Tag Archive | Modern Art Monday

Modern Art Monday Presents: Francis Picabia, Idyll

Idyll Francis Picabia
Photo By Gail

The predominant hue of this sentimental postcard composition is an intense azure blue, typical of skies on the French Riviera, overlaid with bright greens, pinks, reds, yellows, whites and lines of black. The transparency of the two figures makes literal what Francis Picabia (1879 – 1953) described as the “empty” character of Cannes high society. They have no substance to speak of, their bodies merging with the surrounding landscape in a painted version of superimposition, a technique more commonly associated with avant-garde photography and film. Idyll (1925 – 27) is displayed in its original goatskin frame, built by the frame-maker and bookbinder Pierre Legrain. The frame highlights Picabia’s abiding interest in the decorative, a category often considered antithetical to “serious” art.

Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC as Part of the Exhibit, Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round So Our Thoughts Can Change Direction, Up Through March 19th, 2017

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Modern Art Monday Presents: Vasily Kandinsky, Black Lines

Black Lines
Photo By Gail

With its undulating colored ovals traversed by animated brushstrokes, Vasily Kandinsky’s Black Lines (1913), is among the first of his truly nonobjective paintings. The network of thin, agitated lines indicates a graphic, two-dimensional sensibility, while the floating, vibrantly hued forms suggest various spatial depths. By 1913 Kandinsky’s aesthetic theories and aspirations were well developed. He valued painterly abstraction as the most effective stylistic means through which to reveal hidden aspects of the empirical world, express subjective realities, aspire to the metaphysical, and offer a regenerative vision of the future. Kandinsky wanted the evocative power of carefully chosen and dynamically interrelated colors, shapes, and lines to elicit specific responses from viewers of his canvases. The inner vision of an artist, he believed, could thereby be translated into a universally accessible statement.

The artist realized, however, that it would be necessary to develop such a style slowly, in order to foster public acceptance and comprehension. Therefore, in most of his work from this period he retained fragments of recognizable imagery. “We are still firmly bound to the outward appearance of nature and must draw forms from it,” he wrote in his essay Picture with the White Edge, but suggested that there existed a hidden pictorial construction that would “emerge unnoticed from the picture and [would thus be] less suited to the eye than the soul.”

— Nancy Spector

Photographed in the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan

Modern Art Monday Presents: Kay Kurt, Hallelujah

Hallelujah 1995 - 2016
Photo By Gail

Kay Kurt (b. 1944) is a New Realist painter of large-scale confections. Her candies lay the foundation of her compositions, structuring her canvases abstractly, and freeing her to meditate on content. As Richard Hamilton, Robert Watts and Claes Oldenburg also used candies as subject matter — and she often enlarges the scale tenfold, like a billboard — Kurt’s work became associated with Pop Art early on. The scale of the Pop Art movement opened Kurt’s eyes to the possibility of a new vision based on objects instead of landscape.

Typical candies featured in her body of work include Licorice, Bon Bons, Jordan Almonds, Jujubes and Gummi Bears. She chooses and collects these candies from various countries, being specifically interested in those of German origin, which reflect the values, attitudes, and cultures associated with the people who produce them. She does not used mediated or advertising images like the Pop Artists, nor photographs like the Photorealists. These paintings are developed through observation. Kurt prefers painting generic-looking candy, as the luxurious ones are too refined for her taste. The sole instance of exquisite candy in her oeuvre is a Godiva chocolate box painting that she made for a friend. Her choice of subject reflects her interest in mass production and consumer culture around the world.

Compulsive and exacting to an extreme, Kurt can take years to complete a canvas. As the 1980s progressed, Kurt gradually found herself excluded from the New York art world where she had found acclaim for over a decade. Although never giving up on her painting practice, she almost completely withdrew from the public eye and it was not until her inclusion in the 2010 traveling exhibition, Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968 presented at the Brooklyn Museum, that her work was re-introduced.

Hallelujah (1995-2016) is part of the exhibit Kay Kurt: For All Her Innocent Airs, She Knew Exactly Where She Was Going, on view through February 16th, 2017 at Albertz Benda Gallery, Located at 515 West 26th Street, in the Chelsea Gallery District.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Charles Demuth, My Egypt

My Egypt
Photo By Gail

In the 1920s, Charles Demuth (1883 – 1935) painted a remarkable series of “Poster Portraits” depicting friends and fellow artists. Rather than capturing a physical likeness, these works conveyed the subject’s character through arrangements of commonplace objects rendered in the crisp style of advertisements. While Demuth did not include a self-portrait in the series, My Egypt (1927), produced during the same period, suggests a parallel effort to distill his personal and artistic concerns in symbolic terms. This depiction of a newly built grain elevator in the artist’s native Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was the apex of his quest to develop a dynamic geometric style that would herald America’s industrial prowess. By titling the painting My Egypt, Demuth equates the grain elevator with the ancient pyramids, but he also invites a more poignant, intimate reading. When he made this work, Demuth was confined by debilitating illness to his home in Lancaster. Calling the image his Egypt links his hometown to the Biblical narrative of Egypt as a site of involuntary bondage.

Photographed in the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Gee, Merrie Shoes from Bonwit Teller Window Display By Andy Warhol

Gee Merrie Shoes
Photo By Gail

The catalyst for Andy Warhol’s transformation from commercial to fine artist was a 1961 display window that he created for the Bonwit Teller Department Store at Fifth Avenue and 56th Street. The window displayed five of Warhol’s newest paintings  as a backdrop to mannequins wearing Bonwit’s fashions. Representing Warhol’s first foray into what would become Pop Art, these paintings depicted commercial imagery from ads and comics, overlaid with gestural drips and blotches of Abstract Expressionism. The Bonwit window introduced Warhol’s characteristic practice of elevating pop culture into fine art that he continued to explore for the rest of his career.

Photographed as part of the Gay Gotham Exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.

Modern Art Monday Presents: New Yorkers I By Howard Kanovitz

New Yorkers 1
Photo By Gail

This painting captures the professional milieu of Richard Rodgers, the composer who co-wrote, with Oscar Hammerstein, a string of blockbuster Broadway musicals, including Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and The Sound of Music. Howard Kanovitz based New Yorkers I (1965) on a newspaper photograph. He explained, “I was impressed by a certain quality of low definition which suggested an isolation of the figures from their environment.” The resulting painting suggests that the creative class pictured here in their jackets and ties embody New York as surely as the cityscape in the background.

Photographed in The Whitney Museum in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: John Wilde’s Work Reconsidered #1

Work Reconsidered #1
Photo By Gail

The “Work Reconsidered” in the title is John Wilde’s own drawing. This painting from 1950 is based on a “bridal” portrait that Wilde had made of his wife, Helen, in 1943. Its exacting realism and compressed perspective, as well as the subject’s pose and inscrutable expression, recall the Northern and Italian Renaissance portraits that inspired Wilde. He added surrealist details to these traditions: the butterflies on the woman’s body and head, the isolated food items on the table, and the moody landscape background create and otherworldly effect.

Photographed in the Whitney Museum in NYC.