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

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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

another review: ABMB 2011

February 10, 2012

#4: Balmy Weather in Miami, FL and Great Contemporary Art

I keep thinking about the balmy weather in Miami and the art trip to ABMB in December.  It seems so long ago. But really it’s not.

The image nearby is me at the opening night party for INK at the Suites at Dorchester in Miami.

LIGHT SNOW IN NEW YORK

We had a light snow last night in NY. I live in Westchester County, a short trip into NYC.


Art, seen in Miami in December, will pop up in NY this spring.

PULSE, one of the leading contemporary art fairs, is held annually in Miami and NY. New dates: May 3-6, 2012, will coincide with the NY edition of the Frieze Art Fair.

72 members of the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) will participate in The ART SHOW held March 7-11, 2012 at the Park Avenue Armory. Some of the galleries include Maxwell Davidson Gallery and Crown Point Press who were both at INK in December in Miami. Also at the ADAA show are Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Pace, and Friedrich Petzel who were at ABMB at the big Convention Center.

This year I want to get to the SOFA New York Fair April 20-23, 2012 at the Park Avenue Armory. SOFA stands for Sculpture Objects & Functional Art, and it’s celebrating its 15 anniversary in April.  Read more…

Here’s a plug for me. I will participate in the Architectural Digest Home Design Show at Pier 94  in NYC March 22-25. I hope you can stop by. Email me for information.

BIG ART FAIRS vs. LITTLE ART FAIRS

I like the big fairs. I also like the little fairs.

Three of my favorite fairs in Miami 2011 were INK, AQUA and Art NOW MIAMI, all close by on Collins Avenue in South Beach.

Edward Crowell II

The first night in Miami, I met Edward Crowell II at Art NOW MIAMI at the Hotel Catalina. He is a very interesting and enterprising artist/gallerist. He is seen above at the Miami show with his paintings. Photo credit: Mary Hunter.

His business is titled HYDROX PROJECTS (based in Miami and London). We spoke about his gallery and the works represented. He agreed to answer questions via email for an interview.

He described the fair as incredibly intimate – in terms of the exhibition space, the viewing audience, and the ability to interact with the other participating dealers and artists.

Here are the questions and his responses:

Q: Who stopped by your space? Was it a young demographic?

Edward Crowell II:

The most amazing people stopped by my space. I had beautiful people from other countries, young people, and young professionals who were starting to collect art. My high point was when major collectors and their financial adviser strolled in and bought a piece. We all laughed a lot and we chatted after I closed shop. I found out they were Andy Warhol cohorts.

The most enjoyable part was talking and watching their reaction to my art, not knowing that I was the artist. It felt like a cool, clandestine sociological experiment.

I really, really enjoyed the interaction with people, several of whom turned me on to many new things. Humility is a beautiful thing, especially in a place where some people might think that the art world is completely the opposite. Viva the contradiction-laden personal experience.

Q: What are your plans for London?

Edward Crowell II:

Prior to the Miami show, I planned to do a Hydrox Projects show in London in spring 2012, but the response I received from the Art Now Miami show, and Art Basel Miami Week was so great it may change the timetable for the London show. It’s a question of my own artwork versus my pop up gallery projects.

Don’t get me wrong …I still intend to curate and expose other artists/friends, but whether it will be in the near future or not is yet to be told. I think that if I’m in a better place artistically then it could only enable the artists that are around me as far as their exposure and growth are concerned. The same goes for me when speaking about their growth and exposure and the effect on me.

There will definitely be a London trip in March if everything goes as planned.   The trip is still in the works as we speak so we will see what the universe holds in store.

Q: What was the best thing about the Art Now Fair?

Edward Crowell II:

The best thing about the art fair was the people that I got to interact with. I am from Alabama and have always loved different kinds of people. I guess coming from a small place can either make you embrace the outside world or become a recluse to that environment in which you’re from.

Receiving exposure was the second best thing. Intimate exposure that made some collectors and patrons feel better about the art by way of artist/viewer one-on-one interactions.

I feel as if I definitely grew in the eyes of the art industry as well as socially by way of this experience, based on the feedback I garnered from works displayed by me and my friend Johnny Laderer.

Q: Will you do it again next year at the same venue?

Edward Crowell II:

There are talks in progress with new advisors I acquired during Art Basel Miami Beach week. 6 of my new works will be exhibited at the actual Art Basel Miami fair, so we shall see.

In reality, I guess this Art Now Fair was considered a stepping stone to the next artistic growth level for myself and my vision as a curator.

It was an amazing experience that I won’t forget. Everyone was really amazing and I believe I made some great new life-long friends.

painting by Edward Crowell II

I was excited to see Crowell’s work at the Fair, especially his not exactly rectangular text-based paintings. His interview responses reveal why he was so successful. And the art is strong and bold.

I hope you liked reading his comments. Edward Crowell sent me the image above. It’s another painting purchased as a result of his presence at the Fair.

Here’s more comments about Art NOW MIAMI, found on the ZIA Gallery blog.

ZIA Gallery is based in the northern suburbs of Chicago, IL. The gallery specializes in contemporary photography, painting and works on paper and represents established and emerging artists. See images by gallery artists… 

Artists may submit images, resume, and other material for review to anne@ziagallery.net.

Here are comments from their blog:

“The hotel itself is a stitch, a cross between a modernesque boutique hotel and a bordello.”

The red lantern at ZIA at Art NOW MIAMI 2011

The red lanterns were everywhere. What were they thinking? Image credit: John Vlahakis.

The hotel lobby was funky and the cocktail bar was set up in a corner, with stools for 5 or 6 people.

On the other side of the lobby, up a few steps, was a narrow hallway with doors leading into the 16 Art NOW gallery spaces. It was fun to pop into the gallery spaces and it was a charming way to experience art. There was no way to avoid some sort of conversation.

Hotel Catalina lobby

The image above is the hotel lobby. People are arriving for the opening night party. Photo credit: John Vlahakis.

The 2nd ZIA blog added: Collins Avenue where the Catalina Hotel is located was packed with people strolling along the avenue.  You basically saw just about everything from girls walking down the street in bikini’s, to guys dressed in glitter and putting on the ritz.  This  art gathering is very international.  You hear every language except English.  A lot of people from Europe are here checking out the art scene as well as the fashionistas from South America.

Zia Gallery’s final post gave a summary of their week in Miami:

“Attendance was steady and with each successive day the quality of art fair attendees seemed to improve.  Art Now was a new fair addition to the Miami landscape, and though it wasn’t as busy as the other fairs, it seemed to bring attention to the galleries there.  We most likely will not repeat at Art Now next year.  ZIA will look to attend one of the other fairs next year, as attendance and buying activity seemed stronger at the other venues.  We did plant the flag in Miami for the first time, and we did make connections with buyers from around the U.S., even arranging for one artist to be considered by corporate giant Microsoft’s Gallery curator.  And we did sell art too!”

It sounds pretty good to me.

Interior Courtyard at AQUA

The image above shows the opening reception at AQUA. Photo: the Internet.

I see ZIA Gallery at NADA or AQUA next year. It gets better every year.

Please add your comments below. I will reply.