Sunday, August 25, 2019

Major retrospective for Lee Krasner

This week the New York Times brought news of a solo show of Lee Krasner, featuring almost 100 works by the American abstract expressionist.

The show currently runs at the Barbican Gallery in London, and will travel in October to the Schirn Kunstalle Frankfurt, and continue next year to the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Long overshadowed by the paintings of her husband Jackson Pollock, Krasner's work shows great range.  She is one of the few women painters to receive a full retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, a show that opened a few months after her death in 1984. In recent years her work has received more attention. In May, a panoramic Krasner from 1960 was sold at auction for $11.7 million, a record for the artist.

To learn more about Krasner and about the current show, access Jason Farago's article in the New York Times here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

States of Mind, States of Being: Meditations on the Human Condition

Here's a peek at a current show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. Though there are a number of paintings in the exhibition, it was the sculptures that caught my interest.

Theaster Gates, Ground Rules (Red Line, Green Line) 2015
"One of the most important artists of his generation, Chicago-based artist
Theaster Gates has developed a socially engaged practice that turns attention
 to overlooked peoples and histories. His Ground Rules series salvages remains of
gymnasium floors that have been decommissioned by the city of Chicago.
For Gates, the markings on the gym floor, the signs of the rules of the game,
are emblems of a broader social order learned at a young age:
lack of access leads to life-long disadvantage."

The introduction to the show reads,
"Philosopher Umberto Eco tells us that 'Art tries to give a possible image of this world, an image that our sensibility has not yet been able to formulate.... Art suggests a way for us to see the world in which we live, and, by seeing it, to accept it.' In an era that often places a premium on speed and sensationalism over slowness and substance, a moment when the world's barometer for truth is at times insupportably low, it falls to art to show us not just how the world might be, but how it really is."

Michel de Broin, The Abyss of Liberty, 2013
"Drawing on the famous Auguste Bertholdi statue unveiled in New York
in the 19th century, Michel de Brouin questions the notion of liberty
by placing the iconic figure in a precarious position.... With its
hollow interior made visible, this bronze cast conjures up a kind of abyss
in which the idealization of liberty falters."

Jana Sterbak, Planetarium (Montserrat Version), 2000-2002

Sylvia Safdie, Keren No. 4, 1999

Sylvia Safdie, Keren No. 4, 1999 (interior, detail)
A book with its pages partially exposed is positioned inside a large copper cylinder.
As the gaze of the viewer shifts, the pages appear to flip open, an optical illusion.

Tony Cragg, Sharing, 2005

Tony Cragg, Sharing, 2005, alternate view
An observant look reveals three faces melded into a spherical form.
"Sharing is a figuration of Cragg's enduring interrogation of the porousness
of human thought. 'Positive or negative we are constructed as much
from what we are as from what we take in,' Cragg has averred."

Yoan Capote, Abstenencia (Libertad), 2014
"This work consists of bronze casts of the hands of anonymous migrant workers
sequenced to spell in sign language the word 'Libertad' [Liberty]....
As a whole, the work creates an allusion to the difficulty common people
face in making their voices heard on important social issues."

I found these six works and others raised compelling questions about what it means to be human in this world.
"Created by artists of different races, genders, ethnicities and nationalities, the works in this gallery encourage us to think differently about the world and our place within it.... Silent hands the spell out 'liberty', an upside-down emblem, and reconstructed boards of a broken-down gymnasium floor invite us to question just what 'liberty' means and to better understand the inequalities that persist to this day."
The show is part of the museum's permanent collection. 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Omar Ba at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Omar Ba, Les autres [The Others], 2016
oil gouache and India ink on corrugated cardboard

Senegalese artist Omar Ba has a solo show at the MMFA, continuing until November 10, 2019.

I visited the show recently, and was intrigued and challenged by the large works. Often using a substrate of wood or corrugated cardboard, Ba typically lays down a matte black background that allows his colours to "pop".  His rich patterning recalls African textiles and ceramics. While it is clear that his paintings address political issues, his symbolism is somewhat enigmatic, which encourages a more thoughtful engagement with the imagery.

Omar Ba, Afrique Now, 2015
Oil, gouache and acrylic on corrugated cardboard

The posted text reads, in part:

"Bringing together many of Oma Ba's most important works to date, Same Dream lays bare the artist's profound critique of authoritarianism as well as his firm embrace of the resilience and perseverance of the human spirit. Representations of dictators and despots depicted as hybrid half-beasts are set in dialogue with paintings of youth and strong women that convey hope for the future. This duality in Ba's choice of subject matter underscores today's divided reality, precariously straddling development and destruction."

Omar Ba, Team, 2017
Oil, pencil, acrylic, India ink and gouache on
corrugated cardboard
"Omar Ba's work engages with some of the most urgent issues of our time: global inequality of wealth and power, immigration crises and our changing relationship to the natural world. His penchant for depicting personal narratives, alongside collective ones, speaks to the multivalent character of the work. Born in Senegal in 1977, Ba splits his time between Dakar, Senegal and Geneva, Switzerland, and synthesizes the visual textures of these places through his practice, which combines the historical and the contemporary, elements African and European....
"...Figures emerge from biomorphic forms and lush flora and fauna inspired by the dazzling coast of Senegal, where Ba grew up. Micro-worlds exist within larger constellations that evoke a shared cosmogony among humans, plants and animals." 

You can learn more about the artist and the exhibition here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

4-minute videos of MMFA highlights

Nathalie Bondil, Director General and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, has created a series of twelve videos, each one devoted to one of her favourites in the museum's collection.You can access them by visiting this link.

All are in French, with English subtitles. Here's a sample from the series:

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The compelling story of Françoise Gilot

Here's a fascinating read: the profile of Françoise Gilot written by Alexandra Schwartz  and published in the July 22, 2019 issue of The New Yorker.

In "How Picasso's Muse Became a Master", Schwartz writes:
"Gilot is ninety-seven now; she has been painting nearly as long as Picasso did, and is enjoying something of a revival. In October, I went to Sotheby’s to watch a curator interview her about a new edition, from Taschen, of fanciful travel sketchbooks that she made in Venice, India, and Senegal. Gilot, still beautiful in a navy-blue suit and knotted silk scarf, was lucid, witty, and pitilessly dry in the French way."
Schwartz refers extensively to Gilot's own "remarkable" 1964 memoir, "Life with Picasso", written with the art critic Carlton Lake, and recently reissued by New York Review Books Classics.

In this "Me Too" era, Gilot's story has much to tell the contemporary reader about the challenges inherent in the roles of muse, lover, artist, and independent spirit.

You may be able to access the article through this link.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Photos under consideration

Looking back over files of my photos, I am close to selecting a few more that will serve as inspiration for new cityscapes.

Yes, I know, I said I would never make any more cityscapes. And yet I find myself needing new material to add to some exhibition commitments for the coming season.

Exteriors? Interiors? Perhaps one or two of these images will serve nicely. All were taken last year in Copenhagen.

This photo and the two below were taken in a stairwell of an art museum.
I wish I could remember which museum it was.

As I responded to Jo, who commented on a similar post two weeks ago,
"We have to take our inspiration where we find it, yes? When something speaks to us, that makes it worth following up, I think. And it's also valuable to ask ourselves what it is about the image that has drawn us in. Contrasting scale, contrast of straight vs. curved, contrast of light and dark, the juxtaposition of the human figure against the architectural, rhythmic grids.... It's all there!"

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Why Dora Maar is Much More than Picasso's Weeping Woman

The first ever retrospective of Dora Maar's art has just ended at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and will be travelling to London’s Tate Modern and then to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Dora Maar, Nature Morte, 1941

Thank you to Lauma, who shared this link to the BBC Culture site with me.

Dora Maar, Eau, photograph

To quote from the article:
"Dora Maar was one of the most important Surrealist photographers and the only artist to exhibit in all six of the group’s international exhibitions....
"Yet today she is primarily known as Picasso's Weeping Woman. Her tears, obsessively depicted in numerous canvases, seem to show a woman broken by the abusive relationship that contributed to a breakdown and her withdrawal from public life.
"Although a consciously enigmatic woman who left little written evidence about her life and work, Maar deeply resented the image. 'All [Picasso's] portraits of me are lies. They're Picassos. Not one is Dora Maar,' she told the US writer James Lord. In fact, Maar continued to create throughout her life, leaving a vast and highly varied body of work, much of which was only discovered upon her death."

Pablo Picasso, The Weeping Woman

The retrospective exhibition will be staged at Tate Modern from 20 November 2019 to 15 March 2020, and at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles from 21 April to 26 July 2020.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Exciting new show at Canada's National Gallery...

William Blair Bruce, Landscape with Poppies, 1887

...but first, Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons tours through Munich, Lausanne and Montpelier, before arriving in Ottawa, Fall 2020.

The exhibition features 119 paintings by 36 Canadian artists, dating from 1880 to 1930. The curator, Katerina Atanassova of the National Gallery, aims to introduce European gallery-goers to Canadian Impressionists. Many of these painters studied in France, but returned to Canada and brought an "Impressionist eye" to the landscape of their homeland.

Maurice Cullen, Moret, Winter, 1895

Emily Carr, Prudence Heward, Helen McNichol, Henrietta Mabel May, Sophie Pemberton and Mary Bell Eastlake are among the artists in the show. Says the curator of Kunsthalle Munich, Nerina Santorius, "I am impressed by the artistic production of so many women Impressionist painters. It is amazing to see how early the Canadian institutions – under William Brymner, for instance – opened their classes to women artists."

“Sophie Pemberton became the first woman to win the Prix Julian in 1899. Laura Muntz was accorded the prestigious position of studio head at the Académie Colarossi…. Helen McNicoll was elected a member of the Royal British Academy in 1913,” explains Atanassova. “These women were all trailblazers who defied Victorian conventions by choosing to pursue a professional career as artists.”

It could be said that the first Canadian Impressionist is Frances Jones, whose work, shown below, was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1883. Her painting was one of the first works depicting a Canadian subject to be shown at the Salon.

Frances Jones Bannerman, Le Jardin d'hiver (In the conservatory), 1883

Clarence Gagnon, Summer Breeze at Dinard, 1907

Other artists in the show include James W. Morrice, Maurice Cullen, Clarence Gagnon and Lawren Harris, many of whom travelled widely in Canada and abroad and depicted a range of landscapes.

Maurice Cullen, The Ice Harvest, c. 1913

You can read more about the show here.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Architecture images

I've been entangled in domestic maintenance for the last few weeks, but have a few moments now to post some items to this blog.

These pix were taken almost three years ago, and I thought I would share them here. They could be interesting "starts" for a composition in fibre or paint/collage.

seen in the entrance to the Musée d'art contemporaine à Montréal

as above

plaza of Westmount Square, with reflected figure

Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, interior
As above. Sometimes a figure is just what is needed
to make a photo interesting.

as above

as above

as above

as above

Sunday, July 7, 2019


Here's an item I learned about through my subscription to the Fiber Art Network, which recently posted this link about an art installation in the New Children's Museum of San Diego.

"The stunningly colourful 28 by 20-foot, three-dimensional textile structure resembles a giant hammock of crocheted circles, open pockets and hanging pendulums. Within this play-structure, children are able to move upwards through one pocket after another until they reach a vibrant expanse where they can climb, slide, bounce and rest. It’s a one-of-a-kind place to play and interact with others, and the first large-scale work at a museum in the U.S. by internationally renowned textile artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam."


By the numbers:
  • 3600 hours of crochet
  • 40 miles of hand-braided nylon
  • 1000 pounds of net
  • 14 hand-dyed colours
  • will be in place for at least 5 years.
To quote McAdam, who works out of Bridgetown, Nova Scotia,
"To me, the concept of Whammock! is to connect with others through the waves of vibration in the net.... If a child climbs, jumps or crawls in one place then another child will feel the vibration and respond with their action, and in this way, they are naturally communicating to one another.” She also explains that the name Whammock! comes from the word hammock. “Every culture has a hammock or type of cradle, and Whammock! is a giant one that impacts everyone who plays in it.”
Here's a time-lapse video of Whammock's installation. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Wild and crazy

Time to have some fun in the studio. This week I'm thinking of making my fabric postcards for Christmas. Maybe a wonky star motif?

commercial printed cotton, backed with fusible web

my own hand-dyed cotton

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Explorations with Jane Davies, Lesson 8


Yesterday I posted six pieces for the final assignment in my on-line class with Jane Davies. The class involved participants setting their own biweekly objectives, posting their work to the class blog by a set deadline, and commenting on their experience and on the work of the others. We got great feedback from each other, and from the instructor, incisive but also supportive.


For my final assignment I wanted to return to the "minimal-hesitation" approach to painting. The idea is to set aside a specific amount of time to work continuously, with minimal hesitation, to muffle the inner critic and to work more instinctively. I found this a real stretch!


I decided on a relatively small format (9 x 12) and a neutral colour scheme, using a wide range of materials. My idea was to start each of them with minimal hesitation, but then to go back repeatedly to reassess, to add  or remove a little of this or that. I don't consider any of these to be finished works, and I doubt that I will actually go back to them. For one thing, they were done on cheap paper.


But I learned a lot in the process. 


For one thing, I realized that I began each piece with broad gestural strokes of paint, even though this was new to me. Why did I assume that this was the way to go? Was I being overly influenced by what the other students were doing? Is there some stereotype in a dusty corner of my brain that says "a real painting begins with a big gesture"? Maybe there are other ways to begin that are more helpful to me?


The comments I received from others reminded me to have faith in my efforts. Even work that appears to be misguided or unsatisfactory at the time contributes to one's growth, as long as we take the time to reflect on the experience.

What's next? At this point I am happy to take a break from assignments. I have a few ideas of how to spend my studio-time that might allow me to catch my breath and even have a little fun!