California Literary Review

Art & Design

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

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March 22nd, 2012

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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March 6th, 2012

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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February 12th, 2012

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.

Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia

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January 31st, 2012

This exhibition of the works of Henry Ossawa Tanner is the first major reappraisal of the great African-American painter in a generation. On display in the PAFA exhibit are over 100 of Tanner’s works, including twelve paintings never shown in a previous retrospective. Drawings, photographs, prints and the only two surviving sculptures created by Tanner are featured, along with his paintings.

Into the Void: The Bicoastal Legacy of Weldon Kees

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January 26th, 2012

This is very different stuff than the angst of later confessional poets such as Lowell and Plath, whose despair is essentially personal, rooted in disappointment and disillusionment. Kees, by comparison, proposes that this is simply how it is, and does so with enough coolness and elegance that it comes as no surprise that Wallace Stevens wrote to Kees ordering a volume of a limited edition of his verse.

Art Review: The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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January 10th, 2012

In his Portrait of a Young Man, painted in 1478, Antonello fused the psychological intensity of Byzantine icon painting with a close regard for his subject’s unique, personal identity. Antonello died the year after he painted Portrait of a Young Man, but with this and a handful of similar works, he blazed a trail for all of the great portrait painters who came after him.

Denver’s Clyfford Still Museum

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January 9th, 2012

In 1959, he referred to esteemed critic Clement Greenberg and others as “wandering mongrels” only able to “cock a leg” against work they could not understand.

West of Center: Art and the Countercultural Experiment in America, 1965 -1977, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver

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January 5th, 2012

Earnest rather than ironic, unashamedly idealistic, unafraid of appearing amateurish and haphazard, many of the contents of this exhibition have the air of artifacts from a lost world.

Art Review: Two Chinese Exhibitions at the Denver Art Museum

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January 3rd, 2012

This was a world in which the color of the glass finial on one’s hat indicated with precision one’s rank at court; in which the bird or animal embroidered in silk and gold thread on a silken badge indicated a civil or military official’s place in the hierarchy. (Degrees of civil officialdom were represented by birds such as cranes or pheasants, while military rank was indicated by fiercer animals, such as tigers, leopards, lions, and the legendary quilin.)

Art Review: Transition to Christianity, Onassis Cultural Center, New York City

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December 13th, 2011

After Christianity was recognized as the official state religion of the Roman Empire in 380, a number of Christian groups, notably monks in Egypt, changed roles from martyrs to persecutors. A magnificent head of Aphrodite, dating to first century Athens, bears the marks of Christian vandalism. The eyes and lips have been chipped to “blind” and “silence” the deity. A cross was then inscribed on the forehead of Aphrodite.

Madness and Mesmerism: Charles Deas Revisited

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November 14th, 2011

Put as simply as possible, Matthews thought he was being tortured and his thoughts disrupted by remote control, via magnetic currents produced by a machine called the “air loom.” Matthew’s “air loom” was operated by a gang of seven: villainous Bill the King, wisecracking Jack the Schoolmaster, crude Sir Archy, the enigmatic Middle Man, scheming Augusta, poor, maltreated Charlotte, and the sinister Glove Woman, the most skilled operator of the machine.

Art Review: Robert Adams: The Place We Live, Denver Art Museum

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November 10th, 2011

The photographs in the retrospective are animated by the yearning for a sense of place, of belonging and by regret at seeing that place forever slipping out of reach, as a consequence of environmental heedlessness and of the inevitable passage of time.

Art Review: Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O’Keeffe, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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November 6th, 2011

Beginning with paintings, drawings and a limited number of sculptures by such “wild men” as Matisse, Picasso and Brancusi, Stieglitz went on to champion works created by American painters in the years following World War I. His one-man crusade met with a very mixed reception. Many in the New York art establishment viewed Stieglitz as a cultural anarchist, intent on dynamiting the Beaux-Arts foundation of American art.

Art Review: Charles Dickens at 200, The Morgan Library and Museum

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October 19th, 2011

Dickens’ novels probed the social ills of Victorian England in order to create unforgettable images of human misery and redemption in the minds of the literary public. Conscious of how the accompanying illustrations to his text would help in this respect, Dickens worked very closely with the artists who provided these memorable pictures.

Art Review: de Kooning: A Retrospective, MoMA

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September 29th, 2011

De Kooning exhibited six “Bitch Goddess” paintings when most American men preferred to watch Marilyn Monroe stand over a steam vent. These paintings, as Robert Harris observed, are rooted in the “simultaneous desire for and fear of women.” De Kooning may not have intended to paint Woman I to express these suppressed emotions. But that is what he put on the canvas and he may have been as perplexed as his critics as to how it got there.

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