Senior Curator of European and American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, Oliver Meslay told a crowd of docents assembled at the museum Monday that it wasn’t the easiest exhibit to put together, nor the most obvious.
Rather the need for Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy took some convincing. First, it’s difficult to talk about the Kennedy’s in Dallas. The art, put together just a few days before the president’s arrival at the hotel suite, might seem on the surface a mish-mash.
Organizers, who included Ruth Carter Stevenson (then Ruth Carter Johnson), chose art that would appeal to the tastes of the room’s important occupants. The Master Bedroom, which was designated as Jacqueline Kennedy’s bedroom, was adorned with impressionist masterworks, per her well-known affinity for the genre. Other works related to Massachusetts. And the assemblage provides an interesting overview of the work that was in Fort Worth at the time.
The President and Mrs Kennedy arrived late, and likely didn’t notice until morning the art on the walls was anything other than the usual bad paintings found in hotels. It’s then they spotted a pamphlet on the desk which lists works by sixteen artists including Thomas Eakins, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Claude Monet, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh and others. One account says Mrs Kennedy was so pleased she personally phoned Mrs. Johnson and said she would like to spend the day in the room.
Of the pieces in suite 850 at the Hotel Texas, three could not be located for the exhibition. None were refused. One of those is Portrait of the Artist’s Grandaughter by Claude Monet, then in the collection of Mrs. J. Lee Johnson, III. While in the hotel suite, it was set in the Suite Parlor with Angry Owl by Pablo Picasso, then owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ted Weiner.
One Western work, Meeting in a Blizzard by Charles M. Russell was included, then owned by the Amon Carter Museum. Lesser known however is the fact that the hotel suite of Vice President Lyndon Johnson was also decorated, and featured exclusively Western art.
While the hotel is existent (now the Hilton), the suite is gone. That’s nothing to be bothered about, however. The time and place will surely come alive in the exhibition. And as much as the exhibit is less about the history, the fact remains that this contains the components of the last exhibit the President and Mrs Kennedy- who were huge supporters of the arts, saw together.
Meslay ended with a quote from Kennedy.
“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. There is nothing worse for our trade than to be in style. In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society–in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost’s hired man, the fate of having “nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.”
Click to hear the remarks: http://www.arts.gov/about/Kennedy.html
Eight landscapes by George Inness given to the Clark by Frank and Katherine Martucci will go on display June 9 with two Inness paintings collected by the museum’s founders. The exhibition examines the artist’s late work when Inness had moved away from plein-air painting and naturalistic portrayals of landscapes towards a more conceptual approach to capturing mood and the actions of light and shadow.
“The focused nature of this collection of ten works is an ideal way in which to consider George Inness at a point in his career in which his personal beliefs were imbuing his artistry in fascinating ways,” says Michael Conforti, director of the Clark.
Wanting to do more than simply mirror and record nature, Inness developed an approach that blended realism with a visionary expression of spiritual meaning. He experimented with color, composition, and painterly technique to present a vision of the natural world beyond its physical appearance.
Grounded in reality, many of the works were inspired by the countryside near the artist’s home in Montclair, New Jersey. Yet in them Inness sought to go beyond the limits of appearance to express the spiritual essence of the natural world. In Home at Montclair, Inness used thinly applied paint to capture a balance between naturalism and abstraction. Various painterly techniques—quick touches of the brush, areas of pigment wiped with a rag, and scoring wet paint with the reverse end of the artist’s brush—soften the contours of New Jersey Landscape. This blurring of forms evokes a sense of the metaphysical quality of the natural world.
George Inness: Gifts from Frank and Katherine Martucci, is on view at the Clark June 9 through September 8.
A table at the Old Jail Arts Center in Albany, Texas caught my eye. It’s always nice when museums feature decorative arts, but its especially nice when museums of this size include furniture.
The round inlaid center table with a classical form features prominently our first president. I assumed being in this small town Texas museum the George Washington table could be Texas-made. A docent confirmed it probably was, but there remains a chance we could find out it isn’t.
With that in mind, I found it curious George Washington would be featured on a table made in Texas. Of course Texas is as much a part of America as anywhere else, but if the table was made circa 1876 as the label suggests, it wasn’t so long ago that the Lone Star State was a Republic. It became the Republic of Texas in 1836 and was admitted to the Union in 1845.
Reading a little about Texas history (and admittedly a little can be dangerous), it doesn’t seem the state had the independent spirit like it had today (thinking of the petition for succession that followed Barack Obama’s election). It looks like Texas entered the Union by request.
Then there was the matter of the Civil War. After Confederate defeat, Texas was readmitted to the Union in 1870.
So here just a half dozen years later we arrive at 1876, the United States Centennial. There was a big exhibition in Philadelphia, but I imagine wounds from the hard-fought war would have been pretty deep. The Texas State Capitol, completed in 1888, includes the words “Republic of Texas” ingrained into the floor of the rotunda.
It’s fair to ask just how much reverence there would have been in Texas, circa 1876, for George Washington. With a little history in mind, did someone in Texas create this table with the image of George Washington positioned prominently in the center?
One thing I recall is learning at a furniture forum at Winterthur that much early furniture featuring American eagles was actually made outside of Philadelphia. The eagles were most often placed on the furniture by craftsmen and their customers wanting to show allegiance to the new nation. They are rarely found on Philadelphia pieces.
Perhaps George Washington’s prominence on the table was to show Texas’s allegiance to the U.S. Or they could have just gotten caught up in the Centennial celebrations.
But it doesn’t appear Texas was represented at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, which makes this well-crafted table all the more puzzling. Maybe it’s one skilled craftsman’s wish that the Lone Star State had been there.
There are still more questions than answers here. I look forward to finding out more.
Albany is one of those small towns of Texas- by the time you read its name from a road sign, it’s almost behind you. Its museum has an unassuming name – the Old Jail Art Center. You would expect to be surrounded by bluebonnets or longhorns paintings, and be ready to associate with it the quirkiness and idiosyncrasy of all things Texas, until you walk in. The wonderful art treasure trove should not be a secret kept by the two thousand local residents, but to be known and enjoyed in Texas and beyond.
The museum was founded in 1980 by Reilly Nail and his cousin Texas artist Bill Bomar, who combined their collections with their mothers ( on Asian Art) to form the core collection. Through years, it has been expanded through key donations such as William O. Gross, Jr. Collection of pre-Columbia art, furnishings from Watt Matthew’s Lambshead Ranch, Marshall Young Jr’s fund for the outdoor sculpture garden and European art, and most recently a gift from DMA/MFA Houston‘s Barrett Collection.
Often, smaller museums that grow out of individual collections more or less reflect eccentric and peculiar tastes of its founders. In the case of the Old Jail Art Center, Bill Bomer, who was the leading artist of the Fort Worth Circle, left the collection a penchant for abstract and simplified forms, bridging archaic and Oriental objects with European and American modernism. Bomar, born in a wealthy family, was an avid collector throughout his life. In 2011, the museum mounted an exhibition featuring the extensive cross collection of the artist.
I was told by many collector friends that the museum’s holdings in Fort Worth Circle is strong. Yet even with the greatly expanded gallery space (added in 2009) besides the original two-story stone-walled jail building, the breadth of the collection makes it hard to showcase its deep root in Texas homegrown abstract and surrealist art. A few can be found in the works-on-paper gallery. “The Entertainers” by Bror Utter abstracted figurative movement into distinct angular shapes of playful colors. A landscape water -color by Bill Bomar flattens the distance with weighty repetitive patterns of emerald green.
Unlike Bror Utter who carried a distinctive artistic style through his life, Bomar had worked in many modes, often taking the risk of venturing into directions untrecked.
Thus it is an extremely rare opportunity to learn about the artist through his gifts displayed in the permanent collection. It is not only interesting to see what the artist had collected during his life time, but also tempting to ponder how those personal collections are related to various styles of his own.
The elongated feature can be found both at Modigliani’s Young Girl with Braids and some small Asian and African statuettes. They echo some of Bomar’s early abstract works. For example, The Virgin Future, sold at Heritage Auctions last year, has attenuated anthropomorphic forms with distinct sculptural mass. Paul Klee’s Der Weg ins Blaue, another master piece from his collection, gives a special dull sheen through the use of hot wax mixed with dry pigments. Its naïve simplistic forms recall many of his 50’s paintings, such as Squares Gathered by the Sea, which inject two-dimensional elements like squares and lines, through dry brush strokes, into pictorial space.
At the first floor of the Jail building, I was surprised to see Asian art display, mostly from the collection of Jewel Nail Bomar, the artist’s mother. (Like any other works of art on display, their labels lack the details about when Bomar family acquired them.) It would be interesting to know what motivated her to collect tomb figurines from Wei, Sui and Tang Dynasty. The figurines created in this period have unprecedented liveliness. The sinuous forms with swaying arms or tilted toes capture dynamic moments in happy afterlife. Yet Chinese art is mostly strung by its restrained emotions — Despite some degree of exaggeration in favor of sensual expressiveness, all these figurines keep a sense of balance and fluidity. Considering the varieties of the collection and many heritages from which Bomar could draw inspiration, it occurr to me that the collection manifests Bomar’s openness to the unlimited boundaries of art and his astute readiness in pushing new ideas. What is unchanged is his unyielding belief in the transformative power of art.
At the Sculpture Courtyard, Texas sculptor Jesús Moroles’ Granite Sun greets visitors with its grand gesture. Bill Bomar recognized his talent early on and commissioned him to make this monumental sculpture for the museum. Alternating between unhewed raw surface and the polished one with warm sheen, it stuns viewers with its glorious sun disk, up in the air. The consummate craftsmanship is magnified by the fact that despite of its proportion, it was cut, hewed and sanded on one piece of pink granite. Given the tendency that Bomar often dramatized subjects with basic elements, it could be that he saw in Morole’s sculpture, a medium he could not command, luminosity, texture and abstraction folded in larger-than-life ambition, like his own.
“In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. That is what makes America what it is.”
Hardly ever there will be an exhibition more suitable to manifest Gertrude Stein’s famous quote than Sarah Williams’ current exhibition — Remote America. Yet America has changed since then. What Stein saw as quintessential America more than seven decades ago, would be unfamiliar to GenY and Millennials, raised in the cradles of urban sprawl. (The artist, only at 30, is a Millennial) Williams’ “Remote America” instead shows parcels of a rich land, transformed and lost in its physical isolation among vastness, and recollected as part of our subconsciousness under the car culture.
Stunningly beautiful, it is distillation of our collective memory of sharpened sense of places, when we were dislocated and lost in the anonymous, vast rural land. Growing up in the heartland, Williams drives around Missouri to take pictures for inspiration. The night scenes are ubiquitous. They help wipe out elements unnecessary for compelling compositions. Although it is tempting to ravish viewers with that brute force gravity of a dark background, Williams seeks beyond: Exquisite and extreme colors under artificial light.
That engenders ordinary objects, while still being instantly recognizable, to assume an uncommon appearance. Williams’ daring courage and acute sensibility in color exploration are rewarding. It is visually appeasing (with sort of a shock) to see warm orange on the snow or emerald green on a shed. For example, “Glenstone Ave” is a power-house to showcase the extreme brightness of yellow street light with subdued halos. One has to look close (not through any publication or website photos) to apprehend purples of varied shades in the background. The foreground, in contrast, echoes with lively lavender.
Have we all been there – some unknown parking lot? Perhaps. It gives you chills to see the extraordinary beauty and nuances out of places we deem as monotonous and forgettable.
Most paintings can fall into one of the two categories. Large paintings with distinct rural architecture elements often evoke a staged narrative. In them, empty and impersonal industrial and commercial buildings, engulfed under dark sky, loom large. Their geometry is imposing, the light surreal. We observe them from afar, as if to assume an air of objectivity. In return, they project a sense of stately formality.
That incongruence makes one uneasy. Or at least it would make Gertrude Stein so – how could such a place of “nowhere” so orderly yet at the same time so out of place? In “Campbell,” the blazing spot light sifts through a row of awnings, under which all windows are closed. It is mesmerizing to examine eerie patterns of light and shadow. The patterns get all our undivided attention first, until one notices the patronless business itself, receding as the mundane backdrop. In both “Paint Booth” and “East Monroe Street,” the foreground is tilted to create an emotional suspense for a rather unappealing scene: back corner of a warehouse complex. The suspense is further enhanced with intrinsic diagonal elements such as parking lot markings or car tracks in the snow. Both carry, to some extent, mannerism of contrived tension. What save them from being ostensible is the sense of becoming. They serve as a prelude of the storytelling, leaving viewers as sole interpolators of a plot forthcoming.
A series of pavement paintings, all in a square format and numbered based on the sequence, feature a different aesthetic. The penetrating third-person narrative angle in larger imageries is traded in for an intimate first-person narrative. Introvert in nature, these paintings often have only the closest part of pavement brighten up, as if lit from the viewer’s own pickup truck. The later ones in the series, in particular, shed light in the new direction of Williams’ interests in departing from realism of rectilinear nature of industrial architecture. Flattened up from the downward gaze, the pavement dissolves into abstract organic shapes of restrained colors, intersecting or interlocking. Edges are soft and fuzzy, as if while looking down, we are so devoured by the visual riddle itself that momentarily are lost in our own thought.
If time and place are exacted as potent omens of becoming in the previous case, the pavement series are moody essays of our self-absorption of being. A few paintings seem to derive from both categories as the self-conscious pavement patterns are jested against middle ground architecture.
My favorite is “Route 380.” It exuberates a wry wit on beauty, out of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere. The tiny building is overshadowed by its exotic mural painting, featuring a massive building hybrid of Gothic and Byzantine style, against azure blue sky. The palm trees in the painting feel almost vulnerable on the frigid night, when pavement is covered with frosted cracks and black ice. One cannot help but following those intricate laced patterns which lead to the wall. It is through that short journey – from the dark concrete at foot, in the heartland of America, to bright-lit mural imagery, palpable with tropical balminess and ocean breeze – that one is treated with a surprise – a formidable range of colors that stretch and bridge the surreal and real.
“Remote America” is now on view at Art Museum of Southeast Texas until April 7, 2013.
A new exhibit coming to two The Phillips Collection and the Cleveland Museum of Art will take a new look at the artistic process of Vincent van Gogh- and reunite several masterpieces.
The museum’s say the exhibition is the first to focus on van Gogh’s “repetitions”—a term the artist used to describe his practice of producing multiple versions of a particular subject. Van Gogh Repetitions is inspired by the artist’s iconic work The Road Menders (1889) in The Phillips Collection and a painting of the same subject (also from 1889) in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
“This exhibition gives us a rare opportunity to get to know one of the world’s most recognizable artists in a fresh, new way,” says Dorothy Kosinski, director of The Phillips Collection. “He is such a beloved figure, but there is still much more to be learned. Through a close examination of this fascinating but only partially understood aspect of his work, we can create a richer, more meaningful understanding of both his personal life and artistic production.”
The exhibition invites deep, focused study of the similarities and differences between the two paintings, as well as van Gogh’s process and motivation in repeating himself. Paintings by van Gogh from some of the world’s most renowned collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; and the Art Institute of Chicago will also be on view.
Van Gogh Repetitions runs from Oct. 12 through Jan. 26, 2014 at the Phillips and March 2, 2014 through May 26, 2014 at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
A thief has likely hit a plexiglass case and made off with valuable objects a second time, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. According to an article posted today, police believe the person who stole a gold box with ornamentation depicting early California scenes this week is likely the same one who made off with some gold nuggets in November. City officials say the box is worth some $800,000 and have posted a $12,000 reward. The stolen box measures 7 by 9 inches and weighs about 3 pounds. It’s been in the museum’s collections since the 1960s.
Photo: Oakland Museum of California, 2011. Photo by Greg Habiby.
To provide a snapshot of the most fashionable and creative designers working in London in the 1980s, this summer an exhibition at the V&A will look at how the impact of underground club culture was felt far beyond the club doors, reinventing fashion worldwide. More than 85 outfits by designers such as John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood and Katherine Hamnett will be on display together with accessories by designers including Stephen Jones and Patrick Cox.
Included are garments by influential 1980s designers, with a substantial amount of menswear designs by Jasper Conran, Paul Smith, Workers for Freedom and Willy Brown who dressed Duran Duran. Textile design played an important part of 1980s fashion, with designers such as Betty Jackson working with design collectives like The Cloth, helping to create the archetypal early 80s silhouette of loose shirts and bold prints.
London’s clubs in the 1980s acted as a site for the convergence of music and fashion and provided a safe environment in which young people could experiment and mix with those of similar tastes.
Fashion designer Stevie Stewart of Body Map noted that ‘each group of people, whether they were fashion designers, musicians or dancers, filmmakers or whatever, living together, going out together and at the same clubs … had a passion then for creating something new … that was almost infectious’.
Examples of the resultant looks will be displayed, ranging from the exaggerated, exotic styles favoured by the Blitz crowd, through the distressed styles of Hard Times, to the eclectic mixing and individual expression of Taboo, to the dance influenced looks of acid house.
Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s runs July 10- February 16, 2014. Tickets go on sale in June.
Sketch for Levi Strauss & Co. denim jacket, ‘BLITZ’, by Stephen Linnard.The exhibition shows a display of Blitz denim jackets. In 1986, Blitz magazine commissioned a group of 22 London-based designers to customize denim jackets provided by Levi Strauss & Co. – See more at: http://www.urbanartantiques.com/2013/london-fashion-in-the-1980s-on-display-at-va/#sthash.3IkKz4R7.dpuf
Jackson Pollock, Alfonso Ossorio, and Jean Dubuffet were among a group of artists in the mid-1950s who sought a different pictorial language through innovative use of materials and techniques. This February, The Phillips Collection pulls back the curtain on American abstract expressionism to reveal a little-known but captivating story that focuses on the relationship between three of the movement’s seminal players.
Featuring approximately 53 paintings and works on paper from 1945 to 1958, the exhibition illuminates a key moment in postwar art—one that was profoundly influenced by the artists’ transcontinental dialogue. It also reunites a number of works by Pollock and Dubuffet from Ossorio’s collection for the first time since they were dispersed after his death in 1990. The exhibition is on view February 9 through May 12, 2013.
Angels, Demons, and Savages diverges from the conventional history of American abstract expressionism to unravel a more nuanced narrative infused with artistic camaraderie and mutual admiration. The exhibition reveals visual affinities between the three artists’ work, tracing the impact of Dubuffet’s art brut, the experimental spirit of Pollock’s technique, and Ossorio’s figurative language. As the focal point of the art world shifted from Europe to America, the exchange between two of its leading protagonists—Jackson Pollock and Jean Dubuffet—and the less known but equally critical participant Alfonso Ossorio, helped bridge the ever-widening gap between the continents.
Alfonso Ossorio, who is virtually absent from standard art history texts, is the central figure in this story and the exhibition pays tribute to him. One of the most colorful figures in postwar American art, his altruism and generosity have obscured his own work as a painter. Heir to a vast Philippine sugar fortune, Ossorio lived for most of his creative life in East Hampton, N.Y. Born in the Philippines to a Spanish father and Chinese-Filipino mother, and educated in England and the United States, he started to exhibit regularly in New York in 1941. He was a multicultural artist who synthesized surrealism, abstract expressionism, and art brut—art by prisoners, the insane, and other so-called outsiders—with his Hispanic and Asian roots.
An artist and collector with a lively mind and entrepreneurial spirit, Ossorio was attracted early on to the work of both Jackson Pollock and Jean Dubuffet. He avidly collected their work and developed collegial friendships with both artists. Ossorio met Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner in 1949 through the gallerist Betty Parsons with whom Ossorio had exhibited since 1941. In 1950, at Pollock’s suggestion, Ossorio traveled to Paris to meet Dubuffet, an artist with whom he developed a deep kinship and rich correspondence. With Dubuffet’s help, Ossorio had several shows of his own work in Paris. From 1952 to 1961, he housed and exhibited at his East Hampton estate Dubuffet’s extensive collection of art brut. Ossorio amassed hundreds of works by Pollock and Dubuffet, including one of Pollock’s most celebrated paintings, Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist), which is featured in the exhibition.
The exhibition debunks the mythology of Jackson Pollock as a solitary genius. Contrary to popular belief, Pollock was keenly aware of what other artists were doing and was influenced by those he befriended and worked with throughout his abbreviated career. In 1950, Pollock worked in Ossorio’s studio while Ossorio was in the Philippines painting a mural for his family’s estate. During that time, Pollock received shipments of Ossorio’s wax and ink drawings from the Philippines and spent time studying them. It was at this time that Pollock abandoned his abstract designs and produced the Black Paintings, a series of figurative “drawings” created on unprimed cotton duck using sticks or hardened brushes as well as basting syringes and black industrial paint.
In recent years, The Phillips Collection has acquired a number of works by Ossorio that are showcased in the exhibition, including a seminal painting from the 1950s, The Family. In addition, the museum received a major work on paper, Reforming Figure (1950), and an assemblage, Excelsior (1960), part of the powerful series Ossorio called “Congregations.” Ossorio’s Five Brothers (1950), acquired by Duncan Phillips in 1951, and Pollock’s Collage and Oil (c. 1951), acquired in 1958, are also on view in the exhibition.
A rare writing desk and examples of early Texas pottery are included in a recent donation of early Texas decorative art items to the Bayou Bend Collection in Houston. That’s according to the Houston Chronicle, Maine Antiques Digest and other sources. The gifts were donated by Houston-born sixth generation Texan William J. Hill.
Created by Austin cabinetmaker Adolph Kempen, the Houston Chronicle called the circa-1975 desk the most significant portion of the donation. It is one of only few such desks documented by Kempen, who migrated to that city from Germany via Galveston a few years before crafting the desk. It appeared on Antiques Roadshow on July 2, 2012 where it was appraised at as much as $12,000.
Bayou Bend Curator Michael K. Brown told reporters the pottery gift dramatically expands the museum’s early Texas pottery collection.
The desk is featured about six minutes into the program. Click to watch.