Governors Island Wonderful Art Show

Visual Playground 2, Marek Jacisin

Once again, the annual art fair on Governors Island, organized by 4heads has lots to offer. Featuring work by 100 artists from the US and abroad, spread across five buildings in Colonels Row, as well as in the windows of Ligget Hall, and on the lawns between them (like Marek Jacisin‘s piece above), this show contains many, many fine works. Very often the artists are also present, so you have a chance to talk with them.  The styles and techniques are quite varied, so look in each room – even if you haven’t found something you like on the first floor of a building, go up to the second floor – I guarantee you’ll find something completely different. Leave yourself plenty of time to explore this exhibit. Here are some of my favorites:

Royalty, Zeren Bader, 2014, archival print on metallic paper

In Building 404B, Zeren Badar has created a series of 23 imaginative and fun photos, entitled Messing With Old Masters, in which he takes images of old paintings and embellishes them with objects such as eggs, or macaroni, or rubber bands, then photographs the new image, which, by throwing you off balance, makes you look at portraiture in a new way! 

Anna Cone and Zeran Bader

While I was talking with Zeren, another artist, Anna Cone, whose work is in the next building, and explores similar themes, came in to see Zeren’s work. (more about her work later)

Portrait of Shirley Chisholm by the Lower East Side Girls Club

On the second floor, the Lower East Side Girl’s Club was exhibiting prints of Women who Change the World, a mural created on the walls of the First Street Garden in 2011 by teenage Girls Club members and artists who painted portraits of 19 women who inspired them, including Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Dorothy Day, Shirley Chisholm, Rosa Parks, and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.

Spatial Magnetic Field Visualization, Inhye Lee and Hyomin Kim, interactive installation

In Building 405A, the scientific-based art collaboration of  Inhye Lee & Hyomin Kim have two pieces in this show that reference the earth’s magnetic field.  The Spatial Magnetic Field Visualization above consists of about 100 ball compasses inside transparent globes – the black and white on the balls indicate their polarity, mimicking the magnetic files around the earth. (They have a printed sheet with a more detailed explanation). They also have a Magnetic Field Drawing Station which is pretty cool. 

Fire, by Richard Sigmund

On the second floor you’ll find Fire by Richard Sigmund, a series of drawings that are variations on this word.  Richard had been intrigued by all the “fire” signs that are painted on the roadbeds in New York.  On a visit to India, he thought about this word, which can represent purification, death and emotions, and so each day he did a sketch of the word “fire”. 

Pink Collar Worker, Paola Citterio, metal chain with wool fibre

On the porch of Building 406 B, you’ll find a wonderful work in metal chain and wool by Paola Citterio, but it was her Pink Collar Worker inside that grabbed me, having worked many years as a secretary.  Paola made this piece using a baby blanket she found (it made her think of Vivienne Westwood) to which she added the metallic chain and the wool fibre lettering.  Paola dyes her wool, and felts it using a needle felt technique, which takes hours – but for her, the process is part of the art.

Anna Cone installation

On the first floor, Anna Cone has created a version of a salon/drawing room, filled with portraits of Disenchantresses, large scale modern nudes styled as goddesses, set against collaged images from Old Masters paintings, placed in antique-looking frames.  Using her background as a fashion photographer, Anna’s work pushes back against the images of “acceptable” women’s bodies that we’re saturated with, to include others that might be considered more “unconventional.”  Be sure to look at the chairs, which also contain collaged images from Old Masters.

Allison Sommers in her installation

In Building 407A, Allison Sommers has created a room that addresses movements in a domestic household, and the anxiety around house-making when you find yourself suddenly plopped somewhere.  I was not surprised when she told me she’s a military brat.  Allison offered no more by way of explanation of her installation, saying that she wants to leave it open to the viewer’s interpretation.  I confess I found her piece challenging, but I could relate to it on many levels.  Check it out!

Loteria de la Migracion, Tabla 2, Richard Fleming

In Building 408A, Richard Fleming has created a wonderful project, Loteria de la Migracion,  centered on migration from Central America. He has taken the Mexican card game Loteria and re-imagined each of the 54 cards as a series of obstacles and challenges facing migrants fleeing violence,  sometimes changing the images (i.e., a pear in the original Loteria becomes grapes in his version).  This project is based on his experiences as a sound recordist working in Chiapas.

Vornado, HYSTM, acrylic on wood

HYSTM is really two people: the New York-based art tag team of Keith Pine and Rich Zitterman, who work as one.  I spoke with Rich, who told me that either he or Keith will start a painting, then the other will add to it, and they will keep on this way until they think the work is done.  By the end of the process, neither one knows who started it, and often can’t remember which are their own contributions.  Rich said they get their inspiration from what’s around them, whether that’s TV or found images or their own imaginations. 

There’s much, much more to see.  The exhibit is open only on the weekends and only through October 1st.  More information on the ferries to Governors Island here .

Looking towards Brooklyn from Governors Island

Rebel Clay at Cavin Morris

Earlier this month, Cavin Morris Gallery opened a new exhibit, Rebel Clay, featuring some 60 non-mainstream ceramics.  The works were rendered in a wide variety of styles – whimsical, utilitarian, spiritual – with finishes that range from unfired natural clays in browns and grays to highly glazed, brightly colored pieces.  Below are some of my favorite pieces:

Shekinah, Straiph Wilson, 2016, ceramic

The show contains several highly glazed and brightly colored ceramic fungi by the Scottish artist Straiph Wilson.

Black & Blue #15, #13, #14, Kevin Sampson, 2017, porcelain, canvas, wood

Kevin Sampson, a self-taught artist and former police officer creates works that often address issues of social justice and cultural resistance. This piece made me think of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, whose arrivals are the subject of much debate these days.

Untitled, Nek Chand, 1950-1980, concrete over metal armature w/mixed media

Nek Chand is known for his huge environment in Chandigarh, India with its thousands of expressive figures and exquisite architecture. I found this man he created from concrete absolutely irresistible, and so full of energy!

Seated Figure, Burgess Dulaney, ca. 1970-89, clay and marble

There’s something very appealing about Burgess Delaney’s Seated Figure, made from unfired clay from near his home in Mississippi.

Untitled (Head), Kazumi Kamae 2004, shigaraki stoneware

Kazumi Kamae was one of four Japanese Art Brut artists the gallery discovered when they visited the Yanomami Art Center near Shigaraki Prefecture in Japan.

Mask from Nepal, early 20th cent., cow dung, clay, organic materials

On one wall you’ll find five masks from Nepal, created in the early to mid-20th century using cow dung and clay.

This is a small sampling of the ceramics in this exhibit, which will remain up until  October 7th – but don’t wait until then to see it.  Cavin-Morris is located at 210 11th Avenue, Suite 201, in Chelsea.

Bronx Artists Residencies Exhibit

This summer, the Bronx Arts Space offered residencies (6 weeks studio space and a $500 stipend) to a group of six artists.  At the end of August, they held an exhibit of projects this inaugural group had worked on during their residencies. I had a chance to speak with three of the artists, and I definitely want to continue following their work.  Here’s why:

untitled, Alexis White, book pages and crayon

I was very attracted to Alexis White’s book-based work.  Against one wall were several works featuring  strong geometric patterns with vibrant colors – on closer inspection, these figures were drawn in crayon on the pages of a book.  Alexis began this series when her father, who works at a psychiatric facility, came home one day with a psychiatric book about “Children of Color.” 

Untitled, Alexis White, mixed paper and book collage

She also created a second collage series using pages from a found book (Les Etoiles by Alfonse Daudet), on which she pasted images cut from magazines.

Melissa Calderón’s embroidery art grabbed my attention immediately – it turns out her grandmother is a seamstress.  Melissa employs unconventional surfaces, such as wood, to create her sculptural embroidery pieces. Her work covers a variety of social issues, from the environment to housing. 

The Arctic Meltdown, Melissa Calderon, 1979-present, thread and wood

Against one wall is a series of 8 pieces, which show how the Arctic ice has been melting since 1979 and will continue to shrink through 2035, based on the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The Bronx Housing Court Monster, embroidery on linen, Melissa Calderón

I especially liked The Bronx Housing Court Monster – the title and the image say it all!

 

diarama of room in Harlem with videos of Shilo, OH by Erica Bailey

Erica Bailey’s dioramas deal with transience and impermanence.  She exhibited two rooms: one a recreation of her childhood room in Shilo Ohio, and the other, her first studio apartment in Harlem. As the artist noted, she wasn’t the first person to live in these spaces, and she won’t be the last.  In the “windows” of each room are street scenes from the other location, demonstrating their connection despite their differences.

I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next from these three!

World War 1 Through Artists’ Eyes

Poster by Howard Chandler Christy, 1917

The NY Historical Society  is also commemorating the 100th anniversary of the US’s entry into the First World War, with World War 1 Beyond the Trenches, a terrific exhibit of more than 55 paintings and posters from that era.  The show opens with works by Man Ray, George Bellows and Childe Hasssam. 

detail, Gassed, John Singer Sargent, 1919, oil on canvas

However, it is John Singer Sargent’s oil of blindfolded men who had been gassed that dominates the room, not only by virtue of its size at 7-1/2 ft x  20ft, but also because of his technical mastery and use of classical composition to capture the horror of the combat.  Sargent created this for a Hall of Remembrance in London, based on a scene he had witnessed at Arras in France, in 1918.  The show has more oils and some watercolors by Sargent, who toured the Western Front.

The Flag, Georgia O’Keefe, 1918, watercolor on paper

You’ll also find two intense, abstract works by Georgia O’Keefe, whose younger brother Alex fought in the war (he was gassed, and died ten years later).

The End of the War: Starting Home, Horace Pippin, 1930-33, oil on canvas

The use of very thickly applied paint makes the soldiers really stand out in Horace Pippin’s  depiction of German troops surrendering to African-American soldiers.  The collage effect is made more powerful by the frame, adorned with helmets, bayonets and other symbols of war.  It took Pippin, who was seriously wounded fighting with the Harlem Hellfighters, three years to make this painting.

Letter to Mr. Chasin, from Salvator Cilis, Camp Upton, October 1917

A display case in the center of the room features letters from soldiers like Salvator Cillis, describing and illustrating his experience in training at Camp Upton on Long Island (the “melting pot” camp), where he met many soldiers who had been born outside the United States, of “every race, color, religion and opinion”. 

Armistice, Times Square, Theodore Earl Butler, 1918 oil on canvas

In 1918, the Armistice was signed, and this oil by Theodore Earl Butler captures the energy of that day as New York City celebrated in Times Square.

The Subway, Walter Pach, 1919 oil on canvas

One of my favorites in the show is this 1919 oil by Walter Pach of the subway in post-war NYC, which captures how the City’s different ethnic and social groups came together on our public transportation system – if it weren’t for the period clothing, this could have been painted today.

The show also has a number of posters in a corridor off the main room.  The Committee on Public Information created over 20 million copies of some 2,500 posters, many of which were designed by the leading fine artists and graphic artists (Gerrit Albertus Becker, James Montgomery Flagg, Howard Chandler Christy) to be visually compelling enticements to support the war, exhorting men to enlist in the armed services, women to become part of the war effort, and everyone to buy Liberty Bonds.  Private organizations such as the YMCA and the Red Cross recruited women to be drivers, mechanics, and nurses, and to fill other positions left vacant by men who had gone to the front.

Colored Man is No Slacker, E.G. Renesch, publisher, 1918

Even though African-Americans were segregated in the armed forces, many nonetheless signed up to serve.  This poster was probably privately published, as the official recruiting materials rarely depicted black men or women.  (Slacker meant “draft dodger”)

detail, somewhere listening: Company B, 365th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Division A.E.F., 2014 graphite on paper, Debra Priestly

In the main lobby opposite the building entryway is a moving series of 212 charcoal sketches, arranged in 3 rows, that Debra Priestly made from photographs of the members of the 92nd Division, an African-American unit that fought in France, including Priestly’s great uncle.

There is much much more to see in this excellent exhibit, which is up until  September 3rd.  The NY Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West and 77th Street.

Hercules, Kings and Cockroaches

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard about the King of the Cockroaches exhibit at Hercules Art Studio – I am a New Yorker and have my own ideas about these insects.  According to the organizers, this show takes its “title from an ancient Arabic preservation myth:  the king is invoked as an appeal to insects and worms not to nibble on and destroy important books and scrolls.”  Through painting, sculpture, drawing and video, Bill Santen, Becky Brown, Jess Willa Wheaton and Daniel Lichtman address how we deal with the glut of material that surrounds us. 

Safe Keeping, Becky Brown, 2017 mixed media installation

Safe Keeping by Becky Brown is a wry commentary on how we continue to hold on to things that we no longer use and may even be obsolete – where’s the line between preservation and hoarding?

Black and White, Becky Brown, 2017, pencil and collage on paper

Becky also has several paintings and drawings in the show, including Black and White, a pencil and collage that caught my eye.

screen shot from Low Tide, Bill Santen, 2016, HD video, sound

Bill Santeen’s three videos are mostly shot in the area by City Island  in the Bronx, focusing on subjects as diverse as an immigrant fisherman, boat scrappers, and the preservation of waterfront objects.

Sun and Moon Study, Jess Willa Wheaton, 2017 oil on linen

Jess Willa Wheaton’s work ranges from small oil paintings such as Sun and Moon Study

Post Grocery 4, Jess Willa Wheaton, found printed vinyl and adhesive

to large (approx. 3ft x 4ft) collages like Post Grocery 4, assembled from unrelated found images, that combine to create something completely new and intriguing.

There are other works by these artists as well as an installation by Daniel Lichtman.

Hercules Art Studios  is a 5,700-square-foot space containing seven low-cost artists studios, a common area, an industrial kitchen, bathrooms with showers, and a gallery, and space for public programming.  Their artist-run Exhibition Program is currently accepting proposals from independent curators and artists for curated exhibitions and public programming for September 2017 – May 2018. The studios are at 25 Park Place, 3rd Floor, in Lower Manhattan.

King of the Cockroaches is on view until August 16th.  The Studios are open only on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00pm to 6:00pm, or by appointment.

Measuring Time at Deutsches Haus

Measuring Time, a charming exhibit at Deutsches Haus at NYU began as part of the Chelsea Music Festival in June.  The show of 20 works by six artists ranges across woodcuts, photographs, drawings and mixed media, exploring themes of waiting, rhythm, and decay.   

Red Wall Owego, Regula Ruegg, pigment ink on fine art paper

Regula Rūeg’s work focuses on crumbling walls, forgotten signs, and lost wall advertisements, which allow us to see how the built environment changes over time.

Platform to Nowhere/Anticipating the Inevitable, Bill Beirne, photo documentation of performance work

Bill Beirne’s work centers on public space and communication.  He’s known for his video installations and public performances, one of which is documented in the above photograph.

There’s more to see by these artists and the other four in the show, which is up until August 26th.  Deutsches Haus at NYU is at 42 Washington Mews, and is open Mon-Fri 10:00am to 8:30pm, Saturdays 10:00am to 4:00pm.  They also offer German language lessons (I’ve studied there) as well as public talks, readings and film screenings.

Fashion Art at Fountain House

Un-Zip, Boo Lynn Walsh, mixed media on wood block

I’ve come across the work of Fountain House artists at the Outsider Art Fair, and finally made it over to their gallery in Hell’s Kitchen for a talk about their latest exhibit, The Art of Fashion , which is closing August 9th.   If you don’t know Fountain House Gallery, they work with artists who live with mental illnesses.  I like their exhibits because it’s art I would be attracted to without knowing the artists’ backstories.

The first speaker was the curator, Kathy Battista, who chose the theme of fashion because fashion affects everyone, it can be looked at from several vantage points, and she wanted to do a fun show. Fashion is also her background – she teaches a class on Art & Fashion at Sotheby’s Institute.  Kathy invited 7 mainstream contemporary artists to exhibit alongside the 37 Fountain House Gallery artists, creating a dialogue between their works.  Once she selected the works to be shown, she then divided them into loose themes, such as celebrities, animals, the paradox of feminism, abstraction, street style, etc. 

detail, If I Wore It, I Wore It With Jeans, Alyson Vega, recycled clothing and other fabric

Next up was artist Alyson Vega, who spoke about her piece, If I Wore It, I Wore it With Jeans.   She’s been making textile art from a young age, using recycled clothes or clothes from thrift stores. When Alyson was young, she had a pair of Peter Max for Wrangler hot pants that she couldn’t bear to part with, so she eventually turned them into a bag. For this work, Alyson started researching clothes from the 1970’s, ’80’s and early 90’s.  The different fabrics – denim, lace, polyesters, flower print cottons – and some patches from those eras are incorporated in this piece.  There are 6 panels in all, but the fabrics are not necessarily in chronological order – rather Alyson assembled pieces that she thought went together well, and then sewed them together.   Measuring 3ft x 10ft, this is her largest work to date.

Beatification (Bushwick, Brooklyn) Elizabeth Bick, archival inkjet print

Elizabeth Bick was a dancer in her teens before turning to photography, which also has several of the same elements, such as light, performance, and movement.  Seven years ago, when she moved to Bushwick, Elizabeth felt like an outsider, so she used her camera as a way of introducing herself, taking portraits of the neighborhood women.  First she finds the background, one that won’t detract from her subjects, but where the light – she only uses natural light – is of a certain type.  She noted that the women are often surprised that she wants to take their picture, as they feel invisible, especially the older ones.   Elizabeth sees them as matriarchs of the neighborhood, and tries to portray them as archetypes, noting that the women have a specific way of expressing their femininity – their hair is done, their makeup is done, they’re well dressed, even when going to the store.  You’ll notice that often her subjects are looking to the side – Elizabeth asks them not to look at the camera, so as to give them an iconic feeling.  She’s taken several hundred photographs, and plans to continue this project until she moves out of the neighborhood. 

Higher Species?, Susan Spangenberg, acrylic, fabric, jewelry on canvas

Susan Spangenberg is a self-taught artist who spoke about how having a studio at Fountain House has made a difference to her life. Susan paints because she has to – she has something she needs to express – and now she has a place where her work can be seen. (She told the audience that when she was growing up, she thought calling herself an artist was pretentious.)  Over the years, her work has changed;  now she is trying to do less self-referential work and instead create pieces that address pop culture or that start a social-political dialogue.  Her canvases in the show are a commentary not only on the celebrity-driven world we live in, but also on the way society views animals, especially dogs, as accessories to be discarded when they’re no longer useful. 

Other works in this show which caught my eye:

Kilt, Bryan Michael Green, enamel on canvas

 

Fashionista, Gail Shamchenko, mixed media on paper

No Law 3, Angela Rogers, scanned drawing

The show is on only through August 9th. 

So hurry over to Fountain House Gallery, 702 Ninth Avenue (at 48th Street).

A Fresh Look at Hungarian Art

Hommage à Albers, Tibor Gayor, 1975, acrylic on wooden board

 

With the Eyes of Others: Hungarian Artists of the Sixties and 70’s, the current exhibit at the Elizabeth Dee Gallery, is a museum quality exploration of the Hungarian neo-avant-garde, reminding us that even under repressive regimes, art can flourish.

Postwar Hungary suffered under the dictatorship of the Soviet Union, whose ideology was hostile to modern art.  Even though the Hungarian regime was a more “friendly barracks,” artists still needed to make sure that any “political” gestures – which included embracing Western art practices rather than Soviet Realism – were not overtly visible to either the censors or the viewing public. 

In this atmosphere, Hungarian artists combined their unique visual language with Western forms such as Conceptualism and Pop Art, to create a  radical new approach to Conceptualism, resulting in art that was, by its existence, an implicit rebuke to the norms of the Hungarian state.  The authorities established three categories of work:  supported, tolerated or rejected, so many of the political pieces use a highly coded language or employ humor to cover or deflect from their  critiques of officialdom. Sometimes the political message was so coded that only those inside could understand it; the wall texts and the gallery’s exhibition checklist are helpful in understanding the context of the works.

In Hungary artists were establishing their own unofficial art scene, in private apartments where they held clandestine semi-illegal exhibitions and performances, leading to a flourishing – albeit underground – cultural milieu. These “flat” exhibits for a few hundred friends of friends allowed artists to transmit current styles and trends.  Even though they were not able to freely travel, artists in Hungary found other ways of engaging with their peers in other countries, especially through the international mail-art movement, sending small scale works via the postal service to avoid censorship. 

Radial Enamel I-IV, Karoly Halasz, 1969, enamel on four iron plates

There are almost 100 works on display, with the vast majority from the 1970‘s, but on the ground floor you’ll find works from the 1960’s in that era’s abstract geometric style, including Károly Halász’, Radial Enamel I-IV.

Wall-Hanging with tombstone Forms (Tapestry), Ilona Keseru Ilona, 1969, stitching on chemically dyed linen

The motifs in Ilona Keserü Ilona’s 1969 Wall-Hanging with Tombstone Forms, reference the iconography of rural Hungarian cemeteries, such as the one she visited in 1967 in Balatonudvari, which contains over 60 heart shaped tombstones.

5 out of 4, I-III, Dora Maurer, 1979, acrylic on wood

The exhibit contains several works by Dóra Maurer, whose oeuvre spans print, photography, films and drawings.  Many of her pieces from the ’70’s such as 5 out of 4, are quite rigorous, combining rule-based compositional logic  and geometric abstraction.  Maurer, who had an exhibit at MOMA in 2015, is married to Tibor Gáyor, whose work is at the top of this article.

SUN-OX-FACE, Imre Bak, 1976, acrylic on two canvases

Pride of place is given to Imre Bak’s abstract geometrics, with their strong colors, and strict, sharp, forms and lines.  Along with lona Keserü, László Lakner, and István Nádler, whose works are also here, Bak was  a member of the Iparterv, one of the leading Hungarian neo-avant-garde groups of the second half of the Twentieth century.  His delightful SUN-OX-FACE from 1976 greets visitors at the entrance to the exhibit.

Landscape Transformation, Imre Bak, 1974, acrylic on canvas

Nearby is his 1974 Landscape Transformation, emblematic of his hard-edged paintings.  In the gallery’s office space, you’ll find a number of his smaller works on paper.

 

Concept Like Commentary 1-7, Geza Perneczky, 1971, gelatin silver prints

The second floor is almost entirely given over to photographs of that era, including two of Géza Perneczky‘s 1972 black-and-white conceptual photographic series. In  Art-Ball (concepts like commentary) he took a tennis ball inscribed with the word “art” and placed it in unusual places, such as  a bird’s nest, or in a bowl of water, or seemingly looking at itself mirror (above).   A second series, Art Bubbles, shows the artist blowing bubbles with the word “art” inscribed on them.  Even though Perneczky emigrated to Germany in 1970 he was  present on the Hungarian art scene and actively involved in the international mail art movement. He publishes his works and writings privately under the pseudonym Softgeometry.

Nouveau Bandage, Laszlo Lakner, 1971, gelatin silver print

László Lakner began his career as a Surnaturalist painter, mixing Surrealism and Naturalism, but in the 1970’s he painted photorealistic objects that had particular meanings.  Because of the political nature of his art, the government classified it as either “tolerated” or “forbidden” which made it extremely difficult for him to exhibit or sell his works.  In 1974, he received a scholarship to study in Berlin, where he continues to live and work.

Lenin in Budapest, Balint Szombathy, 1972/2016, gelatin silver print

Bálint Szombathy took some serious risks with his  performance art, as can be seen in his series Lenin in Budapest, in which he walked around Budapest after the 1972 May Day parade with a photo of Lenin mounted on a placard.  This was extremely risky, because the authorities could have interpreted this gesture as Szombathy parading the head of Lenin on a stick, as I did.

Balint Szombathy, Poetry & Language VI, 1977, ink stamp on vintage gelatin silver print

In 1977, his work took on a more semiotic tone in his Poetry & Language series, in which he would stamp the words Poetry and Language onto photographs, whose images seemingly had nothing to do with either word, but nonetheless forced you to take another look and reconsider them. 

You’ll also find photographs documenting Tamás Szentjóby’s Sit Out/Be Forbidden happening, on which is inscribed – Tous ce qu est interdit est art.  Sois interdit.  (Everything that’s forbidden is art.  Be forbidden).  He wasn’t as luck as Szombathy – instead he was arrested and expelled for his samizdat activities in 1975.

The 30 artists featured in this show employ various media and styles – I’ve covered only a tiny fraction of the exhibit.  You’ll also find photo performances by Bálint Szombathy, Katalin Ladik and Tibor Hajas and other artists, who performed intimate staged events without audiences, often with a political or subversive overtone, sometimes pushing their body to extreme limits, like other performance/body artists in Europe in the 1970’s.  There are also small monitors showing videos created by Dóra Maurer, Katalin Ladik and Ferenc Ficzek.  In addition to works by Budapest-based artists, the show includes pieces by artists associated with the Pécs Workshop, which played an outside role in this period.

The exhibit also features a number of works by the witty Endre Tót – on one wall is his Very Special Gladness series which highlights his wicked sense of humor, especially his photograph of a man reading a book with Lenin’s image on the cover – the photo is entitled,    I am glad if I can read Lenin.  Be sure to look at his conceptual “rain” series in the vitrine.

At All Times 1, Istvan Nadler, 2008, casein and tempera on canvas

Don’t leave without stopping in the small gallery space on the second floor where you’ll find works by Imre Bak and István Nadler that they’ve created in the 2000’s, allowing you to see the continuity with the abstract, geometric vein they were working in in the 1970’s.

With the Eyes of Others continues through August 12th, so before then get up to this fabulous exhibit at the Elizabeth Dee Gallery 2033/2037 Fifth Avenue (126th Street). 

New York City and the Selling of World War 1

2017 is the 100th anniversary of the U.S.‘s entry into World War I. To commemorate this event, the Museum of the City of New York has organized Posters and Patriotism: Selling WW1 to New Yorkan exhibit of posters, flyers, magazine art, sheet music covers, and other mass-produced images made in war-time New York.

Help the Red Cross, Herman Roeg, ca. 1918

When war broke out in Europe, President Woodrow Wilson had declared that the U.S. should remain “neutral in fact, as well as in name.” But the tide began to turn, especially after the Lusitania was sunk, claiming the lives of 128 Americans, and the U.S. joined the war on April 6, 1917.

While the exhibit focuses on posters, it also shows how every available means – print, music, film, lectures, and performance—were used to publicize, popularize, and gain support for  the U.S.’s entry into the conflict, and how dissenting voices also employed these media.

Women’s Peace Parade on 5th Avenue, August 29, 1914, Library of Congress photo

In the early 20th century, there was a strong pacifist movement  in the U.S.  New York City mirrored the dissent and divisions in the American population, which can be seen in a display in the center of the room with black and white photos of various anti-war rallies, including the 1914 Women’s Peace Parade on 5th Avenue. 

Mother Earth, Man Ray, artist; published by Emma Goldman, September 1914

There are also displays with socialist and anarchist publications like The Masses, and Bull, as well as Emma Goldman’s Mother Earth – all three publications were banned from the U.S. mail, and their editors were tried under the Espionage Act. The exhibit clearly shows  the whiplash in the American public’s sentiments towards the war, and the favorable turn in opinion was aided by anti-sedition laws which helped enforce patriotic loyalty.   During the war years, over 1,000 people in the U.S. were convicted of anti-draft activity.

Sheet Music for “Wake Up America” artist unknown; George Graff, Jr. & Jack Glogau, composers. Uncle Sam is kneeling in between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

You’ll also find illustrated sheet music published for people with pianos at home – they were still fairly common in American households – showing how music reflected the shifting  American opinions towards the war, from neutrality to patriotic involvement,  and capturing the conflicted feelings of parents whose children went overseas, in songs such as I Didn’t Raise My Son to be a Soldier Boy.  As U.S. troops headed overseas, Tin Pan Alley composers  led the charge  with gusto – George M. Cohan’s Over There is from this era .  Other songs, such as To Hell with Germany by Noble Sissle were widely disseminated, and many of Irving Berlin’s songs echoed that sentiment. 

Once the U.S. entered the conflict, dissenting voices were shut out, as censorship was enforced during the war.  Because New York City was the center of advertising and media, the U.S. Department of War housed its Division of Pictorial Publicity (DPP) here to sell the wary  American public on supporting the US War effort.  Many artists eagerly jumped on board: the DPP was headed by none other than Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the “Gibson Girls;” he and James Montgomery Flagg (creator of Uncle Sam) helped found ‘the Vigilantes,” a group of artists and writers using their talents to promote patriotism, and exhorting Americans to serve in combat, buy bonds to finance the war, and conserve food, clothing and energy so these resources could be sent overseas.  

The posters in this exhibit clearly reflect their creators training, revealing their backgrounds as either fine artists or the graphic artists found in the commercial (advertising) art world.

Poster, August Wiliam Hutaf, 1917

Recruitment posters aimed their message at men: by enlisting in the armed forces, they would demonstrate their patriotism and their “manly” outrage at German war crimes; other posters appealed to potential enlistees’ sense of adventure, while others played on their guilt.   Their efforts were wildly successful – the Army swelled from 200,000 recruits to 4,000,000!

Poster by Charles Dana Gibson, 1917

The war was sold as defending France and Belgium – apparently Americans didn’t harbor favorable feelings towards the British, even though the Revolutionary War had ended 140 years earlier, but they remembered the assistance Lafayette and his compatriots gave the fledgling republic.  Anti-German sentiment ran high, with posters, pamphlets and children’s books exhorting Americans to take up the fight against “The Hun”. 

Americans were asked to make sacrifices, even being encouraged to grow their own food, so more could be sent overseas, and in 1918, Daylight Savings Time was introduced as a fuel conservation measure. The Museum’s blog post on the Civilian war effort in the two world wars gives you a very good idea of how ordinary men and women contributed to the effort. 

Poster, Edward Penfield, artist, 1918

Because men were fighting in Europe, women went to work in large numbers outside the house: not only in factories and firms in the US, but also  as ambulance drivers and nurses on the front, fueling their demands for equal rights.  However, it wasn’t until 1920 that American women were granted the right to vote.

Poster, produced by Sackett & Wilhelms Lithography and Printing Company, 1918

The war effort was financed by the sale of Liberty Bonds – by the end of the war, Americans had loaned over $17 billion to their government.  Buying bonds was seen as a sign of loyalty, and refusal was met with suspicion. 

Still from “The Bond” 1918 Charlie Chaplin

Immigrants were exhorted to simultaneously demonstrate their pride in their origins and in their new country by enlisting in the war effort.  Nowhere was this effort more successful than in Hollywood – many in the industry were immigrants who showed their patriotism by creating films that fueled the public’s hatred of Germany and pumped up their patriotic fervor.   At the end of the exhibit there’s a screen showing selections from The Bond, a 1918 film featuring Charlie Chaplin. 

James Reese Europe performing with his band in France, ca. 1918, Library of Congress photo

Jazz also became popular, personified in the bandleader James Reese Europe, who led the marching band of the Harlem Hell Fighters, the 369th Infantry Regiment, an African-American unit (Noble Sissle was also a member) bringing jazz to troops in France and England.  The Harlem Hell Fighters  emerged from the war with one of the most stellar combat records of any Army unit.  However, when they returned home, they found that the same old racism prevailed. 1919 brought the Red Summer, when cities all across the U.S., particularly in the Jim Crow South, erupted, with whites attacking and killing blacks over employment and housing.

And when the war was over …  

Advertisement for Scot Tissue Towels from Time, October 19, 1931

Many of the wartime poster artists went on to become successful commercial and journalistic illustrators.  New York City became America’s financial and cultural hub in the Roaring 20’s.  The US began to return to its isolationist stance; however, the government continued to look for spies, especially among the foreign-born in New York.  The exhibit has a map depicting NYC’s immigrant neighborhoods, prepared by US Army Officer John B. Trevor for the Lusk Committee’s investigation of “subversives.”  The Cold War was beginning.

Nonetheless, the idea of globalization started to take hold, as people from all over the world met each other serving on the front.  As the song goes, “How ‘ya Gonna Keep ‘em Down on the Farm (after they’ve seen Paree).”   The League of Nations was founded after the war, and even though it folded after several years, its successor,  the United Nations continues to this day. 

Many of the issues the country had grappled with at the turn of the century – freedom of speech, immigration, espionage, race relations – continue to dominate public discourse today, making this exhibit exceptionally relevant.

On August 24th the Museum is hosting an  event associated with this exhibit, Hot Jazz Moonlight Social  with the Gotham Kings and jazz historian Ricky Riccardi at 6:00.

The exhibit continues until October 9th.  But don’t wait until then to see it.

The Museum of the City of New York  is located at 1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street

Art Deco and All That Jazz

Canapé Gondole, designed by Marcel Coard, ca. 1925, carved indian rosewood, indian rosewood-veneered wood, brass, and linen velvet.
Textile, Le Feu (Fire), designed by Yvonne Clarinvaland manufactured by Tassinari & Chatel, 1925 Warp: silk weft: tussah silk and its technique is compound satin weave

The turn of the 20th Century has become a hot topic this year, since 2017 is the centenary of the U.S.’s entry into WWI.  The Cooper Hewitt examines the period following the end of that conflict in The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s, an overview of  the various European  trends –  considered hallmarks of refined taste – that influenced Art Deco, such as  Bauhaus, deStijl, Scandinavian and Viennese design. Covering two floors, the show contains  400 examples of interior design, industrial design, decorative art, jewelry, fashion and architecture inspired by these styles.  

Evening Dress and Underslip,designed by Gabrielle Chanel and produced by House of Chanel, 1926 blue silk chiffon with applied blue ombré silk fringe

The Roaring 20’s  was an age of new beginnings, as Americans threw off the strictures and mores of the 19th century and sought to put the war behind them.  It was an era when things moved faster.  Rapid industrialization dramatically shortened manufacturing times, thus facilitating mass production – and consumption.  The rise of the automobile and the airplane made transcontinental and intercontinental travel faster, easier and more accessible.  Design became sparer, more abstract, incorporating geometric and arabesque motifs influenced by advances in transportation and industry.  Musical tastes were changing, as African-American musical forms such as the blues and jazz entered mainstream America’s living rooms via sheet music and radio, and could also be heard  in the numerous cabarets and supper clubs that sprung up as night life – dining, drinking and dancing outside the home – became increasingly popular ways for Americans to shake off the post war doldrums. Cocktails and cigarettes became symbols of a newly liberated society.   This was the age of the Flapper:  having served their country in various capacities during WW1, women gained the right to vote in 1920, cut their hair,  shortened their hemlines, and started to claim their independence.  Changing norms and a sense of possibility infused those heady times.

 Here are some examples of what you’ll see in this wonderful show (it was hard to edit my selections). 

Poster, designed by Charles Delaunay and printed by Imprimerie R de Gonell, 1934, offset lithograph on paper.

Perhaps nothing personifies that age like its music and films. This exhibit showcases how jazz music and the social world surrounding it shaped design, with images of musicians and  dancers gracing everything from vases to textiles.  It also shines a light on the ambivalence – on both sides of the Atlantic – towards Africa and African-Americans, featuring textiles and jewelry inspired by  African masks and wildlife, along with  a video loop of short clips of performances by Louis Armstrong,  Josephine Baker and Lena Horne,  but also offering examples, such as the posters by Paul Colins, of how the contributions  of Africans and African-Americans were exoticized  and caricatured.  

Blues by Archibald Motley, Archibald J., Jr. (1891-1981), oil on canvas 1929. Photo, courtesy of the Cooper-Hewitt

This 1929 oil painting Blues by  Archibald Motley Jr. (a significant figure in the Harlem Renaissance and in the Chicago arts scene) conveys the sights and sounds of a mixed race (or black-and-tan) nightclub in the late ’20s, where patrons could be free from the censures of white society, as racial barriers continued to be widely observed and enforced. 

Purse, (France)1910–30 cotton, glass and metal beads. Stitching on black cotton machine-made net; chain stitch using a hook and block cotton threaded with glass beads.

Egypt-mania was spawned in 1922 with the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, and imagery of that era, especially scarabs and lotus flowers, invaded every facet of design.  Cartier and other luxury jewelry designers offered their own versions of King Tut’s resplendent jewels in diamond encrusted platinum brooches, bracelets , earrings and cases, often accented by rubies, emeralds, onyx, coral, jade and lapis.

B3 Chair, designed by Marcel Breuer 1925, manufactured by Standard-Möbel 1927-28. Chrome-plated tubular steel, canvas. Photo courtesy of the Cooper-Hewitt

At the beginning of this era, original works in American colonial designs as well as those from 17th- and 18th-century France and England still conveyed social status.  However, the International style of chrome tube furniture by renowned architects such as  Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer soon came to be seen as symbols of the future; not only was  this  metal used in emblems of progress like cars and radios,  but it allowed for a  cleanliness in design, marking  a break with Victorian stuffiness.  Because of chrome’s affordability, these new designs could be mass manufactured and widely diffused to an emerging middle class.

Zeppelin Airship Cocktail Shaker and Traveling Bar, J.A. Henckels Twin Works, 1928, silver-plated brass. Photo courtesy of the Cooper-Hewitt

Airplane purse,designed by Josèph Andrée Chouanard; Automobile purse, designed by Rose; both manufactured by Beauvais Manufactory, 1928, tapestry and silk; Pair of Airplane Brooches, produced byCartier, 1930s, diamonds, platinum

Travel – in automobiles, trains, airplanes, airships and balloons – was a dominant motif of the 1920’s, found in jewelry, cocktail shakers, furniture and accessories.

Brooklyn Bridge, Joseph Stella, 1919-20, oil on canvas

The influence of industrial design, an appreciation of New York’s urban environment, and a fascination with travel are captured in Joseph Stella’s oil painting of the Brooklyn Bridge, whose fractured light through the suspension cables give it a futuristic undertone.

Renards (Foxes) Ten-Panel Screen, designed by Armand-Albert Rateau, ca. 1921–22. Gilt and lacquered wood, patinated bronze

The exhibit continues on the second floor focusing mainly on the influence the Parisian  1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts décoratifs et industriels modernes (hence Art Deco)  had on textiles, clothing, and home décor, not only those sold in luxury boutiques but also ones found in department stores.  You’ll also find examples from the Wiener Werkstatt and Italian Futurism that found their way into American fashion and furnishings of that era.

The exhibit continues through August 20th.  Be sure to see it.  But don’t stop there….

 

Mystery Clock, produced by Maurice Coüet and Cartier, 1929, carved nephrite, enamel, gold, cabochon emeralds, cabochon rubies, carved citrine, rose-cut diamonds, carved and calibré-cut coral, pearls, carved stone, platinum.

Also on the 2nd floor, you’ll find two ancillary exhibits.  In the room that had been the Carnegie family library (a/k/a the Teak Room)  is the fantastic Jeweled Splendors of the Art Deco Era:  The Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection.  Prince Sadruddin was the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for 12 years, as well as a  co-founder of the Paris Review and an ardent environmentalist. This collection, which is being publicly displayed for the first time,  was created for his Egyptian-born wife Catherine from 1972 until his death in 2003.  It is absolutely fabulous.

Box, produced by Van Cleef and Arpelsand manufactured by Strauss, Allard & Meyer, 1928, lapis lazuli, calibre-cut and other diamonds, frosted rock crystal, jadeite, white gold

In it you’ll find over 100 examples of luxury cases, compacts and other small items, mostly for women,  from notable houses such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Bucheron, made between 1910 and 1938,  featuring  exquisite craftsmanship and complex designs executed with diamonds, lapis lazuli, coral, cabochon rubies,  enamel, gold and platinum.  It will come as no surprise the Prince and Princess collected  Persian miniatures and manuscripts . 

This exhibit is on through August 27th.  And since you’re on the second floor,  

eModel D25 WE Radio, 1952 and E15 WE Radio, 1953, both by Crosley Rdio, molded pastic and metal

Also stop by The World of Radio , where you can see eight decades worth of radios,  and a rare public showing of  “The World of Radio” a 16 foot-wide cotton batik mural by Canadian artist Arthur Gordon Smith that covers one wall. 

Radio was made possible by Giulio Marconi, inventor of the long-distance radio transmission, and in the 1920’s radios became smaller and sleeker.  Powered by household electrical outlets, it quickly became part of Americans’ household furnishings – think of those large wooden radio cabinets – and a shared family experience. Over time, with the development of the transistor, radios in the 1950’s became even smaller, portable, and multi-functional, like the clock radio.  You’ll find not only  models from the early days of this medium, but also an iPod nano with an FM tuner, bringing this show into the 21st century.

You’ll also find sketches for radio designs and photographs of the interiors of homes showing how radios were incorporated into domestic environments.

detail, The World of Radio, Arthur Gordon Smith, 1934, cotton batik

The highlight of this exhibit for me was the 1934 batik mural The World of Radio  whose center  depicts the singer Jessica Dragonette, standing atop a globe with an NBC microphone held up by the allegorical figure of Radio.  She is surrounded by skyscrapers, airplanes, zeppelins, and other icons of the age’s technological breakthroughs. If you look closely at the mural, you’ll see that the lines that radiate from her – seemingly rays of light –  are actually made up of music notes. 

This exhibit is on display until September 24th.  However, I urge you to see all three of these shows before the main one closes on August 20th.

The Cooper Hewitt is on Fifth Avenue at 91st Street.