The Power of Beauty

Imagine visiting Rome and coming back home with a micromosaic tabletop as a souvenir; being sister, wife, and mother to three different emperors; or an average woman going about her daily handwork with a ”globustisch” as your workstation.

Nothing average about the objects.

Micromosaic Tabletop with Nine Views of Rome, ca. 1830-1850
Glass tesserae with marble, lapis lazuli and malachite

Marble tables with elaborate decorations of inlaid precious stones and micro-mosaic pictures were among the most prized souvenirs available to 19th-century tourists. This table-top features nine vignettes of Rome’s chief attractions: the Pantheon, Tomb of Cecilia Metella, Temple of Vesta, Forum, Coliseum, Arch of Titus, Castel Sant’Angelo, and Capitoline Hill, with St. Peter’s Basilica in the center. 

Each micro-mosaic vignette is composed of remarkably thin rods of brightly colored glass (smalti filati) cut into tiny pieces (tesserae), and arranged with as many as 1,400 tesserae per inch. Greek patterns and borders of malachite and lapis lazuli complete the composition. This table top was probably made in the mosaic studio at St. Peter’s Basilica, which had been in operation since the late 16th century. Tourists would purchase the table top in Italy, then commission a local furniture-maker to construct an appropriate base after returning from their travels.

Portrait of Agrippina the Younger, ca. 40 CE
Marble (from Paros) heaed, 18th-century coloured marble bust

Agrippina the Younger (AD 15 – 59) was a powerful woman: the sister, wife, and mother to three different emperors. According to ancient authors, Agrippina’s brother Caligula sent her into exile for involvement in a conspiracy in AD 39. Her uncle Claudius recalled her from banishment and married her in AD 49. Agrippina is said to have poisoned Claudius so that her son Nero might become emperor. The empress ruled in Nero’s name while he was young, but he eventually turned against her, ordering assassins to murder her. While Agrippina is said to have written an autobiography, it has not survived. Her portraits provide the only remaining clues as to how she wished to be represented during her lifetime. These depict her with a slightly protruding upper lip and chin that are reminiscent of Caligula’s portraits. Of the RISD version, only the head is ancient.

Globe Table (Globustisch), 1810-1820
Mahogany, burl mahogany, oak, ebony and boxwood with brass, mirror, ivory, mother of pearl, pewter, tortoiseshell, painted faux tortoiseshell, engravings and velvet

Fashioned from a profusion of costly materials, this table spotlights the virtuosic skills of its makers. Designed to provide a space for sewing and other handwork, the upper half of the burled mahogany globe rotates into the lower half to reveal ivory bobbins and compartments for materials.

Neoclassical style is seen in the three curved legs topped with ram heads, as well as the interior replica of a Greek temple with a geometric inlaid floor. Engravings of the Roman goddesses Minerva and Flora flank the mirrored back, reflecting the owner’s education and appreciation of the ancient world.

RISD Museum, Providence, RI

November 23rd, 2018

Niobe’s Hubris

Fragmentary Sarcophagus front and lid depicting the slaughter of the Niobids
end of the 2nd century CE
Marble (from Luna, modern Carrara, Italy)

Only the fronts of this sarcophagus’s lid and chest survive; together they show the slaughter of Niobe’s children by the gods Apollo and Diana (the Greek Apollo and Artemis). Niobe, a mortal woman with fourteen children, demanded more honor than Leto, mother of the two deities. To punish Niobe’s pride (hubris), Apollo and Diana killed all of her children.

On the lid of the sarcophagus, Apollo stands at left and Diana at right, both taking aim at the persons portrayed in the scene below. Between them are Olympian deities, including the central figure of Zeus, king of the gods. To the left of Zeus, Athena stands with Apollo and Diana, depicted as children. On either end of the relief is a bearded male head with an open mouth and wings in his hair. The heads may be personifications of the winds, but their meaning remains unclear.

On the chest, Niobe’s dying children gaze up at the vengeful gods. Older figures support the fallen children, including their father, Amphion, on the left. Presumably, the missing portion on the right showed Niobe herself. The myth was popular from the classical age of Greece to the end of the Roman Empire.

RISD Museum, Providence, RI

November 23rd, 2018

Portland Museum of Art || Noguchi

Beyond the Pedestal: Isamu Noguchi and the Borders of Sculpture investigates Noguchi’s expansive artistic practice by exploring his efforts to enlarge and challenge conventional notions of sculptural boundaries.”Portland Museum of Art

This retrospective turned out to be our best chance to see Noguchi’s work to such an extend; we kept postponing a visit to the Noguchi Museum in New York, and now it is temporarily closed – as every Museum in the City, with no re-opening date announced yet.

Portland, ME

November 21st, 2018

The most eclectic way to warm up

Enter the Portland Museum of Art

Untitled (Hooking Buck Head Down), 2013
Marc Swanson (U.S., b. 1969)
Polyurethane foam, crystals, adhesive


Leopard, 19th century
Glazed earthenware


Candlesticks, ca. 1880
Bronze, marble, gilding
Unidentified Artist


Summer, 1927
Bronze
John Clements Gregory (U.S. (born England), 1879-1958)


Left Hand, 2007
Oil on linen
Jenny Holzer (U.S., b. 1950)


Frisbee, 1987
Oil on canvas
Will Barnet (U.S., 1911-2012)


Black Cat on Orange Background, 1958-59
Oil on masonite
Alex Katz (U.S., b. 1927)


Two Female Models Sitting with Legs Crossed and Kazak Rug, 2013
Oil on canvas
Philip Pearlstein (U.S., b. 1924)


Slab City Road, 1959
Oil on linen
Alex Katz (U.S., b. 1927)


Mother and Child, 1922
Mahogany
William Zorach (U.S. (born Lithuania), 1889-1966)


Diana of the Sea, 1940
Oil on canvas
Marguerite Thompson Zorach


A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2016
Ink on latex saturated cellulose
Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (U.S., 1955-2017; U.S., established 1984)


New York-Paris No.2, 1931
Oil on canvas
Stuart Davis (U.S., 1892-1964)


Mrs. Henry St. John Smith (Ellen Archer Eveleth Smith), 1883
Oil on canvas
John Singer Sargent (U.S. (born Italy), 1856-1925


Dancer and Gazelles, 1912
Bronze
Paul Manship (U.S., 1885-1966)


Sideboard, ca. 1795-1800
Mahogany and other woods
John and Thomas Seymour (U.S. (born England), 1738-1818 & 1771-1849)

Portraits of Sally Stevens Lord and James Lord, ca. 1834
Oil on canvas
Attributed to Royal Brewster Smith (U.S., 1801-1855)


Eleanor Foster, 1755
Oil on canvas
Joseph Badger (U.S., 1708-1765)


The Dead Pearl Diver, 1858
Marble
Benjamin Paul Akers (U.S., 1825-1861)


Portland, ME

November 21st, 2018

The Little Water Girl

”Precious”

”When the renovations to the Portland Public Library were newly completed, I noticed an elderly woman standing in the foyer quietly contemplating the Little Water Girl sculpture, and as I passed by the woman, I heard her whisper the word “precious” to herself.  I’m rather fond of the piece myself, so I glanced over caught the woman’s eye and gave her a little smile. She brightened up, took a step towards me, and began to say something, as if she had to tell someone what she was feeling, but instead she just laid her hand on my arm and sighed, as if whatever she said just wouldn’t be enough.”

 Portland author Cliff Gallant 

Bronze on a granite base
Artists: George E. Wade, sculptor; Frederick A. Thompson, designer of granite base
Donated in 1917 by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)

Portland Public Library

Portland, ME

November 19th, 2018

RoundAbout

A cabinet of curiosities in a MAD gallery.Dorian Zachai (United States, 1932-2015)
Lady Performing, 1971
Wool, rayon, silk, metallic lace, Dacron stuffing, wire and feathers


Dorian Zachai (United States, 1932-2015)
Allegory of Three Men, 1962-65
Wool, silk, rayon, wood, cotton, ceramic, metallic threads and Dacron stuffing


El Anatsui (Ghana, b. 1944)
Soleme, 2005
Aluminum liquor bottle caps and copper wire


David R. Harper (Canada, b. 1984)
Encyclopedia of the Familiar, 2015
Polyurethane, cowhide, linen, cotton embroidery floss, steel, synthetic hair, horsehair, epoxy clay and enamel

Combining David R. Harper’s primary working methods of sculpture and embroidery, Encyclopedia of the Familiar is a large-scale sculpture of a cross-sectioned horse, populated with a graphic, ordered collage of embroidered images from or in reference to medical texts and mathematical treatises.


Leonardo Benzant (United States, b. 1972)
The Chameleon’s Journey: Galveston, 2017
Textiles, string, monofilament, leather, acrylic, gel medium, glass seed beads and miscellaneous

Benzant creates his sculptures through a slow and labour-intensive ritualistic process, rolling and sewing fabric into tubular forms, wrapping them with string and strands of glass beads, and adding paint, glitter and other elements or ornament to entwine history, memory and imagination. These signature forms, while abstract, resemble chromosomes and roots, visually conveying his ties to an ancestral lineage. As a practitioner of the Yoruba faith, Benzant uses glass beads based on the eleke necklaces worn by practitioners during ceremonies for their symbolic spiritual power.


Ibrahim Said (Egypt, b. 1976)
Devotion, 2018
White earthenware and glaze

Said’s work represents a marriage between ancient and contemporary Egypt, where most of the population is Muslim. Devotion is an abstraction of two birds in flight, based on the ancient Egyptian deity Horus, traditionally depicted as a falcon.


Annie Evelyn (United States, b. 1976)
Nest, 2017
Vintage jewelry findings, leather and foam


Sterling Ruby (Germany, b. 1972)
Basin Theolody/The Pipe, 2018 & Basin Theology/Pentedrone, 2014

Sterling Ruby: Ceramics, was the first museum exhibition to focus on the ceramic works of the Los Angeles-based artist.

Museum of Arts and Design

November 11th, 2018

Bruce Sargeant (1898-1938): The Lost Murals

@ClampArt Gallery, curated by New York artist Mark Beard (Bruce Sargeant’s great nephew).

”Mark Beard has devoted more than two decades of his life to researching and collecting the work of Bruce Sargeant, a painter who largely concentrated on the idealization and celebration of the male form.” […]

”The Lost Murals brings together large-scale canvases that were known to exist but hidden from public view for over half a century. After years of meticulous research, Beard located the murals and painstakingly arranged for their return from a number of locations around the globe. In the murals, Beard’s great-uncle portrays his favorite subject: muscular young men at the peak of form and athletic prowess.” – Source & more: ClampArt

November 10th, 2018

Out of the Box

15 untitled works in concrete, 1980–1984

“The fifteen concrete works by Donald Judd that run along the border of Chinati’s property were the first works to be installed at the museum and were cast and assembled on the site over a four-year period, from 1980 through 1984. The individual units that comprise each work have the same measurements of 2.5 x 2.5 x 5 meters, and are made from concrete slabs that are each 25 centimeters thick. Funding for the project was provided by the Dia Art Foundation.”

Are they only fifteen…? One loses count after the first pair or three… It took us an hour to complete the walk; looking back, they stretch as far as the eye can see. And, despite their, well… concreteness, they seem lightweight, blending into the landscape as if they sprouted from the earth, growing organically, effortlessly, in their own time. Nowhere does there seem to be so fitting a place for these squares than here – Judd knew exactly what he was doing.

The Arena, 1980–1987

“The Arena was built in the 1930s as a gymnasium for the soldiers at Fort D.A. Russell. After the fort closed in 1946, the gym floor was torn up for the wood, and sand was laid to provide an indoor arena for horses. In the mid-1980s, Judd restored the building, which was largely dilapidated. Judd left the long strips of concrete that had originally supported the wooden floor, and filled the intervening spaces with gravel. For practical considerations, Judd poured a large concrete area by the kitchen at the south end, and a smaller area at the north end of the building’s interior. These two areas comprise half of the total area of the building. Judd also added a sleeping loft and designed the outer courtyard, which includes areas for eating, bathing, and a barbecue.”↓↓

Robert Irwin
untitled (dawn to dusk), 2016

“In July 2016, the Chinati Foundation opened a new large-scale artwork by Robert Irwin. It is the only permanent, freestanding structure conceived and designed by Irwin as a total work of art.

Irwin had been developing and refining a design for the long-abandoned former army hospital site since 1999. Situated adjacent to the museum’s campus, the site was a C-shaped concrete structure, lined on all sides with a long sequence of windows that surrounded a central courtyard.

The building is formally divided in half, with one side dark, the other light. Inside, transparent scrim walls are stretched taut from floor to ceiling in black or white respectively, bisecting each long wing and capturing the always-changing natural light. The connecting corridor has a progression of scrim walls that sequentially cross and fill the space, with an enfilade of doors for passage.”↓↓

It has been one of the most rewarding, unforgettable ”museum walks” we could have ever hoped for. Not the most comfortable perhaps, as a large part of it involves field walking, with rattlesnakes and cacti being an integral part of the ecosystem, extra-ordinary nonetheless.

**

Dress appropriately: boots, long thick trousers and long sleeves will do the trick.
Beware of what you don’t see: some cacti have two kinds of thorns, those you see and can avoid touching but also those tiny, hair-like, invisible ones called glochids that will stick to your skin even if you don’t touch the cacti and will sting and itch for days. Worse yet, they will stick to the fabric of whatever you happen to be wearing and will only go away after a couple of machine washes.

The Chinati Foundation – Marfa, TX

October 7th, 2018