California Literary Review

Profile of Alix McKenna

Articles written for the California Literary Review:

  • The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture, 1600-1700
    Posted on 04 Apr 2010 in After Image, Art, Spain

    Saint Serapion (1628) by Francisco de Zurbarán A new show at the National Gallery of Art is bringing long-overdue attention to seventeenth-century Spanish painting and sculpture.  Xavier Bray, who curated The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture, 1600-1700, explains in an NGA podcast that historically, American collectors avoided these stark pieces due to their […]

  • The Wonderful World of Maira Kalman
    Posted on 29 Mar 2010 in After Image, Art, Children's Literature, Design

    Well, Susan, 2004-05 by Maira Kalman [Image source: How Blog] The intelligent curating at Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art always makes a walk through its galleries worthwhile. The ICA should also be lauded for the tremendous variety of subjects and media that it tackles. In past years, the small museum has explored video art, experimental […]

  • Museums: Attracting a Younger Crowd
    Posted on 25 Mar 2010 in After Image, Art, Design

    Brooklyn Museum iPhone Application Museum-goers today are very different than they were one hundred years ago.  Art institutions have been updating their communications and marketing strategies in order to attract and hold the attention of socially active, tech-savvy visitors.  A recent special section on museums in the New York Times explores some of the ways […]

  • Iran’s Cultural Heritage Under Threat
    Posted on 22 Mar 2010 in After Image, Art, Iran, Linguistics

    In addition to depriving Iranians of their cultural property, a decision to turn over the artifacts to the Rubin plaintiffs would have grave effects for the museums involved and cultural institutions in general. Four American institutions could be divested of objects currently in their collections and unable to use them for research purposes.

  • The Art of Japanese Internment Camps at the Renwick Gallery
    Posted on 15 Mar 2010 in After Image, Art

    An exhibition at the Renwick Gallery in Washington DC titled The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946 showcases objects made by internees. The museum’s website tells us that the Japanese word ‘gaman’ means “to bear the seemingly unbearable with dignity and patience.” This moving show explores how creativity served as a necessary way of acquiring needful things that were otherwise unavailable, provided an outlet for frustration, and reinforced bonds in a painful and alienating time.

  • A Case for Warhol’s Jews
    Posted on 13 Mar 2010 in After Image, Art, Design

    Since its in 1980, Critics have lambasted Warhol’s “Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century” as one-dimensional and exploitative. Several recent shows have reawakened the controversy surrounding the project. After traveling to San Francisco and New York in 2008-2009, the series is now on display in a retrospective at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center. In response to these shows, many contemporary reviewers have repeated the argument that Warhol was motivated solely by profit and that he trivialized important historical figures. Perhaps it is time to check our cynicism and explore how the series fits into his oeuvre and intellectual interests.

  • Sex in the Vienna Secession – Because Airplane Bathrooms are so Passé
    Posted on 13 Mar 2010 in After Image, Art

    The Vienna Secession, which was designed to display works by Gustav Klimt and his contemporaries, recently decided to spice up their collection by requiring visitors to walk through a swingers club before reaching Klimpt’s masterful “Beethoven Frieze”. This strange paring is part of a project by Swiss artist, Christoph Büchel and involves a collaboration between the museum and a local swingers’ club called Element 6. The club will be open at night during the exhibition. The next morning, mattresses and other nasty remnants of the evening’s activities will be on display. I’m betting that for once, visitors won’t have to be told “don’t touch.”

  • Art Review: 2010, Whitney Biennial
    Posted on 08 Mar 2010 in Art, Art & Design

    It is undeniable that the reduction, which was largely brought on by budget constraints, has created a more sober atmosphere than the artistic smorgasbords of previous years – but maybe that’s not a bad thing. 2010 is less about the diva that is the art world and more about the art, and the people who make and inspire it. Walking through, you can concentrate on each piece without feeling overwhelmed by an overabundance of visual stimuli.

  • Portraiture Now: Communities at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC
    Posted on 11 Jan 2010 in Art, Art & Design

    The astonishing amount of detail, the tremendous amount of work that went into crafting the tiny piece and Lorna’s serene expression and frontal pose give her the air of a modern day Madonna. Despite her imperfections, nose rings and edgy attire, Lorna becomes an icon of contemporary feminine beauty.

  • Tim Burton at MoMA
    Posted on 02 Dec 2009 in Art, Art & Design, Movies

    Predictably, Tim Burton is already a wildly popular show. As throngs of families, film buffs and multi-pierced hipsters make their way through the narrow hallway, you are forced along at a fairly rapid pace. In the background, a museum employee occasionally shouts that this part of the exhibit is available online to remind you that lingering is not an option.

  • Directions: John Gerrard at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
    Posted on 16 Nov 2009 in Art, Art & Design

    So what are today’s landscape artists telling us? In his eponymous show at the Hirshhorn, John Gerrard presents us with scenery that reflects a very different view of America. Rather than inspire us, the Irish artist constructs images that fill us with anxiety, hopelessness and a sense of imminent disaster. And we can’t look away.

  • Brian Jungen: Strange Comfort at The National Museum of the American Indian
    Posted on 03 Nov 2009 in Art, Art & Design, Native American

    The first piece you see upon entering is Shapeshifter (2000), an enormous, abstracted whale skeleton built entirely out of white plastic chairs. Jungen’s leviathan is hung in front of a simple black wall and the contrast of colors intensifies its extraordinary power. Shapeshifter has the pristine, flawless texture of a mass produced object, yet somehow feels organic. You can easily imagine the enormous tale with its graceful, individually-carved vertebrae swinging to life.

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