Romantic Sublime New York City

When you’re next by Washington Square, stop in at Deutsches Haus at NYU to see the exhibit of photographs by German artist Paul Gisbrecht on the second floor.  Entitled Romantic Sublime, these urban images reference the romantic landscapes of the 19th century German painter Caspar David Friedrich; taken from the rooftops of homes and offices, the central figures face away from the viewer, as if they are hypnotized by their view of the city beyond.  But Friedrich is not the only influence at work here – Gisbrecht’s photos were inspired in part by an incident in his childhood (he grew up in Kyrgyzstan), when he climbed on a platform and was so hypnotized by the landscape that he fainted and broke his arm.

This series was shot in New York City between the fall of 2012 and the spring of 2013. Gisbrecht said it was quite an adventure to find and secure the use of the rooftops, especially since he needed to take the photos at an in-between time of day, when the light is muted, imparting a sense of calm.

Mother and Children in Bushwick, 2012, Paul Gisbrecht. Photo courtesy of Paul Gisbrecht.

For this photo, taken in Bushwick, Brooklyn, a resident of the building was supposed to come with him, but cancelled at the last minute.  Undeterred, Gisbrecht started talking about his project with some kids playing there – they then got their mother, who agreed to do the shoot. I love the clouds in this image.

Paul Gisbrecht received his MFA in Fine Arts from Pratt Institute. He currently lives in Brooklyn, working in photography, video, sculpture and installation.

The Romantic Sublime, curated by Yinzi Yi, will be on display at Deutsches Haus at NYU through October 28.

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.

Neue Galerie Exhibition to Scream About

Kiss IV, Edvard Munch, image from Google Art Project

Kiss IV, Edvard Munch, image from Google Art Project

The Neue Galerie’s  exhibit on the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch and his influence on German and Austrian artists should be on your gotta-go-see list.  While Munch is best known for capturing the deep psychological states of sadness, angst and separation that lay beneath the surface of late 19th and early 20th century society, this wide-ranging exhibit reveals many aspects Munch’s oeuvre across a variety of media (oil, water color, lithographs, woodcuts) and subjects (portraits, landscapes, seascapes…) There are some fabulous Munch pieces here, as well as ones by his contemporaries, especially Ludwig Kirchner and Emile Nolde. The first  room has some wonderful woodcuts by these three artists.  With several of the pieces, different versions are displayed, so you can see how they developed.  I especially liked Munch’s Kiss in the Field, whose figures are delicately outlined in white against a sienna background; in two earlier versions, Munch plays with the direction of the woodgrain and uses lighter colors, giving them an entirely different feel.  You’ll also find several works such as Melancholy, Towards the Forest and Madonna, that demonstrate how Munch was breaking down the boundaries of painting, drawing and printmaking.   In the same room, take a look at Fishing Steamer by Emile Nolde, a fabulous black & white woodcut of a steamer in the fog.

The next room features several portraits; I really liked the full-length one of Munch’s friend Christian Gierloff, standing by white cliffs at the seaside, his bright yellow raincoat and dark green suit making the background all the more vivid (or is is the other way around?).  There’s also a great portrait by Oskar Koskochia of Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat; I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was going on there – Hans is in profile to us, but he’s facing Erica’s direction, though looking away from her, while she faces us directly; it’s almost like they’re occupying two different planes, yet their hands almost touch.  A little research revealed that this was a marriage portrait, but the couple were painted separately.  The background of brown, orange, green and purple, is scratched out with pale yellow lines and shapes, making it crackle with energy.  On the opposite wall, Winter Landscape by Munch, dialogues very well with  The Blue Gable by Gabrielle Munter.  Close by is Sea B, an oil by Emile Nolde, whose roiling seas and sky are painted almost entirely in greens and brown.

In the “Influence and Affinity” section, you’l find a great pairing of four woodcuts by Munch made before 1905, three of which are titled “angst” (and the fourth could be) and four fabulous lithographs and woodcuts of women Ludwig Kirchner made after 1908.

Self-Portrait with a Bottle of Wine, Edvard Munch, image from Google Art Project

Self-Portrait with a Bottle of Wine, Edvard Munch, image from Google Art Project

In the same room is Munch’s 1906 Self Portrait with Bottle of Wine. Set in a cafe, it’s color scheme of primarily greens and reds stand out vividly against the white table cloths. We see Munch clearly, in the foreground, facing us, seated at a table.  Behind him, the faces of the two waiters are pure white with only black dots and lines for features;  a third, seated figure, is a woman who doesn’t even have a face.

This depiction of disconnection continues on the nearby wall in two other Munch oils,  The Human Beings, the Lonely Ones, whose subjects, staring at the sea, all have their backs to the viewer, and Separation, with the ghost-like, featureless woman wafting towards the edge of the painting.

The Scream, Edvard Munch

The Scream, Edvard Munch

It will come as no surprise that The Scream has its own room, which includes two woodcuts of this iconic picture, as well as some great self-portraits in water color, gouache and oil which Egon Schiele made between 1910 and 1912.

This exhibit runs through June 13th.

After the exhibit, take the time to visit the Neue Galerie’s collection.  In addition to the well-known 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, there are several other works by Gustav Klimt that deserve our attention, such as The Dancer, his 1916 posthumous portrait of Rhea Monk, whose garment of red, pink and green flowers melds into other shapes and curlicues, in a similar style; the Park at Kammer Castle, and Forester’s House in Weissenbach II both of which have vibrant palettes consisting almost entirely of greens.

Another room holds furniture, jewelry, as well as household and decorative objects, including examples from the Wiener Werkstätte.

Early 20th Century German advertising poster, Neue Galerie

Early 20th Century German advertising poster, Neue Galerie

In the basement is a great display of about a dozen advertising posters from the early 20th century, when Berlin was the center of Plakatstil (poster style) design.

The Neue Galerie also hosts lectures and cabaret performances. You can find more information here.  As I’ve said before, this museum is one of New York’s gems.

Women and Art: Progress of a Sort

Self-Portrait, Louise Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Self-Portrait, Louise Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

There’s been a lot of discussion around the issue of gender diversity in the arts recently, highlighted by a New York Times article   on the resurgence of women-only art shows. 

It was against this backdrop that I attended a panel discussion on Women and Art, hosted by the Austrian-, German- and Swiss- American chambers of commerce.  A varied group of women from those countries who are now working in the U.S., (artist, journalist, curator, dealer, philanthropist) discussed this topic with a very engaged audience.  Throughout the evening, some common themes emerged, which applied to working women in the U.S., no matter what their profession. Here’s a very short summary.

In general, for both men and women, it’s hard to enter the art world, as you need to do a lot of networking to build up relations with galleries and collectors.  For women, this becomes even harder if and when they have children.  Several participants cited the need for workplaces to offer both paternity and maternity leave (especially long-term) as well as more flexibility in working hours/place – this would permit both parents to care for children.  Hard on it’s heels was the need for more systematized/institutional support for child care – not everyone can afford a nanny, and babysitters/family/friends are not always reliable.

Even though female artists may be getting a lot of attention at the moment, there’s no disputing that they are underrepresented in museums and galleries.  To add insult to injury, there’s the added issue of women’s works being underpriced compared to men’s.  You need only consider that the highest price at auction for a work by a female artist to date was $44 million for a Georgia O’Keefe painting in 2013, compared to a Picasso which sold for $160 million earlier this year.  According to Artnews, work by women artists represent around 8% of the lots  sold at auction. 

Unfortunately, many people view price as being indicative of talent, even though one really has nothing to do with the other.  However, prices for work by a given artist are established relative to her peers, making it harder for women to command the same sums as their male counterparts.

As to whether or not all-women artists shows tend to ghettoize the work, the consensus seemed  to be that there’s always that risk, but these types of shows have value, introducing viewers to artists they hadn’t previously known, or revealing additional depths in their work – everyone cited the Vigée le Brun exhibit at the Met.

However, on the institutional front in New York City there’s good news.  The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs’ recently released study on diversity in the arts  showed that women occupy about 50% of leadership and staff positions at the cultural institutions funded by the City.

All in all, still a lot of work to be done…

Elisabeth of Austria (1837-98)

Elisabeth of Austria (1837-98)

The evening kicked off with a keynote address by Dr.Sabine Haag, Director General of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna (KHMW),  Dr. Haag gave an extensive overview of the Museum and its collections, as well as her vision for expanding and refurbishing various galleries of the KHMW which is celebrating its 125th Anniversary.  I’ve greatly enjoyed visiting the KHMW, or I should really say, just some of it, as it comprises 13 collections housed in 5 locations in Vienna and 1 in Innsbruck. An encyclopedic museum (founded with significant contributions by the Habsburg’s), the KHMW is known for its picture gallery, coin collection, and collections of Egyptian, Greek & Roman art, as well as the Imperial Treasury, the Theatre Museum, the Archeological Museum  and the Carriage collection.   Notable female patrons include  Margaret of Austria, Empress Maria Theresa and Princess Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria.

If you can’t make it to Vienna, you can see a bit of  the KHMW uptown, as they have loaned three pieces to the Met for it’s Pergamon exhibit which begins April 18th.

Spotlight: Austria, Germany & Switzerland


This week’s spotlight was inspired by a panel discussion hosted by the Austrian- ,  German-   and Swiss-  American chambers of commerce on Women in Art.  I’ve covered the discussion in a separate post; below is information on cultural organizations from these three countries:

Austria has always punched above it’s weight in the arts, especially in the cities of Vienna and Salzburg.  New York City is home to Austria’s main cultural embassy in the U.S., the Austrian Cultural Forum (ACFNY).   You may already be familiar with it’s home, the 24-story sliver building (25 feet wide by 81 feet deep) at 11 East 52nd Street, designed by  Austrian-born New York architect Raimund Abraham.  You can take a tour .

The ACFNY’s library holds more than 11,000 volumes of Austrian literary, artistic, historical, and political works.

The Forum hosts musical events, readings, discussions and exhibitions.  From April 27th-29th  they will host the  Austrian American Short Film Festival (AASFF) , the first-of-its kind bilateral festival featuring short films in all forms and genres by promising young artists and filmmakers from both Austria and the United States

Their calendar is also a good place to find out about Austrian artists/performers who are showing/performing in New York and beyond.

It should come as no surprise that Germany is well represented on the cultural landscape.  The Goethe Institute NY  has settled into its space at 30 Irving Place from its former home on upper Fifth Avenue.  While they’re best known for their German language courses (I’ve taken classes there), they  also have a library, book club, and translation grant program.  The Goethe Institute operates in other cities in the US, and world-wide so you can study German at their facilities in other cities/countries.

From April 25th to May 15th, they will host Math to Touch, an interactive exhibition that will make mathematics more comprehensible for all age groups.  They will offer (self-)guided tours of the exhibition in German and English, quizzes and contests with prizes for German learners, information and classroom materials for German teachers and much more.    

In addition to their main space, the Goethe Institute also runs a contemporary art space at 38 Ludlow Street, where they have an artists residence program; this year’s theme is related to migration, and the current artist in residence is Anne Neukamp 

Deutsches Haus at NYU  offers not only German classes (I’ve studied here, too), but also exhibitions, talks, conferences and screenings for adults and children.  On  April 19th  they will host The Hugo Wolf Project, a Retrospective  in honor of the conclusion of the Brooklyn Art Song Society‘s epic six year survey of the complete Lieder of Hugo Wolf.  Some of the performers who have been there from the start will perform and discuss their favorite songs. 

Deutsches Haus at Columbia  has a limited schedule of events:  the evening of April 21st they will host  Goethes ‘Faust’: Reflexion der tragischen Form, a lecture by Professor David Wellbery (University of Chicago)  who will present material on “Faust” and tragic form from his new book.  This talk will be In German.  On April 25th, they will host Koffeuurtje, a Dutch conversation hour!

There are many other German groups here in the New York area – a good place to find more information is Germany in NYC .

You might also want to bookmark the Events page of the German Consulate General’s website for information about German artists/performers in New York and beyond.

One of the more unique museums in New York is The Neue Galerie New York, probably best known for Gustav Klimt’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, but there’s much more:  the  collection is composed of  painting, sculpture, decorative arts and photographs created in Austria and Germany between 1890 and 1940. Many of the works are from the collection of Ronald S. Lauder and the estate of Serge Sabarsky.  This museum is one of NYC’s gems.

Yesterday I saw the current exhibition Munch & Expressionism of about 85 works that examines Edvard Munch’s influence on his German and Austrian counterparts. I’ll do a full review next week, but in a word:  go see it!

The Neue Galerie also offers programs, especially cabaret performances,as well as recitals, lectures and films.

Despite its small size, Switzerland has had an outsized influence in the arts (Geneva, Basel). At 18 Wooster Street, in Soho, you’ll find the  Swiss Institute, an independent non-profit contemporary art institution known for its exhibitions and programs promoting experimental art. From April 15th to May 19th, they will present the first institutional solo exhibition in the United States of Olga Balema, For Early Man.   This is a new series of works using maps and globes from a range of origins and periods, which she has variously painted on and affixed with cast latex breasts, playing off the notion of Mother Earth and suggesting physical responses to perpetual growth and change.

On their website, you’ll find their video series, SI: Visions. I haven’t seen them all, but I liked the one by Christina Forrer, who explains how she transforms battles and struggles (found in online videos of cat fights and sporting events) into intricate weavings.  

You can find readings, performances and lectures at the Swiss Institute on it’s events page.

The Swiss Consulate has an events calendar on its website.

Science & Art

"Green Frontiers" by Mayandi Sivaguru; Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign

“Green Frontiers” by Mayandi Sivaguru; Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign

Made it to the opening of “Seeing the Art in Science” a new exhibit at featuring 20 microscopic images of the cellular structure of organisms such as corals, honey bee brains, plants, pollen, leaf cells, etc. The images were made  by scientists at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois , using equipment manufactured by Ziess, and were subsequently artistically enhanced and rendered on a much larger scale.  The image at left is a close-up of the  three-dimensional structure of the anther (pollen producer) of the Arabidopsis, the first plant to have its genome sequenced. The evening, hosted by the German Center for Research and Innovation  also featured a panel discussion on genomics and art, and a lively Q & A  with scientists from the University of Illinois and Carl Zeiss.  For a video of the event, or to see more images, click here   The exhibit will be up until at least the end of July at the German House  (German Consulate) on 1st Avenue at 49th Street.