Thursday, April 02, 2009

Here comes a mini blockbuster

From the PMA:

Celebrating the extraordinary life and work of Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), this installation consists of two paintings and seven drawings by the local artist. Among these works are a sequence of studies leading to the creation of Wyeth’s tempera painting Groundhog Day that demonstrate the transformation and distillation of observation that characterizes his finest work. Wyeth and his wife, Betsy, donated these drawings to the Museum in July 2006 during the final weeks of the retrospective exhibition Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic.

Born in Chadds Ford, Pa., 30 miles southwest of Philadelphia, Wyeth was educated at home and apprenticed to his celebrated father, the painter and illustrator Newell Convers (N.C.) Wyeth. He made his solo debut at the Philadelphia Art Alliance in 1936, at the age of 18, and was launched on the national scene the following year with a sold-out exhibition at the Macbeth Gallery in New York. Building on that early success, Wyeth proved to be a painter of profound imagination, skill, and staying power across seven turbulent decades. Both admired and criticized for the tenacity of his realist approach and the unabashed emotion in his paintings, he produced some of the most famous and haunting images of the 20th century.

“All I want to do is paint,” said Wyeth, “and I paint the things I know best.” The everyday “things” found in and around his homes in Pennsylvania and Maine resonated with feeling for Wyeth, offering him pathways into memory and fantasy. His paintings of “things” were rarely straightforward, realistic descriptions: usually, the subjects have been simplified in the process of study, manipulated, and layered with personal associations, metaphors, and symbols that express larger themes of loss, death, and the passage of time.

Curator: Michael Taylor, The Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art
Location: Gallery 119, first floor

Out of Order at MAP: Drive-by review

Yesterday I got to MAP's Out of Order fundraiser auction art drop off a little earlier than last year, but by the mid afternoon there were already 270 pieces of art hung on MAP's wall.

So it seems that they're well on their way to top last year's numbers of over 600 works of art auctioned off for MAP's benefit, with 50% of the silent auction proceeds going to the artist.

When I got there and was filling out my forms, I had to do a double take on the artist who came after me. He was Michael O'Sullivan's (WaPo art critic) doppleganger, little glasses and all.

On closer examination he was a little older, but whoever this gent was, he really looks like O'Sullivan.

I stopped staring and went back to filling out my paperwork.

"Do you think this piece is too pornographic to hang in this show?" I heard the doppleganger ask the young MAP attendant. I turned and looked.

He had a painting well wrapped; he unwrapped it and showed it to the young girl. She looked a little confused and told him that it was OK. He asked if she was sure.

She then referred him to Julie Ann Cavnor (I think), the young MAP Executive Director, who was sitting behind the gallery's desk.

I couldn't resist, so as he walked to the desk, I stood up and strategically placed myself by the side of the desk, pretending I was studying the piece hung behind it, so that I could steal a look at the potentially offending work of art.

The doppleganger came to Cavnor and asked the same question. She looked at it, and over her shoulder, so did I.

I didn't see her face, but heard her telling the guy that it was OK. She did this in a very nice way.

Former Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Potter Stewart once wrote that that "hard-core pornography" was hard to define, but that "I know it when I see it."

I think that Stewart and I, plus all the MAP personnel and I suspect every person on this planet would agree that there was no pornography in the work that the doppleganger was so anxious about.

Puzzling in fact.

The piece appeared to be an oil painting, sort of a naive style mixture of abstract and representational elements, thick paint application and sort of a New Ageish kind of look to the (ahem) finished product.

No naked bodies that I could discern with my quick stolen glance, no erect penises, no penetration of any orifices, no sucking of any kind, no genitalia that was recognizable as such.

No pornography; at least not on planet Earth.

Bypassing this distraction, I hung my work and moved on to look at the work that had preceded it.

Here's what I liked and what should be acquired during the auction:

There's an untitled lovely seascape watercolor by Patrick Klugh (#220) that will go fast. There's also a gorgeous tempting graphite work by photographer Elena Volkova (#59 and titled "Waterlines) almost next to it. This piece is a very minimalist rendition, clearly influenced by Volkova's equally minimalist photography. It is one of the best pieces in the show.

On the opposite end of the drawing spectrum, there's a very strong charcoal drawing by Matt Bergsbauer titled "Distortion #4 (it's work number 94) that reminded me a lot of Uruguayan artist Javier Gil's work. I also liked McKenzie Lefstein's woodcut titled "Trash City." That piece is number 65.

Two interesting nudes, a little too high for me to determine their media (could be drawing or digital), but with a lot of Vargas and Currin in them were next to each other (numbered 171 and 169 respectively) and seemed to come from the same artist's hand, but identified them as Brenda Brookind and David Wilson.

Number 44, "Hold Both Handles," a cool collage by M. Jordan Tierney was also quite good and should get a decent set of bids, as will Melissa Sue Mauro's appropriation of Hello Kitty in her "Distant Childhood Memories" (#72).

Candace Linthicum's pastel of a nude woman, #27 showed powerful skills with that very difficult medium, adn I also liked Diane Burnett's wire sculpture titled "The Eternal Struggle."

Right around the area where the Burnett sculpture is located, the O'Sullivan doppleganger was now engaged in conversation with a tall gent, and had his painting (wrapped again) under his arm.

"Do you think it's too pornographic?" I heard him ask the gent as I passed by.

The last piece that I will mention in this early look is David Herman's oddly titled "Untitled, Ocean." A powerful oil painting of a seascape that will get many bids, but David, is it untitled or is the title "Ocean"?

As I headed out the door, the doppleganger had returned to the receiving desk, and was once again quizzing once of the volunteers about the pornographicity of his work.

Molly, the fair attendant taking care of him, was being very nice, and I restrained my desire to jump in and ahhhh... ask him which part of "no" was fuzzy to him.

The Auction & Gala starts at 8pm, Friday, April 3, 2009. Go buy some artwork!