Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
At the Frick Museum 1 East 70th Street
Apparently the Dulwich Picture Gallery has been open to the public since 1817, which makes it England's oldest public art gallery. I've never been there, but if this show is any indication, it must house a lot of old European paintings. This show, while very small has some beautiful paintings in it. It starts with Rembrandts "A Girl At A Window" (1645) displayed prominently on a wall by itself. I feel like I've only seen this image in reproduction, but in person it's quite stunning. Rembrandt's work tends to be like that. Behind it is an amazing Poussin "Nature of Jupiter" (1663), which I think may be the best piece in the show. Like I said it's a really small show, but it has some other big names like Watteau, Canaletto, and Gainsborough.
The tiny scale of the show feels like it's not really worth the price of admission, but it is a good excuse to go to the Frick, which has been called everyone's favorite museum. It is a beautiful building, that creates a warm serene environment, which runs contrary to the cold white modernist walls you see in most museums today (at least in New York). This is really an ideal venue for the collection, which consists of European fine and decorative art from the early Renaissance up through Impressionism. Every once and a while I run into a New Yorker who's never been to the Frick and it's all I can do to keep from slapping them in the head. I always make a point of wandering into the Fragonard room and the Boucher room. Both elaboratly decorated spaces where the museum has recreated this lush rococo world of 18th century decadents and whimsy. I think they're two of the most beautiful public rooms in all of New York. Every time I go there I feel like if my eyes could salivate, this is where it would happen. It's a wonderfully escapist experience. Then you have to leave, and deal with the real world. That part sucks!
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Sunday, May 2, 2010
The sculptor/mixed media artist Kiki Smith is known for making very felt, personal and occasionally provocative objects and images. She's having kind of a large installation at the Brooklyn Museum called "Sojourn", that's running through Sep 12th. I may try to get to that at some point, but this show at the Pace was closer, and I assume smaller. "Loadstar" is an installation of thirty white stained glass panels in thick metal frames that have been painted with lead. They're all about seven feet tall and are laid out rather elegantly on the gallery floor, so the viewer can walk through and around them freely. Viewers can also sit on one of a series of benches within the installation and contemplate the individual panels. The images painted on the glass are mainly human figures. An older women with short hair appears over and again, sometimes with a younger women and a man that seem to be her children. In some cases we find panels containing a younger woman painted alone that may be her daughter, or herself at a younger age. There's one of a woman giving birth, and one of an older woman (probably the same one) lying in a coffin. I think these are probably the most dramatic, as well as the most loaded images in the show. There's also a lot of depiction's of chairs, and birds painted on the glass panels.
Smith's use of materials is pretty original, and the installation of the panels is very aesthetic. But, there's something about the crude way she paints on the glass with the lead which seems very self consciously emotional, like she's trying to invoke some primal childlike scrawl which doesn't really read as authentic. I've always seen Smith as kind of a second rate Louise Bourgeois. That's not as insulting as it may sound. I think Louise Bourgeois is one of the greatest sculptors alive today. What I mean is that like Bourgeois, Smith likes to deal with the body, and primarily the female body. Her work is very tactile, and the tactile nature is supposed to communicate sexuality, sensuality, pleasure, and pain, both physical and emotional. It's just that Bourgeois communicates it much better. Also, like Bourgeois Smith likes to keep changing mediums, and she handles the medium in a way which sometimes intentionally blurs the line between fine art and craft. It's a way of infusing a kind of aggressive femininity into an art form that has traditionally been seen as masculine. I know I'm setting kind of a high bench mark with Bourgeois, but Smith doesn't possess the same sensitivity to the medium that she has. In this case the heavy industrial materials don't really lend themselves to the intimacy, and emotionalism that I think Smith is aiming for. Maybe it's suppose to be ironic or challenging in some way, but it just seems forced, and disharmonious, which to me is consistent with a lot of her other work that I've seen. I don't know, maybe I'm missing something.