Over the Labor Day weekend, I snapped this photo while sitting on the deck of my friend’s Hamptons Beach House, just as the sun was setting. This was more about capturing a Friday-evening-moment of relaxing with a glass of wine than making art, but what was unexpected is how a cloud’s reflection is seen in the remaining wine in my glass. Cloud in a glass.
Disarming in its simplicity and stripped of all staging and framing devices, John Frederick Kensett’s Sunset on The Sea (1872) draws the viewer into a direct experience of nature in a depiction of a radiant sun suspended above the open ocean. Kensett resisted adding his characteristic small sailboats or landmasses to the composition; divorcing the scene from a specific location, he moved toward abstraction.
Seamlessly blending sea and sky, warmth and coolness, stillness and drama, the work seems to reverberate with Kensett’s earlier encounter with the atmospheric landscapes of the British artist JMW Turner, which the artist saw on his initial trip to London in 1840. Part of a group known as his Last Summer’s Work, it is probably Kensett’s most radical portrayal among his explorations of Connecticut’s coastal landscape and was found in his studio at the time of his death. The painting was mentioned at his memorial service, when it was described as “Pure light and water.”
Sunset on The Sea was Photographed in The Met Breuer (former home of The Whitney Museum), in Manhattan, where it is part of the Museum’s Inaugural Exhibit, Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. The piece is part of the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also in New York City.
A distinguishing feature of the new Whitney Museum in the meatpacking district is this work by Mary Heilmann, attached to the northern facade of the building, which is called Sunset. A burst of bright pink, Sunset is a site specific installation that inaugurates the museum’s largest outdoor gallery and transforms it into a place of reverie, memory and leisure.
Mary Heilmann became known in the 197os for vibrant paintings that married taut, abstract forms with quivering line and vivid color. For more than thirty years, she has intermittently explored a stair-step motif bushed within rectangular fields or expressed through irregularly-shaped canvases, which happen to rhyme with the dramatic setbacks and grid lines of the Whitney’s new building. This serendipitous connection inspired Heilmann to enlarge a detail of one such painting and print it onto two large panels that playfully turn the building itself into her canvas and tweak its sharp geometries.
Heilmann’s intervention extends to a group of sculptural chairs scattered on the terrace like a shower of confetti. Adapted from furniture that she has displayed in homes and exhibitions, the chairs serve as elements in her larger composition and encourage visitors to interact with one another and the cityscape beyond.
During our most recent Art Safari to the vast and spectacular Met, we were thrilled by Fatal Attraction, an exhibit of photography from the New York–based artist Piotr Uklański (born Poland, 1968). This exhibition, the first to survey Uklański’s photography, locates his work with the camera at the center of his artistic practice. Reveling in moribund or marginal artistic languages from a position at once ironic and sincere, the artist simultaneously subverts and pays homage to defunct modes of expression.
Uklański’s underappreciated yet historically significant series The Joy of Photography (1997–2007) explores clichés of popular photography using the kitschy subjects and hackneyed effects of Eastman Kodak’s how-to manual for the serious amateur.
Swans, Intentionally Blurry
Whereas artists of the 1980s, such as Richard Prince, appropriated such images by rephotographing them to reveal their constructed nature, Uklańskiremade them, in a manner akin to slightly irreverent cover versions of songs that bring out hidden or repressed aspects of his source material.
In this way, the artist both acknowledges appropriation’s endgame — that there are no new pictures under the sun — while creating a space for the creation of new works.
As an example, here is a blurb from the exhibit that accompanies this photograph of a Waterfall.
“As a photographic subject, the waterfall is so ubiquitous that it is invisible – a natural form that has been subsumed into an image via millions of snapshot mementos, postcards, and artistic renderings. Instead of looking for the impossible – a “new” picture of a waterfall – Uklanski presents the viewer with a dutifully exact representation of the camera’s capabilities as prescribed by Eastman Kodak – until the 1980s, as powerful a shaper of how Americans saw the world as Disney or any presidency. In conflating the roles of the amateur, professional and fine artist, Uklanski was also commenting, ironically – from a European perspective – on how Americans can turn even leisure activities into forms of work and self-improvement.”
Tulips, Intentionally Blurry
Fatal Attraction: Photographs by Piotr Uklański, will be on Exhibit Through August 16th, 2015 in Gallery 851, 2nd Floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Located at 1000 Fifth Ave at 81st Street, New York, NY.
If you’ve ever spent any time in LA or the surrounding area, few experiences that you can have here in NYC will imbue you with a sense of sweet nostalgia for the Southland quite like viewing this series of new paintings and photographs by artist Glen Rubsamen, which he calls Polygala.
In his second solo exhibition at Robert Miller, Rubsamen presents a series of paintings based on a project he began in 2012 to photograph juxtaposed billboards, palm trees and cell phone masts. As he explains, “it became quickly apparent that it was almost impossible to photograph a billboard in Los Angeles without a palm tree or cell phone tower, or both, sneaking into the picture frame.” Rubsamen describes the work’s static construction as an ‘accidental ensemble,’ an exercise in chance, and humorous negation of the classical principles of perspective, sequence and scale.
I loved this painting, seen above, so much that I didn’t even want to wait for these two guys to move to photograph it, because obviously they are digging it as well, so why not just bring them into the experience?
I think part of the reason I was so quickly enamored of this exhibit is the color palette he uses – gradations of purples, blues and mint greens – all set against black shadows, which definitely set a mood of either dusk or dawn, while extracting endless memories of time I spent growing up in Southern California. In other words, these paintings really spoke to me, as they did to the friend I attended the exhibit with who is also from that area. I don’t think there is any greater compliment I could offer than that. I would love to own any of these pieces.
I think these are some of the most beautiful paintings I’ve seen in a recent exhibit. I highly recommend you check out this show while it is still up, because they are even more impactful in person.
Glen Rubsamen’s Polygala will be on Exhibit Through December 21st, 2013 at Robert Miller Gallery, Located at 524 West 26th Street, In the Chelsea Gallery District. Hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10 AM to 6 PM.