Much as it sounds like the drag pseudonym of an America’s Next Top Model judge, “Miss Satin” was the pen name used by experimental poet Stéphane Mallarmé when writing about women’s clothing. Fancy hats were a favorite topic: “I could go on for hours,” he giddily opined in the pages of The Latest Fashion, the fashion magazine he founded in 1874. Shy young Paul Cézanne painted models copied from the pages of his sister’s fashion magazines. Poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire saw nothing more modern than the ephemeral beauty of a stylish shoe or chic accessory. Read More
Alexandra Munroe and Ming Tiampo’s “Gutai: Splendid Playground” may just be the best show in town. It is an immersive, coherent and spirited exhibition of Japanese postwar art.
The art movement Gutai (“concreteness”) originated as a reaction to the trauma of World War II. In the mid-1950s, young Japanese artists from the southern town of Ashiya who had seen Jackson Pollock’s paintings started making artworks that were as kinetic as they were minimal. The work was a celebration of individuality and play, of new technology and the material innovation that drove it—Gutai loved reflective materials and electric lights. A Dadaist, antiauthoritarian spirit abounded in the movement, and is pervasive at the Guggenheim: paintings were made by things like drawing machines, toy cars and vibrating devices. Yuko Nasaka’s Work (1960) looks like turntables of automotive lacquer. Films on view document the Gutai festivals—outdoor, interactive, public events in which playful displays of tactile materials hung in pine trees and artists burst through paper paintings, laughing. Fifty-nine artists ultimately claimed affiliation with the movement over its 18-year history. Read More
Named for a Sonic Youth album, this exhibition, part of which opened last week (the rest opens on Feb. 13), is a madeleine opening onto memories of the grunge era. Gathering artworks that were made or shown in New York in 1993, the curators—Massimiliano Gioni, Gary Carrion-Murayari, Jenny Moore and Margot Norton—make the case that art-making had a vastly different role at that time. Read More
It is one of the legacies of Freud that we see scribbles on paper as revealing something about the unconscious mind of the person who drew them. A new show organized by the Morgan Library’s Isabelle Dervaux and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Leslie Jones focuses on automatic drawing, dream imagery, frottage, exquisite corpse, collage and other drawing techniques of the Surrealists. It might be of interest to anyone who has found himself doodling idly, drawing his dreams, or interpreting inkblots. Read More
The composer John Cage proposed that everyday objects and actions could be art. George Maciunas, the Lithuanian-born self-styled “chairman” of the Fluxus art movement, saw that paying the rent was one of the most important everyday acts in New Yorkers’ lives. In the 1960s, Maciunas, with a rare combination of wit and pragmatism, established cooperative housing for artists in Soho as part of his art practice. For doing so, he was closely monitored by the city—he would have said persecuted. Maciunas’s vision, this illuminating exhibition argues, made him the “father of Soho.” Read More
2012 is over, but “Looking Back,” which opened on Thursday, presents a compelling case for a bit of nostalgia. The exhibition features work shown in New York during the past year. Selecting is curator Richard Birkett of Artists Space, whose recent work includes fall’s fashionable Bernadette Corporation retrospective. Read More
Abstract art just turned 100, MoMA tells us with a new exhibition, and the museum is throwing it a birthday party. Packed with some 350 artworks, the show, curated by Leah Dickerman and MoMA curatorial assistant Masha Chlenova, is busy and buzzing, a star-studded gala for historic experiments in color, form and even sound.
Visitors are greeted by Picasso’s Woman With Mandolin (1910), but abstract form quickly cedes the floor to immersive color. Wassily Kandinsky’s Impression III (Concert), from 1911—not coincidentally, the same year he released his book On the Spiritual in Art—is a revelation: you probably know that his early paintings derive from listening to Schoenberg’s music, but you might be surprised to see how literally his preparatory sketches take a black grand piano and a concert audience and reduce them to the painting’s flat blocks of color and form. For a moment, abstraction’s mystery seems solved. Not so fast—it is difficult in the extreme to imagine an origin point for Kandinsky’s enormous, sweeping Composition V, 1911, also on view here. Read More
At this point, even my father, whose tends to skip contemporary art shows for ancient Chinese stone-carving exhibitions, has run into and enjoyed Christian Marclay’s 24-hour film, The Clock. To recap: each scene is sampled from a snippet of a movie or TV show and synchronized with real time such that the film itself can be used as a working clock. Made in 2010, it has already been shown at Paula Cooper Gallery in New York, White Cube in London, the Venice Biennale, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art and, recently, in New York again, at Lincoln Center. It has screened in Glasgow, Ottawa and Yokohama. Several international museums own time-shares of the film. Read More
Henri Matisse was a nostalgist as much as he was an innovator. A painter who remained figurative in the face of abstraction and colorful in spite of Cubism’s monochrome palette, he primarily worked in oil on canvas despite the radical material innovations of Dadaism, and throughout his career he remained committed to traditional genres like the portrait and the still life. This exhibition, which curator Rebecca Rabinow has packed with 49 paintings that Matisse made in pairs or trios between 1899-1948, shows that he clung to more than just artistic tradition—he often painted and repainted the same theme in multiple styles, sometimes halting work on one painting only to continue on another, and preserving much of his own process along the way. Read More
The first comprehensive survey of the African-American art scene in Los Angeles between 1960 and 1980 presents some 140 rarely seen artworks by 32 artists. Organized by curator Kellie Jones, “Now Dig This!” was originally part of the programming for Los Angeles’s Getty Museum’s “Pacific Standard Time” exhibition earlier this year, and it is a welcome standalone show here in New York. From civil-rights-era social-realist lithographs by Charles White and etchings by feminist Betye Saar to activist art historians like Samella Lewis (who co-edited the book Black Artists on Art in 1969), artist-gallerists like Suzanne Jackson (whose independent Gallery 32 showed works by the Black Panthers) and dealers like Walter Hopps (who co-founded the Ferus Gallery), the show tells the story of members of a community galvanized by the political events of the 1960s like the Watts Rebellion and stimulated by the critical and commercial environment emerging in Los Angeles during this era. Read More