Art & Design

97 posts

Michael Mahzor

Crossing Borders: Manuscripts from the Bodleian Libraries — Jewish Museum of New York


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To look at one of the treasures on display in this wonderful exhibit, the Kennicott Bible, is to view an example of the shared heritage of Jews, Christians and Muslims. This is the key note of Crossing Borders. The Kennicott Bible and the other stunning, hand-written works on display show the “cross-pollination” of art and ideas among the cultured elites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam during the Middle Ages. More to the point, it is a testament to the shared devotion of these three faiths to the same God.

Curtis Fentress

Now Boarding: Fentress Airports + The Architecture of Flight, Denver Art Museum


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But if there’s one form of architecture that has come to embody our society’s conflicted relationship with public space – our competing demands for security and for freedom of movement, for technocratic efficiency and for humanistic design – it is the airport.

Janiform kantharos with addorsed heads of a male African and a female Greek

Art Review: Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery Princeton University Art Museum


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Zhang transformed Mr. Quaker into Chairman Mao five years after he emigrated to the United States. The birth of Chinese “Political Pop” took place in his New York studio. This is an ironical state of affairs, all the more apparent in Six Pack of Kekou Kele, created in 2002. Is Zhang commenting here on the way that China’s millennia-old civilization is being crassly mass-marketed to enhance its leading role in the global economy? Or is it a subtle indictment of the West’s heedless consumerism, so oblivious to culture that it can appreciate nothing unless it is a familiar brand product beckoning from the supermarket shelf?

Art Review: Ends of the Earth: Land Art To 1974, MOCA, Los Angeles


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Land artists were critical of the sanitizing effects of situating artwork in a gallery, and Fluxus art generally was concerned with de-commodifying art in order to make it more accessible and less commercial by emphasizing process, participation, spontaneity, inclusiveness, and ambiguity.

Art Review: Gustav Klimt: The Magic of Line, The Getty Center


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Fans of animation will feel at home here – this is an exhibit all about the communicative potential of the human form. Lovers of anatomy will relish charting Klimt’s evolution of translating the human form into the linear form.

Art Review: Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia, Philadelphia Museum of Art


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A dark mass of ominous clouds invades the blue sky in La Grande Bacchanale. In Et in Arcadia Ego, painted a decade later, Arcadian shepherds ponder a cryptic tomb inscription where Death proclaims, “Even in Arcadia, I am.” The message is clear. Happiness, even in Arcadia, is not going to last.

Two New York City Exhibits Explore the Art and Culture of Renaissance Venice


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The Venetians during the Renaissance were a confident and resilient people. Even as their dominions were threatened by the Turks and global trade routes shifted away from the Mediterranean Sea, they found the inner resources to cope with these challenges. You have only to look at the magnificent portraits from the Accademia Carrara at the Metropolitan Museum to understand why the Republic of Venice lasted until Napoleon’s invasion in 1798.

Art Review – Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective, Denver Art Museum


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And that little black dress worn by Catherine Deneuve is as much an idea as a dress – the quintessential modernist fashion statement reduced to its absolute essentials. Its tidy collar and cuffs evoke both the modest office dress and the schoolgirl’s (or maid’s) uniform, but they are not white – the cuffs and collar are of delicate ivory satin, advertising not the wearer’s cleanliness, but her distance from labor of any kind.

The Dawn of Egyptian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


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The statue is nicknamed “The Lady of Brussels” because its home museum is in Belgium. It is one of the oldest free-standing statues in the world, dated to around 2695 BC. The “Lady” certainly has her charms. She is wearing one of the extraordinary wigs that were such a noteworthy item of feminine beauty in Ancient Egypt. But her restrained, submissive pose somehow disappoints when contrasted with the energy and mysticism of the mysterious “Bird Woman,” created a thousand years earlier.

Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


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The Metropolitan Museum exhibition charts the fascinating, if complex, process of cultural transformation that took place throughout the Middle East during the seventh to ninth centuries. For all of the thrust-and-parry military campaigns that took place, a spirit of mutual accommodation often characterized relations between the Byzantine Empire and the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates that governed the Islamic world for much of the Middle Ages.

John Constable: Oil Sketches from the Victoria and Albert Museum


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Constable’s approach to landscape painting, however, was far more than an exercise in nostalgia. Instead, he rooted his appreciation of nature in the “here and now” of everyday life. Through paintings like Hampstead Heath, Branch Hill Pond, Constable presented scenes of human beings interacting with nature, not despoiling it. With these works, he bequeathed a sense of the precious nature of the world around us, in whatever age and place we call home.

The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


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Explaining the daring additions of paintings by Matisse and Picasso to the Stein collection, Leo wrote a friend in the United States, “All our recent accessions are unfortunately by people you never heard of so there’s no use trying to describe them, except that one of those out of the salon [the Matisse] made everybody laugh except a few who got mad about it and two other pictures are by a young Spaniard named Picasso whom I consider a genius of very great magnitude.”

Art Review: Garry Winogrand: Women are Beautiful, Denver Art Museum


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The pair make their way through a crowded New York park. At the woman’s neck, a whistle such as a lifeguard might use dangles like a pendant from a choker. Why is she wearing such a thing? Is it a form of DIY fashion, or an early version of a rape whistle, emblem of an increasing fear of street crime, as well as the greater sense of vulnerability felt by women in public? It’s impossible to know – Winogrand snapped the picture quickly, and the tilted framing of the subjects betrays its spontaneity.

Rembrandt and Degas: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


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But before he retreated into his private realm of race horses and ballet dancers, Degas was fully engaged with the contest of light and shadow in the spirit of Rembrandt. Degas was greatly affected by Rembrandt’s drawing skill, and the accomplished way that he reproduced his line art in etchings and dry point. The etchings of the Dutch master were an education in themselves.

Art Review: Van Gogh Up Close, Philadelphia Museum of Art


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Indeed, if you can manage it in the crowded museum galleries, select a painting, perhaps Wheatfield from 1888, with its characteristic high horizon line. Study it from across the room. Then move closer and you will see an amazing transformation, an act of alchemy, in which the inner life of plants, trees, underbrush, even clouds and drops of rain are revealed.