Art News and Opinion: June 23, 2010


Daphne Todd, Last portrait of my mother, 2010

Reporting from The Independent, Laura McLean-Ferris writes on the grotesque portrait by Daphne Todd that recently took first place in the BP-sponsored contest for the National Portrait Gallery. Last Portrait of my Mother is a disturbing painting of the artist’s 100-year-old mother finished in three days immediately following her death. McLean-Ferris supposes most would not want to gaze at the winning piece for very long, as it strikes a cold chord in the heart. The dead eyes and ajar mouth are a frightening depiction of life’s end, and pesky questions arise in the viewers’ mind of death and aging. “As psychologically intact human beings,” she observes, “It depicts elements that we violently want to push away.”

Holland Cotter from The New York Times notes a recent trend among museum exhibits recently: art from female modern artists. Cotter points out that although the female creative stereotype of weaving and domestic hand-crafting is long over, evidence of both mediums abound in this new exhibit featuring 11 female artists at the Museum of Modern Art. He goes on to observe that although it may not be intended as such, the exhibit has a definite international feel, as many of the artists are from all over the globe, including India, Japan, and the Middle East. Many of the pieces challenge the traditional labeling of women artists as “alternative.”

Recently in the Telegraph, Richard Dorment reviews Tate Modern’s newest exhibition by Belgian artist Francis Alÿs entitled Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception. Citing the show as the best by any contemporary artist ever featured at the Tate, Dorment chronicles Alÿs’s introspective and physical journey in his efforts to create short films largely concerning the labors of humanity. Many of the films were created in the artist’s home in Tijuana, such as one 30-minute piece in which Alÿs films himself ramming a giant ice cube through the city streets, only to melt away after many hours of laborious and seemingly pointless pushing. Through this and other childlike and playful endeavors caught on film, Dorment sees a more reflective and meaningful tone to the exhibit, one that laments the failure that all human effort finally meets in the end.

In what he cites on the Guardian blog as “a callous and unjustified assault on a wonder of the world,” art critic Jonathan Jones complains about the British coalition’s recent decision to cut plans for a £25m visitor center at Stonehedge. He argues that the verdict is grossly unjust and unfair to the majestic monument, and that the planned facilities would not have done Stonehedge justice in the first place—to cut them completely is simply offensive. Because archeology is not as popular as it once was in schools and careers, Jones surmises that the coalition thinks this means they can let precious monuments rot and not receive the treatment that they deserve.

Charlie Finch remembers the genius that was Sigmar Polke in his article “Polkephemera” posted recently on ArtNet. As Finch recalls the artist’s career, especially a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum in 1991, he comments on the transparency of spirit and lightness that characterized the work. Finch further remembers the artist’s lightness of touch, always reaching higher, as on the giant ladder he installed in the Brooklyn show two decades ago. Polke’s installations had an ethereal quality about them, as light and color traveled through different planes, and Finch comments that Polke’s spirit has similarly floated onto a different plane. Sigmar Polke passed away earlier this month due to cancer complications.



Laura Lawson paints when writer’s block strikes and writes when painter’s block strikes. She has studied fine art at LCAD and is pursuing a degree in journalism. Recently diagnosed with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, she strives to bring hope to those without vision through her blog. She is currently working on her first book about coping with vision loss.