One of the more recent additions in Athens’ cultural life, following years lost to red tape, administrative issues, lack of government funding, and delays in the renovation of its intended permanent home, the National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens (EMST) was finally opened to the public in February 2020. It is now permanently located at the historic building of the former FIX brewery, and it was worth the wait.
”Countryside, The Future was an exhibition addressing urgent environmental, political, and socioeconomic issues through the lens of architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas and Samir Bantal, Director of AMO, the think tank of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA).
A unique exhibition for the Guggenheim Museum, Countryside, The Future explored radical changes in the rural, remote, and wild territories collectively identified as “countryside,” or the 98% of the Earth’s surface not occupied by cities, with a full rotunda installation premised on original research. The project presented investigations by AMO, Koolhaas, with students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design; the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing; Wageningen University, Netherlands; and the University of Nairobi. The exhibition examined the modern conception of leisure, large-scale planning by political forces, climate change, migration, human and nonhuman ecosystems, market-driven preservation, artificial and organic coexistence, and other forms of radical experimentation that are altering landscapes across the world.” [source]
It would be our last pre-Covid-19 exhibition, and the last outing in a crowed place. On that same day, March 7th 2020, the then NY Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency. One day later, on March 8th, NYC issued guidelines to avoid densely packed buses, subways, and trains.
Inheritance, by Tawny Chatmon (American, b. 1979), invites the viewer to look beyond the decorated and nuanced portraits to examine issues of race and the historical positioning of African American portraiture in the absence of subjugation of the “black body” in Western art.
Chatmon, a mother of three black children, draws from her life experiences and belief that children inherit our memories, beliefs, traditions, and the world that we leave behind. Through her photographs, she conveys a message to her children, and to all black children, that they are precious, valued, and loved.
While the camera is her primary tool of communication, Chatmon takes a multi-layered approach in producing her photographs—her process does not subscribe to conventional photography. The photographs are often manipulated and hand-embellished with acrylic paint and 24-karat gold leaf, inspired by Gustav Klimt’s (1862-1918) “Golden Phase.” The use of gold and ornamentation in Klimt’s work evokes feelings of grace, magnificence, and beauty within Chatmon and has remained in the artist’s consciousness. These are the emotions Chatmon seeks to convey to those viewing her photographs. Her portraits are staged vignettes with models, who at times are her own children wearing elegant garments. Chatmon experiments with various art practices and does not restrict herself to follow any set of rules, allowing her to create instinctually and fluidly. The result is a beautiful and powerful iconography that speaks to “the disparities that continue to affect black people around the world.” [source]
This work, part of the James Michener Museum collection, was created to honour Holocaust survivors and those who risked their lives to protect them from the Nazis during WWII. In all honesty, I didn’t mind the ephemeral intervention (by an unknown ‘artist’) – on the contrary, I thought it was harmless, and quite endearing.
Dating from Toulouse-Lautrec’s student days, this parody of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes’s The Sacred Grove mimics the style and subject of that allegorical composition celebrating the arts and muses but subverts the serious tone. A clockface appears on the ancient portico, a giant tube of paint is held aloft by one of the arts, and a circular loaf of bread, instead of a laurel crown, is held by the kneeling youth. The men advancing from the right are Louis Anquetin, a fellow student; Édouard Dujardin, Symbolist critic and founder of the Revue Wagnérienne; Maurice Barrès, Symbolist author; and Léon Bonnat, Lautrec’s first teacher. Lautrec himself is seen from behind, urinating on the ground, and a police officer tries to keep the intruders in line. [source]
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec The Sacred Grove, 1884 Oil on canvas
The painting portrays the four evangelists with their symbols: Matthew with the angel, Mark with the lion, Luke with the ox, and John with the eagle, receiving the divine inspiration to compose their gospels.
All well and good, but what about that poor lion silently begging to be rescued…?
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