The Easel

5th April 2022

Pompeii in Color: The Life of Roman Painting

Pompeii was Rome’s pleasure dome – similar perhaps to the Hamptons in New York – with numerous lavish homes. Their frescoes, preserved by the ash of Vesuvius, were mostly decorative and reveal sophisticated Roman aesthetics. Besides landscapes and portraits there are still lifes and “astonishing trompe-l’oeil”. Ancient Greek art was a major influence, but these frescoes are “valuable creations in their own right”, authentic expressions of Roman culture.  Background is here.

The Whitney Biennial Falters On

Having skipped a year, the Whitney Biennial has returned. As usual, it focuses on what’s current. Leaning against the popularity of figurative work, abstract works are plentiful as is art coming out of #blacklivesmatter, and art still angry about the AIDS crisis. A notably diverse group of artists is represented. Wall labels, always a pet peeve, are often infuriating. This writer seems moderately pleased: “about 20 percent of the [show] is really alive … it radiates with the power of now.”

The Trouble With Writing About Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier is a riddle among modern photographers. While her day job was nannying for Chicago and New York families, she had a passion discovered only after her death – photography. Her images are so good that “if she’s not quite in the canon yet, she’s certainly wait-listed.” A new biography speculates that mental ill-health may explain Maier’s strange reticence. Let her keep her mystery, says the reviewer. Maier’s truth is in the “indelible images she left behind in those storage lockers.”

Takesada Matsutani On His Show Combine And The Power Of Material Experimentation

Japan’s gutai movement wanted to achieve “the scream of matter”. That meant exploring the expressive potential of materials – paint, tar, mud, glue, newspaper and more. Matsutani was an early member and, oddly, focused on what he could achieve with vinyl glue. Quite a lot, it turns out and his blobby works that straddle sculpture and painting have brought him acclaim. Even after a long career, though, he still feels bound by the same gutai challenge – “finding an individual approach”.