The Easel

11th September 2019

How Kenyan-Born Artist Wangechi Mutu Is Taking Over the Met

The façade of New York’s Met has four niches intended for sculptures. Empty for over a century they are about to be filled with part African, part futuristic female figures, cast in bronze. This is a signal gesture for an august institution attempting to connect with “the new and the global”. With a forgivable touch of exaggeration, the writer declares “an institution founded on … a Eurocentric view of culture is being turned on its head.”

3rd September 2019

Richard Serra Is Carrying the Weight of the World

A critic has suggested that Serra’s minimalist sculptures work primarily via anxiety – the worry of being crushed. If it’s not his “lighter” plate steel works causing the anxiety, it’s his immense forged steel blocks. Serra himself doesn’t seem to connect with this reaction – “deal with the work in and of itself and its inherent properties”, he suggests. True to his word, he notes “this is my heaviest show ever”.

Making the case for late Manet

Art history says there are several Manet’s. The painter of the prostitute Olympia had razor sharp social awareness, whereas the older Manet was “weak and flashy”. Recent scholarship, reflected in an “unusual” Chicago show, disputes this story. Manet was expressing in his late works the same social awareness he showed, decades earlier, with Olympia – an admiration of women with “self-possession”, modern women with agency.

Roy DeCarava in New York: A Jazz Photographer in Subject and Technique

The African American Gordon Parks was famous for his documentary photography. Roy DeCarava was different, adopting an artistic approach. His spontaneous images of 1950’s Harlem are distinguished by a “painterly aesthetic” and a sympathetic eye for his subjects, “[casting] loose the norms of preparation, clarity, and stark black-and-white contrasts”. Images are here.