Three Shows on Now – Chelsea Art Galleries

Yesterday I went art gallery hopping in Chelsea to see the latest and greatest. It has been many months since my last visit. Along the way there were three artists I found interesting enough to want to share their work here.

It’s impossible to go to Chelsea and see “all” the galleries in an afternoon, there are too many. So what I’m presenting here is just a tiny slice of what I saw yesterday, which is an even smaller slice of what’s actually on view.

The first artist is Justin Bower, and the show is Panic Room. It’s on (through December 10th) at Unix Gallery, 532 W. 24th St in Chelsea, New York City.

Here’s an excerpt of the statement on the show:

Panic Room focuses on the destabilization of the human subject and problemitizes how we define ourselves in this digital and virtual age. Complex backgrounds referencing optical art relate to a certain kind of “code” and control the subject in Bower’s paintings. His art interrogates the autonomy bestowed upon us by the ideals of the Englightenment and opens a dialogue documenting the trauma that technology has on the contemporary human. In an age where infinite data is comprised of replicable code, the works confront the viewer with a radical question of “What am I?”

Alternatively, you could go with my interpretation of these works:

Chuck Close on acid.

I like them.

Here they are:

Justin Bower - Panic Room face 1

Justin Bower – Panic Room face 1

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Justin Bower - face 2

Justin Bower – face 2

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Justin Bower - face 3

Justin Bower – face 3

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Justin Bower, face 4

Justin Bower, face 4

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The second show is Skylar Fein’s The Lincoln Bedroom, on now (through Dec 21st) at C24 Gallery, 514 W. 24th Street, NYC.

The Lincoln Bedroom is a series of installation pieces that provoke the viewer to re-imagine history as a not-so-sanitized version of events as what we might read in our school textbooks.

Here’s an excerpt of the gallery text describing the show:

Abraham Lincoln shared a bedroom with Joshua Speed in the 1830’s in Springfield, IL. Many historians, biographers, and scholars have speculated about the nature of their relationship, causing an ongoing debate about Lincoln’s sexuality. Fein’s work combines factual and fictional histories, and proposes evidence of these uncertain moments through his imagery and objects. Since no photographs exist of the Speed residence, the artist relied on photos and sketches of similar structures, as well as on his imagination to create an impressionistic, and slightly hallucinatory recreation that is far from a museum period-room.

What I can tell you is that the Lincoln Bedroom is highly amusing and yes, thought provoking. The installation works well and pokes fun at many histories that have been told and re-told, or are largely untold, in the textbooks.

Here are some images from the show:

An entire building was constructed to house the bedroom. The outside looks like a general store.

An entire building was constructed to house the bedroom. The outside looks like a general store.

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"Men's Magazines" is a rack of fictionalized mags, many with pornographic themes

“Men’s Magazines” is a rack of fictionalized mags, many with pornographic themes. My favorites are the top two on the left showing a menacing wrestler in his underwear, but the topics are “antiques” and “camping.”

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Moorcock's "Specifics" - treatments on the right for women, and on the left for men. Very funny stuff.

Moorcock’s “Specifics” – treatments on the right for women, and on the left for men. Very funny stuff.

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The last show I have to share is Shinichi Maruyama’s Nudes on at the Bruce Silverstein Gallery, through Dec 21st, 535 W. 24th St., NYC.

The SLATE article written about the show says it well:

Specifically for NUDE, Maruyama created each image by combining 10,000 individual photographs of the dancers to compose a single shot. Maruyama is aware his images capture a new way of showing the human form and motion over time, and he hasn’t forgotten photographers who paved the way for this new technology.

“I know the advancement of technology has allowed me to create these new images that would have been impossible for others in the past,” said Maruyama. “The scientist/photographer Étienne-Jules Marey, who contributed a lot to many artists more than 100 years ago, used a camera that shot 12 images per second. But because of the technology we have today, I was able to use a camera that let me take about 2,000 images per second.”

I took some shots with my cell phone camera to share here, but the shots on the SLATE site are much better quality. Use the link I provided above to SLATE if you want to see more images than what I have here.

Dancer 1

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Dancer 4

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Dancer2

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Dancer3

That’s it for now, until the next time I visit the Chelsea galleries!

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Cultural Gluttony: BB King, The Armory Show and more

This week I’ve binged on culture and this post covers my wanderings.

I saw BB King and Robert Cray live, went to the 100 year retrospective on the Armory Show at the NY Historical Society, and saw blues artist Joe Nemeth for his one night NYC performance.

I've got a golden ticket!

I’ve got a golden ticket!

Read on for details!

BB King and Robert Cray – live at the State Theater

BB King is now 88 years old, and I’d never seen him play live, so it was a treat to see him this week.

His eight piece back-up band, consisting of 4 horns, a keyboardist, drummer, base player and guitarist were great, and from their ages I’d say they’ve been playing with BB a long, long time.

BB with the band - 8 pieces!

BB with the band – 8 pieces!

The State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ is an intimate setting, and for my $100 (USD) ticket I got a seat in the “front balcony” of the theater, above the main hall and overlooking the stage. I could see what was happening on stage clearly, but I wasn’t close enough to get good cell phone photos. Still, you can see some of the stage set-up… :-}

Lovely view of the State Theater stage before the show

Lovely view of the State Theater stage before the show

Robert Cray and his band opened the show with a one hour performance of some of his classic popular blues hits like Strong Persuader, but I’m sorry to say he never played Smoking Gun, probably his biggest hit. Still, Cray’s voice and guitar playing are top notch.

The Robert Cray Band

The Robert Cray Band

It occured to me, during Cray’s set, there’s a reason why he made it as a professional. His stage presence is strong but easy going; he’s so obviously a talented and capable musician.

After Cray’s band finished, the re-set up process created about a 45 minute intermission before BB King’s band came on.

Once BB’s band came on, they played two numbers without him as a warm-up, and then he joined his band and played perhaps five or six songs total to finish the evening.

BB likes to patter with the audience and joke around, which fans know if you’ve seen videos of his performances or listened to his live albums. This performance was no exception, and BB delighted in leading the audience in a sing-a-long of “You Are My Sunshine” and then kidded around with some of the folks down in front near the stage.

It was extremely charming that as his band was playing When the Saints Come Marching In to end the show, BB didn’t really want to leave the stage. People rushed to the front of the auditorium to shake his hand, take his photo and get his autograph… while they still can.

BB King is rushed by adoring fans at the end of the show!

BB King is rushed by adoring fans at the end of the show!

I can’t blame them – BB King is a living Blues legend.

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The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution – new show at the NY Historical Society Museum

Original 1913 Armory Show set up

Original 1913 Armory Show set up

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Cutout of Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase in front of the NY Historical Society

Cutout of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase in front of the NY Historical Society

I’d been greatly anticipating seeing this show at the NY Historical Society and finally got the chance to go yesterday. The show will be up until early 2014, so there’s plenty of time to see it.

Duchamp - Nude Descending a Staircase

Duchamp – Nude Descending a Staircase

Travel Tip: Since it’s only the second weekend since the show opened, I’m happy to report it was crowded. Still, tickets are readily available at the museum, you may not need to reserve them online. (I called the museum to check on ticket availability and was told to come in.)

Matisse - Blue Nude - 1907

Matisse – Blue Nude – 1907

This retrospective show is very small compared to the original Armory show, which had hundreds of artworks. In fact, the entire NY Historical Society coverage consisted of two galleries, while a third gallery covered pieces shown “soon after” the Armory show but not from the show itself.

Still, the curators of this show have gone to lengths to explain the original placement of the artworks and the cultural context for the showing of these works. One thing that fascinated me was the curator’s emphasis on how the artists were found for the show. Half of the works at the original show were American, the other half European. There is a lot of good reading material in the show too, and if you’re interested, there is a catalogue for sale.

What surprised me most about the show was that many of the works shown were not only “not shocking” they were traditional landscapes and portraits. It turns out that the organizers of the original Armory show were trying to show viewers an art trajectory, from the classical European, to the American point of view, and then the big divergence with Cubism and Fauvism and so the traditional works were a purposeful lead in, to help the viewer acclimate to what they saw in the final gallery.

Van Gogh - Mountains at St. Remy - 1889

Van Gogh – Mountains at St. Remy – 1889

This final gallery was the only section of the original Armory show which showcased the “new” works, and the public was shocked by them due to their bold colors, multi-varied perspectives, non-traditional forms and in some cases content.

One of my favorite “put-down’s” of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase was that it looked like a “splinter salad.” The reaction was clear: critics of this art were severely challenged to understand the new forms.

Although today’s viewers will likely not be shocked by the Matisse, Duchamp, Gauguin and other paintings and sculptures they see, it’s good to be reminded how new art forms CAN shake viewers up, and CAN challenge them to think about art in new ways.

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Joe Nemeth at Terra Blues, Thurs, Oct 17th

What can you say about Terra Blues on Bleeker Street in NYC except that it’s a Blues Institution. This venue attracts top talent from all over the world to come and play blues, and yes, sometimes the acts are only in town one night – as was the case with Joe Nemeth, a blues harmonica player and five time Grammy nominated musician.

Joe Nemeth - Blues harmonica and lead singer

Joe Nemeth – Blues harmonica and lead singer

Nemeth and his band played a funky blues first set, and then… the electrical power went out for the amps in the back of the stage.

Nemeth was undaunted by the set-back, and sent his band offstage to take a break, while he decided to sing solo, just a boy and his harmonica, and he brought down the house.

Joe Nemeth at Terra Blues in NYC (bad lighting!)

Joe Nemeth and his base player too at Terra Blues (bad lighting!)

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However, after his one solo song, the power had not come back on, and so he too took a break. Unfortunately, many in the audience didn’t wait for the electrical repair and got up and left. Since it was only Thursday night, and I knew I had a busy few days ahead (to see BB King the next night, and then off to the Armory show too) I also decided to call it a night.

Young drummer for the Joe Nemeth band

Young drummer for the Joe Nemeth band

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The very talented lead guitarist for the Joe Nemeth band

The very talented lead guitarist for the Joe Nemeth band

Does it look like I was sitting right next to the stage? Because I was at the very first table next to the stage. I could have almost reached out and touched the lead guitarist’s cowboy boot!

Enjoy!

Danish Paintings: From the Golden Age to the Modern Breakthrough

Tonight I attended an opening reception at the Scandanavia House for Danish Paintings: From the Golden Age to the Modern Breakthrough.

Vilhelm Hammershoi - DETAIL - Courtyard Interior at Strandgade

Vilhelm Hammershoi – DETAIL – Courtyard Interior at Strandgade

Scandanavia House – which is part of The Nordic Center in America – is located in a swanky mid-town neighborhood on Park Avenue in NYC. I’m bringing this up because while this opening was certainly about Danish paintings, it was at least as much a New York City-centric event than anything else. Yep, it’s good to be home. When I filed into the auditorium in the basement of Scandanavia House, I felt like I’d been put into a time machine from earlier in my life when I used to work in this neighborhood. All around me were men in suits and women with serious jewelry. These men and women obviously had a lot of money; they were attending this event to help pay homage to the personal art collection of former Danish Ambassador (from 1981-83) of John L. Loeb, Jr.

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Ambassador Loeb, who seems to be in his … 70’s? … has amassed the largest collection of Danish paintings outside of Denmark, and is an ardent supporter of the arts, including the two co-curators of this exhibition, the five additional staff assistants that helped put the show together and the printing of a “handsome catalogue,” I was informed by one of the curators during his lecture. In addition to the opening event tonight, there will be ongoing events, like docent tours, etc. from now through the end of January 2014 when the exhibition closes.

PS Kroyer - Self Portrait - Sitting by his easel at Skagen Beach

PS Kroyer – Self Portrait – Sitting by his easel at Skagen Beach

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PS Kroyer - Portrait of the Artists Wife Marie

PS Kroyer – Portrait of the Artists Wife Marie

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In the lecture, the curators presented the concept behind the show, which is staged in three parts, one for each display gallery: The Academy; The Land; and The Modern Breakthrough. The Modern Breakthrough represents when Danish painters thought about:

the psychology of the individual, the role of the environment on identity and the ways in which the act of painting itself could be used as a medium through which emotions could be expressed and society renewed…

The opening image, my detail of the figure hanging out the window looking into a courtyard by Hammershoi, is an example of a piece within the Modern Breakthrough.

Hammershoi Courtyard Interior - full painting

Hammershoi Courtyard Interior – full painting

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Here are some additional images from The Academy gallery…with some information from the curators.

Jens Juel - Seated Chinese Man (Section: The Academy)

Jens Juel – Seated Chinese Man (Section: The Academy)

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Joel Ballin - 1882 - Study of a Model - Young Girl Undressing

Joel Ballin – 1882 – Study of a Model – Young Girl Undressing

During the lecture, we were told that the Danish Art Academy was one of the first (if not the first?) to have women models come and pose nude, rather than just male models.

The curator’s description in the gallery reads:

This work, painted in CW Eckersberg’s life class at the Academy records some of the professor’s most important pedagogical innovations. Traditionally, studies of the human nude had been conducted exclusively with male models, and only in the artificial light of candles or lamps. The point was to not represent life but to evoke an imagined realm of ideal beauty. Eckersberg … brought female models into the studio and instructed his students to paint them in the light of day and in realistic domestic settings.

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Christen Dalsgaard - DETAIL - Young Girl Writing

Christen Dalsgaard – DETAIL – Young Girl Writing

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So if you find yourself on Park Avenue near 38th Street between now and next January, you may want to stop by and see these Danish paintings from the private collection of the former Danish Ambassador. While you’re at it, pick up a handsome catalogue documenting the Ambassador’s collection by expert curators and enjoy the show….

The Tate Modern – Rothko’s Seagrams Murals

I went to the Tate Modern over the weekend. From the outside, the building is a hulking concrete former power station on the south bank of the Thames.

Me watching tourists watching the north bank of the Thames from the Tate Modern cafe

Me watching tourists watching the north bank of the Thames from the Tate Modern cafe

Inside, the Tate Modern “reads” like the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City architecturally. Each floor is a series of plain white box galleries each leading to the other with some open communal space in the center of the museum for the escalators.

That’s where the similarity between the two institutions ends.

Inside the Tate Modern galleries, the walls are jumbled with a mix of paintings and works arranged all over the wall and floor (for sculpture). Many pieces are not at eye level, they are well above the heads of the viewers, and the glare from the lighting makes viewing a challenge. Moreover, the pieces are not arranged chronologically, or by artist or even in what seems to be a logical grouping of artists. Instead, each of the gallery areas are arranged by theme on each floor.

I didn’t like this way of viewing works. I found the gallery experience random and while the curators of these themes must have felt the pieces went together well, for many of the floors I didn’t find the pieces inter-related in a way that made me feel cohesion or integration in the viewing experience.

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And then, there’s Rothko.

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Rothko Seagram Mural (1 of 7) - black box on red background

Rothko Seagram Mural (1 of 7) – black box on red background

I’m sure I must be stealing lines from my favorite art series, Simon Schama’s Power of Art, on Rothko (Click Here for the episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEIn1914XSM,) when I say that the experience of seeing these seven Rothko Seagram’s murals was intense.

Rothko’s works are shown together in one gallery, barely large enough to contain these huge canvases. And the effect is overpowering. The lighting in the room is dim, mausoleum-like. It’s a crypt.

Rothko Seagram Murals - purple background and black boxes

Rothko Seagram Murals – purple background and black boxes

There is one large wooden bench in the center of the room, from which you can contemplate the enormity of death crushing down on you from these works. And while I may be prone to exaggeration, I’m not exaggerating here.

Rothko detail

Rothko detail

The hazy transitions within the paint, the way you have to squint your eyes to view the canvases… And the questions – should you get close, or further away for viewing? It’s all a kind of torment to comprehend what’s being shown.

But Rothko wouldn’t have wanted you to process these works with your logical mind anyway. He would have wanted you to stand before these monuments to his genius (I say that full knowing Rothko’s hubris, and anti-hubris) and just feel them.

Rothko Seagrams Mural - Red Box Purple Background

Rothko Seagrams Mural – Red Box Purple Background

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Maybe because I saw Picasso’s Guernica on this trip at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, which is the logical home of that piece of historically significant Spanish art in a Spanish art institution…

I could not help but think that Seagrams, a company with a landmark building located in New York City, commissioned Mark Rothko, a New York City based artist, to produce works to adorn the walls of the Four Seasons, a landmark New York City restaurant, meant that these iconically important New York City elements of the story of these paintings should mean that they should be on view and permanently exhibited at MoMA. Let’s face it – that’s where they belong.

Before Franco left power as the head of Spain, Guernica found a home for 30 some odd years at MoMA. So the irony of my comments is not lost on me. But I cannot understand how the Tate Modern, a British institution, gets to own these pieces.

Is it simply about who has the money to purchase them and a mad-dash to acquire important pieces, or should important works of art also be about the contextual relevance of their own history and therefore, where it is logical for certain works to be shown?

I’m sure arguments can be made on both sides (see my previous posts about the Cubist works of Picasso scattered to the winds across many different museums globally, and in general the repetition of certain artists works in many museums, securing their place in art history.)

But there is only ONE Guernica by Picasso. There is only ONE set of Seagram’s Murals by Mark Rothko. There is only ONE Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch.

And it’s entirely possible I have reached my limit of “art first’s” on this particular journey to Europe.

In fact, the day after I visited the Tate Modern, I tried to go to the Saatchi Gallery – which would have taken me from a view of Modern Art in Britain to a view of what is happening in Contemporary Art.

Outside view of the Saatchi Gallery - King's Road - London

Outside view of the Saatchi Gallery – King’s Road – London

And perhaps this is a larger comment on all of my art experiences and ponderings over the last several posts… the Saatchi Gallery, a private art institution, was closed to the public on the one day I had to see it because they were hosting runway shows for London’s Fashion Week.

Yes, the best known contemporary art space in London was closed to host the fashion elite. So I was a poor pauper left gawking at the entrance, but turned away at the door.

Pondering Museum Visits – and Guernica

In a previous posting, I mentioned how moved I was by the tremendous trove of art at the Prado in Madrid. And indeed, the Prado is a location of global art treasure, just like the Metropolitan in NYC, The National Gallery in the UK, and the Hermitage in Russia, among other seriously notable museums.

However, as a tourist with limited time to see museums it’s important to spend time wisely when choosing which museums to visit when you land in your destination of choice.

And it’s not just about time, either. It’s about the human eye and brain getting overloaded with images. I’ve visited enough museums to recognize there is such a thing as over-stimulation and museum fatigue. After about 2-3 hours, I usually need a break, or possibly need to stop wandering through galleries to “process and absorb” the things I’ve seen.

With this in mind, I want to mention the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, which houses Guernica. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guernica_(painting)

Guernica is housed deep within this relatively small museum of contemporary art, in a bunker-like gallery designed to display only this towering painting. And although the room is reasonably large, it still somehow isn’t large enough to contain the painting. I can’t describe it adequately, and unfortunately in keeping with the museum’s policy, photography is not allowed in this particular gallery.

And once you’ve seen Guernica, for your $8 euro ticket price, you can essentially leave the museum. I know I’m being harsh in my commentary, and it’s not that I don’t like seeing cubist paintings by Picasso and Braque, or seeing the many Miro on display in Spanish museums, but I must call the Museo Reina Sofia out on this – there is NOTHING in that museum that can come close to the experience of seeing Guernica. There is not even one other piece on display that had an impact that could even touch what it’s like to see Guernica in person. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZCTrM3yfug)

Don’t get me wrong – I walked the entire museum. I saw the permanent Richard Serra installation on the first floor. I looked at the giant Calder sculpture in the courtyard. I walked by many Picasso, Braque, DuBuffet, Miro and other works on display. But… I’m sorry to say this because I sound like a total art brat and snob to make such a comment (apologies in advance) but I have seen these works before many times.

This brings me to the core of what I’m getting at with the museums we choose to visit and why.

At the Prado, I can see totally unique works by Bosch, Goya and many others that I cannot see anywhere else in the world. I got a bit of an “art high” walking around the Prado – an experience I remember having when first viewing The Temple of Dendur at the Met so many years ago. It’s just a brain-freezing, arresting, overwhelming moment when you see something that is a towering human achievement.

And Guernica delivers this experience, no doubt. I had seen reproductions of Guernica over the years, but nothing could compare to seeing it in person.

But, I’m sorry to say, if I want to see those brown and black cubist paintings that Picasso and Braques did side-by-side for a few years and that look very similar to one another… there are a lot of them, and I see them everywhere. After a while, I don’t even really bother looking at them because my mind “knows” the image.

And once you have seen two dozen paintings by Miro, which I have in a variety of museums, I’m sorry, but I “get it” and I know the style and I can even enjoy the image but it’s something similar happening over and over.

Perhaps this is one reason Guernica has such impact. It’s a combination of cubist style and figuration – plus the historic content which is essential in understanding that scene of war horror.

But I digress.

Museums often have a “mission” to display art history, and present some chronological view of art through the ages. And in that world tour, Cubism is in there, and so yes, you will be shown those brown and black Picassos because he created that new style and it was an important moment in Art History. Yes, I agree.

Unfortunately, since many/most museums have this same mission, you wind up seeing many of the same painters over and over, and you see paintings of the same style, and in the Museo Reine Sofia I just found that I’d “seen it before” when it came to anything other than Guernica.

Am I saying don’t go to the museum? NO. I am saying if you have the chance to see Guernica, just the experience of seeing that one work is completely worth it – in my opinion. It is like Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights at the Prado, a one of a kind and not replicated in any other painting globally. The painting – unto itself is a piece of Art History.

But consider what I’ve said when it comes to visiting museums. What is it you hope to “experience” at these institutions, and then make your choices accordingly.

Serious Spanish Art Loot – The Prado

I only wish I could show you some images of art at the Prado Museum, in Madrid, Spain but they do not permit photography of any kind, and it’s no wonder.

I spent hours wandering around the museum today with my mouth hanging open, gawking at the serious loot of centuries of Spanish colonial rule. There must be, and I do not think I’m exaggerating here, billions of dollars of art in that museum. It is beyond a national treasure for Spain.

Since I’m from New York City and I cannot help but try and compare museums to my “home town” museums, I have to tell you that the particular collections located in the Prado are not replicated – or anywhere NEAR closely available – in NYC. Believe me, that’s saying a lot.

Let’s start with Goya, since there are so many incredible Goya images housed at the Prado. In particular, the “Black Paintings” (including Goya’s Dog, or The Drowning Dog as it’s sometimes known) are in one gallery together. The other famous image from that collection is Saturn Devouring His Child, probably one of the earliest expressionistic paintings known.

But Goya isn’t even the beginning.

I have never had the pleasure of seeing Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights in person. It is… beyond words. I visited that painting three times within the hours I was in the museum, and still I could have stayed staring at it for hours more if I had had more time. There was another piece called The Table of the Seven Deadly Sins, also by Bosch that was magnificent.

Beyond that, the self-portrait of Albrect Durer really enchanted me. A young Durer with gorgeous long, curly blonde-red hair, in a jaunty black and white striped cap, with the upper part of his chest exposed told me a lot about him. I have a little art crush on Durer now. Clearly I was born in the wrong century. 🙂 The other pieces by Durer that left a lasting impression were his portraits of Adam and Eve.

Rubens, Velasquez, El Greco and many other gigantic canvases line the walls of galleries, towering over the spectators. In gallery after gallery, I had to stand back six, eight or ten feet just to view the image being shown. But then I wanted to get as close as possible to the Carravagio painting of David with the severed head of Goliath. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_GUJjvCBWY)

There are too many museums to see in Madrid in just four days. I have already seen the private Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum with its fantastic Kandinsky’s, Picasso’s, Braque’s and other examples of cubism (I will post in the future, with images, since they allow photography.) I want to see the contemporary art museum too, on a different day (I need to be rested from the visual overload.)

But if I could only see ONE museum in Madrid, it would have to be the Prado.

Thank goodness I don’t have to make that choice!

P.S. The Prado allows visitors to visit free during a 2 hour window ‘later’ in the day. If you’re coming to town, check at the museum to see when you can come for free. Otherwise, admission is 14 euros and totally worth it.

Goran Djurovic’s Prime Time Revisited – A Story of Friendship

To begin: the story about how I came to find the Goran Djurovic exhibit in Gent, Belgium.

I didn’t tell this story earlier when I posted about Djurovic’s Prime Time solo show, but I think it will be nice to pull back the curtain now. It is yet another example of how I’ve met extremely kind people in my travels. (And I want to say how much I really like Belgium!)

So.

I was walking down the street in Gent, on the Saturday morning I was in town. I had my city map in hand, trying to find the “Patershol” neighborhood. Patershol is known for its charming streets and interesting restaurants and is less touristy than the historic center. But I sensed I was lost, although I was walking alongside one of the main canals running through the city.

It just so happened, as I walked down the street adjacent to the canal, that a young man was walking toward me holding a bag of groceries. Now, given that the Gent Festival was getting started, I quickly deduced I’d have a better chance of asking directions of a local than another tourist like me! Who better to ask then, than someone holding a bag of groceries?

I flagged him down and said I think I’m walking in the wrong direction. Can you help me? He looked at where I was pointing on my map and confirmed it. I was walking in the exact opposite direction of where I needed to go! Since he was heading in that direction anyway, he said, why not walk together so he could point out how to get where I was going? I welcomed the opportunity. 🙂

That young man’s name was Wim, and once we started chatting, we realized we had a lot in common. So I invited him to come with me to Patershol if he had the time and wanted to show an American tourist from New York City around his fair city. He graciously agreed, and off we went.

When we got there, Wim actually wanted to show me a different – and very famous – piece of religious art that is known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghent_Altarpiece. But when we got to the museum associated with it, we found the Goran Djurovic exhibit instead.

As you may know, reader, from my previous post – I took a sampling of photos at the Djurovic exhibit – but I neglected to take photos of some of the works Wim and I stopped and talked about the most. I regretted it later after I got home.

But, as kindness would have it, Wim and I exchanged email addresses and became pen pals even after I returned home. When I expressed to him how much I enjoyed our viewing of the exhibit and I was sorry I missed taking some shots of the works we talked over at length… he went back and took photos of over 100 Djurovic paintings and emailed them to me.

I was blown away by his tremendous kindness and enthusiasm for the artwork. In turn I promised him I would post another 15+ Djurovic works on my blog to give a much better sampling of what we saw that day.

Also, in fairness to Mr. Djurovic I don’t think it would be right for me to post images of every single piece in the solo show – however – if this blog posting helps spread recognition for his work and talent, then I am grateful to be part of that process in a very small way.

And so, without further delay, here are more of the works of Goran Djurovic … photos taken by Wim of Gent, Belgium, a gentleman I am proud to call my friend.

Let it be said: art brings people from all over the world together.

The art of Goran Djurovic

The art of Goran Djurovic

Goran Djurovic Many Laptops Goran Djurovic010 Goran Djurovic018 Goran Djurovic020 Goran Djurovic026 Goran Djurovic035 Goran Djurovic037 Goran Djurovic050 Goran Djurovic053 Goran Djurovic058 Goran Djurovic069 Goran Djurovic091 Goran Djurovic094 Goran Djurovic105 Goran Djurovic106 Goran Djurovic107

 

Art in Gent – Goran Djurovic’s Prime Time

During my last trip to Gent, I happened to be lucky enough to see a public art space called the “Provinciaal Cultuurcentrum – Caermersklooster” on Vrouwebroerstraat 6 in Gent.

They were hosting a solo show for Serbian artist Goran Djurovic called “Prime Time.”

Goran Djurovic - Prime Time solo show in Gent

Goran Djurovic – Prime Time solo show in Gent

Mr. Djurovic now lives in Berlin and it seems his work was only “discovered” in the last few years and had his work hosted in a variety of European museums. The painter is currently in his 60’s.

Djurovic backgrounder

Djurovic backgrounder

The Privincial Culture Center (I assume the English translation) is a magnificent, well lit space and worth the visit. For this particular show, the number of works on display is staggering. The solo show must have more than 40 original oil paintings on display in four small and one very large gallery space.

I will leave you to digest the themes of Djurovic’s work on your own from the sample of photos I took at the show. While the work can be quite dark, I found it inspiring.

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Painting from the Prime Time exhibition

Painting from the Prime Time exhibition

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The work of Goran Djurovic

The work of Goran Djurovic

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This one is called Visitors on Display

This one is called Visitors on Display

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The mouse dance

The mouse dance

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More of the work of Goran Djurovic

More of the work of Goran Djurovic

Mark Flood’s Art Star show in Chelsea

I attended an art event in Chelsea at the Zach Feuer Gallery today put on by artist Mark Flood as a part of his new exhibition at the gallery called Art Star.

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The show consists of a series of word paintings with sayings like “Museum Whores” and “Alleged Artists” and a video showing the judges from the Bravo TV show The Next Great Artist, but what the judges are saying is over-dubbed. Instead of giving real critiques, they are dubbed with computer generated voices and completely trashing the hypothetical artist they are discussing… then on the walls of the gallery are large canvases painted black in the center with borders of painted lace. (Lace paintings are works Flood has been known for in his career and how became known.)

The video tape of the judges was, for me, the most amusing part of the exhibition because of the cynicism Flood is showing about the whole way art is promoted by galleries and museums and how artists are commodified and sold.

Today’s event consisted of a panel of 10 men who all claimed to be Mark Flood, and 2 moderators who were there to ask the Mark Floods questions. One of the panel participants was actually Mark Flood, but he never identified himself as the “real artist” and similarly none of the questions that were asked of any of the Mark Floods sitting on the panel were answered seriously. All of the questions and answers were amusing and ironic, with one of the Mark Flood’s pretending to be a tree, another was a cat in a cage, and still others who pretended to represent some part of Mark Flood’s personality (narcissist, sell out, business person, musician, etc.).

Not too many years ago I would have found this kind of art exhibition completely ridiculous, but these days I think I can appreciate the humor and cynicism Flood is depicting in the show. The world of “high art” has become (has always been?) controlled by powerful forces and heavily driven by money. Who becomes the next “art star” has probably very little to do with actual talent and more to do with the proximity of an artist’s relationships to art power structures and influence.

Unfortunately though, I didn’t find the paintings in the exhibition to be “art star” worthy – but I could not figure out if that was purposeful by the artist. Perhaps Mark Flood wanted to create a set of paintings that would be seen as mediocre to underscore his point about how actual talent is irrelevant in the face of all these power structures at play. Or maybe the idea was that mediocre paintings are what galleries are selling today, along with the hype selected artists get by being represented by those galleries.

Regardless, I can appreciate the narrative commentary Flood provides in the word paintings and the video installation to underscore his points, plus the pointed humor he uses to get his message across. The art event today was a lot of fun, although I learned nothing more about Mark Flood as an artist by going, the 45 minutes I spent laughing at myself as an audience participant and laughing at the 10 Mark Floods give silly answers to silly questions makes light of what can normally be a serious endeavor to try and understand what an artist is trying to say with their work.

If you’re in the Chelsea area, I’d recommend checking out the exhibition… the gallery is located on 22nd near 11th Ave. and Art Star will be in residence there until October 15th.

NoLa Diary #4 – Ogden Museum & Contemporary Art Center

Originally I thought the Ogden Museum of Southern Art , located on Camp Street, was free to visitors on Thursdays but I was mistaken. The Ogden is free to any resident of the state of Louisiana on Thursdays, but not a Yankee like me. 🙂 I was also informed by the helpful desk clerk that the Ogden After Hours program (Thursday evenings between 6-8pm) requires a second admission fee 0f $10.

Travel Tip: However, despite the rain today, there was a silver lining. The Contemporary Art Center of New Orleans  – which is directly across the street from the Ogden was offering a one day $10 “Prospect Pass” which included admission to both the CAC and the Ogden, as well as numerous galleries across the city as part of a group “Prospect” show.

I wish the CAC allowed photography inside their NOLA Today show on the 3rd floor, but alas they did not. The show was well curated and there was a lot of narrative work about New Orleans and artist’s interpretations of life in NoLa now. Of course, references to the flood were plentiful, and the art it inspired was moving. I recommend it highly, and NOLA Today will be on display until the end of January 2012.

Lovely mural on the side of the Contemporary Art Center of New Orleans, Camp St

Once I took in everything the CAC had to offer today, I went back across the street to the Ogden and I’m so glad I did.

The red and white building on the right is the Ogden and the really old building on the left is a Civil War Museum which I didn’t visit

The one reason I wanted to go to the Ogden was to see native New Orleans artists work and I’m happy to report the work of George Dureau, a well known NoLa French Quarter artist, was worth the visit alone.

Entrance piece (a self portrait by the artist) to the George Dureau exhibition at Ogden

I loved Dureau’s use of color and abstract figuration and I enjoyed the fact that he appears in nearly all of his own work as a model, which is intriguing and I think unusual.

Dureau self portrait red background

Other than the amazing Dureau exhibit, I was really astounded by the work of New Orleans photographer Josephine Sacabo. Her surrealistic negative images of women’s faces are hauntingly beautiful and inspiring. Her work (according to the biography on her website) is in MoMA in NY, the New Orleans Museum of Art – NOMA, the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress collections, just to name a few.

Sacabo piece on display at Ogden

To say the work I saw today was “crazy good” is not an understatement. I was excited by these more contemporary works, even though I thoroughly enjoyed NOMA and the sculpture gardens yesterday. Today I felt like I was putting fuel in my creative furnace as I continue to soak in what the city has to offer.

Another strong Sacabo piece at Ogden – woman with smoke

Although I’ve focused most of my diary entries on museums and art galleries almost exclusively for the first few days of my visit here, I think anyone can easily see why it’s so easy to get pulled in by the artistic heartbeat of New Orleans. The city is so old and has such a strong character, it makes sense to me that so many artists would call this place home.

NoLa Diary #3 – NOMA and adjoining Sculpture Garden

The New Orleans Museum of Art is celebrating a big birthday this week. NOMA turns 100 years old, and this Friday and Saturday (12/16 & 12/17/2011) the museum is planning a bash and is allowing all visitors in for free on both days.

New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA)

Travel Tip: To visit NOMA, just hop on the City Park streetcar on Canal Street (the edge of the French Quarter) and take it to the end. The streetcar trip can take 20-25 minutes so allow plenty of time to get there and back. Cross the street and enter City Park, NOMA is the first building you’ll see.

NOMA celebrates 100 years

Being from New York City, I’m incredibly spoiled when it comes to museums. MoMA, the Metropolitan, the Museum of Natural History are all towering examples of insanely well curated collections so when I travel I love to see what local curators do with their (usually) smaller spaces and budgets.

NOMA does not disappoint, and frankly, they have a wonderfully eclectic mix of art from different time periods and different cultures. The museum is 3 floors and with the exception of a traveling Fabrege exhibition, all of the galleries permitted the use of photography (without flash, of course.) Boy am I glad they allowed photography, I was snap happy today and took over 100 shots of the artworks and sculpture gardens. Some of my shots, sadly, are blurry or show reflections from glass but they give you a flavor of the incredible artworks.

John Biggers – Blessing the People – Detail

Their Contemporary gallery entrance was graced by this wonderful Frank Stella painting. In addition to Stella, they have pieces by Lee Krasner, Richard Serra, Miro, Jean DuBuffet, Dale Chihuly and many others. In an adjoining gallery, they have one piece by Picasso as well.

Work by Frank Stella

Of course, if you are into Native American pottery you would absolutely go crazy over this Hopi pot made by Nampeyo (they had several unbelievable examples of Nampeyo pots in perfect condition displayed as part of their collection, I could hardly believe they had so many).

Nampeyo Hopi pot – NOMA (This is the real deal – a Nampeyo pot is incredibly rare, NOMA has a whole collection of them!)

And of course, if you are going to NOMA you would be crazy to leave city park before taking a stroll through the particularly lovely sculpture garden behind the museum building. The sculpture garden is always free, while NOMA offers free admissions only on Wednesday (this week’s 100 year birthday celebration is the exception.)

This beautiful sculpture of a head by the (very well known French sculptor) Rodin is one of the newest pieces to be added to the garden, but the sculpture garden has over 70 truly fantastic examples of work spanning the classical, modern and post-modern genres.

NOMA’s new sculpture “bauble” – a bust by Rodin

If you get overwhelmed by all that art, you may need to just relax and look at the scenery. The grounds are immaculately kept and graced by beautiful bridges and artful landscaping, like what you see below.

Just a few photos from today’s excursion do not do justice to NOMA’s collections or the garden. The residents of New Orleans are lucky to have these jewels available to them anytime. I can easily see how a warm, sunny day could easily be spent in City Park whether you visit the museum or not – but for a traveler, NOMA should be a must-see,  along with the sculpture garden.

The Artist’s Tuning Fork

Today was a gorgeous day in New York City, and I spent a few hours this afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art to see the William De Kooning exhibition. Now don’t get the wrong idea, I’m actually not a big fan of the artist, but I am very interested in Abstract Expressionism and I wanted the opportunity to re-think some of my ideas about this painter.

As per the MoMA website:

The exhibition, which will only be seen at MoMA, presents an unparalleled opportunity to study the artist’s development over nearly seven decades, beginning with his early academic works, made in Holland before he moved to the United States in 1926, and concluding with his final, sparely abstract paintings of the late 1980s. Bringing together nearly 200 works from public and private collections, the exhibition will occupy the Museum’s entire sixth-floor gallery space, totaling approximately 17,000 square feet.

Despite my internal resistance to the way De Kooning merges traditional body forms with abstraction in his most famous paintings like Woman I,

De Kooning's Woman I - part of the permanent MoMA collection

I really did like his later works in the last two decades of his life, none of which I’ve seen before. These works were much more graphic in nature, brightly colored, with lots of white background to provide space to the drawn forms and lines that marked these canvases.

Regardless, the De Kooning work I have the strongest resistance made me think about my favorite Frank O’Hara poem Why I am Not a Painter. It goes like this:

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.

This led me to think about De Kooning’s “positive” and “negative” series including paintings like Zurich, which are all black and white and have words or letters embedded in the paintings. Or his piece called Attic, which De Kooning said had “everything in it.”

I’m not sure why, but all of this led me back around to thinking about the end of De Kooning’s life again, and the last two decades that he painted even though he was in ill health. I thought about how he was unable to paint for at least the last seven years of his life, as his health continued to decline in his late eighty’s and early nineties. It made me wonder if he felt trapped inside his body, with ideas still coming about how he wanted to paint, but his body would have been unable to comply with the demands of the work.

There’s a story in that idea somewhere. I feel that instinctively. And if you’re wondering where all this rambling is leading, I do have a point so bear with me just a bit more.

Yesterday I went to an open air art show where painters, sculptors, potters, and photographers gathered to show the best of what they had to offer. I met a sculptor there, named Brianna Martray of Denver, Colorado. She was displaying a piece called Lighthouse Keeping which really intrigued me. I sensed a feminine energy to her work, and this piece in particular strongly reminded me – not in form but in feeling – of a Dale Chihuly’s installation at the New York Botanical Garden which I saw in 2006.

             Image above courtesy of Brianna Martray

 

MIRRORED SUNSET HERONS, 2006

                   Chihuly installation of small glass works at the New York Botanical Garden

This weekend was, for me, an opportunity to become inundated – even over-stimulated if you like – with the ideas of other artists. All of these things keep me “in tune” as a writer, with other aspects of art that lead towards a highly diverse set of expressions.

In my short story, Lancaster, the main character comes into close contact with an artist and that experience changes him in some way; it makes him want to strive to be the self the artist has depicted of him, a self that he sees as “other” and yet some possible alternate self to his current way of living.

So, as you sit down to do some reading, whether it be a collection of short stories or a novel, you should also consider using the artist’s tuning fork and get out to see an exhibition of paintings, sculpture, installation art, arthouse films or anything else that intrigues you. While writers are notorious observers of other people, sitting next to them in restaurants, in trains, or elsewhere, we shouldn’t overlook the opportunity to tap directly into the veins of artistic expression and mainline directly from other masters of expression – words are optional.

There are so many possibilities to be inspired by other artists… who do you find yourself most in tune with, and why?