The Easel

10th July 2018

Patron saint of lipstick and lavender feminism

The focus of a London show – on Frida Kahlo’s belongings – is regrettable, says a reviewer. Let’s focus on her art. No, says Germaine Greer, the show has it right. Kahlo conducted her life as a performance. “To consider Kahlo as a painter only is to confuse one part of the performance for the whole. Her devotion to this process was extraordinary. The performance was her reality.”

Did brands’ faith in artists die with Campari’s posters?

Advertising is rarely considered art, unless you have in mind Campari. The company gave artists great freedom to create visual interpretations of the brand. Their bold advertising campaigns reflected current art trends and changed the way we look at advertising. No longer. “Commercial work now so often moves away from ‘inspiration’ towards ‘information’” More images are here.

The Seventh Wave

Engaging essay by Magnum photographer Trent Parkes about his images of Australia’s celebrated beach life. “It was the ultimate candid photography. No one even knew we were there as they battled to swim, surf and survive the waves. We would … shoot a single frame, maybe two if we could stay down long enough, before being tossed head over heels by the power of the ocean.”

Ultra-technologists’ to open digital-only museum in Tokyo

Teamlab are digital artists (“ultratechnologists”, they say) whose newest creation is a museum of digital art in Tokyo. They explain – “We try to find the relationship of the human and the world. We don’t know if our output is ‘art’ or not. Maybe that will be decided in 100 years. But we try to create something we believe in.” A video (3 min) is here.

Yale Art Gallery Unravels Leonardo Da Vinci Mysteries

“Even genius needs to start somewhere”. Leonardo got his start, it seems, as an apprentice in a prominent Florence workshop. Decades-long research suggests that he contributed to at least eight of its surviving paintings. “We have assumed that a thing by him has to look like his late works, and that he therefore had no beginnings. That, of course, is totally implausible,”

Through a Glass Darkly

A revisiting of last year’s furor over a Balthus painting. Can we be sure the work is voyeuristic? Balthus dwelt on “private ambiguities … the unsettling space between reality and dream. The power of Balthus’s paintings of girls … [is] they show us childhood anew … the dreamy eroticism of adolescence in all its enigmatic and arresting contradictoriness.”

Rare self portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi enters the collection

Baroque paintings don’t often make headlines. This one, by Artemesia Gentileschi, a contemporary of Caravaggio, is different. For London’s National Gallery it is just the 20th painting by a woman in their 2300 work European collection. Enthuses one writer, “This is one of the most important purchases the National Gallery has ever made.”

3rd July 2018

Obituary: David Goldblatt, photographer, 1930-2018

Goldblatt’s images spoke eloquently of South African community values. “I’m not particularly interested in photographing [events but] in the conditions that give rise to events … There was this almost naked fear of The Black. And yet at the same time, there was an intimacy with blacks that far transcended the intimacy that I knew in my own home, with my parents.”

A New Met Exhibit Shows That Mark Rothko Made Paintings As Good As The Quilts Of Gee’s Bend

Where does vernacular art – like quilt making – fit in the art world? Should it be compared directly to mainstream art? Or, does it belong in its own category, such as “outsider art”. Categorization seems beside the point if mainstream and self-taught artists have “converged on compositional commonalities that make many people’s eyes respond in equivalent ways.”

Kevin Beasley

There is an unmistakable air of excitement around this artist. Beasley uses garments soaked in resin to form evocative, free-standing shapes or to press into painting-like panels. One writer comments that they “hum with memory and reference, a life’s ordinary baggage preserved beneath an impeccable Old Master shine.”

The Burrell Collection’s European tapestries trace the history of an art form

One source suggests medieval tapestries were proof of a “delicate palate”. Really? In Europe’s stone palaces and churches tapestries were a great way to display wealth, advertise one’s piety, and keep the place warm. What was once a mainstream area of art is now tiny, albeit with some resurgence. A video showing the art form at its most spectacular is here.

Do not allow art to cleanse crimes

After some market chitchat, this piece gets serious about Picasso. A 1905 work portrays a child prostitute, whose services Picasso probably used. “A pretence is created that in painting her, Picasso was a disinterested, compassionate observer of her plight … I’m not in favour of judging the past by contemporary standards, but we allow art to cleanse even the worst crimes. We shouldn’t.”

Revised Frick expansion clears Landmarks but still faces challenges

Finally, after multiple plans and years (decades) of trying, New York’s beloved Frick Collection has an approved renovation. Notably, the contentious removal of its garden that undermined the previous plan has been abandoned. Advocates describe the latest plan as “respectful”; to one opponent it’s “a vote for blandness”. Law suits could be next.

The presence and absence of Lee Miller

The re-evaluation of Lee Miller continues. Art history remembers her as a model to Man Ray. However, the posthumous discovery of her photographic work makes clear that she was much more. Her early work explored surrealism, followed by photojournalism in WWII and, after that, fashion photography.  She reportedly said, “I looked like an angel, but I was a fiend inside”.