This portrait from 1889 depicts one of Paul Gauguin’s closest friends, the Dutch painter Jacob Meyer de Haan, in the pose of a thinker. The painting includes two books that reflect Meyer de Haan’s preoccupations with religion and philosophy: John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Thomas Carlysle’s Sartor Resartus. Carlysle’s central character is called Diogenes, after the Greek philosopher who searched by lamplight for an honest man, and the prominent lamp shown here may extend the reference. This work was originally intended to form part of a decorative panel for the door of an inn at Le Pouldo — a small coastal village in France where both artists stayed — and was to be hung next to a companion self-portrait by Gauguin that is now in the collection of the National Gallery in Washington, DC.
Where else but the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art could you see a preserved Snowman in the middle of a summer heat wave? I ask yez.
Damn You, Reflective Glass Case
Snowman (2016) a sculpture composed of an actual snowman encased in a glass-door freezer, by Peter Fischli (Swiss, b. 1952) and his longtime collaborator David Weiss (Swiss, 1946–2012). This Snowman is an updated version of a 1987 site-specific work by Fischli and Weiss that was commissioned by a German thermic power plant whose energy—in the form of heat, paradoxically — was used to keep the snowman perpetually frozen. Though a snowman is, as Fischli observes, a “sculpture that almost anyone can make” simply by rolling three spheres of snow and setting them atop one another, Fischli and Weiss’s Snowman is dependent on a technically complex apparatus for its year-round subsistence. Over the course of three decades of collaboration, the two artists explored and exploited contradictions such as this one and investigated the extraordinary potential of ordinary objects and situations.
Snowman Sculpture Head Detail
Snowman is part of Peter Fischli’s Artist’s Choice presentation in the sculpture garden, which also includes a selection of other works in MoMA’s collection alongside Fischli’s original pieces.
Jasper Johns began to incorporate a cross-hatch pattern in his paintings after seeing it on a car: “It had all the qualities that interest me — literalness, repetitiveness, an obsessive quality, order with dumbness, and the possibility of a complete lack of meaning.” Using encaustic, a method of paint that suspends pigment in hot wax, Johns created lush, layered paintings with richly textured surfaces.
Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait Between the Clock and The Bed
Between The Clock and The Bed (1981) reference’s Self-Portrait Between The Clock and The Bed (1940 – 43), one of artist Edvard Munch’s last works.
Jasper Johns Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art NYC. Edvard Munch Photographed in the Met Breuer, NYC.
When The Blue Window (1913) was first reproduced in the May 1914 edition of the journal, Les Soirees de Paris, it was titled La Glace Sans Tain, or “The Mirror Without Silvering,” referring to a device known as a Claude Mirror: the dark, red-framed square in the picture. Many artists used one of these slightly convex. dark-tinted mirrors to clarify their compositions; a scene reflected in it is less colorful than life, its compositional elements accentuated. Something close to that effect is visible here in the structured vertical and horizontal bands and the cool blue palette that Matisse painted over other layers of color, some of which are still visible. As he simplified forms, he reinforced them with incising and scraping, seen here, for example, in the cloud at the top left.
While living and working in Paris, from 1948 to 1954, Ellsworth Kelly (1923 – 2015) developed an abstract vocabulary of line, form, and color and began is career-long investigation into how figure and ground are perceived in nonrepresentational painting. He became interested in the way that painting engages with the architectural space that it inhabits; rather than attempting to simulate three-dimensional perspective in a composition, he instead considered the wall to be a kind of ‘ground’ and the painting itself a figure on it.
In Orange Green (1964), made the following decade when he was back in New York, he established the figure-ground relationship on the canvas itself through the careful balance of two areas of color: the truncated orange egg-shape is the figure and the bright green color that surrounds it functions as its background.
After suffering a stroke in 2002 that left his right arm partially paralyzed, Robert Rauschenberg (1925 – 2008) was no longer able to take photographs, nor was he able to transfer and arrange them into new compositions, as he had been doing since the early 1950s. As Triathlon (Scenario) (2005) shows, these obstacles did not prevent him from making art. Relying on the sorts of collaborative processes that had fueled his work for decades, Rauschenberg invited his friends to take photographs with digital cameras that he provided. He then selected from the images they produced and instructed one of his studio assistants at the time, Kevin Pottorf , in the transfer and arrangments of these imgaes onto two panels
The diminutive nude female figure in the upper right area of The Nymph Echo (1936) is often identified as Echo — a mountain nymph of Greek Mythology. Far more dominant, however, is the monstrous green vegetal creatures — or is it creatures — in the foreground. This wildly imaginative hydra-headed creation may represent Narcissus, whom Echo loved. Famously, Narcissus fell in love with his own beautiful image reflected in a pool and wasted away from unsatisfied desire, whereupon he was transformed into a flower. The various delicately colored floral effusions in Ernst’s painting recall this moment of metamorphosis.