John and Ethel MacKinnon Gallery
Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-89) Buste à tiroir (Bust of drawers), 1937 Pen, gouache and India ink on paper Private Collection; L2019:145.2 Throughout his prolific and experimental career – which included painting, sculpture, printmaking, and film – the enigmatic SurrealistSalvador Dalí was fascinated with Sigmund Freud’s theories of the unconscious mind and the creative power of dreams. Dalí setout to mine this resource in all its complexities, reflecting how Freud discovered “that the human body is full of secret drawersthat only psychoanalysis is capable to open.” Drawers became a favorite motif of Dalí’s, reappearing throughout the 1930s insculptures, paintings, and drawings.Buste à tiroir demonstrates the artist’s distinct flair for conceptual humor and hybrid, often hallucinatory visions rooted in technicalskill. Both title and image play with the concept of a bust, or chest, of drawers: both nouns function as colloquial terms for the uppertorso of the human body; bust also refers to a type of sculptural or pictorial portrait, while chest designates a piece of furniture containing drawers. The disconcertingly realistic drawing depicts a bearded sculptural bust with a half-opened drawer protruding from its forehead. The drawer is empty, however, and the contents of the unconscious mind remain elusive.
Dalí, 1952, Photograph: Carlos Pérez de Rozas Artist Resources The Dalî Museum, ParisDalí, Centre Pomidou’s 2012-2013 retrospective brought together over 200 paintings, drawings, sculptures, film footage,and archival photographs to showcase the innovative Surrealist’s creative genius, which is often over-shadowed by hisfrequently outrageous media persona.The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (National Museum of Art, Catalonia) in Barcelona celebrated the artistic passionand ingenuity of Dalî’s enigmatic wife, muse, and collaborator, Gala in the 2018 exhibition, Gala Salvador Dalí. A Room ofOne’s Own in Púbol. The Russian-born Gala was a fixture of the early Surrealist movement and became Dalî’s life-longconfidante after their initial meeting in 1929.Recent scholarship: Dali, The Paintings (Taschen, 2019): the most comprehensive volume on Dalí’s painted works to date.
René Magritte (Belgian, 1898-1967)Le Cicérone, 1948Oil on canvas Private Collection L2019:145.3 Belgian artist René Magritte was a pivotal member of the international Surrealist movement, celebrated for an oeuvre that intentionally defies interpretation as it questions knowledge, language, and reality. His visually stunning and conceptuallycomplex paintings subvert the ordinary and familiar with unexpected juxtapositions that challenge preconceptions. In LeCicérone, Magritte brings viewers into closer proximity with the subject of an earlier painting, Les Droits de l’homme (1945, “TheRights of Man”). Atop the baluster-like chess piece of a body sits a bilboquet, a simple toy comprised of a wooden cup with a ballattached by a string, which in Magritte’s rendition bears an uncanny resemblance to the head of a cannon. The title (referencingthe ancient Roman orator, Cicero) is an antiquated term for an educated guide who gives tours of historical and cultural sites.Placed on an outdoor balcony overlooking a moonlit ocean and gazing at a leaf held by a human hand, the anthropomorphizedobject appears lost in thought. As is typical for Magritte, the scene is a collection of motifs repeated throughout his career; itserves as a reminder that although knowledge may seem within our grasp, there is little we can truly know with certainty.
Magritte, 1967Photograph: Lothar Wolleh (German, 1930-79) Artist Resources Fondation Magritte, Brussels, BelgiumThe Mystery of the Ordinary, traveling U.S.A. retrospective, 2013-14. Organized byMoMA, with The Menil Collection Houston and The Art Institute of Chicago, thisexhibition was the first to focus on Magritte’s formative breakthrough years, from1926 to 1938, when the Belgian Surrealist sought to “challenge to world” throughimage. Visit the links to explore each museum’s exhibition resources.Profile and review of The Treason of Images, 2016 retrospective at the CentrePompidou, ParisThe Treachery of Images, 2017 retrospective at Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt. Thefirst major retrospective of Magritte’s work in Germany. Recent Scholarship In Rene Magritte and the Art of Thinking (2019),Magritte specialist, Lisa Lipinski (GeorgeWashington University) employs poststructuralisttheory and a keen art historical eyein a rigorous discussion of the Surrealist’s uniqueblend of the ordinary and illusion as he sought tothe challenge expectations and perceptions ofhis viewers.Watch Lipinski’s talk at JSMA, "The Man in theBowler Hat," December 2019
Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-66)Femme qui Marche II, 1932-36BronzePrivate Collection; L2020:9.1 Sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti studied in Geneva and worked mostly in Paris,where he settled in 1922. It was here that Giacometti witnessed the radicalexperimentations of the city’s avant-garde movements, such as Cubism and Surrealism,which introduced new avenues of expression to his philosophical interest in the humancondition. The physically and psychologically haunting array of tall, slender figures heproduced after WWII established Giacometti as one of the most important sculptors of the20th century. Femme qui Marche II (Woman Walking II) provides a glimpse into artist’s briefflirtation with Surrealism in the early 1930s. He found affinity with the movement’svisionary embrace of dreams, the unconscious, and the uncanny, which he incorporatedinto a renewed interest in the human figure. Despite the title, this “walking” woman seemsto stand perfectly still. Absent a head and arms, with regal posture and subtle contrapposto,she evokes the ancient statuary of Egypt, Greece, and Rome that Giacometti sketchedduring trips to the Louvre.
Giacometti in his atelier, 1957Photograph: Robert Doisneu Artist Resources Fondation Giacometti: The Institut Giacometti, artist biography, artwork and archives, exhibitions and publicationsIn one of his final interviews, Giacometti spoke with noted art critic David Sylvester about his sculptures and the aestheticever-increasing slenderness and height. Sylvester curatedthe Tate Gallery’s inaugural retrospective of the artist in 1965.The British Film Institute produced a short film in 1967 in conjunction with the Tate’s exhibition, capturing Giacometti at work in his studio sketching fromhis own sculptures and hand-modeling clay maquettes. Giacometti returned to the Tate in 2017 for the eponymous survey, Giacometti. With the collaboration of Fondation Giacometti and the generosity of the artist’s late wife, Annette’s,estate, the Tate Modern took visitors through ten rooms representing the totality of Giacometti’s prolific fifty-year career, featuring a treat with previously un-exhibited plaster casts anddrawings.The Institut Giacometti is currently hosting Giacometti: À la recherche des oeuvres disparues (In Search of Lost Works), which explores the myth of Giacometti’s artistic dissatisfaction anddestruction of his own work. Using sketches, notebooks, and photographs from their archival collection, the Institut reconstructs the artist’s infamous “lost” works.
Left: Giacometti, ca. 1950sPhotograph: Gordon Parks/Getty Images Right: Giacometti, ca. 1960Photograph: Henri Cartier-Bresson Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-66)Buste d'Annette VIII, conceived in 1962 and cast in 1965Bronze with brown and green patinaPrivate Collection; L2019:138.1 (Not shown) Modern artist Alberto Giacometti created eight plaster busts of his wife, Annette, in 1962, completing the series with two morein 1964 and 1965. The group marks the only period of concentrated portraiture of his wife in the artist’s career. Giacometti’sidiosyncratic manipulation of bronze yields a heavily textured surface at odds with his choice of medium. The delicate featuresand abstracted upper body of Annette seem to have more in common with an unfinished mass of modeled clay that still retainsthe heat of the sculptor’s hands. Her face is alive with wisdom and discerning beauty as she gazes unflinchingly toward viewers.Though remembered as one of the most significant sculptors of the twentieth century, Giacometti was also a highly creativepainter, draftsman, and printmaker. His innovative conceptual style transitioned away from the influence of Cubism andSurrealism in the 1930s as the artist settled into the psychological, often haunting, explorations of the human figure for which heis best known.
Jean Dubuffet (French, 1901-85)L' Amphibologique, 1965Oil on canvasPrivate Collection; L2019:145.1 Jean Dubuffet studied painting as a young man but only seriously began making art at age 41. Rejecting his formal education,Dubuffet turned for inspiration to art created by children and the mentally ill. He termed his style art brut, or “raw art,” advocatingfor an expressive spontaneity untainted by the limitations of academic convention and dominant cultural trends. L’Amphibologiqueis a prime example, from the series L’Hourloupe, which he began 1962 and worked on for over a decade. The series began as a cycleof drawings in red and blue ballpoint pen inspired by a doodle he produced while on the telephone. Translated through paint, thejuxtaposition of the linear with organic curves, of black with primary colors, serves as a visual expression of the titles of the paintingand the series. Amphibologique, related to the French adjective amphibolous, refers to the notion of syntactic ambiguity and themultiple meanings that can arise from the relationships between words and clauses within a sentence. Hourloupe merges theFrench verbs hurler (to roar) and hululer (to hoot) with the noun loup (wolf), creating an ambiguous phonetic jumble. As Dubuffetexplained, “it evokes a character who’s at once somewhat enchanting and grotesque: a kind of tragic, growling, lumbering figure.”
Dubuffet, 1960, Photograph: Paolo Monti/BEIC Artist Resources Fondation Jean Dubuffet: biography, artworks, exhibitions, publications, and press.A seminal exhibition at MoMA in 2015, Jean Dubuffet: Soul of the Underground, explored Dubuffet’s groundbreaking approach tocreativity and materials through on pivotal choices he made from the 1940s through the 1960s. Paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints,and book illustration from the museum’s collection demonstrate Dubuffet’s experimentations with mixing paint with sand and gravel,palette knives, scratching and scraping surfaces, and his innovations in lithography.Hauser & Wirth Gallery surveyed Dubuffet’s lifelong preoccupation with urban space, architecture, and the modern history of Paris intheir 2018 show, Jean Dubuffet and the City.Following a debut in London, the Pace Gallery in New York, expanded the 2018 exhibition, Théâtres de mémoire, centered around themonumental paintings that comprise the titular series, which Dubuffet began in 1975. Loans drawn from multiple collections fill out thecentral theme of exploring the conflict between sight, perception, and memory.
Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893-1983)Hommage à Nusch Eluard, 1937Oil on board, metal coat hook with painted wooden knob, painted wooden malletPrivate Collection; L2019:156.1 Joan Miró’s playful yet meticulous compositions evolved from a tension between his poetic impulses and hissensitivity toward the ruthless realities of war-torn Europe. Though he found affinity with Surrealism’s devotionto the subconscious, and is considered a critical member of the broader avant garde inter-war movement, Miróresisted labels throughout his experimental, multi-media career. Typical for the Catalan artist, the initialimpression of abstraction in Hommage à Nusch Eluard quickly fades to reveal fanciful human and natural forms.The two figures on the left are poet Paul Éluard, one of the founders of Surrealism, and his wife, Nush Éluard.Nusch was also an artist, and frequently modeled for her husband’s friends. The backdrop of celestial symbolsand the avian creature flying beside the couple are recurring motifs in Miró’s oeuvre. Many artists associatedwith Surrealism embraced birds as symbolic transitory beings with the ability to move between the earthly andheavenly realms, the real and the fantastic. The intriguing addition of a grafted metal coat hook with woodenknob and mallet exemplifies Miró’s delight in working beyond the expected norms of artistic medium.
Miró, 1936Photograph: Man Ray Artist Resources Fundació Joan Miró, the Joan Miro Foundation, BarcelonaIn 1994 MoMA produced the most comprehensive retrospective yet seen in the U.S. Joan Miró honored the artist’s 100th birthday with over 400 worksexploring the chronological development and myriad of mediums in which the artist worked. The monumental exhibition was hosted in conjunctionwith Miró Prints and Books from New York Collections, which celebrates Miró’s innovation in print, avant-garde publications, and illustration.The Tate Modern hosted the first major display of Miró’s oeuvre in Britain in over 50 year, exhibiting key works from the artist’s oeuvre and tracing hispolitical engagement in Miró: The Ladder of Escape.2016 Schirn Gallery explored Miró’s infamous goal “to assassinate painting” through his often overlooked images of pastoral farm life in which hefearlessly experimented with texture and materials. View Schirn’s digital interface for Miró: Painting Walls, Painting Worlds.Miró returned to MoMA in 2019 for The Birth of the World, titled after the artist’s seminal 1925 painting, which explored the artist’s burgeoninginterest in the relationship between poetry and visual art.
Francis Picabia (French, 1879-1953)Intervention d'une femme au moyen d'une machine, 1915Pencil, watercolor, ink and gouache on paper mounted on cardboardPrivate Collection; L2019:156.2 Francis Picabia’s diverse and prolific oeuvre traces the stylistic moods of the twentieth-century avant garde in Europe and the United States.Without relinquishing his innovative sensibility, the artist moved nimby between movements such as Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism, andmediums such as painting, poetry, and performance. Picabia made Intervention d'une femme au moyen d'une machine (Intervention of awoman by means of a machine) during a sojourn in New York City where he became involved with the circle of American photographerAlfred Stieglitz. This new influence, and the recent work of friend and fellow modernist Marcel Duchamp, provided the catalyst for Picabia’spivotal transition from Cubism toward his mechanical period. This early mechanomorph drawing – a “portrait” of a machine, often withanthropomorphic, psychological, and even erotic undertones – was also influenced by the industrial landscape of New York. Picabia praisedthe city for inspiring “a complete revolution in my methods of work. Almost immediately upon coming to America it flashed on me that thegenius of the modern world is in machinery, and that through machinery art ought to find a most vivid expression.”
Francis Picabia (French, 1879-1953)Les Baigneuses (The Bathers), 1942Oil on boardPrivate Collection; L2020:30.1 Francis Picabia developed a prolific career as a painter, poet, publisher, andperformer through energetic patterns of reinvention and experimentation. Hemoved fluidly between stylistic and conceptual movements, producing his owninnovate canvases and publications while also maintaining a prominent role in avantgardemovements such as Dada and Surrealism. Picabia’s figurative paintings in the1940s diverge radically from the dynamic mechanical Dadaist compositions andSurrealist Transparencies that brought him critical success in the preceding decades.Les Baigneuses (The Bathers) stands out in its return to the gestural brushwork andattention to light that defined his earliest impressionist canvases. The artist’s WWIIworks have long been a subject of tense debate among art historians due to theSocial Realist aesthetic (the style of art approved by the Third Reich, then occupyingFrance) many of the paintings appear to embrace. In the 1990s, however, researchrevealed that Picabia was copying his figures from photographs in popular Parisianerotic magazines. Historians now largely agree that Picabia’s choice to appropriatethese provocative images of the human figure was likely a subversive comment onthe Nazi regime’s mandate against “degenerate” art.
Left: Picabia in atelier ca. 1910 Right: Picabia, 1919 Artist Resources Digital archival copy of the Guggenheim’s seminal 1970 retrospective.In the fall of 2016, MoMA, partnership with Kunsthaus Zürich, opened the first majorretrospective in the U.S. in 50 years, and the first ever survey to chart the entirety of Picabia’s monumental multi-media career: OurHeads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction. As part of their public program offerings, MoMA published the digital cataloguesupplement detailing Picabia’s Materials and Techniques (scroll down to access the PDF link).In conjunction with the retrospective, exhibition curator Anne Umland moderated a panel with curator Peter Fischli and contemporaryartists Rashid Johnson, Laura Owens, and Lisa Yuskavage about the influence of Picabia’s innovations in painting and print.Profiles abound in honor of MoMA’s retrospective, including thoughtful and provocative pieces by The New Yorker in addition toThe New York Times, as well as The Guardian.In 2007, MIT Press published the first comprehensive English translation of Picabia’s innovative poetry and prose, I Am a BeautifulMonster, complete with critical introduction and extensive notes to help decipher the artist’s enigmatic play with language.
Mark Bradford (American, b. 1961)Untitled, 2019Acrylic, tissue paper and rope collage on canvas constructionPrivate Collection; L2019:154.1 Born in Los Angeles, where he still lives and works, MarkBradford earned his BFA and MFA from the California Instituteof the Arts. He is celebrated for large-scale paintings andsculpture—sometimes shown as installations—incorporatingmaterials such as newsprint, billboard paper, and flyers thathe salvages from urban communities around his studio inSouth LA. Bradford engages with these materials like a socialhistorian or an archeologist, investigating the potential ofdiscarded ephemera to elucidate how broader historical andeconomic conditions disproportionately affect marginalizedpopulations. He refers to his work as “social abstraction…witha social or political context clinging to the edges.” The buoyshapedUntitled returns to a sculptural installation Bradfordcreated in 2014, in which the artist directed his interest inurban cartography toward medieval and Renaissance maps ofmaritime exploration. The buoy displays his signature processof building and molding layers of materials, including theaddition of rope for added texture and linear elements.Review of buoy installation on façade of Bait Obaid Al Shamsiduring the Sharjah Bienniel, 2014Current buoy installation at Mandeville Gallery, Union College,NY, through July 2020
Mark Bradford (American, b. 1961)You Don’t Know What Kind of World You Woke Up, 2018Mixed media on canvasPrivate Collection; L2019:134.1 Contemporary African American artist Mark Bradford characterizeshimself as an excavator and archivist of culture. His trademark mixedmediacompositions recycle discarded materials like movie posters,circulars, and newspapers, which he collects from the streetssurrounding his studio in South Los Angeles. While his oeuvre hasexpanded over the last two decades to include installations and video,abstract collaged canvases remain the core of Bradford’s creativepractice. Each new work demonstrates his continued dedication tomaking art that is visually captivating, layered with meaning, and tiedto community while engaging with national issues. The enigmaticallytitled You Don’t Know What Kind of World You Woke Up represents a2018 series in which the artist returned to one of his early conceptualinterests: maps, civic organization, and the physical marginalization ofminority communities. Bradford scrapes and sands his constructedlayers of paper to create a highly textured surface that recalls an aerialview of a landscape. Vivid blue paint ruptures the ghostly grid-likecomposition, suggesting the wave of political and social upheavalhinted by the title.Resources for this work2019 exhibition of new work, including You Don’t Know What Kind ofWorld You Woke Up, at Hauser & Wirth, Hong KongInterview with gallerist Iwan Wirth, 2019
Bradford, 2019. Photo: Sim Canetty-Clarke Artist Resources Bradford at Hauser & Wirth Gallery, LosAngelesIn 2007, Art21 followed Bradford as hegathered materials and installed work inhis South LA studio. “The line of my artpractice, or my making practice, goesback to my childhood. But it’s not an artbackground, it’s a making background.”Bradford’s discusses recent work andcommunity engagement at his 2009artist talk at Walker Art Center.2015 New Yorker profile conducted at Bradford’s studio and home in South LA, not far from where he grew up.Bradford talks about his attraction to paper, maps, and social history; his time at CalArts and interest inpainting; and his foundation with Allan DiCastro, Art+Practice, which creates spaces for artists and communityactivism.Bradford speaks to a packed audience at the de la Cruz Collection, Miami, Florida in 2015. “I’m always lookingfor a detail in something that has to do with race, or gender or class. But it’s a detail, and I need to abstract itbecause those are such large words. Big ‘R’ for race, big ‘G’ for gender. How do I as a person navigate in and outof that, and sometimes I use abstraction because it gives me some freedom even though the language stillclings to the edges of it.”W. Tate Dougherty, Senior Director at Hauser & Wirth, interviews Bradford as they prepare for “Los Angeles,” amajor exhibition at the Long Museum in Shanghai, summer 2014.The Modern Art Museum in Fort Wirth, Texas is preparing to unveil a new exhibition focused on Bradford’smaterial-oriented process. Mark Bradford: End Papers will include early work and new pieces createdspecifically for the show
Bradford, 2017Photograph: Cathy Carve, Washington Post Artist Resources Bradford at Hauser & Wirth Gallery, Los AngelesIn 2007, Art21 followed Bradford as he gatheredmaterials and installed work in his South LAstudio..“My practice is décollage and collage at thesame time. Décollage: I take it away; collage: Iimmediately add it right back. It’s almost like arhythm. I’m a builder and a demolisher. I put upso I can tear down…In archaeological terms, Iexcavate and I build at the same time.” Bradforddiscusses his inspiration and process in a 2011interview with Art21. 2015 New Yorker profile conducted at Bradford’s studio and home in South LA, not far from where hegrew up. Bradford discusses his attraction to paper, maps, and social history; his time at CalArts andinterest in painting; and his foundation with Allan DiCastro, Art+Practice, which creates spaces forartists and community activism.LA Times spoke with Bradford in 2018 about his prolific career, the influence of comic books, and art inthe era of Trump.Bradford talks with Thelma Golden about his relationship with the medium of painting and experiencesof being “othered” in a 2015 video interview in conjunction with his first show at Hauser & WirthGallery, New York. Bradford credits his approach to an early desire to escape labels of artistic identityand a search “for peace, and quiet…a place where I could figure all this out. And for me it wasabstraction. Abstraction gave me the freedom to play… I want a space where I can play and bevulnerable and not know. In the shadows….body is removed and stays in the shadows, what you see arethe details and the things I’m working out.”
George Condo (American, b. 1957)Man and Woman, 2019Oil, acrylic, oil stick, and metallic paint on canvasPrivate Collection; L2019:86.1 More than thirty years into his career, George Condo continues topush the boundaries of representation with psychologicalexplorations of the human figure. His Man and Woman reveals adisconcerting glimpse into the furthest extremes of the humanpsyche using elements of the absurd and grotesque. Here, as inother works, Condo borrows from the experimental manipulationsof twentieth-century masters like Pablo Picasso and Willem deKooning in search of concrete representations of intangibleemotional states. The titular characters in in this work mergetogether in an aggressive physical deformation that creates a senseof intense mental disquiet, intensified by a lack of context. Thefigures’ piercing gaze and jagged mouths suggest an entrenchedcultural divide— both a reverence for and a distinct fear offemininity. By viewing a historically and ideologically loaded subjectthrough a subversive contemporary lens, Condo demonstrates hisidiosyncratic ability to merge tradition and innovation.
Condo at Simon Lee, New York, 2014Photograph: Phaidon Artist Resources Condo at Simon Lee Gallery, New YorkCondo at Skarstedt Gallery, New York andLondonThe New Museum, New York, and theHayward Gallery, London organized theseminal retrospective, “George Condo:Mental States,” in 2011 travelingretrospective.In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Condo discusses recovery from serious illness, theimportance of drawing in an art world that favors painting, celebrity collaborations, and hispersonal aesthetic he calls “psychological cubism.”Condo discusses his practice and affection for drawing as a more “private” medium thanpainting in a video interview conducted in his New-York studio. “I kind of draw like you’rewalking through the forest,” Condo explains, “like you don’t really know where you’re going andyou just start from some point and randomly travel through the paper until you get to a placewhere you finally reach your destination.”:
Julie Mehretu (American, b. 1970)Six Bardos: Luminous Appearance, 2019Two-panel aquatintPrivate Collection; L2019:136.1 Born in Ethiopia, Julie Mehretu studied in Dakar, Senegal, and Michigan beforereceiving her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. She now lives and worksin New York. In the paintings and drawings for which she is best known, Mehretuexplores history, geological time, social identity, and the psychology of space bycombining abstract gestures of color and line with careful studies inspired by archivalmaps, city grids, and architectural plans.Six Bardos: Luminous Appearance is from a three-year series made in collaborationwith master American printmaker Case Hudson after Mehretu visited China. Eachprint refers to one of the six transitional states of consciousness, or bardos, that thesoul moves through between death and rebirth as described in the Bardo Thödol(known in the West as the Tibetan Book of the Dead). Luminosity is the fifth state,Chönyid bardo, which occurs the moment after death and manifests in auditory andvisual phenomena accompanied by sensations of profound peace and awareness.Mehretu’s complex colorful interpretation can be seen as a blueprint for viewers toexplore who or what they might become through their own cycles of physical andspiritual renewal.Resources for this work2019 Exhibition of Six Bardos Series at the Los Angeles artist workshop Gemini G.E.L.Case Hudson and master printer collaborations
Mehretu, 2009Photograph: Nicole Benjiveno,The New York Times Artist Resources Mehretu at the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York“I refrain from trying to explain what’s going on in thepaintings because they’re not these rationaldescriptions or efforts to articulate something in thatway. I’m not trying to spell out a story,” Mehretu toldArt21 in a 2009 video interview on identity, influence,and process as her studio prepares for upcomingexhibitions and installations. Mehretu wants to “makeyou feel the painting. The reason you read the mark isbecause you also feel the mark.”Speaking with indie arts publication ARTSATL in 2014,Mehretu explains the immersive quality of her work:“because of their scale, they still require you tophysically negotiate with them and move throughthem and travel through them, but it’s not as if youcan ever get a full perspective…[if you] think ofpainting as a kind of time-based experience, a timebasedmedia, then you can really participate with it .”Listen to Mehretu’s 2016 interview with Yale University Radio In 2017, Mehretu embarked on an unprecedented commission of two monumentalsite-specific works at SFMoMA. Titled HOWL, eon (I, II), the multi-media paintingsexplore and express the inextricable relationship between history, politics, andlandscape painting. “There is no such thing as just a landscape,” she tells Art21 in avideo interview, “the actual landscape is politicized through the events that takeplace on it.” Watch her artist talk at the unveiling.In November 2019 Mehretu’s first comprehensive retrospective, a mid-careersurvey, debuted at LACMA. It is scheduled to tour nationally through 2021.
Keith Haring (American, 1958-90)Untitled, 1990Sumi Ink on boardPrivate Collection; L2019:155.1 Keith Haring moved to New York in 1978, beginning a short but prolificcareer inspired by the city's rich outpouring of masterful urban graffiti,its flowering hip-hop culture, and the conceptual gap between “high”and “low” art. Haring developed a deceptively simple pictorial languagein which he rendered form, setting, and emotional energy through littlemore than line and monochromatic accents of color. An AIDS diagnosisin 1988 did little to deter the artist's creative output. Untitled featuresdozens of Haring’s iconic characters, who seem to dance in a celebrationof life, contorting wildly to music we cannot hear. Completed shortlybefore the artist’s death, the painting demonstrates Haring’sprofessional and personal ambition to infuse art with commentaries onglobal issues like the AIDS crisis. Haring saw his disease as a reason tocelebrate living, not to fear pain or an inevitable end. Wishing to accepthis impending death without regret and limitation, Haring explained,“No matter how long you work, it’s always going to end sometime. Andthere’s always going to be things left undone…. If you live your lifeaccording to that, death is irrelevant. Everything I’m doing right now isexactly what I want to do.”
Haring, 1986 at the Stedelijk Museum, AmsterdamPhotograph: Nationaal Archief The Keith Haring Foundation: biography, essaysand press, interviews, artworksIn 1980 Rolling Stone interviewed Haring whilethe artist was at work on a 500 ft mural withhigh school students in Chicago. Haringdiscusses his upbringing and education,relationships with Andy Warhol and Jean-Michele Basquiat, and AIDS crisis and hisrelationship with the disease. Speaking of hissymbolic pictorial language, Haring remembers“trying to figure out where this stuff came from,but I have no idea. It just grew into this group ofdrawings. I was thinking about these images assymbols, as a vocabulary of things…Suddenly itmade sense to draw on the street, because I hadsomething to say.” The Guardian published a profile of Haring in 2019 celebrating his consistentrelevance with memories from fellow artists and friends, Guardian profile. “Hewas unique,” explains Carlos Rodriguez, a graffiti artist who worked with Haring.“The vernacular of his art was so appealing, with a quality of entertainment. Butit was also a tremendous, beautiful response to the activism of the time… thereally unusual thing about Keith is that he felt he could be of service.”:
Alma Thomas (American, 1891-1978)Dogwood Blossom Along Skyline Drive, 1973Acrylic on canvasPrivate Collection; L2019:158.1 Though Alma Thomas preferred to see herself simply as an Americanartist rather than an icon and role model for Black or female artists, she isremembered as a pioneer of marginalized voices. In 1972, at age 82, shebecame the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at theWhitney Museum of American Art and enter the permanent collection ofthe White House, where her work was installed a record three times byBarack and Michelle Obama.Thomas grew up in the segregated cities of Columbus, Georgia, andWashington D.C., before becoming part of the first class to graduate witha degree in fine art from Howard University. She did not devote herself toan artistic practice, however, until her retirement from teaching in 1960at age 69. The prolific 18-year career that followed includes soothingwatercolors and vivid mosaic-like compositions that hesitate on the edgeof pure abstraction, each piece driven by the artist’s dedication to beauty,joy, and a generous belief in humanity. The white overlay mosaic inDogwood Blossom Along Skyline Drive was painted one patch at a time,allowing the manipulations of color underneath to gently suggest thescene evoked by the title.
Thomas, 1976Photograph: Michael FischerSmithsonian Institution Thomas, 1976Photograph: Michael FischerSmithsonian InstitutionAlma Thomas at the Smithsonian Institute forAmerican ArtAlma Thomas Papers, Archives of AmericanArt, Smithsonian InstituteThe Mnuchin Gallery in New York celebrated Thomas’s contemporary relevance and theoptimistic celebration of beauty at the heart of her oeuvre in Resurrection, a 2019 survey ofworks on paper and paintings from throughout her career. As Thomas famously stated in the1970s, “Through color, I have sought to concentrate on beauty and happiness, rather than onman’s inhumanity to man.”2018 profile of Thomas and her late forayinto fashion by the Smithsonian Archives ofAmerican Art online journal, SmithsonianVoicesA 2016 retrospective organized by theFrances Young Tang Museum and Art Galleryat Skidmore College in Georgia, and TheStudio Museum in Harlem, New York,showcased the full breadth of Thomas’s briefbut prolific career from her move toabstraction in the 1950s to her final years inthe late 1970s. The exhibition highlights twoimportant series: Earth, a collection of vividgeometric abstractions inspired by nature;and Space, a late series inspired by NASA’sApollo lunar missions.
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)Fish, ca. 1952Hanging mobile - painted steel rod, wire, string, colored glass, andmetal objectsPrivate Collection; L2019:91.1 Alexander Calder was born into a family of artists – his mother was apainter and his father and grandfather were sculptors – but initiallyresisted a career in the arts. Instead he pursued a degree inmechanical engineering. After enrolling at the Art Students Leaguein New York in 1923, this background provided the foundations forthe signature mobiles that would become the core of his prolificoeuvre. These delicately balanced constructions are hinged togetherwith metal wire and weighted by biomorphic shapes that appear tomove on their own, swayed by the slightest breath of air. In eachsculpture, the poetic possibilities of motion are an essentialelement. Fish recalls a subject explored in some of the Calder’searliest mobiles and is one of just twelve mature sculptures with thisformal composition. Encased by a metal frame and held taught bywire and string, the suspended pieces of colored glass becomeglittering scales that cast ever-changing compositions of shadows asambient air currents animate the mobile in unexpected ways.
Calder, 1957.Photograph: Walter Sanders, Time LifePictures/Getty Image The Calder Foundation: biography, artwork, exhibitions, essaysProfile of Calder’s 1943 retrospective at MoMA, which Calder credited as a catalyst for hissuccessCalder at work in his studio, an essay in photographs from the Tate museumNew scholarship:Calder: The Conquest of Space: The Later Years: 1940–1976, Jed Perl (Penguin Random House,2020), a follow up to Perl’s 2017 Calder: The Conquest of Time: The Early Years: 1898-1940.
KAWS (American, b. 1974)A Lonely One, 2019Acrylic on canvasPrivate Collection, Los Angeles; L2019:140.1 Multi-media artist KAWS, née Brian Donnelly, began hiscareer as a graffiti artist in the 1990s after studying animationat the School of Visual Arts in New York. Mergingcommercialism and cultural reference with street art,painting, and sculpture, his work recalls the fundamentals ofPop Art and conflates the distinction between fine art andcommercial objects; KAWS is in fact known for merchandisinghis work and has collaborated with such international brandsas Dior and Nike. The artist’s animated style and use ofvibrant colors are often compared to the work of Japaneseartist Takashi Murakami (b. 1962). A Lonely Onedemonstrates a mild temperament rarely featured in KAWS’soeuvre. His signature subversive appropriations of cartooncharacters and cultural icons are absent, replaced by agraphic abstraction that seems to provide a close-up glimpseof a strange, energetic world that extends beyond theconfines of the frame.
Donnelly, 2019Photograph: Donald Stahl, ARTnews KAWS at Perrotin Gallery,ParisKAWS talks with ARTnews ina recent profile about hisforay into the collectiblesmarket and his owncollecting passions In a 2017 video interview with digital entertainment community, Complex, KAWS discusses graffiti as an artisticoutlet, his conceptual process, the development of KAWS from a tag to an artistic identity, and his productdesign collaborations. “You can’t really put a lot of weight behind other’s opinions, because they are not you andthey’re not going to really understand where you see things can go,” he explains, “things can play out or not playout, but at least they’re your choices.”KAWS installed his first exhibition in UK in 2016 at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Curators, gallerists, andcollectors comes together in this video profile with the artist to discuss KAWS’ rise through the graffiti world andhis ability to bridge the gap between fine art and commercial enterprise.
Donald and Coeta Barker Gallery