The Easel

1st October 2019

Vija Celmins’s surface matters

Celmins keeps a low profile and produces relatively few paintings. Yet her works “awe critics” and sell for huge prices. They focus on household objects, the sea, starry skies – the images rendered in minute detail and muted colour. Their reticence gives them “a timeless, impersonal, and rather cold beauty”. Or, as one writer says, they have “whispered power”.  More images are here.

With a brass band blaring, artist Kehinde Wiley goes off to war with Confederate statues

Proposals to remove Richmond’s Confederacy-era statues caused a huge controversy.  Virginia’s Museum of Fine Art has a nice response – a “massive” statue of an African American man. Temporarily in New York’s Times Square, the figure wears dreadlocks and street wear and strikes a faux-heroic pose atop a horse. In December it will be installed in Richmond, a “profoundly subversive response to the city’s Civil War dilemma.”

Reconsidering Ceramics Iconoclast Peter Voulkos at Burning in Water

A visit to Black Mountain College was Voulkos’ first exposure to New York abstraction. What an impact! He set about redefining ceramics, discarding many of its established practices. In particular, what some regarded as flaws he saw as “spontaneous creative accidents.” Voulkos wasn’t thinking pots anymore but rather expressionist sculpture. He was re-inventing American post-war ceramics.  A video (1 min) is here.

24th September 2019

What’s at Stake for the Art World in Embracing Pace Gallery’s Colossal New Space

Critics seem un-nerved by Pace’s new eight story gallery in New York, complete with five concurrent exhibitions. Pace wants its galleries to be spaces where people want to congregate, “like church.” So what’s it like? “[I]t feels oddly akin to visiting an upscale department store … floors often have designated specialities or sections … the only certainty I saw was the unfathomable scale of coming change.”