Returning to NYC after a prolonged absence, I was dazzled by the vitality of current museum and gallery shows. Here are a few of the treasures autumn has unveiled.
The Whitney has three terrific shows, all with a West Coast accent. Henry Taylor, the Los Angeles-based realist painter, is the subject of a comprehensive retrospective survey. From his early works’ political homages to dozens of his jazzy and emotionally accessible paintings, Taylor’s loose brushwork is imbued with cool compassion. His portraits present a vibrant history of Black American life.
Early pencil drawings from the artist’s time as a psychiatrist technician perhaps lay the framework for his masterful portraiture. Loosely grouped by theme, viewers see familiar icons like the Obamas, Jay Z, and even local literary legend Steve Cannon from the Lower East Side. An installation based on the Black Panthers is a homage to the artist’s brother, Randy, active in the Ventura branch. Black berets and leather jackets, an unofficial Panthers uniform of 2022’s “Untitled”, are displayed alongside activist and quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s football jersey, connecting racial injustices both past and present.
Underground legend and polymath Harry Smith was a pioneering filmmaker, artist, musician, poet and avowed anthropologistHarry Smith was an urban polymath; born in in1923, Smith was a significant transgressive influence in film, art, music, folklore and metaphysics. I was especially dazzled by his early films, as psychedelic as any digital creations but created in the late forties. A true iconoclast, Smith was treasured by the bohemian cultural world, and this show will garner much-deserved attention and a far wider audience than he achieved in his lifetime. The fabulous Ruth Asawa show will be covered in the next post.
Herstory The New Museum premiers the first major New York survey show dedicated to the amazing Judy Chicago, best known for her legendary “Dinner Party.” Created in 1974-79, the monumental and collaborative installation heralds iconic women and is now permanently exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum. The retrospective of the artist and activist’s sixty-year career includes paintings, sculpture, installation, drawings, textiles, photographs, stained glass, printmaking and needlework. From her minimalist beginnings in 1965 to her current 2020 textile banners, Chicago has been a potent and visionary figure in
feminist and American art. She is a cultural historian who has influenced contemporary culture with her explorations of social justice and creative collaboration. Her artistic investigations have tackled masculinity, birth, Judaism, feminist theory and environmentalism.
Incredibly wonderful is the “introspective” show Chicago herself curated,” City of Ladies.” Over 80 female artists and thinkers are featured, with works from Artemisia Gentileschi to Leonora Carrington, Barbara Hepworth, Djuna Barnes, Romaine Brooks, and even fragments of Emily Dickinson’s handwritten poems. Chicago recently said, “My life’s goal has been a contribution to change.” “Herstory” embodies the success of Judy Chicago’s accomplishments.
The summer of 1905 was a collaborative period of creativity when Matisse invited the younger Derain to join him in a small fishing village, Collioure, for the summer. Inspired by the radiant Meditterean light, the two artists energized painting with their experimental use of pure colour and free brushstroke. That summer of creative collaboration fueled the growth of Fauvism.
Loosely brushed gorgeous landscapes reveal Fauvistic origins. Portraits include those that both artists created of each other. Derain’s portrait of Matisse is a particularly bravura image, with a beard blocked with orange, highlighted by a pipe rendered in bold crimson. Both artists benefited from Amelie Matisse, the artist’s wife, who posed tirelessly throughout the summer for both artists.
The paintings, drawings and watercolours create a conversation echoing a fantastic creative partnership, the traces of which energize the later works of two monumental artists.
Incandescent day glo bronze lightning bolts, balanced by an obtuse concrete cloud, bring a perfect storm to the Chelsea gallery. Rondinone, who often uses nature as inspiration, has previously explored the sun, mountains, forest, trees, animals, and birds in his multimedia practice.
His expansive vision salutes the unpredictable power of a thunderstorm. The three monumental chrome-yellow bronze sculptures share an unnerving linear silhouette, recalling the angular undulations of upturned and barren tree roots and branches. Directly beneath a skylight, the bolts capture the momentary magnificence of an electrified sky. Balancing the energy, a solo cement cloud forewarns a developing storm. Long inspired by the German romanticist Caspar David Friedrich, Rondinone writes enigmatic one-line poems, which he posts on social media. Bright Light Shining personifies that same poetic vision, translating a thunderstorm into art.
Concurrently with Ugo’s Chelsea show, he has curated “Lunch Poems” at Jose Martos Gallery. Using poet Frank O’Hara’s famous book as inspiration, he presents three visionary homages to his adopted city. Martha Diamond’s iconic paintings depict the city with expressionistic power. Now represented by Kordansky Gallery, Diamond has long been known as a painter’s painter. Jorge Pardo’s colour-infused light constructions transmute the boundaries of design, sculpture and painting, reminiscent of Broadway brilliance. Finally, Rondinone uses faux concrete to present an interior and exterior homage to street corners, from downtown to Harlem.
Lunch Poems at Martos Gallery: Martha Diamond, Jose Pardo, Ugo Rondinone Curated by Rondinone until Oct.2
Bunnies, butterflies, flowers and tropical birds are on kaleidoscopic display in the artist’s current show. A master of depicting flora and fauna, Slonem’s work has reached the World Trade Center, museums worldwide and collectors ranging from politicians to Hollywood. The artist’s distinctive technique and palette, perhaps inspired by his adolescence in Central America, captures nature with brilliant Neo-expressionist verve. Meticulous cross-hatched lines shine with incandescent luminosity.
Whether depicting the vibrant splendour of one of his pet parrots or the petal perfection of a tulip, Slonem’s opulent meditations celebrate the natural world.
Spirit in Nature Hunt Slonem at Richard Tarrington until Nov 5
London designer and artist EJF Barnes debuts his new work, including glassware, textiles, lighting and furniture. Presented in the magnificent parlour of a 19th-century townhouse, the clean modern esthetic of these beautifully crafted pieces echo postmodernism, Biedermeier and art deco.
The Bolt Section Dining Chair is as gorgeous as a Judd sculpture in either aluminium birch or mahogany veneer. The best part about Bolt is that it is as comfortable as it is gravity-defying, as was the Grizzly armchair, with its abundant curves and hide hair upholstery. Both Scully and Barnes combine to present an exciting evolution of contemporary design.