Monday, September 18, 2017

MODIGLIANI UNMASKED: Review By Polly Guerin

Paris, France, the unprecedented melting pot of the avant garde artists, welcomed the handsome Italian Sephardic Jew, Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (1884-1920), who would become renowned as a celebrated artist and sculptor. With a penchant for elongated figures and prominent noses he asserted his Jewish sensibilities and pictorial ideas through drawing and sculpture.  Image: Left to Right: LIMESTONE HEAD by Amedeo Modigliani's 1911-13.Image provided by Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation/Art Resource, New York. KNEELING CARYATID, 1911-12, Black crayon on paper. Paul Alexandre Family, courtesy of Richard Nathanson, London. JEANNE HEBUTERNE with Yellow Sweater, 1918-19, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Jeanne Hebuterne met the artist through her brother, Andre Hebuterne who had come to Paris to become an artist. Shortly after Jeanne was introduced to Modigliani she moved in with him against her family's wishes. Their union was recognized as a common law marriage and they had one child, Jeanne Modigliani. Life with Modigliani must have been had. He became an alcoholic and drug  addict probably due to mask his tuberculosis from his acquaintances. In France in the 1900s there was no cure and it was a horrible disease and those afflicted with it were ostracized. After Amedeo's death in 1920, the next day in despair Jeanne Hebuterne threw herself out of the family's 5th floor apartment building and died on impact. It is interesting to note that, in her short lifetime, Jeanne had become quite an accomplished artist and achieved recognition in art circles worldwide, along with her famous partner.       

When Modigliani arrived in Paris in 1906, the city was still rolling with anti-Semitism after the long-running tumult of the Dreyfus Affair, an 1895 scandal in which a French Jewish army officer had been falsely accused of treason, resulting in a surge of nationalism and he influx of foreign emigres, who re-settled within the nation's borders. In Paris, he chose to settle in Le Bateau Lavoie, a commune for penniless artists in Montmartre. With his cosmopolitanism and his fluent French he could easily have passed as gentile. He chose instead to use his work to question the very notion of identity.  As a result his oeuvre was exclusively figurative, in itself an eccentric choice with the experimental artistic milieu of Paris at the time.    
       This was a period of remarkable self-assertion for the artist, an Italian Sephardic Jew, within the community of predominantly Jewish immigrant artists to which he belonged, including Marc Chagall, Chaim Soutine and Jules Pascin. There in Paris, he also came in contact with other prominent artists including Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brancusi, and others. 
       When Modigliani moved to Paris, he came up against the idea of racial purity in French culture, whilst in Italy, he did not feel ostracized for being Jewish.  His Latin looks and fluency in French (a French mother and classical education)  he could have easily have assimilated. Instead his outsider status often compelled him to introduce himself with the words, "My name is Modigliani, I am Jewish."
Yet he found Paris unexpectedly difficult, suffering as he did recurrent bouts of tuberculosis and struggling financially--partly because he refused to take a job or seek commissions.  Modigliani was drawn to social outsiders, such as cabaret and circus performers, and to the image of the femme fatale, characteristic of one of his first exhibited paintings in Paris, The Jewess.  Image: Portrait of Paulette Jourdain, 1919)
       MODIGLIANI UNMASKED, is the first exhibition in the United states to focus on Modigliani's early works made in the years after he arrived in Paris. The exhibition on view at the Jewish Museum through February 4, 2018 puts a spotlight on Modigliani's drawings, with a large selection acquired directly from the artist by Dr. Paul Alexandre, a young physician, who became his close friend and first patron.  Alexandre amassed some 450 drawings directly from the artist and commissioned a number of portraits.  
       The exhibition includes a selection of drawings depicting Dr. Alexandre, as well as a mysterious, unfinished portrait, never before seen in the United States. Prominent in the collection are the stylized drawings relates to sculptures.  The influence of masks in particular is clearly visible in the many drawings and sculptures in the exhibition, which offers insights into Modigliani's signature style of graceful, elongated figures that were not well received during his lifetime. However, after his death he achieved greater popularity and his works of art achieved high prices. Seen within he scope of his brief fourteen-year career, his early work provides a context in which to reconsider what may have motivated Modigliani to develop his idiosyncratic
style of portraiture. He died of tubercular meningitis, life cut short at 35. 
    Ta Ta Darlings!!! Modigliani's short life reminds us to remember to make every day count and create in measure.  Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's posted Blogs at www.pollytalk.com. Click in the left-hand column to links to visionary men, women determined to succeed, fashion and even poetry. 
       

Monday, September 11, 2017

ARTURO'S: Authentic Mainstay on West Houston Street: Review By Polly Guerin

In a city gone so modern that mom and pop and small specialty stores have disappeared, it is important to celebrate the importance of the locally owned old world businesses that foster character, loyalty, genuine caring and investment in the neighborhood. 
     As the old Italian neighborhoods rapidly changed, gentrified and were denuded of their colorful past, the restaurant ARTURO's, famed for its coal oven pizza since 1957, remains a steadfast slice of history with honest drinks and reasonable prices. It's one of those grand old New York spots that makes us feel at home. That may be he result of a warm welcome in this family-owned establishment that was started by their father Arthur, who borrowed $3,000, a tidy sum in those days, and engaged family members to help out.  Arturo's is now run by siblings with Lisa Giunta at the helm and others steering the restaurant forward as a mainstay in this ever changing neighborhood.
      However, this establishment is more than just a pizza place, it is authentic with old world charm. Hints of the influence from the old Italian neighborhoods of New York City, traditions long forgotten are kept intact at 106 West Houston Street. The walls with memorabilia and lots of photographs attest to the historical significance of the place, which is cozy but vibrantly alive.    
     JAZZ No Cover: Enter its portals into a dimly lit bar area where weathered leatherette booths in the entrance dining room are the preferred site to listen to the lively jazz band that plays nightly and there is no cover charge.   

     Here one can be assured to enjoy honest drinks and genuine food from the full Italian menu. Red sauce standards include parmigiana with veal or eggplant, and traditional pasta dishes such as shrimp marinara, and delectable mussels over biscuits,  Of course, regulars arrive consistently and new customers are lured by the crispy crusted pizzas, too big for one, but perfect for two hungry friends. Toppings on pizzas include Italian sausage, pepperoni, spinach, lobster, calamari and always fresh basil. Sidewalk seating is delightful in good weather but you will be disappointed because you cannot hear the jazz music that is played nightly.   

Arturo's can attest to knowing customers since they were children growing up with the kind of surroundings their mother trusted.  Although, Friday is big pizza day, everyday is a reason to head downtown to Arturo's where everyone is welcomed with open arms like family. Reservations are not necessary but large groups should call 212.677.3820.
    Ta Ta Darlings!!!   I had the mussels over biscuits, delicious!!! Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com.  Visit Polly's Blogs at www.pollytalk.com with links in the left had column to visionary men, women determined to succeed, fashion and poetry.