Saturday, September 05, 2009

“Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence” at Clark

“The way you see nature depends on whatever has influenced your way of seeing. I think it was Arthur Dove who affected my start, who helped me find something of my own.” – Georgia O’Keeffe in the early 1960s.
Georgia O’Keeffe found her own way of abstracting nature through Arthur Dove, argues the exhibition “Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence” at the Clark Art Institute. And then her art influenced him right back.

Dove was recognized early on as a pioneering American Modernist in books like Arthur Jerome Edy’s 1914 survey “Cubists and Post-Impressionism.” A copy of the text is here open to a reproduction of a Dove wiggly abstraction of leaves. O’Keeffe had the book, was inspired by Dove’s distillation of nature, and so tracked his art down in exhibitions. They met in 1918, introduced by O’Keeffe’s boyfriend, the photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz. Stieglitz had been showing Dove’s work since 1912 and O’Keeffe since 1916.

Here we see Dove working through Cubism and Futurism, before arriving at his dense biomorphic abstraction. And O’Keeffe, seven years younger than Dove, paints radiant watercolors of simplified landscapes and red naked ladies that recall French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s sensual figurative sketches.

Debra Bricker Balken, an independent curator who organized the exhibit for the Clark, makes many sharp pairings, like Dove’s “Abstraction No. 3” (1910/11) with O’Keeffe’s “No. 24 – Special/No. 24” (1916/17). His painting contrasts abstracted black tree branches against a river running through gray green hills. Her colors (grays, blacks, greens), dense painting handling, and fuzzy forms echo his.

But most of the pairings group earlier O’Keeffes with later Doves, suggesting – it’s not clear here how correctly or not – that this is mostly a story of influence flowing back from her to him.

Her early soft, flowing, abstracted watercolors are explosively vivid – like her 1916 watercolor “Sunrise” (above) of a yellow rising sun radiating red and pink halos that bleed one into the next. She freights the hot colors with the feeling of awe one might have before wide open wild spaces. It’s paired with Dove’s 1936 tempera “Sunrise I” (at top), which looks like a fried egg (in a good way), surrounded by ochre and blue halos, floating above an abstracted green hill. Her edges bleed, his are feathered. Two blue flares with green tails flank the egg-sun. It’s one of his best works, in part because of his careful patterning of the densely scrubbed on colors. The hues are cooler than O’Keeffe’s, but still give off a thrilling burst of energy. It’s a reworking of the same motifs that Dove used to strong effect in “Fog Horns” from 1929 (below), which features what look like three violet roses hovering in a gray sky above white hills.

Then O’Keeffe’s 1926 painting “City Night,” of a glowing white full moon seen down a canyon of skyscrapers, seems a precursor of Dove's 1930 painting “Silver Tanks and Moon” of a glowing full moon glimpsed between tall silver towers.

Dove experimented with materials in a way that O’Keeffe never did. His assemblages like “Rain” (1924), which O’Keeffe owned at one point, bring to mind German Dada. Actual willow branches arch across the shimmering metal background inside a shadowbox to evoke the title. But generally her paintings are fluid; his are clotted. She has a lighter, fleeter touch. His colors tend to be grayer, darker, more subdued.

As O’Keeffe edges into more realistic pictures, her work sings. In “The Lawrence Tree” (1929), you stare up, following brown branches squiggling into a leafy canopy that obscures a starry night sky. In “Jack-in-Pulpit—No. 2” (1930), white stripes crackle like electricity across the brown leaves around the jack, and clouds of green leaves surround the whole thing.

O’Keeffe comes out ahead. Dove found biomorphic abstraction first, but seemingly got stumped by where to go next. In his watercolors from the 1930s, he seems adrift – the striking particularity of his earlier forms melting into generic train cars, mountains and suns. O’Keeffe can get cutesy, illustrative and stiff. But here, at the start of her career, mainly you sense that O’Keeffe recognized what Dove had achieved, picked it up, and ran with it. And ran with infectious joy.

“Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence,” Clark Art Institute, 225 South St., Williamstown, Massachusetts, June 7 to Sept. 7, 2009.

“Wadsworth acquires an O’Keeffe; Plus how photography made O’Keeffe a star.”

Pictured from top to bottom: Arthur Dove, “Sunrise I,” 1936. Tempera on canvas, 25 x 35 in. (63.5 x 88.9 cm). Collection of Deborah and Ed Shein.; Georgia O’Keeffe, “Sunrise,” 1916. Watercolor on paper, 8 7/8 x 11 7/8 in. (22.5 x 30.2 cm). Collection of Barney A. Ebsworth ; Arthur Dove, Fog Horns, 1929. Oil on canvas, 18 x 26 in. (45.7 x 66 cm). Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Anonymous Gift, FA 1954.1; Georgia O’Keeffe, “Wave, Night,” 1928. Oil on canvas, 30 x 36 in. (76.2 x 91.4 cm). Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. Purchased as the gift of Charles L. Stillman (PA 1922) [All rights reserved, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts; Georgia O’Keeffe, “Abstraction,” 1919. Oil on canvas, 10 1/8 x 7 1/16 in. (25.7 x 17.9 cm). Newark Museum. Gift of Henry Ploch, 2000; Georgia O’Keeffe, “Blue I,” 1916. Watercolor on paper, 30 7/8 x 22 1/4 in. (78.4 x 56.5 cm). Private collection; Georgia O’Keeffe, Red & Orange Streak, 1919. Oil on canvas, 27 x 23 in. (68.6 x 58.4 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art. Bequest of Georgia O’Keeffe for the Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1987; Arthur Dove, “Golden Sun,” 1937. Oil on canvas, 13 3/4 x 9 3/4 in. (34.9 x 24.8 cm). Collection of Pitt and Barbara Hyde. All images are copyright 2009 Georgia O'Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and/or courtesy of and copyright The Estate of Arthur Dove / Courtesy Terry Dintenfass, Inc., unless stated otherwise.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Kirsten Hassenfeld

From my review of Kirsten Hassenfeld's "Recent Sculpture" at Brown University's Bell Gallery:
"I want to create a place where people can take a little vacation from reality," Brooklyn artist Kirsten Hassenfeld has said. "I'm interested in going to a place where there is no want, only endless plenty." In "Recent Sculpture," her exhibit at Brown University's Bell Gallery, she succeeds magnificently.

The main event is "Dans La Lune" (2007), a gallery-filling installation of paper, vellum, tissue, corrugated cardboard, and foamboard cut out and assembled into a dangling constellation resembling translucent white-on-white chandeliers, giant earrings, wedding cake decorations, paper lanterns, ice, Christmas ornaments, and an enchanted crystal palace. The five main elements, each four to eight feet wide, glow from within from fluorescent bulbs.
Read the rest here.

Kirsten Hassenfeld, "Recent Sculpture," Brown University's Bell Gallery, 64 College Street, Providence, Aug. 29 to Nov. 1, 2009.

Pictured from top to bottom: Kirsten Hassenfeld,"Dans La Lune," 2007; "Blueware (Garden)," 2009; "Blueware (Cloud)," 2009, with in the background from left to right "Blueware (Espalier)," 2009; "Blueware (Garden)," 2009; and "Blueware (Bouquet)," 2009; and more "Dans La Lune," 2007. Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research, except for the last two, which are courtesy of Brown.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

David Barnes

From my review of Newport painter David Barnes's exhibit at 5 Traverse Gallery in Providence
David Barnes presents oil paintings and watercolors that the gallery says are inspired by news photos of calamities. "Bali" (2008) uses a range of greens and blues to depict a crowd on a narrow city street under glowing nighttime signs. A light in the distance could be an explosion or a bright marquee, you can't tell.

What's most attractive here is his expressionist manner — loose, washy, brushy, with drips — that recalls the figurative version of Abstract Expressionism that percolated out of California's Bay Area at mid-century.
Read the rest here (at the end).

David Barnes, 5 Traverse Gallery, 5 Traverse Street, Providence, Aug. 21 to Sept. 13, 2009.

Pictured: David Barnes, "Bali."

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Michael Bizon

From my review of Providence artist Michael Bizon's installation "Cypheromantic" at 5 Traverse gallery in Providence:
Last Friday, I hopped over a guardrail, skirted the manicured lawn of a Providence golf course, scampered into trees, and clutched a rope (conveniently tied to a nearby tree) as I gingerly stepped down a slippery dirt slope toward Michael Bizon's secret art project. The trail stopped at the edge of a cliff of broken-up concrete with a tangle of rusty rebar snaking out.

Bizon's treasure map — which I'd obtained at 5 Traverse Gallery, where the Providence artist is exhibiting work through September 13 — advised: "Enjoy the view. Shimmy down, you can do it, go for gold, not responsible. Take time, explore the Putrid Paradise Peninsula."

Vines dripped from trees and a creek emerged from a culvert. As I began to climb down, I stood on a log that twisted and gave way. I shifted to the concrete and rebar pile, carefully finding footing and hand holds, while picturing myself slipping, getting fatally impaled on the rebar, and turning into some legendary art world joke. 5 Traverse asks me to note: "The gallery makes visitors sign a liability release when they take a free map."
Read the rest here.

Michael Bizon, 5 Traverse Gallery, 5 Traverse Street, Providence, Aug. 21 to Sept. 13, 2009.

Pictured from top to bottom: Michael Bizon's "Cypheromantic" installed at 5 Traverse and his secret art installation.

Call for artists: Hive Archive's "Work by Women Billboard"

For their "Work by Women Billboard" project, the Hive Archive in Providence is seeking Rhode Island women to display their art on the 8 foot by 13.5 foot sign on the front of the Hive building at 150 Manton Ave. (at the corner Aleppo Street). The deadline for proposals is Sept. 18. A panel will select four artists, each of whom will have her work on the billboard for two months. The displays are scheduled to begin in October and continue through June 2010. Details are here.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

"Beyond Will Power" at Top Drawer

From my review of "Beyond Will Power: The 5th Annual Top Drawer Group Show" at Top Drawer Art Center in East Providence:
The painting that sticks in my mind from "Beyond Will Power: The 5th Annual Top Drawer Group Show" at Top Drawer Art Center is Anthony Brun's mixed-media painting "Jason Killed Freddy."

It depicts a sort of stick-figure-like figure in scrubby red and black and gray stripes on brown board. At the top is a circle head with ominous red eyes. Something gray — a knife? blood? smoke? — comes from the figure's blue right hand. The subject seems to be the 2003 crossover slasher film featuring the two famed movie killers. But the artwork is like a child's dream of a monsters, both wary and fascinated, rendered monster-size, in this case pieced together on seven boards arranged something like a hopscotch grid that add up to about eight feet tall.

"Beyond Will Power" is a sampler of work made by participants in Top Drawer's art programs for adults with developmental disabilities. Like a lot of group shows, it's a mixed bag. Some of the pieces are excellent, some strange, some just messes.
Read the rest here.

"Beyond Will Power: The 5th Annual Top Drawer Group Show," Top Drawer Art Center, 2731 Pawtucket Avenue, East Providence, Aug. 8 to Sept. 4, 2009.

Pictured: Anthony Brun, "Jason Killed Freddy."

Monday, August 31, 2009

New director for Center for Maine Contemporary Art

Mary Ann Schierholt has been named executive director of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, the Rockland nonprofit announced. Curator Britta Konau has been serving as the center’s acting executive director since president and chief executive officer Oliver Wilder left in December 2007.

The center reports: “A graduate of Rutgers University with degrees in Labor and Management Relations and Sociology, Ms. Schierholt has extensive managerial experience and has built top real estate sales firms in New Jersey and California. Her non-profit experience includes establishing in New Jersey a statewide outreach program for teenagers, a program that continues to thrive. Ms. Schierholt moved to Owls Head last year after being a part-time resident of the area for many years; her husband, Dale Schierholt, is a documentary filmmaker focusing on art and artists, and whose recent work includes films on Robert Indiana, Louise Nevelson, and Harold Garde.”

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Boston Caribbean Carnival

“Please, God, turn off the water,” a man hollered inside the Boulevard Café on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. He was one of the many holed up in the restaurant waiting out of the rain for the 36th annual Boston Caribbean Carnival parade to begin Saturday. The rain didn’t stop, and the wet seemed to cause the thumping music equipment rolling on tractor trailers to cut in and out, but the spectacular finally got dancing and splashing down Warrant Street to Blue Hill Avenue.

Aug. 24, 2008: Our photos of the 2008 Boston Caribbean Carnival parade. Aug. 15, 2008: A review of Michael C. Smith’s photos of the Boston Caribbean Carnival and a bit about its history on its 35th anniversary.

Photos copyright The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research. Purchase them here to support our ongoing research.