The Easel

26th February 2019

What Ghosts Haunt Jasper Johns’s New Skeleton Paintings? We May Never Know (and That’s the Point)

Reviewers of Johns’ new show approach it as a puzzle to be solved, undeterred by his long-standing reluctance to help with interpretation. Mortality seems a preoccupation of the octogenarian artist (no surprise) but is that it? “What is the meaning of all this meaning? You mainly end up finding symbols that are symbols of other symbols.”  A good bio piece is here.

Bauhaus designers changed the way the world looks. But did they make it better?

An interesting companion piece to the item on British design. Some think Bauhaus the most important design aesthetic ever. Perhaps so, given how it oriented design around functional need. It is now accused of giving us “buildings of unparalleled ugliness, blighting urban environments worldwide. Behind the Bauhaus’s admirable idealism, you sense a kind of disgust with difference”.

How Laurie Simmons’ Photographs Opened Our Eyes

How much of what we see is real, how much cultural myth? Throughout her career Simmons has used props, dolls and makeup to create images of domestic tableaux. “I knew that I wanted to stay in my studio and tell a certain kind of lie, to create a kind of ambiguity”. The linked piece covers her career highlights while a piece that delves into Simmons’ outlook is here.

19th February 2019

Joan Semmel

A career recapitulation, of sorts. Early on, Semmel decided to paint “images that were erotic for women … reimagining the nude without objectifying the person”. For decades she has done just that, mostly painting herself, undaunted by the visible impact of ageing. She is a “rapturous colourist”, adept at showing “the carnal nature of paint. She is the anti-muse.”

Florence Knoll Bassett, designer of the modern American office, dies

Orphaned at age 12 Knoll Bassett was then “practically adopted” by Finnish architect Eriel Saarinen. After training in architecture she transformed Knoll, the furniture company, by introducing architectural ideas into office design. Knoll became a “global powerhouse” of modernist design. She often stated “I am not a decorator”. More images are here.