One of the great things about public art is how the viewer can have such a wholly unique experience of the piece depending on the time of day it is viewed. In the case of Day’s End, the new, permanent sculpture by David Hammons (b. 1943), I saw it up-close for the first time at, well, day’s end. Watching the sun set through the sculpture and dip behind the New Jersey skyline was a beautiful thing to behold, especially as many of us are only just now able to walk outside free of masks for the first time in over year.
Marcia Hafif (1929 – 2018) made this painting in Italy, where she lived for nearly eight years in the 1960s between college and graduate school. Her works from this period feature certain abstract forms that elude to landscapes, music or the body. For example, she characterized the hill-like curve — which here appears twice and inverted — as “a compact shape, archetypal, referring to the cave, the house, the home, safety, endurance, intensity.” Hafif embraced an open-ended approach to abstraction that was grounded in observing the world, and the nature of painting itself.
Photographed in The Whitney Museum in NYC.
Memorial Day weekend is literally a washout here in Manhattan, but I managed to save the day on Saturday by taking a trip to the Whitney Museum to see the Julie Mehretu exhibit, which is just mind blowing! Mehretu is an Ethiopian-born, New York-based abstract painter whose monumental canvases create layered worlds and vortexes of energy that must absolutely be experienced in person to really lose yourself in their surreal presence. Two Thumbs way up on this one. Be sure to follow me on Instagram by clicking on the image above so that you don’t miss out on any of my exciting weekend art adventures!
In Triumph of Bacchus (1964), Bob Thompson borrowed compositional elements from Renaissance depictions of the Roman god of wine. He rejected descriptive clarity, however, substituting vividly-hued arrangement in which the figures’ identities are left open-ended. In reimagining these historical sources, Thompson painted in a manner akin to jazz musicians’ innovations, where improvisation was based on a thorough understanding of preexisting styles. Saxophonist Steve Lacy, a friend of Thompson’s, referred to the artist as “jazz himself,” explaining that “the way he painted was like jazz — taking liberties with colors.”
Photographed in The Whitney Museum in Manhattan.
One of the pioneers of Conceptual art, Sol LeWitt gave primacy to the originating idea of a work of art rather than to its execution. LeWitt had been developing these ideas in three-dimensional objects he called “structures.” Based on the unit of an open, rather than solid, cube, the works peel away what he perceived as the decorative skin on traditional sculpture, revealing their underlying skeleton, or structure.
Though he created structures in a range of scales and shapes — the permutations growing more intricate over the decades — LeWitt maintained the use of white cubes with a ratio of 1:8.5; that is, the open space between the edges of a cube is 8.5 times the width of each edge. Five Towers (1986), a later, more complex structure, rises more than seven feet high, culminating in four towers on each corner of a square, with a fifth tower in the center.
Photographed in The Whitney Museum in NYC.
Robert Reed (1938 – 2014) considered Plum Nellie, Sea Stone (1972) as a landscape. In it, a clearly defined rectangle of exposed canvas draws the viewer’s eye to the middle of the painting. Bold purple strokes of paint jostle at the rectangle’s sides. The work is part of Reed’s Plum Nellie series, which was exhibited in his solo show at the Whitney in 1973. In addition to referencing its color palette, the title recalls the southern expression “plum nelly.” Reed remembered the phrase to near “damn near,” suggesting that his relationship to abstraction is as much about the process of getting there as it is about arriving at a destination.
Photographed at The Whitney Museum in NYC.
For more than sixty years, Alex Katz has created paintings distinguished by their bold colors, sharp outlines, and subjects taken from his daily life. By simplifying facial features and using flat, unmixed colors in works such as Edwin, Blue Series (1965), Katz emphasizes the form of the painting above its content. Here, he has cropped the left side of the body, asserting the figure as a subject of abstraction. The painting depicts Edwin Denby, a modernist poet and dance critic as well as a close friend of artists including Katz, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, and Franz Kline. Katz credits Denby for his appreciation of abstraction. Refusing to reveal his subjects’ personalities or interior life, Katz’s paintings focus instead on technique and visual invention.
Photographed in the Whitney Museum in Manhattan.