California Literary Review


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


March 27th, 2012

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


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


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.

Book Review: The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination


February 29th, 2012

It was at Oxford University that Burne-Jones found divine beauty and William Morris. They shared a love for medieval themes, what we now call Gothic Revival, and were attracted to the art of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Founded in 1848, the Pre-Raphaelites were a loose confederation of young artists in revolt against the false veneer of academic art.

Book Review: Some of My Lives: A Scrapbook Memoir by Rosamond Bernier


February 19th, 2012

Rosamond’s very early experiences with the great and famous were connected with her father’s love for music. Because he headed the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Orchestra, she went often to rehearsals and concerts as a child, and when conductors and soloists were invited to Sunday luncheons at the Rosenbaum’s regularly, she was enthralled by their artistic talk and liberated manners. Among those she encountered and admired then were Otto Klemperer. Nathan Milstein, Jose Iturbi, Eugene Ormandy among others. So collecting her anecdotal tales of their eccentricities and foibles began even then. She even speaks of the Philadelphia Orchestra as “her extended family.”

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.)

Book Review: Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith


December 15th, 2011

For an artist who vied with Rembrandt in painting self-portraits, van Gogh seldom allowed himself to be photographed. The one surviving photo, from his days at Goupil’s, shows a scowling, tousled haired young man with troubled, searching eyes. It is the face of a man destined to be a prophet or a lunatic.

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


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.

The Weekly Listicle Is Rated NC-17


December 2nd, 2011

Censors save the NC-17 rating for extra special cases, and in practice it feels like much less artificial than, say, PG-13. Something about these films transcended the extremely liberal boundaries of the R rating, and in most cases the reasons are still apparent.

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