More Exhibits Worth A Trip

Here's info on two more summer exhibitions, one in Madrid, one in Sydney; plus two shows to plan for: Washington DC in the Fall, and Boston in 2011.

SYDNEY - Art Gallery of New South Wales
Victorian Visions
20 May - 29 August, 2010

Victorian Visions presents an impressive collection of 45 paintings, watercolors, drawings and sculptures by some of the luminaries of Victorian art, including works by Rossetti, Holman Hunt, Burne-Jones, Leighton, Poynter, Watts and Waterhouse. This is the first time that many of these works have been seen in Australia.

The prosperity of the Victorian era (1837-1901) transformed the British art world, creating a community of artists who were free to create paintings that depicted powerful stories from ancient history and contemporary life with a new richness of color and wealth of detail. Many of the works in the exhibit are superb examples from these significant artists, including the impressive 2.6-metre tall painting Marianne by J W Waterhouse; Holman Hunt’s Il Dolce Far Niente; Richard Redgrave’s The Tempstress; and Leighton’s Athlete Struggling with a Python, long recognized as the seminal work in British new sculpture.


Una casa-un palacio
22 May - 25 July, 2010

Una casa-un palacio is an exhibition featuring the works referred to by Le Corbusier in a lecture he gave in Madrid in 1928. The exhibit shows how Le Corbusier’s priciples of design confronted the rational and optimal resolution of technical, functional and economic problems, without forgetting beauty. The exhibition includes a selection of photographs and original plans of Le Corbusier’s works, projects, paintings and pieces of furniture, dated around the year 1928, as well as a number of photographs, letters and documents.

Domestic architecture is represented by Villa Cook, Villa Stein and two houses at Weissenhof in Stuttgart, and the Palace of the League of Nations project in Geneva represents institutional architecture. Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (1887-1965), better known as Le Corbusier, was a heroic figure from the history of architecture. Considered by many “The Architect” of the 20th century, Le Corbusier has all the features that define Modern architecture.


WASHINGTON, DC - The Phillips Collection
Side by Side: Oberlin’s Masterworks at the Phillips
September 11, 2010 - January 16, 2011

Illustrating its unconventional approach to displaying art, The Phillips will present loosely themed groupings of some of its own masterworks plus important works from Oberlin College’s Allen Memorial Art Museum. Half of the 24 paintings and one sculpture on loan from the Allen are old masters, dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries. They include rare works by painters of the British, Dutch, Flemish, French, German, Italian, and Spanish schools.

Included among the old masters will be one of the most important examples of northern baroque painting in the United States, Hendrick ter Bruggen’s Saint Sebastian Tended by Irene (1625); The Fountain of Life, a superb 16th-century painting probably painted in Spain after a work by Jan van Eyck; and Joseph Wright of Derby’s night scene Dovedale by Moonlight (c. 1784–85). Oberlin’s modern holdings include works by Alberto Giacometti, Barnett Newman, Pablo Picasso, and Mark Rothko.


BOSTON - Boston Athenæum
Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey
February 9 - June 3, 2011

The imaginary world of artist and author Edward St. John Gorey (1925-2000 maintains a delicate balance between the hilarious and ominous uncertainty.

Gorey’s love of literature and the ballet, and his off-beat and ironic sense of humor, resulted in a sardonic and witty oeuvre; this exhibition explores the diversity of his art through original pen and ink illustrations, preparatory sketches, unpublished drawings, and ephemera.

The exhibit includes roughly 180 objects, including selections from numerous well-known Gorey publications. While his Edwardian-inspired images appear simple, the pen work is often complex.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Some Summer Exhibits in the US

Some enticing exhibits in the US this summer. Here are but a few:

Frick Art & Historical Center
May 14 - September 5

Small but Sublime: Intimate 19th Century American Landscapes at the Frick Art & Historical Center. 22 small-scale paintings and drawings by 18 American artists, ranging from the realistic style of Hudson River School to the American Impressionists. Admission is free.

The Morgan Library & Museum
May 18 - September 12
Eight extraordinary drawings by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) demonstrate the variety and dynamism of his draftsmanship. Dürer, master of the German Renaissance, transformed drawing in Northern Europe. Using his unrivaled talent as a draftsman and the force of his powerful artistic personality, Dürer tirelessly promoted drawing as a medium, creating works of exceptional beauty and remarkable technical skill.

Exhibitions focused on Dürer’s drawings are rare, and this marks the first time in more than twenty years that the Morgan’s outstanding Dürer holdings will be displayed together. Also included are prints and treatises by the artist.In his pursuit of beauty, Dürer devoted careful attention to every aspect of artistic production. On view in the exhibition are a woodcut, its associated woodblock, and a letter to the patron for whom it was made. In the letter Dürer wrote, “Please let it be as it is. No one could improve it because it was done artistically and with care. Those who see it and who understand such matters will tell you so.”

The Morgan Library & Museum
May 21 - August 29
Romantic Gardens: Nature, Art, and Landscape Design gives us scenic vistas, winding paths, bucolic meadows, rustic retreats suitable for solitary contemplation and other alluring naturalistic features of gardens created in the Romantic spirit.

The Romantics looked to nature as a liberating force, a source of sensual pleasure, moral instruction, religious insight, and artistic inspiration. Eloquent exponents of these ideals, they extolled the mystical powers of nature and argued for more sympathetic styles of garden design in books, manuscripts, and drawings, now regarded as core documents of the Romantic Movement. Their cult of inner beauty and their view of the outside world dominated European thought during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The exhibition features approximately ninety influential texts and outstanding works of art, providing a compelling overview of ideas championed by the Romantics and also implemented by them in private estates and public parks in Europe and the United States, notably New York’s Central Park.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
12 May-15 August
An Italian Journey: Drawings from the Tobey Collection, Correggio to Tiepolo presents 72 extraordinary works of the 16th-18th centuries, from a preeminent private collections of Italian Old Master drawings. Masterpieces by historically important draftsmen—principally Italian masters but also artists whose careers brought them south of the Alps—among them Correggio, Parmigianino, Bernini, Poussin, Guercino, Canaletto, and Tiepolo.

J. Paul Getty Museum, LA
May 18 - October 17
Printing the Grand Manner: Charles Le Brun and Monumental Prints in the Age of Louis XIV features eleven large prints intended to evoke the grandeur of Le Brun’s large-scale paintings and tapestry designs that illustrate events from the exemplary lives of ancient rulers such as Alexander the Great and Constantine the Great. Examines the prints' rich vocabulary and illuminates the context in which they were made between the mid-1660s and the mid-1680s.

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
May 22 - September 6
The de Young Museum hosts the Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, which includes approximately 100 paintings from the Musée d’Orsay’s permanent collection. Highlights the work of William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, among others.

The Musée d’Orsay is lending their most beloved paintings while it undergoes a partial closure for refurbishment and reinstallation in anticipation of the museum’s 25th anniversary in 2011.
Birth of Impressionism will be followed in the fall of 2010 by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, and Beyond: Post–Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay. The de Young will be the only museum in the world to host both exhibitions.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Smithsonian-Haiti Cultural Recovery Project

The Smithsonian Institution is leading a team of cultural organizations to help the Haitian government recover Haiti’s cultural materials damaged by the Jan. 12 earthquake. A conservation site will be set up where objects retrieved from the rubble can be assessed, conserved and stored. It will also be the training center for Haitians who will eventually take over the conservation effort.

“The highest priority ... has rightly been to save lives and provide food, water, medical care and shelter,” said Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture at the Smithsonian. “However, Haiti’s rich culture, which goes back five centuries, is also in danger and we have the expertise to help preserve that heritage.” The rainy season in Haiti has already begun, and the hurricane season is on its way. Much of Haiti’s endangered cultural heritage is in destroyed buildings and is at risk of permanent destruction.

Among the artifacts at risk are architectural features such as stained glass and historic murals, as well as paper documents, photographs, artifacts and some of the 9,000 paintings from the Nader Museum which is now in ruins.

“With this unprecedented inter-agency effort ... we express our collective belief that in times of great tragedy it is essential to help a country preserve and protect its cultural legacy for future generations,” said Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Top: Little Crippled Haiti, Edouard Duval Carrie
Bottom: Damaged painting at Galerie Nader, by Rigaud Benoit

Monday, May 10, 2010

Time-Travel Destination: Padua

I only dream of traveling back in time when wishing I could have seen a particular work of art before its destruction. Today my time-travel destination would be late-15th century Padua.

In those days, Padua was an essential stop for travelers in the Republic of Venice. A center of humanist culture and higher learning, Padua was home to Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel, as well as the Ovetari Chapel of the Eremitani.

Located in the transept of the late-13th century church of the Augustinian Hermits, the cappella Ovetari was decorated with “must-see” frescoes painted by Andrea Mantegna (c.1431-1506), who was one of the most admired artists in Europe.

Mantegna’s fresco cycle was the opening salvo of Renaissance painting in northern Italy. It established the young artist’s reputation and had an immediate impact on his contemporaries. In fact, Mantegna’s Ovetari work continued to influence artists and to draw art-lovers to Padua until an errant Allied bomb demolished the chapel during World War II.
The frescoes had aged badly; nonetheless, it was a tremendous loss.

Fortunately, from the beginning, the frescoes had inspired copyists (Musee Jacquemart-Andre, Paris), and in the 19th century a series of black and white photographs had been taken. Also -- by happy chance -- in the 1930s two of Mantegna’s scenes had been detached from the wall and removed from the chapel in order to conserve them. Little did anyone then imagine the historic extent of that conservation!

The chapel has since been reconstructed. Today the plain gothic architecture looks much as it first did to Mantegna and his co-workers -- with the exception of the two conserved Mantegna frescoes which are back in place, and the original terracotta altarpiece which was reassembled from fragments salvaged from the rubble.
Starting out on a team of seven artists, Mantegna was the only one left at the end of the nine-year project. It was Mantegna’s style that characterized the fresco cycle. Today nothing is to be seen on the left wall of his Episodes in the Life of St. James.
But on the right-hand wall, despite the ruinous condition of The Attempted Martyrdom of St. Christopher and The Beheading of St. Christopher, we see Mantegna’s magnificent classicizing marble architecture, teeming with ranks of precisely outlined figures, painted in the imposing Tuscan style that he had already absorbed by the time he was in his late teens. We see Mantegna’s novel treatment of perspective, and the way he lowered the viewpoint in order to enhance the monumentality of the composition.
And, it turns out that one day we may not have to depend on time-travel to see Mantegna's fresco cycle in situ. Since 2001, Italy's Istituto Centrale per il Restauro has been quetly working with tens of thousands of fragments (averaging 3 centimeters square), piecing the puzzle together. Over time, the wall paintings may gradually be recomposed ... a slowly-healing wound. All it will take is funding, patience and restorers' skill.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Horse That Wasn't, Is

Late in the 15th Century, while living at the court of the Duke of Milan, Leonardo da Vinci met his greatest artistic challenge. The Duke, Ludovico Sforza, known as Il Moro, decided to honor his father Francesco with an equestrian statue. In 1482, he commissioned Leonardo to design and build the largest equestrian statue in the world.

Leonardo spent years preparing the design of Il Cavallo (The Horse), and he managed to take it as far as the clay model. But, before it could be cast, the Duke -- facing imminent war with the French -- sent the bronze he had gathered for the horse to be cast into cannon. To top it off, when the French invaded Milan in 1499, the huge earthenware model was destroyed by Gascon archers, who used it for target practice.

Sforza was exiled and Leonardo returned to Florence. His patron gone, the project was abandoned and many of Leonardo's key drawings for the project were misplaced.

In fact, however, the drawings actually did survive the centuries, and in 1995, the "lost notebooks" of Leonardo were rediscovered in Madrid's Biblioteca Nacional. The story of what happened then is fascinating, culminating in 1999 -- exactly half a millennium later -- when Il Cavallo was cast in bronze, in one piece, in a foundry in New York State. The artist responsible was an American sculptor, Nina Akamu.

Two castings of the giant equestrian statue were made. The first was sent to Milan as a gift to Italy from the United States. The other went to the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, in Grand Rapids, MI. Standing 24’ high and weighing 15 tons, Il Cavallo is still the largest free-standing horse statue ever made.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Destructive Art

There seems to be a trend brewing, called "Destructive Art".

For a recent gallery show in London, Michael Landy installed a huge glass
tank and invited people to toss in their "creative failures".

The South London Gallery website offered an explanation of the various
notions the installation represented, ending with "and [] makes reference to the
derision with which contemporary art is sometimes treated." ... hmmm ...

I personally prefer art that lifts the spirit. With all the bleakness and destruction that exists in the world ... why strive to create more?