The Easel

4th February 2020

Agnes Denes: Absolutes and Intermediates

Denes’s 1982 wheat field in a Manhattan landfill site was a seminal work of land art. A New York retrospective shows a career full of divergent ideas – buried poetry, patterned tree plantings, floating sculptures. Technical drawings of “great beauty” attempt to visualize branches of knowledge. And then there are her pyramid sculptures: “what they all convey is the human drama, our hopes and dreams against great odds.”

Artist Noah Davis died tragically at age 32. A New York show reveals a great lost talent

Reviews of this show carry a flavor of ‘what might have been’. Davis’s profile was rising, having early success in the LA art market as well as establishing a thriving Black-centred art space. At just 32, he died. Will his lasting achievement be the art center or his “atmospheric” art? Perhaps the latter, muses the curator of a New York survey: “I think he’s a really great artist”. Says the writer “I think she might be right”.

Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Eighteenth century European royalty believed that ‘knowledge is power’. What better way to show this than with ornate scientific objects, like clocks, compasses, telescopes, that displayed both scientific ingenuity and regal erudition. And, if this messaging was too subtle, there was a sub-text. As the history of the Dresden Green diamond makes clear …’if you’ve got it, flaunt it’.

28th January 2020

Käthe Kollwitz: War and other atrocities at the Getty Research Institute

Kollwitz’s life spanned social upheaval in Germany plus both world wars. Ample opportunity to observe life’s sorrows. Like others in the German avant-garde she took to woodblock prints, becoming one of the foremost graphic artists of the century. Kollwitz’s socialist leanings are clear but it is her humanistic outlook that gives resonance to her images and conveys “dignity and respect” to the cause of social justice.

John Baldessari Was Anything But Boring

In 1970, dissatisfied with his art, Baldessari took all his paintings to a crematorium and burned them. He called this action his “best work to date”. That set the tone for a half century of his conceptual art, up to his recent death. Widely influential, his work combined insight, humour and the obvious. One work simply bore the text “everything is purged from this painting but art, no ideas have entered this work.”