Monday, November 30, 2015

UNORTHODOX Jewish Museum's Multigenerational Exhibition: Review by Polly Guerin

Auste, A Mistaken Style of Life, 1987
UNORTHODOX, The Jewish Museum's global, multigenerational exhibition does not comment on Jewish religious orthodoxy or critique it dear readers, but takes its inspiration from the legacy of progressive Jewish thought, in particular the Jewish tradition of dialogue and debates, Jens Hoffmann, Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Public Programs clarifies this further, "Unorthodox aims to break with cultural and artistic uniformity that has developed over the last century among artists and museums, proposing a nonconformist engagement with art as a means to disrupt the status quo." 
   The large-scale group exhibition features 55 contemporary artists from around the world whose practices mix forms and genres without concern for artistic conventions. Although the artists in UNORTHODOX come from a wide variety of backgrounds and generations, they are united in their spirit of independence and individuality. Through over 200 works, the exhibition highlights the importance of iconoclasm and art's key role in breaking rules and traditions. 
      The human figure is also central to the exhibition often appearing in distorted, anthropomorphic, or hybrid forms. Captivating attention:  Auste's "A Mistaken Style of Life, 1987, acrylic on canvas fantasizes the human figure, while Nick Payne's drawings and watercolors feature grotesque figures, and Mrinalini Mukherjee's sinuous and biomorphic sculptural works. Stephen Goodfellow's VANDALS, 1983, acrylic on canvas is from the Susan and Alan Lichtenstein Collection. Image courtesy of the artist.
Stephen Goodfellow, VANDALS, 1983
Numerous works in Unorthodox  examine social and political values, trauma, religion, an identity. Artists like Margit Anna, whose dreamlike paintings reflect the trauma of the Holocaust, and Xanti Schawinsky's, whose Faces of the War series (1942) was influenced by the destruction and the
militarism of World War II, draw on transformative personal experiences. Several artists channel political activism through their work.
      Many artist in Unorthodox use pop culture, animation, and cartoons to address serious issues around violence, racism, and sexuality. Margaret Harrison tackles gender politics through the use of iconic characters such as Captain America and Playboy pinups.
Installation view of Unorthodox Photo by David Heald    
The exhibition is on view through March 27. 2016. Unorthodox is accompanied by a series of public programs developed by the Jewish Museum and presented in collaboration with the 92nd Street Y. Programs, however, take place at the Jewish Museum. Visit The Jewish Museum website at for further details.

      As you enter the museum you will encounter a new installation by Brazilian-born, New York-based contemporary sculpture artist Valeska Soares, which is on view as part of the ongoing series Using Walls, Floors and Ceilings. Titled TIME HAS NO SHADOWS, the piece features a large, vintage carpet onto which poetic texts are placed, with antique pocket watches hang down from above.  The installation draws on the artist's enduring fascination with the subjectivity of time and language, and investigates the history of Jewish migration and resettlement.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! There's plenty of time to see both exhibitions. Admission is Pay What you Wish on Thursdays from 5pm to 8pm and free on Saturdays. For information on museum hours and admission costs call 212.423.3200. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the links to Blogs that resonate with your interest.

Monday, November 23, 2015


Jacqueline de Ribes in YSL, 1962,  
If you're a Countess, a renowned style icon and a patron of the Paris Haute Couture you become one of the most celebrated fashion personas of the 20th century. The Countess Jacqueline de Ribes, still chic at 86, has graced the International Best Dress List 1962. When she established her own fashion house, her friend Yves Saint Laurent gave his blessing to the venture as a welcome projection of her elegance. 
  The exhibition, Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style, focuses on this French aristocrat whose profile prompted the famous photographer Richard Avedon to capture her image in photographs that pays homage to her commanding presence. The photo left: Jacqueline de Ribes in Yves Saint Laurent, 1962, Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Richard Avedon, (c) Richard Avedon Foundation.
    The exhibition is on view in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Anna Wintour Costume Center through February 21, 2016.
Gallery View, Evening Wear (c) The Metropolitan Museum
"A close study of de Ribes's life of creative expression yields illuminating insights into her strategies of style," said Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. "Her approach to dress as a statement of individuality can be seen as a kind of performance art." With her breathtaking gowns and knack for accessories, the Countess always knew how to make an entrance. However, the Countess was a 'no show' at the opening gala. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Christian Dior cancelled the black-tie dinner because in the wake of the current events, the Countess canceled her trip to New York to stay in Paris. 

      Her absence was quite de riqueur and did not cast a shadow on the illuminating exhibition. It traces the socialite's collection of some 60 ensembles of haute couture and ready-to-wear from de Ribes's personal archive dating from 1962 to the present. Also included are her creations for fancy dress balls, which often made by cutting up and cannibalizing her haute couture gowns to create unexpected, thematic and conceptually nuanced expressions of her aesthetic. These along with photographs, video and ephemera, tell the story of how her interest in fashion developed over the decades, from childhood "dress-up" to the epitome of international style.
Jacqueline de Ribes in her own design, 1983
A muse to haute couture designers, they placed at the disposal their drapers, cutters and fitters in acknowledgment of their esteem for her taste and originality. Early on she realized that she could not sketch so upon recommendation from one of her designer friends she engaged the young Valentino as her sketcher. Ultimately she used her talent and experience to create her own successful design business directed from 1982 to 1995. Of her day-wear she said "My clothes have to be comfortable," and indeed they are the very essence of daytime chic. 

     Opposite: Jacqueline de Ribes in her own design, 1983. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Victor Skrebneski, Skrebneski Phtotograph (c) 1983.
     Designers represented in the exhibition include Pierre Balmain, Bill Blass, Marc Bohan for the House of Dior, Roberto Cavalli, John Galliano, Valentino Garavani, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Guy Laroche and others.
     Her high-society lineage certainly helped to fulfill her designing aspirations. Born into an aristocratic French family, she married Edouard, Vicomte de Ribes when she was nineteen and became the toast of high society. She garnered praise for her swan-like beauty and grace and was seen by many as the ultimate of Parisian elegance. In 2010, she received the Legion d'Honneur from French President Nicolas Sarkozy for her philanthropic and cultural contributions to France. 
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! Tours of the exhibition will be held Tuesday-Friday at 2:00 pm. The exhibition is featured on the Museum's website Fan mail always welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the links to Blogs in the left-hand column.

Monday, November 16, 2015

THE ETERNAL SPACE: Tribute to the Old Pennsylvania Station: Review by Polly Guerin

Not everyone cares about the old Pennsylvania Station, but many New Yorkers and landmark aficionados still remember its grandeur and its majestic Cathedral imagery. 
     Now Justin Rivers brings to Theater Row's Lion Theater "The Eternal Space," play that charts an unlikely friendship during the social and cultural upheavals of the mid-1960s.
    Directed by Mindy Cooper, the play is set against the skeleton images of the wrecking crews' demolition of the old Pennsylvania Station by using original photography from the journalists who documented the station's destruction and recreations of broadcast recordings of the day. "I decided the demolition photography would have to be central to the show," said Rivers. "Not only would it provide the backdrop for all the scenes, it would be a living presence on the stage. and became the third character on the stage." The Eternal Space features photography of Norman McGrath, Peter Moore, Alexander Hatos, Ron Ziel and Aaron Rose. 
     Central to the play are the two actors.  As the wrecking crew worked to dismantle the 53-year-
Matthew Pilicci as Paul  & Clyde Baldo as Joseph
-old architectural marvel, a chance meeting between a photographer and an English teacher sparks a three year odyssey where one man fights to keep the station standing while the other tears it down.  Just two players tell the story, of the majestic station with Clyde Baldo as Joseph Lanzarone and Matthew Pilicci as 
Paul Abbot. They command the stage in a synergistic debate that tells the riveting story of the demise of the station. 
    Why is this play important?   It pays homage to the once grand Pennsylvania Station. Most significantly it commemorates the 50th anniversary of the demolition of the old Penn Station, October 28th, 1963, which marked the end of an era in New York City history.  The most dramatic result of the station's demise is
Postcard :General Waiting Room Penn R.R. Station N.Y. C.
the fact that the loss of the beaux-arts Penn Station invigorated and launched the efforts of the preservation movement both locally and nationally. National legislation that followed would later be critical to saving Grand Central Terminal and other New York City buildings. Playwright Justin Rivers wrote the first draft of The Eternal Space in 2002 as a testament to all the things we don't appreciate until they're gone. The Eternal Space resonates with these sentiments and poignantly captures what New York City lost among the treasures of the city. Opposite: A postcard image of the old Pennsylvania Station in its glory days. The Eternal Space is presented at Theatre Row's Lion Theatre, located at 410 West 42nd Street in New York City. To view the performance schedule and purchase tickets visit: In addition a Tour of the Remnants of the Original Penn Station will be led by The Eternal Space playwright Justine Rivers on December 6, 2015. Tickets at

      Ta Ta Darlings!!! If your are an historian aficionado, as I am, well need I say more head over to the Lion's Theatre and pay tribute to the old Penn Station. Fan mail welcome please email me at  Visit Polly's Blogs at and in the right-hand column click on the direct link to the Blog that resonates with your interest.

Monday, November 9, 2015


Circus, pochoir plate 11 in Jazz (1947) 
World renowned for his paintings, sculptures, and drawings, Henri Matisse, the master of his craft, also embraced printed books as a means of artistic expression during the latter part of the artist's life. Aside from his prolific oeuvre Matisse personally enjoyed making books, and the collaborative synergy it entailed, working with poets, authors, printers and publishers.
     GRAPHIC PASSION; MATISSE AND THE BOOK ARTS on view at the Morgan Library & Museum through January 18, 2016, brings together thirty of these modern masterpieces and explores Matisse's creative process. Colin B. Bailey, director of the Morgan, "The extraordinary volumes n view show Matisse delighting in the smaller scale of book design and are a testament to the fact that his talent transcended any medium."
Poems de Charles d"Orleans, Paris,.Teriade Editeur
The exhibit segues into several venues from Early Work, First Artist Book to Function and Illustration, Creative Differences and Classics. JAZZ as pictured above in the photograph by Graham S. Haber, illustrates how Matisse's book work reached a crescendo of color in his last years when he began to experiment with gouache cutouts, or, as he called it, "drawing with scissors."At first the artist wanted to call it Cirque but then agreed on the title JAZZ, which was more in keeping with the free-form aphoristic text. Although Matisse was pleased by the sensational success of JAZZ, in private correspondence he conceded that the pochoir stencils did not adequately reproduce the "purity" of his scissor work.
     Creative differences were inevitable in these collaborative projects. Almost everything went wrong in the production of James Joyce's Ulysses, although the idea was brilliant.  Matisse and Joyce agreed on a pictorial scheme based on the Homeric subtext of the book but the publisher insisted upon a more conventional concept. 
    Not just Joyce, but also leading figures in the French avant-garde inspired the book work of Matisse---poets such as Rene Char, Pierre Reverdy and Tristan Tzara and acknowledged classics of French literature; the works of Charles d'Orleans, the cover pictured above, and the works of Ronsard and Baudelaire. A boating trip in the Bois de Boulogne gave Matisse the original idea for the angry swan for Stephane Mallarme's Poesies (1932) Matisse's first independent work of art based on a literary text.
Pierre Matisse sketching for The Swan in the Bois de Boulogne
     The exhibition explores Matisse's creative process based on a collection donated by Frances and Michael Baylson in 2010. In addition, the gift includes hundreds of monographs, exhibition catalogues and related ephemera. Adult programs include: YOUR BOOK, BOLD AND BRIGHT: Stencils and Cut-Outs Saturday November 13, 2-4 pm. and SKETCHING IN THE GALLERY on Saturday November 21. Drop in 11 am-1pm. CLASSICAL JAZZ: Musical Reflections on Henri Matisse takes place on Friday, November 13 at 7:30 pm. Visit The Morgan Library & Museum at 225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street. 
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! You too can become a cut up artist, they're easy to make so tell your stories in bright colors and bold shapes. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and in the left-hand column click on the direct link to a Blog that resonates with your interest.

Monday, November 2, 2015


Peggy Guggenheim, the consummate collector
PEGGY GUGGENHEIM was an extraordinary art benefactor and collector. Now Lisa Immordino Vreeland brings to the screen the latest portrait of this notoriously eccentric grand dame in the film, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict. Submarine Deluxe will release the film in New York, Friday, November 6. Check local listings and the IFC Center in Manhattan. 
    To the art world the name  Peggy Guggenheim resonates as a  colorful character who was ahead of her time and became a central figure in the modern art movement. As she meandered through the cultural upheaval of the twentieth century she collected not only art, but launched the careers of artists, many of whom become her lovers. Sharply put together with interviews of celebrated artists, cultural personalities, curators, and gallery owners, the firm is a riveting documentary and consistently entertaining.
     Peggy's colorful personal history included romantic liaisons with such figures as Samuel Beckett, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollack, Alexander Calder, Marc Duchamp, as well as countless others. this film is rich with the lives of of the most important artists of the time, and Peggy is in the center of the action.

Peggy Guggenheim and Calder Mobile
What was it about Peggy? As a Guggenheim heiress she could have easily gone astray into the world of high society,  but her quirky personality resonated with her desire to find a deeper purpose in her life. She was in Paris in the 20s, the most exciting place to be, culturally, among the Dadiaists and Surrealists. Her destiny trust her into the role of benefactor, helping artists she meets and promoting them in her gallery. The modern art movement became her focus and catapulted her forward as one of the art world's most celebrated art collectors.
     While battling personal tragedy, her father dying on the titanic, the loss of her beloved daughter, she not only championed the work of many seminal artists, but also built one of the most important collections of modern art, now enshrined in her Venetian palazzo.
From Polly's Blog notes: womendeterminedtosucceed.
      I first saw Peggy's extraordinary art collection at the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal in Venice when I took twenty college students from the Fashion Institute of Technology on a whirlwind fashion tour several years ago. In an attempt to include some cultural venues on the fashion expedition I took the students to Venice to view Peggy's magnificent collection of modern art. 
     The students were in awe of the art works as well as the garden sculptures, but more than that your presence, though absent, was felt deeply and inspired visitors alike. Your name is synonymous with the Guggenheim Museum yet you carved out a life determined to succeed as an independent art collector who bought art, not as an investment, but primarily because you loved the works, sometimes even picked up works of art even if they didn't sell, but now are coveted masterpieces. 
    It certainly makes a big difference if you have enormous wealth to support purchasing art. Peggy was unique and became a true patron of the arts discovering among modern artists Jackson Pollock when he was working as a humble carpenter in the Solomon Guggenheim museum. Peggy was a unique woman, born in 1898 to a wealthy New York City family. Her lineage gave her certain advantages. 
     Peggy’s father was Benjamin Guggenheim and she was the niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, who established the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. However, her education in modern art did not begin until 1920 when she inherited from her father, who went down with the Titanic in 1912, a trust fund with an income of $22.500 a year. With her inheritance Peggy Guggenheim could have chosen to play the role of a socialite among New York’s tony social set, but she became something more than that: a pioneer, a risk taker, an avid art collector who safeguarded modern art from obscurity.
     With such financial resources Peggy realized her desire to carve out a life of her own. When Peggy was twenty-two, she traveled to Europe and discovered the literary and art worlds in Paris and lived there on and off for some twenty years returning to New York sporadically. She made Paris her home base and quickly immersed herself in the arty circles. Peggy became celebrated not only as a patron and collector of modern art, but also for her love affairs with important artists including Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock and Samuel Beckett. A dedicated collector she acquired Constantin Brancusi’s “Bird in Space and works by the abstract painter Robert Delaunay. 
Max Ernst and Peggy Guggenheim
 In 1938 she opened the gallery Guggenheim Jeune in London and Marcel Duchamp was her chief advisor showing the first one man show for Wassily Kandinsky, the abstract expressionist, and Yves Tanguy, the surrealist painter’s work, Le Soleil dans son ecrin (The Sun in a casket) 1937. In 1942 on the advice of the surrealist painter Max Ernst and the poet Andre Breton she continued to add to her collection and opened the gallery Art of This Century in New York. Venice beckoned in 1949 and she moved into the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, where she installed her remarkable collection of modern art.

Peggy coveted both art and lovers and became notorious for her overt love affairs, such was her free spirit. However, she did sandwich in several marriages. On one of her visits to New York when visiting a gallery owned by a cousin, Harold Loeb, she met Laurence Vail, a Dada sculptor and writer who was part of the avant-garde intelligentsia in Greenwich Village. They married two years later and had two children, Michael Sindbad and Pegeen Vail Guggenheim. 
     The marriage ended and in 1928 she met and formed a relationship with the English intellectual John Holms, never a success he was a man who suffered from writer’s block. They engaged in a tempestuous alliance that was riddled with drunken harangues and boisterous rows. Her second husband was Max Ernst, in 1941. Another liaison was with Kenneth McPherson with whom she felt comforted and safe, and they eventually became the best of friends. Throughout her days in Venice Peggy was always surrounded by her beloved Lhasa terriers and when she died she was interred in the sculpture garden of her home next to her beloved dogs inside the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni.