Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve I drove out to Chicago with my daughter Gillian and her partner Kim( Kim goes to school there). I’d never been to Chicago and had always wanted to go to the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago. I also wanted to see the public sculpture known as “The Bean” ( which is actually named “ The Cloud Gate”) luckily its just outside the museum in Millennium Park . Installed in 2004, the sculpture is made of“stainless steel plates over a fortified steel frame. Under these plates, it is actually hollow on the inside. It was built and finished in place, on site because it was too heavy, bulky and dangerous to transport as one completed piece into Downtown Chicago. Also, after it was built, it had to be polished and have its seams removed, giving the appearance of being one large shiny object, instead of being the sum of many shiny stainless steal plates.” It’s the work of “ Anish Kapoor, who is an Indian sculptor originally from Bombay, but now residing and working in London. He designed it, and the City of Chicago Millennium Park Project folks created it.”I’ve liked what I’ve seen of his work in galleries, so I thought this would be good. As you get close to it, the size of it is overwhelming. The entire world around you, reflected in the curved surface is mesmerizing. Gillian particularly liked the snow and how it broke up on the surface as it melted. I was impressed by the anamorphic quality of the underside. It was like some swirling vision of the world, surrounding a mirror image of the people below it in a circle in the center. It seemed magic and beautiful on that clear, cold winter afternoon in Chicago. We had a great time. Quotes from billslater.com
I went to see the show at Pier 92 and saw some things that excited me. The first was at Galerie Forsblum from Helsinki Finland. I saw a piece by HC Berg called Vortex that had a handful of people stopped dead in their tracks. It was a multi dimensional box of curved plexiglass and cut out pieces... beautiful and mesmerizing. Another gallery I liked was Sicardi Gallery from Houston. they were showing a lot of geometric art from South America including Geraldo De Barros, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Jesus Soto and Thomas Glassford. Their work is about color and light defining space. I then went over to an opening in Willliamsburg at Parker’s Box for a show called Unidentified Living Objects. A show of sculptures that seem to be alive with some mechanical help. The gallery is divided into rooms with each sculpture in its own room. When you first come in you’re in a space with a huge black bulbous air filled mass by Pierre Ardouvin that gains and loses air in a rhythmic pattern like breathing. The next room had Gereon Lepper’s Borderline Walker. He’s from Dusseldorf and had gone to the Academy there. My friend John Bjerklie had helped install the piece so he introduced me to him. I couldn’t help but ask him about Beuys and he said he had once come by his studio that he'd shared with another sculptor who knew him but they hadn’t had a conversation.Gereon said all of his pieces were kinetic and incorporated the input of some form of energy, though not the spiritual energy Beuys was interested in. The press release from the gallery says: “The German sculptor, Gereon Lepper investigates the influence of energies on structures and form. He is interested in the potential of an overlap between technical and natural principles. In his work, the frontier between machine and animal worlds becomes confused. The artist's "Grenzgänger" ("Borderline Walker") is a three-legged, motorized object, attached to a central pivot with the ability to navigate an assortment of obstacles. This work is at first very mechanical, remote, and cold. But this isn't just another curious spider made by an artist. On the contrary, if the viewer observes the inexorable and relentless progress of the "Grenzgänger", looks at the details of its uncanny anatomy, appreciates the strength of its legs, focuses on the delicate rubber soles that bend and extend themselves in an uninterrupted movement, the whole machine morphs into a surprisingly elegant dancer, slowly twirling around the room, almost up to the ceiling. Like an astronaut exploring an uneven and perilous planet, pushing down on its ballet-shoe-space-boots, "Grenzgaenger" manifests the stubbornness, dedication and determination only known in the realm of the living...”
When I was in high school, my art teacher made a small press out of the wringers from an old washing machine. We made some drypoint etchings on tin plates. For examples of etching we looked at Durer and Rembrandt and James Ensor. Ensor’s skeletons at parties were so entertaining I had to do a few dancing skeletons myself. I didn’t think much about Ensor in the years since but when John Bjerklie told me about an upcoming exhibition at MOMA I waited with anticipation until it was mounted. I went to see it with John and my daughter Gillian last week and it was just as much fun as I’d expected. Our trip there included viewing Song Dong’s” Waste Not” an installation of his mother’s house and possessions and a drawing show called “Compass in Hand”. Very powerful stuff to get ready for Ensor with. I was impressed by the change in Ensor’s palette from warm 19th century academician to icing cold mask and skeleton paintings. But most of all it was his influence on Philip Guston that was a revelation to me. It was helpful to see the connection as I find Guston difficult and Ensor very accessible while being completely exotic.
After work at Showman Fabricators Thurs. 6/4 I met up with Jenny Stanjeski at Radio City Music Hall to check out the paint job we did for the Tony Awards Show stage floor. Pleased by how shiny and durable it was, I took some pictures. Then I walked up to 57th St to the Washburn Gallery and saw some Leon Polk Smith paintings I liked. The paintings are based on the geometric patterns of Navajo blankets and are a good example of modern culture meeting the native tradition. After a double shot of espresso inspiration at Starbucks, I then went to 55th and Madison to the opening of Willard Boepple’s sculptures in the lobby of 545 Madison where I met up with John and Poogie Bjerklie . They introduced me to the sculptor Robert Taplin as we hung out and admired the wall mounted sculptures. Willard's pieces, cast in pigmented resin, were specifically created for the lobby with the collaberation of the Architect and Lighting Designer. They're lit from above and behind to make them have a warm glow and hypnotizing shadows. While they are geometric abstractions, they also have an imagery that alludes to man made objects, i.e. books, jars. The bas relief pieces also have a rhythmic quality.His biography says: "He has served on the faculties of Bennington College and the Boston Museum School and is chairman of the Triangle Artists' Workshop in New York. His work can also currently be seen in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Boepples' wooden sculptures are primarily influenced by utilitarian objects that interact with humans, such as ladders, shelves and mechanisms with levers and cogs.
It is not the objects themselves that are of interest but their dimension, size and proportions. He combines enormous variations in density, interval, and internal scale. The work can be read as everything from abstract evocations of aspiration to oddly canted cubist still lives. Observations of what it is to be human are transformed into metaphorical sculptures. His craftsmanship displays a modernist sense of connection with the long history of sculpture." I had been to the opening of Wolf Kahn’s Show at Ameringer Yohe on 4/23 and I’m a fan of his Ab Ex landscapes . I am inspired by the relationship between Willard Boepple‘s work and Wolf Kahn’s work. At first glance you wouldn’t think there was any. Upon reflection I noticed they have similar sense of color and rhythm. It’s especially noticeable in the use of pink and lavender. Willard’s resin pieces are made atmospheric with the intentional lighting. Wolf Kahn are blatantly painted atmosphere to the exclusion of detail. While Willard Boepple’s are so strongly geometric, Wolf Kahn’s have a more subtle use of geometry that defines his composition. Interestingly, they both live in Vermont, they are both about the same age, and come from the same modernist tradition : Wolf Kahn worked under Hans Hoffman and Willard Boepple is from the Skowhegan School and Bennington College. I'm inspired by both as modernist role models for me.
I went to two shows of student work at SUNY Purchase in the past two weeks, as my daughter Gillian will graduate next semester. The first was a group show she was in at the Neuberger Museum. Gillian said “Come to the opening tomorrow night”. It all happened so quickly, the show was up over one weekend and then gone. It was a ground breaking event, this was the first time the Neuberger Museum ever hosted a student show in the forty year history of the school. Most of the show took place outdoors in a court yard, sculpture and some paintings hung on a fence. My favorite piece outside was by John Kish, a small canon with camouflage painting. The artist was dressed in top hat and tails. Following his habit of wearing 19th C. Eastern European military uniforms on a daily basis throughout his college career. Gillian's painting,“Creation is Myth” hung directly opposite the entrance of a gallery just off the main lobby . It is painted with acrylic and oil paint on wood panel 36”x 48”. She has developed a style of figurative expressionism with abstract backgrounds. Her figures are often dismembered with the intention of creating psychological metaphor. I see her as practicing a very brave, daring, gutsy brand of painting with a well developed visual vocabulary. The second show was an installation sculpture by Roberta Jones. Presented in the artepovera style, using paper, fabric, wooden structures and photography she documents her own ritualistic space definition. What makes her work particularly satisfying is that her piece is so claustrophobic and her scale of photography is large enough that you leap into the space of the photographs with abandon. I am a fan of work that makes you forget where you are and takes you on a journey into the piece. Gillian and Roberta have been friends throughout their college careers. Roberta would come to visit Gillian at my house when they were off from school. On one occasion three years ago they were critiquing Gillian’s paintings in my studio. I joined in the conversation and eventually Gillian described Roberta’s work. This inspired me to talk about standing stones in the British Isles and Joseph Beuys. Which sparked me to reread my journal from 1979 when I traveled with Edinburgh Arts to Scotland, England and Ireland, and where I experienced the stones and Beuys' work first hand. The combination of this conversation and rereading the journal was the catalyst for me to persue an understanding of all I could about Beuys. Further it got me to speak with John Bjerklie about Beuys, and he connected me to Sean Lynch (who has created several documentary style pieces about Beuys), and whom I visited while I was Ireland in 2007. This eventually inspired me to go back to visit Edinburgh when I was on that same trip. I cherish these connections, chance circumstances and converstaions with artists.
In 1979 I traveled on an art tour with Edinburgh Arts led by Richard Demarco. We traveled around Scotland visiting Archeological sites and modern artists. www.demarco-archive.ac.uk/ Demarco had run the tour beginning in 1970 and the most well known artist involved was Joseph Beuys. Demarco introduced Beuys to the English speaking world.
Beuys didn’t travel with the tour in 1979 but was referred to so often that when I left the tour and went on to Paris, I went out of my way to see an exhibit of his blackboards at the Pompidou Center. They were completely lost on me at that time. Subsequently I’ve grown to love them especially the one at MOMA. When they redesigned the interior , they also got a new Head curator of Painting and Sculpture; Ann Temkin; who has written a book on Beuys and devoted a room to his work. I‘ve been a couple of times and when examining the blackboard had the sensation of piecing a jigsaw puzzle together only to find I’m falling into Alice’s rabbit hole each time.
Several years ago I decided that things I didn’t understand about art I would tackle head on and Beuys seemed to be a prime subject. I bought at least 8 books. The most recent is called" Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition". It's a catalogue from a show of the blackboards of Beuys and Rudolph Steiner. It is a very accessible book. Steiner’s pretty, colorful blackboards help make Beuys wordy diagrammatic blackboards easier to understand. I had the most wonderful experience when I first got the book. I was with my daughter Gillian and I opened the book and randomly read what I found ...
“Only the poets have understood what nature can be to man... They find everything in nature. They are the only ones familiar with its soul and their quest to find in their surroundings the blessings of the golden age are not in vain... They do not know the powers they have at their disposal,the worlds that obey them. Is it not true that the rocks and the forests obey music and , tamed by her, follow every command like domestic pets? Do not the most beautiful flowers grow near the loved one and delight in adorning her? Do not the heavens become brighter for her and the sea smoother? Does not all nature, like a face and its gestures, the pulse and the colors, express the state of one of those higher, most wonderful beings we call mankind? Does not a rock become strangely like you when I speak to it? And how am I different from the stream when, full of melancholy, I gaze down into the waves, and lose my thoughts in its murmurings?”
If as Novalis writes, nature is understood as a great external world analogous to the world of man, able to communicate with the forces of nature as if talking with a brother or sister, then the Kantian “other” disappears. This, in turn, brings us closer to the idea we find when we look at Steiner: that mankind is the transcendental creator of all these things. It was Freidrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling who recognized that the imaginative, inspirational and intuitive powers of art included the power to combine inner and external creativity. This was a power from which we get an acute sense of what creation is and of the forms it creates.
Schelling and Novalis were both interested in artistic and philosophical questions. They turned their attentions to the phenomenon of a “secret capacity” in art linking the artistic process with nature’s creative processes. Schelling thought that inside us lived a subconscious creative energy that we could not explain but which was able to create, through various means, forms similar to those produced by nature. According to Schelling, it had long been recognized that,” not everything in art is consciously arranged.” There needed to be “ a link between conscious activity and subconscious energy” for works comparable to those of nature to be created.
Steiner turned this idea into the basis of his entire philosophy. Schelling’s thinking on subconscious creative energy was still relatively imprecise and it was Steiner who defined it more precisely as a form of thinking. In essence. his idea is as follows: we are not the ones doing the thinking, but rather, as Steiner formulates it in “The Philosophy of Freedom”, 1894, we live “by the grace of thought”. Thinking is bigger and more encompassing than mankind. It is a great cosmos of thinking that creates the apparent world and, with it, mankind.
At the same time, however, mankind does not exist outside this all encompassing thinking but is enveloped by it. Man himself is a thinker. When we think something, part of this invisible, world- structuring material lives in our inner activity. If we are dealing with something material in the external world, then this external object is also something we have originally conceived of. We would be unable to perceive and recognize it if we could not first conceive of it.
This key allows us to unlock Steiner’s hieratic work, piece by piece, and reveal where Beuys follows in his tracks. When, for example, Beuys says THINKING =SCULPTURE, he has reduced Steiner’s philosophy to an ingenious short form. But here, thinking means something other than a purely formal logic. Beuys and Steiner both agree that thinking is much more than the rudiments we encounter in the intellect. It is, as Schelling said in his talk about subconscious creative energy, a formative power. Its imaginative side creates images, its inspirational side opens awareness to the world of sound and in its intuitive aspect it is able to achieve form. Just as nature magically creates a plant before our eyes without us really knowing what is happening, thinking creates the internal and external spaces to which we move.” Wolfgang Zumdick
Washburn Gallery is a great place to go see Abstract Expressionist work. There was a nice show of small works there last month that featured the sign from the exterior of the Cedar Bar. I went to 20 W 57th St. with my sister Joanne ( an Interior Designer whose business is The Interior Edge) and my daughter Gillian. Gillian said it was the most powerful piece in the show. For me there were a lot of interesting pieces ; a realist pencil portrait by de Kooning and a more abstract portrait of de Kooning by Elaine de Kooning,a small Pollock, a Joan Mitchell. The piece I liked the most was by Jimmy Ernst. I’m recently noticing that I’m attracted to his work whenever I see it. He’s was Max Ernst’s son; he escapes the Nazi’s at 18; comes to New York becomes the Director of Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century at 20; is right smack in the middle of The Irascibles photo in 1951,ends up living out in Easthampton and Florida. What a great story and I love the geometric/cosmic nature of his work. My motivation to go to see the show was to see the Bar sign. It has an iron red crackled paint surface and is similar in color to the background dyed fabric Jackson Pollock used in a couple of horizontal paintings he did in the late 40’s. This ties into an Abstract Expressionist journey I began 3 years ago at Williams College in Mass. I went with Gillian to a tribute to Kirk Varnedoe named “Jackson Pollock: Beneath the Surface” an exhibit of 3 Pollock paintings the Williams College Museum and a 4 hour talk at the Williams College Theater with Adam Gopnik, art critic and writer for the New Yorker; Pepe Karmel, Associate Professor in the Department of Fine Arts,NYU; Tom Branchick, Director, Williamstown Art Conservation Center;Jason Vrooman conservator and Judith M. Lenett Fellow; Helen Harrison, Director, Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center; Ellen Landau, Professor at Case Western University; S.Lane Faison former director of the Williams College Museum of Art; and Steve Gordon Wlliams’55, former teacher and artist. Pollock’#2 1950 was being shown with #13A, 1948 Arabesque and #7, 1950 after being restored at the Conservation Center. While Gillian and I were looking at the paintings that day in came Lane Faison, who was 98 and using a walker( he died later that fall). Lane Faison is famous for being one of the Monuments men in WWII ( he cronicled Hitler’s personal Art Collection )and was director of the Williams College Museum in 1952 when these same paintings came there as part of an exhibition that had gone to Bennington College. When asked during the talk that afternoon about how he felt at that moment we witnessed he said” I just thought, Hello old friend,”. He also said the exhibit happened because he was friends with Greenberg and he asked Greenberg could the show come to Wiliams as long as it was going to Bennington and that Pollock came up for the opening but was on his best behavior and didn’t drink so he also didn’t talk. It was a great privilege to see this event though half the general audience left at intermission. For me this is when it got interesting. At the end there was a Q&A, more interesting stuff was revealed,i.e. I was unaware that Pollock had done collages with Motherwell. Joan Washburn was one of the people pointed out as asking some questions or referred to to provide some insight. I’d wanted to go to the gallery ever since. I was so inspired by this event that I read De Koonings biography, Pollocks biography, New Art City by Jed Perl and bought the Varnedoe/Pepe Karmel catalogue to the MOMA Exhibit. It felt nice to get to be with the bar sign for a few minutes as it has been such a prominent character in the scene.
I went to Pace 57th St with Gillian to see Matta’s paintings. Being a fan of his work there were a couple I liked but for the most part I like what I’ve seen in museum collections better. I first encountered his painting when I was a teenager at the Clarke Art Institute in Williamstown, Ma. They had one in their collection that went to the Williams College Museum and is still there. It is from the early 40’s .It’s similar to the one at MOCA-LA.and MOMA ‘s “Here, Sire Fire, Eat!. I am most attached to this period of his work. I like the sense of a vast space populated with some mysterious unknown debris and most of all the holes in the atmosphere; the implication of the way to another half revealed world.While a lot of his work has a science fiction / surrealist primitive quality ,there are also some paintings which have imagery that looks like sculpture from New Ireland in the South Pacific. It was fun to see Matta’s paintings overlooking 57th St. after having read about him in the DeKooning biography by Stevens and Swan.
“The Europeans remained focused upon 57th St., where they gathered at Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery and 51st St., where she lived. Even being at the occasional party together did little to close the gap between the surrealists and the other artists. At one party, deKooning said wryly,” I tried to tell Miro of my admiration for his work in English. So you see, the contact was not such a thing.” There was one essential exception, however- one surrealist who had a an early and pronounced effect on Americans: Roberto Matta Echaurren( universally known as Matta). He had arrived in New York in 1939, before the great wave of emigres. An ambitious Chilean who had joined the surrealists in Paris several years earlier, Matta had been a protege of Breton’s, and, like Breton, came from a background that respected elegance, intellectual airs, and a certain hauteur. But he had never been fully accepted by the french surrealists. In New York, he was more open to the Americans than the Europeans were. It helped that he was young- in his early thirties- and spoke excellent English. Julien Levy wrote of Matta’s arrival:
Matta burst on the New York scene as if he considered this country a sort of dark continent, his Africa, where he could trade dubious wares, charm the natives and entertain scintillating disillusions. He was chock full of premature optimism and impatient disappointment; believing ardently in almost everything and in absolutely nothing, as he believed ardently and painfully in himself, which was the same thing, everything and nothing.”
Among deKooning’s friends, Gorky was most influenced by the arrival of the surrealists- and , in particular, by Matta. Both by background and temperament, Gorky was naturally attracted to surrealist whimsy and lyrical reverie.” Gorky had surrealism innate in him because of his Armenian background, independently of the Surrealists,” said Robert Jonas.” They didn’t implant it in him. Fantasies and dream images have been present through the ages. And his Armenia abounded in them.” It was only natural, then, that Gorky was eager to mix with the surrealists themselves. When Matta arrived in 1939, Gorky quickly gravitated to him. By 1941, the two had become very close friends, even though Gorky begrudged Matta his swift success in America. Gorky’s lyrical landscapesof the early forties reflect Matta’s influence. Matta urged him to be freer- to dilute his paint in order to achieve an airier, more extemporaneous effect and to use any accidental drips to spark improvisations.”
Roberto Sebastian Antonio Matta Echaurren (b. 1911-d. 2002), “Matta,” was born in Santiago, Chile in 1911. He earned a degree in architecture from the Universidad Católica of Santiago in 1932. Matta apprenticed under Le Corbusier, working on projects such as the iconic proposal for Ville Radieuse and travelled extensively in Europe (1935-37). André Breton invited Matta to join the Surrealist circle in 1937 and Matta would participate in the Paris Exposicion International du Surrealism the following year. In 1939 Matta left Paris for New York, where his increasingly biomorphic paintings quickly attracted the attention of the New York School. Following a break with the Surrealists, Matta moved to Rome (1948), where he resided until 1955. He lived the rest of his life in Paris, London, and Tarquinia (an Etruscan city, north of Rome, in the Lazio region of Italy), yet maintained strong ties to Latin America. Matta’s involvement in the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s included his strong support of president Salvador Allende in Chile.
After work on Friday, Jan.24 I went to John Bjerklie’s third opening of “When a river Changes Course” at Parkers Box in Williamsburg. The opening was from 6-9, I had some time to kill beforehand so I went to Spoonbill and Sugartown bookstore. I love it there ( it’s my idea of heaven ), I bought a book by Jed Perl called “Antoine’s Alphabet” about Watteau. So I went to the cafe and read and drank espresso awhile before going to Parker’s Box. When I got there I noticed some changes from my previous visit. The floor had overlapping sheets of ply wood strewn about the space creating an undulating springy uncomfortable surface to walk on. The debris/crate wood had been pushed back, tidied up a bit Two TV monitors were placed on a low bench John Bjerklie was greeting people with a straw sun hat and a red bandage wrapped around his head(ala Van Gogh). He disappeared up into a lofted area and appeared on the television screen( in his “studio”, under surveilance). On the second screen another artist came on and advised John on his motivation to paint. The joke was that John smeared paint all over his paper and then smeared the paper all over himself (his attempt to put himself into his work). He left and another artist, Cindy Towers came on with a cape and boxing gloves and started having a painting contest with John. John got a cell phone call in the middle of the contest , so I realized I could call him . I got out my cell phone and called and offered him money for his painting . Every time he got close to accepting an offer, I countered with a lower offer (mimicking his price slashed writing on his other TV screens) until things degenerated into bickering with Cindy and I hung up. Cindy left and Steve Brauer came in they have a conversation and the whole bit turns into high jinks; eventually Cindy comes back, they both leave downstairs and end up in the lofted space with John other artists come on.ETC... A lot of people came to the opening, it was crowded for a long while. John had some other video’s he had recorded earlier that incorporated the same theme’s: How the artist sees themself. How the artist thinks they’re perceived by society. The anxiety of wanting to be financially successful and artistically successful. Eventually I got tired and went home.
John had another opening Fri. 2/13. For this he made video tape of himself in the lower studio, shown on one screen, while on the other he ran a live feed of himself up in his lofted area. This time he was competing, taunting, cajoling, and muttering with himself. The themes of his conversation were similar to his earlier performance but because he’s talking to himself I felt greater clarity about listening to the artist’s inner voice. One funny bit was John writing his phone number on a paper to sell his work a la QVC Cable television. The huckster side of his personality was selling the work out from under the poetic side. The whole piece became one giant organism to me. Quite profound;to so literally hear the voice of the artist coming through his work. I mentioned this to John’s dealer Alun Williams and also that I see this as related to J.Beuys, in particular his Honey Pump sculpture. Alun said that John was also influenced by the work of Paul Thek. SUNDAY 2/22/09
John did another performance on Sunday 2/22/09. It was more heavily attended than the previous weeks. He had made another recorded video of himself to play against. When he did the phone bit Marina Abramowicz called him up ( she was attending with Alana Heiss). They ended up buying work from John over the phone. Alana Heiss negotiated to buy the paintings John was making for $50. He told her to put the $50 under a 5 gallon bucket on the gallery floor, she did and he threw the paintings out a window in the lofted area of his piece. The paintings were still wet when she picked them up and left. During this performance I noticed the dialectical nature of the 2 screen presentation more prominently than I had before. Two screens talking to each other seems original to John’s work( there is picture in picture but not two seperate television screens in discourse with one another and an artist talking to his alter ego ,no less). The diptych was reflected in a painting on paper vignette of Okey-Dokey Man and a Do Not Be Afraid painting that were casually strewn at the foot of the painting loft. Clearly ,Okey-Dokey Man is getting the message.
My daughter Gillian was going to fly to Chicago after working for me at Showman Thurs.2/12. Her plane didn’t leave LaGuardia until 7pm, so we had time to go to L&M Arts to see the Philip Guston show. She is a fan of his work, me ...not as much. The show was of about 8 paintings from the early 50’s; when he’s still doing abstract expressionist work. Flat shapes that seem to become cartoon like imagery are working there way into these paintings. I like the way the shapes are conjured up out of the atmospheric gray pink haze. It’s a fun show and L&M is such a good place to see abstract work. I had been to L&M once before while working on a movie; an art consultant brought me there to look at paintings to copy for the movie. The production company had bought the rights to quite a few paintings and I copied a lot but they still didn’t have enough. We went to L&M on a day that it was closed and had a look around to pick something out, I don’t remember if we did pick anything but I do remember the De Kooning's next to the Pollack's and getting to go to all the floors in the building and look at a lot of contemporary and modern painting; sometimes in semi-darkness(very magical). I had fun recognizing who painted the various pieces. We ended up in a small room on the top floor with a bunch of small paintings sitting on the floor leaning against the wall. I remember there was a Monet and some painting facing the wall, the stretchers looked like they were made of barn wood, the back of the canvas looked as old as time, we turned it around and it was a cubist painting by Picasso from 1910; I thought I was in heaven. I had always wanted go back to L&M with Gillian, as I knew she would love it, and I finally got to.
I went to the Morgan Library with Lynn Brown to see the Thaw Collection of drawings an oil sketches. In the last few years they put a modern addition on and it ‘s like being in a humungous hotel lobby. I’m a fan of modern architecture but this is so out of character with how old school traditional the Morgan Library is that I can’t imagine what they were thinking; maybe they get a lot of people at certain times and they need a place for them to wait. Luckily it was quiet the afternoon we went. The Thaw collection was divided into two sections; drawings and oil sketches. There was a great variety within the drawing collection. “A pen and ink study of a Renaissance temple by Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439–ca. 1501) drawn ca. 1470 and a mixed media representation by Jim Dine (b. 1935) with imagery inspired by a dream, dated 2000, signal the wide chronological, technical, and conceptual range of the exhibition.
French drawing is represented by a dynamic study of Italian gamblers by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725–1805) and a floral design by Pierre Joseph Redouté (1759–1840). Two exquisite portrait drawings by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867) that have been long hidden from public view are among the highlights of the Thaws' recent acquisitions. They represent the first full-length studies by Ingres to enter the Morgan's collection, joining three portraits and four additional sheets from the Thaw collection and nine other drawings by the artist. The modern drawings represent the diversity of the medium during the twentieth century and include fine examples of major artistic movements. Collages by Kurt Schwitters (1887–1948) and Joseph Cornell (1903–1972) expand the traditional definition of drawings. A small sketch by Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966) records one of his signature sculptures in a play of frenzied lines. A major work by Jackson Pollock (1912–1956) headlines a group of postwar drawings by Americans Franz Kline (1910–1962), Agnes Martin (1912–2004), and Ellsworth Kelly (b. 1923). The exhibition concludes with a spare line drawing from 1993 by David Hockney (b. 1937) of charming dachshunds resting.” So much great stuff by a lot of my heroes.
The oil sketches were in a seperate room. “Among the works on view is Jean-Michel Cels's Clouds and Blue Sky, one of a group of eight studies of clouds and sky that Cels executed between 1838 and 1842, and John Constable's Hampstead Heath with Bathers (ca. 1821–22), a study of the sky emphasizing cloud morphology and weather effects.” Nice stuff!
After work I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my daughter Gillian( an art student @SUNY Purchase) to see the Pierre Bonnard show. It was in the Lehman Atrium, a nice place to see special exhibits. I loved Bonnard paintings since first seeing them back in art school, so it was a particular treat to see a large amount at once. I was always a fan of his pattern painting, but this time I realized how wonderful his figures are. The closer they are to you, the more they blend into their surroundings, they seem to be increasingly made of energy and light, it's profound. It reminded me of something Giacometti said about when seeing a figure from across the street,you can see the whole figure but that when they come in the cafe, the closer they get to you the less you can see.
I went back to see John Bjerklie’s show Jan. 9 : another First Friday reception. at Parker's Box in Williamsburg. Things changed quite a bit since the first viewing. A lot of the crate wood that had been in the gallery was out in the front window. The remaining wood in the main room was reorganized into tree like structures with wires spewing out the top like twigs. Additional video elements and mirrors became more prominent. A couple of the mirrors are hung on the wall on the diagonal , they’re smudged, with a circle cleaned off in the center. A new video of the sunrise to sunset on the Savanah river was placed in front of a mirror with the same smudging, an allusion to the shows title. In the center of the action there are 2 TV monitors on folding chairs facing each other. The monitors have cameras hooked to them so each is taking the others picture, on there screens are list’s of dollar amounts , sometimes John would cross out and change the prices. It seemed to be pointing out the artists relationship with the marketplace. I was there early and got to speak with John about his work and he brought out some bronze pieces he had recently cast in N.C. One was of an easel with a hole chopped through the canvas another was of his Hothead bust made of gum balls. People started showing up ,it got busy, I left feeling amazed by getting so many ideas out of such debris , an Arte Povera experience.
I went to Chelsea Friday , Jan. 9 to see a couple of galleries before going out to Williamsburg to revisit John Bjerklie's"When a River Changes Course" show. The shows I saw in Chelsea were Terry Winters at Matthew Marks and Nick Cave at Jack Shainman. First was Terry Winters show of paintings “Knotted Graphs”. I saw a review in the Times that morning and I was so attracted I couldn’t resist going to see them.I painted canvases with knotwork patterns in the 80’s. Mine were inspired by the knotwork in the Book of Kells and George Bain’s book “Celtic Art the methods of construction”. When I look at Terry Winter’s paintings I see them as abstracted images from that same world and I feel euphoria to be amongst kin. The way they are painted with layers of translucent lake pigments is luscious. I ‘m disappointed though when I read the press release mentioning the study of topology (mathematics of continuous closed system curves i.e. mobius strip) as the inspiration for the paintings without mentioning the meaning behind the use of the imagery as a metaphor for the interconnected nature of life. While at the gallery I spoke with the gallery attendant about the information in the press release and after my mentioning the celtic knotwork he brought up parallel evolution; meaning Terry Winters could come up with the similar imagery through the use of mathematics without having seen historical references. I left finding this hard to believe, since then I’ve read the interview in The Brooklyn Rail by Phong Bui
“Peter Lamborn Wilson: Quite recently, we were talking about Ireland where we both have been and became obsessed with the stones. Does that kind of monumental abstraction of the stones as they survive, not as we might hypothesize them originally being, like the reconstruction of Newgrange, which neither you nor I seem to care for, but the way they look, denuded of the earth and in ruins, inspire your work in any specific way? Winters: Not in any way that I would want to claim for myself, but I feel a tremendous attraction to the development of that kind of abstract language. A geometry that is rooted to its location as well as its relationship to the given geology. Wilson: It struck me that you could look on those stone structures in the way they tie themselves into the landscape, which at times appear like a topological puzzle. Winters: Well, that reading of pattern making, which is tied to notions of surveying both of the landscape as well as the cosmological movements of planets and constellations, develops a structure that goes beyond formalism. I think that’s been a challenge that I’ve applied to my own work, that the work would become what Wallace Stevens called a ‘necessary fiction’. That the paintings would be a product of exploration, an excavation of factual material to reveal other levels of, I don’t want to say reality —other possibilities. David Levi Strauss: As Peter said, we are seeing these ancient Celtic forms in ruins and it is this kind of deformation that I think is applicable to some things that are happening in these new paintings. Wilson: How so? Levi Strauss: How forms once made and put in play break down over time. Certainly, in the paintings in the front room that we were just looking at, we’re seeing forms break, not necessarily into their constituent parts,