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Roundup: Bursting, Glowing Light

Post #1728 • November 10, 2014, 6:39 PM

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Jack Bush, Bonnet, 1961, oil on canvas, 246 × 209 cm, National Gallery of Canada, photo Michael Cullen

A show on Pablo Picasso may seem an odd occurrence in Florence, but the exhibition Picasso and Spanish Modernism at Palazzo Strozzi makes a cogent case for its location with the very first objects we encounter: a 1963 painting of The Painter and the Model, and a copy—from a Florentine library—of Ambroise Vollard’s luxurious 1931 edition of Honoré de Balzac’s short story The Unknown Masterpiece (first published in 1831) with Picasso’s illustrations. The Balzac illustrations range from a pure classical line worthy of Flaxman to an equally pure, revolutionary abstraction, and sometimes both tendencies can be found, arrestingly, in a single image. Ingrid D. Rowland on Picasso

Alfred Kubin, an artist who has yet to be truly discovered, according to the catalog of a wide-ranging exhibition at the Shepherd Gallery, on the Upper East Side, will strike some viewers as several different artists. His friend Kafka, who admired Kubin as a novelist as well as a visual artist, noted in 1911 that he looks different in age, size, and strength according to whether he is sitting, standing, wearing just a suit, or an overcoat, an observation that might be modified to describe Kubin’s varied art as well. Christopher Benfey on Alfred Kubin

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is at the Museum of Modern Art through Feb. 8, 2015, and, odd as it may sound, this wonderful exhibition of 100 or so works by the best modern painter ever presents critics with a problem: What to say that hasn’t been said relentlessly before? We can revert to consumer guidance, give the show a thumbs up and tell everyone to go see it. We can recount the biography of Matisse, catalog his pioneer aesthetic transgressions and greatest hits, and intone once again that the likes of Matisse and Picasso come along only once a century. Or we can pile on the superlatives and compete for poetic new phrases describing—I’ll try one here—the exhilarating chromatic bath of experiencing Matisse’s art. In the face of such truly daunting prospects, matter-of-factness is probably the best approach. Peter Plagens on Matisse

The New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl recently wrote of how colour-field paintings at one time served as intellectual battle flags in the dispute over what painting should be. The National Gallery of Canada’s new retrospective of works by Jack Bush — the Canadian artist who achieved international success with his colour-field paintings in the 1960s and 1970s — is also an expansive demonstration of what painting can be. Peter Simpson on Jack Bush

An ostensibly abstract painter, [John] Walker has been painting the same spot in Maine for years, revitalizing abstraction through intense, prolonged immersion in nature. He has dirtied abstraction up with mud and salt air, exposed it to the rain, snow, and frigid wind. And with incredible results - never have abstract shapes been infused with such particular light and material specifics. Walker’s forms exist at a particular time on a particular day. Brett Baker on John Walker

One of the most direct ways to enter Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez’s An Old Woman Cooking Eggs (1618) is from the lower-right corner, where the artist guides us through a semiglazed earthenware jug’s curved white handle, which dives into the painting like a fish into a boat. Similarly, we are thrown into Velázquez’s dark and mysterious, dramatically lighted scene, in which a seated woman fries eggs in olive oil; and a boy stands, eager yet pensive, holding a melon and a flask of wine. Lance Esplund on Velázquez

For years, Cézanne lovers have debated a mystery. In his portraits of his wife, Hortense Fiquet, she often appears stern and unsmiling, her hands folded in her lap—and yet she remained one of his models for more than two decades. Jenny Che on Madame Cézanne

The clocks in Britain have gone back an hour. It’s dark by tea-time now, but late October saw a bizarre return to summer with leaves turning gold under misty blue skies. It seemed entirely appropriate to walk across a sunlit London street to Tate Britain and into the bursting, glowing light of this exhibition of J.M.W. Turner’s late work: amber visions of Venice, drifting on its lagoon; blue-shadowed mountains; Claude-like myths under Mediterranean skies. Yet the coming storms are on show too—wild winds and rough seas, murky clouds over the brown English Channel. And now, of course, it’s raining. Jenny Uglow on Turner

The central question of portraiture is how to best turn its subjects inside out — how to best manipulate an inanimate medium so as to capture an animate sitter with a hidden history of invisible experience. In its ideal form, a portrait would reproduce a person, not merely the appearance thereof. Egon Schiele: Portraits, at the Neue Galerie through January 19, represents a radical departure from a tradition that sought to accomplish this goal by situating subjects within their social contexts. Rebecca Rothfeld on Egon Schiele

Though I was a painter then as now, I was very interested in George Sugarman's use of color in three dimensions, in sculpture. I was making paintings in three-dimensions. The main thing I remember from him as a teacher is that he emphasized that your artwork is the answer to the question you pose in embarking on it, what is art. This stayed with me for quite a while. Dana Gordon on George Sugarman and Tony Smith

The dense crowds at the Tate Britain’s Late Turner exhibition might make you wonder about the accuracy of the claim that John Constable (1776-1837) is Britain’s best-loved artist—which is what the Victoria and Albert Museum asserts about its concurrent exhibition, Constable: The Making of a Master. But that doesn’t diminish the sense of discovery in the well-attended Constable show, which is about much more than the varying views of Salisbury Cathedral or the luscious paintings of cloud formations by which one tends to remember the artist. Tom L. Freudenheim on Constable

The face that stares out from the painting is not beautiful, not quite. Pale and oval as a perfect egg, it is topped off with a helmet of auburn hair. Nor, with slits for eyes and a dash for a mouth, is it a face that begs to be loved or understood. None the less, it remains one of the most instantly recognisable images of the late 19th century, staring out of 29 extraordinary works of art that changed painting for ever. Kathryn Hugues on Madame Cézanne

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