The Easel

9th February 2021

Gordon Parks: Beautiful photos of an ugly history

There are two sides to Parks’ photography. One was the chronicling of civil rights protests. Those images focus on individuals rather than scenes of conflict and show, in a way that still resonates, what it means to be black and American. His other side showed when Parks “allowed his poet’s eye to roam”. These images show “the ambiguity and complications of reality, genuine people … You just see a lot of beauty in these pictures, always beauty.”

A Close Look at Henri Matisse’s Bather

Forensic. Matisse wanted his paintings to appear spontaneous -and he wanted to use flat planes of colour. That meant working “exhaustingly” to communicate volume, movement, sensation. In Bather (1909) you can see “the drawings are done with force and how he’s layering the paint. Areas alternate between matte and glossy, thickly worked paint to convey an astonishing range of volume and light and hue. This was an opportunity for him to … go for broke.”

Joyce Pensato

Bored with drawing fruit in still life classes, Pensato instead chose cartoon characters. Suddenly, sweet Disney originals, became charcoal-heavy figures with “malevolent” feelings. It proved her artistic liberation. Her characteristic style emerged – portraiture, done in an exaggerated abstract expressionist style that spoke to “the appeal and toxicity of Americana”. Said one critic “Pensato’s work is a jolt of manic energy … a kind that can’t be faked”.

2nd February 2021

Richard L. Feigen (1930–2021) – a legendary art dealer whose own private collection was the toast of New York

Feigen had a protean talent for spotting the “undervalued or underestimated.” After starting with an eclectic artist roster, the Old Masters caught his eye. Over the 1980’s he became the “ultimate dealer” in that genre. Museums around the world sought his advice and bought from him, though he confessed he often kept the very best for his own superlative collection. Asked about his legacy he said “Taste. Not prescience or anything like that. But just taste.”