Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crème de la Crème, Part I.

The only way to understand painting [art] is to go and look at it. And if out of a million visitors there is even one to whom art means something, that is enough to justify museums.
-Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Every year Art in America, a highly esteemed magazine that provides an international review of the contemporaneous trends in the art world, publishes a "Museum Preview" for the current year of highlights to key shows, either current or upcoming, at art institutions nationwide, as well as selected exhibitions abroad. Maybe your not a subscriber, simply too busy to sift through the endless number of listings or having trouble pin-pointing which exhibition will satisfy your eyes and activate your creative side - not to worry, below I have featured, what I deem, will fill your eye's appetite of the crème de la crème museum happenings in 2011/12.  

Published every August, Art in America's  highly coveted, Annual Guide to Museums, Galleries & Artists, is viewed as the most worthwhile resource for art world connoisseurs and aficionados. 

A four part series separated by season, Crème de la Crème, will include one detailed coverage on a blockbuster exhibition I have visited, followed by a listing of current and/or future museum exhibition openings (culled from the Art in America issue seen in the above image), nation and worldwide for the remainder of 2011 and upcoming year of 2012.


Currently on view.

Lyonel Feininger
Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World
The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Presently on view until October 16th.

Humor, an auspicious trait I love to see in art every now and again, is impelled throughout one exhibition I recently viewed and I refreshingly post to you as the first blockbuster highlight to jump start this four part series, "Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World".  Organized by The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the exhibition features this, well over due, retrospective on the oeuvre of German-American, painter, caricaturist and comic strip artist, Lyonel Feininger.  Recognize the name, but can't quite place the name to the canvas? Well, it is no wonder, since Mr. Feininger has not had a retrospective surface on his US home turf in over 45 years!  Described as a serious painter with a "funny" side, the exhibition commemorates his lesser known works of whimsical comic strips, cartoonish fantasies and folksy compositions.  

Born and raised in New York, Lyonel Charles Adrian Feininger (1871-1956), made an odd-ball move when he headed to Germany to study the violin at the tender age of sixteen.  The violin pursuit quickly ceased, as he soon discovered an eagerness to contribute to the progression in the future of art.  Feininger, went on to become a caricaturist and political cartoonist and eventually one of the pioneers to the German Expressionist groups, Die Brucke (The Bridge) and Die Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider).  Art became his life, not just through his creations but through his teachings, as he was the first professor appointed to Germany's most influential schools of modern design; Bauhaus, at its founding in 1919.  Not one to judge his flee back, after the Nazi campaign against modern art virtually gave him the boot in the 1930s, the US embraced him with open arms; he was displayed in several exhibitions immediately upon return, including New York's Museum of Modern Art.  

Classified often as a German artist, The Whitney trumpets him as American. He might of left the states early on, but that New York edge remained. A perfect classification when observing his Chicago Tribune comic strips - the "funnies" couldn't be more American. In 1906, a time in which a quarter of Chicago's population was German, James Keeley, the editor of The Chicago Tribune, recruited Feininger, while he remained and dwelled in Germany, to contribute to the comic strips sector of the Chicago Sunday Tribune. A pivotal moment in his career, Lyonel was one of the first cartoonists to incorporate comments into the commonly used, speech bubble.  The exhibition spotlights a detailed portion of these highbrow and artsy drawn comic strips of playful, yet dark humor that donned the expressions, "Git out of me way, you bucket headed lunatic" and the infamous line, "shiver me timbers" from the two cartoons, The Kin-der-Kids Abroad and Wee Willie Winkie's World (1906) Unlike Lyonel's career, his time with The Chicago Tribune was short lived, ending nine months later because, ironically, he refused to relocate to the States from Germany. After his graphic and laughable experimentations for The Chicago Tribune, Feininger, became more interested in establishing himself as a fine artist. 

 Lyonel Feininger, comic strip, The Kin-der-Kids Abroad, 1906.
The debut comic strip was premised around the Kids youthful adventures, who voyaged around the world in a giant bathtub, in order to avoid their Auntie Jim-Jam's quick-but-terrible fix of caster oil.
Image courtesy of

 Lyonel Feininger, comic strip, Wee Willie Winkie's World, 1906.
Contrast to The Kin-der-Kids strip, Wee Willie Winkie's World adventures take place in one spot; the surreal-like countryside, where, Wee Willie Winkie, the protagonist, frolics around the surrounding area of his grandfather's house, 
interacting with anthropomorphic objects.
Image courtesy of

Aside from the witty comic strips, the show exhibits Lyonel's fruitful career as a versatile artist. Although he strayed away from the caricature life, his playful side remained, which would later cause issues for art historians to make connections with the movements of his time. Typically the 20th Century art movements, specifically German Expressionism's, Die Brucke and The Blaue Reiter groups, were deeply emotional with violent imagery; areas of which Feininger's pieces lacked but his bold usage of color, primitive design elements, and distorted compositions prove otherwise as a I compare and contrast the below images of his works to his peers.

Lyonel Feininger, Jesuits II, 1913
Image courtesy of
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Potsdamer Platz (Ladies' Night), 1914         
Image courtesy of

Jesuits II is a great medley of movements that combine German Expressionism, Cubism and Futurism.  The geometric angled planes, with muted backgrounds, suggest Cubist elements, while the rapid strokes of the brush and the posed street walkers are reminiscent of Kirschner's (one of my favorite German Expressionists) figurative components. 

Lyonel Feininger,  Jesuits III, 1915
Image courtesy of
Franz Marc, Der Wasserfall, 1912
Image courtesy of
The variations of greens, purples and golds in Jesuits III, was a keen practice in tensioning planes of color during the Blaue Reiter period.  Influenced by their peers (a necessary in the progression of art), the essence of playing with color is quite evident in Franz Marc's piece on the right, and not shown, but wholly relatable are the works of master colorist, Robert Delaunay and earthy tones of the Fauvists.  The bulbaceous components of Feininger's piece on the left can hold reference to the works by one of the original Cubist and forerunners of Pop Art, Fernand Leger (not displayed).  
Image courtesy of

George Grosz, The Street, 1915
Image courtesy of

Lyonel Feininger, Carnival in

Image courtesy of

Capitalizing on the entire spacial composition, both Feininger and Grosz, visually narrate with stylistic distortions, the rise of urban society through the two depictions of a street scene.   On the left we see the cartoonish fantasy of a carnival parade in Feininger's, while to the right is Grosz's corrosive vision of city life.  Instead of boldly creating the apparent ugliness of urbanity with pudgy businessmen, drunkards, and prostitutes as Grosz so eminently did on the right, carnies, jokesters,  and elongated trumpet players prance happily on the left.  A whimsical portrayal at a glance, but look closer and you will see facial perversions and worn down figures,  sublimely suggestive; where in, both works, convey the tensions and stresses of the political times.  

When glimpsing at the entire trajectory of Feininger's body of work, particularly, his subject matter, it is relatively difficult to place him in one single genre of an art movement - almost as though his oeuvre covers a span of three generations.  However, as harsh politics ruled the day and society transitioned from rural to urban, Feininger employed, as a way to cope with the trials and tribulations of his time, a cheerful art style of themed creations with masked narratives that sublimely leaked reflections of the early 20th Century. Art historians need not ponder no more, as this exhibition solidifies Feininger as a true and one of the first, German Expressionists. 

Yet another astutely curated exhibition by Whitney Museum Curators, Barbara Haskell and Sasha Nicholas, who also curated Breaking Ground: The Whitney's Founding Collection, an exhibition I covered in a previous post (click on link The Ultimate Collector.), The Lyonel Feininger retrospective brings to light a man who had a prolific career as a fine artist who contributed and helped define several movements within Modern Art, through his actual works and associations with the Berliner Sezession, Die Brucke, The Blaue Reiter, the Blue Four and the Bauhaus groups.  

The exhibition travels to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, January 20–May 13, 2012.


Currently on view:
While they all are listed with an end date, all end at that particular listed location on the said date and travel elsewhere around the world, there after. If interested, please post in the comments sections and I will happily provide you with their upcoming destinations.

Tony Cragg
Featuring about 30 of his large-scaled sculptures made since 1984. 
The Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas
Ends Jan. 8, 2012.

Taryn Simon
A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters
A project about strange and surprising stories of family bloodlines.
Neue National Galerie, Berlin
Ends  Sept. 22 - Jan. 1, 2012.

A series of six exhibitions, each focused on artist duos or collaborative projects.
Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut
Ends Dec. 31, 2011.

Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei: Art/ Architecture
Showcases the political Chinese artist's lesser known architectural projects.
Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria
Ends Oct. 16, 2011.

General Idea
Haute Culture: General Idea-A retrospective
The activist Canadian collaborative, comprised of AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal,  are surveyed as the subject.
Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada
Ends Jan. 1, 2012.

September 11-Ten Years Later
September 11
Works selected before and after the tragic event, detailing how it has altered the culture landscape via art and critical discourse. (Features Diane Arbus, Thomas Demand, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Gordon Matta-Clark and Barbara Kruger.)
MoMA PS1, New York
Ends Jan. 9, 2012.

De Kooning
Retrospective of Willem De Kooning.
MoMA, New York
Ends Jan. 9, 2012.

Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990
Thorough examination of the movement.
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Ends Jan. 15, 2012.

Israeli Origins
Blowing on a Hairy Shoulder Grief Hunters
A gory exhibition questioning the concepts of origins and originality. 
ICA, Philadelphia
Ends Dec. 2, 2011.

Alina Szapocznikow
A provocative ensemble of her Surrealist and Pop works premised around the human body.
Wiels Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels
Ends Jan. 8, 2012

Edvard Munch
Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye
Known to most for his work, The Scream, this exhibition focuses on Munch's stylistic relationship with modernity and new technology.
Centre Pompidou, Paris
Ends Jan. 9, 2012.

John Martin
Retrospective featuring his apocalyptic painted scenes of human destruction and natural catastrophe. 
Tate Britain, London
Ends Jan. 15, 2012.

Light and Space
Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface
Presents 13 artists who used light as a medium in LA throughout the 60s and 70s. (Features Bruce Nauman and James Turrell)
The Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, Cali.
Ends Jan. 22, 2012.

Dana Schutz
If the Face Had Wheels
10 year survey. 
Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, New York
Ends Dec. 18, 2011.

Warhol: Headlines
Examines his core themes of celebrity, disaster and current events in some over 80 works.
National Gallery, London
Ends Jan. 2, 2012.

Coming soon during the winter season, Crème de la Crème, Part II.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Autumn in Chelsea.

The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.
-Andy Warhol

Between Thursday and Friday of last week, over 90 openings were unveiled; just about half took place in the Chelsea area.  Quite the scene, residents back from their summer get-a-ways and visitors from all over donned the Chelsea blocks, frolicking to their favorite galleries in anticipation for the newest cream of the crop. Indeed, the lulled days of summer were over and fall, ahh, fall time in Chelsea had arrived.  

The streets of Chelsea during a fall opening night.

Agenda, pen, notepad and of course camera in hand, I started off at NYC's oldest alternative art space, White Columns on W13th street, right on the borders of the West Village and Meat Packing districts, where an all art-star exhibition was taking place.  

White Columns, 320 West 13th Street

Some years ago, Gordon Matta-Clark, the American artist who turned food dining into an exotic event and is best known for his building cuts, with the help of the lesser known artist, Jefferey Lew, sought to and succeeded in exhibiting and developing workshops to help those that did not have the luxury of gallery representation. The two experimental artists became pioneers that spurred on the artist-run space movement.

Much can change, and more so in this case, enrich throughout forty years.  I stepped in, and it had that gallery vibe, with the "gallerinas" (gallery staff) behind the tall desk, the displayed catalogues and press releases and the infamous closed-off back room. Maybe White Columns does not hold the same rugged basement feel it once had when it dwelled on 112 Greene Street in the 70s, but that was then and this is now. The current exhibition, Perfect Man II, curated by Rita Ackermann and Parinaz Mogadassi, held a plethora of sustenance as they juxtaposed the emerging with blue-chip artists.  Featuring a mostly male cast, just as Perfect Man I from 2007 featured mainly women, the exhibit is about men who attempt to free themselves from reference for a purer self discovery, through sometimes perverted, destructive and pointless studies (see the following five images/ descriptions below), by stepping outside the banalities of art. The show, premised on gender issues, broadcasts art stars, Bas Jan Ader, Richard Sierra, the artist collective labeled Bernadette Corporation, and Peter Doig (amongst several others); alongside were emerging artists, Antonin R. Artaud, Hank Hivnor a.k.a. PsychicHank, and Romeo Klein.  

Ken Okiishi, David Wojnarwicz in New York, 1999/2000, DVD, color/ sound, 18:05 minutes, Edition of 5 + 2 AP
To the left is me watching the DVD  on the right by Okiishi as he pays a witted homage to the late David Wojnarowicz.  One clip written by Wojnarowicz takes place on the piers near the West Side Highway, while a narrator, Mike, speaks of him disappointed that a tranny was actually a girl, but simply embraces the moment as he gives her pleasure while they watch The Sound of Music. Hows that for a self-discovery? 

Romeo Klein, Territories, 2011, chalk, variable
A discreet artwork by Klein rests atop the gallery table, with the intention of visitors to carry off.  Another "self-discovery" piece as he writes of his need to smoke marijuana before sexual relations with a woman.  Quite uncensored, the piece is pointless and explicitly pornographic but meaningful in the premise of the exhibition.  I guess the marijuana is where the self discovery comes into play. 

Dan Graham,  Past Future Split Attention, 1972, video transferred to DVD, b&w w/ sound, 17:03 minutes
The psychological study questions and restructures, space and time. Graham writes of the piece,
 "Two people who know each other are in the same space. While one predicts continuously the other person's behavior, the other person recounts (by memory) the other's past behavior. Both performers are in the present, so knowledge of the past is needed to continuously deduce future behavior (in terms of causal relation). For one to see the other in terms of the present (attention), there is a mirror reflection or closed figure-eight feedback/feedahead loop of past/future. One person's behavior reciprocally reflects/depends upon the other's, so that each one's information is seen as a reflection of the effect that their own just-past behavior has had in reversed tense, as perceived from the other's view of himself.
(Above quote courtesy of 

Today White Columns bides true to exhibiting non-represented and emerging artists but I must admit, it was a clever approach in displaying them alongside the blue-chips, as this will benefit the former and jump-start an always desired, bustling season. 

Impressed by my first stop, I was excited for the next. Heading further up into the heart of Chelsea, I popped into Lombard Freid Projects, where they held a solo exhibition, Snobs Behind Ketchup, featuring the works of the Indonesian artist, Eko Nugroho.  His first NYC solo show, the self-made artist created a cartoon-like, colorful and whimsical land within the gallery and the garden area in the back.  Nugroho is a jack of all trades with his use of paintings, embroidery, sculpture, site-specific murals, shadow puppets and video projections that depict surreal characters that fuse human, machines, animals and plants to create an alternate universe. The show is curated like a storyboard that conveys an underlying message about an ambiguous reality, where a child-like environment can subdue the harsh realities of his homeland. Nugroho says of his exhibition, 
The lone figure, whose face is concealed by masks, helmet, or machine parts, never reveals his true self. His many manifestations represent the players involved in the unfolding of [Eko’s] narrative. He is the silent messenger and the narrator; he is you, me, we, Everyman and the Other all at once.” 
(Courtesy of Lombard Freid Projects' press release)

The above four images are highlights from the solo-exhibition, Snobs Behind Ketchup, featuring the works of Indonesian artist, Eko Nugroho, at Lombard Freid Projects.  
The purple embroidered shadow puppet above illustrates an alien-like character hidden beneath, where the artist invites the viewer to literally peel back the folds.

A subliminally morbid exhibition, I deciphered Eko's idioms and was ready for the next stop on my agenda.  A change of pace and not on my lineup of galleries, I dropped into Printed Matter, Inc, a book store that was a having a signing for the professional skateboarder and artist, Mark Gonzales a.k.a. "The Gonz", who collaborated with the photographer, Benjamin Deberdt, in the publication of Le Cercle.  The book covers the 2009 project, 'Circle Board' - basically, Gonzales affixed nine skateboards from end to end to form a circle and rode his creation around the Eiffel Tower, while Deberdt took black and white grainy photographs of the 'event'. Then the photos were shipped to New York, along with Gonzales himself, where he added his 'special touch' to them with some poetry, odd shaped characters and markers. 

Left, professional skateboarder and artist, Mark Gonzales, middle, me, and right, photographer, Benjamin Deberdt

Meeting the producers of the book was a great experience but the time was 'a tickin' and I needed to get moving! Next stop was to Sikkema Jenkins & Co., a gallery featuring a solo exhibition for one of my favorite artists, Vik Muniz, who I had the pleasure of meeting a couple years back at the MoMA, where he selected works from the permanent collection to create his curated exhibition, Rebus.  Unlike his curated exhibition, this show featured his creations, in the show titled, Pictures of Magazines 2, an extension to Pictures of Garbage, where he used garbage as his medium. Instead of physical garbage, Muniz re-created icons from the history of representation using images and texts taken from books and magazines from various sources. Beautifully, masterfully and meticulously constructed, the works are larger than life portrayals of Western Culture in the modern times.  

Vik Muniz
Gustave Caillebotte’s, Floor Scrapers, 2011
Mixed media
Detail of Gustave Caillebotte’s, Floor Scrapers, 2011 image.

After Muniz, I headed to a few more uninspiring openings that were not nearly as striking as those mentioned.  Between gallery hops, I came across this random camouflaged shopping cart affixed to a pole. The culprit? None other than the intriguing lady artist, Olek, who is best known for her crocheted found objects, as seen below.  Her first shopping cart, who she views more as a shrine associated with American life than a found object once it's sheathed, made its debut back in 2003 on the corner of Wall Street and Broadway. Back then the cart carried the phrase "Don’t Steal From The Public”  plastered on the side. 

Crocheted Shopping Cart

Finally, I trekked home, but couldn't resist stopping by the JC Fridays Arts Festival in Jersey City, where I listened to a live band and purchased some affordable art (see below). Although New York is my Artopia, I am still an Artoholic, so, where there is art, there I am. 

Me, checking out the art scene. at the JC Fridays Arts Festival in Historic Downtown Jersey City.

A purchase I made at the JC Fridays Arts Festival from the artist.
Aleksander Milenkovic
Untitled, 2011
Mixed media, oil pastel
Ed. 206 of 300

All images displayed in the above post, were taken by me, with the exception of those I am featured in - thank you to all the by-standers for your several clicks of my camera. 

Stay tuned for the next post, where I feature a detailed listing of nation and worldwide blockbuster museum openings throughout 2011/12.