Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Stuart Davis at the Whitney

In 1913 when the young American painter Stuart Davis exhibited a few watercolours in New York's famous Armoury Show he found a new direction in the work of the Paris avant-garde painters (Picasso, Matisse and Dufy).
He began to paint ordinary objects in a constructivist style. Bull Durham. 1921.
Landscape with Saw, 1922. Oil and pencil on canvas mounted on board. 
 Lucky Strike, 1924. Oil on paperboard.
Super Table, 1925. Oil on canvas. John and I think the paintings still look very fresh.
Davis went to Paris in 1928 and did some wonderful cityscapes. Rue Lipp, 1928. Oil on canvas.
Place Pasdeloup, 1928. Oil on canvas. 
 Place des Vosges No. 2, 1928. Oil on canvas.
He also had his own take on cubism. Egg Beater No. 2, 1928. Oil on canvas 
When he returned to the United States he resolved to make a statement about America. Town Square, c. 1929. Watercolour, gouache, ink and pencil on paper.
 New York -- Paris No. 2, 1931.
Landscape with Garage Lights, 1931-32
Final study for Radio City Music Hall Men's Lounge Mural, 1932.
Swing Landscape, 1938. Oil on canvas
 Composition, 1939. Gouache on paper.
Little Giant Still Life (Black and White Version), 1953. We love Davis' preparatory drawings.
In 1953 Davis is already anticipating the bright flat colours of the Pop Art of Roy Lichtenstein and Alex Katz. Little Giant Still Life.
Oh, and those lovely studies!
We were so lucky to see Stuart Davis: In Full Swing which has now closed.
Tropes de Teens, 1956.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Lunch at Katz's Deli

After visiting the New Museum on the Bowery, John and I walked around the corner to the famous Katz's Delicatessen at 205 E Houston St and Ludlow.

Katz's has been doing a roaring business since 1888.
 When John saw knockwurst and beans on the menu the voice of Bette Midler came into his mind, singing: "Ah, but what's a career, when you put it next to knockwurst and beer?!"
So we both had the knockwurst.
When the meals arrived we thought it was an awful lot of knockwurst.
We should have paid heed to the warning on the menu that the portions are big enough for one local or three tourists. They weren't kidding.
 The men at the next table enjoyed their pastrami sandwiches below a sign marking the spot "Where Harry Met Sally, Hope you have what she had."
 The restaurant is huge as befits the crowd of diners.
Satisfied customer making her exit.
Satisfied John making his exit. It was our first visit but will not be our last. We haven't tried their signature pastrami or hot dogs!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ydessa Hendeles at the New Museum

The Keeper is a show of private collections at the New Museum in New York. Bill and I were not always sure if the museum wanted us to think of the collections as being art.
Bill particularly liked this collection of handmade models of Swiss regional architectural styles. They were made by Peter Fritz, an Austrian insurance clerk.
 They have been  preserved by Oliver Croy and Oliver Elser who found them in a junk shop. Little is known about the motivations of their creator.
Ydessa Hendeles's Partners (The Teddy Bear Project), 2002, stands out from the other displays because it was conceived and fully executed as an individual work of art -- a work consisting of an "installation of 3,000 family-album photographs [with teddy bears];
antique teddy bears with photographs of their owners and related ephemera;
mahogany display cases;
eight painted steel mezzanines; six painted steel spiral staircases; sixteen painted portable walls; hanging light fixtures; and custom wall lighting."
The first impression is of a charmingly old-fashioned museum 
with an enormous collection and too little space -- a bit daunting.
But given some time and attention something magical happens.
The lack of direction gives one the freedom to explore and make one's own connections between the photographs.
The cabinets are more focused -- revealing connections between particular artifacts.
Bring as much time as you can spare. This work of art rewards careful attention.
For example I missed this particular framed piece, but Bill caught it -- the gold-plated record presented to Elvis Presley for his hit single "Teddy Bear". How charming is that?
Partners (The Teddy Bear Project) is on until until Saturday, October 2nd.

Friday, September 23, 2016

National Museum of the American Indian

You can find the National Museum of the American Indian at the foot of Manhattan Island in Bowling Green near the South Ferry Docks.
John and I love Plains Indians drawings. The current exhibition features works on hide and muslin like this elk skin recording war deeds by the Blackfoot, Mountain Chief.
He records horses stolen (hoof images) and bears killed.
Here is North Dakota artist Long Soldier's Winter Count, ca. 1902. It records important events from that year.
The line and colouring is exquisite.
Identification of the individuals portrayed is indicated by the symbols above their heads.
Brave attacking a US soldier. American artist Saul Sternberg must have found inspiration in these witty drawings.
A Lakota warrior captures horses from an enemy camp.
A Shoshone chief's image of hand to hand combat.
Most artists were male. But women, like the Lakota, Running Antelope, who had lost a family member in battle were allowed to decorate ceremonial dresses like this buckskin.
I love the elegant figures in Yanktonal medicine man No Heart's mock battle between Shoshone and Ute nations
and a Sun Dance held in celebration of a victory
and this image of a wounded warrior draped across his horse by Black Chicken.
This image by Rain in the Face (a Hunkpapa Lakota leader) of a dancer carrying a staff honouring his war horse was drawn in a late 19th century ledger book. I collect Plains Indian ledger book drawings on a Pinterest page. This interest is one of the things that drew me to the current exhibition.
The National Museum of the American Indian began with businessman George Heye's private collection of artifacts
like this wonderful prow ornament for a North-West Indian war canoe.
John loved the graphics on this Mapuche kultrung (macho's drum), Chile, ca. 1920.
while I favoured this Lakota Square Hand Drum from North or South Dakota, 1860-1870. Classy!
A cabinet of wonderful Hopi works.
Two Mayan ceramic vessels.
The exhibition included ancient ceramics from Central America
like this jar with centipede design, AD 800-1200 from Panama. It put me in mind of William Burrough's use of centipede imagery in his early novels.