Art News and Opinion: January 6, 2011

Joan Miró

Although Joan Miró fell slightly out of fashion in the art world’s eye at the latter end of the 20th century, he is due for a show this year at the Tate Modern, and Jonathan Jones of The Guardian couldn’t be more pleased. Jones praises Miró’s work as “genius,” describing the artist as a surrealist who never needed to bother with the movement’s finer details of Freudian-Marxist creed. Miró is best known for his recreation of childlike rendering, and famously declared an “assassination of painting” in favor of changing the art scene of his time. In the 1990s, the legacy of surrealism began to be defined as something rooted in photography, collage, and the object—shifting surrealist painting out of the spotlight, and thus Miró was thrown into a cast-shadow. But only temporarily. As Jones raves, “his version of modern art is one of the 20th century’s most worthwhile legacies.”

Kimberly Chou of Art in America recently reviewed a show featuring a smattering of Gene Beery’s work at Algus Greenspon. Chou points to the artist’s work as cheeky and consistently making a joke, “not always one that the viewer is in on.” Described as an “artist’s artist” and discovered while working as a guard at the Museum of Modern Art, Beery creates conceptual language-based paintings, like similar artists of the 1960s, but uniquely homespun and delightfully impertinent. One example is Note (1970), in which the words “NOTE: MAKE A PAINTING OF A NOTE AS A PAINTING” are rendered in cutesy, candy-colored letters with a black border. His work is biting, layered with wit, and deceptively simple. Chou concludes, “one must have a sense of humor—or at least a “sound sense of tra”—to appreciate Beery.”

Alice Neel

Alice Neel, beloved in the art world for her spindly and intelligent portraits stubbornly painted during an era in which Abstract Expressionism roared, can now posthumously add a biography to her repertoire. In a recent New York Times book review, Deborah Soloman rifles through Phoebe Hoban’s “Alice Neel: The Art of Not Sitting Pretty”, which is the first full-length biography of the artist. Although Neel did not enjoy an idyllic home life—she bore four children with three different men, only one of whom she married—Soloman remarks that Hoban focuses too heavily on the drama and not enough on the genius. The review highlights interesting points throughout the artist’s life, including her devotion to the Communist party, her unflinching denouncement of her fellow sex, and finally some well-deserved recognition late in life through an exhibition at the Whitney Museum in 1974. Soloman concludes, “One finishes Hoban’s book wondering, among other things, how a woman who was so narcissistic and needy became such an empathetic chronicler of other lives.”

Laura McLean-Ferris of The Independent reviews a new show by artist Rachel Kneebone at White Cube Gallery in London. The show features Kneebone’s delicate porcelain sculptures that are armed to the tee with confusing and exceedingly complex details—most of which are body parts. The results are gruesome, “hideous visions that present bodies in states of fear, sadness, and horror.” Themes of death and sexuality begin to mount, exemplified in one piece that pronounces a shrieking vagina. McLean-Ferris points out hideous detail after hideous detail in her review, testifying that these sculptures would suit only the most daring of collectors who are fixated on shock value rather than loveliness. The heavy-handed themes collapse upon themselves, and are ultimately a blow to the fragility of what could have been true craft.

Christopher Knight of the Los Angeles Times reviews a show featuring Willem de Kooning at L&M Arts called “Figure and Light.” Although missing from the exhibition are some of De Kooning’s most well recognized pieces, Knight assures us that the drawings and paintings present are certainly worth a gander. The show couldn’t have come at a better time in light of the closing of the Arshile Gorky retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in September—where Gorky left off, De Kooning picks up. The show traces much of De Kooning’s career, from Picasso-esque earlier works to 1980s linear abstractions that shimmer like a Monet Giverny that has been “wholly remade.” Knight concludes his shining review, “The best of the paintings really don’t require any curatorially speculative help.”

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.

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