Sunday, July 15, 2012

Conference of the Birds

Today was one of those unplanned adventures that turned out to be quite a treat. My photographer friend Gerald Mocarsky had a few pieces in a group show at Mana Contemporary, housed in a converted old warehouse in Jersey City that is now a suite of artists' studios and exhibition spaces. AA and I decided to see his show and check out the rest of the installations. One of the more fascinating group shows on the 6th floor was the exhibition "Conference of the Birds" organized by Cynthia Reeves. The show was about how artists see the intersections between birds and us, reminding us that birds are the only species to live on land, sea, and in the air. Birds are some of my favorite animals in nature, so this show was truly a wonderful treat today. There were some beautiful pieces, so I thought I would share a few of my installation views of what I liked. In order below they are:
1) Fly Over (What Lies Beneath) by Teresa Diehl, 2011, soap, resin, & monofilament
2) Riflesso de Stelle by Sibylle Pasche, 2008, white Carrara marble
3) Swirling (detail) by Cindy Kane, 2011, mixed media on luan panels
4) Dreaming of Joy by Ran Hwang, 2008, buttons, pins, wood panel, & steel cage
5) another general installation view

Monday, July 9, 2012

MWA V: Klimt's Adele

The Neue Galerie here in NYC is celebrating the 150th birthday of the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, and it seems only appropriate then to share as this MWA one of his most exquisite paintings, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907 (image: Wikipedia), which the gallery owns and now proudly display as the centerpiece of its collection of Austrian and German art from the 1890s through the 1930s. The painting itself is oil and gold on canvas, and it shimmers both in person and in digital format. I can say it is definitely one of my favorite works of art in NYC, as it's both historicized and modern at the same time. Klimt had recently visited Ravenna, with its thrilling Byzantine church mosaics (the church of San Vitale will take your breath away), and decided to paint Bloch-Bauer using the jewel-like tones and effects he observed from these mosaic panels. Her portrait conveys a sense of Mannerism as well, with her attenuated limbs and facial features. At the same time, Klimt was conscious of the work of Cézanne and others in the way color could be used to create a flattened picture plane, for Bloch-Bauer clearly is sitting in a chair, but the pattern of her dress and the background meld into into another and we see a two-dimensional picture (keep in mind that Picasso and Cubism were only just beginning to get started at this time). But the story behind it this picture is just as striking as the picture itself. Adele had been the wife of the wealthy Jewish art collector Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, who fled Vienna with the rise of Nazism, leaving his art collection behind. He later died in Switzerland, having bequeathed his art collection to his nieces. The picture hung for decades in the Belvedere, an Austrian museum, but through the intervention of Nazi reparation, it was given back to his heirs, his surviving niece Maria Altman. She in turn sold the painting in 2006 to Ronald Lauder (heir to the Lauder cosmetics firm) for the then record-breaking sum of $135 million, who purchased it for the Neue Galerie, which he had founded. Needless to say, Altman's action came under a lot of heat, turning what some critics saw as a moment of triumph for the proper restoration of art works to Jewish families into a money-making venture that reeks of American capitalism. Regardless, the picture is exquisite, and it should be high on anyone's list to see if whenever you're in NYC. For more on the picture and its history, you can read this book or this book, or take a look at any article about it, like this one.