The Easel

5th November 2019

Kirchner’s Colors

Colour, for Kirchner, wasn’t about subtlety. He wanted brute force. Colour reflected emotion and emotions, both personally and socially, were running high. Urbanization, the disfunction of German society, changing sexual norms, all made for a nervy big city environment. Add to this Kirchner’s addictions and wartime trauma, and you have a memorably bold, emotionally disturbing artist. Images are here.

Jacolby Satterwhite

Will Satterwhite turn out to be an important artist? Wall to wall coverage of his solo show suggests he may. He is an art world generalist, using multimedia, animation and performance in “wildly ingenious” ways to distill pop culture memes. “The question of permanence hovers in the air … explorations of how to make something last and whether or not one wants to make that type of commitment”.

29th October 2019

Inside LA icon Betye Saar’s Laurel Canyon studio

Joseph Cornell made his acclaimed assemblages from junk shop stuff. On seeing this work, Saar determined to do the same. In 1969 she made Black Girl’s Window, various images arranged inside an old window frame. A window frame? “That’s the protection for what’s inside.” Besides bringing her national attention, this work now seems a career signpost, “rescuing the black female figure from her destiny of abasement.”

August Sander’s Life Studies

Sander embarked on a 40 year photography project inspired by the daft theory that facial features predict character. His portraits of thousands of everyday Germans didn’t prove the theory. They do reveal Sander was an immensely insightful portraitist whose images “provoke feeling” and “humanize history”. They have profoundly influenced 20th century photography. Images are here and background video here.

Dissident Modernism Meets Peak Philanthropy at the New MoMA

Course correction. MoMA has conceded that it cannot present the tumult of modern art as a tidy process. Some think this long overdue change deserves no more than “a really slow clap and a really long eye roll.” A more generous take is that MoMA’s rehang of its collection achieves “an elegant but limited cosmopolitanism”. Perhaps more fresh thinking awaits. New MoMA ads state: “Make space for the new mistakes.”

Nubia: The Kingdom and the Power

History is owned by the storytellers. Without a written language to record their achievements the ancient Nubians have been presumed inferior to their Egyptian rivals. In fact, these cultures were equally accomplished. A major Boston collection, obtained a century ago, shows Nubia’s “glorious” achievement across gold, ceramics, sculpture and architecture. A discussion of Nubian art (5 min) is here.