Sunday, April 30, 2006

Art Chicago - and - Chicago Antiques Fair

Here's my picks for the first combined exhibit of Art Chicago (contemporary) and the Chicago Antiques Fair. I'm guessing (and hoping) that this new arrangement -- with the Merchandise Mart owning the event -- will give the contemporary show more of a local -- rather than international -- focus -- while still attracting international galleries that suit our local,more conservative taste -- but abandoning the already failed attempt to draw jet-set buyers for cutting-edge art.

Walking through these shows -- especially both of them on same afternoon -- is something of an insane marathon event -- there's thousands and thousands of items -- all of which I will never see again for the rest of my life. It's utterly exhusting.

The following items got me to pull out my camera -- but there were many more that I liked -- but were unphotographable (too large or under glass or gallery too crowded)

The above come from Scott Prior (1949-- ) and I guess he's my favorite discovery for this visit. He's almost exactly my age -- so I know that he spent his life-in-art walking up stream against a very strong current. I'm guessing that he's a photo-projection painter -- but I like the results -- and it's clear that he loves the same things I do: gloomy, evening seascapes --- and slender young women, skinny dipping in exactly the kind of stream down which I like to float -- or lying in mid-day, post-coital exhaustion. Scott Prior: I salute you !

A Japanese gallery presented the above small figures. There were no labels to indicate dates or artist names -- but they were such wonderful little sculptures, I couldn't resist them.

This is James Roy Hopkins (1877-1969) -- Souvenir D'ete, 1922. He's an Ohio boy who evidently was one of the many mid-Western Americans who went to Paris in the early years of the last century to be Impressionist painters. Richard E Miller and Carl Frieseke being two others ). It's a little awkward -- just like the subject matter --- but he really loves see young, fair-skinned women naked in a sunny garden -- and so do I.

This is a figure drawing by Edward Hopper -- it's just like the typical (good)figure sculpture of his era.

I could kick myself for losing this painter's name -- his paintings are all life-size figures -- and there was a gallery full of them. (I think he's Scandinavian)

This elaborate confection belongs to the American sculptor, Donald DeLue.
It looks like it should be a trophy for airmen, doesn't it ?

Euan Uglow (1932 - 2000) I've seen this British painter every year I've come to Art Chicago -- and I've always admired him -- despite his gloomy demeanor. Why do so many British painters (Lucian Freud being the outstanding example) love to be depressed ?

Suong Yangchareon: This is the butt-hole of America -- a god-awful scene that is repeated endlessly over our ravaged landscape --- and yet -- I find this painting so attactive. Maybe I should have been a proctologist.

Catherine Maize, Thiebaud Gallery --- 20 years ago, Catherine was leaving the Palette and Chisel, just as I was joining it (she and her boyfriend lived, as caretakers, in basement) --- so I'm glad to see her delicate Cezanne tributes in this San Francisco gallery -- which, overall, was my favorite booth at Art Chicago.

These performers come from the Han Dynasty. Maybe they entertained Liu Bei and his three sworn brothers. (from Romance of the Three Kingdoms)

This is the first sweet, attractive male figure that I've found from the Tang Dynasty -- and it's a knock-out sculpture too -- I love that swing. There were more vendors of Chinese antiquities at this Fair than ever before -- but most of the items just made me recall other things that were better.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Drawings of Raphael Soyer

Radio advertising drew me again to R.H. Love Gallery again last weekend -- this time to see the drawings of Raphael Soyer.

I'm not such a fan of his paintings -- but his drawings employ such an economy of means to produce such delightful -- maybe even call them sculptural --affects.

That is -- he designs with strong, assertive, unified volumes in space -- while setting the viewer into scenes-with-people that feel real/engaging/poignant.

I love the simple details of this girl's knees -- look at how they differ from each other -- and look at the voluptuous flesh on the knee to the right. (this is one of the delights offered by figure drawing: to look up a girl's skirt -- and not get embarassed for it !)

Quick sketches are such an immediate art form --- zap/you got it -- or zap/you missed ---- and its quite a delight to see a difficult space -- like the one around the shoulder and fore-shortened forearm to the left -- designed-on-the-fly -- and contrasting with the delicious way that opened thigh projects into space.

Maybe we could think of Soyer as a high-end Norman Rockwell --- just as sentimental -- but more sensual, more powerful, and less detailed.

(note: the above drawings come from a library book -- most galleries do not allow photographs -- but ones on display at the gallery were just as successful)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Sculpture devotee

Last weekend, I took some new shots of "Adam" - the fragment cut from Milton Horn's "Hymn to Water" -- the monumental relief that, for security reasons, seems to be permanently inaccessible at the Chicago Water Filtration Plant.

I first saw it about 40 years ago (before it was even finished) --- and I think this is why I'm so involved with sculpture -- that figure of Adam -- kind of lost --- kind of yearning -- kind of awake -- kind of asleep -- kind of surprised -- seems to be me -- and I want to be held and created by the giant hand of God -- all depicted in a scene -- which is completely believable by me (even if by no one else)

Here's a view from another angle --- which is the nice thing about a deep relief -- it creates an illusion-scene like a painting -- but the figures also inhabit real space -- and can be walked around.

Gentleness - power -- yearning - fulfillment ---- this is the world in which I want to live -- and the world I'd like to make.


And here's a picture I've just taken of the angel from "At the Brink" -- and if there are angels -- this is how I want them to look: strong, gentle, and dedicated.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A.I.C. : the Mogollon Hero

The A.I.C. just opened a special exhibit of pottery made by people who lived about a thousand years ago in the areas now called Arizona, northern Mexico, and New Mexico.

This is the piece that caught my attention on the first visit -- a hunter-hero, wearing a fish-swallowing-heron on his head -- with an assistant who carries a rabbit head. It is classic Mimbres, 950-1150 A.D., from New Mexico.

This powerful, rhythmic drawing is what captures me (as well, I suppose, as the small game that he hunts) -- made with all the focus and precison that hunting requires.

This is a no nonsense world -- the immersion is complete -- the focus is unbroken -- the purpose is direct -- and his arrow never misses.

And ..he's kind of a cute young guy, isn't he ? He's fleet of foot -- eyes wide open -- missing nothing -- his lithe body coiled like a spring -- and his world spins around with him at the center. He's Isao -- the hero of Mishima's novel, "Runaway Horses", and powerful capitalists (as well as rabbits, heron, and deer) had better beware.

(I wish this piece went on permanent display -- it's several notches above what the museum shows from its own collection)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Art of the Dance

For the past 50 years, the Ruth Page Dance School has been located next door to our art club --- but last year, for reasons unknown, it occurred to us (Phyllis Brodney and I) that we might venture a cooperative event.

(immediately above, a beaming Phyllis is pictured on the opening night of our event -- and above that is the cover of the invitation -- a photo she took of one of the dancers)

Several small ballet companies perform throughout the year in the Ruth Page auditorium -- and we worked with one Phyllis knew, the "Chicago Ballet".

Their dancers were hired to pose in our workshops -- and photo opportunites were created at their studio and ours -- including the picture taken below:

On opening night -- thanks to the generosity of Phyllis and her friends, we had it all: food, exotic martini bar, a raffle for valuable items (including an antique pearl necklace ((Phyllis is a dealer)) -- and, of course, many attractive guests:

The highlight of the evening was a brief performance by Chicago Ballet dancers in our main gallery. It was a bit tight cramming everyone into that space --- but what a thrill to be standing 10 feet away from professional dancers at work:

And here they are dancing to the neo-fado vocals of Christina Branco:

Among the paintings on display, my favorite came from Terri Nicolli (whom I didn't know until this night) She used to take ballet lessons herself -- before going to art school -- so she was so thrilled to re-visit the world of dance:

Can't you tell ? Her paintings have that joy which -- I would suggest -- is the only reason to make paintings in the first place.

Among the sculptures, my favorite came from Susan Clinard -- whom I have known for several years.

She is so facile -- and dancing figures are her specialty. ( though she also works with tree branches in a kind of expressionistic style that always makes me wince) Several of our best known artist/teachers promised to contribute to this event -- but Susan was one of the few who actually came through -- in spades -- so I am very grateful.

And here is my contribution to the show -- stroking the (soon-to-be lost) golden hair of my sweetheart.

Above, it is pictured in the studio -- from which it just emerged -- at the last possible moment.

And here's the contributions of our two renowned communists -- (one from USSR , one from the People's Republic- can you tell which is which ? Which one is maybe a little too cold and distant ? -- which one is maybe a little too warm and familiar ? But neither are middle-brow American -- i.e. sentimental)

.. Finally, here's my favorite party crasher -- and anarchist that I am -- how could I keep her out ? I don't know whether any of her copy-machine posters got sold -- but as they added to the festive atmosphere -- I'm glad she brought them:

Friday, April 21, 2006

Ian Rank-Broadley

I was just introduced to the website of this U.K. sculptor, Ian Rank-Broadley. A fellow baby-boomer-- he must have had a lonely struggle pursuing an education, and then launching a career in traditional figure sculpture in the 70's.

One of his career achievements was this profile of the Queen -- now used on coinage.

Her highness looks like a tough old bird -- but I don't think this design rises above the norm for contemporary coinage --- which, probably for technical/bureaucratic reasons never seems to reach the beauty or power of some ancient Roman coins.

Where IRB does challenge the Romans, however, is in his portraits of important men -- and every back-room deal cut by this labor politician can be read on that florid face -- from throat to forehead.

I also like the head of this troubled, virile young man -- a detail studied for a war memorial (and an interesting contrast with the battle-wrecked trench-fighters that populate the memorials made 80 years ago by Charles Sargent Jagger.)

Here's one of his male nudes (titled: "Ganymede") :

I feel the vigour of these pieces -- but also sadness -- and maybe a bit of revulsion -- though not as extreme as the famous British figure painters like Lucian Freud. His figures just don't seem to be happy in their space (the one at the very top is trying to run away from it !)

click here for his website

Thursday, April 20, 2006

La Puerta de los Honorables

Casto Solano has sent me a PDF file documenting his 2001 commission on the grounds of the new Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain.

The monument honors the memory of Ramon Rubial -- the Socialist politician who spent 15 years in prison after the triumph of General Franco -- and then went on to serve the cause for forty more years.

Here is the PDF file that Casto assembled for his piece. It's large (2.5 megabytes) -- but it's far better than any pictures on the internet -- and, of course, being made by the sculptor himself, is HIS idea of how the work should be seen:

Click here

Usually - I prefer figure sculpture up on architectual pedastals -- to better let the figure play with the space of the surrounding area. Although I can guess that the artist would like to contrast his hero with the kind who sits on horses high off the ground. How the site actually feels -- I guess I'll have to travel to Spain to find out -- but in the meantime, this is second-best.

The close-ups of the head are powerful -- and I like the natural posture of the figure -- but still I wonder --- in 200 years --- when nobody will know or care about either Rubial or Franco -- will this be an enjoyable place to look at pretty girls and enjoy life ?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A.I.C. : The Age of Cosimo di Medici

About three years ago, the museum hosted one of my favorite shows of all-time --- primarly due to the inclusion of the following two objects:

In the 1540's, to celebrate the consilidation of their autocratic control over Florence (and the duchy of Tuscany)-- the Medici family began planning for a monument to brute force -- centering on the depiction of Hercules and Anteus set into a fountain. After several false-starts, Nicolo Tribolo was chosen to design the monument, and Ammanati to make the broze figures, completed in 1559.

What an incredible masterpiece ! The power that ripples through every joint and tendon -- connecting to a majestic, awesome, symphonic unity. I went to stare at it every week it was on display. It's brutal -- monstrous -- dynamic --- relentless -- just like the modern secular states that eventually would dominate world history.

Ammanati -- you rule ! -- and much longer, and much better, than the Medici ever did.

Then there was this masterpiece by Christofano Allori (1557-1621) painted near the end of his life in 1616-18. Christofano was almost an exact contemporary of Caravaggio -- and like any other painter in his right mind -- followed the lead of that incredible genius -- into a world of dark, dramatic, sordid passions.

The story, as you must have guessed, celebrates that most notorious femme fatale, Judith, and her lover/victim, Holofernes, who touched her flesh just once -- and
immediately lost his head. Above is a detail of that crafty Jewess, Judith -- which, according to historians, is also a portrait of Christofano's young lover.

And this is a detail of poor Holofernes -- the great Iraqi general -- which is also said to be a portrait of the artist himself -- an aging devotee to the muse -- who also lost his head to a striking young woman. Look at the languor in her eyes -- and look at the severed power of his head -- and it tells a story that is tragic -- but not necesssarily one that should be considered cautionary.