Monday, February 18, 2019

ONE BASQUIAT: Celebrating Black History Month: Review By Polly Guerin

BLACK HISTORY MONTH, which ends February 28th, reminds us to renew acquaintances with the tormented and talented, but short-lived life of Brooklyn-born artist JEAN-MICHAEL BASQUIAT. (1960-1988). Known for his raw gestural style of painting with graffiti-like images and scrawled text, once said. "I am not a black artist. I am an artist!" 
       The exhibition ONE BASQUIAT at the Brooklyn Museum last year, was the latest link between the artist, JEAN MICHAEL BASQUIAT, and Brooklyn--- from his birth at Brooklyn Hospital to childhood visits to the Brooklyn Museum, where his mother enrolled him as a Junior Member when he was six years old. 
       Basquiat's mother was an American of Puerto Rican descent who early on encouraged Basquiat's interest in art, taking him to new York City's great art museums. Troubled by his early childhood, when his mother was hospitalized, he dropped out of high school and left home at age 17. 
BECOMING BASQUIAT With no source of backing he lived on the streets, with friends, or in abandoned buildings and began a graffiti campaign with graffiti artists Al Diaz and Shannon Dawson. They created the persona Samo(c) on walls and around Soho and the East Village and on the D. train of the New York City subway system. He began to receive notice and emerged in the above ground New York art scene at age 20.        

At that time a resurgence of Expressionist painting was at its zenith and he participated in his first formal exhibition in "The Times Square  Show" (1980). From there his career skyrocketed, and until his death in 1988, he was a celebrity represented in major blue-chip galleries in New York and Germany.       
Yet lacking any formal training, Basquiat created highly expressionistic work that mixed graffiti and signs with the gestural and intuitive approach to Abstract Expressionist painting. Although much of his work addressed his personal angst in high stylized self-portraits, he also alluded to African American historical figures including jazz musicians, sports personalities, and writers. He appropriated and freely mixed motifs from African, Caribbean, Aztec, and Hispanic cultures and mixed "high art" references with images of popular culture, especially cartoons.        
FRIENDS WITH WARHOL In 1983 the young artist was befriended by the Pop artist, Andy Warhol and they began to collaborate occasionally.  Ever on the brink of unprecedented success, Basquiat appeared on the cover of the weekly New York Times Magazine in 1983 as a representative of the contemporary art-marketing trend. Sadly,
his life was short-lived.  Three years later, at age 27, he was found dead in his loft from an overdoes of heroin. The artist and director, Julian Schnabel made Basquiat and his meteoric rise in the art world the subject of his first film. BASQUIAT (1996).   
       Ta Ta Darlings!!!  Sad to note that the artist, so young, so full of promise ended without
trumpet or praise.  Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs on  

Monday, February 11, 2019


FRIDA KAHLO, the celebrated Mexican painter's life was a work of art that reveals a life full of AGONY AND ECSTASY. Like a superstar she became a pop-culture icon, a fashion guru and survivor extraordinaire. She lived in the iconic Casa Azul (Blue House) in Mexico City with her husband, the world renowned muralist Diego Riviera. 
       They were the power couple of the art world but the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, FRIDA KAHLO: APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING, Through May 12, is actually a homage to a woman who continues to fascinate a legion of admirers worldwide. With a plethora of 350 objects, only eleven are paintings. The major portion of the show revolves around jewelry, decor, the native Tehuana cotumes and other traditional dresses, shawls and wraps. 
       We recognize Frida in dozens of self-portraits with her bold uni-brow and light mustache, the flower crown in her hair and the native costumes she preferred wearing as a symbol of her Mexican heritage. As an iconoclastic artist she painstakingly rendered striking, often shocking images that often reflect her pain and turbulent life. Frida''s journey actually began as a self-taught artist and evolved over time with kudos and international recognition.
Traditional Tehuana Dresses
        No matter where she traveled, whether in Paris, New York or her native country Frida fashioned herself elaborately in the Tehuana costumes of Indian maidens, creating an identity that clearly was unique and captivating. She painted using vibrant colors in a style that was influenced by indigenous cultures of Mexico. Frida Kahlo (born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon, July 6, 1907-July 13, 1954) was one of four daughters born to a Hungarian-Jewish father and a mother of Spanish and Mexican Indian descent, in the Mexico City, suburb of Coyoacan. She was born amidst political chaos in her homeland and throughout her life Frida preferred to claim 1910 as the year of her birth which coincided with the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution (1910).
         Some say that Frida adopted the Tehuana form of costume to hide her polio crippled leg and body disfigurement. There may be some truth to it. A polio survivor at fifteen, Frida’s young life was additionally altered due to a tragic accident.
         On the cusp of her youthful dreams, Frida had entered in the premedical program at the National Preparatory School in Mexico City, but that ended when she was gravely injured in a trolley car accident three years later when she was eighteen years old. Despite spending a year in bed and enduring more than 30 operations recovering from fractures of her back, collarbone, ribs and a shattered pelvis, shoulder and neck injuries. The injuries left her broken as a youth and debilitated throughout much of her adult life. She suffered a life of constant pain and often had to wear a body brace to support her weakened condition.
The Love Embrace of the Universe
      One wonders what Frida could do to while away the dreary hours of recovery. It was during this year of convalescence that Frida began to paint with oils. Her paintings were mostly still life studies  and self portraits filled with the bright colors of Mexico’s native folk art. Her talent evolved dramatically with self-expression and her profound reactions to life that she produced in surrealistic style in her paintings. About a third of her body of work, about 55 paintings, consists of self portraits. In some she stares out passively, in others Frida’s oeuvre was fantastic and sometimes gory depictions that symbolically articulated her own pain. Revealing different states of her mind are portrayals revealing her heartbreak, abortion and miscarriage. Yet there was a feeling of realism in many of her works which she rendered with real images in the most honest, straightforward way.
        One day, high up on a scaffold, the celebrated muralist Diego Rivera sat contentedly on his perch doing what he loved doing, painting grand public murals with political themes. Frida encountered the larger than life Diego in such a serendipitous manner, but she had already set her eye on the mural giant when she first met Diego as a schoolgirl. 
        At 21, Frida fell in love with Rivera, whose approach to art and politics mirrored her own. Although he was 20 years her senior, they were married in 1929 and she became his third wife, and from the onset they became intertwined in a tumultuous marriage. Although as a couple, they remained childless one can observe Frida’s anguish of miscarriage in her paintings. During most of their life together Frida was often immobilized in a cast in her bed, or confined to a hospital room awaiting an operation or recovering from a surgery. Her torment was abetted by Diego’s incorrigible philandering, once with Frida’s own younger sister, Cristina. Yet, Frida remained loyal often referring to him as her "Baby. "
          Frida took great pride in keeping a home for Diego and loved fussing over him, cooking for him and even bathing him. Their love proved sustainable. The couple traveled to the United States and France, where Frida met luminaries from the worlds of art and politics, and had her first solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York City in 1938. 
        Though they divorced in 1939 the couple remained inseparable and remarried in 1940. Frida’s painting “The Two Fridas,” a double self-portrait, painted in 1939 at the time of her divorce from Diego, is believed to be an expression of Frida’s feelings at the time.
         She delighted in children and had many exotic pets including the mischievous spider monkey that appears in “Self-Portrait with Monkey.” She loved visitors and often begged friends and “lovers to visit, not to “forget” her. Sadly after a lifetime of great fortitude and constant pain Frida Kahlo died at the age of 47. 
         The legendary artist has of late been transformed into a veritable cult figure with numerous books and films depicting her life. At one time there was even a cult of young women who would affect the Frida Kahlo look, simulating Tehuana costumes, the flowered headdresses and long skirts of the artist. In a lovely tribute to Frida Kahlo this exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum pays
due homage to a remarkable woman,
       Ta Ta Darlings!!!  As for inspiration, Frieda Kahlo never disappoints and reminds us of
her incredible courage all her short life to create works of art with amazing messages that
reflect a lifetime of genius..  Fan mail welcome at

Monday, February 4, 2019

AKC Museum of the DOG Unleashed in New York:: Review By Polly Guerin

New York City adds another "feather in its cultural cap,"  with the re-imagining of the  AKC Museum of the Dog, located on prominent Park Avenue in the Kalikow Building, 101 Park Avenue, corner of 40th Street. Opening date February 8, 2019.
       Located just  one block from Grand Central Terminal, THE MUSEUM OF THE DOG designates itself, so to speak, as the "Best in Show," newcomer in the museum hub of Murray Hill. 
       In its sparkling new home the museum's two-floor residence has the advantage of clear story windows that shed light on the exhibitions and artifacts. Across the top perimeter dog silhouettes parade to the delight of viewing from the street.

       The Museum's mission to refocus on the role the DOG has played in our lives and our history. In its new location the MUSEUM OF THE DOG expands its reach to thousands more visitors both locally and from around the world with canine-related exhibitions and its extensive collection of fine art and artifacts, new and innovative programming, events and lectures.      

      CANINE FINE ART: The Museum houses one of the world's largest collections of canine fine art. including paintings by famous artists including the superb oil on canvas of The Two Dogs by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, A vibrant portrait of Salukis by the English artist, James Ward. Then, too, there are works by Maud Earl, Arthur Wardle, plus rare porcelains, including small as well as life-size ceramics and bronzes of remarkable note. Alan Fausel, long-time director of AKC Cultural Resources, formerly at 260 Madison Avenue, is The Museum of the Dog's Executive Director and with his consummate knowledge pointed out that the in addition to the canine art work on display there are hundreds more in storage. To this end his innovative use of movable wall panels makes it easy to change the configuration of the art exhibitions. 
      Prior to its debut in New York City for three decades the Museum's vast collection had been displayed at the Museum's home outside of St. Louis and now it is permanently installed in New York City, home of the American Kennel Club headquarters, and where the Museum first took root.  In addition to being the premiere institution  for the display of art, artifacts, and literature related to pure-bred dogs in America, the museum is also an innovative and interactive learning center engaging both young and adult with delightful interactive programs and fun activities. 
Two Majestic Ceramic Dogs: Photo by Shaye Weaver
EXHIBIT SPOTLIGHTS: Dogs on the Job exhibit is just one of the many engaging digital experiences throughout the museum. In the digital dog "Molly" interactive exhibit learn to train a dog on the job with a series of commands and hand signals for dog training. I enjoyed the Find Your Match kiosk, that takes your photo, aligning its likeness with an AKC-registered dog breed. Users can email or share their match through social media. By the way, I was matched up with a Terrier breed with a 
reddish coat.  Then, too, there is the AKC TV Broadcast center and near the staircase is a diversified window case display of ceramic and bronze dogs of all variety.
      THE LIBRARY.RESOURCES CENTER houses over 3,000 books and dog-related publications including the comprehensive The Illustrated Book of the Dob (1890) and Dogs and All About Them (1910).  School children will also delight in the area set aside for drawing and creating
dog-related crafts. 
       The Museum also has an app where children can interact with the exhibits with ARTY, a virtual dog/tour guide, throughout the Museum. For more information about the AKC Museum of the Dog, membership or entrance fees: visit
       Ta Ta Darlings!!!  As a dog person myself, I was enthralled by the companionship, loyalty and service provided by dogs, you will, too!!!  Fan mail welcome, please write to
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