The Easel

26th March 2019

Tintoretto was brilliant and ambitious. This new exhibition shows he was also sublimely weird.

A landmark show. Facing stiff competition from Titian and Veronese, Tinteretto took from Michelangelo. Putting energised human figures in his paintings may provide them narrative force. It did indeed. Not all Tintoretto’s works are masterpieces but they always persuade. “Deeply original, often sublimely weird [he was] one of the most imaginative painters of the Renaissance.”

Free Form

“Rapturous” acclaim for Tate’s show of Anni Albers’ weavings is but part of a bigger story. Despite Bauhaus credentials and groundbreaking modernism, her reputation faded. Weaving also fell from favour. Now this is reversing, the art/craft distinction discredited. The warp and weft of textiles creates a grid, modernism’s favourite “armature for the expressive aesthetic gesture”.

How Lincoln Kirstein Changed NYC Culture From Behind the Scenes

By age 21, Kirstein had founded a literary journal and a contemporary art society. After graduating he chose the young MoMA as “the perfect repository for his many enthusiasms.” At 25, he co-founded the New York City Ballet! His contributions to modern art via institution building and support of individual artists “was one of the greatest of the twentieth century.” A video is here.

An Artist’s Archeology of the Mind

This bio piece makes Sacks sound intimidating – literature specialist, poet, Harvard academic and now, at age 69, successful painter. His paintings take years, sometimes having 10 or more layers. Not abstract art, he says, more non-representational. “They are like very slow action paintings … one step at a time. In a certain sense, it’s up to the materials to show me the way.”

Review: Searing moments of American truths in ‘Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power’

Different people see things differently. In London, this show was praised for its “beauty”. On home soil it is the show’s “searing moments” that catch attention. Some 1960’s artists were trying to create distinctively ‘black’ art. While that didn’t quite happen, art did find its voice on race issues. Now, art focused on these issues has “a secure place within the art market”.

19th March 2019

You’ll Never Know Yourself: Bonnard and the Color of Memory

A very different view of Tate Modern’s show. Bonnard’s multiple portraits of his wife show that he constantly fiddled and changed his mind. Picasso diagnosed indecision. “Wrong … Bonnard, like many artists, was working to find himself and sort through his past … a form of therapy. [His wife] was Bonnard’s shifting projection of himself [and] color was Bonnard’s arbitrator of emotion.”

An encounter with John Richardson, Picasso’s biographer who has died at 95

Richardson was an intellectual aesthete, a “protean citizen of the art world”. His close friendship with Picasso led to an acclaimed biography, a “vast monument” to the artist.  “One of the problems is that whatever you say about him, the reverse is also true. The more I find, the more I dig, the greater he becomes.” A revealing excerpt, about Picasso and his first wife, is here.

‘A Black Aesthetic: A view of South African Artists (1970 -1990)’ A challenge to existing ideas of South African art history

Can a “landmark” exhibition change South Africa’s awareness of its own art? That’s the aspiration of a show of art made during the apartheid era. This ‘black aesthetic’ was distinctly modernist, mainly non-political, and still influences current South African art. “A cornerstone [show] for what art made by artists who are black … is all about.”

Only Human – Martin Parr review: Britain in focus, with a new Brexit twist

How timely – a show about Britishness, just as the Brexit debate peaks. The linked piece airs criticisms of Parr; a lover of kitch, satire lacking in compassion. Fellow artist Grayson Perry disagrees: this work “hovers uncomfortably between comedy and tragedy … humour bleeds through all these photographs, but also compassion … one of the foremost chroniclers of our times.”

Why Is Work by Female Artists Still Valued Less Than Work by Male Artists?

The second half of this piece has some interesting analysis. Works by women artists sell for about 38%(!) less than those by men. Multiple factors are at work. Women tend to work in lower priced media (works on paper), men in higher priced media (painting, sculpture). It seems that art by women has “different characteristics” to art by men. Oh … and perhaps there’s gender discrimination as well.

Cady Noland, MMK Frankfurt

Noland left the art world in 2000. In the absence of new works or interviews, she exists “mainly as a legend”. Now, suddenly, a survey show. Is it comeback or just contrariness? Whichever, it is a reminder of the potency of her bleak work. Her sculptures portray an America where “violence is synonymous with amusement … an openly exploitative society”.

Okwui Enwezor Has Died at Age 55, the Visionary Curator Broadened the Geographic Scope of the Contemporary Art World

Enwezor was regarded as a great among contemporary curators. Initially a poet, he switched to curating contemporary art and rose to the pinnacle of curation – the Venice Biennale. His exhibitions were distinguished by “aesthetic rigour” and a willingness to tackle art’s “persistent Euro- and Western-centrism … he created a revolution in curating contemporary art.”