February 5, 2020


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In this issue:

Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley’s Portraits of the Obamas Get a National Tour
Picasso, Paper Monster
“Doodle for Google” Competition Asks K-12 Artists: How Do You Show Kindness?
Arseholes or artists? How East German art is becoming a new collecting frontier
Getty Museum’s Gauguin Sculpture Revealed to Have Been Misattributed
Moments Of Reflection And Acceptance: Life Of A Disabled Latino Artist
45 years on, 'lost' masterpieces see light in split Cyprus

 

 

 

 

Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley’s Portraits of the Obamas Get a National Tour
Starting in June 2021, the official portraits of Michelle and Barack Obama will leave the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC to tour five cities across the country.

Mark your calendars, because the Obamas are coming. Well, not exactly in flesh, but it’s still exciting news: Starting in June 2021, the official portraits of Michelle and Barack Obama will leave the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC to tour five cities across the United States.

Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald’s portraits of the presidential couple will start their tour at the Art Institute of Chicago (June 18–August 15, 2021) before traveling to the Brooklyn Museum (August 27–October 24, 2021), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (November 5, 2021–January 2, 2022), the High Museum of Art in Atlanta (January 14–March 13, 2022), and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (March 25–May 30, 2022).

“Since the unveiling of these two portraits of the Obamas, the Portrait Gallery has experienced a record number of visitors, not only to view these works in person, but to be part of the communal experience of a particular moment in time,” said Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, in a statement. “This tour is an opportunity for audiences in different parts of the country to witness how portraiture can engage people in the beauty of dialogue and shared experience.”

According to Sajet, the venues were selected based on personal and geographical affinities. Chicago is the Obamas’ former home city, and the works will be there when the former president celebrates his 60th birthday. Sherald hails from Georgia, and Wiley was born in Los Angeles. The latter now has a studio in Brooklyn, and several of his works are in the Brooklyn Museum’s permanent collection.

In addition to the portraits, the tour will include audio-visual supplements, teacher workshops, and curatorial presentations in each location.

A hashtag for the tour is already in place (#obamaportraitstour) and a book is on the way. The Obama Portraits will be released in partnership with Princeton University Press on February 11. Hyperallergic

 

Picasso, Paper Monster
Paper, in short, was at one with Picasso’s nature.

Let us try to anticipate the story… Oh my god, surely it’s not Pablo Picasso again, that bare-chested, bronze-chested, priapic omnivore! Can it really be possible to stage yet another museum-quality exhibition by this man, one which has the capacity to delight and surprise us all over again? Have we not seen it all before? Does not his omnipresence among us mean that this time, surely, the law of diminishing returns will all but demand that he fail?

After all, talent aside, was he not a monster to almost every woman he loved and left, who deserves to be hissed off the stage? And do not our memories of him — presiding over the fan-beleaguered court of King Picasso at Mougins or any of his other favored haunts, surrounded by sycophants who invented or bent the truth in his favor — truly appall?

The title of the exhibition itself lacks promise: Picasso and Paper. Could any committee have come up with a blander and less arresting title for a show, anything less buoyed by the wings of poetry?

Yes, the show is large and ambitious, as so often before. It begins in childhood and ends in his final year, by which time he was 91 years old. It asks us to consider the importance of paper to Picasso, that indefatigable maker throughout his long working life, and, barring a few paintings on canvas, a handful of sculptures, and the hand-press that was used to produce some of his last prints, it mostly consists of hundreds of works on paper, enough to engulf all the first floor galleries of the Royal Academy.

Is it any good then? Does he deserve all this attention all over again, almost 50 years after his death? Does it refresh and extend our understanding of the man’s work? Yes and yes and yes. The world-weary, jaundiced critic has been put to flight. Picasso was a man built of paper through and through.

Why was paper so important to him then? Because it gave Picasso an enormous degree of flexibility, physically and mentally. He was never a theoretician. Although he talked a lot (and especially to his friends), he wrote no treatises. Unlike, say, Klee, he had no capacity to verbalize and reflect upon the nature of his own creativity in a systematically pedagogical fashion, and then to write it down for the benefit of others. Gropius would never have invited him along to join the Bauhaus gang.

What he did instead was to work through his ideas verblessly, with his hands, and often at the speed of a magician. And it was as a consequence of all this obsessive, lifelong hand-fashioning that he discovered not only who he was, what he had been, and where he was from, but also what he might in the fullness of time become.

Otherwise, there would have been no thrill of moment-by-moment surprise. And Picasso was always seeking to surprise himself. He never let up. And paper, being small and bendable and tearable and fragile and relatively unimportant — worlds away, culturally speaking, from the heavy, studied pomposity of bronze, or the slow-drying laborsomeness of oils — was stuff that could be snatched up at whim, and then managed or mismanaged and folded and creased, and then quickly torn into creatively provocative itsy-bitsy shapes, and in fact generally messed with on the wing.

And so the show goes through all those many periods of evolution and part-return and surgings forward (from the Blue to the Rose, the Cubist to the Neoclassical and on), and demonstrates to us, in great and systematic detail, how the use of paper – and the use of so many varieties of paper — made so much of this ceaseless experimentation possible, because it was always so ready and easily to hand. Even yesterday’s newspaper could be pressed into service for a hasty, angry caricature of Franco when this diminutive Catalan in perpetual exile found himself rising to the white heat of his Republican detestation.

Paper, in short, was at one with this artist’s nature. It was the stuff of the everyday. It admitted ragged bits and pieces of daily existence into the studio. It drove out pomposity and self-conscious artiness. And, until now, the story of Picasso and his love of paper, its pervasive importance, what it really enabled him to do, and how it made it possible for him to think through his fingers, at such speed, and with such dexterity, has been little studied, little shown for what it was …

Let’s take a particular historical moment then, between 1906 and 1907, when he was moving towards the creation of what would be one of the great, jarring, defining moments in the history of the art of the 20th century. I am referring to “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” that ferocious figure group, which horrified and repulsed in just about equal measure. “This thing is like drinking gasoline,” one artist remarked.

Here, isolated around these walls, are all the drawn movements towards its final creation, all the hesitations, all the intuitive thinking, all the components, as it comes into being: the savage shapes, the quick, brute strokes, the fissurings, the flattenings, the fierce anglings that would eventuate in the painting itself. And all these drawings give it to us, bit by bit.

What we also notice, and what these cumulative sequences of drawn occasions make clear, is how often Picasso begins by getting things wrong, and then, perhaps only a day or two later, nails it, unerringly. Late in life, he goes in hot pursuit of some of the great painters who had haunted him throughout his life: Dégas, Manet, Delacroix. He ransacks them like an entire posse of marauding musketeers. He takes a subject, and then he riffs on it, through a painting of his own or a series of prints.

Take Manet’s “Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe,” for example. Picasso’s version on these walls looks undercharged, a pallid remake far too much in the guise of a fairly generic Picasso. Yet when he makes a sequence of prints on the very same subject, the whole thing comes alive. He finds what he has been looking for! He interprets to reinvent. He makes Manet vitally anew. He sees Manet through his own eyes.

Perhaps he also swallows him whole. Hyperallergic

 

“Doodle for Google” Competition Asks K-12 Artists: How Do You Show Kindness?
The winner of this year’s competition will receive a $30,000 college scholarship and have their Google Doodle featured on the company’s homepage.

We’ve all noticed the drawings that temporarily replace or embellish Google’s logo on the website’s homepage on holidays, special events, or days commemorating important historical figures. For the twelfth consecutive year, that coveted, highly-visible space is up for grabs to one young artist in the US through the tech company’s “Doodle for Google” competition. In addition to having their work featured on the tech company’s landing page for an entire day, the winner will receive a $30,000 college scholarship, and the winner’s school will be awarded a $50,000 technology package.

Open to artists ages K-12, “Doodle for Google” is organized around a different theme every year, and the 2020 contest asks participants: how do you show kindness?

“We’re inviting young artists in grades K-12 to open up their creative hearts and show us how they find ways to be kind,” reads a Google blog entry about the competition, which encourages diverse and multiple interpretations to its open-ended theme — from speaking out against bullying to starting a community garden.

A panel of judges, among them Rodney Robinson, 2019’s National Teacher of the Year, will narrow down the winners from each state and grade group based on artistic merit, creativity, and theme communication, and the public will vote for their favorite doodle.

Last year, the “Doodle for Google” competition’s theme was “When I grow up, I hope…” The winner was Arantza Peña Popo, then a high school senior in Georgia. “When I grow up, I hope to care for my mom as much as she cared for me my entire life,” Arantza wrote in a statement included along with her artwork. Her entry, a painting titled Once you get it, give it back (2019), depicts Arantza caring for her older mother in the foreground, and a framed picture of her mother carrying Arantza as a baby in the background.

“Doodle for Google” is accepting online and mailed submissions until March 13, 2020 at 8:00pm PST. Instructions and an entry form can be found here. Hyperallergic

 

Arseholes or artists? How East German art is becoming a new collecting frontier
As a cache of communist pieces stored near Beeskow castle for 25 years is being rehabilitated, the market for such work is growing

“There are no artists in the GDR, all of them left … The GDR artists are just cheerleaders for the regime, they are simply arseholes,” said the artist Georg Baselitz in 1990 after the reunification of communist East Germany (GDR) with West Germany.

This famous statement in the magazine Art was pretty much what the West German art establishment thought too, condemning East German artists to decades of obscurity. West Germans took over many of the top museum jobs in the former GDR, put the contem­porary collections in store and showed West German art instead.

The paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs commissioned by GDR authorities were also removed from public buildings, the parliament, town halls, universities, holiday camps and youth clubs. For a quarter of a century, 23,000 works from the states of Berlin, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania were stored in a warehouse near Burg Beeskow 95km from Berlin, out of sight and under inadequate climatic conditions.

It took until 2015 for a full inventory to begin to be made, and now the art has a new, temperature-controlled home in a converted school. “For the first time we can look after it properly,” says the archive’s director, Florentine Nadolni, “Most importantly, at last we can make it visible!”

This new visible storage was enabled by a €300,000 grant from Invest Ost, a programme for cultural institutions in eastern Germany. Since opening in May, it has welcomed more than 1,000 visitors on guided tours. The visitors have ranged from East Germans keen to see the art of their childhood, to curators from Singapore and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It is a sign, Nadolni says, that perceptions towards GDR art are changing. Her colleague Angelika Weissbach, a specialist in the subject, adds: “There is a generation who see it with more distance, less emotion.”

For Nadolni and Weissbach, the revival in interest has meant they are busy. They aim to digitalise the collection and make it available online, and have worked on a current show in the regional parliament of Brandenburg in Potsdam, which is running until 11 December. Titled Arbeit, Arbeit, Arbeit (work, work, work), it is about the idealised image of workers and the realities of day-to-day work in the GDR.

Much of what is in the Kunstarchiv Beeskow is indeed true to the party line of the communist regime. Weissbach draws out one rack to reveal a section of an enormous 1979 polyptych, Proletarier aller Länder vereinigt Euch (Workers of the world, unite!), by Willi Sitte, a committed socialist and the long-­serving president of East Germany’s artists’ association. Depicting portraits of Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and Marx and Engels, it once adorned the foyer of the now demolished Palast der Republik in Berlin. A few racks away, however, is an early painting of a Leipzig street scene by Neo Rauch.

What is happening at Beeskow castle is part of a wider rehabilitation of GDR art, both by institutions and by the market. While in 1994 the director of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin was severely criticised for showing works by GDR artists, there were two major exhibitions in Germany last year. In Leipzig, Point of No Return explored art in the former GDR before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, while in Düsseldorf, the Kunstpalast held a large exhibition called Utopie und Untergang (utopia and downfall), both about the GDR artists who worked for the regime­—some of the most famous­—and those who resisted it.

A prominent collector of GDR art is the West German billionaire digital entrepreneur Hasso Plattner, who held an exhibition of it in 2017 in the Barberini palace in Potsdam and is setting up a museum for his collection in a nearby building, which is due to open in 2021.

The ideological objection to those who worked within the regime has largely died down because people today have grown up without the fear of ­communism but are curious about what happened between the end of the Second World War and unification in 1990. In Los Angeles, the collector Justin Jampol, who was born in 1978, has even founded the Wende Museum (wende—turning point—is a German term for the unification), dedicated entirely to the material culture of the GDR, from its curtain fabrics to its unsophisticated pornography.

We are also aesthetically more eclectic and less doctrinaire today. Art does not have to establish its moral credentials as an opposition force anymore; abstract and conceptual art is good, but so is figuration, and the GDR, with its four rigorously traditional art academies, certainly knew how to produce good figurative painters.

Fifteen years ago, the post-unification New Leipzig painters such as Rauch enjoyed considerable success in the West, and now the ever-hungry market is ready to consume their more solidly communist predecessors such as Walter Tübke, Wolfgang Mattheuer and Bernhard Heisig. On 7 December, at Ketterer Kunst in Munich, a painting of 1978 by Mattheuer, The Fall of Icarus II, fetched $213,250 (including 25% buyer’s premium). It carried an estimate of $33,000.

In his remarks at the opening of the Utopie und Untergang exhibition last year, the German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: “From the western German side, we have perhaps too often made the mistake in the past of looking at the art of East Germany from a political perspective only.”

That is easy to say now that 30 years have elapsed and the political heat has gone out of the matter. The tougher question is why the art of the GDR was subject to censure for so long when its literature was not, a point raised by Ulrich Greiner of Die Zeit newspaper in 1994 during the row over the Neue Nationalgalerie’s showing of GDR art. A lot can be explained by the intolerant academicism of the contemporary art movement in the West—“This is art, while this is not art”—combined with its sense of moral superiority when faced with party collaborators, which conveniently forgets the collaboration demanded by the art market in the West. The Art Newspaper

 

Getty Museum’s Gauguin Sculpture Revealed to Have Been Misattributed

A wood sculpture attributed to Paul Gauguin held in the collection of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles was not actually produced by the famed artist, new research suggests. Its attribution status has been demoted to “unknown” in December 2019. According to a report by the French newspaper Le Figaro, the institution paid an estimated $3 million to $5 million in 2002 to acquire the work, which is titled Head with Horns, from Wildenstein gallery in New York.

In a statement, the museum said that its decision to change the attribution of the work “was based on scholarly research over recent years by Getty professionals and other experts in the field, including significant new evidence that was not available at the time of its acquisition.” The statement continues, “While we no longer attribute this work of art to Paul Gauguin, it was clearly an important object, known to him through photographs, that played a role in his artistic practice. The sculpture is the subject of ongoing research, which will be published in 2021 and 2022.”

Previously, photographs of the sculpture in Gauguin’s notebook had been thought to provide evidence that the artist had created the sculpture in Tahiti, the Art Newspaper reports. Fabrice Fourmanoir, a collector and former gallery owner in Tahiti, was among the first to call the authenticity of Head with Horns into question. Fourmanoir discovered the sculpture’s presence in a late 19th-century photograph taken by Jules Agostini. That image was captioned Idole Marquisienne, or Marquisian Idol, indicating that it may have been made by an anonymous artist in French Polynesia.

Anne-Lise Desmas, head of sculpture and decorative arts at the Getty, told The Art Newspaper that “no other Gauguin sculpture has such a pedestal,” and that the work is unsigned by the artist.

Head with Horns has previously been exhibited around the world at institutions such as Tate Modern in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. ARTnews

 

Moments Of Reflection And Acceptance: Life Of A Disabled Latino Artist

If art is an expression of the artist, Raul Pizarro’s work can be best described as a multidimensional evolution.

Living with a form of muscular dystrophy, Pizarro reinvents his painting techniques with each physical challenge brought on by the various stages of muscle loss.

“I paint every day, knowing that every ounce of strength I put into applying each brush stroke is the measure of life,” Pizarro told Latino Rebels. “My muscles aren’t vanishing, they are transforming into permanent echoes on canvas.”

Born in Mexicali, México, Pizarro calls Southern California home. Living on the fringe of Los Angeles County, he reflects on his early childhood and introduction to art.

“My parents wanted to make sure we spoke Spanish so it was all I knew at that age,” he recalled. “When I went to school, all the teachers and students spoke English. Because of the language barrier, my teacher would give me paint to keep me busy while the others learned about colors, numbers, and letters. Drawing was my first bridge to others. I drew things I enjoyed like swinging and the other kids would see it and understand. It’s how we would learn to play. This was my first connection to art.”

Pizarro continued drawing through his teenage years but due to the costs of art supplies, did not paint often.

“My parents were struggling to keep us fed, with a warm roof over our heads,” Pizarro said. “I started painting because one of my teachers gave me a box of art supplies. As a young adult, I started to really dedicate myself to art and exploring different ideas and mediums… I was finding my voice.”

Pizarro, 44, is passionate about immigration rights and queer rights. He describes his art as a timeline that varies by series, with his earlier work being experimental.

“It was the time I was coming out as queer to myself and also when I left the church I was raised in,” he said. “It was evangelical and just didn’t make sense to me most of the time, so it took some time to come to terms with that truth. One of my first series is titled “Songs For A Deaf God,” which I worked on for nearly 11 years. It’s structured around identity, [while] a few [others] were about gender, and a few others around mental illness.”

Pizarro’s most recent series is mostly focused on bears. He began painting it for his nephew who was non-verbal until he was three years old. The relationship he has with his nephew is, as he describes, the closest to having a bond to that of with ones own child.

“The paintings in that series are moments where I rediscovered joy through his eyes,” he explained. “Then I began to explore my own truths through the bears. They are important to me as they are both fierce and nurturing. That is what the painting process has been for me as well.”

Art imitating life is natural here. In terms of how Pizarro’s art is reflective of his disability, nearly all of his paintings are tied around how his body is continuously changing. Some more explicit than others.

“There is a painting titled ‘Vínculo’ [Spanish for ‘bond’] that I painted when I was really ashamed about the way my body was starting to look, emaciated with contractures on my limbs,” Pizarro said. “In the painting there are identical beings facing each other with closed eyes, both equally emaciated with one touching the other’s face while the other touches the other’s chest. It was a time when I wanted to connect and heal the way I viewed myself, and accepting my life just as it was.”

Pizarro uses a power wheelchair that has a lift and a custom easel that moves up, down, left, right and tilts towards him with a remote control. When using both the lift and easel, it makes working on larger pieces possible.

“With this set up I’ve been able to create paintings larger than I had before,” Pizarro said. “The largest piece I have worked on is six feet tall.”

Pizarro’s influences are varied with most of them consisting of moments of reflection and acceptance. His nephew and niece are a big influence on the latest bear series.

“Seeing them discover things we’ve forgotten or taken for granted as adults is an unexpected gift,” he noted.

What does Pizarro’s art mean to him?

“My life is art. I leave all of my strength in it, all of my joy, sorrow and truths. I store all of those moments on canvases.” Latino USA


45 years on, 'lost' masterpieces see light in split Cyprus

It took more than 45 years, but 219 paintings thought lost or stolen that include some considered to be among the most significant works Greek Cypriot artists have produced were put on display Monday.

One such work by artist George P. Georghiou has been hailed as one of Cyprus' “most iconic paintings.”

The oil on plywood painting encapsulates the Greek Cypriot armed uprising against British colonial rule during the latter half of the 1950s that culminated in the island's independence.

“This is some of the most prized art in Cyprus and Greece,” said Yiannis Toumazis, a senior Greek Cypriot official on a committee made up of members from both communities that's been tasked with fostering trust through culture.

Officials say the paintings are of incalculable artistic value, but some could carry price tags well into six figures.

A sample of the paintings were unveiled at an exhibit Monday at a disused hotel straddling a United Nations-controlled buffer zone that cuts across Cyprus' capital Nicosia.

Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots, were on hand to launch the exhibit before an array of guests that included artists from both communities.


The works had languished in the basement of a cultural center in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot northern third of ethnically divided Cyprus.

They were put in storage there after being rounded up from private collections and public galleries in the aftermath of a 1974 Turkish invasion that was triggered by a coup aiming at union with Greece. Although Turkish Cypriots declared an independent state, only Turkey recognizes it.

But an agreement last year aimed at boosting trust between Cyprus' Greek and Turkish speaking communities saw the paintings re-emerge.

“To see the paintings returned was one of the most sentimental moments of my life,” said Androula Vassiliou, the committee's Greek Cypriot co-chair.

In return, Turkish Cypriots received rare archival footage from state broadcaster CyBC of Turkish Cypriot cultural and sporting events dating from 1955 to the early 1960s.

The footage is a visual window to a past that had until recently lingered only in memory, said Turkish Cypriot committee co-chair Kani Kanol.

Whether it's Cypriot folk dances performed by Turkish Cypriots or Turkish Cypriot tennis legend Ilter Sami in action, the footage comprises a historical record that was previously inaccessible.


Akinci, the Turkish Cypriot leader, hailed the exhibit as a "manifestation of the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots' respect for each other's artistic and cultural values."

“The common language of art, which is universal, serves as a unifying force."

The exhibit was a bright spot amid prolonged uncertainty over whether moribund reunification talks would be relaunched soon.

“Art and cultural activities can tangibly contribute to efforts of achieving peace and reconciliation," said Anastasiades. ClickOrlando.com