André Breton, Jacqueline Lamba, Yves Tanguy
Surrealism, the 20th-century avant-garde art movement led by French writer André Breton, is easily one of the most well-known and best-represented art movements of the modern era. (Artists Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and Max Ernst help popularize it.) It is, therefore, a credit to the curators at New York’s Morgan Library & Museum—as well as the cocurators at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—that the exhibit “Drawing Surrealism” manages to differentiate itself at all.
It does, in beautiful and surprising ways. The first major presentation composed entirely of drawings (save for a photograph or two), it is also one of the only Surrealism shows with a broad international scope. The work of Peru’s César Moro, Mexico’s Gunther Gerzso and Frida Kahlo and Japan’s Yamamoto Kansuke appears alongside that of their European counterparts. “It’s not just the usual suspects,” says curator Isabelle Dervaux.
The exhibit is loosely organized into five Surrealist drawing techniques: frottage pencil rubbings; the “exquisite corpse” drawing game (pictured above), during which each artist completed a section of a sketch without looking at what the others had done; decalcomania, spreading ink over paper before pressing it onto a second sheet to create new forms; automatic drawing, rooted in Freud and hinged on the absence of control; and collage. But despite its organization and arrangement in rough chronological order (from the late 1910s to 1950, when the movement petered out), irregularities do exist. After all, “We can’t be too rational for a movement that tried not to be rational,” says Dervaux. Through April 21; 29 E. 36th St.; 212-685-0008; themorgan.org.
Chuck Brown, 1986. Photo by Dean Rutz for the Washington Times.
The 1980s were a hard chapter in Washington, D.C.’s history. Known as the “murder capital” shortly after the decade ended, the city’s underground music and graffiti scenes nevertheless thrived, helping to shape D.C. into what it is today. The new exhibit “Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture of the 1980s” (through April 7) at the Corcoran Gallery of Art shows how it was done.
The area harbored one of the most tenacious hardcore scenes in the country; punk had a similarly robust presence. But go-go music (a fiercely regional mash-up of danceable funk, R&B and early hip-hop) and the graffiti that stemmed from it became the city’s unofficial calling card, despite what was happening elsewhere.
“The go-go music and the art that came out of it, at least as far as the world outside D.C. was concerned, were almost totally overshadowed by the hip-hop culture that sprung up in New York at the same time,” says Roger Gastman, a D.C. local, graffiti historian and co-curator of the show. “So in some ways that neglect cycled around again and made that scene even more self-reliant.”
The exhibit illustrates the symbiotic relationship between the music and the street art of the period through posters, photographs, graphic art and other sundry items. Special programs and lectures punctuate the run, one with Gastman himself, who has written a dozen books on graffiti. But a documentary called The Legend of Cool “Disco” Dan is a particular highlight. Narrated by musician and activist Henry Rollins, it opened in conjunction with the exhibit and pays homage to Cool “Disco” Dan, a graffiti artist who many consider the father of a movement that made an unquestionable impact on a once questionable city.
“There are many graffiti writers who have done more graffiti or done it more skillfully and in greater quantity,” says assistant curator Caleb Neelon. “But Cool ‘Disco’ Dan made himself a beloved, integral part of his city and a symbol of an era.” 500 17th St. NW; 202-639-1700; corcoran.org.
Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth
Hauser & Wirth New York unveiled its new branch gallery last week in conjunction with the opening of the exhibit “Dieter Roth. Björn Roth,” which showcases the work of the prolific Swiss father-and-son team.
The gallery (also Swiss) was founded in the early 1990s and began occupying London with several outposts in the new millennium. A mainstay of art fairs worldwide, where it displays tastefully dressed booths, the gallery features names like Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse and Henry Moore that balance its contemporary collection of artists, including Roni Horn and Caro Niederer.
Marching steadily westward, Hauser & Wirth established its New York base uptown in September 2009 and recently took over the 24,700-square-foot space that was once home to the Roxy, the legendary roller rink and discotheque (where, incidentally, Keith Richards met Patti Hansen). Hauser & Wirth believes that its new 18th Street location, designed by architect Annabelle Selldorf, will be one of the grandest galleries in New York—though no promises as to whether its former matchmaking powers will extend to its now demure white walls.
“Dieter Roth. Björn Roth” itself, however, may be draw enough. New York Times art critic Roberta Smith once described Dieter as a “performance artist in all the mediums he touched.” (He played materials—paint, sculpture, texts, found objects, prints, film—like instruments in concert.) Dieter regularly collaborated with his son, Björn, who teamed up with his own sons, Oddur and Einar, to construct the latest iterations of Roth père’s never-ending tower projects. The works appear with more than 100 objects created since the late 1970s, from simple paintings to the floor of an artist’s studio raised to vertical as a painting-cum-screen-cum-sculpture.
Dieter also designed several working bars over the course of his life (he died in 1998), so Björn fashioned one for Hauser & Wirth. It will serve patrons coffee and liquor until long after the show has closed and the set readies for another artist’s conquest. Through April 13; 511 W. 18th St.; 212-790-3900; hauserwirth.com.
© Courtesy of the Spanish Institute
Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo may be the definition of a renaissance man. Raised in a prominent Spanish family of artists, curators and collectors, his career spanned textile and clothing design, photography and the visual arts.
“Fortuny y Madrazo: An Artistic Legacy,” a new exhibit at New York’s Queen Sofía Spanish Institute, celebrates this creative lineage. Conceived and curated by Oscar de la Renta, the exhibit showcases Fortuny’s impressive body of work, including unprecedented loans from prominent Spanish and Italian museums and leading private collectors.
His fashion designs—the iconic, uncorseted dresses in rich colors and textures he is perhaps best known for—combine old-world fabrics with a sensibility that still feels modern. Lit dramatically and displayed against walls lined with antique textiles, the dresses reside alongside the paintings, photographs and designs that inspired Fortuny throughout his life, giving context to his process from beginning to end. Through March 30; 684 Park Ave.; 212-628-0420; spanishinstitute.org.
© Irving Penn
Enormously talented yet decidedly private, Leslie and D.D. Tillett, husband-and-wife textile designers, lived a rich life that, until now, few knew much about. “The World of D.D. and Leslie Tillett,” at the Museum of the City of New York through February 3, is a colorful, textural peek into their world—and the first-ever major retrospective of their work.
D.D., a skilled draftsperson (her freehand flowers became one of the couple’s signatures), and Leslie, a descendant of five generations of textile makers, met in Mexico in 1944. Blending their talents, they adopted a wholly independent approach to craftsmanship. “Everything they created showed their unique hand, and their work possessed a vital authenticity that was very rare in their day and is now increasingly sought after,” says Seth Tillett, the couple’s son.
Their artistry knew no bounds, and the exhibit shows as much. A fish motif, done in white on white on a sheer curtain, seems to glow from inside the fabric, while intriguing prints (red and white lines resembling radio waves; undulating plaids; enormous seashells) stand alone or on robes, blazers and men’s shirts. Sketches, scrimshaw jewelry, like a tiny mushroom charm made of whale’s tooth topped with a gold snail, and clothing that D.D. designed for herself round out the collection. (Head to the gift shop for a selection of pieces for sale in honor of the exhibit, including six different silk scarves, two sets of letterpress cards of flower drawings by D.D. and pillows.)
Though favorites of high-profile clients—Jacqueline Kennedy was a friend and a fan—the Tilletts were also active in communities, leading programs like Design Works of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, which trained locals in the textile trade. D.D. passed away in 2008, and Leslie in 1992, but throughout their lives the pair remained a singular yet unified force, rooted to their vision in a way all their own.
“Someone once said to my father that [he and D.D.] were the Rolls-Royce of textile makers,” says Seth. “He answered that that idea was absurd, because Rolls was a household name. ‘We are the Hispano-Suiza of textile makers,’ he said. ‘The who?’ ‘Exactly,’ he replied.” Through February 3, 2013; 1220 Fifth Ave.; 212-534-1672; mcny.org.
© Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München
“This is a collection that was created in a time of stress and continued throughout times of stress,” says Jennifer Tonkovich, a curator at the Morgan Library & Museum, describing the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich, one of Europe’s most distinguished collections of drawings. Now through January 6, 2013, the Morgan is hosting a selection of those pieces in “Dürer to de Kooning: 100 Master Drawings from Munich.” Rarely seen works on this side of the Atlantic, ethereal in their mastery and purpose, they tease the entire collection, which is comprised of an unimaginable 450,000 sheets.
The works themselves get under your skin. The soaring Bavarian Baroque design in the trompe l’oeil ceiling of a southern church by Melchior Steidl; the vibrant color in Nude Girl in an Interior by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (pictured above); the studied diplomacy of a portrait by Reubens of the Duke of Lerma, upended by his collage-style use of Charles V’s head as placeholder for the Duke’s; the beauty of Pontormo’s hooded figures drawn in red chalk; Matthias Grünewald’s extraordinary portrayal of a Bavarian woman in prayer, fingers resting patiently at the bottom of the frame.
Many of these drawings were saved from history. Before the entire collection’s 50th birthday in 1794, the works moved away from French Revolutionary forces and out of harm’s way for the first time. In July 1944, drawings not evacuated from Neue Pinakothek, the only museum in Munich to remain open during World War II, were bombed. A third of the collection, nearly all of the pieces from the French and British schools, vanished in a brightly illuminated act of irony.
These 100 sheets have total clarity of vision, revealing the ages of humanity without the scrims of politics or history. Die Brücke, a movement founded in Dresden in 1905, contributes German expressionism using gesture and color. A 1925 portrait by Rudolf Schlichter shows the subject’s exquisitely modeled features, none idealized, rendered in simple pencil. And an extraordinary painted image by A.R. Penck is “…not unlike Outsider Art,” observes Tonkovich. “He’s completely self-taught. Unlike [fellow painters] Polke and Baselitz, he didn’t get out of the GDR.”
Penck sent his modern work—which was not sanctified there—over the wall, showing it under pseudonyms in the west. The Morgan showcases a piece called I and the Cosmos: black sky, blank spots for stars, one ill-proportioned red figure looking up in profile, the only apparent feature his eye. It, like the exhibit, is unforgettable. Through January 6, 2013; 225 Madison Ave.; 212-685-0008; themorgan.org.
Alexandra Bircken, "Wärmegitter," 2011 / Courtesy the artist and Kimmerich, New York
Every summer the galleries of New York City invite the hippest art critics, artists and guest curators into their prime white-walled real estate to put on group shows, seeking to attract new audiences and play with fresh ideas. These shows vary in theme and scope, touching on the relationships between two or three artists or covering the aesthetic themes of a century in broad, daring strokes. They are litmus tests based on unexpected juxtapositions that are designed to entertain while blue-chip collectors summer in the Hamptons. The season’s docket is full, and we plan to see it all. (Check back here throughout the summer for updates.)
This week, “Everyday Abstract—Abstract Everyday” opens at James Cohan Gallery in Chelsea. Guest-curator Matthew Higgs, director of the implacable gallery White Columns, explores the intrusion of recognizable everyday objects into the abstract work of art. Repetition hums behind the creation of all the works on display. Judith Scott obscured an object by winding layers of colored string around it until it took on a new form. Walead Beshty shipped a polished copper box via FedEx from show to artist to show again, and it will continue to collect handprints and labels from its journeys. Bill Walton simply clipped a four-inch segment from a wisteria branch, creating a cross-section of the world’s own processes of growth and abstraction. Throughout the exhibit, the patterns—of actions or of objects—shift the focus from the quotidian to an abstract realm that touches something greater. Opens June 1 (6–8 p.m.) and continues through July 27. James Cohan Gallery, 533 W. 26th St.; 212-714-9500; jamescohan.com.
Pablo Picasso is one of the most recognized names in art history, but it wasn't always so. In 1900, the then-unknown 19-year-old Picasso moved to Paris and discovered the works of Cézanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh. He would spend the next seven years there, coming into his own as an artist. That period of his life and work is the focus of "Picasso in Paris, 1900-1907," on view at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam through May 29. Guest-curated by art historian (and Picasso expert) Marilyn McCully and organized jointly with the Museu Picasso in Barcelona—with loans from Paris's Centre Pompidou, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim in New York—the show demonstrates how the artist's style was influenced by his time in the City of Light, from the death of his good friend Carles Casagemas in 1901 (which marked the start of his Blue Period) to his friendship with writers Max Jacobs and Guillaume Apollinaire, who piqued his interest in harlequins. Every Friday evening during the exhibition's run, dancers from the company Dansgroep Amsterdam perform Nomade, a site-specific work that celebrates Picasso's love of the circus, alongside his paintings. Picasso is also the topic of a lecture series taking place the first Sunday of each month. On March 6, literary historian Peter Read will examine the artistic relationship between Picasso and the poets in his circle of friends. At 7 Paulus Potterstraat; 31-20/570-5200; vangoghmuseum.nl.
Photo Self-portrait with a palette, 1906 , Philadelphia Museum of Art. A. E. Gallatin Collection, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2011 Pablo Picasso