Head Hunters

Outside the MFA.

“Over the past several decades, Antonio Lopez Garcia has become known as the finest Spanish painter of his generation. His intensely realistic paintings-ranging in subject from grimy bathroom sinks to expansive Madrid cityscapes-often take him years of meticulous work to complete. These sculptures, and several other recent works by Lopez, were inspired by the birth of his grandchildren. When his second grandchild, Carmen, was a few months old, Lopez began modeling two portraits of her head, one depicting her awake and the other asleep.”
Source: CultureNOW

The full sculpture of the Hunter, however, depicts him hunting a antelope – not heads!

“Paul Manship designed Indian and Pronghorn Antelope to span the length of the mantelpiece in his New York City apartment. He expertly used the negative space created by the separation of the hunter and his prey to capture the drama of the hunt. The work represents a compromise between historical artistic traditions and modern tendencies toward abstraction: the smooth planes and stylized renderings recall ancient Greek statues, while the arresting linear design and suggestion of movement reflect Manship’s own innovations. Small-scale statuettes such as these were popular for interior decoration, and Manship’s style was immediately accepted by the public.” Source: Art Institute Chicago

While this particular cast adorns the Fenway entrance lawn of the Museum of Fine Arts, a quick search on line shows a number of others being in permanent collections of various museums in America, such as The Met in New York, Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha Nebraska, Buffalo Center of the West Wyoming, The Art Institute of Chicago, Detroit Institute of Arts.

Antonio López García
Day & Night, 2008
Bronze

Paul Manship
Indian Hunter, 1917, this cast 2002
Bronze

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

May 2nd, 2017

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie (Blessed are your dreams, my Child)

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night – [Verses from a Welsh lullaby translated into English]Hans Memling
Christ Blessing, 1481
Oil on panel


Bed 
England (London), ca. 1800-10
Oak and pine veneered with mahogany, ebonized pine, patinated bronze, gilded metal, modern upholstery This bed is among the most original pieces of English Regency furniture. Dominant in English interiors from about 1800 to 1830, the Regency style perpetuated the classical taste of the late 18th century but was more academic and archaeologically correct. This bed closely resembles furnishings designed by Thomas Hope – collector, connoisseur and a pivotal figure in the classical revival of Regency England- for one of his residences. Its architectural form and bronze mounts derive from ancient and Renaissance models. The greyhounds, however, are inspired by medieval tomb sculpture and exemplify the more romantic interpretation of historical sources characteristic of Hope’s influential furniture designs. The bed may have been used for resting – a day bed – or for sleeping. 

Sweet (day)dreams from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

May 2nd, 2017

I am the Eye in the Sky @ MoMA [permanent collection, part 7]

«…Looking at You
I can read Your Mind
I am the maker of rules
Dealing with fools
I can cheat you blind…»

The False Mirror, 1929. Oil on canvas || René Magritte

<<”Le Faux Miroir” presents an enormous lashless eye with a luminous cloud-swept blue sky filling the iris and an opaque, dead-black disc for a pupil. The allusive title, provided by the Belgian Surrealist writer Paul Nougé, seems to insinuate limits to the authority of optical vision: a mirror provides a mechanical reflection, but the eye is selective and subjective. Magritte’s single eye functions on multiple enigmatic levels: the viewer both looks through it, as through a window, and is looked at by it, thus seeing and being seen simultaneously. The Surrealist photographer Man Ray, who owned the work from 1933 to 1936, recognized this compelling duality when he memorably described ‘”Le Faux Miroir” as a painting that “sees as much as it itself is seen.”>>

MoMA, views from the permanent collection.

January 30th, 2017

A touch of Americana @ MoMA [permanent collection, part 6]

Speaking of American friends ~ since Labor Day was very inappropriately coupled with two very European artists, today we will appropriately balance it out with some quintessentially American art.

A vibrant painting where the artist is exploring his African-American roots:

Three Girls, 1941. Oil and pencil on wood panel || William H. Johnson

When the eye has to wander away from the target, and one begins to wonder which the real target be:

Target with Four Faces, 1955. Encaustic on newspaper and cloth over canvas surmounted by four tinted-plaster faces in wood box with hinged front || Jasper Johns

<<In the mid-1950s Johns incorporated symbols such as numbers, flags, maps, and targets into his paintings. Here, he transforms the familiar image of a target into a tangible object by building up the surface with wax encaustic. As a result, the concentric circles have become less precise and more tactile. Above the target Johns has added four cropped and eyeless faces, plaster casts taken from a single model over a period of several months. Their sculptural presence reinforces the objectness of the painting, particularly as the faces may be shut away in their niches behind a hinged wooden door.>>

The power of the thin white line:

The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II, 1959. Enamel on canvas || Frank Stella

<<Stella used commercial black enamel paint and a house painter’s brush to make The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II. The thick black bands are the same width as the paintbrush he used. The thin white lines are not painted; they are gaps between the black bands in which the raw canvas is visible. Stella painted the black bands parallel to each other, and to the canvas’s edges, rejecting expressive brushstrokes in favor of an overall structure that recognized the canvas as both a flat surface and a three-dimensional object.

Stella identified his materials and process with those of a factory laborer. About his manner of painting, Stella famously said, “My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there… What you see is what you see.” Instead of painting something recognizable, Stella’s painting is about the act of painting, and its result.>>

Is this a flag or a painting?

Flag, 1954-55 (dated 1954 on reverse). Encaustic, oil and collage on fabric mounted on plywood, three panels || Jasper Johns

<<“One night I dreamed that I painted a large American flag,” Johns has said of this work, “and the next morning I got up and I went out and bought the materials to begin it.” Those materials included three canvases that he mounted on plywood, strips of newspaper, and encaustic paint—a mixture of pigment and molten wax that has formed a surface of lumps and smears. The newspaper scraps visible beneath the stripes and forty-eight stars lend this icon historical specificity. The American flag is something “the mind already knows,” Johns has said, but its execution complicates the representation and invites close inspection. A critic of the time encapsulated this painting’s ambivalence, asking, “Is this a flag or a painting?”>>

MoMA, views from the permanent collection.

January 30th, 2017

Keep calm and enjoy… @ MoMA [permanent collection, part 5]

Lay back, relax, let go, dream. Let your fantasy guide you to places unknown. This Day is for You.

Happy Labor Day!

(exceptionally dropping the ”u” in honor of my American friends [Labour Day in Europe is celebrated on May 1st – May Day])

Reclining Nude, c. 1919. Oil on canvas || Amedeo Modigliani
The Anxious Journey, 1913. Oil on canvas || Giorgio de Chirico

 

MoMA, views from the permanent collection.

January 30th, 2017

Wait, is that a Rothko…? @ MoMA [permanent collection, part 4]

How subtle and feather-light, how wonderfully surreal, how utterly refreshing from his later work where drawing gave way, drowned under thick layers of colour.

Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea, 1944. Oil on canvas || Mark Rothko

<<”Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea” pictures two creatures dancing between sea and sky, surrounded by arabesques, spirals, and stripes. The forms ”have no direct association with any particular visible experience, but in them one recognizes the principle and passion of organisms,” Rothko said. For him art was ”an adventure into an unknown world”; like the Surrealists before him, Rothko looked inward, to his own unconscious mind, for inspiration and material for his work.>>

MoMA, views from the permanent collection.

January 30th, 2017

 

Furry Encounters of the Surreal Kind @ MoMA [permanent collection, part 3]

By Meret Oppenheim.

Another perfectly unusable, utterly memorable object. Because one can always trust the Swiss to strike a balance between the simplicity of Surrealism and the surreal Simplicity.

Object, 1936. Fur-covered cup, saucer and spoon || Meret Oppenheim

<<It began with a joke over lunch. In 1936, Meret Oppenheim was at a Paris café with Dora Maar and Pablo Picasso, who noticed the fur-lined, polished metal bracelet she was wearing and joked that anything could be covered with fur. “Even this cup and saucer,” Oppenheim replied and, carrying the merriment further, called out, “Waiter, a little more fur!” Her devilish imagination duly sparked, the artist went to a department store not long after this meal, bought a white teacup, saucer, and spoon, wrapped them in the speckled tan fur of a Chinese gazelle, and titled this ensemble Object. In doing so, she transformed items traditionally associated with decorum and feminine refinement into a confounding Surrealist sculpture. Object exemplifies the poet and founder of Surrealism André Breton’s argument that mundane things presented in unexpected ways had the power to challenge reason, to urge the inhibited and uninitiated (that is, the rest of society) to connect to their subconscious—whether they were ready for it or, more likely, not.>>

MoMA, views from the permanent collection.

January 30th, 2017

Phallucinations and Prickly Sensations @ MoMA… [permanent collection, part 2]

Artistic interventions by Yayoi Kusama and Lucas Samaras on everyday objects rendering them unusable, thereby transforming them into memorable works of art.

Accumulation No. 1, 1962. Sewn stuffed fabric, paint and chair fringe || Yayoi Kusama

<<To make ”Accumulation No. 1”, her earliest sculpture, Kusama covered an armchair with stuffed and painted phallic protrusions. She hand-sewed each of these elements, later explaining, ”I make them and make them and keep on making them, until I bury myself in the process. I call this obliteration.” When she first exhibited this work, critics were shocked by the humorous, sexualized transformation of an ordinary domestic object. Since then, over the course of her fifty-year career, Kusama has created ”accumulations” of various materials on furniture, domestic objects, clothing and even room-sized environments.>>

Book 4, 1962. Book with pins, table knife, scissors, razor blade, metal foil, piece of glass and plastic rod || Lucas Samaras

<<”Book 4” is a multifaceted object and a miniature world in itself. Although it includes eight fictional narratives written by the artist and surprises such as pop-ups, pockets, interlocking layers, foldouts and hidden pamphlets, it is not a storybook. Encrusted with needles and shards of glass in addition to brightly coloured beads and pieces of mirror, it is difficult, if not dangerous, to handle – the better, perhaps, to guard the secrets that it might contain.>>

Structure

MoMA, views from the permanent collection.

January 30th, 2017

Meanwhile, back at MoMA… [permanent collection, part 1]

Fascinated as I was with the depth, width and length of Picabia’s work retrospective, you didn’t think I’d leave MoMA without taking a long, refreshing look into the treasures of their permanent collection, did you?

In this series, we will walk through the sleek minimalist galleries, explore highlights, share favourites, be inspired and intrigued by some very stimulating works of art indeed.

Beginning with this charming postman, his suave royal blue uniform in contrast with the dark leaf green backdrop, the swirl of his beard echoed in the wind-swept flowers, the healthy colour of his skin reflected in their petals:

Portrait of Joseph Roulin, 1889. Oil on canvas || Vincent van Gogh

<<This portrait of Joseph Roulin is one of six Van Gogh painted of his close friend, a postal employee in the southern French town of Arles. Van Gogh had moved to Arles in 1888, hoping to create an artists’ cooperative. The plan never came to fruition and Van Gogh became lonely and isolated. He found comfort and companionship with the Roulin family and they are the subjects of many of his paintings. In this portrait, Roulin is depicted in the uniform he always wore, proudly, set against an imaginative backdrop of swirling flowers. In a letter to his brother Theo, the artist wrote that, of all genres, ”the modern portrait” excited him the most: ”I want to paint men and women with that something of the eternal which the halo used to symbolize, and which we try to convey by the actual radiance and vibration of our colouring.”>>

***

Something about the strong, almost geometric lines; the contrasting colours; the warmth and energy; the bright yellow light falling sideways on the bodies and making them glow:

Bathers, 1907. Oil on canvas || André Derain

***

Of all the paintings by Gauguin, this is my favourite one:

Still Life with Three Puppies, 1888. Oil on wood || Paul Gauguin

<<When Gauguin painted ”Still Life with Three Puppies”, he was living in Brittany among a group of experimental painters. He abandoned naturalistic depictions and colours, declaring that ”art is an abstraction” to be derived ”from nature while dreaming before it.” The puppies’ bodies, for example, are outlined in bold blue, and the patterning of their coats mirrors the botanic print of the tablecloth. It is thought that Gauguin drew stylistic inspiration for this painting from children’s book illustrations and from Japanese prints, which were introduced to him by his friend Vincent van Gogh that same year.>>

***

I am captivated by the fine elegance of Picasso’s work during his Blue and Rose periods. Anything beyond that leaves me indifferent:

Nude with Joined Hands, 1906. Oil on canvas || Pablo Picasso

***

Au contraire, all due respect to the real master of Cubism and his hypnotic, geometric perspectives:

Man with a Guitar, 1911-12. Oil on canvas || Georges Braque

***

The dynamism and violence and forces of nature, all in one picture:

The City Rises, 1910. Oil on canvas || Umberto Boccioni

***

And all the sadness of the world, in one body:

Hope II, 1907-08. Oil, gold and platinum on canvas || Gustav Klimt

<<A pregnant woman bows her head and closes her eyes, as if praying for the safety of her child. Peeping out from behind her stomach is a death’s head, sign of the danger she faces. At her feet, three women with bowed heads raise their hands, presumably also in prayer—although their solemnity might also imply mourning, as if they foresaw the child’s fate.>>

***

These Munch-like faces with a neon colour palette:

Street, Dresden – 1908. Oil on canvas || Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

<<At the time he made this painting, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was living in Dresden, a large city in southeast Germany. In a letter to fellow painter Erich Heckel, he wrote of the Dresden crowds, “Completely strange faces pop up as interesting points through the crowd. I am carried along with the current, lacking will. To move becomes an unacceptable effort.” Kirchner heightened the colors of this city scene, depicting the figures with masklike faces and vacant eyes in order to capture the excitement and psychological alienation wrought by modernization.”>>

***

This couple looking bizarrely distant in their two separate worlds, gazing in different directions had me wondering about their pose – until I read the accompanying note:

Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat, 1909. Oil on canvas || Oskar Kokoschka

<<In 1909 the Viennese art historians Hans and Erica Tietze asked 23-year-old Oskar Kokoschka to paint a marriage portrait for their mantelpiece. They were strong supporters of contemporary art in Vienna and together helped organize the Vienna Society for the Advancement of Contemporary Art. Mrs. Tietze recalled that she and her husband were painted individually, a fact suggested by their separate poses and gazes. Kokoschka used thin layers of color to create the hazy atmosphere surrounding the couple, and added a sense of crackling energy by scratching the paint with his fingernails.>>

Extracts from accompanying tags, either on site or on line (under the ”Artists” section)

MoMA, views from the permanent collection.

January 30th, 2017