Transgressive Photography Shown in Santa Fe

Want to meet some people who enjoy breaking the rules?  You’ll meet plenty of mavericks who challenged the norm in Transgressions and Amplifications: Mixed-Media Photography of the 1960s and 1970s, an exhibition on view at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe through January 8, 2023.

Edward Weston and Ansel Adams set a high bar for classic, modernist photography, but the generation of image-makers who followed were driven to experiment, shake things up, and see where it all led. 

Detail of 1983 Joyce Niemanas Grandfather Polaroid collage
Detail of 1864 Lady Filmer’s album mixing watercolor and albumen print collage. Courtesy: UNM Art Collection.

Why not go back a hundred years and make new images with historic photo techniques (sun prints, anyone)? Has anyone tried embroidering photos? What about mashing up photo-silkscreen prints with readymade collages decorated with rubber stamps?

Can Polaroids be turned into fine art? Or making a sculpture or kitch card deck out of photos?  What about dreamscapes? What about creatively repurposing magazine photos or TV images?

A stroll through the gallery shows a broad range of creative 20th-century minds at work, with at least one case showcasing some 19th century pioneers.

Meet Lady Mary Georgina Filmer, a London society gal who mastered the art of photocollage as early as the 1860s. A page from one of her albums shows how she merged topsy-turvey photo images, botanical watercolors, and text to tell stories her own way – a true stay-at-home pioneer!

Lady Filmer’s album looks out on dozens of other Americans who went back into the time machine to toy with making albumen prints, stereographs, hand-colored photos, drawing, and cyanotypes. Example: the arresting 1970s hand-colored gelatin silver print by Karen Truax where she ghosts-out her central figure.

1970-1974 gelatin silver print Supernal by Karen Truax, featuring a bleached-out central figure and hand-colored domestic interior

For anyone curious about these old-timey methods, the curators have provided visitors with a place to relax, leaf through books about it, and watch YouTube videos on the gallery iPad.

Another gallery features artists who took photography mixed-media to the next level, like Rauchenburg’s litho that appropriates Bonnie and Clyde movie stills and an over-the-top abstraction by Thomas Barrow that combines gelatin silver print technique with a crazy-quilt of stencils, spray paint, and objects. So totally Eighties!

Detail of Thomas Barrow’s 1980 gelatin silver print Discrete Multivariate Analysis, mixing lights, objects, stencils, and spray paint

The third gallery displays lots of fool-the-eye and 3-D delights. What’s the most fun? Jerry McMillan’s photo-offset inside a “paper bag?” Betty Han’s Soft Daguerreotype of Xeroxed weeds on fabric? Probably Robert Heinecken’s T.V. Dinner/Shrimp. Hard to choose.

Robert Heinecken’s 1971 Van Dyke print T.V. Dinner/Shrimp, #1C. Courtesy: University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography.

Other sections of the exhibition show how 1970s photographers made images in which photography itself was the subject and told highly personal stories.

Take a look at some of our favorites in our Flickr album.

Artist book: Keith Smith’s 1972 gelatin silver print Book 32 – a 3D take on photography.

And don’t forget the coda that features a dramatic images by more recent photographers that make provocative social statements and represent voices that were not fully represented within the university system during the 1960s and 1970s.

Lorna Simpson’s 1991 Black, a dye diffusion transfer print with engraved plastic plaques

Artists Call to Action for Central America

In the early 1980s, socially minded artists living downtown in New York couldn’t handle the news coming out of Central America and did something about it. The United States government was intervening in the affairs of Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and everyone was worried that the situation was going to devolve into another Vietnam.

This is just one part of the story told by the dynamic, timely, informative exhibition, Art for the Future: Artists Call and Central American Solidarities, on view at the University of New Mexico Museum of Art in Albuquerque through December 3.

1981 pamphlet Mujer Revolución by Association of Nicaraguan Women. Private collection
1983 Print of Contra (after a drawing in Rock Comics, 1979) by Jerry Kearns, depicting communist fears stoked by the US government

In 1982, a group of New York artists collaborated with Latin American artists to create a show with contemporary art and cultural artifacts to draw attention to the escalating crises in Latin America. By 1984, organizers launched a national call to artists to raise money and awareness of what was happening.

Artists responded with performances, music concerts, films, poetry readings, and exhibition. In New York alone, over 1,100 artists participated in over 30 exhibitions.

Nationally, artists in 27 cities organized chapters and events and tried to build alliances in Latin America.

Videos, photographs, sculptures, paintings, and ephermera pulled from archives (like posters, buttons, mail art, and pamphlets) bring the story of artist-activists to life – their concerns about US government intervention, their efforts to organize artists across the United States, and their attempts to help artists living in oppressed Central American countries.

The Tufts University-organized show resurrects a largely forgotten story of artist activism, illuminates the tribulations of indigenous communities in Central America at the time, introduces us to contemporary works from artists inspired by their indigenous heritage, and gives us an idea of what’s happening in those countries now.

Two contributions to Solidarity Art by Mail project, a fast, cheap solution to boost Latin American and Caribbean participation in a 1984 New York exhibit at Judson Memorial Church. Private collection.

The three-floor show is packed with arresting images, works, and histories. The art work and documentation push and pull visitors between the international political crises of the 1980s and social-justice issues being addressed by artists today.

Take a look at the show on our Flickr site.

The installation features work by heavy hitters of the 1980s New York art scene – wall-size Vietnam-era work by Leon Golub, images documenting Ana Mendieta’s performance pieces, and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s sketches, maquettes, and exploding-banana image that branded the Artists Call Against US Intervention initiative.

The first-floor exhibition area includes Nancy Spero’s dramatic scroll-like drawing that calls attention to the oppression of Salvadorean women.

1984 Arts Magazine cover with Oldenburg’s image promoting Artists Call. Private collection

Downstairs, there’s another 1984 work that similarly unfurls the length of the gallery – an accordian-book project led by Sabra Moore that is a collaborative reconstruction of a rare 16th-century Mayan codex by 22 women. It’s the first time the codex has been displayed since 1984.

1984 “Reconstructed Codex,” a project organized by Sabra Moore with contributions from 22 diverse female Latin American and US artists. Courtesy: Barnard

The third floor packs a punch, installing revolutionary images and publications around the infamous (and censored) Hans Haacke piece that questions the aftermath of the 1983 US invasion of Grenada.  Across the room, visitors pour over Carlos Motta’s 2005 wall-sized chalkboard installation Brief History of US Interventions in Latin America since 1946. 

Although the 1980 artist-activists did not achieve all of their utopian goals, the contemporary selections show that social consciousness, pride in indigenous heritage, and artistic futures are still alive – including a beautiful feathered immigrant history dome by Batriz Cortez, stitched by a team of immigrant collaborators.

2021 sculpture 1984: Space-Time Capsule by Salvadorian artist Batriz Cortez and immigrant collaborators – a shelter for immigrant histories.

Learn more about how the curator Erina Duganne and her collaborator Abigail Satinsky created this remarkable show:

Art for the Future will be on display at Chicago’s DePaul Art Museum from March to August 2023.

Carlos Motta’s 2005 detailed chalkboard installation Brief History of US Interventions in Latin America since 1946. Courtesy: the artist

O’Keeffe Museum Shows Georgia at Home

One of the most photographed artists of the 20th century, everyone is used to seeing Georgia O’Keeffe in her “formal” pose and gear – angular black hat, stark wrap dress, punctuated by her modernist Calder pin, standing against the New Mexico sky peering solemnly into the future.

In its latest offering, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is giving fans a special treat (and a different view) through its exhibition, Georgia O’Keeffe, a Life Well Lived: Photographs by Malcolm Varon, on display in Santa Fe through October 31.

2021 print of Varon’s 1977 photo of Georgia relaxing at Ghost Ranch. Courtesy: the artist
Georgia’s 1946 Part of the Cliff, a painting inspired by the view through her studio window.

The show features a smiling, at-ease 89-year-old surrounded by family, friends, companions, and pets – images quite apart from the GOK that we all admire and revere. How did this happen?

In the 1960s in New York, photographer Malcolm Varon established quite a reputation for documenting painters’ works in a way that captured a lot of their spirit. No wonder that in the mid-1970s, he was summoned out to Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu to document some of Georgia’s huge body of work.

While he was working with the artist during the summer of 1977, a journalist arrived to interview the icon for a feature in ARTnews.

No photographer had been attached to the story, so Georgia came up with hew own solution – ask her colleague Malcolm to shoot her in the setting of her Ghost Ranch home.

Since Malcolm was already familiar with the operations around Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu, he ended up taking about 300 photos of her homes, the landscapes that inspired her, and the people who kept things humming.

2021 prints of Varon’s 1977 portraits of Ida Archuleta, Candelaria Lopez, and Estiben Suazo, the people who managed Georgia’s homes and properties. Courtesy: the artist.

Despite Georgia’s reputation as a loner living out in the middle of nowhere, Malcolm appreciated that the day-to-day operations in the outback were quite fun, busy, natural, and happy at her two studio compounds.

ARTnews made a few selections from Varon’s photographs and ran them in the feature, but the majority of the 300 shots were never printed or seen…until now.

Visitors at the GOK museum pour over every detail of the portraits and landscapes, enjoying a new, different glimpse of the artist and her world – Varon’s portrait of Georgia’s sister, beautiful portraits of her property caretakers (whose families still take care of the GOK home for the museum), and her assistant Juan Hamilton.

The curators present several paintings from the 1940s showing the same cliffs, landscapes, and skies that Varon captured in the summer of 1977. Visitors have fun shifting back and forth between the oil paintngs and photos.

2021 print of Varon’s 1977 photograph of the tall ladder at Georgia’s Abiquiu home – a platform from which she surveyed the world. Courtesy: the artist

2021 print of Varon’s 1977 fun photograph of Georgia at Ghost Ranch with her friend and assistant, artist Juan Hamilton with the Pedernal as backdrop. Courtesy: the artist

Take a look at some of our favorites in our Flickr album.

Listen in as the curators of this delightful show draw back the curtain on the legendary O’Keeffe, her relationship with photography, and what happened when a trusted friend got her to smile for the camera:

Fashion Manifestos by Carla Fernández

What does “slow” fashion look like? A revolutionary Mexican haute couture designer shows how it’s done in Carla Fernandez Casa de Moda: A Mexican Fashion Manifesto, on display at the Denver Art Museum through October 16.

As a young woman, Carla met and got to appreciate Mexico’s indigenous communities as she traveled with her father, a renowned anthropologist. She loved collecting hand-made indigenous garments reflecting the distinct local styles she saw. 

As a student of art history and fashion design, the complex indigenous textile techniques in these out-of-the way communities seemed to stand in contrast to the ever-changing, always-disposable cycle of Western fashion.

Carla Fernández 2014 jacket collaboration with Juanez Lopez Santis (San Juan Chamula, Chiapas) over digital-printed silk top and leggings.
2003 wool poncho – a Carla Fernández collaboration San Juan Chamula (Chiapas) artisans ­– over a 2009 pantsuit. From the collection of photographer/model Luisa Sáenz

Why not use these indigenous “haute couture” techniques for a high-fashion collection? Why not create a mix-and-match aesthetic using traditional, geometric shapes? Why not credit the artists?

As presented in her first-ever museum retrospective, the results are dramatic, detailed, intriguing, and one-of-a-kind – a completely different kind of fashion system that incorporates indigenous work, pays and credits community makers, and gives artisans the time to create pieces that collectors cherish.

Carla travels to mountain and desert communities to collaborate with textile artists.

With her fame growing, communities now invite her to drive over, see what they’re doing and brainstorm about potential collaborations. It’s an approach that involves time, dialogue, and mutual respect between the artisans and Carla-as-fashion-facilitator.

In her mobile studio (Taller Flora), they create hand-woven, dyed, and painted works of wearable art that Carla brings to the runway, but always with an eye toward collectors who value innovative, indigenous craft traditions.

The exhibition features runway looks, accessories, and videos of performance art that showcase different facets of her fashion manifesto – that artisan-made is the true “luxury” in a “fast fashion,” throw-away world.

2021 hand-painted coverall and digital-printed jumper and coat with Leonardo Linares (Mexico City); embroidered jumper with Antonia Vasquez (San Pedro Chenalhó, Chiapas).

Fiesta masks, leather caballero fretwork, whimsical basket-purses, and fuzzy handmade pom-poms provide home-grown Mexican flair to the cinched, draped, easy ensembles.

Take a look through our Flickr album, and enjoy this video of the installation at Denver Art Museum:

Every section of the exhibition demonstrates her commitment to stimulating innovation and creativity among indigenous makers.

Inspired by decorative fretwork on rodeo apparel, a 2022 wool poncho and pants done in collaboration with calado master Fidel Martínez (Chimalhuacán, State of Mexico).

As of 2022, Carla’s collaborated with more than 164 artisans in 39 communities in 15 Mexican states, with more to come. The show presents a map and identifies all of her collaborators.

To see and hear more about Carla’s collaborative process, watch the Denver Art Museum’s 2019 seminar on culture, cultural appropriation, and fashion in this YouTube video.

And join in on Carla’s beautiful, expressive fashion revolution by checking out her current and past collections on her website.

Jeffrey Gibson at SITE Santa FE

What happens when a Native American MacArthur genius is asked by SITE Santa Fe to create an art exhibition during a time of a global pandemic and social justice marches? And invite him to a location where Native Americans make up a significant percentage of the population?

The result is Jeffrey Gibson: The Body Electric – a constantly surprising gallery journey where shape-shifting, cultural disassociation, beadwork, kitsch-image appropriation, gender-identity questions, and science-fiction inspiration reigns.

The show is filled with life-size beaded dolls and garments, films, pulsing papered walls, mysterious film experiences, and social statements either woven or stamped onto clothes (or are they banners?).

Gibson’s 2021 White Swan mixed-media painting in wall-papered gallery with a beaded, life-size, genderless “doll”
2020 Red Moon and Desert Sky minimalist sculptures created from strands of dance fringe.

Gibson, who is based in New York, is an intertribal artist who is a member of Mississippi Band of Choctaw and half Cherokee. However, his influences were forged from prestigious art schools, international travel, and living in non-Native societies.

The opportunity to come to Santa Fe, host a cinema series and several performances, and stay out West for a while was an open door to explore inter-cultural influences, host discussions with appreciative audiences, and show off his wide intellectual and artistic breadth.

In many of his works, Jeffrey mixes traditional “Indian” materials like beads or fringe with slogans, sayings, dime-store “Indian” images, and big-time art-world references.

See some our favorites from this exhibit in our Flickr album and hear Jeffrey explain his influences in SITE Santa Fe’s audio guide.

The little beaded birds that greet visitors in the first gallery and the big beaded life-sized “dolls” in the second were inspired by Jeffrey’s early work in the ethnographic collections of the Field Museum, where he encountered Haudenosaunee-made beaded tourist-trade whimsies and traditional “third gender” dolls for the first time. Why not make his own, but over-size them?

2021 My Joy My Joy My Joy, a mixed-media beaded bird inspired by Victorian-era Native American tourist whimsies

The nearby video gallery features a kaleidoscopic multichannel video of Sarah Ortegon, an award-winning Eastern Shoshone/Northern Arapaho jingle dress dancer, performing to the energetic Sisters track by A Tribe Called Red. This piece – She Never Dances Alone – refers to the dancers who came to the Standing Rock Reservation and lent their support to the 2016 pipeline protests though dance.

Here’s Sarah Ortegon in Gibson’s 2019 Times Square installation of She Never Dances Alone here…wait for it:

2021 They Play Endlessly mixed-media crazy quilt of paint, beads, words, and found objects.

And here’s another look at Gibson’s 2020 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, where he mixed works from his studio with artifacts and art from Brooklyn’s own collection.

And check out Gibson’s work our album documenting the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian exhibition of Native painting, Stretching the Canvas.

Dior Brings Opulent Extravagance to Brooklyn

With lights dancing across dozens of floral dresses and sequined classical gowns in an over-the-top Beaux-Arts setting, visitors to the Brooklyn Museum generally stand speechless in awe of the extravagance before them in, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, closing February 20.

It takes a minimum of two hours to travel through the galleries, and much more time to absorb the wonders of this must-see fashion exhibition, drawn largely from the Dior archives in Paris.

Take a look at some of our favorites in our Flickr album.

Haute couture in Brooklyn’s Beaux Arts court. Courtesy: Dior heritage collection.
Nevelson’s 1956 sculpture and 1952 Dior dinner dress. Courtesy: Dior.

The exhibition begins in a traditional gallery format, showcasing Dior’s epic haute couture works of the Forties and Fifties.

Print and film media document Dior’s ecstatic reception in America, including custom client fittings and retail showings in New York and San Francisco.

Some of the most spectacular evening and cocktail looks are paired with modern sculpture by Nevelson and design by Eames from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection.

Turning the corner into the photography gallery, visitors encounter the full spectrum of photographers who have documented Dior couture from the Forties until today.

Visitors are ecstatic when they see the dress next to the Avedon photo that is one of the most iconic fashion images of the 20th century – Dovima modeling Dior’s spectacularly sinuous black-and-white gown, caressing massive, animated elephants that surround her.

After Dior’s untimely death, a succession of fashion superstars led the creative side of the house. The show pays tribute to YSL, Bohan, Ferré, Galliano, and Simons with dramatic installations showing their inspirations from French film noir, modern art, opera, and art history. 

1955 haute couture, worn by Dovima for Avedon. Courtesy: Dior.

The garments are over-the-top, highly embellished, and smartly paired with Egyptian and Gilded Age works from the museum’s extensive permanent collection.

John Galliano haute couture for Christian Dior, inspired by ancient Egypt, the Belle Epoque, and other historical references. From the Dior Legacy gallery. Courtesy: Dior heritage collection.
Three 2020 ensembles by Maria Grazia Chiuri against Judy Chicago banners. Courtesy: Dior

There’s a special installation reserved for Dior’s current artistic director, Marie Grazie Chiuri, who has long used her platform in the fashion world to ask probing questions about culture, society, and women.

In this gallery, her dramatic haute couture work is surrounded by shimmering banners that she commissioned from Judy Chicago, whose epic The Dinner Party is the centerpiece of Brooklyn’s feminist art center.

A major set of galleries evokes the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles – a source of inspiration for Mr. Dior.

The curators use the space to show off Dior’s Miss Dior perfume product displays and pairings of old and more recent haute couture inspired by 18th century glamour of the French court. If the exhibition ended right there, you’d be satisfied.

Haute couture from House of Dior: John Galiano’s 2000 dress in embroidered antique satin and Christian Dior’s 1952 satin cocktail ensemble. In the 18th-century gallery. Courtesy: Dior heritage collection.

But there’s much more – a gallery segmented by color to show off fashions, accessories, shoes, and miniatures; and an Instagram-ready all-white infinity room with dozens of white toilles made by the Dior ateliers from the designer’s sketches.

It’s another unforgettable gallery experience that pays proper tribute to the teams of behind-the-scenes experts who bring these fashion visions to life. 

Although the gallery of celebrity Dior looks is the final stop in the show, it almost feels like an after-thought compared to the magical displays of the Beaux-Arts Court.

Wall of 2007-2020 toiles for haute couture dresses, jackets and coats.

Haute couture is everywhere – clustered in the center, surrounding you on all sides, and artfully displayed on two-story-high walls and balconies.  One area features floral gowns, another shimmering gold ensembles, and another mysterious, dramatic black drama.

Haute couture dresses inspired by the divining arts surrounded by dresses inspired by nature, flowers, and gardens. Courtesy: Dior heritage collection.
2010 haute couture hand-painted embroidered evening dress by John Galliano for Christian Dior.

The show is a breathtaking array of light, sound, and visual riches – possibly the greatest feast for the fashion eye since the McQueen show at the Met.  Thanks to Dior for letting us see these amazing works from the archive, and to Brooklyn for giving us such an unforgettable fashion experience in its 125-year-old court.

Next up for Brooklyn’s galleries: a tribute to Virgil Abloh, opening July 1.

Jasper Johns Takes Victory Lap at The Whitney

Iconic imagery, big statements, technical mastery, and long-distance endurance are all on display from the second you enter Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror at The Whitney – the mind-bending retrospective of one of the century’s most celebrated artists.

Then you realize that this 12-part extravaganza is only half the story ­– a mirror image of the Whitney retrospective that is also on display 90 minutes south at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

1961 Map by Jasper Johns. Courtesy: MoMA
1982 Savarin monotype of Johns’ 1960 bronze.

Each has different works and minutely different themes (the number paintings vs. the flag), but reflect the same scale and scope of the artist’s astonishing 70-year career.

Most art lovers know that the early work of Johns and Rauschenberg in the late 1950s and early 1960s helped to redirect the New York art scene from Abstract Expressionism toward Pop. But show puts a much-needed spotlight on the rest of Johns’ career – how he kept experimenting with media, pushing his own boundaries, manipulating paint to evoke an emotional response, and not letting any art-world “ism” impede his creative journey over the next 50 years.

Hear what the show’s two curators, Scott Rothkopf (NYC) and Carlos Basualdo (Philly), have to say about Johns, the “rules” he “broke,” and the mark his work left upon 20th century American art:

The sheer magnitude and quality of the artist’s output is on full display as you take the journey through the Whitney – masterful paintings, prints, drawings, watercolors, and sculptures

See some of our favorite works in our Flickr album.

Exhibition entrance with full scope of Johns prints.

As soon as the elevator doors open at The Whitney, viewers are confronted with a curved wall that contains dozens of surprises – a chronology of prints stretching from Johns’ early days in New York through works completed as recently as 2019.  Walking left to right, the wall serves as a mini-retrospective as well as the intro to the larger show.  Bravo to the team for this brilliant, engaging welcome.

It’s joyful to poke through the first few galleries and experience Johns’ early experimentations with stenciled lettering, disappearing letters, collaged newsprint, and maps enlivened by painterly gestures and swipes.

But then you see works done in South Carolina, where Johns took in the beach and sky and recollected back to his childhood in the South. Big, bold, mystical, evocative puzzles taking the form of large-scale canvases, small intimate sculptures, and all forms of drawing and mark making.

1964 Studio with paint cans, created at the South Carolina beach.
1967 Harlem Light from Johns’ 1968 Leo Castelli gallery show. Courtesy: Seattle Art Museum.

You experience a room where the team has brought together work originally shown by Leo Castelli in his New York townhouse gallery in 1968. The exhibition designers mimic the size of the original gallery to let you experience the same thrill of interacting with these big, colorful, slightly conceptual, architectural paintings.

The centerpiece of the Whitney exhibition is a spectacular gallery created by the exhibition team to showcase the retrospective’s theme – how Johns used doubles and “mirroring” to explore perception and entice viewers to ponder the works more carefully.  The exhibition designer explains and shows how the famed bronze Ballantine ale cans are the fulcrum around which Johns’ subsequent work revolves:

There are hundreds of loans from other museums and private collectors, and the two museums even swapped some of their own holdings.

And Johns himself has loaned never-before-exhibited works, including watercolors and drawings that he did in the 1980s. Although the colors draw you in, they represent the artist’s process of working through the ravages of HIV and loss inside the art community.

The curatorial precision of the show allows you to experience an evolving appreciation of Johns’ later work – experimental monotypes in the print studio, contemplation of the arc of life in monumental elegiac grey paintings, and sculptures completed in the 2000s. See more on the Whitney website about the works in the show.

1990 watercolor from Johns’ collection with mysterious, surreal, personal imagery.

The latter are displayed in natural light, which allows you to enjoy the cast bronze and aluminum number blocks as the sun shines over the Hudson from different angles. The changes illuminate the hand work, gestures, and conceptual rigor over time – a fitting encapsulation of this two-city tribute to Mr. Johns.

Reverse side of 2008 bronze 0-9 sculpture. Private collection.

Exploring New York with Painter Alice Neel

The sights you’ll see! The people you’ll meet!  There’s nothing like seeing 20th-century New York through the eyes of one of most astute observers of the human condition. It’s why people have been flocking to The Met to see Alice Neel: People Come First, on view through August 1.

Considered one of America’s greatest figurative painters, Alice herself considered her relentless artistic pursuit more in line with history painting.  And what a history you’ll experience, walking through room after room of insightful portraits and cityscapes.

1958 Two Girls, Spanish Harlem with Alice’s neighbors Antonia and Carmen Encarnación. Courtesy: Boston Museum of Fine Arts
1972 portrait depicting Irene Peslikis, a leading Seventies feminist activist. Private collecdtion.

Alice’s colorful, insightful works introduce you first-hand to bohemian life post-WWI, the Great Depression, the socialist fight for workers’ and artists’ rights, the push for civil rights, the art underground, and the rise of feminism.

Through it all, Alice kept raising her family and painting in her home studio, sparing nothing in her portrayals of kids experiencing the world, families just trying to make ends meet in Harlem, marriages, births, and annual trips to the country.

Her earliest artistic influence was her early 20th-century academy training, in which the bravura brushwork of Robert Henri was admired – merging virtuoso painting with unfiltered views of everyday people and sights. Alice drew and painted like a virtuoso herself, sure of her ability of laying down an expressive line. 

Neel’s 1955 A Spanish Boy with Henri’s 1907 Dutch Girl in White.

Throughout her life, her frequent trips to the Metropolitan Museum bolstered her work with the continued influence Cassatt, Soutine, and other grand masters of the brush and the masters of social commentary, like Jacob Lawrence or Daumier.

The result is a decade-by-decade window into the life, times, struggles, and perseverance of a working mother-artist who took the same master, unflinching approach to documenting her pregnant daughter-in-law, civil rights leaders, Andy Warhol, and her own aging body.

Take a look at our favorites in our Flickr album.

Detail of 1978-79 portrait of her son when he worked for Pan Am, Richard in the Era of the Corporation.

Alice and the curators keep the surprises coming through the exhibition, but why not hear from her yourself?  Here is Alice’s own description of her life, times, and what inspired her:

Experience Alice Neel’s New York in the Met’s multimedia primer here, and see all of the works assembled for her incredible exhibition.

1984 photo of Neel as a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Courtesy: Neel estate

Hockney’s Personal Drawings at The Morgan

The drawings at the Morgan, David Hockney: Drawing from Life, on view through May 30, are a tribute to the friendships maintained and the artistic experimentations sustained over the artist’s 83-year lifetime.

Hockney self-portraits through the years.

The show was created by the National Portrait Gallery in London and centers on 100 portraits of five people who sat for Hockney across the decades – his mother and several close friends.

The exhibition is organized by person, so you can compare how each person looked from the beginning of Hockney’s studies, across the years, and most recently when they came to visit him in Normandy, where he lives now.

Most of the works are from the Hockney Foundation or from the artist’s own personal collection, which makes the show extra-special.

The exhibition begins with a series of self-portraits that Hockney did as a teen, and features his etching series about his first trip to America in the early 60s. Then it jumps to the many portraits he did of his mother in England.

Colored pencil portrait, Celia, Carennac, August 1971
Digital wall of Hockney 2010 iPad drawings
Charcoal drawing Maurice Payne, October 9, 2000

Each series shows off his masterful accomplishments in precise colored pencil, mixed-media collage, watercolor, crayon, arranged Polaroid mosaics, etchings, ink washes, tight pencil sketches, and the biggest leap of all – digital drawings from his iPad.

Walking past the portraits, self-portraits, sketchbooks, and digital drawings, it’s quite a tribute to an artist who never stopped looking, wanting to sit with his favorite people, and slowed down to adopt techniques by other masters that he admired.

Take a look at works by a pop-culture virtuoso. Here’s a brief introduction to the exhibition by the Morgan’s director:

Take a walk through the exhibition on the Morgan’s website here, and join a YouTube tour with the curator here.

And see our favorites in our Flickr album here.

Jewelry for America Dazzles at The Met

Sparkling, historic, masterful jewels, settings, and stories await intrepid visitors who can find the out-of-the-way mezzanine gallery within the Metropolitan Museum’s American Wing. Jewelry for America, on view through May 8, chronicles the rise of the jewelry making arts through the Met’s own gorgeous collection.

Cases of jewelry from the mid-1700s though today are surrounded by period paintings that show how women (and men!) of different American eras sported, draped, and embellished themselves with the glittery treasures shown nearby.

The curators take five eras and angles, weaving in details of colonial dependency, Westward expansion, global discoveries, luxury consumption, high-end designers, and jewelry art trends.

Robert Fulton’s 1813 wedding portrait of Susan Hayne Simmons, wearing her pearls Empire-style
Rare 1783 Society of the Cincinnati badge by L’Enfant, awarded to Washington’s Continental Army officers

But while looking at the small, finely crafted pieces, you can delight in just looking for looking’s sake.

The first section focuses upon the colonial era through the early 19th century, when toddlers wore coral necklaces and bracelets to keep them “safe” and it was popular to weave the hair of a loved one into a locket, fob, brooch, or little container hanging from a necklace.

But the most historic piece in this first section is the small Society of Cincinnati badge designed by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, for the group of Continental Army officers who served under Washington.

The next portion of the show introduces the rise of American jewelers in the mid-1800s with brooches and earrings inspired by nature, antiquity, and bygone eras, such as Tiffany’s 1856 transformation of an historic Connecticut oak tree into gold accessories and the artistic 1880 silver necklace by Shleiber & Co inspired by coins unearthed in Pompeii.

Tiffany’s 1889-1896 enameled and jeweled orchid brooch, designed by J. Paulding Farnham

In addition to Tiffany’s renowned, naturalistic orchid brooches and hair ornaments that wowed spectators at turn-of-the-century world’s fairs, the show also includes gorgeous nature-inspired statement pieces from workshops in Newark, New Jersey – high-end suppliers to famous celebrities and socialites in New York.

1924 silver box with enamel plaques by Eda Lord Dixon and her husband, Laurence

There are dozens of necklaces, pins, and special boxes adorned with diamonds, platinum, artistic enamels, opals, emeralds, and other precious gems.

The final portion of the show portrays the rise of the artist-jeweler, showcasing jazzy, one-of-a-kind pieces by mid-century creators like Art Smith and Calder, and finishing up with Elsa Peretti, Verdura, and cuffs by Kenneth Jay Lane from Lauren Bacall’s collection

1948 and 1946 custom cuffs by Greenwich Village artist Art Smith

Enjoy our favorites in our Flickr album, and read more of the history of American jewelry on the Met’s website.

Early 20th century Pueblo necklaces worn by Navajo leader Henry Chee Dodge