Summer 2021-officially! We may (here’s hoping) safely resuming non-pandemic life. It’s time to go outside, reconnect with others, and resume some activities. Keeping that advice in mind, The Art Caravan posts will be brief this summer.
I will quickly draw your attention to the Manhattan Graphics Center. MGC, a professional printmaking studio, opened in 1986. It provides space, equipment and opportunities for artists to learn printmaking, and to produce and show their artworks in New York City.
Elizabeth McAlpin, Manhattan Graphics Center, T. Vatrt image
What great news (sigh of relief) to read of its reopening. Not only has it managed to survive the shutdowns of the last 15 months but MGC is offering expanded membership opportunities, and a collaboration with Center for the Book Arts.
The Center for the Book Arts, NYC, T. Vatrt image
The Center for the Book Arts, NYC, T. Vatrt image
Both Centers offer workshops and courses, virtually and (soon!) in the studios. Until July 31, MGC has a virtual exhibition UnEditioned, juried by Katie Michel of The Planthouse Gallery. I am honoured to have a print included in the show. You might want to take a quick look at this link before heading outside…
more to explore 3, Terry Vatrt, intaglio, chine collé, ink, coloured pencil
The Art Caravan is celebrating…in a covid kind of way. A year ago we started posting regularly – every two weeks. (Our initial, and very tentative post was in February 2014, with sporadic postings until 2020.)
Re-reading the March 2020 post reminds me how little we knew about life in a pandemic. Sigh. Be reassured this post is NOT going to discuss the all-too-familiar challenging and horrendous circumstances of the last twelve months. Instead, we are going to mark this anniversary (of sorts) with gentleness, one of the strategies Dr. Pauline Boss recommends, to survive in a time of loss. She recommends doing things we enjoy, participating in rituals and being kind to others.
A virtual visit to an artwork isn’t the same as experiencing it in person, but I enjoyed the presentation by the always erudite Xavier F. Salomon, the chief curator at The Frick. He outlines the history and context of this self portrait in Rembrandt’s life. I may not agree entirely with his interpretation of Rembrandt’s self-depiction, but the discussion adds to my appreciation of the painting.
The Frick adapted well to the harsh realities of a pandemic. It generously (most programs are free), and regularly shares its art and expertise through innovative online programming.
If you’re in the mood for more celebrating (and who isn’t?) The Winnipeg Art Gallery opens Qaumajuq, its new Inuit Art Centre, this week. (Here is the post from January 2021 with more information about this gallery hosting the world’s largest collection of Inuit art.) The WAG is kindly inviting us to a two part, virtual opening to celebrate the new 40,000 square foot space.
Qaumajuq, Winnipeg Art Gallery, cbc.ca image
I encourage you to open some bubbly, and salute The Frick and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Despite the formidable difficulties presented by a pandemic, both institutions continue to contribute to society in innovative and meaningful ways. They unstintingly provide easy access to art, beauty, differing cultures, ideas and a myriad of educational opportunities. They are worthy of our appreciation, praise and celebration. Cheers!
Louise Bourgeois is probably best known for her spider sculptures. One of the largest graces/guards/threatens (depending on your personal reaction to arachnids) the entrance to the National Gallery of Canada.
Maman, Louise Bourgeois, 1999 National Gallery of Canada image
From October 2017 to July 2019 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art produced the very engaging exhibition, Spiders. Because of their size, volume and apparent solidity, the sculptures invite interaction with the viewer, albeit tentatively, in some cases.
Spiders, Louise Bourgeois, SFMoMA 2017, T. Vatrt image
Spiders, Louise Bourgeois, SFMoMA 2017, T. Vatrt image
The exhibition also included more intimate pieces.
Spider, Louise Bourgeoise, SFMoMA 2017, T. Vatrt image
This smaller Spider from 2003 is made of stainless steel and antique tapestry. SFMoMA calls it an uncanny combination of materials that is both beautiful and disconcerting. The exhibition’s curator Sarah Roberts wrote about the artwork, referencing Bourgeois’ personal history. She says that Bourgeois laid bare a more fraught and complex psychological landscape–bright with devotion and protection but also darkened with feelings of guilt, rage and fear of abandonment or failure.
Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris on Christmas day in 1911. (Yes! She was creating the Spider sculptures as an octogenarian.) She studied mathematics and art in Paris. (Interesting to note: she had a print shop next door to her parents’ tapestry gallery in a suburb of Paris.) In 1938 she moved to the U.S.A. with her American husband.
After they settled in New York City, she created The Personages. I find this series as compelling as the Spiders, but for different reasons.
Personages, Louise Bourgeois, artoronto.ca image
Personages, Louise Bourgeois, whitney.org image
Hauser & Wirth’s catalogue of her work for Art Basel 2013 is definitely worth a look. It includes images of Bourgeois, the Personages, and background information.
The appeal of Personages is multi faceted. They are made of malleable, natural materials: wood and plaster. (They were eventually cast in bronze.) The scale is more human-sized, as opposed to the intimidating size of the Spiders. She successfully uses the Modernist aesthetic of abstract symbols to evoke the presence of individuals – people to whom she felt connected, but from whom she was physically separated.
In an interview with the New York Times, Bourgeois said this: Suddenly I had this huge sky space to myself, and I began doing these standing figures. A friend asked me what I was doing. I told him ‘I feel so lonely that I am rebuilding these people around me.’
Perhaps the emotion contained in the works – the yearning, the loneliness, the love, the regret – is what I find most appealing. It’s palpable. At this time of year, in the midst of a pandemic, those emotions resonate deeply.
Isn’t this a beautiful title for an art exhibition? The Hummingbird Paints Fragrant Songs was a highlight of my visit to The Outsider Art Fair in New York City in January.
The OAF consists of many exhibitors showing art from self-taught artists (think Howard Greenberg Gallery selling original Vivian Maier photographs) as well as special programming, on and off the main exhibition site.
The Hummingbird Paints Fragrant Songs was one of the featured Curated Spaces. This compact exhibition was curated by Brett Littman of the Noguchi Museum in partnership with the Shipibo Canibo Center. It consisted of works by Sara Flores and Celia Vasquez Yui, Peruvian artists.
The Hummingbird Paints Fragrant Songs
The artists’ process of bringing these works to completion is astonishing. Sara uses natural dyes for the hand drawn works on canvas; Celia begins her work with shamanistic-like rituals of fasting and abstinence. All the works are rife with symbolism and patterning specific to their areas of the Amazon. Please read this brief, but fascinating description of the artists and their work.
The Hummingbird Paints Fragrant Songs, sculpture by Celia Vasquez Yui
The works are exquisitely detailed; to this viewer they exude a feeling of harmonious energy.
I’m glad I followed the recommendations of others to attend the Outsider Art Fair. I can now add the Shipibo Canibo Center to my list of things to do and see in NYC. The Noguchi Museum is already on the list. Next time, I hope.
Do you have a favourite piece of artwork that you make a point of visiting, whenever you find yourself in a certain gallery, or in another city? I have several; they seem to act as touchstones for me. Perhaps they give me a sense of familiarity in a foreign setting as I explore new things. This impulse certainly speaks to the power of good art to inspire me, and reassure me.
Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait, 1658, The Frick Collection
This painting almost makes me swoon….and I don’t swoon easily. In person, it appears luminous. Technically speaking, it is gorgeous: the rich colours, the play of light and dark, and the composition guide our attention to his hands, and his steady gaze.
Rembrandt was about 50 years old when he painted this self portrait. Not only does the painting reflect his technical virtuosity , but it provokes a strong emotional response. He portrays himself confidently. He is dressed sumptuously. With a staff and his hat, he seems ready to meet anyone and any challenge in the world.
He looks directly at the viewer. He certainly engages this viewer, who feels an uncanny connection to this man. His gaze seems open, and honest. It appears that he acknowledges, and accepts, the complexity of life. Does the set of his mouth suggest a bemused attitude, or a resigned one? Whatever the interpretation, the portrait exudes humanity, warmth and life.
The next time you’re in New York, you might want to drop into the Frick, and experience this portrait. As far as I know, it’s on permanent display….and rightfully so.
Matisse was originally hired to design the stained glass windows, but eventually went on to design the chapel (working with the architect Auguste Perret) and its contents, including the Stations of the Cross, the alter linens, the priests’ vestments and the furniture.
Matisse said the chapel was “….the culmination of a life of work.” He goes on to say, “Colours and lines are forces, and the secret of creation lies in the interaction of these forces and their balance.”
I think The Art Caravan will be planning a trip to Vence. The show at MoMA brought me to tears. I felt surrounded by joy, passion, and love for art and life. To see Matisse’s work in a permanent installation, The Chapel of the Rosary, must be a very affirming experience.
If a trip to France isn’t in your immediate future, how about a trip to New York? MoMA is offering Midnight with Matisse on December 31, to celebrate Matisse’s birthday, and the new year. (Who needs the craziness of Times Square anyway?!)
You’ve got to love a church that has a Poet in Residence, (currently Marilyn Nelson) and lists Judy Collins as one of their artists/musicians in residence. Never mind that it is a beautiful space, with a lovely communion service, and an socially active community……now there is also a stunning art installation by Xu Bing on display for all to enjoy.
At least this time I was (somewhat) prepared, having checked the Cathedral of St. John the Divine website for service times. (Yes! The Art Caravan has been on the move.)
Unlike Anne Patterson’s installation for Grace Cathedral, (see previous posting), this artwork is not site specific, and wasn’t originally intended as a cathedral installation. Xu Bing, a contemporary Chinese artist, had been commissioned to create artwork for the World Trade Centre under construction in Beijing in 2008.
He decided that the glass atrium between the building’s two towers would be the perfect setting for two phoenixes, the male Feng and the female Huang. The phoenix is an important symbol of unity and peace in Chinese mythology.
Xu Bing chose to construct the birds from the detritus of the construction site. How apt for a phoenix?
Construction was delayed, in large part due to the demands of the Beijing Olympic Games, and then the financial challenges of the times. The builders became more cautious, and censorious. They demanded that he cover the structures–all 12 tons–in crystals, as they appeared ‘unfinished.’ When Xu Bing refused, all money and support for the project was withdrawn.
Fortunately, the art collector Barry Lam, acquired the work. It was shown briefly in China, and at MASS MoCA last year. The work is beautiful, and graceful. The vast nave of the cathedral is a perfect setting for these ‘birds.’