Art News Headlines: September 28, 2011


John Martin, Apocalyptic

A John Martin oil painting depicting volcanic catastrophe, a masterpiece that was virtually destroyed in a Thames flood more than 80 years ago, is now on display for the first time in almost a century at the Tate Britain’s new exhibit, “John Martin: Apocalypse”. Widely thought to be destroyed, the 1821 painting The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum was unveiled last Wednesday after the significant tear in the canvas had been painstakingly restored. After some deliberation, experts recreated a section of the 8-foot long canvas, made possible by pioneering eye-tracking technology as well as sketches and notes left behind by the artist. Conservator Sarah Maisy analyzed the plans and built up four computer images that were shown to a sample of people who were monitored with eye-tracking technology. The researchers discovered that people’s attention was mainly focused on the undamaged part of the work, adding to the case for restoring the missing section.

In other art news, an exhibition now open at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin invites viewers to the weightless, buoyant world of artist Tomás Saraceno. Saraceno’s architectural sculptures shatter traditional concepts of time and space with his gargantuan balloon installations, approximately 20 of which occupy this particular exhibit. Drawing inspiration from soap bubbles and the vitality of spider webs, the artist creates gardens that hang in the air and allow visitors to float in space, fulfilling a dream shared by all mankind. Saraceno’s work has been described by many as “boundless,” and this installation is no different, as visitors are able to observe how the hanging orbs interact with each other, not by observing them from afar but by actually being able to enter them. The exhibition will run through January 15, 2012.

Bob Dylan, Opium, (2010), acrylic on stretched canvas, 42 x 56 in

New York’s Gagosian Gallery recently opened an exhibition of paintings by none other than music icon Bob Dylan. Dylan’s drawings and paintings on view are marked by the same constant drive for renewal that characterizes his legendary music. He often draws and paints while on tour, and his motifs bear corresponding impressions of the many different environments and people that he encounters. A keen observer, Dylan works from real life to depict everyday phenomena in such a way that they appear fresh, new, and mysterious. This exhibit shows off The Asia Series, a visual travel journal of the musician’s life on tour in Asia. Dylan has been making visual art since the 1960s, but his work had not been publicly exhibited until 2007—this will be his first exhibit in New York City.

New York’s Museum of Modern Art welcomed the opening of a massive exhibition celebrating Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning on September 18 entitled “de Kooning: A Retrospective”. This is the first major museum retrospective devoted to the full scope of the artist’s career seen in nearly 30 years, the last being at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1983. Widely considered to be one of the most important and prolific artists of the 20th century and risen greatly in popularity as of late, the work of de Kooning offers haunting canvases, often sensual and colorfully powerful. The exhibition includes some 200 works made over nearly seven decades—paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures—and occupies the museum’s entire 17,000-square-foot sixth floor, a first for an exhibition since MoMA reopened after its expansion in 2004.

When one thinks of Edvard Munch, one may picture a brooding, introspective soul, rather tormented and reclusive to a fault. The Munch featured in a new exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris purports an entirely different and surprisingly more upbeat artist than the Munch we remember from The Scream. “Edvard Munch, l’œil moderne” explores the various inspirations behind the expressionist’s famous paintings, most especially his experiences in film, theatre, and particularly photography. The exhibition shows Munch was aware and involved in many of the aesthetic debates of his time—taking many photographs himself, he was perhaps the first to come up with what is now dryly referred to as a “MySpace shot”: capturing a self-portrait with the camera outstretched in one’s own hand. The major exhibition is organized in twelve rooms and is centered around nine major themes, providing an uncommonly rich and thorough selection of Munch’s major paintings and works on paper, alongside many photographs by the artist.

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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