Tuesday, March 28, 2017

ALEXEI JAWLENSKY at Neue Galerie: Review by Polly Guerin

Byzantine Woman (Bright Lips) 1913
The twists and turns of destiny weave interesting stories and Alexei Jawlensky's is worth the telling. Destined for a life in the military, he was the son of a Colonel in the Imperial Russian Army.
     Yet it took one decisive incident to change that prospect when Alexei Jawlensky's life (1864-1941) was forever altered by a visit to the 1880 Moscow World Exposition, which introduced him to painting. After attending school in Moscow he ventured forward and studied painting with the Russian realist painter llya Repin in St. Petersburg.
     For anyone unfamiliar with this Russian-born artist's oeuvre, the first full museum retrospective devoted to the expressionist artist to be held in the United States, is on view at the NEUE GALERIE in New York through May 29, 2017. Image Right: Byzantine Woman (Bright Lips), 1913, oil on board. Centre Pompidou, Musee National d'Art Moderne/Centre de creation industrielle. Donation de M. Robert Haas in 1982.
    Often women paved the way to support Jawlensky's artistic endeavors.  After growing increasingly disenchanted with realism, and after meeting Marianne von Werefkin in 1896, Jawlensky moved to Munich, where he and Vasily Kandinsky studied with Anton Azbe. At this time, Jawlensky became an integral member of the artistic avant-garde that advanced important developments in Expressionism and abstraction.     
Oberstdorf Mountains 1912
Then, too, Jawlensky became deeply influenced by the work of the Fauves after several trips to France, where he became familiar with the work of Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse and Vincent van Gogh. His companion Marianne von Werefkin, a wealthy artist in her own right, eventually gave up her own career to promote his work and provide him with a comfortable life. 

     In 1908 Jawlensky and Werefkin joined Kandinsky and his companion Gabriele Munter for several weeks to paint in the Bavarian town of Murnau, south of Munich, where they lived. The following year, Jawlensky, Kandinsky and others formed the Neue Kunstiervereinigung Munchen, an artists' association. With his newly established status among peers Jewlensky was friendly with Paul Klee, August Macke, Franz Marc, and artists associated with Der Blaue Reiter. Image: Artists Rights Society (ARS) , New York. Murnau, depicting the Bavarian village he visited with Kndinsky).    At the start of World War I, Jawlensky fled to Switzerland, where he met another artist, Emmy Scheyer in 1916, who abandoned her own work to champion his in the United States. 
     The exhibition includes approximately 75 paintings ranging in date from 1900 to 1937 and explores the chronological and thematic development of Jawlensky's work. The exhibition begins with early figure paintings, still-lifes, and landscapes, and continues with a series of paintings created between 1914 and 1921 known as Variations.  
Abstract Head Late Summer 1928
Take note of the semi-abstract works known as Mystical Heads, Savior's Faces and Abstract Heads, which reduce the human face to simple geometric forms and contrasting colors. These created during the Art Deco we noted for its streamlined and architectural sensibilities and modernism.

     Jawlensky's life work, which spanned evolving styles, may be considered a meditation on the process of change in his personal life from representation to abstraction. 
      Image Right: Abstract Head, Late Summer (Crescent Moon) 1928 from the collection of Long Beach Museum of Art, Milton Wichner Collection 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS).
      The exhibition concludes with the artists' late Meditations and Still-Lifes, a series of spiritual paintings created towards the end of his life, which stem from the piety of his Russian Orthodoxy.  In 1921, Jawlensky relocated to Wiesbaden in southern Germany, where he lived and worked until his death in 1941. Though Jawlensky's oeuvre is not well known in the United States, he did, however, during his time, exhibit widely in world circles and exerted a strong influence on key developments in modern art. A fully-illustrated catalogue, published by Prestal Verlag, accompanies the exhibition. www.neuegalerie.org. Neue Galerie New York, 1048 Fifth Avenue @ 86th Street. 212-628-6200.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!!  I love the way Jawlensky progressed from realism to abstraction and particularly his Deco heads.  Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's Blogs at www.pollytalk.com.  In the left hand column click on the subject that resonates with your interest on visionary men, women determined to succeed, the fashion historian and poetry from the heart.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MARSDEN HARTLEY'S MAINE at Met Breuer: Review by Polly Guerin

The Lighthouse (1940-1941) Marsden Hartley 
The rugged simplicity of his hardy subjects, the sound of the crashing sea against Maine's rugged coastal terrain and the magisterial Mount Katahdin epitomize the American Artist Marsden Hartley's lifelong artistic engagement with his home state of Maine.  
     The exhibition, MARSDEN HARTLEY'S MAINE, at The Met Breuer, through June 18, 2017, gives us pause to revisit Maine through Harley's creative lens.  On view are some 90 paintings and drawings that illuminate Hartley's extraordinarily expressive range that captures his Post-Impressionist interpretations to seasonal change in the inland Maine of the early 1900s. His folk-inspired depictions of salt--of- the-earth men---country hunks, lumberjacks, lobster men and loggers permeated his artistic world as did the rugged Maine coast, a theme that resonated with the wild and the majestic but brutal sea.  
Lobster Fisherman (1940-1941) The Metropolitan Museum of Art
NATIVE SON Born in Lewiston, Maine, in 1877, Hartley became known for his peripatetic nature, especially his time spent in Paris and Berlin, where he participated in the European avant-garde. Over the course of his career, his home state tugged at his heart strings and he returned to it repeatedly, painting Maine subjects even while living abroad.In the final chapter of his life Hartley proclaimed himself, "The Painter from Maine."  To Hartley Maine was a springboard to imagination and creative inspiration, a focus of memory and longing, a refuge, and a place for communion with earlier artists who painted there, especially Winslow Homer, the most famous American Artist associated with the State. 
Marsden Hartley,s Hunk at Old Orchard Beach 
Hartley began his career by painting and exhibiting views of the state's western hills in a vibrant painterly style, seen in works such as The Silence of High Noon--Midsummer (1907-1908), which he debuted in 1909 at his first solo exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz's art gallery, 291.  One entire gallery is devoted to Hartley's bold, audacious figure paintings, such as Man Hunk, a sex symbol of the man culture and a homage to Cezanne's 'The Bather.'  
The Met's presentation of the exhibition includes select works from the Museum's collection by other artists who shaped Hartley's vision, including Cezanne,and American painters Winslow Homer and Albert Pinkham Ryder.
     A series of related programs is planned in conjunction with the exhibition, includes a lecture, exhibition tours, a series of talks, a Teen Studio Workshop, and a Picture This! program for adults who are blind or partially sighted.  For futher details visit: www.metmuseum.org/Marsden Hartley. The exhibition is also featured on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter via the hashtag #MarsenHartley.
     The performance IVES & HARTLEY LANDSCAPES OF MODERNISM---Sight and Sound Series with Leon Boststein and The Orchestra NOW, will take place on Sunday, May 21, 2017, at 2:00 pm in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at The Met Fifth Avenue. In this orchestral set---titled "Ives's Three Places in New England and the Artwork of Marsden Hartley---Connecticut-born composer Charles Ives set out to evoke through music the atmosphere and history of three locations in New England. Marsden Hartley, his contemporary was himself deeply attached to music. The artist returned to Maine in his final years and applied his modernist aesthetic to its landscapes. Hartley died in Ellsworth, Maine in 1943.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! Take a vicarious trip to Maine and upon alighting on the 3rd floor be welcomed by a panoramic pulsating film of the Maine's coasting with the relentless raging sea in cold gray visions of brutal nature. Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's BLOGS at www.pollytalk.com and click in the left-hand column to links to visionary men, women determined to succeed, poetry from the heart and the fashion historian.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

SMALL WONDERS: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures at The Cloisters: Review by Polly Guerin

The Boxwood Rosary 
The execution of miniature prayer beads and diminutive altarpieces is as miraculous as the stories they tell, yet today we can behold them with sense of wonder and awe at The Met Cloisters in the recently opened exhibition SMALL WONDERS: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures. In the Glass Gallery, Gallery #10 through May 21, 2017. 
     Small in scale, yet teaming with life, miniature boxwood carvings have been a source of wonder since their creation in the Netherlands in the 16th century.  We are at once amazed and stunned by the miracles of the Bible that unfold on a tiny stage, and  the artists who created these treasures, surely for Kings and only the wealthy could afford to own. These intricately carved objects require intense scrutiny. Some measure a mere two inches (five centimeters) in diameter  and hold stories and legends in the intriguing depth and articulation of their creation. Image Left: Rosary of Floris van Egmond and Margaretha van Glymes, Netherlands 1500-1539. (c) Musee du Louvre, Department des Objects d'art, Paris. Photo: Craig Boyko/Ian Lefebvre.
      Take a peak at another boxwood rosary made for King Henry VIII of England and his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, before his notorious efforts to dissolve the marriage and his break from the Catholic church. From the Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth, Trustees of Chatsworth Settlement complex bears the Royal Arms of England as well as the tiny letters "He8" and "Ka" abbrevations for King Henry the VIII and his first wife, who he married in 1509.
TRANSFORMING BOXWOOD:  The artists transformed boxwood into something utterly new, tiny, intricate carvings, the likes of which had never been seen or imagined before.  These creative geniuses took a material understood today merely as an ornamental plant and exploited its sculptural potential. In their hands entire worlds emerged from dense and fine-grained wood. The ingenious techniques of the artists who created these precious panoramas have defied comprehension for centuries.  Now, through the joint efforts of the conservators at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the carvers' secrets have at last been revealed. 
A closeup articulation of a Battle Scene
The exhibition, the first of its kind, features nearly 50 of these tiny treasures that offer us access not by travel but through the eyes of prayer and a sense of wonder. The original owners of these works of art had the luxury of cradling them in their own hands, and oh what tales are told!  There are men on horseback wielding spears, dogs and camels and chained monkeys, women fainting, saints enduring devils tormenting, and angels singing. All composed with the exceptional skill of the carver then, they demand close observation on your part now.

Prayer Bead Adoration of the Magi 
A video revealing the intricacies of the carver's merit accompanies the exhibition but no adjective has ever been adequate to express the sense of wonder and amazement that the miniatures elicit. In addition to the exquisite collection an installation with sculpture, tools, and eyeglasses deserves your attention. It celebrates the work of the Italian woodcarver Ottaviano Jannella renowned for his masterful and ingenious manipulation of boxwood. While later in date than the Netherlandish works featured here, the assemblage of carvings, tools and materials bears witness to the extraordinary technical accomplishment of sculptors who created intricate worlds from modest blocks of wood.

BIBLE IN MINIATURE: In a miniature altarpiece with the Adoration of the Magi, Netherlands, early 16th century, the entourage of the Wise Men pay homage of Jesus including camels and an elephant. The names of these magi are spelled out beneath: Casper, Melchior, and Balthasar Images of lions had long served as supports for altarpieces and reliquaries.  Here they give a sense of ferociousness or even vigilance, rather they appear well fed and sleep. Image Left: Prayer Bead with the Adoration of the Magi and the Crucifixion Netherlandish, early 16th century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan 1917. Photo: Peter Zeray.
     Patience is required to fully appreciate these incredible treasures. As the visitor gently lean over window cases they observe remarkable Biblical stories in boxwood carvings that tell intricate stories of saints and sinners. The exhibition is accompanied by a visitor's guide published by the Art Gallery of Ontario and a catalogue published by the Rijksmuseum. Both books are available in The Met Store. 
     Ta Ta Darlings!!!  It's a challenging exhibition, but one that will leave you stunned by its
diminutive beauty and in awe by the skilled workmanship of the carvers. Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Pollys Blogs at www.pollytalk.com.

Monday, March 6, 2017

PASSAGES THROUGH TIME: Turner Port Scenes: Review By Polly Guerin

Picture brilliant luminosity, turbulent seascapes drenched with sunlit brilliance and mesmerizing atmospheric effects,  and the work of Britain's greatest land- and seascape painter of the nineteenth century, Joseph Mallord William Turner, comes to mind.  We are at first stunned by the dazzling treatment of light and color. The paintings urge use to look deep into the longstanding subject in art, the port, a place of arrival and departure that links the city interior and the open water beyond, evoking a sense of journey and the passage of time.    Image Left: Harbor of Dieppe: Changement de Domicile, J..M.W. Turner, exhibited 1825, subsequently dated 1826. Oil on Canvas, 68 3/8 x 88 3/4 inches, The Frick Collection. Photo: Michael Bodycomb.
'Turner's Modern and Ancient Ports: PASSAGES THROUGH TIME' at the Frick Collection, through May 14, 2017, brings together paintings, watercolors, sketchbooks and prints of the master painter. The exhibition has tremendous impact as it is organized around three large-scale port scenes, with the Frick's grand scale Harbor  of Dieppe and Cologne, both painted by the artist in the mid-1820s and unites them for the first time publicly with a closely related yet unfinished work from the Tate, London, that depicts the harbor of Brest, in Brittany.
      The harbors of Dieppe and Cologne, purchased more than a hundred years ago by Henry Clay Frick, having been restricted from travel, they have not been exhibited elsewhere for the past century.           Grace Galassi, Senior Curator commented:
"We are thrilled to provide our audiences with insight into Turner's masterful technique and process by reuniting the Frick's ports, which themselves have never been the focus of an exhibition, with a third harbor scene fro the Tate on a similar scale, along with other port scenes---both imagined and set in the present---in oil and watercolor that reveal how the artist developed over time." This trio of port scenes is accompanied by more than thirty of Turner's oil paintings, watercolors, sketchbooks, and prints, among them other contemporary views of France, Germany and England, as well as imagined scenes set in ancient Carthage and Rome.  Image Right: J.M.W, Turner: The arrival of a Packet-Boat: Evening, Exhibited in 1826-1828, oil on canvas. 66 3/8 x 88 1/4 inches, The Frick Collection. Photo: Michael  Bodycomb.
 TURNER and TRAVEL With Napoleon' decisive defeat at Waterloo in 1815, a new era of tourism began. Travel restrictions between England and France that have been in place since 1797 were lifted, and contact with the Continent was renewed. British artists, writers, and the public took the opportunity and crossed the Channel in droves to rediscover it. English ports were now being transformed into commercial hubs and seaside resorts. 
    It is interesting to note that the central decades of Turner's career coincided with political, technological and cultural developments that created a new context for his depictions of ports. The advent of he steamboat and high speed carriages as well as improved roads made travel easier and more accessible to a larger segment of the population, including the middle class.      
As a market developed for images of the picturesque sights that travelers had seen or planned to visit and Turner as an insatiable traveler and the foremost topographical artist of the period, was well equipped to meet the demand. On his extensive trips he filled notebooks with sketches of land formations, architecture, ships and people of the era at both work and play. Image Left: J.M.W. Turner, Dover Castle from the Sea, for Marine Views, 1822, Watercolor and gouache on paper, 15 15/16 x 23 5/8 inches, Museum of Find Arts, Boston, Bequest of David P. Kimball, in memory of his wife, Clara Bertram Kimball (c) Museum of Fine Arts,
The accompanying book, published by Yale University Press is available in the Museum Shop, hardcover $45, Softcover $25.  FIRST FRIDAYS: Museum admission and gallery programs are FREE from 6 to 9 pm o the first Friday of the month (except January). For additional information contact 212.288.0700. www.frick.org.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! An adjacent room to the exhibited has a continuous running narrated film that coincides with the exhibit. Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's BLOGS at www.pollytalk.com and click in the left hand column on the link that resonates with your interest on visionary men,  amazing art deco women, fashion historian and poetry.