The Easel

27th March 2018

At the Gardner, the colors of heaven in Fra Angelico exhibition

This show is a big deal. The Renaissance painter, Fra Angelico, painted four reliquaries depicting the life of the Virgin Mary. For the first time in centuries they have been reunited. “The pieces gleam with gold, ultramarine, and vermilion … they seem to pulse with centuries of accumulated attention and reverence. It’s an energy some would call holy.” Images are here.

Eli Leon, 82, Dies: Champion of African-American Quilt Makers

Eli Leon was browsing in a local flea market in the 1980’s when he stumbled across a quilt. What some viewed as an improvisational craft he saw as an authentic art form. Due in no small measure to his promotion and scholarship, quilts have found recognition in the decorative arts and now appear in both private and museum collections. Quilt images are here.

20th March 2018

After “Open Casket”: What Emmett Till Teaches Us Today

A painting of the black victim of a 1950’s lynching, included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, was bitterly controversial. Debate continues, at a lower volume. Some see the core issue as “treating Black pain as raw material”. The artist thinks the painting is being viewed “out of context”. Perhaps the question they are all getting at is – “who gets to tell a community’s story”.

Grant Wood at the Whitney Both Thrills and Disappoints

When first shown “American Gothic’ was celebrated as an ode to regional conservatism. Is that what Wood really thought? Most likely he was gay. His landscapes “imply a freedom that Wood rarely had. It has to be significant that he’s airborne in these views, floating above the earth, maybe even escaping the fraught region that was his life.”  More images are here.

Attraction Pricing

New York’s Met has introduced compulsory admission fees. Doesn’t it still believe in “the general mobilization of the mind”? ‘User pays’ seems part of the answer. And then there is the cost of the Met, a history-focused institution, getting into contemporary art. Absent this venture, the Met “could have [allowed] nonmandatory admission fees … for all visitors, forever.”