Friday, December 31, 2004

Roll Over Mondrian, Tell Kandinsky the News

Mondrian plus Pacman equals Pac-Mondrian!
Read all about it and play the game! KAZAM! An incredible blend of high and low, the sum is even greater than the parts. Too much? Just right.

Another Favorite Mondrian game:
We’re all artists on this bus.

There Are No Straight Lines: Noguchi@ The Whitney:

I finally got a chance to see the show of sculptures by Isamu Noguchi at The Whitney Museum. Most impressive were the room of his Kouros. These sculptures look like 3- dimensional personages taken straight out of the paintings of Yves Tanguy, especially when grouped together as they are in this show. Also seen at the Whitney: the Romare Bearden show, a stunner; a slow-moving, strange and surreal Video installation by Bill Viola. All-in-all a thoroughly stimulating array of exciting and varied art works at "the uptown bunker for difficult art."

Monday, December 27, 2004

Image Processing and Art History

"Art historians have long used scientific tools to help them decide whether drawings and paintings are real or fakes, like counting isotopes in lead-based paints to spot anachronisms or shining X-ray and infrared radiation on oil portraits to discover what lies beneath.

Now researchers at Dartmouth College have introduced a forensic tool appropriate to the digital age: they have fed digitally scanned artworks into a computer, and then used image-processing techniques to create statistics describing the pen and brush strokes.

Like a connoisseur - a blend of Bernard Berenson and HAL - the computer analysis detected subtle differences in these strokes that might help distinguish an artist from an imitator."

-Who Really Wielded the Paintbrush?

NY Times, December 23, 2004

If you are interested in image processing, take a look at ImageJ:

powerful software developed at the NIH and available as a free download far any platform (Jave, Unix, Mac and PC). This software is as powerful as Adobe Photoshop (with many similar features) in addition it has may features that make it a perfect forensic tool to aid art historians in the analysis of images.
The most famous example of digital imaging software supporting art historical suppositions is the superimpostion fo Leanardo’s Self-Portrait over the face of the Mona Lisa. The Aha! Moment this caused has spurred many other speculations about the master from Vinci, leading invariably to The Da Vinci Code.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Few "Museum Mile" Moments

Went to the Museum Mile today to check off a few items on my short list.
First, took the long downward spiral ramp at the Guggenheim to savor “The Aztec Empire.” Aside from some minor misgivings such as “I thought the Guggenheim was devoted to non-objective art? …Contemporary Art?”
"The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation was incorporated in 1937, and the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, as it was then known, was established two years later. The museum ...took as its basis the radical new forms of art being developed by such artists as Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Piet Mondrian."

-from The Guggenheim Museum History

But, then again, this is where “The Art of the Motorcycle” drew record crowds of visitors not usually associated with the genteel and upper-crusty museum mile.
Cranky misgivings aside, once inside I was mesmerized by the sheer quantity of arresting sculptures, vessels, jewelry and statuary produced by this pre-Columbian culture. For sheer weirdness and necromancy this exhibit should also appeal to the bikers, tattoo artists, and alternative lifestyle crowd usually absent form mainstream gatherings of the art set.
Kudos to the curators for pulling off a surprising success from out of the proverbial hat.

Schlepped further on down Fifth Avenue, to the Metropolitan Museum to see the recently installed masterpiece by Duccio. At $45 million, this little gem is the most expensive piece of real estate to be seen in Gotham City. Let’s see… the painting is a little over 10 x 8 inches and cost a cool 45 million clams, that makes it about half a million per square inch. Donald Trump eat your heart out, better yet, go to the Guggenheim and let the Aztecs eat your heart for you.

Read about the painting here in The Art Newspaper.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Pop Artist Dies, Changing-of-the-Avant-Guard

Tom Wesselman passed away last Friday, joining Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein in the Pop Pantheon of "Past Masters Who Passed Away".
This from the NY Times, today 12/20/04
"Along with Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist and Jim Dine, Mr. Wesselmann belonged to a generation of artists who gave American art and culture a new sense of itself. They found inspiration, source materials and even working methods in areas beyond art - in advertising, movies, food labels, household appliances, newspaper front pages and in commercial art techniques like silkscreen, Benday dots and billboard painting. The changes they wrought continue to reverberate through contemporary art and life."

This is almost the final stage in the changing-of-the-avant-guard, leaving James Rosenquist and Claus Oldenburg very much alive to carry the Pop torch. If you haven't seen J.R.'s "F-111" at his Guggenheim show last year, then hurry to MoMA and see it in a setting that seems made for it. Claus Oldenburg is busy turning his studio/loft/residence in SoHo into a gallery/museum.

Did I forget to put the Rubin Museum for Himalayan Art on my short list? I love the very Zen quote on the exterior of this newest museum in Chelsea: "Walls Are Doors".
I like that, if walls are doors and doors are mirrors and mirrors are windows and toys are us and wednesday is sunday at Carvel...

Sunday, December 19, 2004

If De Kooning Still Mattered

Don’t get me wrong, I love early-to-middle de Kooning painting (from the forties through to maybe the late-seventies). I remember being challenged, perplexed and thrilled at the Knoedler Gallery in 1975 with de Kooning's outrageous complexity and anti-aesthetic aesthetic. But soon thereafter, the fire went out…it was well-known that Bill had lapsed into a dementia or senility brought on by alcohol abuse, Alzheimer’s or something else and anyone with an eye could see that his paintings became simpler; thin and anemic and lacking in any vigor, rigor or lust that characterized the painting of the previous decades.
Yet, galleries and even museums showed these pseudo “De Kooning” paintings alongside his truly great masterpieces as if the proximity to the real thing would rub off on these dribblings by his sycophantic assistants. Schlock, mock and dreadful as these paintings are, I’m sure many people were taken in.
Now comes a new book De Kooning: An American Master by Mark stevens and Annalyn Swann
I look forward to reading it, I may even give to myself for xmas…

Full Disclosure: As a painting student of Joop Sanders ( a fellow Dutch ex-pat) we were tutored in the formal exigencies of De Kooningism which boiled down to a few simple dictates:
-Try using things besides a brush to “paint”
-Never make all four corners of a canvas the same
-Never close off your forms, literally or figuratively:
all shapes should be ambiguous and open to interpretation and also open in shape so as to shift from foreground to backgound in a constant dance
-Draw with the brush, avoid drawing and then “filling in the drawing with color”
That's it, now you too can paint just like De Kooning, which is what a lot of my fellow students were doing at that time. I found it hard to resist the strong pull of the sort of mystical regard and cultish fervor surrounding De Kooning and yet, following Groucho Marx's famous dictum "Whatever It Is, I'm Against It".

Related Reading (sort of)
"If Jackson Pollock Wrote Music"

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Philly Cheese Steaks and Van Gogh To Go!

"Does It Matter Where This Painting Hangs?"
By ROBERTA SMITH, NY Times 12/15/04

Yet, while one art-world hand is wringing, maybe the other should be doing its Zen-like best to clap. The decision is a triumph of accessibility over isolation, of art over the egos of collectors and, frankly, of the urban over the suburban.

Great quote from Roberta Smith in today's NY Times article. It seems that the fabled Barnes Collection is most likely going to move to downtown Philly: Cheese steaks and Van Gogh! I'm all for it. What do you think?

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Short List: What Art to See in NYC

The Short List: Art in NYC Galleries and Museums
Always lots to see in NYC
Here is the absolute shortest list of "must-see"

Old Masters:

Duccio @ the Met
NYT article about the painting
Mucho dinaro for this little gem, no?

Raphael @ the Frick
Raphael's Mona Lisa?

Modern Masters:
Picasso / Beckman @Richard L.Feigen & Co.
A battle royale by two titans toe-to-toe and head-to-head.
34 E.69th St. through Jan. 31.

Isamu Noguchi / Romare Bearden / Jacob Lawrence @the Whitney: a triple threat at the uptown concrete bunker for difficult art during difficult times.
Bearden through Jan 9th. Noguchi through Jan. 16. Lawrence through Jan. 31.

Pre-Columbian Masters:
The Aztec Empire @ the Guggenheim Museum through Feb. 15
Aztecs in "Wrights revenge?" Sounds corny but it works.

Frank Lloyd Wright: The Vertical Dimension @ the Skyscraper Museum through Jan. 9.
FLW designs for a "Mile-High Building" downtown. This new museum has been on my list, but FLW is a must-see anywhere, anytime.

Josef and Anni Albers: Designs for Living @ the Cooper Hewitt through Feb. 9. Long Live the Bauhaus!

And don’t forget:

Alfred Leslie @ Allan Stone Gallery Seems Al liked to paint like De Kooning before switching to figuration... go figure.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Snowflakes @ Davis & Langdale

I've always been a sucker for photos of microscopic phenomena of any kind; it seems that many people respond to immediacy of the art/science connection. These images elicit a child-like sense of wonder that is often dormant in our day-to-day "just the facts, 'maam" existence. I am planning to see the snowflakes in the next few days before it closes.

Davis & Langdale Company, Inc.
231 East 60th Street, New York NY 10022
telephone: 212 838 0333
hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10am until 5pm

"Snowflake" Bentley: Vintage Photomicrographs by Wilson A. Bentley (1865-1931)
November 20 through December 18, 2004

"SNOWFLAKE" BENTLEY: VINTAGE PHOTOMICROGRAPHS BY W.A. BENTLEY (1865-1931) will consist of seventeen vintage photographs of snowflakes, taken by Wilson A. Bentley, better known as "Snowflake" Bentley. It includes two examples from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

WILSON A. BENTLEY coined the phrase "No two snowflakes are alike." He grew up in Vermont, and developed a life-long fascination for snow. His parents indulged his interest, buying him a special camera to photograph the flakes individually. The process was difficult, made more so by the temporary nature of the subject – many snowflakes melted before BENTLEY could capture their images on film, making the photographs extremely rare.

BENTLEY's work will be featured in House & Garden magazine's December 2004 issue. He was the subject of a Caldecott Medal-winning book, Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998), and a biography by Duncan C. Blanchard, The Snowflake Man: A Biography of Wilson A. Bentley (McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, 1998). BENTLEY himself published numerous articles about his work in magazines such as Harper's Monthly, Popular Science, and The New York Times Magazine, as well as a book, Snow Crystals, later republished as Snowflakes in Photographs (Dover Publications, 2000)."
- The Art Dealers Association of America

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Gilbert and George @ Sonnabend

The latest offerings by this witty pair of kooky artists are by turns interesting, intriguing but ultimately disappointing. Interesting in the use of graffiti-like lettering, scrawls and scribbles; intriguing in the use of bi-lateral symmetry; but I found the works to be cold and distant in part due to the "low-tech" tiling of smaller panels to make up each larger image In person the work look like Kinko-produced knock offs.
Gilbert and George on Artnet
I still smile when I think of their "most appealing painting" created by polling the likes and dislikes of many people to create the image. And don't forget their work with the paintings by elephants...

Thursday, December 02, 2004

$23,000,000. Smackeroos for Sargent Painting

According to the NY Times:

"Art prices are setting records again. In early November "No. 6 (Yellow, White, Blue Over Yellow on Gray)" by Mark Rothko was auctioned at Sotheby's for a record $17.4 million, almost 50 percent above the top end of Sotheby's estimate. "The Ninth Hour," a room with a lifesize wax pope felled by a meteorite, by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, fetched $3 million at auction at Phillips, de Pury & Company, also exceeding its top estimate by half."
By EDUARDO PORTER, December 1, 2004

A record price for a John Singer Sargent has been set at Sotheby's at the recent sale.

ESTIMATE 9,000,000—12,000,000 USD

Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 23,528,000 USD

There it is, yet another art work sold at more than twice the estimate and a record for the artist. $23,000,000. smackeroos. Art is hot right now, right here.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

GUY PÈNE DU BOIS Exceeds Estimates!!!

Whew, what a day for Mr. Du Bois at Sotheby's today. A painting, "Paris Railroad Station" by Guy Pene Du Bois has sold at more than twice the estimate of $150,000—250,000 for a whopping $512,000. It's my guess that this is a record for a Du Bois painting. Something to check out, but I wouldn't be too surprised if that is a record.
Guy's brother Rene was a noted Broadway Set Designer and I would bet that his prices are on the rise as well, although clearly not in the same range - since oil paintings always fetch higher prices than the " workaday" renderings, sketches and designs for the theater in any case.

Auction results for "Paris Railway Station"