Art News and Opinion: July 15, 2010

Alice Neel, The Blue Noses’s “A candle of our life/Burn my candle” was in the 2007 “Forbidden Art” show

An exhibition of 60 Alice Neel paintings is currently snaking its way through Europe. According to Christine Lindey of the Morning Star, the humanist arist has been largely ignored by the European continent. Lindey sings Neel’s praises, citing her history as a bohemian turned Marxist. The painter rejected the surging tide of Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s and remained loyal to her Van Gogh-esque roots; she focused primarily on portrait painting. Neel’s portraits bring out the human struggle, deeply personal to each model, and invoke such themes as vanity, anxiety, and defiance. Lindey goes on to describe that the artist’s courageous commitment to realism and humanism stemmed from the Marxist aesthetics to which she prescribed, even when it was dangerous to do so. Neel continued to be ostracized from the art world until feminist critics and art historians began to shed light on her importance in the 1960s, a move that is still being played out today in the form of this exciting exhibition.

Karen Rosenburg of the New York Times discusses an exhibition opening up in New York City at the Knoedler. Michael Goldberg: The Red Paintings, 1962-1963, on display through July 30, represents the late Abstract Expressionist painter’s borrowed inspiration from colleague Mark Rothko. When Goldberg moved into Rothko’s old studio in 1962, he found the floor splattered with red paint from the latter artist’s work. As a result, Goldberg became inspired to complete his own series of red paintings, the result of which encompasses this new exhibition. Rosenburg notes that although the paintings at first appear somber, upon closer inspection one notices the grittier, more scattered brushstrokes that move away from the artist’s earlier de Kooning-influenced pieces. Goldberg’s unusual muse proves that sometimes a muse as unlikely as a floor can stir inspiration.

Jonathan Jones of the Guardian is convinced that bad American art is still better than good British art, especially after viewing a recent Wyeth exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. The frontrunner of the Wyeth family is of course the late Andrew Wyeth, most well known for Christina’s World, a forlorn portrayal of the American middle-class. Although Jones points out that this piece isn’t necessarily in the same class as other American realists such Thomas Eakins or Grant Wood, the colors and creativity of the work accurately reflects the visual fervor for which the United States is so notorious. Even the worst Americana, concludes Jones, easily trumps the drabness of respectable British art.

The famous art critic, Jerry Saltz of the New York Magazine writes that The Whitney Museum has recently announced its plans to build a second location with the intent of housing an impressive permanent collection of over 18,000 works. Saltz praises the decision, but urges the museum to actually follow up on its promise, as to not deprive the public from its Georgia O’Keefe’s or Arshile Gorky’s any longer. Although he criticized the building project, saying that two locations are reckless and wrong, Saltz thinks it is a brilliant move on the museum’s part. He encourages the architects and curators to plan ahead, and to learn from the MoMA’s mistake in not reserving enough room for their stellar permanent collection–despite the $750 million expansion.

Forget the sobering images of Africans we see daily in the news—poverty, disease, doe-eyed children—and meet the colorful and insightful images of top South African photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa, as reviewed by NPR writer Claire O’Neill. O’Neill reveals Mthethwa’s work as quietly empowering and commanding, often showing South Africans in their own homes. As a result, an unusual level of comfort is revealed, achieving a deeper level of intimacy. By highlighting the rich colors and textures inside the homes, Mthethwa’s approach proves that it’s possible to show internal struggle without clichéd or sensational imagery. Starting Friday, an exhibition of the photographer’s work will go up on display at New York City’s Studio Museum in Harlem.

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.

One response to “Art News and Opinion: July 15, 2010”

  1. James Lourie says:

    What vision and deep emotion Neel has.


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