Lee Krasner

October 26, 2018

 

Lee Krasner – young artist

The image above is a photo of a young Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984). She looks tough and determined. She was born in Brooklyn, NY into an immigrant Russian Orthodox-Jewish family. Becoming an artist was something her family never expected, and Krasner was engaged as an artist throughout her long life. She belonged to the first generation of Abstract Expressionist painters. She is also known as the woman who married Jackson Pollock, and, in many ways, her reputation was overshadowed by his fame.

Lee Krasner was “rediscovered” by feminist art historians during the 1970s and lived to see the recognition she deserved. Today she is regarded as embodying the spirit of the 20thcentury American avant-garde. Her paintings, collages on canvas, and drawings are part of the permanent collections at major national and international museums, including the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, the Brooklyn Museum, NY, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, the National Gallery of Australia Sydney, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, Tate Modern, London and many others.

DRAWING

Lee Krasner, Seated Nude

The image above is titled Seated Nude (1940), 25×18 inches, drawing with charcoal on paper, collection: the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Krasner’s art training was thorough and rigorous. She attended the Cooper Union, the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design in New York, (1928-1932) where she mastered the fundamentals of drawing, painting and design. Following the Academy, Krasner studied with the influential German abstract artist Hans Hofmann and absorbed his theories about Cubism, Neo-Cubism, and Fauvism. She was inspired by Piet Mondrian’s grid and the way Matisse constructed collage.

During the Depression, she worked as a muralist for the Works Project Administration (WPA). She was an important member of the Artists Union and the American Abstract Artists, and was committed to social and political activism throughout her life.

Krasner created Seated Nude in 1940 about the same time she began to associate with the American Abstract artists. This drawing looks like part of the figure is erased,  and shows the remnants of Cubism. Krasner was experimenting with abstraction in a raw and evocative way.

30 years later, Krasner cut up many of her drawings and began to create with collage on canvas.

LITTLE IMAGE Series

 

Lee Krasner, Noon

The above image is part of the Little Image series done from 1946-1950. It’s titled Noon (1947) and is one of 31 works in the series. The design is all-over abstraction, and seems to be composed of innumerable little images that may represent a personal vocabulary. Swirls of paint surround daubs of paint. The paint is thick. Colors are tonal reds, blues, brown-green, pale yellows and warm whites.

At artnet.com, I read: “Krasner was moving toward a more color-saturated, almost pointillist approach that allowed color to take over for gesture as the expressive element in her work.” At the artstory.org, I read: “With these paintings Krasner expanded the visual vocabulary of Abstract Expressionism. Taking her cue from Pollock, she worked more directly from instinct, but painted in a state of controlled chaos.”

It’s possible Krasner named the series Little Images because she had to work in a small 2ndfloor bedroom in the home she shared with Pollock at the Springs (Long Island, NY). He had the barn to paint big.  Like him, she worked with canvas on a flat surface. She applied thick paint—sometimes directly from the tube—in rhythmic and repetitive strokes, giving equal attention to every inch of the canvas. We might ask the question: which artist was inspired by the other in terms of imagery? We know the difference was scale.

Robert G. Edelman wrote: “Krasner’s Little Image paintings were admired by fellow artists and critics when they visited Krasner and Pollock at the Springs. Krasner recalled that the art critic Clement Greenberg had stopped by, and spotting an early work from the series remarked, “That’s hot, it’s cooking.” Later, despite the remark’s possibly derisive double meaning, Krasner said, “I considered it a compliment.”

 

Lee Krasner, Untitled

The image above is Untitled (1949). It’s oil on composition board, 48×37 inches, and part of the Little Image series (gift of Alfonso A. Ossorio, permanent collection: the Museum of Modern Art). Colors are blue, green, cool white and pale pink-purple.

PAINTINGS

 

Lee Krasner, Gaea

The painting above is titled Gaea. It’s oil on canvas (1966), 5’ 9” x 10’ 6”, permanent collection: the Museum of Modern Art, Kay Sage Tanguy Fund © 2018 Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Lee Krasner was always drawn to nature-inspired imagery with organic forms – in this case –swirling paint in shapes that look like super-sized flowers. The painting Gaea was included in the huge 2017 MoMA exhibition titled Making Space: Women, Arts and Postwar Abstraction (April 15-August 13, 2017), and was located prominently in one of the first galleries in the show. It was especially dramatic because of its scale, brush-work and colors. Starr Figure co-curated the MoMA exhibition and wrote: “Krasner put her whole body into the brushstrokes that you see across the canvas…and abstract expressionism was all about personal expression through the gesture of painting.”

The painting was created in the barn on the property at Springs after Pollock died in 1956. The wall signage next to the painting read:  “…In the mid-1960s her work took on a spirit of free invention, embodied in broad, sweeping strokes of paint – quite different from her smaller, thickly painted, and tightly controlled canvases of the Little Image series of the late 1940s.” Gaea is named for the Earth goddess of ancient Greek mythology.

Here’s a link to the YouTube video interview with Starr Figura about the meaning of the title “Making Space.” – about making more space for women artists in the Museum’s programming, and how the women in the exhibition paved the way for more women artists to follow.

 

Lee Krasner, The Springs

The image above is titled The Springs (1964), oil on canvas, 43 x 66 inches, collection: National Museum of Women in the Arts, gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay, ©2012 the Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS).

This painting combines the vocabulary of circles, ovals, and chevron shapes that Krasner first developed in her “Little Image” paintings of the 1940s. The colors are earth greens, ivory white, and palest pink on an ivory white background.  The colors and interlaced forms suggest flowers in a wind-blown landscape.

Springs is the name of the village near East Hampton, Long Island, where Krasner and Pollock, moved in 1945. Krasner began using the small barn as her studio after Pollock died, and her works grew in size. After Krasner’s death in 1984, the house became the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center. Paint by both artists can be seen on the floorboards on the barn-studio.

CUT UP CANVAS COLLAGE

In the early 1950s Lee Krasner became frustrated with the quality of several of her works and began shredding the canvases. In her earlier days studying with Hans Hofmann, Krasner had become an avid fan of Matisse, and had experimented with collage. Inspired by Matisse and his cutouts, she started using her shredded paintings as raw materials for a body of powerful, emotive collages, transforming the shreds of her “failed” paintings into a radical new direction in her oeuvre.

 

Lee Krasner, Milkweed

The image above is titled Milkweed (1955), 82 x 57 inches, oil, paper and canvas collage on canvas, collection: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

Milkweed is a perennial plant, sometimes also called Butterfly flower.

Lee Krasner was criticized during her life because she destroyed and repurposed drawings and paintings into new works. Milkweed and other collages on canvas are the result.” Starting in 1952-53, she unstretched, slashed, tore and cut up canvases in a way that emphasized their edges, which are alternately jagged and frayed, sharp and keen. With Milkweeed, she added dark green lines to unite the fragments with a circular rhythmic pattern that contrasts with the vertical movement of thin white canvas strips rising from below.

In her book 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History, author Bridget Quinn writes: “It strikes me that the collages are Krasner’s most autobiographical works. What is not autobiography if it’s not selecting chunks of the past and artfully reorienting them in the present? Each collage was a work…ripe with her joys and sorrows.”

 

Lee Krasner, Imperative

The image above is titled Imperative (1976), 50 x 50 inches, oil, charcoal and paper collage on canvas, collection: the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, gift of Mr/Mrs Eugene Victor Thaw.

In this collage, Krasner integrated cut up charcoal drawings with cut up painted canvas. The shapes are hard-edge and triangular. The pattern is positive/negative with white triangular areas surrounded by dark charcoal drawings and painted canvas.

 

Lee Krasner, Burning Candles

The image above is titled Burning Candles (1955), oil, paper and canvas on linen, 58×39 inches, Collection: Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger, © 2015 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS).

This collage shows a rhythmic and vertical thrust with hard-edge cut shapes that mimic the shape of candles  and point to the top. The colors are natural-toned, soft browns, ochres, black, white and grey.

In her book titled Originals, American Women Artists, Eleanor Munro wrote “Lee Krasner was referred to by macho artists and art critics during her life as “Pollock’s wife who also paints.”

Krasner was always open to change and receptive to the possibilities for new directions in her work. In an interview, Munro asked the artist about her revisionist tendencies. Krasner said: I believe in listening to cycles.” She always trusted her preference for a connection to nature, and was always willing to wait for a return from a dead cycle to get started again.

With regard to her paper and canvas collages Krasner said: “Obviously I’m hauling out work (drawings) of 30 years ago. Obviously pulling that out. Dealing with it. Not ignoring, hiding it. I’m saying, here it is in another form. This is where I’ve come from: from there to here. It gives me a kick to be able to go back and pick up 30 years ago. It renews my confidence in something I believe. That there is continuity.”

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Some artists focus on one particular style so that almost any art lover can easily describe typical examples of their works. Other artists, however, purposefully and constantly evolve their style, refusing to be limited by one aesthetic approach. Lee Krasner epitomized this approach. To describe a typical Lee Krasner painting would be impossible, because her work was never typical. Multiple times over the course of her career Krasner completely redirected her approach to painting.

Although she is normally associated with the Abstract Expressionists, Krasner’sdesire to revise her aesthetic – or what she called “breaks” – led to her innovative Little Image series of the late 1940s, her bold collages of the 1950s, and her large canvases, brilliant with color, of the 1960s.

Krasner was “rediscovered” by feminist art historians during the 1970s and lived to see the recognition of her art and career, which continues to grow to this day.

 

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STILL SO BLUE

July 8, 2018

 

My Favorite Color is Blue

I wrote about the color blue recently because it’s my new favorite color. My post included a lot of images by modern artists who work with the color blue, including Henri Matisse, Richard Diebenkorn, Vincent Van Gogh, and Andy Warhol. I included a link to an article in the Huffington Post titled Blue is the New Orange written by Katherine Brooks (12/6/16) with many, many art works where blue was the dominant color, including art by Degas, Picasso, Yves Klein, Monet, Renoir, Matisse Rothko and more.

 

Yves Klein IKB 241

Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962 is my inspiration for the color blue.  I would love to be able to do a painting with collage that is totally blue. See the image here by Yves Klein. He created his own acrylic paint that is called International Klein Blue (IKB). He worked with a paint dealer to create a matte version of French Ultramarine Blue paint. The color is electric.

 

Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1964

Andy Warhol did an almost totally blue flower painting. See it here – four flowers in electric blue on a black background with a few thin green lines as stems and leaves. It’s an acrylic and silkscreen print with pencil on linen. It has a simple title: FLOWERS (1964). This image was included in the Huffington Post article.

 

Getting to Be More Blue

 

Nikkal, Blue Triangles

The image nearby is my acrylic painting on canvas, just completed. Notice it’s standing on 2 containers (also blue), leaning against the wall in my studio.  My painting is not all blue, but getting there. I won’t change this one (I frequently re-paint finished paintings), but I have a feeling that as I do new paintings there will be more and more blue, and less and less of other colors. My goal is total blue like the artist Yves Klein. My painting is 48×48 inches square, and acrylic on canvas. It has a lot of sharp edges and I didn’t use tape for every outlined edge. My triangles are black, white, blue and gray. Some are a yellow tan color blending into white. The patterns are a play of advancing and receding geometric shapes that are competing for space. I’m still creating color relationships. I will title this painting Triangles in Blue, Grey, Yellow, Black and White.

 

True Blue Affinity

Blue is the most popular color in art, and is favored by men and women alike. Here’s another fact: two of the greatest modern artists – Henri Matisse and Richard Diebenkorn also painted with blue, and Richard Diebenkorn loved Matisse’s blue so much that he used the same blue. The color is Ultramarine Blue.

 

Matisse/Diebenkorn at SFMoMA

In 2017 there was an exhibition titled Matisse/Diebenkorn at the Baltimore Museum of Art (10/23/16-01/29/17). It travelled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (3/11/17-05/29/17). There’s an exhibition catalog with the same title. The images within the catalog are gorgeous. The image above shows two paintings. The one on the left is by Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954) and titled The Blue Window, 1913, oil on canvas, 51×35 inches (MoMA). The one on the right is by Richard Diebenkorn (American, 1922-1993) and titled Woman on a Porch, 1958, oil on canvas, 72×72 inches (New Orleans Museum of Art).

 

How Blue Are You?

I asked my students at the Pelham Art Center (Pelham, NY) to create a collage with painting and papers, and be inspired by the way Matisse and Diebenkorn used the color blue. I showed them images of paintings in the museum catalog. Their collages had too many colors and not enough focus on the one color I wanted: blue, so I asked them to do a second class project and we started with a solid blue painted background. Everyone taped their 14×11 inch Bristol substrate and applied blue acrylic to the entire paper background.  I helped them mix a blue color and they applied the paint with either a palette knife or a sponge roller. As soon as the paint dried, they added found collage papers from magazines or their own stash of papers. See four (4) collage paintings by students in my class Create with Collage below.

 

Jane Regan, collage

The image above is by Jane. You see the gorgeous blue back ground and the collage on top. Notice the shiny top additions. I think it’s cellphone over pasted papers. The work is 14″x11″ with papers, acrylic, and other media on paper.

 

Harriet Goldberg, collage

The image above is by Harriet. I flipped the image horizontal. I think it looks good. Notice the background is painted blue and there are a lot of collage papers. The work is 11″x14″ with magazine and painted papers, acrylic on paper.

 

Anne Haley Enright, collage

The image above is by Anne. She made the painted area smaller than 14″x11″ and square. You can see the blue acrylic in the center of the composition. Anne likes to extend the borders with collage. It’s a spiral design and has a lot of rhythm.

 

Paulette Coleman, collage

The image above is by Paulette. You can see the entire background is painted blue. She created a narrative collage with text and magazine cutouts with figures. There’s a lot of drama and personal story here.

 

I hope you enjoyed all the blue. Stay tuned. There will be more blue soon. Your comments are always welcome.

 

The Woven Image at MoMA

I hope you’ve visited the Museum of Modern Art, NYC, and seen Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction (April 15 – August 13, 2017). This show is important. I include links (below) to reviews with excellent images and comments about why this show is important.

Yayoi Kunama, No.F oil on canvas

I’ve seen this exhibition 3 times. My art practice is contemporary geometric abstraction and it was important to me to see how the curators selected the art and artists. I recognized the stars – Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929), Agnes Martin (American, born Canada, 1912-2004), Louise Nevelson (American, born Ukraine, 1899-1988), Louise Bourgeois (American born France, 1911-2010) (and others). The image here is by Yayoi Kusama. It’s titled No.F and is dated 1959. Media is oil on canvas, size is 41.5″x52″. This Kusama painting is in the permanent collection at MoMA.  Kusama is an international art star. I kept looking at it, trying to get as close as I could, to see the incredible texture of the white on white oil paint. It looked like eyelet fabric to me but was a painting.

I went to see Making Space a second time to really appreciate the extraordinary abstract paintings and sculpture by the Latin American superstars Carmen Herrera (Cuban, born 1915), Lygia Clark (Brazilian, 1920-1988) and Lygia Pape (Brazilian, 1927-2004). These three have also had recent solo retrospectives at NYC museums. I especially love the hard-edge geometric abstraction in paintings and sculpture by Carmen Herrera who is still at work at age 102. She is finally getting the recognition she deserves. See her black and white abstract painting below.

Carmen Herrera, Untitled, painting on canvas, 1952

 

My third visit to Making Space was different. I wanted to see all the works that are woven because I have a new fascination with weaving and textiles, and the exhibition showcases this media in the context of great art.

 

Making Space at MoMA includes ninety-four works by fifty-three international artists. Every work but one has been in storage at the Museum. The exhibition was co-curated by Starr Figura and Sarah Meister with help from Hillary Reder. The Curator’s Say: Making Space shines a spotlight on the stunning achievements of women artists between the end of World War II (1945) and the start of the Feminist movement (around 1968). In the postwar era, societal shifts made it possible for larger numbers of women to work professionally as artists, yet their work was often dismissed in the male dominated art world, and few support networks existed for them. Abstraction dominated.

 

Magdalena Abakanowicz, Yellow Abakan

 

This work, titled Yellow Abakan, by Magdalena Abakamowicz (Polish, 1930-2017) fuses weaving with sculptural installation. It’s coarsely woven sisal, 124”x120”x60”

I read that Abakanowicz deliberately tried to blur the distinctions between art and craft. She chose to explore the structural (sculptural) qualities of fiber.

 

 

 

 

Sheila Hicks, Prayer Rug

 

The work seen here is by Sheila Hicks (American, born 1934) and is titled Prayer Rug. It’s made with hand-spun wool (87”x43”). Hicks wrote she was inspired by Morocco and prayer rugs and architecture with arches. To create this work, she went off loom, working like a ceramicist works, with the material in her hands.

 

The next work (below) is by Anni Albers (American, born Germany, 1899-1994) and is titled Free-Hanging Room Divider, 1949. Anni Albers was a protean force in textile innovation and design. The work here is made with cotton, cellophane, and braided horsehair, 87”x32.5.” Albers was focused on creating translucent space, thinking about how the weaving functioned in an architectural setting as a space divider.

 

See Peter Schjeldal’s review: THE XX FACTOR Women and Abstract Art (the New Yorker magazine, April 24, 2017).

Anni Albers, Wall Hanging

 

Schjeldal writes: The show’s inclusion of fabric and decorative art marks an insurgent appreciation, taking hold in the sixties, of formerly patronized modes of “women’s work.” He references Magdalena Abakanowicz “Yellow Abakan” (1967-68). He says it “… invites a fighting comparison with some far more well-known minimalist works in felt, from the same time, by Robert Morris.

This wall hanging by Anni Albers as tall as a tall adult and was installed so you walked by and saw it up close. It is transparent. You can see the floor behind the weaving in this image. I love the vertical stripes and the cellophane in the weaving.

 

 

 

Here is an image of me standing in front of a framed black and white weaving by Anni Albers. The work is exquisite in design and detail. I was visiting the exhibition at MoMA for the 2nd time and invited. Peggi Pugh to join me so we could compare notes on what works we liked best. She took the photo. In this gallery, every work  was a weaving or an image (a drawing or print) that looked like a weaving. We walked around the gallery slowly to be able to absorb all the different works.

 

woodcut by Lygia Pape
drawing by Yayoi Kusama

 

Here are two images that look like weaving but are not. The top image by Lygia Pape is untitled, from her series Weavings (Tecelares). It’s a woodcut print (dated 1959). The bottom image by Yayoi Kusama is titled Infinity Nets. It’s ink on paper (dated 1951). I thought it was interesting that the curators placed these two works in tandem, one on top of the other. I thought they were textiles from a distance, because the Anni Albers framed textile (above) was in the same gallery space. I was wrong – but they look exactly like textiles.

 

 

 

 

Lenore Tawney, Little River

 

 

Here is a view of a wall hanging by Lenore Tawney (American 1907-2007), titled Little River (1968). Photo credit: Nicole Craine. In his New York Times review, At MoMA, Women at Play in the Fields of Abstraction (April 13, 2017) Holland Cotter tells us: In the 1950s, Ms. Tawney lived in Lower Manhattan, where she counted Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Indiana and Agnes Martin (who is also in the MoMA show) as neighbors. Living in an old shipping loft, she made the most radical work of any of them: towering open-warp fiber pieces that stretched from floor to ceiling and across the loft’s wide space. Yet, in 1990, when she finally had a retrospective, it took place not at MoMA, but at the American Craft Museum, which was then across the street.

 

 

 

Ruth Asawa, hanging mesh sculpture

 

I photographed this gallery installation. I was fascinated with the shadows cast on the floor beneath the mesh wire sculpture by Ruth Asawa (American, 1926-2013). The work was installed from the ceiling in the center of the gallery. Hanging from the ceiling was totally a unique concept. As was woven sculpture in mesh wire. On a wall across the room, you see Lenore Tawney’s Little River weaving (notice the cast shadows there on the wall behind the work). On another wall to the left, you see a small view of Magdalena Abakanowicz’s very large sisal Yellow Abakan. The installation was inviting and intriguing. People lingered and looked.

 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Anne Ryan, collage 353

 

The image here is a collage by Anne Ryan (American 1889-1954) titled #353 dated 1949. I’m a collage artist and know Ryan was highly respected for her practice. Ryan worked with exquisite papers and also fabric and thread. Her works are small and delicate and deliberate. The Museum has four collages by this artist in the permanent collection, and the curators installed four Anne Ryan collages in the exhibition. At least two or three reviews, including ones by Peter Schjedahl and Holland Cotter and the Huffington Post start with this image. When I looked at this collage, I saw the threads and the thin papers. It’s a woven image also.

 

 

See the Artsy review by Abigail Cain (April 17, 2017), titled New MoMA Show Unearths Female Abstractionists That Have Languished in Storage.

Cain writes about gender inequality at the Museum. She also mentions the philanthropist Sarah Peter who can help remedy the imbalance. Sarah Peter launched the Modern Women’s Fund at MoMA in 2005 to target works by women artists for acquisition and to support major solo exhibitions by women. That’s a good start to bring about change.

Holland Cotter also writes about the gender inequality issue in his review of Making Space at MoMA and says: “This exhibition is a start, but ultimately to make changes and show women artists the respect they deserve, the MoMA should also reorganize the permanent-collection galleries that draw the largest crowds…Put Anne Ryan next to Kurt Schwitters and Jackson Pollock to see how that shakes out, historically and atmospherically… Put Ruth Asawa’s wire sculptures up against Richard Serra’s fortresslike walls. “

I hope the MoMA and other museums make these changes. Please send me your comments.

 

It Takes a Team

May 24, 2017

I visited the NYC Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) last week to see the exhibition Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction (through August 13). The show is fabulous and all the most exciting abstract artists (who happen to be women) are included. The curators selected works from the Museum’s permanent collection, including almost 100 paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, prints, textiles, and ceramics by more than 50 artists. I loved how the works were installed in the galleries. I am a keen critic when it comes to exhibition installation. It takes a team to select the great works and it takes a team to install the best exhibition.

The curatorial team included Starr Figura, curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, and Sarah Hermanson Meister, curator, Department of Photography, with Hillary Reed, curatorial assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints. According to the online comments, the installation was loosely chronological and synchronous, with works that range from gestural canvases by Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, and Joan Mitchell to radical geometries by Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, and Gego. There are fiber weavings by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Sheila Hicks, and Lenore Tawney. There’s collage Anne Ryan. There are paintings – both large and very white  by Agnes Martin and Yayoi Kusama. The last gallery includes a large sculpture by Lee Bontecou. There’s a hanging sculpture by Louise Bourgeois (it looks very heavy), and – my favorite – a wall installation by Eva Hesse done with industrial materials. It’s a stellar cast. I include some of these artists below with images taken at the exhibition (my iPhone) as well as images from the MoMA website. Visit the exhibition online here. I hope you get to see the show and see all the media and  all the artists.

 

Agnes Martin, The Tree, oil and pencil on panel, 1964

 

 

The painting seen here is 6×6 feet, done by Agnes Martin (American, born Canada, 1912-2004). Titled The Tree, it’s oil and pencil on panel, and dated 1964. Image: copyright Estate of Agnes Martin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. This is a very white painting with faint pencil lines on canvas. When you walk up close you see it clearly. From a distance everything is quiet and delicate. Agnes Martin had a recent retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC – I made sure I got to see it more than once, and also attended a panel program at the Museum. I heard that Martin made all her pencil lines by hand. Amazing. Her work is highly regarded and her career and persona are fascinating. Here’s a link to see images and a video from the Guggenheim Museum show.

 

 

Carmen Herrera, Untitled, painting on canvas, 1952

The image nearby is by Carmen Herrera (born 1915, Havana, Cuba). It’s untitled and dated 1952. The artist is still working and showing her paintings and sculpture at age 102. I love this painting because it has black and white stripes that create the illusion of triangles. Notice the top and bottom of the painting where there’s black against white and white against black. Carmen Herrera was and is always focused on the edges of her paintings and sculptures. Herrera studied art, art history and architecture in Havana and then in Paris, France where she because part of an international artist’s group called the Salon des Realties Nouvelle. She distilled her geometric style of abstraction in Paris. She reduced her color palette to three, then two colors for each canvas. She created hard-edged canvasses at the same time Ellsworth Kelley (also in Paris) developed his style. The Museum website says: Herrera’s ascetic compositions prefigured the development of Minimalism by almost a decade, but the artist did not receive the critical attention she deserved. I saw this same image by Carmen Herrera at the Whitney Museum of American Art at her 2016/2017 solo exhibition titled Lines of Sight. See more images and read about the Whitney exhibition here.

 

Yayoi Kunama, Untitled, 1959

The work nearby is by Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929). I’m a great fan. Here work and career are amazing. This painting is very white and looks like lace. It has dimension. It’s untitled, done in 1959 and oil on canvas (41 ½ x 52 inches). Yayoi Kusama is almost 90 years old and still exhibiting everywhere. Her white painting in this exhibition looks nothing like current images that you see in galleries and museums. Recent exhibitions include installation with ceramic pumpkins and polka dots in mirrored spaces. When you think of Kusama, you think kaleidoscopic imagery and incredible color. The painting at MoMA is copyright 2017 Yayoi Kusama. I posted a blog about Kusama in 2012 – titled Collage Exploded – about her solo show that year at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC. All about dots. See it here. The David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea, NY, represents Kusama, and organized Infinity Mirrors, Kusama’s current North American traveling exhibition (2017-2019), a survey of the artists’ evolution to create art in immersive infinity rooms. The traveling exhibition includes sculpture, installation and large scale paintings. Read about Infinity Mirrors here.

Women Artists: Eclipsed Careers

Elsa Gramcko, Untitled, 1957

 

I’ve already said that every work in the exhibition Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction  is part of the permanent collection at MoMA. But, many works are exhibited for the first time or in a long time. I’ve listed who donated the art to the Museum. Most of the artists – because they are women – were eclipsed in their careers by the “big guns” (i.e. male artists) and did not have a solo museum exhibition during their lifetime. That’s all changing now.

The image at left is by Elsa Gramcko (Venezuelan 1925-1994). It’s untitled, 39×13 inches, 1957, oil on canvas and painted with a deep Yves Klein blue, with black, white, red, yellow and green in a bold geometric design. The blue and white together are radiant. This is not a big painting in size, but the saturated colors and design are totally captivating. I noticed it immediately as soon as I walked into the gallery space.  The painting was a promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund, 2016.

 

 

Lydia Clark, The Inside is the Outside, 1963

 

I recognized the image at left as soon as I saw it. It’s a stainless steel curvilinear sculpture by Lygia Clark (Brazilian, 1920-1988), titled The Inside is the Outside, 1963, 16 x 17 ½ x 14 ¾ inches. Lygia Clark had a retrospective exhibition at MoMA in 2014 organized around three key themes: abstraction, Neo-Concretism and the “abandonment” of art (the last was participatory). The MoMA says Clark became a major reference for contemporary artists dealing with the limits of conventional art forms. Read about the 2014 Lygia Clark exhibition: The Abandonment of Art, 1948-1998 here. This curvy steel sculpture is another gift from Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund, 2011.

 

 

 

Eva Hesse, conceptual sculpture,1966

Here is my image of a sculpture by Eva Hesse. I saved my favorite image for last. I am intrigued with the industrial materials she used to make art, and by the shape the materials create on the wall. This conceptual sculpture is untitled, dated 1966, and made with enamel paint and string over papier-mâché with elastic cord, approximate size is 33 1/2 x 26 x 2 1/2 inches. Eva Hesse was German-American (1936 – 1970) and is associated with Minimalism and Feminist Art. In this work, contour is the primary concept. Notice the shape. Hesse’s work demonstrated to a new, postwar generation how to distill feelings and conceptual references down to a set of essential forms and contours. Her career spanned little more than a decade. Even though she died young, she left a huge legacy for others to follow. She said: In my inner soul art and life are inseparable. I think art is a total thing. Her work has remained popular and highly influential to important international artists who followed, including Louise Bourgeois, Bill Jensen, Martin Puryear and Brice Marden. Words associated with Eva Hesse’s works: wit, whimsy, evocative and spontaneous invention. Her media were casually found, everyday materials. Important critics describe her forms as languid and proto-feminist. Read about her Life and Legacy here.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I am always impressed with the talented teams that curate an exhibition – what they choose to include and how they choose to organize how the show is installed. This exhibition is about great artists (who happen to be women) who were marginalized in the art world during the post World War II period. The MoMA, and other museums, are making amends for that exclusion.

This show feels contemporary. That’s a compliment from me.

I want to recommend a new book I’ve just read that I found at the MoMA bookstore after I saw the exhibition. I always stop at the bookstore to find a little book to add to my library. I like little books to carry and read if I’m on the train, waiting for an appointment, etc. Ideally, the book doesn’t have too many pages, there are lots of images and really good text. I found Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art? An A to Z Guide to the Art World by Kyung An and Jessica Cerasi (2016, Thames & Hudson). The book is fun to read and answers 4 basic questions: What is contemporary art? What makes it contemporary? What is it for? And why is it so expensive? The authors discuss museums and the art market, the rage for biennales and the next big thing. Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art? examines how artists are propelled to stardom, explains what curators do, and challenges our understanding of artistic skill, demystifying the art market, and much, much more. Every short chapter includes a 2-page commentary and an image by or about a significant work by a contemporary artist. Both authors are highly qualified to write about the contemporary art world. Kyang An is an Assistant Curator at the Guggenheim Museum, NY and Jessica Cerasi is Exhibition Manager at Carroll/Fletcher and was Assistant Curator of the 20th Biennale of Sydney in 2016.

 

Get the book Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art? and go see the MoMA exhibition before it closes August 13. You’ll find there are artists you love and didn’t know about. There are more than 100 works by 50 artists to see. Email  me your comments about your favorite artists and works in the show. Tell me if you agree that many works also seem contemporary in spirit in spite of the fact they were created so many years ago. Tell me what you think about the sculpture by Eva Hesse. Thank you for your comments.

Nancy

Painting Papers for Collage 2

September 22, 2016

Two of the collage artists I admire most– Romare Bearden and Henri Matisse – created collage with painted papers.

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

The image above shows the French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) sitting in a wheelchair in his studio in Nice, France (1952). He had recovered from cancer surgery. Notice there are a lot of cut papers on the floor. Following his surgery, Matisse discovered his genius for collage. He called it his second life, and he is world-famous for collage. Studio assistants painted white papers for Matisse with Linel gouache, a water-based paint. The colors are gorgeous. See more images here.

Painted Papers

Painted Papers

We painted papers as a warm-up for the collage class I teach at the Pelham Art Center. The image above is a beautiful mix of blue and hot pink acrylic paint – painted on a page torn out of ARTForum magazine. Can you notice there is text below the paint? It was applied so you can see some of the magazine paper below.

I tell the class I do the same warm up exercise when I arrive at my studio. It gets me into a creative groove. It’s also a lot of fun to do. See my video online at my website – Painting Papers with Nancy Egol Nikkal. Email me and ask for a free PDF step-by-step outline to make a portrait collage with painted papers.

Etched Painted Paper

Etched Painted Paper

The image above is a beautiful mix of blue, pink and orange paints, done by a student in class. It shows an etched, swirling pattern, created with a palette knife while the paint was wet.

When we paint papers in class, I set out coated paper plates with acrylic paints and a little acrylic medium to thin the paints for each student. I demonstrate how to use a plastic palette knife to mix the paints, move colors around, and spread the wet paint onto the magazine paper. I encourage everyone to allow some of the magazine paper to show through the paint.

All my collages include painted papers, torn from contemporary art magazine pages like ARTForum and ART News. FYI: I do read the magazine articles. I do tear out pages that are perfect for collage and then I tear out more pagers to paint. There are always enough pages.

10 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD PAINT PAPERS:

It’s eco-friendly – it’s recycling magazines

It’s economical because magazines have so many pages

The process is quick and easy and you can create a lot of papers in a short time

Painted papers are very arty when you allow some image to show through

The different ways you apply paint shows personality, style and creativity

You can create layers, pattern and texture

You can create papers in all the colors you want

Painted papers are strong and easier to work with in collage

Painted papers are washable and durable

Painted papers can be repainted and you can create a new palette of colors

Two more reasons: Painted papers are beautiful and become a personal statement in every collage you make.

 

Henri Matisse, Blue Nude II

Henri Matisse, Blue Nude II

The image above is a painted gouache cutout titled Blue Nude II (1952). Notice it’s all blue painted papers. It was included in the exhibition “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs (Oct 22, 2014-Feb 10, 2015). I visited the MoMA exhibit 3 times. There were more than 100 cut-outs, as well as a video that showed Matisse cutting painted papers with a long scissor while an assistant held the paper as he cut. Read about the exhibition here:

Thank you for your comments below. Tell me if you saw the MoMA exhibit Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. Were you amazed at his collage technique and the colors in his painted papers? I was/am.

Link here to my post Painting Papers for Collage (October 2012) with images and more about Henri Matisse. He said he painted with scissors. He called his works gouache decoupes.

For fun: Ask me why I paint papers from contemporary art magazines. If you like, email me to get a free PDF with a step by step outline to make a portrait collage with painted papers (inspired by a famous contemporary artist).

Your comments are always welcome

I am always pleased to receive comments and questions on the blogs I write, especially when they require me to dig deeper and locate information and learn something new in the process.

Duh Chuen Wang Priefnitz commented on the Dec. 18, 2013 post Robert Motherwell and Contemporary Collage, and asked about Motherwell using Japanese rice paper in his collage practice.

It’s true. Motherwell incorporated Japanese rice papers into his collages.

I re-read the exhibition catalog Robert Motherwell Early Collages, especially the chapter by Jeffrey Warda on papers and materials that Motherwell used in the 1940s (pp 55-67) and learned the Japanese papers were called unryu. See an image of the paper below.

Japanese Unryu Paper

Japanese Unryu Paper

Unryu is one of the most popular papers from Japan, and is commonly referred to as mulberry paper. It contains strands of fiber that are added to the sheet to create contrast and texture. Tear Unryu Paper in any shape you desire and you create a soft, feathered edge. The name translates as “dragon paper” and refers to the long fiber swirls that are unpulped, unbeaten kozo fibers. Unryu paper can be tissue thin or thick enough to support a print. The long fibers are typically made of kozo, but can be gampi or hemp. See what the papers look like at NY Central Art Supply.

Motherwell Modified Collage Papers

Jeffrey Warda wrote Motherwell modified his papers with ink and paint – always exploring how the papers changed as he applied new paint or ink layers. Unryu is especially strong and can withstand manipulation with water media.

It made me think about what I saw at the exhibition, and how the surface of the collage papers were wavy and the edges were irregular.

Robert Motherwell, Pancho Villa Alive and Dead, 1943

Robert Motherwell, Pancho Villa Alive and Dead, 1943

My favorite Motherwell collage (seen above) is titled Pancho Villa Dead and Alive (1943).  It includes gouache, ink, oil and pasted German decorative paper, colored paper, Japanese paper and wood veneer on paperboard (size: 71.7 x 91.1 cm – 28 x 35 7/8 inches), collection, the Museum of Modern Art, NY. Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA.

Please notice how Motherwell created a geometric background with rectangles and circles in layers of paint in dusty blue, faded pink. creamy white and yellow with 2 abstract black stick figures painted over. Notice papers on top of papers. See red black and tan paper on the right side. This is his German decorative paper. Motherwell added splotchy dot patterns with pale red, pink blue and black.

In the catalog essay, Warda tells us Motherwell loved to work with fine quality artist drawing papers for their matte appearance and subtle textures. We learn Motherwell selected commercially printed decorative papers for their bright colors because the papers reminded him of long visits to Mexico with artist Roberto Matta. Warda also discussed how Motherwell experimented with Japanese rice (unryu) papers to see the response he got from ink and paint stains he applied to the thinner Japanese papers.

Robert Motherwell, detail, Joy of Living, collage

Robert Motherwell, detail, Joy of Living, collage

 

The image above is a detail of the collage Joy of Living (1943) and shows how the green ink puddled and spread.  Notice the  wavy irregular texture of the green paint. We don’t know how many layers of water media, ink and paint Motherwell applied and reapplied because he wanted to see how the paper changed as it absorbed each new application of ink or paint. Please note also that the colors faded and some changed over the years. Warda shows examples of color changes.

Robert Motherwell, Joy of Living, Collage, 1943

Robert Motherwell, Joy of Living, Collage, 1943

The image above is a full view of Joy of Living (1943). The collage on paperboard includes Japanese paper, colored paper, construction paper, printed map and fabric, ink, gouache, oil, crayon. Collection: the Baltimore Museum of Art. Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA (size: 110.5 x 85.4 cm – 43 ½  x 33 5/8 inches)

Robert Motherwell, View From a High Tower, 1944-45

Robert Motherwell, View From a High Tower, 1944-45

The image above, titled View from a High Tower (1944-45), is collage with tempera, oil, ink, pastel, pasted wood veneer, drawing paper, Japanese paper, and printed map on paperboard. Size: 74×74 cm – 29 z 29 inches (private collection). Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA

Notice the torn edges of various collage elements and the wavy, buckled edge of the large light grey paper on the left side. Texture is an important visual element – almost as important as the geometric patterns with straight and wavy edged papers in red, brown, blue, white, yellow, green, black and grey.

Robert Motherwell, Blue With China Ink (Homage to John Cage)

Robert Motherwell, Blue With China Ink (Homage to John Cage)

The Motherwell image above is titled Blue With China Ink (Homage to John Cage). It’s collage with oil, ink, charcoal, pasted Japanese paper, colored paper, drawing paper and fabric on paperboard (101.6 x 76.2 cm –  40 x 30 inches). Image: Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA. Motherwell love to paint with a light blue and variations on yellow ocher.

Motherwell produced nearly 900 works with collage during his lifetime, and said collage influenced his paintings.

Read the exhibition catalog essays. They give critical insight into how Motherwell began working in collage, and how important it was to his creative practice.

Final Thoughts

The Guggenheim Museum exhibition was an opportunity to see and share Motherwell’s love affair with paper and collage.

On Feb. 6, 2014 I gushed: I love how Motherwell painted over his media, used patterned papers, painted onto so many different papers…I love how he tore off layers of papers to expose raw paper surfaces below…

I was excited because I had never seen so many Motherwell collages in person before the exhibition.

Please add your comments below. Tell me what you think about the papers Motherwell used. Do you work with Japanese papers? Do you paint your papers for collage?

My recent blog, Drawing and Collage: The Journal as Art (January 23, 2014), encouraged you to explore images and ideas in a 90 cent notebook (or a more expensive book with fine paper).

Experts say if you keep a notebook, your memory improves.

Advice: Get a notebook with blank pages and carry it with you so you can fill it up each day with personal notes, observations, contact information you collect, to do lists, doodles, drawings, and ideas.

Alexander Calder, journal page, pen

Alexander Calder, journal page, pen

The image above is a journal page by Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) from the book  titled Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations (from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art), by Liza Kirwin.

Notice Calder’s Paris address book page included sculptor Constantin Brancusi and the artist Hans (Jean) Arp in his list. Notice Calder’s calligraphic line. The page with cursive penmanship is a beautiful drawing.

Calder is best known for his wire sculptures and mobiles.

Calder said: “I think best in wire.”

The image below is a motorized mobile with painted wood, painted metal, metal wire and string, 23×24 3/4×7 (1931) Smithsonian Institution, gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. Do you see a face in profile? I do.

Alexander Calder, Motorized Mobile

Alexander Calder, Motorized Mobile

See images of 3D wire portraits, sculpture, and toys in an online review of a 2005 the 2008-2009 Whitney Museum exhibition: Drawing in Space – Alexander Calder: The Paris Years (1926-1933). Image, courtesy the city review.com.

See Calder’s miniature Circus (see it when you visit the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC).

Contemporary Artists Who Keep a Journal

I found an online interview of a contemporary artist (Harvey Tulcensky) who keeps a journal.

Written by Clair Corey, the article (INSIDE/OUT Dec 17, 2012) says Harvey Tulcensky works full-time at the NYC Museum of Modern Art, exhibits with Edward Thorpe Gallery (Chelsea, NY), maintains a studio practice, and keeps a notebook handy for traveling to and from work – and she adds – the artist says he fills his Moleskin notebook obsessively “like an EKG with his minute-to-minute existence.” 

The image below is an untitled drawing (detail from a notebook) by Tulcensky in ballpoint pen on paper. Image: courtesy the Internet.

Harvey Tulcensky, Untitled, (detail) Ballpoint Pen on Paper

Harvey Tulcensky, Untitled, (detail) Ballpoint Pen on Paper

Ballpoint Pen Drawings are the Hot New Thing in Contemporary Art

The January 2014 cover of ARTnews magazine shows a self portrait by Toyin Odutola in mixed media with the face and torso done in ballpoint pen. Read the article by Trent Morse (posted 01/08/14) titled “Making Cutting-Edge Art with Ballpoint Pens.

See Odutola’s blog for images and even works in progress.

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Buy a notebook. Buy pens, Buy ballpoint pens (contemporary!).

Start a diary. It can be as simple as the diary kept by Pierre Bonnard – a record of what shoes he wore every day, that tells us where he lived and what the weather was like.

Discover what you like, and what you want to say. Explore your own creative ways to keep track of your life.

I hope you do.

Nancy