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Roundup: The Ultimate of What a Painter Might Achieve

Post #1743 • April 1, 2015, 3:03 PM • 1 Comment


Lois Dodd, March, Blairstown, 2014, oil on masonite, 14 1/8 x 15 7/8 inches, courtesy of Alexandre Gallery

The name suggests a ghetto urchin along the lines of Irving Berlin, Al Jolson, and the Marx Brothers. And, indeed, like them, Rube Goldberg was born in the sunset of the nineteenth century; like them, he was Jewish, bright, creative, and wildly ambitious. But there, the resemblance ends. Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg was a native-born San Franciscan, the son of a prosperous businessman with serious money and powerful political connections. Stefan Kanfer on Rube Goldberg

Is it possible that the apotheosis of Western sculpture was achieved over 2,000 years ago and it’s been all downhill since then? A new blockbuster exhibit, Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World, strongly buttresses this view. Eben Shapiro on Greek bronzes

Major works by the Renaissance sculptor Donatello (c. 1386-1466) are rarely seen in the U.S. Most of his oeuvre, monumental in size and fragile, remains in Italy—especially the statuary he executed for Florence’s magnificent cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the celebrated Duomo. Today, copies of those works and those by his circle embellish the Duomo façade. The originals are preserved in Florence’s Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo (Cathedral Works Museum), whence they almost never depart. Barrymore Laurence Scherer on Donatello

The Asia Society has long been involved in Myanmar’s political opening through forums, policy recommendations and such public gestures as conferring its 2011 Global Vision Award on Aung San Suu Kyi, a symbol of peaceful political change. Now the Asia Society Museum is sharing the fruits of its cultural initiatives through a show centered on another symbol of transformation: the Buddha. Lee Lawrence on Buddhist art from Myanmar

In 1985, American newspaper readers met an appalling little boy. He taunted his mother (Prepare for annihilation, pitiful Earth female), tormented a classmate by telling her he had brought a thermos full of phlegm for lunch and kept a sign on his bedroom door that read Enter and die. Millions fell in love with him. Christopher Caldwell on Calvin and Hobbes

Washington’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery have long made our city a magnet for students and admirers of Chinese art. These two institutions have taught us to appreciate calligraphic brush work, the clean lines of Ming furniture and the celadon glazes of ancient porcelain. But how did masterpieces from China end up on the Mall? How, in fact, did the United States become, as a recent Wall Street Journal article proclaimed, the capital of Asian art? Michael Dirda on The China Collectors

At 88, Lois Dodd may be making her best paintings yet. A marvelous exhibition of over thirty recent oils at Alexandre Gallery presents unfussy landscapes and bare interiors – seemingly simple constructions that express a nuanced, poetic sensibility. Xico Greenwald on Lois Dodd

Philip Guston is one hundred, or would be if he were with us still. His work very much is, but the artist left long ago. And left prematurely, as did so many of his generational cohort. His high-school classmate Jackson Pollock died young—at forty-four—of creative despair, the bottle, and automotive Russian roulette. Rothko died in late middle age of creative despair, the bottle, and a well-planned suicide by razor. De Kooning lived to a great age—ninety-three—died sober, and performed painterly miracles well into his eighties, although much of his last decade was a blur. Weakened by a heavy reliance on booze and butts—images of which litter the artist’s late self-portraits, along with cholesterol-heavy French fries—Guston died of a heart attack at the same age as Rothko, sixty-seven, yet was still at the height of his powers and on the eve of the unprecedented fame that resulted from his traveling retrospective of 1980-1981. Robert Storr on Guston

One of the curiosities of western art is that, until the 20th century, few visual artists were of Jewish ancestry. With odd exceptions such as the Pissarros and Simeon Solomon, the culture tended to produce verbal rather than visual imaginations. With the 20th century that changed. The important group of abstract expressionists that came out of New York after the second world war centred on at least two Jewish artists — Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko. Philip Hensler on Annie Cohen-Solal on Rothko

Although there are other painters I feel closer to – Braque, de Staël, and Soutine are crucial to me – I offer a note on Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-81) as my backstory, because it represents, for me, the ultimate of what a painter might achieve – a vision as large as the world. This painting is on my mind every day, and in many ways I chart my slow progress as a painter against the fullness of the world it presents. Brett Baker



John Link

April 2, 2015, 12:31 AM

I don't understand statements like Baker's a vision as large as the world. Nor does Storr's cholesterol-heavy French fries have anything to do with Guston's currently overrated work. And I have never understood what being Jewish has to do with anything except being Jewish. But such is what goes on in art writing these days.



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