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April 02, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Art

Kaleidoscopic Quilts at MFA Boston
© 2014 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

No matter how progressive galleries and museums have become in recent years, the debate among the art world about what constitutes art verses craft—fine art versus folk art—remains in dispute. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is the latest institution to remark on the rift with its “Quilts and Color” exhibit, opening April 6.

Showcasing 60 quilts, all taken from the acclaimed Pilgrim/Roy collection, the show demonstrates how many of the works—which range from the 19th to the early 20th century—intuitively echoed, or perhaps even predated, the likes of abstract expressionism, optical art and the color field movement.

“The makers of these quilts, although probably never trained in the fine arts or color theory, understood how to combine color and use pattern to create visually powerful statements,” says Pamela Parmal, David and Roberta Logie curator of textile and fashion arts at MFA Boston.

Grouping the quilts’ energetic patterns (the carpenter's wheel is pictured here) and bold hues into sections, displayed alongside a painting or a work on paper (culled primarily from the museum), the exhibition maps the principles of color theory—vibrations, mixtures, harmonies, gradations, contrasts, variations and optical illusions—to examples in the collection. The prescient artisans were indeed ahead of their time; their work came well before paragons like Interaction of Color, an instructional handbook by artist Josef Albers that debuted in 1963.

“Working with the familiarity of cloth, needle and thread without the intimidation that would have been associated with paint and brush,” says collector Gerald Roy, “quilt makers managed to create an abstract art form that would not be discovered by the fine-art world for a hundred years.” Through July 27; 465 Huntington Ave.; 617-267-9300; mfa.org.

March 18, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Art

Warsaw Thirds, Harvey Quaytman
Warsaw Thirds, 1986. Acrylic and rust on canvas, 68.6 × 68.6 cm / 27 × 27 in. Collection of Elizabeth Rea, Connecticut; © www.phaidon.com.

On February 19, a crowd of friends and family gathered at McKee Gallery (745 Fifth Ave.; 212-688-5951; mckeegallery.com) to open the latest exhibition of abstract painter Harvey Quaytman and to celebrate the release of the artist’s first-ever eponymously titled monograph published by Phaidon.

Fêted for his palette—vibrant colors, textural materials (rust, glass, beads)—his creation of lush surfaces and his shaping of sculptural canvases, Quaytman began producing his hard-edge modernist works on the Bowery in the 1960s. Propeller shapes, bands, blocks and cross-like forms appear throughout his geometric paintings, which have been shown in upwards of 60 solo shows in galleries around the world (New York, San Francisco, Paris, Zurich, Stockholm and Sydney among them).

While his inspirations include Gorky and de Kooning, Malevich and Mondrian, his work—as friend and critic Dore Ashton writes in the book’s preface—“always displayed an independence that made it feel difficult for commentators to ‘place’ him.”

“Harvey was a droll, pipe-smoking, very slow-moving, wine-drinking lover of food, classical music, constructivism, model airplanes and women,” remembers friend and gallerist Renee McKee, whose showcase of Quaytman’s work closes this Saturday, March 22. “He could be charming and lovable then caustic and insulting. He was not a theoretician. He was a romantic hedonist at the same time that he scoffed at bourgeois ‘things.’”

While Quaytman may not be as well known as some of his contemporaries, the 143-page monograph exploring four decades of his work may help to change that. “In the old days we would say he was ahead of his time,” said art critic and author Robert C. Morgan the night of the exhibit opening. “I hope we can say that again.” Phaidon.com.

March 12, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Art

The World’s Largest El Greco Exhibit
El Greco/ Church of Santo Tomé

It’s funny to think that an Old Master painter as famed as El Greco wasn’t always so renowned. Four hundred years after his death—and only a century since his rediscovery—Toledo, Spain, is showcasing his legacy during a year of notable events held in his honor.

The centerpiece of the celebration is “The Greek of Toledo” (March 14 to June 14), an exhibit on view at the Museum of Santa Cruz (Calle Miguel de Cervantes 3; 34-925/221-036) and sites throughout the city where the artist’s paintings were made, including the Vestry of Toledo Cathedral and Tavera Hospital.

More than a hundred works culled from collections around the world will be on display, comprising the largest exhibition of El Greco’s work ever held. Pieces like The Adoration of the Name of Jesus (National Gallery of London), View of Toledo (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) and The Burial of the Count of Orgaz (pictured here and from the Church of Santo Tomé in Toledo) show off his distinctive—and now celebrated—style.

Born in Crete as Domenikos Theotokopoulos, El Greco began living and painting in Toledo—the city that gave him his famous moniker and the inspiration for his best-known works—from 1577 until his death in 1614. Though widely unrecognized until the 20th century, he is now considered one of the more modern and innovative painters of the 16th and 17th centuries, famous for his dramatic palette and elongated figures. Though Greek by birth and Italian by training, he honed his technique in Toledo.

“We will try to change our 1900 view of El Greco’s somber and truculent images of emaciated saints for a new perspective on his paintings,” says curator Fernando Marías of the show’s ambitions. “[We will remember him] as a creator of new worlds never before seen.” For a full list of events visit elgreco2014.com.

March 05, 2014
By Jason Chen | Art

Tiger Flower Studio at Print Collection
Photo courtesy of Tiger Flower Studio

As much as the Internet has revolutionized commerce, most websites that sell wall decor have fallen into two camps: a repository of movie-poster reproductions meant for a freshman dorm or a high-end art dealer offering one-of-a-kind pieces for exorbitant sums. Thankfully, though, there’s a new breed of websites offering tasteful prints to fill the space in between.

Print Collection (prints, from $20; printcollection.com) stocks top-quality reproductions of vintage advertising, botanical illustrations and—our favorite—minimalist interpretations of each of the 50 states, called “State of America.” Working with fine artists including Mita Corsini Bland, Kazumi Yoshida and Harrison Howard, Tiger Flower Studio (prints, from $200; tigerflowerstudio.com) creates limited-edition prints of their works using archival pigment inks and museum-level digital giclée printers.

For cartography enthusiasts, The Future Mapping Company (prints, from $40; futuremaps.co.uk) takes mapmaking to stunningly modern levels, using a lithographic printing process that incorporates sharp colors and metallics to create world maps and detailed versions of London, San Francisco and New York.

February 19, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Art

A Gallery Exhibit of Modern Biker Culture in Marrakech
Courtesy of Hassan Hajjaj, Taymour Grahne Gallery

Seeing his native Morocco used as a backdrop in glossy, high-fashion photo spreads—its own people absent—first frustrated Moroccan-born, UK-based artist, stylist and designer Hassan Hajjaj. Then it inspired him. Presenting a larger picture of local Moroccan culture, his stunning portraits of Marrakech’s lesser-known but no-less prominent contemporary biker culture are on view in the exhibit “’Kesh Angels” at New York’s Taymour Grahne Gallery (through March 7).

Throughout the show Hajjaj calls into question stereotypes of Arab women, capturing his fashionable female friends in brightly colored djellabas (robes) and patterned veils smiling confidently from atop their motorcycles. The clothing, which Hajjaj designed, mixes traditional prints with references to brands like Nike, Louis Vuitton and Gucci, recontextualizing familiar Western products within the structure of local custom—namely, traditional Muslim dress. The photographs’ handmade frames are fitted with found objects (colorful chicken-stock boxes, soda cans, Legos), further toying with the influence of branding and the relationships between East and West, old and new.

“In this work I want to show something particular to Marrakech,” Hajjaj says, “and to show that even though we have different cultures and religions, we share a lot in common as people.” 157 Hudson St.; 212-240-9442; taymourgrahne.com.

January 21, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Art

Christie’s First Art Sale in India
Jasper Johns

Through April 30, The Gallery at Windsor in Vero Beach, Florida, offers the opportunity to explore an artist’s use of the body in a special exhibition of work. “Jasper Johns: Shadow and Substance,” the gallery’s third and final collaboration with London’s Whitechapel Gallery (77–82 Whitechapel High St.; whitechapelgallery.org), presents a collection of 30 works on paper that, from the 1980s to the present, the artist created with the print studio Universal Limited Art Editions. The exhibit is divided into three parts: The Seasons, Shrinkydinks and Family Album.

“The body has played a large role in Jasper Johns’s work, as a form of sign language and a means of communication,” explains Whitechapel curator Iwona Blazwick. “The silhouettes and figures in his lithographs, etchings and aquatints evoke performance, process, narrative and memory.”

Established in 1989, Windsor is a 416-acre oceanfront residential community founded by W. Galen Weston and his wife, the Honourable Hilary M. Weston. “I have immensely enjoyed our collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery,” says Hilary. “Now that the curatorial partnership is almost at an end, we are looking at a number of new ideas.”

Those new ideas are sure to be worth seeing. An independent art space within the property, The Gallery has been exhibiting works by top contemporary artists—including Peter Doig, Ed Ruscha, Alex Katz and Bruce Weber and Nan Bush—since it debuted in 2002. 10680 Belvedere Sq.; 800-233-7656; windsorflorida.com.

January 14, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Art

Exhibit to See: Warhol Visits Dalí
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

“Artists do not operate in a vacuum,” says Dr. Hank Hine, director of the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, which houses the largest collection of works by Salvador Dalí outside Spain. The statement is a particularly apt reminder as the museum prepares to unveil its newest exhibit, “Warhol: Art. Fame. Mortality.” (January 18 through April 27), which explores the Pop artist’s relationship to public visibility and mass culture in the context of the Spanish Surrealist’s influence.

“Warhol was one of the American artists most marked by the legacy and model of Salvador Dalí,” Hine explains. “If Dalí used popular media to present his vision of the dream world, Warhol used popular media as the subject of his art.”

The exhibit is the museum’s first showcase of works by an artist other than its namesake. Roughly 35 paintings, 20 drawings, 50 photographs and a selection of films by Warhol—all on loan from his eponymous museum in Pittsburgh—are on display. Besides viewing the art, visitors can also experience their own 15 minutes of fame in a simulated minute-long Warholian screen test, which they can share on social media.

“In many ways Dalí passed to Warhol the mantle of the avant-garde, celebrity provocateur who juggled the high and the low and pointed the way that art would be made in the future,” says Hine. “It has taken this long to begin to see the work of each artist out of the shadow of their public image. This is the experience the exhibition will allow.” 1 Dali Blvd.; 727-823-3767; thedali.org.

January 07, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Art

Aspen Art Museum Gets Us Thinking
Courtesy of Kerry Tribe and 1301PE, Los Angeles

The Aspen Art Museum is currently hosting “Trapping Lions in the Scottish Highlands,” a group show of videos, drawings, installations and other works on view through February 2.

The show—whose title comes from Alfred Hitchcock’s famous explanation of a MacGuffin (an element in a film or story that keeps the plot moving despite its own lack of inherent importance)—explores the complexity, uncertainty and incoherence of storytelling in contemporary art. “All the works deal with narratives or narrative structures of various kinds, but in such a way that the narrative itself is not really the point,” says curator Jacob Proctor. “It becomes a kind of device that allows other things to unfold formally, conceptually and philosophically.”

In addition to showcasing historical pieces by Mac Adams, Victor Burgin and John Smith, the exhibition presents brand-new works by artists Matthew Brannon, Gerard Byrne and Katarina Burin, as well as the North American premières of important recent projects by Saskia Olde Wolbers and Alejandro Cesarco.

Blurring the line between fiction and reality, the show urges spectators to ponder larger questions about how they know what they think they know, Proctor explains. “All the works in the exhibition ask us to look—and then to look again,” he says, “and to consciously ask ourselves about what and how we see.” 590 N. Mill St.; 970-925-8050; aspenartmuseum.org.

December 16, 2013
By Sasha Levine | Art

Christie’s First Art Sale in India
Courtesy of Christie’s

Christie’s will host an inaugural art sale in India on December 19, becoming the only international auction house to do so in the country.

Christie's has a nearly 250-year history of promoting South Asian art—James Christie offered “four fine India pictures painted on glass” at auction in 1766—and the sale, held at Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace (Apollo Bunder; 91-22/6665-3366; tajhotels.com.), presents a curated survey of South Asian modern and cutting-edge contemporary artworks by the greatest artists of the last hundred years.

Highlights include works acquired from the estate of Mumbai-based gallerists and tastemakers Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy, who have supported emerging artists since the 1940s and are among the most central players in developing India’s modern art scene. Featured works include important paintings by abstract specialists Vasudeo S. Gaitonde and Ram Kumar and Indian modernist M.F. Husain.

Also of note are pieces by six of the nine artists whose compositions are defined as “National Art Treasures,” including canvases by Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, Amrita Sher-Gil and relatives Rabindranath, Abanindranath and Gaganendranath Tagore. The works, which are exceptionally important to Indian national culture, are non-exportable and must remain in the country when sold.

“We wanted to trace a complete overview of the development of Indian art in the past 100 years,” says Sonal Singh, Christie’s specialist and head of sale, of the 83-lot collection, which is expected to fetch between roughly $6 million and $8.5 million. “We hope to give Indian art another international push.” christies.com.

December 11, 2013
By Sasha Levine | Art

Meet the New Queens Museum
Courtesy of Scott Rudd

With the re-opening of the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park last month, a different interpretation of an art institution began to emerge in New York’s largest borough.

After seven years of construction and a $69 million renovation to the museum’s original New York City Building (first constructed for the 1939 World’s Fair), the space has doubled in size and scope, thanks to a 50,000-foot expansion by Grimshaw Architects.

Evoking the idea of a town square or a public forum—“true places where public discourse exists,” says David Strauss, director of the museum’s external affairs and capital projects—the renovated building is a medley of glass, steel, LED lights and open spaces.

It’s an ethos that is integral to its mission to be a community institution, with programming that goes far beyond the banner of art, and one that’s committed to reflecting its location in the most ethnically diverse county in the country.

“We take both ‘Queens’ and ‘Museum’ seriously, seeking to activate conversations that span the art world and real world,” Strauss says. “What we are doing as an institution is setting a new paradigm for what a 21st-century art museum can be in an urban setting.”

That includes a wide range of exhibitions—the first solo show of Bread and Puppet Theatre founder Peter Schumann and “The People’s United Nations” (an exploration of diplomacy and conflict resolution) by artist Pedro Reyes kicked things off—as well as programming offered by a team of art therapists, educators and community organizers.

“We do see ourselves as an alternative space,” Strauss says. “The role of the traditional art museum is played to perfection by our sister institutions, which allows us to forge our own path. We learn from their example in certain practices, and hopefully along the way they can learn from us as well.” Flushing Meadows Corona Park; queensmuseum.orgcom.

Upcoming Exhibitions
• “Do you want the cosmetic version or do you want the real deal? Los Angeles Poverty Department (1986-2013)”:
The first museum survey of the LAPD, a performance group founded by artist, director and activist John Malpede. Opens February 2, 2014.
• “Andy Warhol’s 13 Most Wanted Men and the 1964 World’s Fair”: Marks the 50th anniversary of the first showing of the mural 13 Most Wanted Men, which was first displayed 200 yards from the new museum’s location. Opens April 20, 2014.

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