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Roundup: Come for the Art, Stay for the Cardistry

Post #1745 • April 24, 2015, 11:43 AM


Detail of Kano Tan’yu’s ‘Eagle and Pine Tree’ sliding doors (c. 1624-26). Photo: Castle, Kyoto/ Important Cultural Property

What’s in a photorealist painting that’s not in the photograph? In the case of Richard Estes (b. 1932), it is much more than the obvious increased size and the brightness achieved with oil paint on canvas as opposed to the relative dullness of emulsions on photo paper. Mr. Estes synthesizes his paintings from multiple photographs that he takes himself and crops for the crispest composition this side of 1930s railroad posters—adding and subtracting, respectively, telling and extraneous details. Most important, however, is that the artist—who moved to New York from Chicago (where he studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago) almost 60 years ago—has a feel for the kind of urban views and visual vignettes that Gotham offers in abundance. Peter Plagens on Richard Estes

For 15 generations, just one family has crafted the hand-sculpted (rather than wheel-thrown) Japanese pottery known as Raku, which uses a low-fire technique to produce ceramic objects that bear an unmistakable variegated glaze. Typically unrefined in appearance, these objects have always served a dual purpose: as rigorously crafted vessels that embody traditional Japanese aesthetic principles and as practical instruments of daily—or at least ceremonial—domestic life. David Mermelstein on raku

Sir Joshua Reynolds's reputation has had its ups and downs. When in 1768 he became the first president of the Royal Academy he found himself the ruler of the official art world in Great Britain and thus, as the embodiment of the establishment, a bête noire for a succession of radical artists. William Blake reviled him ("This Man was Hired to Depress Art") and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood derided him as "Sir Sloshua". Although Reynolds was appointed Principal Painter in Ordinary to George III, the royal family's continued preference was for Gainsborough. He had his supporters too: Turner, for example, admired him so much that he requested that he be buried next to Reynolds in St Paul's Cathedral. Michael Prodger on Joshua Reynolds

A distant view of Diego Rivera (1886-1957) and Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) kissing is an unusual, if apt, photo panel introducing an important exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts; but it also reminds us of the baggage that accompanies us whenever we see shows of artists we think we know. While not an assertive attempt at revisionist art history, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit makes a solid case for Rivera’s stature as a major figure in 20th-century art, even if fashion, feminism and fetishism have conspired in his reputation being posthumously eclipsed by Kahlo’s. And it reveals the artists in a different light, suggesting that, like politics, all art is also (somewhat) local. Tom L. Freudenheim on Rivera and Kahlo

Stepping into the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Ink and Gold: Art of the Kano, we see only one object beckoning from the end of a long gallery: a gilded Japanese screen with two large pine trees in silhouette. One step farther, however, and we notice three small scrolls hanging on the right and a fourth ahead on the left. They are placed in such a way that, as we turn to each, we lose sight of the alluring gold screen to encounter, undistracted, 15th- and 16th-century ink paintings: water falling over rocks, wind blowing through grasses, a poet sitting in a boat surrounded by lotus pads. By Kano Masanobu (1434-1530), founder of the Kano dynasty of Japanese artists, the last portrays the 11th-century Chinese poet-philosopher Zhou Maoshu (also known as Zhou Dunyi), who likened the lotus to virtue, rising pristine and pure from even the murkiest waters. Lee Lawrence on the Kano school

Snow Storm—Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth (first exhibited in 1842) is one of the best-known, most often reproduced of the more than 300 surviving oil paintings by J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). Now regarded as the greatest English painter, Turner ran a roller-coaster between adoration and disdain by both critics and the public throughout much of his long roller-coaster ride of a life—the last 25 years of which are currently being celebrated in two ways. David Littlejohn on Turner

Art historians agree on the greatness of early Netherlandish artist Rogier van der Weyden, but they tend to disagree about what he actually painted. Of the 25-odd surviving works now generally attributed to van der Weyden, historians are certain about only three. Now, those three works will be brought together for the first time when Madrid’s Prado Museum opens its landmark show about the artist today. J.S. Marcus on van der Weyden

Sculpture from the Age of Donatello is like a dream from the dawn of the Renaissance now realized at the Museum of Biblical Art in New York City. While the Museo del Duomo in Florence undergoes a renovation that will amount to a recreation, MoBIA is the blessed recipient of 23 loaned pieces from the years 1390 to 1440 that thrill equally through their artistic quality and the insight they yield into how sculpture led the way into the reborn humanism of the age. The installation is magical, the sculpture, as it moves from the style of International Gothic to the threshold of the Renaissance, all but miraculous. Leo J. O'Donovan on Donatello

One day, not many years ago, the writer Julia Blackburn was talking with a painter friend called Emily. What about John Craske? offered Emily. And so it was that Blackburn found the subject of her new book, a biography that shades first into memoir and then into something much more complicated. How to describe it? Meditation is too pompous, and it would be rather obvious to call it a tapestry, given that so many of its pages are devoted to stitching. Perhaps I should just be honest. While I was reading it, I thought of Threads as an exquisite notebook, with all the mystery that implies. It couldn’t simply be read. I felt I had to decipher it: to peer at it, magnifying glass in hand. Rachel Cooke on John Craske

One of the most comprehensive displays of works by Diego Velázquez is opening this week at Paris’s Grand Palais. Showcasing 119 artworks from museums around the globe, it will cover the breadth of his career. But pulling together this large retrospective of the influential 17th-century Spanish painter was no easy feat for curator Guillaume Kientz. Inti Landauro on Velazquez

It was not a writer or a philosophe who came up with the pithiest encapsulation of Enlightenment thinking ever coined, but an artist. The aphorism The sleep of reason produces monsters was inscribed by Francisco Goya on a celebrated image that shows the artist asleep at his desk while a nightmarish murmuration of lynxes, owls and bats swirls up from the darkness around him. For Goya, the creatures of the night released from his imagination represented the ills that afflicted Spain during the late 18th and early 19th centuries: a corrupt and self-serving church, a flawed monarchy, a rapacious aristocracy and a populace in thrall to superstition. The print was part of Los Caprichos (the caprices), a satirical collection of etchings published in 1799. Ten days after the volume appeared, Goya withdrew it from sale for fear of the Inquisition: reason, as he saw it, was still in a sleep so deep as to be almost comatose. Michael Prodger on Goya

And from the Department of Skills: cardistry.




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